Like I said, I always feel like I need to find ways to check that I’m not the victim of my own confirmation bias. I mean it’s easy to see it in others. Clearly the free kick was there and if the umpires and the opposition supporters didn’t see it, why they just need to watch the replay, but that mightn’t help because the last time I got them to do this, the station broadcasting the football altered the tape and…
Anyway, with the events in the USA, I felt that I should make sure that I didn’t resort to the echo chambers of my own like minds, so I did the unthinkable and I watched Fox News for a while.
I discovered a number of things:
Speaking generally, they didn’t think that people should be allowed to storm Congress and stop elected representatives from conducting the business of government. I was pleased that even outside my echo chamber there was some consensus on this.
Some of the protestors were treated appallingly because they were pepper-sprayed when all that they were doing was trying to push past police and take over the building. I mean, this was appalling. Didn’t the police realise that these were the same people who support law and order? After all, that’s what the POTUS tweeted so surely if you support law and order you should be allowed to do what you want and go wherever you want.
The people who smashed property must have been members of Anti-Fa who’d infiltrated the protest because Trump supporters would never do such a thing.
One interviewee managed to point out the tremendous over-reaction from the police when the protestors were peacefully smashing windows.
The guy who sat in Nancy Pelosi’s chair and was showing an envelope that he took from her desk hadn’t stolen it because he left a quarter. If I had his address I’d consider breaking in and taking his beer and leaving a quarter. (That’s twenty-five cents, not a quarter of his beers.)
There was a woman who was pepper-sprayed and all she was doing according to her own words was “mounting a revolution” when she entered the building. What’s America coming to when you can’t overturn the government by force without someone trying to stop you?
It was the tolerance shown to the Black Lives Matter protests that led to this because we’d reached a point where violence was acceptable even though it was a peaceful protest.
I’m sure that I learnt lots more things but I wasn’t taking notes so I may have forgotten what I learnt which is the sort of definition of learning that we expect from our formal education at school…
Anyway, I was waiting for them to do an interview with Trump, but I suspect that the security forces have told him that he needs to go into the bunker and that they won’t let him out for the next two weeks. If you see Trump before then, look very closely and make sure that it isn’t Alec Baldwin doing his Saturday Night Live impersonation.
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The nuclear weapons ban treaty has achieved the 50 ratifications needed for its entry into force.
By Tilman Ruff
On Saturday, 24 October, the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, Honduras brought the number of nations to ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) to 50. This means that 90 days later, on 22 January 2021, this treaty will enter into legal force and become international law, binding on the states that have already ratified it, and all those which subsequently do. Outlawing nuclear weapons is an essential step to eliminate them, the only reliable way to prevent their use. This is a historic achievement and an enormous win for planetary health.
For its role in achieving the treaty, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), founded in Melbourne, became the leading civil society coalition working with governments to conclude the nuclear weapons ban treaty. For its work for this treaty, in 2017 ICAN became the first Australian-born entity to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The treaty is especially needed in the face of the real and present danger of nuclear war climbing higher than ever. The hands of the Doomsday Clock stand further forward than they have ever been: 100 seconds to midnight. All nine nuclear-armed states are modernising their arsenals with new, more accurate and ‘useable’ weapons; their leaders making irresponsible explicit nuclear threats. The cold war is resurgent – hard won treaties reducing nuclear weapons numbers and types are being trashed, while nothing is being negotiated to replace them, let alone build on them. If the Trump administration allows the New START Treaty to expire, then from 5 Feb 2021, for the first time since 1972, there will be no treaty constraints on Russian and US nuclear weapons. Armed conflicts which could trigger nuclear escalation are increasing in a climate-stressed world. The rapidly evolving threat of cyberwarfare puts nuclear command and control in jeopardy from both nations and terrorist groups. Close to two thousand nuclear weapons remain on hair-trigger alert, ready to be launched within minutes of a leader’s fateful decision.
The radioactive incineration unleashed by nuclear war involving even less than 1% of the global nuclear arsenal targeted on cities in one part of the world would be followed by a worldwide nuclear ice age and nuclear famine, putting billions of people in jeopardy.
As the World Health Organisation and Red Cross/Red Crescent movement have confirmed, health and emergency services could not respond substantively to the needs of the victims of even a single nuclear weapon exploded on a city. When there is no cure, prevention is imperative.
The TPNW fills a gaping hole in international law that for far too long saw the most destructive weapon, the only weapon which poses an existential threat to all humanity and to the biosphere, as the only weapon of mass destruction not to be prohibited under international law.
Consistent lessons come from experience with biological and chemical weapons, antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions. Treaties which have codified in international law the rejection of an unacceptable weapon have provided a crucial basis and motivation for the progressive work of eliminating these weapons. Providing one legal standard for all nations has been essential to the substantial progress made in controlling banned weapons. All the weapons subject to treaty prohibition are now less often justified, produced, traded, deployed and used. No indiscriminate and inhumane weapon has been controlled or eliminated without first being prohibited.
Nine nuclear-armed states, the 30 nuclear-dependent members of NATO, Australia, Japan and South Korea appear unlikely to soon join the TPNW. Australia’s opposition to the TPNW is at odds with its support for all the bans on other inhumane weapons. The sticking point is that Australia cannot be serious about nuclear disarmament while claiming that US nuclear weapons are essential to Australia’s security, and providing assistance for their possible use. There is nothing in this treaty which stops non-nuclear military cooperation with a nuclear-armed state, as other US allies like New Zealand, Thailand and the Philippines have already proven.
There are welcome signs towards Australia getting on the right side of history, including support for Australia joining the treaty from parliamentarians from a wide cross-party spectrum. Labor leader Anthony Albanese and shadow foreign minister Penny Wong welcomed the 50th ratification and affirmed Labor’s National Policy Platform commitment to joining the treaty.
A sure sign that this treaty matters is the strong opposition it continues to arouse among nuclear-armed states. Last week the Trump administration wrote to all states that have joined the treaty saying it “turns back the clock on verification and disarmament and is dangerous” and admonishing them that “… you have made a strategic error and should withdraw your instrument of ratification of accession.” They are clearly nervous that the treaty becoming international law puts their continued justification and possession of nuclear weapons on notice and exposes their failure to deliver on their obligation to disarm.
Another important sign that the treaty matter is that money is already moving away from companies that profit from making the worst weapons of mass destruction, soon to be illegal. The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund (in Norway), major banks (like Deutsche Bank, KBC in Belgium and Kyushu Financial Group) and pension funds (including ABP, Europe’s largest) are among the growing number of financial institutions that have divested from companies building nuclear weapons. Every responsible financial institution should now do the same.
In a dark time, the TPNW shines a light on the most promising path to free the world from the risk of indiscriminate nuclear violence. Not only does the treaty provide a comprehensive prohibition of nuclear weapons, it also provides the only internationally agreed framework for all nations to fulfil their legal obligation to eliminate these weapons.
Further, the TPNW obliges nations which join to provide long neglected assistance for the victims of nuclear weapons use and testing, and to undertake feasible remediation of environments contaminated by nuclear weapons use and testing.
All states should join the treaty as a matter of urgency and faithfully implement it. Time is not on our side. The treaty provides our best hope for the worst weapons.
A/Prof Tilman Ruff AO is co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (Nobel Peace Prize 1985) and founding chair of ICAN (Nobel Peace Prize 2017).
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Applause, stamping, hoots and catcalls resound up and down our wide brown land as another big week in Oz-politics lives down to expectations, as John Crace says of Boris Johnson, now the incredible sulk, after his inevitable Brexit flip-flop just flops with a not-so-super Saturday vote to delay, a thinly-disguised ploy to sink the whole mad shebang in the middle of the Irish Sea. Brexit continues to make fools of fools, says Crace.
A week when our parliament is actually sitting, despite its increasing rarity, has a similar effect. This week the government tries to fool us that Labor is in government and to blame for all kinds of feckless fiscal ruination.
Like our own populist tosser Morrison, professional political clown, Boris is clueless about what to do – that’s for “girly swots” – and neither narcissists can take advice – so every waking hour is an epic battle with reality.
At home, a fever of anticipation erupts at the chance of being re-tied to Britain’s apron strings with beaut new trade deals, an agile Coalition with economic management in its DNA can whip up in weeks. Or a year. Tops.
“We are match-fit and ready,” ScoMo’s already promised Boris, an MP with whom he feels an immediate affinity. Scott’s got his mandarins all sworn to secrecy and totally Sco-Motivated to all-new levels of public service loyalty and fidelity. It’s not just manspreading or mugging for the camera in Fiji’s Rugby change-rooms, ScoMo channels the blokey banality of the footy coach in his unsubtle instructions to our public servants.
“It’s the bacon and eggs principle – the chicken is involved but the bacon is committed,” he says. Boom-Boom. Somehow, it’s all about how ministers can only set direction by being sensitive to quiet Australians, whose deepest desires can only be deduced through some miraculous phatic communion.
“Look beyond the Canberra bubble” says our PM, who is nothing but Canberra Bubble. A former Liberal apparatchik and player in the game of mates before being called to lead his people as prophet and seer; a high priest of populism and neoliberal revival. As William James and Bertrand Russell said of the turtles who hold the flat earth in its place in creation, for ScoMo, it is Canberra Bubble all the way down.
How good is a well-done Free Trade deal? Our brilliant new Free Trade Agreement with Indonesia has been quietly simmering since 2012. Morrison promised it August last year, when after six years it had progressed to a most promising single page but hopes no-one recalls. Then – as now- the fact of its brevity does not mean that it is not miraculously close to conclusion. He’s doubtless been out praying. And the spirit’s there.
We only have to “paper it”, as President Bone Spurs says, faking a breakthrough in his tariff war with China.
Stealing the show is Gladys Liu, MP (via AEC poll-booth signage simulation) for Chisholm who’s finally sorted her membership of Chinese organisations known to ASIO. She’s clear of them all, “she thinks”. Or is she?
In a flash, Rupert’s Hun is on to her, protesting Ms Liu’s links with top property developer Chen Guo Jing, whom the MP described as one of her “good friends” in her maiden speech. Chinese language sites call Chen the “implementer” of the Australasia Belt and Road Advocacy initiative, The Herald Sun adds helpfully.
Gladys is now well beyond hapless Sam Dastyari’s villainy in the latest instalment of rabid Sinophobia, Yellow Peril 2.0. She’d resign immediately but “Mandate” Morrison’s government has only a one seat majority.
Rushing to assist, is cuddly Peter Dutton, the Minister for Home Affairs, whose portmanteau portfolio covers everything best left unsaid. Whilst we love to profit out of China’s coal and iron custom, its tourists and its students, whose insatiable thirst for knowledge causes them to take up full-fee paying places in tertiary institutions, there’s just one thing about our biggest single trading partner. Its government’s values suck.
“Our issue as I’ve said before is not with the Chinese people,” Dutton thunders. “My issue is with the Communist Party of China and their policies to the extent that they are inconsistent with our own values.”
Aussie values include lying, spying, cheating and stealing as the case of East Timor reveals. Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery are still holed up in a secret trial in Canberra where they are not even permitted to know the charges against them – except the bleeding obvious; they have embarrassed the government by reporting the fact that Canberra bugged the cabinet rooms of Timor-Leste in 2004 in order to draw up geographic boundaries which would yield Australia more than its fair share of gas and oil.
Alexander Downer is still pouting. Lord knows how his friendship with ScoMo’s going now he’s promised Trump he’ll snoop on the spy-master; find out just how Downer morphed into a small “L” Liberal; set the Mueller Inquiry on to that fake Russian collusion witch hunt. Be very careful with your bus-travel, Alex.
As fans of Q&A, Sunrise and The Drum would know, freedoms come into (and out of) the grab-bag of Aussie values a fair bit, in what is fondly termed “our national conversation”, (but which isn’t ours or even national – and so often turns out to be a power elite talking to itself in public).
Freedom? Sheesh! It’s right up there with crony capitalism, gambling, racism and elder abuse- yet we are currently debating how we know just how much freedom of speak we are allowed to have? Seriously.
Word comes this week that former Amnesty poster-boy Phil Ruddock’s religious freedom bill which would have restored some of the losses felt by the anti-marriage equality brigade pleases neither church nor state.
Given that it was a solution in search of a problem – religious freedom is already protected in law -it is hardly surprising but will ScoMo’s “top priority” just go? Leave privilege unprotected? Impossible.
But don’t rule out another inquiry. At present the draft bill offends all parties – and cross-bench Tassie Senator, Jacqui Lambie can’t see the need for it. Unlike her sympathy with national security justifying expanding state power even further. We’re world leaders in this field.
Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Edward Santow, notes Australia has “passed more counter-terrorism and national security legislation than any other liberal democracy since 2001”.
Instead of agonising nightly on The Drum about how we need to “get the balance right”, wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier just to ask government permission? A journo with a story that seeks to hold a government department accountable must run the story by the government first. It’s the position favoured by Mike Pezzullo who is the eyes and ears of Dutto’s Home Affairs mega-department. What could possibly go wrong?
In the meantime, Attorney-General Christian Porter confirms, on Sunday’s ABC Insiders, that his government will continue to intimidate journalists by refusing to rule out AFP raids. He pretends that the AFP is at arms-length from government. Hilarious. Lie. The AFP comes under the (big right) wing of Minister Dutton.
Turning the thumbscrews, Porter would be “seriously disinclined”, he reckons, “to sign off on the criminal prosecution of journalists” for public interest journalism, but says he cannot give any guarantees. No-one on Fran’s panel calls Porter on his pretence that the AFP is independent of the federal government of the day.
Canberra Times veteran, Jack Waterford reminds us that never in its forty years’ operation has the AFP come up with a finding which might embarrass a sitting government – apart from Abbott’s Peter Slipper witch hunt.
“The AFP behaves rather more as a department of state, pathetically anxious to please the government of the day. The department seems to lack internal checks and balances, and sometimes seems to put outcomes ahead of process and sound management, and seems to lack people with the courage to stand against any of the enthusiasms of its secretary,” observes the former editor and investigative journalist of 43 years’ service.
We can’t blame Fran Kelly – or any of her guests for not nailing the minister on the furphy of the AFP’s independence or the farcical pretence that as Attorney-General, Porter is led, like a lamb, to slaughter offending journalists.
But don’t shoot the mixed messenger.
Our ABC is under extra pressure in the form of a ripper new bill for silent Australia due in the house early next week. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation Amendment (Rural and Regional Measures) Bill 2019 requires the ABC to set up a Regional Council, at a cost of $100,000 PA to help it contribute to a sense of “regional” identity” as well as “a sense of national identity” and to reflect “geographical”, as well “cultural diversity”. Sounds as simple to get sorted as the Nicene Creed.
Accompanying the push to the bush, a second bill is a sop to Pauline Hanson. It’s an ABC “Fair and Balanced” yard-stick-slogan-logo-thingy while the bill also orders Aunty to supply regional content – even though this is totally impossible on a reduced budget. The result is to give the government a new big stick or two to beat the public broadcaster into compliance. Or soften it up before it’s sold off as in the IPA wish-list.
“This regional push by the Coalition government is no benign shepherding of the ABC back to its core duties. It’s actually designed to tie the corporation up in red tape and shift its attention away from national coverage – and the machinations of federal government” warn Sydney University’s Fiona Martin and Michael Ward.
News this week that Dili wants a $5bn refund to compensate for gas and oil illegally taken is likely to be music to Josh Frydenberg’s ears given that he’s making it clear that his government’s surplus fetish does not mean “surpluses are like a trophy in a cabinet,” The AFR’s Jennifer Hewitt reports. But that’s exactly what it means.
It takes genius to con so many Australians for so long that a meaningless line on an annual budget is a sign of good management – let alone the allied bullshit about “fiscal responsibility” and “living within our means”. Yet to claim a budget surplus means anything at all, is a hoax. And a cruel hoax when it means that NDIS applicants, for example, are made to wait or face stricter qualifying tests to “save up” a surplus.
The only reason a budget surplus ever comes in handy is as a brake on inflation,Greg Jericho reminds readers of The Guardian Australia. No danger of that now where even the Reserve is begging the government to do something about a shrinking economy. Would Joe Hockey squander his $80 billion gift/investment in 2014?
“The Opposition is addicted to panic and crisis”, Bovver Morrison hollers across the despatch box as he accuses Albo of a stacking a tantrum. Not only is ScoMo a past master at projection, he knows we live in the present. In the eternal now of modern politics, he assumes that few will recall the metanoia of Tony Abbott’s hyper-partisan opposition’s debt and deficit disaster fear campaign when Labor borrowed to get us out of the GFC.
Forgotten, also, he hopes, is Abbott’s brief-lived Coalition government led by “warrior” Peter Credlin with its war on the poor, on indigenous Australia and on workers amongst others. We have yet to recover from its sick militarisation of compassion – the paramilitary Border Force with its ludicrous uniforms and cruel protocols.
Clayton’s PM Junkyard Abbott’s sidekick BJ helped warn us all that Whyalla would be wiped off the map or that we’d being paying hundred dollars for a lamb roast. They rushed to kill off their carbon tax scare.
Their subsequent revoking of a price on carbon has helped lead us to record carbon emissions ever since.
ScoMo opened Christmas Island just for his Medevac scare, an extension of his asylum-seeker paranoia, a rabid and irrational fear febrile of others. Jacqui Lambie may now help him get to revoke the Medevac Bill.
Yet he proceeds with his name-calling, baiting and jeering at Labor for what they might do to ruin us all. It helps create an illusion, as Katharine Murphy of the Guardian observes that Labor is in power -yet by some miracle that Morrison, a solo act throughout his career, is a PM primum supra pares (first above the rest).
In a moment of madness, Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon proposes a bipartisan war cabinet for the drought. Settle down, Fitz. That would be like a union between the arsonists and the fire-fighters. Besides, could you really trust any of them on their past performances? No-one else in the world takes their climate figures seriously.
Australia is a world leader in climate change abatement per capita in the Coalition’s Gospel according to Morrison. Doo wah boy, Gus Grassgate Taylor, Minister for Global Warming Energy and Big Irrigation does backing vocals.
“The comments made by the Prime Minister at the UN, that we are going to meet our emissions targets, was a gross misrepresentation and was staggering for someone in his position,” protests former Liberal leader, John Hewson, addressing the Round Table in Canberra. Global warming heretic Hewson favours regenerative agriculture. Expect his immediate retribution via ridicule in some Rupert rag.
Reverting to wilful ignorance and disinformation, the Australian economy is not tanking a bit, insists the PM, despite this week’s IMF growth downgrade by almost twenty per cent from 2.1 to 1.7. On the contrary, our nation’s growth something to shout about in parliament.
“Australia’s economic growth is the second highest if compared to the major Group of Seven economies, and the government has helped create 1.4 million new jobs,” ScoMo misleads parliament.
Reliant on resources, Australia lacks diversification of exports and its economy is now more like that of a developing country with fewer prospects for growth, reports the Harvard’s Atlas of Economic Complexity. It predicts growth to slow to 2.2% over the next decade, ranking us in the bottom half of countries
Australia is not even in the G7, however much ScoMo loves to boast about his special invitation to observe last August’s meeting; a token of his government’s leading role as hyper-partisan US ally in the ruinous trade war between Trump’s administration and China.
As for jobs, his claim covers six years. Growth doesn’t even keep up with population.
A stoic ScoMo won’t be spooked by international events; or lift a finger to stimulate a stagnant economy. All this – and more – promises the PM’s turd-polish unit, which accidentally emails the media its jumbo economy super-savers’ pack of lies meant for Coalition MPs, this week.
It’s an innocent mistake. And easily made. Our media lead the world in recycling government press releases. No heads will roll this time. The chooks just get an extra feed of MPs’ “talking points”, the rich mix of fantasy, lies, evasions, disinformation and other conversation-stoppers confected non-stop by the PM’s spin doctors.
Australia’s national net debt is now a record $400 billion plus, according to Matthias Cormann’s own Finance Department’s report last Friday. It’s a peculiar type of nincompoopery that can take Labor’s puny $174 billion net national debt and double it in six years, despite some of the most favourable global economic tailwinds in history, yet the Coalition is on track to get to $700 billion in a canter.
The biggest issue for the economy remains the decline and fall of our household incomes. This will not be revered by some slick tax cut. Nor will it show any improvement, whatsoever, if the government having utterly no idea what to do by way of stimulus measure clings to the mantra of a budget surplus.
But that’s not in the talking points.
There’s so much to crow about it’s not funny. Cue standing ovations from the poor, the elderly, the under-employed and those who need wait only a matter of months before they’re trampolined off welfare and back at work at the local widget factory.
Above all, Australia is God’s Own Country and as the PM reminds a national prayer breakfast, Tuesday,
“The only prayers that you can be assured are never answered are the ones that are never prayed.”
Our latter day saints, the nation’s hard-working farmers are clearing land at record rates yet some find the time to take out of helping cause the problem to wax ecstatic over Drought Relief; the Coalition’s most shameless pork-barrelling since its 1700 kilometre Inland Rail boondoggle. No-one’s getting any money for a year and the $7 billion doesn’t add up, former farmer’s lad Alan Jones berates the Prime Minister.
Jones asks how all of the drought relief grandstanding that’s been going on three months is going to feed a cow?
How good’s a Farm Household Allowance worth a measly $250 a week? $5 million for rural financial counselling? $115.8 million that Morrison says “went directly to drought communities”. Morrison finally gets to talk. He embraces the theme of weed eradication. Jones cuts in, “Oh, PM, don’t talk to me. I’m a farmer’s son, you’re not.”
When the IMF tells you the economy is down the gurgler and your own Finance Minister reports the same – When Alan Jones gives you a bollocking, ScoMo, you may need more than a new set of talking points.
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We continue to see the brutality levied by Israel and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu in Lebanon and Israel on the Palestinian people.
We have seen the brutal acts of terrorism across the world at the hands of ISIS; and ignored the far greater threat to democracy by our own western governments, which use this as propaganda against human rights, their own people and constitutional freedom and democracy.
And while all this has been going on, we have silently witnessed and ignored our own complicit terrorist acts against Yemen at the hands of the Saudi king and president, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, as the West supply the Saudi- led Arab coalition with military arms to systematically bombard and indiscriminately destroy the men, women and children of Yemen.
We witness Trump rattling his lips and sabre against Turkey, Iran and refugees, and like the fake presidential coward and mercenary he is, he acts only in his own inseparable corporate and political interests, to secure his own moribund electorate and hungry games. We witness Morrison and Dutton in Australia, who in all likelihood are far worse as they tighten their demonic grip on democracy and rattle their delusional snake-strung evangelical tongues.
As a result of our own political navel gazing, we have ignored the catastrophic impact ISIS, successive regimes and dictators have had throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world; and on the eve of the latest campaign, this crusade – withdrawn from Syria’s borders and abandoned the Kurds, who not only fought as allies against ISIS, but now face the brutality of Turkey’s foreign policy at the hands of Tayyip Erdoğan, and more genocide to follow.
The Kurds are a people who are familiar with this cruelty and national obsession, as they continue to be demonised and eradicated not just by ISIS, but Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, they have no homeland and nowhere else to go. By now we should be familiar with this systematic pattern of human abuse across our planet, the repeated history glossed over and our part in it. But are we?
The heinous crime of Western countries is to have allowed extremist groups like ISIS, Taliban, dictators and cruel regimes around the world to flourish, while imposing and justifying our own outlandish empires; and now we do it again. We create the vacuum for their success and look on, worse we install and feed these cruel regimes with sick diplomacy and arms. And when we are done we turn our gaze on refugees fleeing from these rivers of blood and cruel regions, lock their people up in prisons, we turn our propaganda machine on the people who flee the tyranny of their oppressors to be subjugated and demonised within and just off our very own shores and borders.
And when that campaign wears thin, the evil eye of Sauron turns on its own people, lighting up domestic fires, demonising the poor, unemployed, students, the elderly, humanitarians, peaceful protesters, our own social and ethnic minorities, those who are sick of this wretched and cruel neoliberal straight jacket, our commercial bombshell.
As the Kurds defend democracy first against neighbouring countries in the region, ISIS and now Turkey, the West once again abandon their supposed allies. Behrouz Bouchani, a Kurd and journalist fleeing from Iran has been imprisoned on Manus and now PNG for the past 6 years, since 2013. He has become the offshore absent conscience of Australian politics. He is one of Australia’s many political prisoners and yet he has committed no crime, broken no law, there has been no charge, no lawful detention or justice. All he ever wanted was to report the abuse, to tell the truth, to live, to be free. He is one of the many. Morrison and Dutton look on.
We like to watch our TV, we witness, we gloss over and we allow this injustice to continue on all fronts, even in our own country, in the absent halls of our own conscience.
For sake of the crusade I learn to slaughter men, women and children
For sake of a godless world I substitute freedom for religion
For sake of peace I keep my mouth shut, eyes closed to death and suffering
For sake of humanity I live with the knowledge of shame and doubt
If I could climb a tree and shake the mountain, I’d paint the sky myself
It could be argued that Trump’s recent behaviour warrants another such article. But why bother? We’ve said it all before, as have columnists the world over.
Trump’s recent behaviour has been characterized by requests directed to the Ukraine leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, and less specifically, to ‘China’, to ‘investigate’ his adversary Joe Biden, and his son Hunter, whom Trump accuses of corruption. This foray portrays an even more bizarre motive than most – to discredit a possible opponent in the 2020 Presidential election. Biden may not be his opponent, but Trump, exposing his deep-seated paranoia, wants to kill him off politically well ahead of time.
More recently, Trump announced that he was withdrawing his troops from Syria’s border with Turkey to allow Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to carry out a plan to create what Erdogan calls a ‘safe zone’ in northern Syria. This move has evoked astonishment, anger and trenchant criticism from fellow Republicans, who regard this precipitous move as foolhardy and dangerous. Many regard the deserting of the Kurds, a loyal ally against Islamic State, as reprehensible. The awful outcome of Erdogan’s invasion of Syria is being displayed on our TV screens every day. Islamic State fighters may soon be unleashed once more to wreak the brutal havoc they have exhibited in the past.
So instead of repeating the well-worn words of dismay that you are now reading in countless political columns, let me remind you of what we’ve said previously.
Here’s the introduction to Is Donald Trump Mad?
No, I don’t mean ‘hopping mad’. We know that he is hopping mad with the media and its ‘fake news’, with CNN particularly, and with some of its commentators whom he has chosen to label as intellectually deficient, and unpleasant to the eyes (bleeding from a face lift!).
We know he is hopping mad about the criticism he attracts.
We know he prefers admiration, adulation, even reverence.
We know he craves the hero worship he received as host and star in his TV reality show The Apprentice. We know he needs his image to be polished endlessly. Fame is more important to him than fortune.
No, I mean ‘mad’ in the clinical sense, in the sense of the many synonyms of the word: mentally disturbed, insane, lunatic, maniacal, even crazy or crazed. Some peri-clinical synonyms of ‘mad’ too might be applicable: unstable, erratic, unsafe, dangerous, perilous, foolish, even senseless.
‘Mad’ derives in part from the Old English ‘gemædde’: ‘out of one’s mind’, ‘extremely stupid’, ‘insane’ or ‘foolish’.
Do you see a nexus between these words and Trump’s behaviour?
Let me present you with some evidence so that you can make up your own mind about whether Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America is indeed ‘mad’.
Now, read the beginning of Is Donald Trump crumbling?:
As you witness the increasingly bizarre behaviour of Donald Trump, the President of the United States, the mightiest nation on earth, do you wonder about his mental state? Do you speculate about his stability, his judgement, his reasoning? Recent events, piled on each other, beg the question; ”Is Donald Trump crumbling”?
Mental deterioration can afflict any of us quite suddenly. On the other hand, it can overcome us in a number of smaller steps. Could this be the case with Donald Trump?
Let’s recount some recent events that are indicative.
Take the devastating fires in Southern California that Vox described ”…as the single most destructive and third-deadliest fire in state history”. In its account of the fires, Reuters reported: ”Donald Trump is known for his fiery comments, but his recent tweet has outraged prominent celebrities who slammed it as ‘demented’.
What did he say? Did he empathise with those who had lost their houses? Did he express horror at the appalling loss of life? No. He reflected on the emergency, in a Tweet of course, with: “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”A dire threat as a proxy for empathy!
This example alone is sufficient to raise the suspicion of significant mental deterioration, even in someone as bizarre as Trump.
The president of the California Professional Firefighters assailed Trump with “The president’s message attacking California and threatening to withhold aid to the victims of the cataclysmic fires is ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines.” Celebrities lashed out at Trump’s ’ill-judged and out-of-touch’ tweet as an absolutely heartless response…there aren’t even politics involved. As you tweet, there are good American families losing their homes and evacuating into shelters.”
Steps are now well advanced to impeach this man. Not only Democrats, but may others see him as a dangerous liability to the United States.
How impeachment will proceed is anyone’s guess, but the need to remove him from office occupies the minds of not just countless Americans, but international observers too.
What a dilemma Trump is for international statesmen and ordinary folk the world over, all of whom fear what this erratic, unpredictable, unbalanced, loud-mouthed, egocentric man will do next. Just listening to his daily harangues from the White House forecourt, and reading his endless Tweets, are enough to alarm any sensible observer. His pronouncements on trade and economic issues have confused the stock market and sent it into disarray.
Which is why we ask once more: Is Donald Trump mad? Let us have your opinion.
If you still have lingering doubts about Donald Trump’s mental state, take a look at this YouTube videotape from MSNBC: The Dangerous case of Donald Trump; 27 Psychiatrists Assess.
“Em şîv in hûn jî paşîv in,” or, “if we are dinner you are supper,” Armenians warn Kurds before Turkish massacres – a recurrent motif in Kurdish oral history.
As Donald Trump abruptly withdraws US air support and a trip-wire of US troops from North-East Syria, in the vast Kurdish-controlled triangle, locals call Rojava or “The West”, Sunday, he clears the way for Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to begin Operation Peace Spring, a long-planned, long-threatened military offensive to purge the Kurds. Erdoğan’s blitzkrieg starts Wednesday 9 October.
Turkey is pressing on with its alternative buffer zone concept, trashing the neutral corridor plan the US and Turkey say they’ve been working on for a year – at least. Erdoğan’s plan is to invade Syria and fill the illegally occupied territory along Turkey’s southern border with 2 million Syrian refugees – or “up to half the 3.6 million people”, the UN registers as currently taking refuge in Turkey. The EU can pick up the tab. Ankara’s pitch is far-fetched, impracticable and threatens to re-ignite ISIS but Trump buys it.
ISIS is more acceptable to an anti-Ataturk Erdoğan than Rojava, a Kurdish radically decentralised and democratic social revolution which embraced gender equality and inspired activists worldwide. Rojava’s the antithesis of the more common Middle Eastern patriarchal despotism. It’s easy to see why its radical egalitarian political and social structure is ideologically repugnant to the conservative autocrat Erdoğan.
On top of ancient hatreds are grafted newer layers of distrust. And on top of these are military realities. Former legionnaire and YPG (Peoples’ Protection Unit) volunteer, Jamie Williams successfully volunteered to fight with the Kurds against Daesh in 2017, he writes in The Saturday Paper. He soon realised that the Kurds were as much at risk from Turkey as from Daesh or ISIS as it prefers to be known.
Kurdish force YPG has its women-only counterpart the YPJ. Our government has provided air support to the group – yet it is linked with PKK, the Kurdistan Workers Party, whom Erdoğan regards as terrorists, responsible for acts of terror in Turkey. To many commentators they are one and the same group.
Propaganda from Turkey is all about fighting terrorists, spin which our own PM repeats even as civilians are indiscriminately killed in the first few days of the Turkish onslaught. Trump sets off a powder keg.
“All hell breaks loose” says The Washington Post after a Sunday phone call between the two populist presidents. Talk turns to trade and help with defence in the exhausted superlatives Trump favours. Only late in the call, does the topic turn to Erdoğan’s impending invasion and grander aims.
Trump offers a “really good package”, of F35 jets, lemons at $100m a pop, from Lockheed’s $1.5 trillion defence boondoggle, the most expensive in the world, even though Turkey will still buy a missile defence system from Russia, and keep a multi-billion dollar plan to dodge US sanctions on Iran. A presidential visit is thrown into the deal. Trump tells Erdoğan not to invade, he insists. Turkey’s actions attest otherwise.
“Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria. The US Armed Forces . . . having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area.”
Turkish officials maintain Trump privately gave Erdoğan the go-ahead. Trump ups his bluster.
Congressional Republicans erupt in protest. Trump denies all report of any such undertaking. Hapless administration officials are scrambled to explain, ineffectually, that Trump’s yes means no; the US does not consent to Turkey’s plans to invade Syria nor collude in Erdoğan’s fantasy of an Ottoman Empire 2.0.
A bipartisan group forms to devise sanctions; put Turkey’s war machine genie back in its bottle. As if.
By Monday, having provoked outrage from even the typically recumbent if not supine Republicans in the House and the Senate, Trump threatens to “obliterate” his NATO ally’s economy, if Erdoğan doesn’t stop invading Syria; rhetoric he quickly tones down. Turkey is now warned not to do “anything outside what we think is humane” – or the country will “suffer the wrath of an extremely decimated economy.”
What we think is humane? Pressed for time to interpret Trump’s double-speak, Ankara could do worse than glance at Amnesty International’s summary of the Trump administration’s human rights abuses in its immigration policy alone. Amnesty says the Trump administration’s policy and practices have caused,
“..catastrophic irreparable harm to thousands of people, have spurned and manifestly violated both US and international law, and appeared to be aimed at the full dismantling of the US asylum system.”
Meanwhile, a new wave of 2000 US troops is deployed in Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon announces, topping up a thousand recently deployed there to pot-shot the odd drone, all part of the US bogus war on Iran which Trump & Co are trying to gin up, purely to help his 2020 re-election prospects. The troops will be on hand to “assure and enhance” Saudi Arabia’s defence and no doubt help its women learn to drive.
It’s a low blow to Canberra’s attempts to paint Trump’s capitulation to Erdoğan as consistent with The Donald’s avowed isolationism; his public wish to “get out of these ridiculous endless wars”. Someone needs to tell ScoMo and Co not to confuse Trump’s performance shtick with any deeper conviction.
ScoMo tells Nine Newspapers and others that there’s nothing to see here. The most erratic president in US history is just acting consistently. It’s all going to plan. A po-faced ScoMo claims Trump outlined his aim to withdraw troops from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq a year ago and is now acting on that message.
“I think it would be wrong to not draw an element of consistency between those statements almost a year ago and the action the United States has been taking since, including most recently,” ScoMo bloviates.
“As is the nature of alliances and friendships, you work through these issues together and you understand them together and you speak frankly to one another and you do that in the spirit of that relationship.”
Bunkum. Part of the outrage amongst even his own party, is Trump’s total lack of consultation. Left out of the loop, say Politico and others, were foreign allies, Congress even some in his own administration.
Trump is working nothing through together, ScoMo. Nor is there any element of consistency. Trump’s administration has, in fact, increased US involvement in what he calls their “ridiculous endless wars”.
US Air Forces central command reports late last month, it launched the most airstrikes in Afghanistan over a single month in roughly a decade. American troops have ramped up airstrikes in Libya targeting ISIS fighters there. And the US continues its shadow war in Somalia to repel terrorists there. The new wave in Saudi Arabia means a total net increase of 17000 US troops in the region since May.
Stung by accusations of incompetence, Saturday, Trump appears on Fox’s Justice with Janine to utter his most pathetic self-justification yet, “He (Erdoğan) was going to go in anyway. They’ve been fighting the Kurds for 200 years. He was going in anyway,” Trump professes US impotence to host Jeanine Pirro.
In doing so, Trump unwittingly confirms that he’s given in to Erdoğan’s demands. It is unlikely to boost his party’s trust or Trump’s self-appointed role as super-patriot and nationalist. His wimpy surrender to Turkey’s territorial ambitions makes America great again? Like his protégé, Scott Morrison, when the chips are down he doesn’t give a toss about principle or consistency or even plausible deniability.
As with any of our current crop of political monsters, the winner-take-all strong men thrown up by neoliberalism’s decline, sky-rocketing inequality and the rise and rise of hyper-nationalism, it’s all about political survival – at any price.
Trump needs a diversion from his impeachment narrative and Rudy Giuliani’s erratic stunts are not helping. He puts on his isolationist mask when it suits. Only Murdoch hacks and ScoMo take it seriously.
Isolationist Trump is stymied because continuous war is vital to the United States military industrial complex if not the economy, a neoliberal supreme being second only to the free market in the cult’s articles of faith. Kentucky’s Senator Rand Paul – even more of an embarrassing Trump fanboy than our own PM, rushes to defend his president’s isolationism but, as with toady ScoMo, his credibility is low.
As Republicans and Democrats alike bag Trump for enabling Turkish attacks on U.S. Kurdish allies which could enable ISIS prisoners of war to escape and reform, Paul declares that “most Americans would actually agree with President Trump that this is not a war that has our national interest at stake.”
Even if national interest can mean whatever you choose it to mean, it’s difficult to agree with Paul that America’s national interest will emerge unscathed as its reputation as an ally is trashed – and as the Kurdish body count mounts – so far, Turkish authorities claim to have killed 277 terrorists.
Kurdish sources claim that most of those killed or maimed by bombs and air strikes are civilians.
Does Trump give “a green light” or “a trigger” to Turkey’s military ambitions? Experts differ. Trump, himself, is increasingly incoherent and – like his disciple, Scott Morrison -consistently fast and loose and with the truth. What is certain is that the US betrays its military allies, the Kurds who have lost eleven thousand men and women fighting America’s Syrian military intervention in the last five years at least.
What is also clear is that Trump crafts a week of utter confusion over US Middle-East policy in a desperate bid to stem the growing movement to impeach him for enlisting Ukraine’s sad clown, former comic turned President, Volodymyr Zelensky, to help him smear Joe Biden and the whole Mueller inquiry.
Zelensky is now rapidly running up a trust deficit in polls reported this week. His dealings with Trump; his proposals to end the Kremlin-backed war in Ukraine’s East – don’t help. Ukrainians see him less as a running gag on Ukraine’s hopelessly corrupt political system and more like a puppet of a local billionaire.
“Never get into a well with an American rope,” goes a saying, The Independent’s Patrick Cockburn reports, is spreading across the Middle East. Will Trump’s treachery also be an object lesson to Canberra?
It’s unlikely given the obsequious fawning of ScoMo’s recent Washington junket, to say nothing of Titanium Man’s subsequent mimicry of Trump on how China is a developed nation and expect no favours over Kyoto targets such as Australia enjoys. But ScoMo knows that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and this week sees him morph even further into a Trump even without fake tan or combover.
On song with Donald, ScoMo also rails against “unaccountable internationalist bureaucracies” which UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, reminds our PM, Australia helped set up. The scrutiny Morrison’s government rejects is based on international standards it helped create.
We’re also backing out of the UN Climate fund, Morrison decrees, following Trump’s inspiring example. Money saved can go to the Pacific, (it would, anyway, under the fund), especially our fruit-picking Fijians who will love their rugby until Fiji’s playing fields are underwater courtesy of our heroic contribution to global warming as we squib our commitment to our Paris Agreement target with carry-over credits.
Heroic? When we take into account our exports’ carbon dioxide emission potential, Australia ranks as the world’s third largest fossil fuel exporter, behind only Russia and Saudi Arabia reports The Australia Institute. Wherever our exported fossil fuels may be burnt, they emit more carbon dioxide than the exported emissions of all but two of the world’s biggest oil- and gas-producing nations.
Helping galloping Trumpism sweep the nation in their own self-righteous, dismissive way on Sunday’s ABC Insiders are Murdoch’s Michael Stuchbury and mining lobby tool, The Sydney Institute’s, merry Gerry Henderson who talk up ScoMo’s climate leadership and still find time to defend Peter Dutton for just stating the obvious about how China does not share our “Australian values”.
Gerry scotches all notion of ScoMo criticising his mentor and BFF Donald Trump.
“There is no reason why the Australian government should criticise the American President” says Henderson, airily, ignoring years of utter chaos, corruption and racist violence since January 2017.
Certainly no criticism of Trump appears in ScoMo&Co’s fabulous Dr Doolittle routine, the Payne-Morrison Foreign Policy Pushmi-pullyu duo who sing from the same ponderous song-sheet, in eerie fidelity.
“The Australian Government is deeply troubled by Turkey’s unilateral military operation into North-Eastern Syria. It will cause additional civilian suffering, lead to greater population displacement, and further inhibit humanitarian access. While Turkey has legitimate domestic security concerns, unilateral cross-border military action will not solve these concerns.”
Take that, Erdogan and your domestic security concerns. Neville Chamberlain couldn’t have put it better.
Or as Orwell warns, “A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details…. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”
Weasel words and the vexed question of his aiding and abetting mad elected-King Donald aside, ScoMo and Co are “deeply troubled” only by having to fake moral outrage at Turkey’s turpitude. It’s a tough gig.
Causing “additional human suffering” bothers a PM who plans to revoke Medevac legislation in November? Hardly. “Humanitarian access” worries the gate-keeper of our asylum-seeker gulags both on and off-shore where mandatory, indefinite, detention is denounced by the UN as be a form of torture?
Greater population displacement worries the architect of the Cambodian Solution? A government which opens Christmas Island for one family is averse to additional civilian suffering? A key aim of our mandatory detention of asylum seekers is to punish those on Manus and Nauru or those locked up on the mainland and deprived of any social welfare payments -as a deterrent to other aspiring boat people.
Shunning the UN and similar international bodies is a retreat from co-operative globalism into barbarism. It is also, as the UN makes clear, a denial of our own humanity, a futile attempt to evade our own conscience; our sense of accountability and social responsibility.
Trump’s sudden withdrawal is a triple betrayal. The Kurds are now at risk not only from Turkey but from ISIS fighters they have captured, five of whom already liberate themselves after Turkish shelling from nearby. Kurdish fighters also face hostility from Assad’s regime – and will lose their homes to strangers.
Many of Syria’s Kurdish people live in cities and towns such as Qamishli, Kobani and Tal Abyad just south of the Syrian-Turkish frontier. By Sunday, hundreds of thousands are fleeing south, terrified by the prospect of a Turkish occupation, backed by bands of Syrian Arab paramilitaries with links to al-Qaeda type groups. CNN reports that the bombardment could displace 300,000 people. Some say more.
Operation Peace Spring is Ankara’s Orwellian title for Turkey, and its Syrian proxies’ air strikes, heavy artillery, rocket fire and land assault; a campaign to illegally annex a “peace corridor” of Northern Syria thirty kilometres deep and some say 480 kilometres along Turkey’s entire Southern border with Syria.
Some sources suggest a more modest but no less illegal 120 kilometres of lebensraum is Turkey’s aim. But how can anyone be sure? In a Rafferty’s Rules-based world of disorder only might is right.
Is this what we’ve become?
Ankara has plans to relocate two million Syrian Arab refugees from other parts of Syria it currently has within its borders immediate aim is to seize Rojava; embark upon further Kurdish ethnic cleansing. As it happens, President Erdoğan announces, he’s just discovered that the land doesn’t belong to the Kurds.
It’s not his first invasion. On 20 January 2018, Turkey attacked the Kurdish city of Afrin in Operation Olive Branch, an offensive which displaced 300,000 Kurds who lost family homes to strangers resettled from eastern Ghouta, an urban suburb of Damascus. Human Rights Watch reports that armed Syrian paramilitary groups were permitted to detain and “forcibly disappear“ civilians.
Nothing to fear from a “mafia, murderer and serial killer” Turkish state mobilising its armed forces to massacre more Kurds? Hurriedly, publicly walking back any commitment he has made privately to Erdoğan, Trump says he’ll keep the Turks in check; “obliterate” their economy if they try any funny stuff.
“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!)” the USA’s Tweeter-in-Chief warns Ankara via Twitter.
His Stable Genius has it all under control.
Erdogan gets a hand, meanwhile. Prior to withdrawal, CNN reports, the US persuades Kurds to dismantle fortifications and to move troops away from the border whilst helpfully giving Turkey airspace access and intelligence on the area to improve its aim – or in military newspeak, “formulate its target lists”.
Our own Trumpista, Scott Morrison has only recently returned from a brief but sell-out US tour where he did a star turn as Trump’s muppet. It’s a stunt, as Bernard Keane puts it, in which all of Australia’s foreign policy is outsourced to The White House. Now ScoMo must come up with something. He fails.
He rushes to urge “restraint of all those who are involved” – lest Kurds throw themselves rashly under Turkish tanks, or rush to put themselves or their families in line of fire of bullets or mortar attacks.
It’s all in a good cause. More grandiose plans and delusions aside, Erdogan and Trump are both down in the polls. Trump happily abandons US allies, Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, (SDF) and Kurdish civilians to Turkish genocide. It’s certainly diverting attention from moves to impeach him for seeking Ukraine’s help, for his own political advantage; to dig dirt on Joe Biden’s son. He has to be prepared. What if Joe Biden should win the Democratic nomination and not Elizabeth Warren?
Trump’s dumping of former US allies ought to be a wake-up call to those who fetishise the ANZUS alliance- merely an agreement to consult in times of crisis, despite the reverence our MPs bestow upon it.
The world sees clearly both the limits of US authority and how Trump treats US allies, an object lesson unlikely to be missed by Asian nations. Yet the warning is unlikely to be heeded by ScoMo and Co. Morrison’s government and its Murdoch mouthpiece is now so much part of the Trump cult that not only does our PM’s speeches on foreign policy now mimic the US President’s pre-occupations; lecturing China on trade and climate, he reneges on Australia’s commitment to the UN Green Climate Fund.
“I’m not writing a $500 million cheque to the UN, I won’t be doing that. There’s no way I’m going to do that to Australian taxpayers,” ScoMo tells reporters, an antipodean Zelig aping Trump’s 2017 decision.
In other words, ScoMo, you’ll sell us short. Don’t copy Trump. The UN Green Climate Fund -decades in the making – was inspired by the urgent need to support developing nations in responding to the challenge of climate change. It helps developing nations curb their emissions and adapt. It provides for our children and grandchildren – and their children and grandchildren.
Above all, aping your mentor Trump in attacking the UN and other international bodies designed to promote global citizenship and co-operation, you are betraying all Australians and especially those who helped create internationalism; a set of rules and responsibilities, which might help us to act according to our higher instincts. These include resolving conflict, offering refuge, respecting human rights and applying the rule of law so that we might all benefit from a civilised international society.
The least Australia can do, for starters, is to censure Trump for colluding in Erdoğan’s invasion of Syria; giving the green light to his genocidal plans towards the Kurds. Other nations are already applying sanctions on Turkey. It is imperative we also take a stand against Erdoğan’s invasion before it is too late.
Prevailing on your BFF Donald Trump to resume control of the skies over North-East Syria would be a start while an international peace-keeping team could follow. You can send a team to the Golan Heights on Israel’s border. Surely you can also send a team where it’s needed most.
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Alex Downer and Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos, meet in a London bar where, according to George, he doesn’t tell Alex that the Russians have damaging material on Hillary Clinton. Then Downer passes on the information that he didn’t receive to George. This led to the Mueller investigation, because there was an announcement by the FBI that they were still investigating Hillary’s emails in the days preceding the 2016 election. This action was evidence that the FBI were part of a global conspiracy to prevent the election of Donald Trump, even though the release of the material actually harmed Clinton…
Now before some of you start jumping up and down and telling me what terrible human beings the Clintons are, I want to make it clear that I have no wish to defend any American presidential candidate, I’m just trying to establish the facts here. Yes, you can tell me how “House Of Cards” is based on the Clintons and not some BBC show from twenty years ago and how they ran a pizza parlour which they disguised as a pedophile ring. Whatever! The Clintons are not the issue here. We have another global conspiracy to stop the election of Donald Trump for reasons I’ve yet to quite understand.
Anyway, according to the current narrative being pushed by Papadopoulos and the other Trumpsters, Alex wasn’t told about the damaging information that the Russians had on Hillary but Downer reported this non-existent information. The investigation into the investigation would like to delve more deeply into this because according to George – the man who pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI – Downer recorded their conversation. If there’s one thing worse than a diplomat passing on information they were given after a couple of drinks, then it’s one who records and passes on information that they weren’t given. The Australian government is only too happy to help… We’re not releasing the transcripts of anything written but we’re happy to release Alexander.
Yes, it’s all a bit John Le Carre rather than James Bond. Whatever, Scottie says that there’s nothing wrong with helping an ally with an investigation. Pity, the Ukraine isn’t an ally, I guess.
Then again, Scottie is very helpful these days. When it was discovered that one of the councils being given drought relief was actually experiencing a bumper season, our PM told us that he made no apology for being generous… which would be fine, were it not for the fact that the councils to which he was so generous didn’t seem to be in any Labor electorates. I’m mildly surprised that the metropolitan electorate of Chisholm wasn’t given drought relief, not because it’s a marginal electorate, but because city people have to pay higher food prices thanks to the drought…
And then there’s the NDIS which is so generous that it had more money than people needed. How else do you explain the $4.5 billion in unspent funds this financial year? Incompetence in its administration? Ridiculous. The Coalition is in charge! An obsession with returning the Budget to surplus no matter who suffers? You cynic! As if the government would do such a thing.
Of course, generosity has its limits and you certainly can’t go increasing money to those on NewStart. No, as Minister for Family and Social Services told us, that would just lead to more money going to drug dealers and pubs.
I don’t know what she’s got against pubs. Or drug dealers, for that matter. I mean, the economy needs a boost from somewhere and it’s certainly not going to get one from increases in the NDIS or the dole. If it has to come from some hotel owner or ice dealer buying a new car or adding to his bling, then it’s better than slipping into recession. Besides, can’t the Liberals remember that when Labor suggested putting a limit on pokie machine losses, they banded together with the clubs and pubs and told us how this would lead to massive job losses. Yet now, we can’t have an increase in unemployment benefits because it would help the pubs.
It seems just a few days ago that the Liberals were telling us how good they’ve been at creating jobs. I suppose if you use the word “creating” in the sense of a making up a thing that’s not really there, then one would have to agree.
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“I’ve been to the border,” Fox TV’s Judge Jeanine Pirro says. US citizens living there talk of “rape trees” upon which the clothes of rape victims are hung she says. They talk of children having their hearts cut out with machetes. The US, as Donald Trump regularly tweets, is under siege; its way of life threatened by an invasion of rapists from south of the border. Trump’s re-election campaign team repeats the siege message 2199 times in paid Facebook ads since January.
Welcome to the Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC ‘s travelling show, a rabble of far right US fear-mongers, liars and conspiracy crackpots convinced by Trump’s canard that George Soros or The Democrats fund the migrant caravan. It’s a popular idea which provokes distrust and permits inhumanity.
Peter Dutton expresses similar ideas regarding our refugees on Manus and Nauru. He claims they are “economic refugees” who own “Armani jeans and handbags”.
Add the odd stray Brexiteer and sundry alt-right camp followers. Blend in two, confused members of the Morrison government, Craig Kelly and Amanda Stoker, bestowing a type of legitimacy -and presto -we have a three-day bag-fest of racist hatred, intolerance and ignorance vital to any healthy democracy. Or so our Federal government insists.
CPAC’s enriched US politics. It helped launch Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, two useful idiots who could attract, repel or just distract the masses while lowering taxes and elevating naked greed; allowing finance, business, mining and gambling get everything they want. It’s a recipe for success that the Morrison government is following religiously.
The gory border story is a fiction told by Trump buddy Judge Jeanine. It’s all part of the enriching offerings to a conference which our Coalition government has sagely declared not to be white hate speech at all. Nope. Nope. Nope.
CPAC’s the voice of sweet reason itself, a symposium vital to any free speech-embracing democracy to add to its community conversation about why we should hate Mexican rapists, child-murderers and fear refugee-invasion. In local content, Craig Kelly MP says the CSIRO should go to jail for its science and calls for us to embrace nuclear power plants.
How good is the power of the nuclear energy industry?
Pirro’s in Sydney to help spread hate and fear at CPAC, a forum for the lunatic right, which began in 1974, with a speech from Ronald Reagan who entered national politics ten years earlier after a televised address promoting Barry Goldwater. Reagan’s talk did not help Goldwater win the election. Oddly, voters saw Barry as a dangerous, right-wing extremist.
True, Goldwater did want to nuke Hanoi. But this strategy was also advocated in 1965 by the US military’s Joint Chiefs during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, Daniel Ellsberg reports, a plan, he believes, which was aimed at provoking a nuclear war with China. The Joint Chiefs envisaged a big show which would need 500,000 to a million troops.
Even more oddly, Johnson said no. He chose to do some socially useful projects. His Great Society and War on Poverty.
All was not lost, however. California’s business elite saw in Reagan a man with the charm to sell right-wing extremism. Reagan was duly recruited as Republican Party candidate for Governor of California. He won easily by promising tax cuts. His victory was helped by a smear campaign against his opponent, Pat Brown. Trump’s rise to power has many parallels.
Star of her own Fox reality TV show, Justice with Judge Jeanine, Pirro is more than an incendiary hate-speaker, she’s a total pyromaniac. Her role as a tireless Trump cheer-leader has helped her to rebuild her TV career after a setback in the 1990s when her ex-husband Al Pirro, a Trump power-broker, went to jail for conspiracy and tax evasion.
Trump’s a HUGE fan. Not only does their friendship go back decades, the pair enjoy what The Washington Post’s Sarah Ellison calls “transactional loyalty”, a concept well understood by Morrison and Liberal Party leadership strategists.
“She’s as sexy as hell,” Trump tells New York Magazine; Pirro’s show is a relentless defence of everything Trump, but this week, she’s in Sydney spreading a type of lie that inflames prejudice and helps incite violence. Invasion is a fixation in the online manifesto of Patrick Crusius, the 21 year old who is accused of killing 22 people in a Texas Wal-Mart.
Headline speakers, such as Pirro, peddle xenophobia, bigotry, misogyny, hatred and work themselves into a lather with their lurid anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic murder and rape fantasies in a ballroom set up with brown vinyl chairs at Sydney’s Rydge’s World Square Hotel, Friday to Sunday. But it’s not all rabid hate-speaking. Organisers thoughtfully include some local comic talent. Clown duo, Mark Latham and Ross Cameron, for example, do the warm-up.
Boosted as the largest gathering of conservatives in Australia, in fact it’s tiny; roughly one tenth of the size of all registered Tasmanian Organ Donors or 0.17% of the Melbourne Cricket Club’s waiting list.
But size doesn’t matter. Organisers have deep pockets; grand plans. CPAC’s powerful backers tell The Guardian’s Michael McGowan, they are committed to making the event a “multi-year, forever-type project” aimed at “galvanising” the right wing of Australian politics. Why not? Luigi Galvani even made dead frogs’ legs twitch by applying an electric current.
CPAC’s a show that ScoMo & Co sagely decide we all need to see. In fact, there are more than a few members of the government mad keen to attend – but don’t for a moment think MPs’ attendance is any endorsement, cautions failed Dutton coup numbers man, Matthias Cormann. No? Nor does it add any legitimacy to see George Christensen in the crowd, Jim Molan, former deputy PM National Party hack and mining shill John Anderson with Tony Abbott on stage.
Liberal Party MP when he’s not doing stand-up comedy, Craig Kelly’s a crack-up with his routine about how Tony Abbott won the Coalition’s election for it by attracting all the “crazies” to Warringah. “Took the bullets” for the others, he says, in what has to be least well-judged metaphor of the week. But wait. There’s more. Kelly says CSIRO ought to be in jail.
He accuses the science agency of a “bogus report” on energy costs because its 2018 report finds solar and wind generation technologies are the cheapest power stations to “build new”. CSIRO, of course, is correct. So, too is The Climate Council which reports Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s conclusion,
“Due to the continued fall in the cost of wind and solar, as well as the higher international price for black coal, it is now the same cost or cheaper to build a new wind or solar plant in Australia than to continue operating old coal power stations in New South Wales and Queensland.”
“If an ASX-listed company said that in an annual report, they would likely end up in jail because of how misleading it is,” Kelly claims modelling, himself, the sort of wilful disinformation he tries to rail against.
Meanwhile, Federal Energy Minister, the Watergate and Grass-gate survivor, Angus Gravy-train, Taylor is forming “a new taskforce” to pressure AGL to keep coal-fired Liddell power station open. It’s all part of ScoMo & Co’s big-stick approach.
Taylor says his taskforce, to be set up in partnership with the NSW Government, will consider “all options” – Liberal code for putting on blinkers; propping up coal. He does not rule out using taxpayer money to extend the life of the plant. AGL responds by pointing out that doing so would cost “a lot of money” and any such move “does not stack up.”
The IMF reports that the Australian tax-payer is already subsidising fossil-fuel industries to the tune of $29 billion a year.
In the CPAC spirit of personalised ridicule, Kelly has a presentation trophy to award to Labor Senator, Kristina Keneally.
“This is the CPAC Freedom Award, which goes to the individual who has done the most to promote the CPAC conference,” Kelly tells about 200 attendees. Thigh-slapping hilarity erupts on one side only. Keneally sees it as part of a Two-minute Hate and straight from the pages of George Orwell’s dystopian vision of the future 1984.
“It’s uncanny how much CPAC is exactly what it claims to oppose,” Keneally tweets. “They are … spending all day yelling about their ‘enemies’. This is exactly how people under totalitarian regimes behave.” And key National Party figures.
Farmers’ friend and champion of the man on the land, John Anderson was chairman of coal seam gas frontrunner Eastern Star Gas, bought out by Santos in 2011. He’s one of a herd of former Nationals MP who model transactional loyalty, locally, despite some fuddy-duddy farmers seeing the defection from agriculture to mining as a betrayal.
Former Nationals MP, and pro-coal energy minister, Garry West ,chairs, for undisclosed sums, the Integra Vale, Ulan coal, Moorlaben coal, and the BHP Caroona Coal project, adjacent to Shenhua Watermark’s mine. It’s all part of the mining industry community consultation hoax. Former Nat, Larry Anthony, a former Shenhua Watermark lobbyist, was an advocate for a coal mine which was recently in the news for rigging the storage volume of underground aquifers.
“The values used were implausibly high based on our research,” Ian Acworth, UNSW Emeritus Professor, says in May.
Asking the questions, always more engaging than a talk, Ando interviews his old pal Abbo – who makes a double debut as ex-MP, and ex-PM. Australia is now a nation that offers “death on demand” warns the former minister for women, a master of the hollow three word slogan.
In NSW, an abortion law reform bill which has yet to pass the upper house, had been sprung on voters. “No due consultation”, protests the former PM who sprang a postal vote on marriage equality on the entire nation rather than face a divided party room. Victoria’s recent, assisted dying law proves we’ve lost our moral anchor points. Christianity used to anchor our morality, asserts Abbott, whose former spiritual mentor and adviser was Cardinal George Pell.
Death on demand? Lost moral anchor? “It’s pretty rich”, writes Junkee’s Joseph Earp, “coming from a man who helped speed along an environmental apocalypse that will cost the lives of animals and humans alike.”
“Faith is a gift,” Abbott offers generously. “Some people have it, some people don’t.” Go bite an onion.
Recording or photographing Abbott’s riff is forbidden. He insists. Some of the small audience applaud. The left, he says, opaquely, is wallowing in identity. Wallowing. “Spiritually we’ve rarely been worse off than we are now,” he adds for good measure, perhaps, a typically public-spirited projection of his own long, dark, night of the soul.
Equally benighted but in Australia’s post-modern under-paid, casual, part-time workplace where wage theft is rife, Queensland senator, Amanda Stoker drones on about how industrial relations means labour hire and localised enterprise-bargaining, a vision of the future, surely, now that the government has its Ensuring Integrity bill through the lower house. The cross-bench will be sure to fall in line, especially if demon union thug John Setka’s name is mentioned.
But don’t get the wrong idea. So the government is cosying up to the lunar right in public? Don’t mean a thing. OK? But it does lend a dangerous legitimacy to the lunar right, as Jason Wright thoughtfully observes in The Guardian.
Friday, in a speech largely devoted to attacking Kenneally and accusing her of putting his life in danger, Kassam says,
“She should be ashamed of herself … There’s nothing Christian about silencing your opposition,” he says, preferring an ad hominem attack on Senator Keneally and her Catholic beliefs, to any reasoned rebuttal. Kassam illustrates the fallacy of the Morrison government’s claim that CPAC even vaguely involves or promotes rational debate. Kenneally is closer to the mark when she describes the gathering as a “talk-fest of hate”. And anger.
Warming the chair for Sky’s David Speers, ABC Insiders’ Patricia Karvelas asks an evasive Simon Birmingham if “we are we seeing a more aggressive position taken by conservatives after the election of your government?”
Birmingham evades Karvelas’ question. He might well quibble with her misuse of the term. CPAC is conservative in name only.
Morrison’s government is cosying up in public to win votes from the radical right attending CPAC and those who share its prejudices, its racism and xenophobia. It is also being disingenuous about its motives and the effect of its attendance.
“Their attendance at this conference does not imply agreement or endorsement with the views of any of the other speakers attending in any way,” a dangerously deluded Cormann would have us believe. He fails to explain how or why not.
“The government will always stand against divisive, inflammatory commentary which seeks to incite hatred or which seeks to vilify people.”
“However the way to defeat bad ideas, bad arguments and unacceptable views is through debate, especially with those we disagree with. It is not by limiting our conversations only to those who at all times share all of our views.”
We could add many more examples. There’s Handy Andy Hastie’s “Islam must change.” But this just brings him into line with the budgie-smuggler who declared that Islam has a massive problem and who called for a “reformation”.
Penny Wong points out the difference between hate speech and “bad ideas.” The nonsense that any of the speakers attending is willing to enter into rational debate or is as farcical as expecting the Morrison government to heed the science on climate change or to expect Peter Dutton to retract his scare campaign on the dangers of refugees using Medevac legislation to flood our shores. Or issue an apology for his Melbourne African gang fear-mongering.
Having Cormann lecture us on bad ideas is hilarious coming from a man who tried to make Peter Dutton PM. As for rational debate, this is the Finance Minister who claims that tax cuts for the rich stimulate the economy. Sorry Matthias, you Belgian sausage, all evidence is to the contrary – especially in Trump’s Dis-United States of America.
Augmenting top acts from Trump’s America is not only “Mr Brexit” nifty Nigel Farage, former head of the United Kingdom Independence Party, introduced to the CPAC audience as “quite possibly” Britain’s next PM. Seriously?
“A snake”, hisses Nigel Farage attacking a straw man; a mythical Malcolm Turnbull who starts out all right but who engineers a serpentine leftist coup. The crowd cheers, thrilled by Nige’s Olympian detachment, halcyon objectivity and utter historical falsehood. Farage’s farrago of lies offers a ludicrous parody of the hapless captive of the right.
“Your Liberal party, your conservative movement was hijacked by the other side, taken over by Malcolm Turnbull, who pretended to be a conservative but actually turned out to be a snake.”
Wrong in fact and egregiously wrong in function, CPAC and its backers can stay at home in the USA in future. We don’t need to invite far right ideologues or neo-fascists or hate-speakers to Australia. We have enough of our own at home, already.
Nor do we need to kid ourselves that CPAC speakers are interested in debate. All we’ve seen and heard is personal abuse and an eagerness to win converts to conspiracies.
There is a world of difference between freedom of speech and being granted a licence to spread hate-speech. And the last thing our politicians need is to court the far-right or let themselves be used to legitimise your fear-mongering and your lies.
Forget the idea of a “multi-year, forever, project”. Once is way more than enough.
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From what I could work out from watching the trailers, “The Apprentice” consisted of Donald Trump giving the contestants various tasks and when they failed to do what he wanted, he’d utter the magic words, “You’re fired!” and they’d disappear. Apart from the trailers, I only ever saw a snippet of the show when I was some distance from a channel changer and too tired and emotional to process the idea that there were actually better programs to watch.
From what I can work out of Trump’s presidency, it consists of Donald Trump giving his own appointments and any other White House staff various tasks and every now and then just announcing that they’re fired. And it’s working a treat because his ratings now exceed not only Arnold Schwarzenegger’s, but are reaching heights he never managed when head honcho on “The Apprentice”.
It’s pretty amazing that the Trumpster can get even better ratings with what amounts to nothing more than a re-run of “The Apprentice”. I call him the Trumpster because that makes him seem all warm and lovable. Without such lovable nicknames as “The Donald”, “the Trumpster” or “the Orange-u-tan”, he may come across a little bit like that guy running North Korea, Kim without the lovable nickname…
Ratings are what it’s all about. That’s right, isn’t it? Some people think that it’s all about the hokey pokey, but Trump knows that the hokey pokey allows you to put your left limbs in, and he only wants the right limbs in.
Although to call Trump a right-winger, overlooks the way he’s reached out to Russia…
All right, I know that at this point there’s going to be some rabid left-wing type who’s going to accuse me of completely overlooking the way the United States has been a force for evil in the world and that any criticism of Trump is an endorsement of the industrial military complex that has been responsible for not only wars, but also the cold sore on their lip. So let me just make it clear that I would have marched against our involvement in Vietnam were it not for the fact that my mother wouldn’t let me… I was younger then and I needed my mother’s permission for just about everything. Although I did say to her at the time of the ’72 election, “Go ahead, vote for those runny lackeys of the imperial system who want to send me off to be killed in Vietnam… You’ve got other sons and even if they’re not as lovable as me, I’m sure you’ll learn to love them just as much eventually.”
She still wouldn’t let me go to the protest; neither did she vote for Whitlam. In spite of the sexism of the era, women didn’t listen to their youngest son when it came to politics.
I really shouldn’t blame my mother. After all, I’m not Resources Minister. And, while I’m on the subject there’s no truth in the rumour, that Matt Canavan is being investigated for bigamy because his mother had him married to an Italian girl when he was 26. You need to sign something to be married. And to become an Italian citizen but apparently your mother can sign citizenship papers on your behalf if you’re not capable of looking after your own affairs.
Anyway, back to Trump…
As someone who was appalled by the way people who had any association with Russia or Communism were treated during the McCarthy era, I’m pleased that the Republicans now think that colluding with Russia to affect an election result is hardly worth investigating, because it’s nowhere near as bad as colluding with people like Obama and Hillary. I mean, we all know what they are. No, I’m not being racist or sexist. How could you say such a thing? I mean, Obama is a man and Hillary’s white, so clearly my problem is that they’re Democrats!
You know, Democrats. Do you know the difference between a Democrat and a Republican?
Well, neither do I. But I think it’s that some Democrats believe in socialism. At least in the form of not letting people die because it’s a rich country and we all should have some form of health care. Not all Democrats, mind you, but some. I’m pretty sure that both parties believe that America is the same as the United States, even though the USA is only a small part of the continent. After all, it is the most important part because, well, it has most of the toys and when it doesn’t get it’s own way, it’s pretty good at chucking the toys out of the cot…
Mm, I just got to thinking about the refugee swap that wasn’t a swap. You know the one where Donald didn’t hang up on Malcolm because Malcolm stood his ground. I mean that was pretty unbelievable: Malcolm standing his ground. The one where everyone agreed that the swap was going ahead… But only after “extreme vetting”. I just wondered if Malcolm was going to ring again any time soon and say, “How’s that vetting going?” Just so Trump can tell him that it’s still happening but that you can’t expect us to take people that Australia has decided are lawbreakers, can you?
Ok, James Comey is gone. And while the White House initially told us that it was on the basis of advice from the Deputy Attorney General, Trump later told us that he sacked him because Comey wasn’t doing a very good job. I haven’t been able to confirm if the T-Rump believes this because he’s been unable to uncover evidence of the President’s involvement with Russia, and he believes that anyone who’s failed to do that must clearly be incompetent.
So who will take over?
The acting head of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, would be the logical choice to take over, but he made it clear that he didn’t want the job by the declaring that he thought that Comey had the support of the agency. When he added, “Simply put, sir, you cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing, protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution,” he disqualified himself, because The Donald certainly doesn’t want a man like that in the job.
So what other possible candidates are there and what are the odds.
Rudy Giuliani – Loyal Trump supporter. Helped Trump draft a “more palatable” travel ban. Has experience in public office. Would be Trump’s most sensible choice, so highly unlikely. 25-1
John Cornyn – Senate Majority Whip and former Texas attorney general. Possibility, although he sits on the Intelligence Committee and Trump hasn’t shown any inclination make any appointments where the candidate has any Intelligence in their background. 5-1
Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher – A woman so probably excluded on those grounds alone. 8-1
Jared Kushner – Already has security clearance by virtue of the fact that he’s a Senior White House Adviser and confidant of the President, as well as being his son-in-law. While Trump might possibly just add “FBI chief” to his list of roles, there could be some concern that Kushner would have too much to do given that he’s also in charge of brokering peace in the Israeli-Palestine conflict. 6-1
Keith Schiller – Trump’s bodyguard who delivered the letter to Comey informing him that he was terminated. (At least, it would have informed him of that, but as it was already on the news, Comey already knew.) Anyway, Schiller has been critical of the FBI for not being more aggressive in their investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails. In addition to this, Schiller has forcibly removed reporters and punched a protester. As one of Trump’s most ardent supporters, he’s almost a certainty, so I won’t be offering odds on him.
This, of course, overlooks the possibility of Trump deciding that the only way to get the FBI back on track is to appoint the current head of the KGB to run the organisation.
Way back in 2016, when Donald Trump won his first election, I had sworn never to return to the USA while he was at the helm. I was 61 then, now I’m 74. The age when we attend more funerals than weddings, birthdays and christenings combined. So, it recently came to pass that I wanted very much to attend a dear friend’s funeral. In Mississippi.
Now, in 2030, we don’t know much about the USA. You see, by the time the 2020 election happened, many people were no longer allowed to vote. If a person was unemployed (and there were a LOT of unemployed by 2020), they could not vote. If a person was female, they could not vote. If a person had not been born in the USA, they could not vote. If they were a known LGBTIQ person, they could not vote. Trump was elected again. That was the last election in the USA. Trump, now 83, continued to tweet every morning but everyone except his fans ignored him.
By 2018 California was no longer part of the USA. Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Illinois, Connecticut, Rhode, Island, Vermont and New Jersey had all left the federation by 2021. They were now, if you like, the Ununited States of America. Yet to form a new nation formally, negotiations were ongoing. It was a bit like the Europe of old. Most of the military had aligned with the Ununited States, something that had apparently infuriated Trump because he could no longer threaten to invade other nations. Canada and several of the other Ununited States had built walls. Mexico had built a wall along the Texas/Mexico border, but California and Mexico enjoyed a mutually profitable and politically stable relationship.
I landed in Los Angeles as I always had in the past, to then be interrogated at the USA/California border before continuing my journey into the unknown. Although as an Australian, I could still get a visa waiver for California, the USA demanded to interview every non-citizen at the border. As there were no longer embassies around the world (except in Russia) it was impossible to be interviewed in Sydney or Melbourne prior to travel. Travellers were advised to allow a minimum of five hours for the interrogation.
The alternative of flying into Dallas Fort Worth, Texas was risky. If I got refused a visitor visa in California, I could just go back to my hotel. If I was refused a visitor visa on arrival in Dallas Forth Worth, I’d be incarcerated overnight then put on a return flight. While the chances of my being incarcerated were slim, I hoped, I did have a vocal anti-Trump history – if they found it. My phone was a disposable and I had a little old lady Facebook profile for just this sort of thing. Better not to take the risk.
California didn’t look much different than it had done when I had last visited in September 2016. The airport was just as busy as ever, although security was a little tighter. This, I was told, was to manage the never-ending stream of refugees from the USA. Trump, it seemed, had no problem with people leaving – if they weren’t with the program, they could go. The problem, of course, was California and the other Ununited States just didn’t have the capacity. What had started as a trickle had become a deluge in recent years.
I stayed overnight in LA. The hotel was luxurious without being ostentatious, the service was good, the staff were happy.
The next day I had a contact drive me around. I saw little evidence of homelessness or unemployment. California was a hive of activity. There was not a gun in sight except for the police. I read the local papers and watched the news channels. The crime rate was significantly lower than the peak in 2018, just prior to California leaving the federation.
Then came the time to go to the airport to fly into Trump territory. The queues were short – no-one was going in unless they had to. The five hours involved questioning and the immigration agents delving through the travellers’ phones, iPads, cameras, social media, emails and extended family connections. A lengthy questionnaire was required to be responded to in person. I almost expected to be blood tested. Finally, travellers were fingerprinted and x-rayed. I mean really x-rayed. On a table. At least this obviated the need for an internal examination. At 74 I wasn’t too keen on that idea.
There were plenty of empty seats on the plane. I popped up the armrests after take-off and slept much of the way. The plane wasn’t clean, the toilets smelt, there were not enough cabin attendants. The arrival lounge was grim. The one thing I noticed was no-one was smiling. I mean no-one. There was almost a suspicion of anyone getting off the plane, a “Why would you come here?” expression on peoples’ faces. It was very disconcerting.
In my taxi to the hotel I noticed an odd gender imbalance. There were old white men by the score, many fewer young men of any ethnicity and very few young women. I asked the taxi driver, “Where are all the women?” He scowled. In a deep southern drawl, he told me the women leave. They marry out, mostly to Chinese and Indian men (two countries with a historical shortage of women), he spat. His language was not quite as polite as I have relayed.
The people and the place looked poor, like a third world country. I’ve been to third world countries, I recognised the look, the smell, the facial expressions. The buildings were neglected, the roads badly needed repair, many of the traffic lights no longer worked. Businesses were boarded up.
What children there were (given the shortage of women) didn’t seem to be in school, but roaming the streets aimlessly. Homelessness seemed to be rife – and I was in the better part of town.
The hotel was reasonably clean, but everything was old. It was as if nothing had been replaced or refurbished for fifteen years. The food was passable, the service was sullen. If I had to sum up the atmosphere in one word, it would be despair. No-one seemed to be happy. Everyone seemed to be living hand to mouth.
The television was obviously tightly controlled. As was the internet and print media (yes, it still existed). The news was strictly local and all wonderfully good. Trump’s policies were working, people were happy, wasn’t it terrific. Trump was the best President the world had ever seen. There might have been 1% happy, the faces I was looking at were certainly not.
I had been going to stay a few days, spend time with people I knew. I couldn’t, the place was too depressing. As soon as I had paid my respects at the funeral, I left. I spent those days in California.
I have never been so glad to reach Australian soil as I was today.
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It is no secret I had grave concerns about the suitability of Donald J Trump. Now I’m having trouble sleeping at night. I’d like to pull together several articles I read today. Each paints a concerning picture in its own right. Together, they almost spell Armageddon. I’ve always been concerned about not what is happening today, but where it is leading. This is not just some small country having a few political issues. This is one of most powerful countries in the world – the outcome affects us all, especially other democracies. We’ve already seen our own government embrace Trump’s immigration bans.
The relationship between Donald Trump and Steve Bannon is an unholy alliance, in which the shared goal is the destruction of institutions, and the undermining of the authority of traditional agents of governance and administration in the US.
There is a Twitter hashtag of #PresidentBannon indicating he is seen as the power behind the throne. He may have more difficulty than he thinks, trying to use Trump for his own agenda, as we shall see later in this article. That aside, he is a nasty piece of work with a lot of power as Wilson evidences.
The second article, How to Build an Autocracy, is written by David Frum, who was a speechwriter for President George W. Bush during 2001–02. Not exactly, one suspects, a man wearing a democratic button.
First Frum paints the future.
The business community learned its lesson early. “You work for me, you don’t criticize me,” the president was reported to have told one major federal contractor, after knocking billions off his company’s stock-market valuation with an angry tweet. Wise business leaders take care to credit Trump’s personal leadership for any good news, and to avoid saying anything that might displease the president or his family.
The media have grown noticeably more friendly to Trump as well. The proposed merger of AT&T and Time Warner was delayed for more than a year, during which Time Warner’s CNN unit worked ever harder to meet Trump’s definition of fairness. Under the agreement that settled the Department of Justice’s antitrust complaint against Amazon, the company’s founder, Jeff Bezos, has divested himself of The Washington Post. The paper’s new owner—an investor group based in Slovakia—has closed the printed edition and refocused the paper on municipal politics and lifestyle coverage.
Then he goes on to look at the global situation, citing a “democratic recession” – democracies are in decline.
The exercise of political power is different today than it was then—but perhaps not so different as we might imagine. Larry Diamond, a sociologist at Stanford, has described the past decade as a period of “democratic recession.” Worldwide, the number of democratic states has diminished. Within many of the remaining democracies, the quality of governance has deteriorated.
What has happened in Hungary since 2010 offers an example—and a blueprint for would-be strongmen. Hungary is a member state of the European Union and a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights. It has elections and uncensored internet. Yet Hungary is ceasing to be a free country.
He then looks at Trump’s relationship with the congressional Republicans.
Trump has scant interest in congressional Republicans’ ideas, does not share their ideology, and cares little for their fate. He can—and would—break faith with them in an instant to further his own interests. Yet here they are, on the verge of achieving everything they have hoped to achieve for years, if not decades. They owe this chance solely to Trump’s ability to deliver a crucial margin of votes in a handful of states—Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania—which has provided a party that cannot win the national popular vote a fleeting opportunity to act as a decisive national majority. The greatest risk to all their projects and plans is the very same X factor that gave them their opportunity: Donald Trump, and his famously erratic personality. What excites Trump is his approval rating, his wealth, his power. The day could come when those ends would be better served by jettisoning the institutional Republican Party in favor of an ad hoc populist coalition, joining nationalism to generous social spending—a mix that’s worked well for authoritarians in places like Poland. Who doubts Trump would do it? Not Paul Ryan. Not Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. For the first time since the administration of John Tyler in the 1840s, a majority in Congress must worry about their president defecting from them rather than the other way around.
It is a long article, but well worth reading in full.
Social researcher Hugh Mackay has dubbed our times an ‘Age of Anxiety’. All the old certainties have been turned upside down and the only thing that we are told we can rely on is an ever-increasing pace of change.
To a jittery population that is cold comfort. In our existential dread we thrash about for people to blame: the left, the right, Muslims, refugees, feminists, believers, unbelievers, terrorists and that reliable old omnibus – political correctness. The one thing we all agree on is that the future looks alarming and unpredictable. We are, we believe, in uncharted waters.
But perhaps that is not so. Perhaps human beings have been through something like this before.
The recipe for populism is universal. Find a wound common to many, find someone to blame for it, and make up a good story to tell. Mix it all together. Tell the wounded you know how they feel. That you found the bad guys. Label them: the minorities, the politicians, the businessmen. Caricature them. As vermin, evil masterminds, haters and losers, you name it. Then paint yourself as the savior. Capture the people’s imagination. Forget about policies and plans, just enrapture them with a tale. One that starts with anger and ends in vengeance. A vengeance they can participate in.
That’s how it becomes a movement. There’s something soothing in all that anger. Populism is built on the irresistible allure of simplicity. The narcotic of the simple answer to an intractable question. The problem is now made simple.
If we look at all those threads, we can see the interweaving. For days I had been thinking of Mugabe and seeing Trump as the Western version. Then I read about Chávez.
As Frum highlights in his article, it is not now we need to worry about – it is in four, five, six years time. Unless we stop it now. Unless the American people stop it NOW.
There is a another article which is the match that will light the flames: in these days of fake news, however, I am wary. While the article is reported in many places, I can’t find it on a mainstream website such as Washington Post – but then, does that mean anything these days?
John D. Gartner, a practicing psychotherapist who taught psychiatric residents at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, minces as few words as the president in his professional assessment of Trump.
“Donald Trump is dangerously mentally ill and temperamentally incapable of being president,” says Gartner, author of “In Search of Bill Clinton: A Psychological Biography.” Trump, Gartner says, has “malignant narcissism,” which is different from narcissistic personality disorder and which is incurable.
The diagnosis is particularly worrying due to the behaviours of the patient. Behaviours that benefit only themselves – at any cost. Yes, Gartner broke his professional code to speak out, because he believes people need to know.
Only with his lunatic effort to selectively ban refugees (but not from terrorist-sending countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt where Trump has business interests) has Trump discovered that the American system has courts. It has courts. Imagine that.
The more unhinged he becomes, the less will conservative judges be the toadies to ordinary Republican policies that they too often have been. Anybody want to wager that the Supreme Court will be Trump’s whore?
In the past week, Republicans from Mitch McConnell on down have tripped over each other rejecting his view of Putin. They have ridiculed his screwball claim of massive voter fraud.
I believe this was written BEFORE the President fired his acting attorney general. I’m waiting for him to try to fire a judge, which he is not empowered to do.
We have every reason to be concerned. We also need to heed the lessons available to us and ensure this doesn’t happen in Australia.
Do you consider yourself a truthful person? I do. Over the last decade I have come to wonder if truth is something from a bygone era. In business and in our personal lives, truth is something society either glosses over or flat out ignores.
A business example to start with. At a project review meeting an item (a functional requirement of a system) was flagged by the Programme Manager as “Needs Improvement”. It didn’t need improvement, a state which implies some work has been done, hours spent already – and hours equates to investment dollars.The item in question had not been started, it did not exist. No hours, no dollars invested. Zip,
Imagine for a moment you are a senior executive scanning the project status report. You see all items have been started, therefore understand from the report that the project is on time, on budget, in scope. However, if you scanned a report with items flagged as “not commenced”, it is reasonable to think your understanding of the status of the project might be rather different.
The picture painted by the language is a lie. The truth is at best glossed over, at worst ignored. If widespread within an organisation, such practices can have catastrophic affects. A family member recently described a situation where middle management were “fudging figures”: based on those reported figures a decision was made to cut the staff of a particular department. After the resultant loss of customers and the flow-on from those losses, the organisation is now trying to repair the damage. In the meant time it has lost customers that likely won’t return, suffered a hit to the bottom line, lost staff who likely will not return, therefore face recruitment and training costs to restaff appropriately. Costly exercise.
There is a web site I’ve always found rather amusing, MBA Jargon Watch. Australians used to joke about how Americans took 25 words to say something we Aussies would say in ten (or less). MBA Jargon Watch always reassured me we had escaped such obfuscation in our straight-to-the-point world.
One of my favourites:
best of breed (n. and adj.) The finest specimen or example to be found in a particular industry or market. Like Papillons preening for the judges, companies position themselves as best-of-breed. In truth, however, few ever make it through the qualifiers.
Yet it seems we have indeed adopted the convoluted way of ensuring we don’t say anything directly. Sometimes I read business reports and have to read some parts of it two or three times before I come to the conclusion absolutely nothing is being said at all, let alone anything remotely truthful.
Many years ago a friend expressed the concern to me that “the truth is brutal”. Yes, I agree, it most certainly can be. Telling someone a loved one has been killed in a car accident or telling a spouse the marriage is over: both of these truths are indeed unpleasant and harsh to the recipient. They are also unavoidable truths.
In the worlds of politics and business the unavoidable is often avoided until the very last minute when it is often too late. In business, depending on how senior the perpetrator is, he or she may be pushed out quietly encouraged to leave and later pop up in another senior position somewhere else, ready to repeat the crime.
In politics it seems to be open slather, as the Trump campaign has so clearly shown us. There are a multitude of reputable articles providing evidence of his blatant lies throughout the campaign. Here’s one from The Washington Post. Not only has he lied, voters believe him.
Closer to home, we have politicians refusing to be truthful. To quote John Lord
”In the concoction, the recipe that is called leadership there are many ingredients. None more important than integrity, positiveness and the ability to trust and delegate. But it is truth that glues it altogether to create character.”
Yes, truth. That seemingly elusive, indefinable mode of communication that requires nothing more than, well, a little integrity. Politicians cherry pick facts to sell a policy, often ignoring brutal other aspects of the situation. Manus Island and Nauru spring to mind. Oh such a wonderful solution, we’ve stopped the boats. We also are inflicting incredible torture on the people we have incarcerated. That little fact is conveniently ignored.
I was always a tough mother. I refused to write “the dog ate his homework/the computer crashed/Daddy had a flat tyre” notes (unless any of those events actually happened) to excuse incomplete homework. Why? Two reasons: first, I wanted my children to learn to take responsibility for their actions and secondly, I didn’t want them learning to lie. Oh, yes, I took flak for that: “All the other mothers do it for their kids!” Not this mother, sorry. Kids start lying to avoid punishment. We need to reward truth. At home and in the workplace.
What has happened to the truth? Are adults actually too afraid of “getting into trouble”? They’d rather see other people get into trouble by losing jobs as a result of their “misdemeanor” adjusting of management reports? Do politicians think that lying for no other reason that to garner votes, then subsequently back peddle is OK? Rhetorical question alert there, obviously.
Gays being allowed to marry are a threat. Blacks protesting the killing of their unarmed friends and family are a threat. Hispanics doing the cheap labor on their farms are somehow viewed a threat. The black president is a threat. Two billion Muslims are a threat. The Chinese are a threat. Women wanting to be autonomous are a threat. The college educated are a threat. Godless scientists are a threat. Everyone who isn’t just like them has been sold to them as a threat and they’ve bought it hook, line, and grifting sinker. Since there are no self-regulating mechanisms in their belief systems, these threats only grow over time. Since facts and reality don’t matter, nothing you say to them will alter their beliefs. “President Obama was born in Kenya, is a secret member of the Muslim Brotherhood who hates white Americans and is going to take away their guns.” I feel ridiculous even writing this, it is so absurd, but it is gospel across large swaths of rural America. Are rural, Christian, white Americans scared? You’re damn right they are. Are their fears rational and justified? Hell no. The problem isn’t understanding their fears. The problem is how to assuage fears based on lies in closed-off fundamentalist belief systems that don’t have the necessary tools for properly evaluating the fears.
A column in the New York Times also caught my eye. You can’t always back peddle out of stuff you said, I’m afraid, even if you are the President-elect.
No, Mr. Trump, we will not all just get along. For as long as a threat to the state is the head of state, all citizens of good faith and national fidelity — and certainly this columnist — have an absolute obligation to meet you and your agenda with resistance at every turn.
The world would be a better place if we were all truthful. The figures aren’t good this month, we didn’t reach the project milestone, I didn’t do my homework because I spent too much time playing video games, I’m only standing for President to make a lot of money, I think Dutton‘s a cretin (well, OK, maybe that last is a stretch, but at least demote the man). I will say this about Pauling Hanson – at least we know where she stands, even if we don’t like it.
Without the truth we all live in a fantasy land. That fantasy land is getting crazier by the day.
The media, social, mainstream and everything in between, have been flooded with justifications, discussions, jibes, insults and everything in between over the proven (by his own words and voice) predatory behaviour of Trump towards women. There are a string of labels attached and debate over the legal definition. I’ve no idea what “skeezing” means, but I can guess: the latest release is a video of Trump “skeezing” on a 10 year-old-girl.
The NSW parliament have labelled Trump “a revolting slug” unfit for public office. I almost agree, although I think slugs are being insulted by the comparison. I won’t insult the many fine men I have known in my life by calling Trump a man – he isn’t a man. Of the male gender he may be, a man he is not.
My concern is not actually with Trump himself – he will get taken care of in due course, I hope. My concern is the fact Trump is not alone.
As unscientific as the numbers may be, a Trump supporter issued forecasts that allege if women did not have the vote, Trump would win the election. Within a very short space of time Twitter was awash with #repealthe19th. The Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote.
The Nineteenth Amendment is identical to the Fifteenth Amendment, except that the Nineteenth prohibits the denial of suffrage because of sex and the Fifteenth because of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”
Then we have the right-wing pastor Dave Daubenmire terrified of a woman becoming the President because according to him the “immorality of a sinful man” is not as bad as breaking the biblical principle that “when a woman rules over a man …. it’s a sign of the judgement of the Lord”. May I suggest to Dear Dave that perhaps that’s precisely what IS going to happen, because his Lord has judged men like Trump are not fit to rule and when the Lord sees other men supporting Trump, the Lord has decided enough is enough.
More than 3,000 sexual assault survivors have taken out an ad pleading with the Republicans to dump Trump. Author Kelly Oxford took to Twitter encouraging women to share their sexual assault stories. Over a million women answered her call. I read some of those tweets. Girls being groped on public transport at ages as young as nine and ten. For a million women to have been sexually assaulted, there have to have been a fair number of perpetrators. One man alone does not manage that many assaults.
I’ve been pleased to see athletes come out saying the sort of talk Trump claims is “locker room banter” is actually not what constitutes locker room banter in their experience. We need more men to stand up and be counted. To denounce Trump’s behaviour.
When I was young, forty years ago, I believed the genders were equal. It never occurred to me there were men like Trump or the pastor in existence. Then again, I am still stunned over Abbott and his “when they are doing the ironing” nonsense. My initial awakening came during my first management tenure. My female staff asked if they could wear tailored trousers to work. I saw absolutely no reason why not, yet the human resources department ruled only if the women wore a trouser SUIT. Back then, trouser suits were inordinately expensive. It was economically unrealistic to expect my staff to buy trouser suits. I saw nothing wrong with tailored trousers and a nice shirt or (as it was winter) a nice jumper. At the time male staff DID NOT have to wear suits unless they were management. Yes, I won the battle, but the fact the battle even had to be fought opened my eyes a little.
Some time later, at a business women’s networking lunch, a speaker outlined how not so many years before, women had been required to give up work once they married. How had I got to adulthood without knowing any of this stuff, I wondered.
Here we are forty years later and we have a predator running for the most powerful position in the world (some other world leaders might of course dispute the most powerful bit). We have people spouting the Bible and others (or many of the same) wanting women to lose the vote.
This is 2016 – or did I get caught in a time warp?
There is absolutely NO justification in 2016 for Trump’s behaviour. The is absolutely NO justification in 2016 for gender inequality.
In case it has escaped the notice of some members of the male gender, you are only on this planet because a FEMALE gave birth to you. Carried you and protected you in her body for nine months. Fed you from her breasts. How DARE you, those of you who are so inclined, demand that women be second class citizens? How dare you support Trump’s (and those like him) treatment of women? The women who support such nonsense: I have no words at all for you.
Having read as much as I have read over the past few days, I consider myself lucky. I have never been subjected to sexual abuse or assault. The closest I ever came was when I was propositioned by the CEO of the company I worked for many years ago. He assured me he and his wife had an open marriage. I told him I’d believe that when his wife told me, but the answer would still be thanks, but no thanks, I wasn’t interested. I did advise him I did not expect to be fired on Monday for refusing. I wasn’t. End of story. Not all female members of my extended family have been so lucky. While I have seen their pain and know it is real, while I have witnessed the health and psychological aftermath, I can’t feel it myself.
All I can do is say Trump is not a man. A real man doesn’t need to grab women’s parts uninvited. What, I wonder, is the underlying inadequacy of this individual that fuels his behaviour? What then leads him to try to incriminate all other men? His son got in on the act saying it was typical of alpha males. He thinks his father is an alpha male? Heaven forbid! Even his suits fit badly.
New York Magazine has a very informative and detailed article about this, but the take-home message is that before the 1960s there were barely any examples of humans being described as alpha males, the term was restricted to fields like primatology research. Species like chimps and gorillas do have social structures and hierarchies with a dominant individual at the top, typically a male who has achieved that positon via displays of strength and physical prowess. The fact that alpha males exist isn’t disputed, it’s whether humans can actually be such a thing.
An alpha male in the primate world is the pack leader – and pack leaders don’t get that position easily, they have to prove their worth. As leaders and protectors.
Trump refuses to protect 50% of the population, believing that 50% are there for his personal gratification and pleasure.
There are many wonderful men in this world: men who treat women with respect and as equals. May those men flourish and prosper and raise their sons in their image and raise their daughters to have no qualms about placing a knee strategically and forcefully when required.
Don’t anyone come bleating to me about how Islam treats women while the western world even considers making Trump POTUS.
A final word to Dear Pastor Dave. Dave, in all of my life there has been only one man that I ever felt like submitting to and I still have no explanation for that. However, don’t confuse the often inexplicable dynamics of personal relationships on the one hand and how a healthy society should function on the other hand. Oh, and if Hillary wins? Well, I guess your Lord passed judgement.
Edited to Add: I have recalled another incident when I was 15. After my parents passed, I was in a foster home. I asked my foster father to cash a cheque for me. It was a Saturday, before ATMs. He suggested if I sat on the bed with him, he’d give me the money and I didn’t need to give him the cheque. I declined and moved out about a week later. The executor of my father’s will sent me to a psychologist as he didn’t believe me. I still consider myself fortunate – neither incidents involved physical contact of any sort.