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John has a strong interest in politics, especially the workings of a progressive democracy, together with social justice and the common good. He holds a Diploma in Fine Arts and enjoys portraiture, composing music, and writing poetry and short stories. He is also a keen amateur actor. Before retirement John ran his own advertising marketing business.

This government isn’t fit for purpose

Looking back on my writing for 2020 and what has motivated it the most common ingredient has been a sense of frustration that I’m not having the impact I once did. By that I mean my readership has dropped a little. I want more people to know the truth. Perhaps I have become too repetitive and people are bored by it. Or as my son suggests, l’m a bit too lengthy.

That’s not my fault of course, it’s the government’s. They have been so consistently horrific in yet another year of awfulness that one feels compelled to regularly convey it to the AIMN readers.

Governance is an amalgam of many things; of leadership, of managerial expertise, of economics and culture, and another element is crisis management. In fact, politics controls everything we do. Or at least government regulates what we can and cannot do. We aren’t truly free.

It is astonishing just how much control government has over us. Think about it. From how fast we can drive a car to how well we are cared for when ill or old. There are thousands of rules. How well it exercises these regulators indicates how well it is governing.

In a moment of meditation last week I began to think about how the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments have fared when their governance is put through the wringer of political performance. How well have they served us. Well, the answer is empathetically, poorly!

When you think deeply about the government’s performance during its time in office, it has been deplorable. Most of its ministers wouldn’t get a job in a major private company, or heads of departments in our public service based on current performance. How would you rate them on telling the truth, transparency and openness for example?

If we are to reverse this mediocracy, we might begin by asking that at the very least our politicians should be transparent and tell the truth.

What I’m trying to reason in my own mind is why a government without any of the aforementioned skills, with so many policies that are anathema to the common good of the country keeps getting elected by the people no matter how narrow the margin.

I’m not trying to put together some sort of study here. On the contrary, all my comments are just random thoughts that might fit into any of the aforementioned categories.

It is my contention that lying, misinformation, lying by omission, subliminally implied suggestions, straightforward propaganda, deliberate scare campaigning and corruption is nakedly practiced by this government.

Any form of untruthful communication has become the norm with Coalition politicians and the media conversing with the public through lies. So normal and long applied has this form of conversation become that we are now unquestioning of it.

When a political party deliberately withholds information that the voter needs to make an informed, balanced and reasoned assessment of how it is being governed. It is not only lying by omission… it is also tantamount to the manipulation of our democracy.

Why else would the people of Australia keep on electing a government that fails so often? Just look at their record.

Robodebt and lost lives. Sports Rorts, Aged Care, lost lives. Climate change and lost lives. Energy prices. Handling of fires and lost lives. Angus Taylor’s scandals, the behaviour of Coalition MPs and how they conduct themselves with women. Great Barrier Reef Foundation, land deals, corruption, money for Murdoch, contracts without tender, refusal of FOI applications, Barnaby Joyce’s water deals, and the failure of the NBN.

These aren’t just small errors of judgement; these are large scale mistakes, bad management or straight out corruption that have cost billions of dollars and hundreds of lives and the Coalition government is responsible. Yet they remain popular. How is it so?

It is fair to say they performed well with the coronavirus but always with an eye on the economy ahead of people’s health.

The electorate, however, seems unmoved. Why is it so?

Sooner or later we need to wake up to just how badly our politicians are governing our country. It has been going on for almost nine years. It is a disgrace and has to be stopped. The government must be challenged over its incompetence.

Is it that Australians believe, like some Americans believe, that everything that comes from the leader’s mouth is the honest to goodness truth when the facts dictate, they speak lies.

Have the same group caught the anti-socialist virus? Do they dislike the leaders Labor promotes? There is some truth in that but then the conservative leaders don’t stack up so well either. Is it a choice suggesting that it’s better to stick with the devil you know than the one you don’t?

At the last election not even the government thought it could win. but win they did. Labor couldn’t be accused of not putting forward progressive (perhaps too many) ideas and sound policies. They had an ambitious set of reforms. What they lacked was a popular leader and positive salesmanship but instead all the big-ticket items were complicated and difficult to sell.

They will, one day, have to be fixed or they will sink the economy: Franking credits, negative gearing, top-bracket tax, climate change.

We have a government supported by Australia’s biggest and most biased media outlet. So much so that more than 500,000 people have signed Kevin Rudd’s record-breaking petition to get a Royal Commission into the bias and power of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire in Australia. With the help of Turnbull’s recent outburst on QandA at least a Senate inquiry has been secured. They might even talk about that $40 million Murdoch asked for… and got.

The Coalition has had a long-term problem with women. Last week the ABC Four Corners programme revealed some very bad behaviour by Ministers Alan Tudge and Christian Porter. Another example of these damaging affairs has been the behaviour of hillbilly Barnaby Joyce.

All have one thing in common. They all like to lecture us on how we should behave. Barnaby was doing it again on QandA last Monday night.

On that subject let’s look at the incident where the Prime Minister interrupted the Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston.

She was asked if the political culture for women had improved. Before she could say “Hiawatha” the Prime Minister jumped in to answer the question.

And it happened in the middle of the accusations of sexual misconduct by Porter and Tudge.

From a cultural point of view the Senate’s decision not to allow the Aboriginal flag to be flown alongside the Australian flag had the “know your place” sarcasm about it. So literally male, white and middle-aged. It tells our First Nation People all they need to know. A voice for our First Nations People seems further away.

Anyhow, let’s move on. A short time ago I wrote these words: “The worse they govern the more popular they become.” The recent post-budget Newspoll confirms it to be so.

Not joking. This is absolutely true. Nothing seems to put a dent in the government’s popularity or that of Morrison’s. Years of deplorable governance has made no difference.

Here is another example: Porter is also charged with putting together an Integrity Commission that will do them no harm, such is the list of scandals they are involved in. Really, you wouldn’t trust him to shuffle a pack of cards. Porter’s plan will help cover up corruption, not expose it,” wrote Geoffrey Watson in The SMH.

Another of course is the handling of our aged care sector and the failure of Morrison to respond to the many reports. The deaths of many can be directly blamed on this inaction together with the suicides from Robodebt. Possibly the worst example of maladministration in Australian political history.

The government has agreed to a $1.2 billion pay-out to nearly half a million Australians affected by the controversial Robodebt scheme. A record for class actions and a disgrace of governance.

The election of Joe Biden with a major pro-climate policy will place a lot of pressure on Morrison to improve his government’s climate policy and abandon the use of controversial Kyoto ‘carryover credits’ or risk damage to Australia’s reputation worldwide. He seems to laugh it off.

I think without doubt l have proven my point. We cannot allow this government and this Prime Minister to take us any further into this world of self-indulgence where nothing matters but the state of the economy. I will therefore continue to reveal the failings of this most incompetent mob of thoughtless managers.

Repetition be buggered.

My thought for the day

Change sometimes disregards opinion and becomes a phenomenon of its own making. With Its own inevitability.

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Government dishonesty continues unabated

Murdoch has them by the balls.

What is it that Rupert Murdoch has that enables him to demand of our government millions of dollars of taxpayer’s money whenever he wants it?

I first came across this story in 2017 when the government kicked in $30 million dollars to Foxtel to promote women’s sports. It appeared as a one-line item in the budget of that year.

At the time it pricked a lot of ears, and questions were put to the then minister Mitch Fifield. As usual, he played a straight bat to all the questions he faced. There wasn’t a journalist who could penetrate his defence.

On the surface it looked as though Murdoch’s Foxtel man, Patrick Delany, just demanded 30 million dollars and got the money without so much as a condition being bowled.

They could spend the money in any way they wanted and the umpire would overlook any excessive appeals. Not a bad deal. The umpires didn’t even have to write a match report, meaning no plan on how the money would be spent even existed. There wasn’t even a plan to enforce a follow on.

Although it is supposedly to:

“… support the broadcast of underrepresented sports on subscription television, including women’s sports, niche sports, and sports with a high level of community involvement and participation.”

Why would you give that sort of money to a subscription television station? Wouldn’t the ABC be a better proposition for underrepresented women’s sports?

I mean, they didn’t even have a plan for a bit of ball tampering in Murdoch’s groin area when he was fielding in the covers, let alone the promotion of women’s sport.

There were never any terms or conditions, no plans needed to be submitted, no terms and no accountability. The women’s cricket team didn’t even have a dress code.

All attempts at fielding documents under Freedom of Information were denied for the reason that they didn’t exist. Any drunk on the boundary would reckon a googly had been bowled at the taxpayer during a pandemic.

Minister Fifield declined to comment:

“But a statement from his office said the decision was made by the Government as part of the budget process, and the FOI decision was made independently of him.”

Now you have to pay a subscription to Foxtel who have asked for money from the government, and in turn the ABC for broadcasting rights for women’s sports for which we already pay tax. Hit that one to fine leg.

Is that clear? If not, it simply means they got $30 million dollars no questions asked.

But Foxtel being the run hungry buggers they are weren’t satisfied. They asked for and got another $10 million. They don’t even have to submit a plan until the end of the season. Just before the footy starts. If you are thinking it’s a bit of a balls-up you would be correct.

With the latest $10 million a further FOI request was hit for six when:

“Communications Minister Paul Fletcher’s chief of staff Ryan Bloxsom said the disclosure ‘could reasonably be expected to have a detrimental effect on the working relationship between the minister’s office and the Prime Minister’s office, now and into the future’.”

That sounds to me like a bit of grafting at the crease now and into the future.

So, let’s hope that the parliamentary inquiry into Murdoch’s media ownership brings some sanity to the game. At the moment only one side is playing cricket.

My thought for the day

The ability of thinking human beings to blindly embrace what they are being told without referring to evaluation and the consideration of reason never ceases to amaze me. It is tantamount to the rejection of rational explanation.

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They have always had a problem with women

The ABC’s Four Corners revelation about the sexual dalliances of Messrs Christian Porter and Alan Tudge may have brought to light their inability to control their sexual desires but the reality is that the Liberal and National parties have always had a problem with women.

Well, to be fair both sides of the political divide have had their problems.

Bob Hawke was a known womaniser and had an affair with his biographer, Blanche d’Alpuget. Hawke always wore his heart on his sleeve and confessed his infidelities. And Whitlam minister Jim Cairns had a much publicised affair with Junie Morosi.

It was said that John Gorton had an affair with Ainsley Gotto, but Gorton was in fact having an extended affair with the widow of a “a very senior naval officer.” Democrats leader Cheryl Kernot had an affair with Labor’s Gareth Evans.

But I digress.

Tony Abbott often gave us the impression that he had a poor opinion of women. At university he referred to a women Chairperson as “Chairthing.”

He was accused of assaulting a woman at University and later acquitted. He was defended by a QC and the girl defended herself.

Another woman accused him of throwing punches; hitting either side of a wall she was standing against. He said it never happened but others corroborated  her story.

And who could forget these?:

“I think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak.”

“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”

Or this?:

“I won’t be rushing out to get my daughters vaccinated [for cervical cancer], maybe that’s because I’m a cruel, callow, callous, heartless bastard but, look, I won’t be”

More quotes by Abbott about women can be found here. I don’t feel I need to expand on his misogyny as it is well-known.

If you want to watch Julia Gillard’s famous misogyny speech fired directly at Abbott once again, go here.

It is the males of the Coalition who have had a long-established “masculine problem” of entitlement: specifically, a white male problem that believes they are allowed more superiority over women than women of today want to be subjected to.

It is the view of men who still cling to an age that no longer exists. These virile males are the ones who have never really grown up. The ones who have accepted the actions of the fathers or worse still the superiority of the male as taught in many churches.

Of course, the question arises as to whether it is any of our business as to what politicians or journalists get up to after hours.

The answer is yes and no. If a journalist writes about the moral standard of the community and in doing so identifies his or her own code of ethics, I think there is a public interest in disclosing what is happening in their private lives.

The same goes for the politician. If a minister or MP is in a position of power and in fact responsible for creating laws in the area of morality I would very much like to know what his or her attitudes are about their personal moral standards are.

If they are humping their employees on the side while working on legislation pertaining to sexual harassment then the hypocrisy should be exposed.

In a piece for The Daily Mail Paula Mathewson asked “…is it any of our business what politicians, staffers and yes, journalists, do in the privacy of their homes and hotel rooms?:

“Definitely not, says that bastion of family values, Barnaby Joyce, who claimed this week that former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, introduced a ban on ministers from having sexual relationships with their staff simply to remove him from the Nationals leadership”

“Of course, Mr Joyce conveniently forgot to mention that it was the accusation of sexual harassment levelled against him by a highly respected woman in the rural community that sealed his fate, not Mr Turnbull’s ‘bonk ban’.”

Barnaby Joyce – you might remember –  was at the centre of alleged serious sexual harassment and molestation claim dating back to 2012 involving multiple women, including a 17-year-old teenage girl in a toilet.

Tony Windsor tweeted how things work in Canberra:

 

 

When politicians become involved in seedy situations such as an affair all sorts of things can happen. They leave themselves open to being denied a security clearance, they become an extortion risk, being denied access to classified information without having to get such a clearance and may also cause a conflict of interest if they have the potential to unduly influence a minister’s decisions.

Females are not well represented in Australian politics, particularly on the conservative side. Having said that, in my lifetime, their journey toward equality has been incremental despite their obvious intelligence. Much of this is attributable to what men take from the Bible about (taught or decoded) their superiority over women.

Sarah Hanson-Young, at 25, was the youngest women ever elected to the Senate. Like her politics or not, she has been subjected to more abuse than most men have to take. Interjections about her dress sense, her body shape and her sex life have been common. Usually from sleaze-bags from the right of the Senate chamber.

She usually ignored them, taking the moral high ground however last year she dug her heels in over a comment from one of these middle-aged white morons:

“It happened during a debate on women’s safety following a murder which shocked the nation. A young comedian walking home late at night had been killed by a stranger.

Ms Hanson-Young said women wouldn’t need extra protection if men didn’t rape them.

In response, an older male senator called out: “You should stop shagging men, Sarah.”

Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm – known for revelling in his controversial remarks – refused to apologise when confronted by Ms Hanson-Young, who is divorced with a child. He instead repeated his comments and other explicit claims in TV and radio interviews.

He accused her of hypocrisy. She accused him of “slut-shaming” – where slurs about a women’s alleged sexual activities are used to demean or silence her.

I decided at that moment I’d had enough of men in that place using sexism and sexist slurs, sexual innuendo as part of their intimidation and bullying on the floor of the parliament,” the senator [Hanson-Young] said in a later interview.”

She sued Senator David Leyonhjelm and received $120,000 for her trouble.

Sexism, sexist slurs and sexual innuendo is all part of the intimidation and bullying on the floor of the Australian Parliament. To say it is uncouth would be an understatement.

MP Julia Banks felt she had to act after experiencing vicious infighting and sexism so she quit. Julie Bishop, the Deputy Leader described the intimidation as “appalling” behaviour. The Minister for Women, Kelly Dwyer also backed the allegations.

There is nothing new here. Natasha Stott Despoja joined parliament in 1995 at age 26, and experienced her fair share of abuse. Sexism was “endemic” in the political culture, she said.

“It ranged from male senators saying to me ‘you really should wear skirts’ to another senator referring to me only as ‘mother’ once I had children,” she told the BBC.

It was Julia Gillard who copped the most abuse and when it became too much, she responded with a speech that reverberated around the world. She had been portrayed by conservatives’ politicians and the right-wing media as a modern-day witch.

Sometimes you have to wonder if history is just an ongoing commentary on the incompetence of men.

She was “routinely demonised” for being unmarried and “childless”. At various times she was called “a lying cow”, “a menopausal monster”, “deliberately barren”, a “bitch” and “Ju-liar”

The media had a strange fixation with her appearance which was at times simply lewd.

Then there was that Liberal party fundraising dinner with a ‘Julia Gillard menu’ listing overt sexual suggestions about parts of her body.

Alan Jones said she should be “put into a chaff bag and thrown into the sea.” And that Australians “ought to be out there kicking her to death.”

There is something about Australian culture that excludes women. One sees it in all facets of society. In sport, in business, in many professions including law.

Which all brings me back to Monday night’s Four Corners programme that alleged the inappropriate conduct of two federal cabinet ministers and in doing so confirmed that there are men in our National Parliament who still hold sexist attitudes towards women.

These men, Attorney-General Christian Porter and Urban Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge who have both spent their careers publicly espousing family values, should have been given the opportunity to explain and then sacked.

As former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told journalist Louise Milligan:

“Some of the most trenchant opponents of same-sex marriage, all in the name of traditional marriage, were at the same time enthusiastic practitioners of traditional adultery.”

Given that ministerial responsibility no longer exists … where to now?

My thought for today

At some time in the human narrative… in our history, man declared himself superior to women. It must have been an accident, or at least an act of gross stupidity. But that’s men for you.

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For better or for worse, we are much like America

It was 2016 when the then Vice President of the United States of America Joe Biden last visited Australia. On that occasion I was fortunate to hear him speak twice. Both times the sincere love he has for our country hung on every word.

Australians have always had a sort of love-hate relationship with America. Whilst we come from an English heritage, it has been the United States that has had the most influence on our maturing.

You agree, guys?

We have followed America into wars that were none of our concern yet we did so because allies help each other. We jump at their command. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

We are in many ways just like them.

We have alliances that almost guarantee our national safety. Their culture has become ours much to the detriment of our own.

Our relationship with America under Biden will grow but at the same time China will be anxious about it, wanting Australia to respect its rise as a super power. We can and must do better.

At present Australia’s politics still exists behind the Trump brand with lies and falsehoods. For example, Scott Morrison is still insisting that we would reach our Kyoto targets. This is a blatant lie that he continues to tell.

We can met them if we use the credits we were given to make sure we joined Kyoto and to use them only says that we didn’t try nearly hard enough.

Australia is the only country that has said it intends to use carryover credits for its Paris target. In any case the Kyoto credits are likely to be withdrawn before the next meeting.

If Morrison continues with his own particular brand of Trump style politics, he too might suffer the same fate as Trump.

Whether or not the Democrats win the Senate, Biden has promised that his presidency will push allies to reduce emissions.

This has major repercussions for Australia. If Morrison stands his ground then tensions could rise. More possible is that we may have to take climate change seriously. Imagine if he got himself offside with both Biden and Xi Jinping.

After four years of Trump’s daily tweets Australians could be heard “shouting enough is enough.” Well at least half of us have been shouting..

We too have become partisan in our politics. Half of us seem to like the morose shouty, “look at me,” politics of the Trumpish Morrison. The other half like the calm body politic of the sage, old Joe Biden.

We have grown up with their music be it pop, jazz or theatre. Their television is over represented on our screens. The Americanisation of Australia is all but complete.

Their sports have become second nature to us as have the artistic creations of Hollywood. We have accepted the American inclination toward scandal and sleaze. We also suffer from both political and social narcissism.

Our natural inclination for technology has seen us take up their originations at unprecedented levels. It is said in economics that if America catches a cold then we get the flu.

Its endless unwinnable wars are bankrupting it but they don’t seem to care and go on spending more on defence than the rest of the world put together.

We have also suffered from Trumpism.

The science of climate change shows that we are looking at an impending environmental disaster of catastrophic proportions, but like many of us the US refuses, as they do with evolution, to believe it. Trump believes global warming to be a hoax stemming from China. Our government believes it to be a socialist plot.

Biden intends to reverse this travesty of human comprehension.

In the US 22 million people live in poverty. Inequality in both our countries is a problem with only the left of politics willing to address it.

Since its arrival on US shores COVID-19 – besides killing in excess of 230,000 people – it has sent many thousands more into poverty says a report from Columbia University.

The right didn’t give a damn.

Trickle-down economics and de-industrialisation are responsible but the right cling to the god of capitalism, that believes that making the rich even richer will solve the problem.

Religion has a rather odd hold on the most technologically advanced country in the world but we are more circumspect and Christianity is in decline and is likely to disappear in two or three decades. Church attendance in Australia has declined from 44% in 1950 to just 16% today.

The rich citizens and the big corporations of both countries seem to have ‘boycotted’ paying tax. Corruption reigns supreme and the conservatives dodge any move that might have its party investigated.

Corruption runs rampant in both countries. Both are loath to tackle political exploitation- afraid of what may be revealed. A move to have an oversight body in Australia is being hindered by a reluctant government that faces many scandals.

President Trump faces over 1,000 law suits as soon as he leaves office. What a circus that will be.

While in Australia we don’t have periodic mass killings of children at schools, malls, movie theatres and other public places, however there are those who would soften our gun laws.

Fortunately, we don’t have the problem of police committing public executions of black people in our streets but only a fool would deny that we have an element of racism.

Like America, the reality is that we have a media that produces an avalanche of political and cultural untruths. Stories are just made up. A petition of 500,000 signatures is being presented to the Australian Parliament this week for a Royal Commission into the bias of the Murdoch press. Its bias is based on the assumption that in a declining market it is legitimate to lie and disseminate political, intellectual and cultural discourse with a perverse sensationalism, emotionalism and pathetic dishonesty to arrest this declining market.

American and Australian media are saturated with highly-paid right-wing commentators whose job it is to titillate, gossip and contaminate the airwaves and television screens with nonsensical garbage where people talk up negative possibilities.

Selling advertising comes first and it’s done in any manner it can be. Mass entertainment, both violent and sexually explicit, contaminates the cultural life of both our countries.

American reality television conspired in Trump to produce a ‘reality’ presidential candidate. “There’s no business-like show business.”

Now that the “I know more about anything” President has been defeated by Biden there is a chance of returning to the sensible centre that once made American democracy a guiding light in a world looking for freedom.

”I will make America great again,” Trump shouted from the highest pillars of the mountain of illusion.

Millions of Americans have ‘woken up’. The dream has ended. The promise that everyone can be whoever they want to be and have whatever they want, if they would just work hard, and trust in God, is dying.

American exceptionalism, the land of milk and honey belongs to a bygone era. If it ever did.

In Australia we feel powerless to have any influence in what we thought was an inclusive democracy. We are just spectators, hostages to broken systems of government. Chaos abounds and the common good has been forgotten. The political, cultural and intellectual discourse of Australia has been effectively muted by the contamination of those who would seek power for power’s sake. It must be reversed.

Conservatives have successfully stifled the intellectual exchange of ideas. Australia has a compulsory voting system and America a non-compulsory one. Neither serves the people well.

In Australia, capitalistic neoliberal ideology has won the day and we must follow America’s example and give the other mob a go.

The lack of transparency, uncontrolled capitalism, corruption and the death of truth are of themselves cause for great concern.

Sure, both societies have advanced but the price is gauged by the exploitation of the poor and middle classes.

The price we have paid for our progress is measured in wars and seductive illusions about our culture. Our quality of life has become a perception. Not ‘what is’ but what we perceive it to be.

And in our powerlessness, we listen to the voices of the absurd, to the promises of demigods and racists in the absence of ideas about how to fix our comparative democracies.

It’s called long-suffering irrationalism. We no longer have the patience or desire to soberly examine policies that effect our lives and politics has been relegated by the media to a 24/7 sideshow.

In America the voice of Trump was heard by those who cannot see that the great American dream has ended and those who have lost faith in institutionalised politics see no future.

In Australia the voice of the far right has gained a foothold because people have become dissatisfied with our institutionalised democracy. Our government produces slogans and promises repetitively until the people are conned into believing them. They deal in the illusions of social progress and prosperity. They refuse to acknowledge any reality that might concern us about the future.

The people either don’t vote or think they gain a voice by voting for extremists. Few people trust our politicians or have faith in our system of government.

We live a life of permanent malaise and think little about what makes our nation work until the next election come around. Chris Hedges spelt it out this way:

”Life is lived in an eternal present. How we got here, where we came from, what shaped us as a society, in short, the continuum of history that gives us an identity, are eradicated.”

What Australians dislike about Americans is their pomposity and self-righteousness, their know-all attitude and belief in their own self-importance, for which we have a saying: “They think their shit doesn’t stink.” Some would say that they are the only people in the world that believe their own bullshit.

Whatever happens in America (apart from frequent mass murders), usually reinvents itself in Australia. Greed is now God. Paying tax has become a sport with no rules. Narcissism is rampart and religion has more to say than it should.

How did it come to this?

It did so because we allowed ourselves to believe the lies. We fell for the mantra of hatred and fear they so delicately indoctrinated us with.

We allowed ourselves to be conned into believing that poverty is the fault of the victim but wealth comes from virtue and both are the natural order of things.

Good democracies can only deliver good government and outcomes if the electorate demands it. Unfortunately, we have forgotten just what that means.

The United States of America has cleaned up its act. So, should we.

They had their say after four years of a cringeworthy leader.

 

“End of an error” by Alan Moir (moir.com.au)

 

My thought for the day

The purpose of propaganda is to make you feel good about the wrongs being perpetrated on you.

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The U.S. Presidential Election: Observations of an Australian outsider

I begin writing at 6am on Friday, November 6 with the United States presidential election undecided but with Joe Biden having the clearer pathway to victory.

The result may come in as I write, but that will not change the fact that Donald Trump will, if necessary, challenge every vote in any court willing to hear him.

He is even insisting that voting be stopped in many states. Both sides are passionate but so far only Joe Biden is showing any dignity in the process. Trump, as is usual, is showing all the petulance of a young boy who has had his toys taken from him.

While the votes are still being legally counted, we can only speculate about what we know thus far.

One thing is clear and that is that the process must be valued; that the long-founded institutions be respected and not open to abuse.

So, here are some observations about this much anticipated election.

What we know so far is that this has been an election confirming the political divide and the partisan attitudes of the American people.

Of the two contenders only one is worthy of the position of President of the United States of America.

One is a narcissist of the highest order – and arguably mentally ill – while the other is a nice, reasonable man nearing the end of his political life but still with the potential to bring back some sanity to American politics.

I have nothing against a reasoned old man and everything against a slightly younger narcissist.

One thing that stands out to me is that the system of government (the Electoral College system) cannot continue where one side receives so much more of the popular vote yet doesn’t receive any proportional recognition.

This cannot continue election after election without tensions reaching boiling point. In 2016 the Democrats won the popular vote by 3 million votes and their lead in 2020 is approaching 4million: with 6 million being within grasp.

It looks as though the Republicans will retain the Senate which, if Biden wins, means that – as it did with Obama – the GOP will block any Biden legislation they want. Well, maybe.

Having said that, they cannot afford to continue to be a wrecker party as they were with Obama otherwise they will just become a party of obstructionism.

At around 10am Australian time Joe Biden hit our television screens and in the tradition of Obama “cool” asked that America remains calm and remind people that the election was continuing to be held under the rules of each state. I’m beginning to think that some sanity might soon come back to the presidency.

Then around 12.30am  Donald Trump alleges that there was wide spread fraud in the process. It was the greatest dummy spit by any president ever. The election is being stolen from him, he says.

Which is of course all rubbish. He declares that he has won and wants all counting stopped.

 

 

If Biden does in fact defeat Trump, we will have a lot to thank him for. To not have to listen to his daily lies and his high opinion of himself will be like a breath of fresh air.

In a brilliant essay for The Guardian on Saturday Katherine Murphy wrote:

“Trump was trying to make a case that there is a conspiracy against him. Fake votes. Fake polls. Fake news outlets pretending the fake votes aren’t fake. Obviously, this is a florid fantasy, but Trump is speaking to supporters, American citizens, who also hold these views. He’s validating voter predispositions, not inventing them.”

Trump’s assertions were made in his typically ugly manner. No facts, no truth, no legality. It’s all sour grapes. That the Vice President wasn’t at his side was telling, and a few hours later fellow Republicans began to crab walk away from him. 2012 Presidential challenger Mick Romney more or less told him to grow up and shut up.

My wife is ecstatic about the likelihood of a Biden victory. I take a bit of time off from writing to look at the excellent ABC coverage.

I see a young man with a placard saying “Jesus Saves” on a day that 115,000 new COVID-19 cases are announced. I find that both upsetting and questionable. The virus has hardly rated a mention.

Trump has never, as President, expressed the grief of the nation. Nor has he ever done anything about it.

There was speculation that unhappiness with Trump’s handling of the virus might depress turnout among conservative voters. That has not eventuated.

The day brings forth a few relevant facts. It is a record turnout for an American election. More women voted than ever before. Twice as many young people have voted that in 2016. Biden has won more votes than any other candidate in history, breaking Obama’s record.

Democracy is alive and well.

I’m at my desk at 6am Saturday and tune into the ABC. It seems that overnight nothing much has changed although things seemed to have firmed up for Joe Biden.

They are saying that Biden may make some comments at midday so I continue thinking about the consequences of a Biden victory. I’m assuming at this stage that he will win.

By this time, I’m thinking whether the Republicans will become more amiable without Trump in order to show that they have indeed changed.

Instead of just blocking everything, will they compromise? McConnell and Biden have worked together for over 40 years so there is opportunity for some give and take.

At this stage in the voting it looks as though the Democrats will have a reduced majority in the House but the Senate will be controlled by the Republicans.

My thoughts take me from one thing to another.

It has to be said that the way in which Americans elect their political representatives needs to be re visited.

Deny the science, don’t wear masks, don’t social distance. All these instructions to the population and others have contributed to the deaths of many. The President’s own dismissal of the virus itself is tantamount to a recklessness beyond belief. His stupidity-gullibility and refusal to consider advice from medical experts when he could have, makes him – some will argue – a mass murderer by negligence. That is the truth of it.

It is time that those with the capacity to change laws that might prevent the mass deaths of people – and refuse to do so – were made to account. After all, they are as guilty or as mad, whatever the case, as the perpetrator himself.

Mid-afternoon Trump is digging in. He tweets:

 

 

His logic continues to confound.

Joe Biden announces that he is on the cusp of victory but asks for calm. And in what appears to be a dig at Trump he reminds everyone that the counting processes are evidence of democracy at work. He too turns to Twitter:

 

 

Now we sit back and wait for the next chapter in this amazing election.

And knowing Trump, anything can happen.

My thought for the day

The best one can say when looking for a reason as to why Trump lost is to say that he lied his way out of office.

 

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America votes to stop the decay

Today America votes for the future of many things. For democracy, for an overheating planet, and many other matters of grave national and international importance.

The US is a day behind us making today the one that America decides between the loathsome Trump and the ageing Biden.

Four more years of Trump would have grave consequences for the international community. It would affect global progress and unity for generations. Transatlantic superpower relations and the climate emergency are all tied together.

I believe the goodness of Biden will take the day from Trump, and do so handsomely. I say so because so many people have taken the opportunity to vent their anger by voting early. In fact, one hundred million people voted early – only thirty million less than the total number of people who voted in the 2016 election.

Biden will win because he is the perfect candidate to bring back reason, common sense and diplomacy to American politics. With his calm reassurance there is a chance of restoring the political dignity and international respect that has been lost under Trump. One that had, some years ago, a semblance of bi-partisanship when the common good mattered more

Trump will lose because he is an uncouth liar who has failed to widen his base and the COVID-19 virus has shown him to be devoid of character and compassionate leadership.

The consequences of electing Trump for another term are catastrophic. It is questionable as to whether the political institutions can withstand his absurdity.

The rise of narcissism and inequality and the demise of compassion illustrate the state of the world.

Trump, however, if the vote is close will take every opportunity to have the courts decide the winner hence his stacking of the Supreme Court, such is his determination to cling to power.

 

 

The American voting system allows for postal voting: nothing has changed in that regard but Trump has declared that in his mind votes cannot be counted after 3 November.

If the result is inconclusive then it may very well turn into something like day to day trench warfare with each day punctuated by moments of sheer dread.

It is a strange democracy that gives each state the right to determine its citizens right to vote in a national election: then hold it mid-week while many people are at work. And that one candidate could get ten million more votes than the other and feasibly still lose – because of the electoral college – is another strange anomaly of American politics.

Power is a malevolent possession when you are prepared to forgo your principles and your country’s wellbeing for the sake of it.

Trump is a loose cannon who if defeated will set American against American, blame everyone but himself. His vindictiveness knows no bounds so join with me, people of the world, and convince your American friends on line that there is only one choice. Vote Democrat. Vote for Biden.

Here is an example of the world’s most powerful man giving a speech. The article is titled ‘Can Trump give a speech without reading a teleprompter?’ God help us.

Of course, Donald Trump can give a speech without reading a teleprompter.

Here, with no edits, is a word-for-word transcript of one such example:

“Look, having nuclear — my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, okay, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart — you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world — it’s true! — but when you’re a conservative Republican they try — oh, do they do a number — that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune — you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged — but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me — it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are — nuclear is so powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right, who would have thought? — but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners — now it used to be three, now it’s four — but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years — but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us, this is horrible.” [Donald Trump, in a campaign speech with no teleprompter, Sun City, South Carolina, at Magnolia Hall].

This above was nominated for The Guinness Book of World Records as a contender for the “World’s Longest Run-On Sentence.” The Guinness Book of World Records declined to respond.

#VoteBlueToEndTheNightmare

My thought for the day

The Office of the American President was once viewed by its people as an office of prestige and importance. Trump has reduced it to one of ridicule and contempt.

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“It’s a lifestyle choice,” (so it’s not work) said Simon Birmingham

The catalyst for writing this post was a political video of an unwell President Trump trumpeting his self-image with a voiceover of Frank Sinatra singing “My Way.” (Click on link, or you can watch the video at the bottom of this article).

I thought to myself; “What effrontery, what gall, what would Sinatra, a Democrat, have thought of his chutzpa?”

Probably something like this: “I’d like to shove a clarinet down his throat and see what his highest note is.”

Or more Sinatra-like might be; “I’d like to shove a sax up his arse and see how much more shit he can blow.”

So, what brings me to this? Well, during Question Time last week Labor MP, Josh Burns, asked the Arts Minister Paul Fletcher why he had claimed in an ABC interview that money from the government’s Arts industry support package was “already flowing” when senior officials in his department told Senate estimates that in fact “no cash has flowed.” He struggled through an unconvincing answer that would have been no comfort at all to the workers who have been waiting nearly nine months for help.

The Arts in all its forms has never been of particular interest to conservatives. The fact that, as a cohort, it employs so many people doesn’t impress them at all. Fletcher’s answer was typical of a government keen to announce but not act.

If you cast your mind back to earlier this year Scott Morrison, with great fanfare, announced a support package for this industry that supports 600,000 workers and an economy of $112 billion:

“Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the commercial arts and entertainment sector was one of the first to be affected by COVID-19, through strict social distancing measures that were enforced, and would be one of the last to come out of hibernation.

He said the package, which includes $75 million in grants to provide capital to help production and event businesses and $35 million in direct financial assistance to theatres, dance groups, circuses, musicians and other fields, would help get “their show back on the road, to get their workers back in jobs.”

We are now in November and not a note has been seen nor heard. Another announcement with an enormous crescendo but no climax.

Guy Sebastian was heavily criticised at the time for thanking Scott Morrison.

“Firstly, I would like to thank you guys, especially you Prime Minister, for listening … you really were, and that was evident the other day when we jumped on that Zoom call.”

“You really did hear us out, you heard all the challenges we were facing.”

Workers in the industry were never included in JobKeeper, and Sebastian was conned.

Then in June Arts Minister Paul Fletcher defended the delay in funding:

“We think this comes at the right time to get the sector restarted,” he said.

Labor’s Arts spokesman Tony Burke last Thursday said it had been in March since the opposition had first called on the government to deliver a support package for the Arts and Entertainment sector:

“This totally unnecessary delay has done enormous damage to this industry and its workers,” Mr Burke said.

It is now November and there is still no funding.

Our dance companies, artists, writers and musicians are applauded and recognized throughout the world, but the government doesn’t reach any high notes when it comes to the Arts.

Four years ago the then Education Minister Simon Birmingham described those seeking a career in the creative arts as making a “lifestyle choice” that wouldn’t produce an economic return and therefore shouldn’t be supported by government. In other words, he couldn’t give an octave.

By what criteria Mr. Birmingham makes his fiddling “lifestyle” judgment is anyone’s guess, but it’s fair to assume that he means it’s not real work.

I would suggest that he was making some sort of vague conservative value judgement about the Arts that implies it is both a luxury and a valueless product.

However, many people are not necessarily born with creative attributes. Sometimes it is born from a simple preparedness to just “have a go.” What is that lyric of Morrison’s? … “If you have a go …”

So, if we don’t have music, literature, poetry, art, dance, theatre, performance, film and many other forms of the Arts, what then defines our existence – records our history?

After all, we are by nature creative. Art is but a reflection of society. Throughout history, in all it guises, it has reflected our journey. Design is a graduate of art which gives birth to innovation.

Do you know that more people visit the Melbourne Arts Complex in any given year than the MCG over the road? Birmingham went on to say:

“Currently there are far too many courses that are being subsidised that are used simply to boost enrolments or provide lifestyle choices but don’t lead to work.”

Sure, it’s true that people in the Arts are attracted to socially progressive politics.

There is a mutuality of understanding. Artists of all genres take it for granted that there is some suffering in their undertaking.

Of course, it’s the country that also suffers if the Arts are not encouraged. Our culture is lessoned and diversity threatened.

Conservatives have never understood the Arts. They see it as a haven for left-wing radicals.

If you look at funding for all forms of education you will see the same principle repeated. Decisions driven by conservative ideology. It has no ambient overtones what so ever.

Robert Kennedy put it like this:

“The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages… It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

When I was studying for my Dip of Fine Arts I often used to say, when we were discussing its history that:

“Art in all its forms, dance, music, drama, painting or other genre, is but a reflection of society at the time”

A class fascination for me was trying to identify the political leanings of my fellow students. Invariably when they spoke about their work, it was apparent that those producing works with a radical but social objective: commitment to social justice were always of the left.

As for me, I always confronted the class and told them that if art was not commenting on society then it was not contributing toward it.

The Arts are about broadening human horizons, lifting people up, and opening their eyes and hearts to the beauty of existence.

Simply put, it is easier to be creative if you are sensitive to the human condition. Art over many centuries has reflected the society in which it found itself. From ancient Aboriginal painting to Pablo Picasso’s depiction of war in his work Guernica, which was a powerful political statement about the Spanish war.

We judge art not by how it arrived on the canvas but how it speaks once there.

The Russians and Germans made art a general tool of propaganda.

Then there was early Christian art that portrayed arguably the world’s first socialist as white and fragile when the reverse was probably the truth.

Throughout history, art has been used in as a means of political persuasion. Art challenges many of society’s deepest assumptions. Look at the persuasive techniques of street art.

In music think about the protest songs of the 60s and the rap singers of today. Think about the environmental lyrics of John Denver and the working-class words of Bruce Springsteen.

The protest songs of Dylan, Billy Brag and Joan Baez.

An artist creates a sculpture alone; a painter uses a brush in isolation. But music forms a community, where the spirit of life can be felt.

In literature the writing of John Steinbeck whose book ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ changed my life and the leftist writing of Australian poet Henry Lawson.

Other notable Australian leftist writers include Thomas Keneally, Patrick White, Marcus Clark, Frank Hardy, Manning Clark, and Martin Flanagan.

And it should not be forgotten that the Australian film industry might never have gotten off the ground but for the efforts of the left-wing Philip Adams and Labor legend Barry Jones.

In my observation and experience people from the creative arts, be they writers, actors, painters, sculptors, poets, musicians or from whatever genre, predominately come from the left. They tend to be more sensitive to the marginalised and social issues like the environment, equality, gay rights, and are more open-minded about such issues.

Their views are more humanitarian and empathetic. Artists are not afraid to speak through their work and readily accept the challenges of change and its consequences. Artists see possibilities and opportunities that others do not.

The left side of politics has always attracted those from the Arts because there is a mutual philosophical co-existence and understanding of what human nature is.

On the other hand, the right side in Western democracies can only see the Arts through the prism of capitalism and profit. Rightists only see the Arts as a means for social display and as a source of commodities to be bought and sold for profit (like everything else). They instinctively resent and despise those morally and spiritually superior to them.

Censorship of art and entertainment is, historically, a socially conservative trait.

There is no greater illustration in political history of the rights attitude to the Arts than when, in the 1950s USA, junior Republican Senator, Joe McCarthy accused 10 innocent Hollywood writers of having connections to the Communist Party. It snowballed to the point where the slightest suggestion of association ended many entertainers’ careers and left a dark stain on American political history.

Many had to go to England to further their careers. The events of the time were later encapsulated in the movie; ‘The way we were.’

Notable names included as communists were: Helen Keller, Leonard Bernstein, Burl Ives, Pete Seeger, Artie Shaw, Zero Mostel , Charlie Chaplin, Langston Hughes, Orson Welles, Dolores del Rio, Danny Kaye, Dorothy Parker, Lena Horne, Gypsy Rose Lee, Burgess Meredith, Ruth Gordon, Eddie Albert, Richard Attenborough, Barbara Bel Geddes.

Charlie Chaplin had this to say about the allegations:

” … Since the end of the last world war, I have been the object of lies and propaganda by powerful reactionary groups who, by their influence and by the aid of America’s yellow press, have created an unhealthy atmosphere in which liberal-minded individuals can be singled out and persecuted. Under these conditions I find it virtually impossible to continue my motion-picture work, and I have therefore given up my residence in the United States.”

I suspect that if a poll was taken of prominent actors, writers, musicians and other artists etc. in Australia prior to any election 90% would pledge their support for Labor, and 10% for the Greens. The only way the Arts will ever increase its funding by conservative governments is to convince them that it’s profitable. In a way it’s like the advertising industry which is dominated by capitalists but creatively inspired by the leftish artistic directors.

Artists and the left exist in a natural marriage of ideological compassion and understanding that speaks of protest of dissent of change of charity and challenge, but most of all for the common good. The creative arts share its values and social democracy exists for the same reason.

Now, here’s that video of Trump:

 

 

My thought for the day

An artist creates a sculpture alone; a painter uses a brush in isolation. But music forms a community, where the spirit of life can be felt.

 

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The ATM governments and the death of the common good

Have Australians ever, so blindly, elected governments so negatively characterless? So corrupt that scandals increase by the day? Governments so ignorant of truth and transparency? So insensitive to those who cannot help themselves? So willing to endorse and foster inequality? So willing to govern for those who have while leaving the have-nots behind?

So illiterate of technology and science that they would subject us to fire and floods while doing nothing to alleviate climate change?

So oblivious to the needs of women? So inept at policy formation and its implementation that they are unable to draft a policy for a strong independent federal anti-corruption commission?

Governments who speak the language of ridiculous absurdity? So pugnacious, so confrontationist, so self-righteous, in its attitude toward people? And so out of touch with a modern pluralist society? A government so unsophisticated in deep worldly acumen and discernment, yet so religiously inclined?

Power in in the hands of a government with chastisement in their hearts, authority on their minds and control in their doing, do little for democracy and society in general.

Governments who are control freaks usually cannot see beyond their own self-importance and are hostile to those who might threaten it.

I have never had a capacity for hatred (it’s simply not in my DNA) but the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments have really tested my mettle. What has any of them done to improve the quality of our living, our culture, our play, and our learning?

So, while the stench of their combined tenure lingers let’s allow me to seize the moment and remind ourselves just what it is we on the left are fighting for.

The conservatives speak exclusively the words of the economist. On the other hand, Labor’s language speaks of marrying the words of the enlightened economist and those of the thinker to form a sentence that describes a marriage with the word ‘society’.

Successful societies should be built around a ‘common-good society’ where the words ‘economics’ and ‘society’ are spoken with an acknowledgement that one is essential to the other.

And then we need to examine which political ideology is best placed to build such a society.

The advent of a terrible virus, despite its world-wide destruction has provided us with the opportunity to rethink what a future society should look like and which ideology is best placed to bring it about.

Firstly, let’s ask ourselves what is an ideal society based on. I have written similar words to the following that describe my best, ‘common-good, society.’

For me it’s an achievement we may never accomplish. It may never be perfect but nonetheless is a worthwhile ambition.

In the modern Western democracy, an enlightened society is a population of men, women, and children who as a collective desire to express their humanity, work, aspirations, spirituality, art, poetry and play with the richest possible diversity.

It must first give prominence to the existence of those who have toiled the land long before our coming and then cater for the many cultures that we invited to follow.

It must cultivate a common good with equality of opportunity for all. A society where one’s sexual preference or gender is not an adjudication on your character and the colour of your skin and says nothing about you other than perhaps your geographical place of birth.

A society that believes in individual pursuit, intellectual accomplishment and financial reward only regulated by what is beneficial for the collective good. In other words, everyone is entitled to an equitable share of society’s wealth.

A society where freedom of expression is guaranteed but limited only by the innate moral personal decency of the individual.

Where free speech is fair speech. An enlightened society in which the suggestion that we need to legislate ones’ right to hate another person is considered intellectually barren.

A society where the health and welfare of all is sacrosanct and access to treatment is assured.

Where the principle that we should treat others in the same manner as we expect them to treat us is indelible in the mind of every citizen.

A society that respects science before myth and mysticism, but at the same time recognises the individual’s right to the expression of their own form of spirituality so long as it doesn’t hinder the common good.

A society that should be judged by its welcoming, and how well it treats its most vulnerable citizens. By how well protected our civil rights are and how accessible the law is regardless of stature or wealth.

In democratic societies (the best – or least bad form of government) our herding instincts are realised by the election of leaders who form government.

Even in the imperfection of any democracy, we comprehend that a group mentality advances society better than dictatorial individuality.

So, we need a government that is subservient to the will (the common-good ethics) of the people and is responsive to the inclusiveness of public opinion.

It is government that decides and regulates the progress and ambitions of society. Or at least provides the environment in which to do so.

There is very little that is done in the name of progress that cannot be attributed in some way to government. Individual or collective ambition can only be achieved within a social structure built and controlled by a people’s democracy.

If today we can sweep aside this period of conservative, capitalistic madness in which we have allowed the voices of the far right insane to gratuitously silence truth, logic and the sciences, then we will perhaps have turned the nation away from a horrendous future.

My thought for the day

The danger in looking back to often is that we lose the will to go forward.

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Truth can be a potent weapon when used against corruption

Let me explain my headline. The words in quotations – unless stipulated otherwise – are written by my Facebook friend, Mike B. Mike has a habit of commenting on my work in a way that can be frustratingly affronting but at the same time challenges me to think more deeply about the truth of my communication.

Often, when I am left thinking my words are just a portrayal of left-wing bias, he forces me to rethink and refine. Think deeper. (I recall saying to my children in their teenage years. “Think beyond the answer. There’s sure to be another one lurking somewhere.”)

This time his comments referred to my previous post that was extremely critical of the past, current, and ongoing corruption of the Liberal and National parties.

Mike B writes:

“Most political commentators indulge themselves in invective, which is by definition ‘Abusive or venomous language used to express blame or censure or bitter deep-seated ill will’.

Praise is rarer, that is ‘expressions of approval and commendation’.

Both, when addressed to politics, are irrelevances. A discussion and understanding of human nature might be opportune. Political behaviour, our historical narrative informs, expresses what humans fundamentally are: honest and devious, cruel and kind hearted, violent and peaceful, primitive and sophisticated, clever and stupid.

The bifurcation of opposites in our nature and behaviour is endemical. Nothing has changed in our nature since our time on this planet began.

How, John Lord, do you set about changing human nature to something better? Start maybe with an appraisal of individual self-interest opposed to species imperatives. (Toffler) Otherwise human failing become simply a boring endlessly repeated litany.”

To cut to the chase, what Mike is saying to me is that it is one thing to identify the corruption that invests itself in politics and society, then be critical of it, but it is another to write about how we achieve social change.

To prove that I have given the matter some thought. Allow me to throw into the ring one of my quotes that addresses this issue:

“Will we ever grow intellectually to the point where we are able to discern, understand and act on those matters that seek the good within us?”

I also use another quote:

“Question everything. What you see, what you feel, what you hear and what you are told until you understand the truth of it.”

In my article I asked:

“What is it in the hearts and minds of men (l declare women more honest than men) that turns them into liars, robbers, cheats-men of ill repute, corrupt scoundrels who would take from the public purse that which is not theirs in order to feather their own nest?”

When I write and I use muscular language to describe wrong-doing, I constantly ask myself if what I’m doing is really important? Is it what I believe in, or have I just adjusted to what I’m doing?

If wrong-doing or the temptation toward it is intrinsically endemic in us all then identifying the problem is central to changing social attitudes.

Since I posted my piece more wrong-doing has come to light. The head of ASIC has been caught dipping his fingers into his expense’s card. The head of Australia Post has been giving staff expensive Cartier watches. It has become a never-ending story.

Novelist Ayn Rand said that “social change has to start with a moral revolution within each individual.”

Wikipedia tells us that the person Mike referred to, Alvin Toffler, was:

“… an American writer, futurist, and businessman known for his works discussing modern technologies, including the digital revolution and the communication revolution, with emphasis on there effects on cultures worldwide. He is regarded as one of the world’s outstanding futurists.

In his early works he focused on technology and its impact, which he termed ‘information overload.’ In 1970 his first major book about the future, Future Shock, became a worldwide best-seller and has sold over 6 million copies.”

On the subject we are discussing he identified management and leadership as a means of changing sociality morality. The way we think.

Toffler stated many of his ideas during an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 1998:

“Society needs people who take care of the elderly and who know how to be compassionate and honest.” Furthermore, he said. “Society needs people who work in hospitals. Society needs all kinds of skills that are not just cognitive; they’re emotional, they’re affectional. You can’t run the society on data and computers alone.”

 

Image from igorbeuker.com

 

Changing the way we think about temptation and corruption is a big subject because we are not just talking about financial gain but all manner of things that might lead us into ethically bad temptations.

Manipulating others so that they might participate in our temptation is a particularly bad side effect.

Corruption permeates every facet of society from religious institutions, education, sports: even law enforcement isn’t immune. It takes on many forms from bribery, nepotism, bid-rigging, embezzlement, extortion, vote-buying, price-fixing, protection rackets, character assassination and a hundred other varieties of fraud.

Yet our conceptual understanding of this evil – let alone our capacity to understand and combat it – is rather thin.

If change is to take place then it must first take place in the very hearts of men and women who are leaders in our community. Parents, teachers, law enforcers, faith leaders, media proprietors, business leaders, and of course politicians.

Avoiding temptation and corruption needs to be built into the syllabus of every course with an element of leadership.

Human nature, being what it is, we can never hope to eliminate bad decisions but if our leaders demonstrated a larger accommodation for truth and transparency that invited itself into the recipient’s ear then we would be a much better society.

My answer to Mike is that even though corruption has outlived all predictions of its demise, I will continue to expose this regrettable feature of our natural condition with my harshest words whenever corruption crosses my path. I will, however, from now on do so with an eye open to its cause and its elimination.

In the meantime, I will continue to advocate for some form of national ICAC. The use of truth to fight corruption remains a vital weapon.

My thought for the day

There is often a subtle difference between what you are tempted to do and what you should do.

 

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Federal Integrity Commission: Yes, no, maybe, too busy

The Prime Minister is never short on confidence, but mostly it borders on arrogance. This was on display in Question Time this week when Scott Morrison tried to defend his lack of progress on a Federal Integrity Commission. “Where the bloody hell is it?“ boomed Albo’s voice last Wednesday during question time.

It didn’t go unnoticed that the term “where the bloody hell” was a little provocative given that the same words were used by Morrison in one of his infamous advertisements while in charge of Tourism Australia.

During Question Time the government was asked several questions about the lack of progress on this most important piece of legislation.

It gave three answers that reminded me of that old West Indian madrigal that Harry Belafonte used to sing: “It was clear as mud and it covered the ground and my confusion made me head go around.”

The first answer was something to do with anti-corruption bodies being extremely complex, “and we need to consult widely before rushing to legislate,” came the excuse from the Prime Minister.

That sort of had a ring of truth to it, but we had been hearing that for two and a half years and sort of answered a rhetorical question as to why they stuffed so many things up.

The second answer used the soon to be overused riposte that it’s difficult to consult properly in the midst of a pandemic.

The third answer was a doozy: “Don’t you realise there’s a crisis, Anthony, you fool.” This was followed with an additional sputter from the mouth that roared to the effect that:

“I was not going to have one public servant diverted from the task [of managing the pandemic to deal with ICAC.”

Telling the truth should not be delayed simply because we are not sure how people might react to it.

In truth, what these answers delivered was confirmation of an ongoing capacity to lie to the Australian people. The government has been conducting business as normal since the outbreak began. Part of that normality has been legislation to overhauling the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and the foreign veto power proposal plus powers allowing it to remove mobile phones from asylum seekers  legislation. Add to these other examples, like doubling university fees for some future humanities students.

I could keep going, but I think you get my point. All of these everyday pieces of legislation have been worked on while at the same time coping with an awful pandemic.

With a list of alleged corruption growing longer by the day I repeat what I said in my previous post:

“If all the LNP errors, rorts and corrupt activities during their tenure were lumped in the same basket as corruption and looked at retrospectively, then an Integrity Commissioner would have years of work.”

This week the intensity on the government has grown with regards to the AFP looking into the sale of land in NSW at the site of a new airport.

The Guardian reported that:

“Three federal infrastructure department officials and federal MP Angus Taylor separately met with Louise Waterhouse while she lobbied for potentially lucrative changes to her vast landholdings near the Western Sydney airport.”

The Guardian also reported that Labor asked a series of questions in Senate estimates on Tuesday after Twitter confirmed it permanently suspended a QAnon account belonging to a family friend of the Prime Minister’s for “engaging in coordinated harmful activity.”

The Sydney Morning Herald informed that:

“the Australian Border Force is the target of a corruption investigation over allegations that it improperly funnelled $39 million from a national security project to share market-listed defence company Austal to prop up its financial position.”

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, The Age tells us that:

“a federal inquiry into the office of Assistant Minister Michael Sukkar was outsourced to the law firm he used to work for, sparking questions over a conflict of interest in its findings.”

When added to the existing scandals and given that the new commission is structured to handle the work load, the LNP should be more than a little terrified.

No matter what the spin, what excuse or what lies are told in defence of not completing the legislation a pile of corruption with the stench of LNP government involvement awaits the judgement of public opinion.

Finding the truth and reporting it is more important than creating a narrative where controversy matters more.

Whilst it is well known that Christian Porter is the most overworked parliamentarian in the House of Representatives, there can be little doubt that the government wants the issue to go away as much as we all want the virus to disappear, it won’t.

There are so many clangers having a smell of corruption hanging over the Coalition since Tony Abbott became Opposition Leader. It has to stop.

The dilemma as I see it for the government, is that through their own promise is expected to formulate a policy that the public and the Opposition will accept and then successfully prosecute its own corruption.

Now that is a problem.

My thought for the day

This Governments performance over its time in office has been like a daily shower of uncouthness raining down on society. Surely performance or lack of it must mean something.

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How do you introduce a policy detrimental to your own integrity?

What is it in the hearts and minds of men (l declare women more honest than men, but they also indulge) that turns them into liars, robbers, cheats, people of ill repute, corrupt scoundrels who would take from the public purse – that which is not theirs – in order to feather their own nest?

When an act of dishonesty is committed by powerful people, be it in the media, by the police, public servants, by inducement or by politicians it is nothing more than corruption.

However, any commission or its governing legislation needs to clarify just what corruption is as opposed to just bad governance.

Are the sports rorts corruption, or just politics, or more likely a cover up?

The AFP are currently looking into the sale of land in NSW at the site of a new airport. In my view that is corruption as is the controversy over the sale of water.

Is it possible that a crime against the common good can be committed? Was the implementation of Robodebt a form of corruption, a crime, or just bad execution?

If all the LNP errors, mistakes and corrupt activities during their tenure were all lumped in the same basket as corruption and looked at retrospectively, then a commission would have years of work.

Be it bribery, or any other form of illegal activity, the list of corruption would be as long as one’s arm depending on the innovation, sophistication, or subtle covert forms the perpetrator used.

What contaminates them to the point that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely? It is a question as old as the ages.

Corruption learns from its mistakes and over time gets better at it, particularly in politics where ethics is expected but isn’t monitored.

I ask myself these questions while at the same time advocating for a Federal Corruption Commission, and l conclude that corruption is innate in man and has always been so. After all, our jails are full of men and women who have committed crimes against society.

It would seem temptation is something beyond our control and therefore in need of some oversight. Turning a blind eye to it is also a form of corruption.

Somewhere, corruption is being carried out today because greed is intrinsic in people and in politics it is relatively easy to get away with. Politicians don’t want to be investigated so they protect themselves against investigation.

In Australia, at the last election, both Labor and the conservative parties agreed in their policy platforms to formulate some form of oversight-similar to a NSW style ICAC.

The conservative parties have had draft legislation for almost three years but use every excuse to do nothing.

In February of this year Paddy Manning writing for The Monthly said that Attorney-General Christian Porter told Perth radio that the draft legislation, “now running to more than 300 pages, was ‘very close’,” however, given the total scandals of the Morrison government, it well may be that a proper federal anti-corruption agency will be buried and cremated before it gets any worse.

Remember the legislation was promised by years end, 2019?

Porter now says that:

“… the government was still committed to establishing the CIC but would not give any concrete timeline, saying only that the draft legislation would be released ‘at an appropriate time’.”

He goes on to add that he has been so busy with COVID-19 that he hasn’t had the time to put into the legislation.

To that I would say that the commonwealth is spending hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer’s money in order to combat a recession. It is rife for exploitation and corruption. He should find the time.

From what we know so far, the Federal Integrity Commission legislation is so weak that it would not have the power to investigate the Leppington Triangle deal.

Without the ability to investigate scandals of this proportion then it wouldn’t have any teeth at all.

On top of that, conservatives would never legislate a policy detrimental to its own ability to commit activities that advantages them. Even if such activities might be considered suspicious.

The Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said in Parliament that:

“… it had now been two and a half years since the government started work on the CIC, which he described as ‘weak, ineffective, and opaque’.”

He is correct. It doesn’t even allow for public hearings. Corruption of the sort we are discussing doesn’t enter the equation, and it has very weak powers.

I predict they will now blame the opposition for failing to agree.

 

Image from getup.org.au

 

My thought for the day

Time never diminishes the crime.

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Another week in a government going from bad to worse

A short time ago I wrote these words: “The worse they govern the more popular they become.” This week’s post budget Newspoll confirms it to be so.

Mind you, it might also be an indication of the lack of interest we Aussies show in our national affairs.

That Newspoll would reveal such a commanding lead by the government after nearly three full terms of continuing scandals, bad policy, bad implementation, unfairness, shocking leadership and an assault on the very sustainability of planet earth is a scandal of enormous importance.

The latest Newspoll in The Australian has the Coalition leading 52-48, out from 51-49 last time, from primary votes of Coalition 44% (up one), Labor 34% (steady), Greens 11% (down one) and One Nation 3% (steady). Scott Morrison’s personal ratings are unchanged at 65% approval and 31% disapproval, while Anthony Albanese is steady on 39% approval and up three on disapproval to 43%. Morrison’s lead on preferred prime minister nonetheless narrows slightly, from 59-27 to 57-28.

They would win in a canter if an election were held today.

Anyone who follows my arguments will find an incessant trail of words that point to the unscrupulous lying of our Prime Minister and his ministers.

People need to wake up to the fact that government affects every part of their life and should be more interested. But there is a political malaise that is deep seated.

1 But let’s start with the story of former NSW MP Daryl Maguire’s litany of rackets and on-the-side business arrangements that for a price could get you an appointment with any one you wanted.

It is corruption of the worst kind because it’s done on the inside. Although peculiar to NSW, it is a typically pathetic lobbyists-scandal that includes Ministers who retire and immediately become employees of businesses pertaining to their former portfolio.

The stench of this pitiful racket has been waffling down the corridors of the Federal and State Parliaments for years.

People don’t want an appointment with a Minister just to tell him/her what a fine job they are doing. They want to extract an advantage be it financial or otherwise.

Lobbying interests represent millions of dollars in fees that in turn represent billions for companies or individuals who get what they want.

There is hardly an area of government be it, defence, housing, climate, education, industry policy that are not subjected to the persistent knock of the lobbyist at the ministers door and one has to wonder how many over the years have yielded not only to the knock but also the palm of the greased hand.

Less-informed voters unfortunately outnumber the more politically aware. Therefore, conservatives feed them all the bullshit they need. And the menu generally contains a fair portion of untruths.

2 Today, I learn that private schools get $19 billion more than state run schools, while:

“Cash-starved universities will pocket $1 billion in bonus bucks, while private schools were handed a bigger slice of the funding pie than public ones in the Morrison Government’s Budget.”

Having already reaped millions from Jobkeeper, they include in NSW the King’s School, St Joseph’s College, Frensham and The Armidale School, as well as Geelong Grammar, Trinity Grammar, Wesley College and Bialik College in Victoria, and as reported in Michael West, the government is handing out even more.

As is usually the case it’s the wealthiest schools that reap the harvest of government largess. It’s just pampering to the rich. Another form of dishonest, sleazy governance.

So emboldened has the Prime Minister become and so used to getting away with increasing the riches of the privileged that he takes every chance to do so.

3 So arrogant has he become that he saw it fitting to close his eyes, play with his phone or turn his back on Albo during his Budget in Reply speech. Thinking you are superior to others in politics can get you into trouble.

So, let’s continue our meander though what’s been happening in the last week or so, so that we might better understand why it is that this government retains its popularity in spite of itself. Even taking into account the fact that people generally stick with who they know in a crisis is no excuse for the general public to close their eyes to the evil being perpetrated on them.

4 Scott Morrison continues to cop a blast from the Aged Care Royal Commission but he keeps up his pompous denial of any fault in spite of 20 reports saying the government was responsible for many mistakes, simply by not taking advice.

The Prime Minister’s condescending defence of his government wrongs are so superficial that even a blind man could see through them. Morrison is becoming more like Trump with every month that passes.

5 I also learnt that the company known as the NBN Co, the $51 billion taxpayer-funded organisation, is dodging a bit of flak for paying bonusus to its executive team during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Cop this; 110 of its workers are paid between $300,000 and $400,000 and 34 received base salaries above $400,000 before bonuses. Any wonder it is so expensive. This corruption spreads like rust throughout every facet of the community.

6 And now we have another slush fund giving money to another political party in One Nation to announce a policy in their name in return for their support for a yet unnamed bill.

How bloody scandalous.

On top of that the Auditors General’s Department who disclosed the “Sports rorts” in the first instance has had its budget decreased after asking for a top up.

And we call this democratic government.

7 Our conservative government wanted to ban those in immigration from having mobile phones. The reason, well the acting Immigration Minister, Alan Tudge, claimed the government needed the power to:

“… declare phones and other items “prohibited,” to stop the spread of drugs and contraband items in detention centres.”

Civil society organisations pointed out that any ban could prevent detainees speaking to their lawyers.

Jackie Lambie responded by saying that:

“Most of them are using their phones to text their friends and family. They’re using it to watch YouTube videos about cats or movie trailers or whatever. They’re not using it to organise bloody riots. They’re using it the same way I’ve been using mine through Covid – just to get through the day. I’m not going to stop someone calling their dad on his birthday.”

8 With her tail up, the sharp-edged voice of Lambie has warned the Prime Minister that she will reveal the details of a secret deal made in order to win her support for the repeal of the so-called medevac law if he does not do so himself by the end of the year.

“The medical evacuation law was passed against the Government’s will in the last sitting week of 2018.”

The Government has consistently denied that any deal was made however you might remember at the time she told the Senate that she had made a “really hard decision” to support the legislation’s repeal, but had done so because the Government had agreed to an “outcome” that would improve medical treatment for refugees held in offshore detention.

9 Australia Institute analysis finds the term ‘not for publication’ or ‘NFP’ appears 384 times in the budget. It is claimed to be the most secretive budget ever.

10 When the Federal Coalition was last in opposition, during the global financial crisis, its political strategy was to demonise the Rudd Labor government’s deficit spending. It told voters Labor’s spending had created a “debt and deficit disaster.” The strategy was effective and it romped home in the 2013 election.

11 Kevin Rudd’s attempt to force a Royal Commission into the media bias and influence of Rupert Murdoch in Australia, although the government isn’t compelled to implement, is racking up the signatures with over 250,000 thus far.

This includes a very important Former Liberal leader Dr John Hewson who has also added his name to the growing list.

12 News Corp publish seven of the 10 top Australian newspapers and own 65% of metropolitan newspapers by circulation. To quote their own figures:

“… more than 16 million Australians consume news and information across News Corp Australia’s suite of products per month.”

13 An ABC Factcheck tells us the Prime Minister was lying when he said that:

“There are 40 ships, and I’m told there’s some 90,000 containers out there. That includes medical supplies,” Mr Morrison told reporters on September 29, referring to a pay dispute between the Maritime Union of Australia and port terminal operator Patrick.

“You can go down to Port Botany or down to Kurnell and have a look out there and you can see them lining up, and every single one of them lining up is being held back from Australians getting what they need.”

However, according to the ABC fact check:

“… the data shows just seven container ships arriving or waiting off the coast over the 24 hours to Mr Morrison’s news conference.

Four of the seven ships were yet to dock when Mr Morrison made his claim, with three of them ultimately waiting between two and five days.”

If we are to save our democracy, we might begin by asking that at the very least our politicians should tell the truth.

14 Leaked talking points from the Prime Minister’s office last Thursday, tell Coalition MPs to yet again recommit to create a Commonwealth Integrity Commission and to promise it will come “as soon as possible” after COVID-19 recovery efforts.

It won’t be anything like what the public wants or is expecting.

* * * * *

Since Tony Abbott became the leader of the opposition – and in the years following – our politics has declined morally and any character in conservative leadership has been missing. It is corrupt to the core.

I have written a piece along these lines at least once a month for 7 years, however as l said at the beginning of this piece: “The worse they govern the more popular they become.”

My thought for the day

Have we reached the point in politics where TRUTH is something that politicians have persuaded us to believe is, “Like alternative facts” rather than TRUTH based on factual evidence, arguments and assertions?

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Only in America: A look at Trump from Down Under (part 2)

Continued from Part 1

From Down Under we see a sick deluded man of no redeeming features, full of racial hatred, bile and misogyny. A deluded, pathetic liar unsuitable for the highest office in the land, if not the world. He sees complex problems and impregnates them with populism and implausible black and white solutions.

He is a person of limited intellect and understanding only capable of seeing the world through the prism of his own wealth. The far edges of knowledge seem to have passed him by. Matters requiring deep philosophical consideration seem beyond him.

His opinions on subjects of internal and international importance are so shallow that one would think he spent the entirety of his youth in the wading pool at the local swimming pool, or six years in grade 6 and never academically advanced.

He is a crash through politician with a ubiquitous mouth. Trump remains an incoherent mess who bounces back after each disaster thinking he has been impressive while those around him are laughing their heads off. Entertaining in a uniquely American way he might be to the hillbillies, but leadership requires worldly character.

Is America to have an ignoramus of first world order as President?

And so, it came to pass that America did elect an ignoramus of first world order as President. And look at the state of the nation now. A nation with a President whose mental health is seriously being questioned; so erratic has his behaviour become.

It might be said that my description of Trump has descended into what Americans call hyperbole.

If I have, I make no apologies.

Wow. Only in America.

It’s not as though there aren’t alternatives. America could elect its first women, Hillary Clinton as President. She has knowledge, an abundance of experience and the quintessential quality of resiliency in the face of failure. She is no quitter.

On the other hand, a man like Bernie Sanders has a way of grasping the intestines of an argument and presenting a plausible answer that is simple to understand, and at the same time enthuses and leads people into an all-embracing narrative that inspires.

If character is a combination of traits that etch the outlines of life, governing moral choices and personal and professional conduct, Donald Trump is devoid of it. He is nothing more than a walking, talking headline for all that’s unscrupulous about American politics.

Character is also an elusive thing, easily cloaked or submerged by the theatrics of a presidential campaign. His transparency is there for all to see. We sit before our televisions and watch his antics and ponder at the gullibility of the American people and say…

“Only in America.”

Mind you, we would say that about the quality of the Republican candidates, the power of Rupert Murdoch, the evilness of Fox news, of repugnant gun laws and the NRA who seem to have power over who is elected, the Republican hatred of Obamacare and the disdain for science and the utter contempt religion and televangelists have for logic.

So much so that I have come to the conclusion that one of the truly bad effects religion (any religion) has on people is that it teaches that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.

We become bewildered and confused when Americans describe themselves as the great democracy, yet few bother to vote and in an election can only do so on a work day. We are apt to laugh. We think that’s an absurdity. A contradiction of democratic principles. Is it really Government of the people, by the people, for the people as Lincoln proclaimed? “Only in America,“ we whisper.

When talking about character I cannot but mention President Obama. Was there ever a president so constrained by his own Congress?

Republicans and the right-wing media with all their propaganda have sought to create a fictional President who is the opposite of the one known outside the States. Twenty-five per cent of the population still believe he is a Muslim and a large percentage, including Trump, still believe he was born outside the States even though the facts prove otherwise.

Such is the power of the right-wing media (Fox News) and an accumulation of feral shock jocks. The GOP (the Republicans – the ‘Grand Old Party’) is even accused of deliberately not passing bills in order to make the economy worse. In fact, 54 Conservative Tea Party members actually signed a pledge to oppose everything the President submitted to the Congress. 33 Bills were put forward to outlaw Obamacare.

There are those who say that President Obama was, indeed, a good man and a fine executive, but found himself under the “constraints” mentioned but was unsuccessful because he was not aggressive enough in standing up to the Republican Congress. Lyndon Johnson would have pushed similar policies on the domestic front but would have realised greater success because he was a “bastard” and master of the political deal. I cannot vouch for the veracity of that but in fairness it is worth mentioning.

However, we in Australia wonder what this remarkable man might have achieved had he not had so much obstruction.

When in his State of the Union address, he ventures this observation:

“Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have a go at it, you’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.”

… We look on with incredulity and listen to the sound of silence from the Right and say …

“Only in America.”

Around the world we are at a point in time in our history where ‘change’ demands it be listened to. Where the events of recent times scream for it. It only requires a voice to demand it on behalf of the people. American conservatives will soon have to realise that for the good of the country their politics will have to change. That they cannot resist change in the foolish assumption that they can make permanent that which makes them feel secure. They must realise that change is in fact part of the very fabric of our existence.

I could have written this now, today, and it would all be as fresh as it was back in 2016. It is not just a fluke, a moment in time, that men like Trump are born into the world. They are made by the thoughts and actions of others who pass their evil on.

But what is it that occupies the minds of men and women of the conservative right that they need be so malevolent in their thinking? That the power of wit, truth and persuasion with reasoned thinking and argument no longer suffices. That sledgehammer thinking will win every argument. What is it in the backgrounds of these people that causes their narcissism, their inability to accommodate difference or equality?

Is it that hatred is simply passed on from one generation to another? Is it born of ignorance?

There are in my view three psychological types: those who know; those who know when they are shown; and those who have no interest in knowing because of their inheritance of hate. They are the feral Philistines.

Conclusion

On Facebook last year during a discussion on gun control (a subject in which I find even the most moderate people lose all sense of objectivity) a person who I shall not name suggested that I had no right to comment on the subject because I wasn’t American. When I questioned him as to whether free speech was only gifted to Americans, he rather angrily shouted, in print, words of obscenity at me. I retorted that I felt that our support, fighting side by side in every major conflict, with America gave me every right. And I did.

We were of poor Irish background and my education didn’t extend much beyond primary school. My world view, and sense of social justice fermented in my youth and came to fruition over time and was influenced by the injustice I both saw, read about, and experienced.

Although we embraced the Mother Country it was American culture and politics that was to shape my future.

By the time I turned 21 I was firmly in the camp of social democracy. American music was my passion. American film my entertainment. Books such as To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck opened my eyes to the injustices of the world.

JFK was my hero as was Bobby later. This quote from Bobby still resonates with me:

“The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages … It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom or our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile” (Robert Kennedy, 1968).

The United States has given us many things. Some things I have at times detested like its blatant racism and interventionist foreign policy but at the same time admired its preparedness to act as international policeman. We have both grown from immigration and are the two most multicultural countries in the world. There is a shared commonality.

Please continue to give of yourself, America, but under no circumstances give us Donald Trump. He represents everything that is wrong with your politics and we don’t wish to inherit any more of it. Enough is enough.

And recently came the news that Sarah Palin has endorsed Donald Trump. My eyes moisten. Days later she blames Barack Obama for her son’s arrest on domestic violence charges. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Only in America.

I am left to ponder what another four years of Donald Trump might look like and it is climate change that concerns most.

It is in this area that Trump’s environmental malice is likely to be felt most. Along with our own Prime Minister Scott Morrison and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil — in a Trump second term may be better known as an axis of evil.

They are all guilty of already fatally undermining the Paris Agreement.

It may sound rather shallow at this stage to say that the world needs America to stand up and be counted, but it is the truth of it. Trump actually holds the future of the world, as we know it, in his hands.

It’s a shocking thought but one we must confront. This is but one of many reasons why the American people must reject Trump for a second term. It is a necessary imperative before his mental state becomes any worse.

My thought for the day

The left of politics is concerned with people who cannot help themselves. The right is concerned with those who can.

Take your pick, America.

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Only in America: A look at Trump from Down Under (part 1)

I posted this article (of the same name) in 2016 in the early days of the US presidential campaign. It remains my favourite piece, and to this day remains pertinent given the dismal failure of the Trump administration and the stupidity of the president himself, and that America votes again in three weeks in what some people consider to be their most important election yet.

This is my 1000th piece for The AIMN – and given the pertinence of my 2016 article – to mark my personal milestone I would like to revisit it. I hope you enjoy it as much now, as you did then. There are some changes, which will be in italics. (I would like to add that the original article was also published on the popular American blog, Crooks And Liars).

Only in America

As a young boy born in the year of the bombing of Pearl Harbour, I have been privy, in my growing up in Melbourne Victoria Australia, to witness the way in which the United States insinuated its post-war mentality into the Australian psyche.

Whether born at home or overseas and whether for good or ill, Australians became Americanised.

Perhaps, I should pause here, lay my cards on the table, and even offer a disclaimer. I confess I haven’t visited the American mainland. Honolulu is as far as I have ventured. There, I was suitably impressed by the hospitality of the people, struck by their obesity, and disillusioned by their ignorance of all things not American. I find them often crass, as well.

As an example, I recall a sightseeing expedition one Summer day on the magnificent Sydney Harbour. The ferry carried a dozen or so American tourists. As we rounded an estuary, we encountered a large yacht race approaching us; their vibrant, colourful spinnakers in full sail. The scene was breathtakingly beautiful, but the loud Americans, more interested in the value of the mansions that dotted the cliffs, spoiled the moment.

On the other hand, I have a number of American Facebook friends with more developed sensibilities, some of whom I speak with regularly on Skype or telephone. These individuals are politically attuned to the downward course America is taking. In heartfelt conversation, they express their despair at the decline of what they once thought – rightly or wrongly – to be the greatest nation on earth. What they once regarded as an enlightened society strengthened by freedom of expression they now question as they see these same constitutional protections used by the Right to foment hatred.

Like me, they believe that in an enlightened society the need to legislate one’s right to hate another person is considered intellectually barren.

They mention the land of milk and honey in terms of “American Exceptionalism” and wonder why their fellow citizens still believe in the great American dream. They ask themselves if it was all just propaganda, a myth to distract the majority from the wrongs perpetrated against the minority.

Alas, under the leadership of Donald Trump, in the space of four years our view is anything but exceptional.

In fact, our trust in the American President has fallen off a cliff. The decadence of the nation so aptly told through the lies of President Trump explains the latest polling from the Lowy Institute.Since 2011our faith in the US to act responsibly has fallen from 83% to 55%, while only 30% of Australians have confidence in Trump’s foreign policy.”

The only people in Australia who trust in Trump are like-minded conservative equivalents who vote with our government.

I guess what I’m trying to project here is that far from “Making America great again” Trump has turned the swamp into a circus of which he is senior clown.

That an estimated 40% of the population believe in his every word is evidence that firstly the propaganda of the extreme right has been successful. Secondly, that the American people are extremely gullible and thirdly that the bias of Fox News and other media has worked.

Again, I had better pause lest you fail to grasp where I am heading. In Australia we have a saying, “Only in America.” It’s a phrase we say when something outrageously good or bad happens, as though such excesses can occur only in America.

It might be violent racism, another Columbine, kids being slaughtered – any preventable, tragic loss of life that repeats time and again for which no remedy is forthcoming. All of this is beyond the average Australian’s capacity to understand.

In terms of guns we would say in our rather impetuous wisdom that it is time that those with the capacity to change laws that might prevent the mass murder of people and refuse to do so were made to account. After all they are as guilty or as mad, whatever the case, as the perpetrator himself.

We would have similar thoughts for individuals of little empathy for those suffering from the effects of the coronavirus. “The blokes a fairdinkum bloody nut case” you will hear whispered in the corridors of power and shouted in our suburban streets.

In contrast, we also use “Only in America” as a term of endearment when some outstanding achievement occurs: a significant scientific breakthrough, a sporting record, a foot touching the moon’s surface.

How is it, we ask, that the most technologically advanced country in the world is descending into the moral abyss of unscrupulous, partisan political skulduggery and unbridled capitalism?

The profound decay of America in Trump’s term of office has been remarkable. It is also astonishing how it doesn’t seem to be able to be stopped. Racism has become more intrenched and the brutality toward people of colour has intensified.

Partisan politics has become so bitter that the two parties hate each other and seem to be so demarcated that they agree on nothing.

Riots are almost an everyday occurrence and Trump urges them on. His reaction to the COVID-19 deaths – over 215,000 in his own country – is one of little interest.

His behaviour and his spoken words in the election period have been so perplexing that one has to question his sanity.

America’s most famous Journalist Bob Woodward says he fears fur the future of the United States. “I’m deeply, profoundly worried about it.”

“Capitalism,” wrote Martin Luther King Jnr:

“as practiced in the USA does not allow for an even flow of economic resources. With this system a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level.”

Australians once applauded Americans for their ability to disagree on policy issues yet reach bipartisan agreement through compromise for the sake of the country at large. What happened?

Ronald Reagan gained power and legitimised the rise of Neo-conservatism and the Christian Right. This trend continued under George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and their cohort of ideologues. Believing America to be superior in every way to all other countries, they drove the U.S. towards a more aggressive, interventionist foreign policy and tried to reshape the nation domestically in their image, as well.

Sadly, the Americanisation of Australia continues apace and our politics are now increasingly informed by the same corrupt and duplicitous mindset.

In 2013, following four years of leadership turmoil in the Labor Party, Australians in their absentmindedness elected Tony Abbott as Prime Minister.

Neo-conservative Republicanism had crossed the oceans and invaded our Australian way of life; a culture that once had fairness at the core of its being. It is now a place where less informed voters unfortunately outnumber the more politically aware.

Conservatives fed them all the bullshit they needed to hear. And the menu generally contained a fair portion of Americanised persuasive untruth. And the lying from Abbott began in earnest:

“Let’s be under no illusions: the carbon tax was socialism masquerading as environmentalism”.

With that statement and many more like it he took Australia into far-right conspiracy theory politics.

After two years the public, and indeed his party had had enough of the politics of fear and replaced him with the more moderate and sensible Malcom Turnbull. Ironically though it now has a centre left leader leading a far-right party.

Australian politics is now a corrupt mess and the more the government get away with the more emboldened they become.

We have seen such a decline in the practice of government that it wouldn’t surprise me if circumstances might prevail that would give the conservatives a long period of power that might entrench them. So good has the propaganda been. Add to it the lack of interest the public has in politics and you have a situation where maintaining the status quo is but a few lies away. Our current Christian Prime Minister copies the Trump methodology of only pleasing those that will help you win.

How bitterly dispiriting it is when the hearts and minds of our politicians are so utterly corrupted by this virus of political lies, but more demoralising it is that ordinary people catch the same infection.

So emphatically poor of political morality is the U.S. now that there is a distinct possibility that an ill of mind billionaire entertainer in Donald Trump might trump a second-grade movie actor to become the next president.

How a man of such ill repute, threatened by two countries to be disallowed entry, could even be nominated beggar’s belief. It even questions the sanity of those who would contemplate his election.

To think that the Republican Party could ever consider a megalomaniac like Trump as a nominee to run for the presidency illustrates just how low the GOP have fallen.

That he wanted to exit the hospital after treatment for COVID-19 wearing a Superman t-shirt under his suit so he could dramatically reveal it upon leaving hospital last week confirms his mental state.

The New York times says that “he ultimately decided against the stunt, thus depriving the world of what would have been a… memorable moment in a year of memorable moments.”

 

Continued tomorrow… (link to Part 2)

My thought for the day

The Office of the American President was once viewed by its people as an office of prestige and importance. Trump has reduced it to one of ridicule and contempt.

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Bad form, old chap

Scott Morrison’s arrogance was badly showing while Anthony Albanese was delivering his reply to the budget on Wednesday.

Sometimes turning his back or preoccupied with his phone, but mostly with eyes closed, and a bored expression that could have been interpreted as being asleep. It was not a good look.

In fact, the only one to show any dignity at all was the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg who at least had enough self-esteem to look at Albanese.

However, it must also be said that the same disinterest and disrespect was shown by all government members. Morrison is known for his impatience with those who have an opposite point of view and it shows up when he is being interviewed.

When it reaches optimum annoyance, he begins to lecture and then his self-righteousness comes to the fore. Those who recall his interview with Waleed Aly will know what l’m talking about.

It is this “born to rule” attitude that gets up people’s noses, this “know your place” we are superior air of the toff that is so out of place in a modern pluralist society.

Morrison’s display of the petulant schoolboy was so Trumpish in its execution. It was the sort of thing one might expect from The Donald but not from a man allegedly well-versed in the techniques of marketing.

In short, it was just bad manners by these ostensibly, belligerent and condescending conservative megalomaniacs.

Of course, I wasn’t the only one to notice this appalling behaviour. Prominent barrister Julian Burnside was among many to criticise the PM’s deportment calling him a “disgrace.”

 

 

Journalist Troy Bramston also called him out and shared a photo which showed that only Frydenberg was looking at Albo:

 

 

Writer Van Badham said that Scott Morrison was “conspicuously posing like a petulant sook for the budget reply speech and it was an ugly look for Australian politics.”

Deputy Opposition Leader of the Legislative Council Penny Sharpe also said that the look on Scott Morrison’s face was “just awful”:

 

 

Among many to tweet their disapproval were the following:

 

 

 

 

What did you think?

My thought for the day

If you have a point you want to make then feel free to express it. However, do so with civility. Then your point of view is laced with a degree of dignity.

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