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Tag Archives: USA

More Hopeful Times Ahead with President Joe Biden in a Post-Virus Era?

By Denis Bright

Can the politics of hope replace the normal circus of a US Presidential election in these times of public health and financial crises? Is Joe Biden as the Democratic hopeful up to the task against a well-resourced and canny incumbent?

How are things trending on the Twin Fronts? What unchartered scenarios lie ahead before the scheduled Presidential voting day on 3 November 2020?

Coping with the COVID-19 Crisis

The Guardian (9 April 2020) provided useful updates of the COVID-19 Crisis across the USA. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) web site in Atlanta provides daily updates of the trend-lines.

While the North Eastern Metropolitan Areas are virus epicentres, there are clusters of COVID-19 around all major urban hubs across the USA.

Graphs of cases of COVID-19 may follow trends established in South Korea and China in the coming weeks after the peak of the crisis is finally attained.

 

 

Countries with different health systems may be following similar trajectories.

Perhaps the degree of enforcement of social distancing is a key factor.

 

Regrettably, President Trump is uneasy about keeping the US in lockdown. The US was a late starter in issuing lockdown directives. The Trump Administration took its lockdown cues from the key epicentre states.

President Trump’s unease is linked to his concerns about the consequences of an over-extended lockdown for the financial welfare of the nation.

The US Financial Crisis-The Times They Are A-Changing

As the vital COVID-19 case numbers are likely to plateau and then to flatten in a few weeks, it is the financial crisis which is likely to intensify (The Guardian 9 April 2020). Perhaps there is provision to defer the presidential and congressional elections if unemployment trends worsen at a time of public health crisis. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first landslide victory in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression came with a voter participation of 56.9 per cent. This was similar to recent voter participation rates in recent presidential elections.

McKinsey Global Institute in New York offers the possibility of a China-led recovery if the pandemic can be contained in the medium term in 2020:

 

 

Trajectories for the US economy and its global influence are of course unknown quantities at this stage. The McKinsey Institute does not extend its more detailed US projections beyond the current year.

 

 

Unchartered Social Outcomes of Previous Crises

In these times of financial and health crises, it is surprising that the US is turning to veteran leaders on both sides of the congressional aisles.

Old musical folk-heroes are being respected anew even if they maintain some left-leaning agendas as in the 1960s. Perhaps the popular music scene is an ongoing escape from the excesses of centre-right politics now as before.

Like Barry McGuire (Born 1935) of Eve of Destruction fame, Bob Dylan might be still alive to sing out the Trump Era. This is less likely if President Trump gains a second term. The changeover inauguration date in January 2025 is still a very long way off.

From near-retirement, Bob Dylan has just offered a new release on 27 March 2020. Murder Most Foul recalls the social aftermaths of President Kennedy’s (JFK’s) assassination on Friday 22 November 1963 (Full lyrics here).

Writing for MIT Press Reader, literature guru Timothy Hampton of the University of California, Berkley reminds every one of the haunting tragedies that afflict US society over which a cheery popular culture continues to offer band-aid compensations (The MIT Press Reader 3 April 2020).

Social band-aids were needed as high-profile assassinations in the 1960s. Formal politics in the USA tilted to the right while most of society continued its freedom-loving ways in the shadows of a more disciplined corporate society with its enormous and growing military industrial complexes.

The losses of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King within a few weeks of each other in 1968 deepened the wounds against a healthy social recovery from JFK’s assassination. When the Woodstock Festival convened in upstate New York in August 1969, President Nixon had already won by a landslide at the 1968 election. There was no It’s Time Era in formal US Politics as in Australia, Britain and across the expanding European Union.

Writing in The Conversation, Aniko Bodroghkozy, Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia summed up the eerie mood across the USA as COVID-19 takes its toll:

Over the past few weeks, the coronavirus has turned the country’s cultural spigot off, with sports suspended, museums closed and movies postponed.

But the virus hasn’t stopped Bob Dylan, who, on the evening of March 26, released “Murder Most Foul,” a 17-minute long song about the Kennedy assassination.

Many have pondered the timing. So, have I. I’m a Kennedy scholar, writing a book about how television handled coverage of the Kennedy assassination over a traumatic four-day “black weekend,” as it was called. I’ve also explored how Americans responded to the sudden upending of national life with the murder of a popular and uniquely telegenic president.

NBC News anchor David Brinkley, as he signed off that first night, called Kennedy’s death “just too much, too ugly and too fast.”

The coronavirus crisis may also seem too much and too ugly, though it’s unfolded much more slowly. While a global pandemic is certainly different from a political assassination, I wonder if Dylan sensed some resonance between the two events. Inscrutable as always, he’s unlikely to ever explain. And yet it’s hard to ignore the poignant similarities in the ways Americans have responded to each tragedy.

Ana Swanson of the New York Times notes the switch from trade and investment wars with China to increasing dependence on China for vital medical supplies in the current health crisis:

WASHINGTON — A commercial aircraft carrying 80 tons of gloves, masks, gowns and other medical supplies from Shanghai touched down in New York on Sunday, the first of 22 scheduled flights that White House officials say will funnel much-needed goods to the United States by early April as it battles the world’s largest coronavirus outbreak.

The plane delivered 130,000 N95 masks, 1.8 million face masks and gowns, 10 million gloves and thousands of thermometers for distribution to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, said Lizzie Litzow, a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Ms. Litzow said that flights would be arriving in Chicago on Monday and in Ohio on Tuesday, and that supplies would be sent from there to other states using private-sector distribution networks.

While the goods that arrived in New York on Sunday will be welcomed by hospitals and health care workers — some of whom have resorted to rationing protective gear or using homemade supplies — they represent just a tiny portion of what American hospitals need. The Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that the United States will require 3.5 billion masks if the pandemic lasts a year.

That overwhelming demand has set off a race among foreign countries, American officials at all levels of government and private individuals to acquire protective gear, ventilators and other much-needed goods from China, where newly built factories are churning out supplies even as China’s own epidemic wanes.

This sharing of medical assistance from China in a time of crisis is particularly significant. Australia has the green light to respond in a likewise manner (ABC News):

A freight flight from the city where the deadly coronavirus first appeared has arrived in Sydney, carrying 90 tonnes of protective masks, gowns and ventilators.

Tough restrictions on travel in and out of Wuhan, China were only lifted in the last 24 hours, and the city’s airport whirred back into action along with many other transport hubs in Hubei province.

The cargo flight, operated by Chinese carrier Suparna Airlines, arrived in Sydney after 9:00pm on Wednesday, and is the first flight from Wuhan to land at Australia’s busiest airport since late January.

“This flight will be carrying up to 90 tonnes of much needed medical supplies,” a spokesperson for the Home Affairs Department told the ABC.

Readers who would like to promote discussion on this possible change agenda should add their comments in the interests of citizens’ journalism.

The Atlantic (20 November 2013) has offered some trivia from The Wire to assist in your assessment of Joe Biden from a selective focus on his College Years (The Atlantic 20 November 2013). Select quoting from this article would spoil its punch-lines.

Luck will have to be on Joe Biden’s side again if he is to overcome the challenges posed by the political colours on the 2016 US Presidential Election Map. The 2016 Campaign delivered a 304 to 227 margin for President Trump in the Electoral College. Hillary Clinton gained almost 3 million primary votes over Donald Trump and attained 48.2 per cent of the overall vote.

The campaigning style of Joe Biden has yet to be tested against a canny incumbent with almost limitless campaigning resources to communicate with a nation in lockdown. Joe Biden’s ultimate political trial on 3 November 2020 must surely attract some of the silent majority who are not scared off by the long-odds.

Australia is so entwined in the global soft power network of the USA that our interest is imperative. I can recall the exact ABC radio news bulletin at 6 a.m. on that Saturday morning here which informed me of JFK’s assassination. It took years to understand the long-term even immediate consequences. With the assassin incorrectly portrayed as a communist sympathiser at the time, the electorate was already ready to stay with Robert Menzies on 30 November 1963 with his commitments to new F11 Fighter Jets and negotiations to accept the North West Cape Communication base through negotiations with US Ambassador William Battle. Australia was intimately caught up in the right-wing tendencies in global politics within the US Global Alliance.

The guide to form map from the 2016 Presidential Campaign shows the challenges facing my own outsider wager in favour of Joe Biden knowing that President Trump has a knack of mobilising his own support base in those key Swing States like Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania which have the numbers to change our political world through the strange mechanics of the US Electoral College. Building up more progressive majorities in California and New York do help congressional numbers but do not influence the race prize for Joe Biden.

In the Hope of Progressive Change, I choose to Trust in my current assessment of Unchartered Times.

Denis Bright is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizens’ journalism from a critical structuralist perspective. Comments from Insiders with specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.

 

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The Évian Conference

By Dr George Venturini

The Évian Conference

In 1930, with the Great Depression severely affecting Australia’s workforce, the Scullin Government (1929 – 1932) tightened up entry requirements for ‘aliens’, demanding that only those immigrants who had £500 landing money, or who were dependent relatives of aliens already living in Australia, would be permitted to enter the country.

Following the election of Adolf Hitler in Germany, a group of concerned Jewish spokesmen, led by Rabbis F. L. Cohen and Israel Brodie, travelled to Canberra and personally lobbied the Minister for the Interior to admit a limited number of skilled German-Jewish refugees. But it was to no avail. Two years later, and following Hitler’s promulgation of the notorious Nuremberg Laws (German: Nürnberger Gesetze) which were purposely anti-semitic and racial laws, and had been enacted by a submitted Reichstag on 15 September 1935, prominent Sydney leader Sir Samuel Cohen presided over the formation of the German Jewish Relief Fund, which tried to emulate similar initiatives in Britain by raising funds to assist young German Jews to escape to Palestine or other ‘safe havens’.

Simultaneously, Cohen, Brodie and Brigadier Harold Cohen, among others, continued to press Government members for an easing of immigration restrictions. The successor Lyons Government (1932-1939) compromised by reducing landing money to £50 for those migrants guaranteed by family or friends. It also encouraged the formation of the Australian Jewish Welfare Society, A.J.W.S. to coordinate migration processes. Australia House in London reportedly received 120 inquiries a day from would-be immigrants in March 1938, while the A.J.W.S. received 1200 pleas for assistance in the week following the German invasion of Austria, the so-called Anschluss Österreichs, on 12 March 1938.

The A.J.W.S. was sensitive to Government and public sentiment and concerned that its actions could have been affected by the presumption that any marked increase in migrant numbers would merely jeopardise existing, and already tenuous, concessions. As a result it could accept only a fraction of the 70,000 applications for help it had received.

In July 1938 Australia followed Britain’s lead by agreeing to send representatives to Évian-les-Bains, France where a world summit was to seek solutions to the refugee problem. Named officially the ‘Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees’, the conference – originally the initiative of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and held on 6 to 15 July – brought together delegates from 32 nations.

The results of the conference were disappointing; it was clear from the outset that none of the participating countries was willing to modify its existing migration restrictions.

The Australian delegation was headed by Lieut. Col. T. W. White, Federal Minister for Trade and Customs. He bluntly informed the participants that Australia was committed to its policy of British migration, and declared that ‘as we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one by encouraging any scheme of large-scale foreign migration.’

Clearly White had not heard of the ‘Day of Mourning’, a protest held by Indigenous People on 26 January 1938, the 150th anniversary of British invasion of Australia. It was declared to be a protest of 150 years of the seizure of the land and of criminal treatment of the original population. It purposefully coincided with the Australia Day celebrations held by the non-Indigenous population on the same day. The protest became a tradition, and annual ‘Days of Mourning’ have been held ever since.

White was voicing a widespread national sentiment. According to a public survey conducted at this time, only 17 per cent of the Australian population was in favour of large-scale immigration of Jews. There was intense disquiet about the reluctance of Jews ‘to integrate’ – whatever that may ever mean – or the possibility that refugees would ‘swamp’ some professions or take away jobs from ‘Australians’. Already rigid quotas had been imposed on the number of refugee practitioners able to enter the medical profession in Australia.

At the Évian conference, the United States itself – represented not by Roosevelt or even an elected official but by a friend of the President called Myron C. Taylor – refused to increase the annual admission quota of 27,370 from Germany and Austria even before the meeting began. Edward Turnour, 6th Earl Winterton, Lord Winterton, the leader of the British delegation, clearly outlined his country’s position: “The United Kingdom is not a country of immigration.”

By 1938 more than half a million refugees would be on the move across Europe, fleeing the Nazis, who had rendered first 900,000 German Jews stateless under the Nuremberg Laws, then 200,000 Austrian Jews following the invasion in 1938.

After Kristallnacht (literally “Crystal night”) or ‘The night of broken glass’, between 9 and 10 November 1938, which was an anti-Jewish pogrom in Nazi Germany – then including Austria and Sudetenland – and in slow response to increasingly urgent calls to increase its refugee intake, the Australian Government announced that it would accept 15,000 refugees – 12,000 of them Jews – over the subsequent three years.

This apparent ‘liberalisation’ of policy was, in fact, nothing of the kind. Australia was effectively already accepting 5,100 refugees per annum – before December 1938 – and the new quota actually reduced the proposed intake. The trick was intended to advertise the Government as compassionate, liberal and ‘humanitarian’; in reality, the new policy cynically used the opportunity to curtail whatever trend there had previously been towards a growth in refugee admissions. As it was, a mere fraction of the first annual quota had reached Australia before the second world war broke out. In fact, only some 7,000 Jews settled in Australia between 1933 and 1939. (IRIN | ‘Look back and learn: The Evian Conference, 1938’; see also: Evian Conference – ThoughtCo; The Evian Conference | The Holocaust Encyclopedia).

Once war against Germany by Britain and its allies had been declared in September 1939, immigration effectively ceased, although a small number of refugees did manage to reach Australia through the Orient in the early years of conflict. As former citizens of enemy states, quite a number of them were promptly – albeit temporarily – interned as ‘enemy aliens’.

Continued Wednesday – The Kimberley Plan

Previous instalment – Adjunct imperialist clowns (part 2)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

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Authoritarian regimes: Zimbabwe, Venezuela, next the USA

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 first is an article by Jennifer Wilson on this site, Trump’s Chief Strategist: I want to bring everything crashing down.

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.

Jane Caro has written The Virtual Reformation. Caro looks at why we are where we are.

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.

Final words of warning from Andrés Miguel Rondón, In Venezuela, we couldn’t stop Chávez. Don’t make the same mistakes we did.

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.

Source: usnews.com

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.

Robert Kuttner writes in The Huffington Post of The Inevitability Of Impeachment.

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.

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Will This Kill Americans?

Politics used to be hard. You had to balance the needs and desires of a wide range of stakeholders with competing interests. You needed to communicate the benefits of your actions, and contrast them to the failures and flaws of other approaches as proposed by your political opponents, interest groups, lobbyists and the media. You needed to worry about balancing the budget, setting an appropriate level of tax and impost on those with plenty without offending them so they would prefer to spend their money on pulling you down, and an appropriate level of social support for those with little so they don’t spend their time marching on the streets. Politics used to be about a million little decisions and benchmarks and complicated analysis of every possible decision to identify, as closely as possible, the full range of those it could hurt or help.

With the rise of right-wing populism, and the ensuing assumption to the Presidency of Donald Trump, it is becoming apparent that these considerations are luxuries. There are basic, fundamental questions and requirements that must be met before higher-level consideration of costs and benefits can be addressed. The United States of America, to date, has been blessed with leadership that can largely take these fundamental questions as granted; Presidents and Congressmen for whom common sense and fundamental decency provided a baseline of behaviour and practice allowing politics to move on to the more complicated and difficult questions of policy.

Through Donald Trump’s published positions, his appointments to key roles in government, and the avowed desires of the Republican party he leads, these basic requirements can no longer be assumed. Accordingly, it may be appropriate to boil fundamental policy deliberation down to a simple benchmark, which may be summarised as follows:

Will this kill Americans?

If this is a fundamental benchmark, unfortunately in the lead-up to his inauguration, Donald Trump’s record so far is not promising.

The Affordable Care Act

Even before Trump has entered the Oval Office, he and his incoming administration are taking the first steps to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Commonly (and derogatively) referred to as “Obamacare”, the ACA made significant changes to America’s healthcare systems. (A simplified explanation is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZkk6ueZt-U) Whilst there were some people who faced higher taxes, and some who were forced to buy (subsidised) health insurance or face a levy, the main outcome of Obamacare was to massively increase the coverage of health insurance. Suddenly, millions of Americans who previously did not have and could not get insurance were able (and required) to get insurance. Empirically and provably, this saved lives, and continues to do so.

Provisions in Obamacare improved hospital care standards and reduced preventable deaths. The Affordable Care Act made it illegal for insurers to deny insurance to those with prior conditions. The ACA made it illegal for insurers to classify “being a woman” as a pre-existing condition and charge higher premiums. The ACA provides means-tested subsidies for health insurance. The ACA significantly expanded Medicaid (America’s version of Medicare). The ACA regulated subsidies for medicines and ensured access to those who needed them. And the Affordable Care Act prevented insurers from unilaterally cancelling insurance for Americans when they got sick.

Even if the Republican Senate and Congress replace the Affordable Care Act promptly, the kind of plans they have suggested and are still promoting will be a return to the bad old days and all of these things, demonstrably detrimental to the lives and health of the American public, will return.

According to critics, repealing Obamacare would put coverage at risk for more than 20 million Americans covered under the law’s insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion. Repealing the Affordable Healthcare Act, with no replacement scheme ready and potentially no intention to ever implement such a replacement scheme, will inarguably kill Americans.

Commission on Vaccine Safety

On 10 January, President-Elect Donald Trump had a private meeting with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who later the same morning claimed that Trump had asked him to lead a government Commission into Vaccine Safety, including ensuring “scientific integrity in the vaccine process for efficacy and safety effects.” Kennedy is a well-known vaccine skeptic, a proponent of ideas first raised by Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield’s research was later proved to be falsified, with the British Medical Council finding Wakefield guilty of dishonesty and of “callous disregard” for the pain of the children in his study.

Despite being struck off the register of licensed medical practicioners and thoroughly disgraced, Wakefield’s ficticious link between vaccines (and the preservatives in them) and autism has persisted. Thanks to some high-profile advocates (Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey and Rob Schneider are amongst the most well-known) there remains a substantial undercurrent of skepticism towards vaccination of children, a trend that public health advocates have struggled for decades to address.

To the list of public proponents of the vaccines-autism link you can add Donald Trump, who has been a critic of immunisation for decades. Now, as President-Elect, he has the public profile that takes his beliefs from “dangerously misguided” to “actively harmful”. As President, the things that Trump believes and states will hold some weight with Americans. The things he chooses to support – such as an official investigation into the “dangers of vaccination” – will affect the beliefs and actions of Americans. By appearing to support the connection of vaccination and autism (and other, unspecified harms) Trump gives legitimacy to those who oppose immunisation and either choose not to vaccinate their own children or encourage others likewise.

The antivaccination movement is already too strong. Increases in the rate of unvaccinated have contributed to outbreaks of preventable disease in the last few years – for example, a measles outbreak at Disneyland in 2014, which contributed to a resurgence of the disease after it was almost eradicated in the year 2000. That outbreak did not cause any deaths, but it could have. The CDC estimates that 164,000 people around the world die from measles each year. Whooping cough, another vaccine-preventable disease, is experiencing a resurgence in the United States and, globally, causes almost 200,000 deaths per year.

Preventable diseases will not always kill those that experience them. Healthcare in the United States is reasonably high-quality and most of those admitted to hospital with measles or whooping cough or other diseases will survive. However, not all will. And with the increase in the rates of non-vaccination, major outbreaks of disease become more likely, herd immunity decreases, and the severity of diseases will increase. Playing with unscientific, dangerous screeds like vaccine-autism linkages will contribute to a reduction in the American public’s health and well-being, and whilst the linkages might be tenuous, will kill Americans.

Trump’s Attitude Towards National Security

By now you may have heard about Michael Moore’s recent prediction about Donald Trump’s Presidency. No, not the one that correctly predicted, six months in advance, that Trump would win. The other one. “Donald Trump is Gonna Get Us Killed“. Moore argues that Trump’s attitude towards the daily security briefings each President receives from the combined services of the country – to wit, that he doesn’t “need to hear the same thing over and over each day for eight years” and won’t bother to attend them – will weaken America’s readiness for the next terrorist attack. Perhaps starting as he intends to continue, reportedly Trump had only attended “two or three” of the first 36 briefings.

It might be argued that the security apparatus of the United States has things well in hand, and Trump’s inattention won’t, by itself, lead to security breaches. Moore points to George W Bush, who allegedly ignored briefings that, if acted upon correctly, might have prevented Bin Laden’s 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. It’s easy in retrospect to say that more attention to any specific piece of information could have reached a different outcome, but there are a multitude of threats and countries do have to rely primarily on their security forces, not the actions of a specific Head of State.

It is surely, however, incumbent upon that Head of State to pour oil upon troubled waters, not petrol onto fires. The world in 2017 is rife with threats – from climate change and the global unrest it will create, to the imperial ambitions of China and Trump’s good friend Russia, to the bellicose rumblings of North Korea and Iran, and the ongoing threat of Isis. So is Trump a peacemaker? Or is he a trembling finger-breadth from pressing the nuclear button?

The President of the United States is the only person in the world with the ability to unilaterally launch a nuclear strike. The executive powers granted to him do not require a second person to confirm the order, and nobody in the US government has the authority to countermand or disobey him. The only thing stopping a President from laying waste to a city full of civilians – and seventy years of tacit agreement not to use nuclear weapons – is an appreciation of the ramifications.

Donald Trump’s instant response to any form of criticism or threat is to attack with full force. America’s early warning systems have malfunctioned and provided erroneous information about an incoming nuclear attack on the USA on many previous occasions. It may be unreasonably optimistic to think that Trump, given a maximum of twelve minutes to make up his mind, would delay a counterstrike long enough to ensure that the information was correct. A nuclear war, however short and brutal, would definitively kill Americans.

Trump can kill Americans without ever triggering a nuclear attack on US soil. The President-Elect’s pronouncements on nuclear proliferation are in direct contradiction to the USA’s official push for nuclear disarmament. Trump seems to think that the development of nuclear weapons by Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia is a good thing. Nuclear strategists know that proliferation is probably the worst possible outcome for prevention of a nuclear war – smaller nations having access to nuclear weapons raises the possibility of a nuclear engagement that could be regarded as “localised”. Until now, the chief reason nobody has used nuclear weapons is because to do so invites global armageddon. A world in which a nuclear weapon can be seriously considered as a military tactic is a world one step closer to their use, but to think that a nuclear engagement could stay localised may be wishful thinking: wars of any stripe have a long history of escalating.

Trump’s aggressive posture towards ISIS and Islamic extremism make Americans a more tempting target for Jihadis and invite further terrorist attacks, both on US soil and wherever American troops may be stationed overseas. Trump’s disdain for NATO reduces the effectiveness of a flawed but necessary deterrent to European wars. And Trump’s America-First approach to military treaties threatens to destabilise regions including Australia’s own region.

To form his administration, Trump has assembled a cadre of conspiracy theorists and right-wing media barons, of redneck generals and billionaire businessmen. Notably lacking are cool heads and long experience in the fields of national security or international diplomacy. The Trump presidency has the potential to be one of ongoing global strife, and the man at the helm is not one to act as a force of moderation. Whether or not the nukes start flying, Donald Trump is likely to get Americans killed.

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Will women lose the right to vote?

Impossible, you say? Women could never lose the right to vote, you say? I am reasonably concerned there will be an attempt to stop women voting in the USA during the next four years and if that happens in the USA . . .

I first felt my gut wrench when, back in October, #RepealThe19th was trending. Essentially, if only men voted, Trump would win. Back then, the counter argument was if only women voted, the result would be very different. No-one expected Trump to actually win: if reports post-election are to be believed even Trump did not expect to win. Then the election happened and 53% of white women voted for Trump. Admittedly, only about 55% of Americans exercised their right to vote, a shocking statistic, but not a topic for consideration in this article. How many white women didn’t vote at all?

It is of concern there seems to be some difficulty voting in the USA at the best of times: long queues at polling booths, arguments over keeping booths open to accommodate the numbers – and yet this was nearly the lowest voter turnout in two decades. Surely a nation that can spend billions on wars can afford a billion or two to ensure every eligible citizen can actually vote.

Aside from the practicalities of the election process, what we have seen since the result has been some very frightening behaviours. Neo-nazis running rampant, misogynists feeling they now have the right to attack women in public, bigots leaving notes on people’s cars telling then to go back to Africa. All of a sudden the KKK is almost an acceptable institution again.

It isn’t so much Trump personally I am worried about, it is his “Sieg Heil” followers. Trump will no doubt merely become (or is already) a pawn in a carefully orchestrated return to white male supremacy.

White male supremacy requires the removal of the rights of over 50% of the population – women. Yes, women are more than 50% of the population of voting age. Once women are suitably put back in their place, it isn’t much of a stretch to take away the rights of black Americans, LBGTI people, anyone not born in the USA: in fact anyone that is not a white male born in the USA. Look at who Trump is surrounding himself with – or being told to surround himself with: some very inhumane characters. Many of whom would prefer that women were put in their place.

Read very carefully many of the beliefs expressed by many of the men surrounding Trump. Some are totally weird – not just strange or old-fashioned – weird.

Women in the Middle East are fighting for the right to drive and vote, women in Turkey are fighting a law absolving men of statutory rape if the rapist marries the victim. If you think these neanderthal white men running rampant in the USA aren’t cut from a similar cloth, I suggest you take off the rose-coloured glasses. Try this “rape activist” from the good ol’ US of A.

There are even women in the USA who suggest/believe women shouldn’t have the vote – Anne Coulter, for one. Great way to make a lot of money, of course, for her.

Now this lot are in power. Will your daughters retain the right to vote?

 

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The Cancer of Capitalism

By Christian Marx

Capitalism by its very definition is exploitative. It relies on winners and losers. At its most basic definition it can be defined as the exploitation of an individual or group of people for financial gain. Modern day capitalism has been in existence for approximately 400 years.

In that time it has been the direct cause of hundreds of millions of deaths and the suffering of many hundreds of millions more. Almost all wars are fought for financial gain, in the past 100 years the wars have concentrated around natural resources such as fossil fuels and other minerals.

The entire conflict in the Middle East can be traced to the extraction of oil from poorer Arab countries via U.S imperialism. In order for the West to manufacture consent for the Iraq and Afghan wars, propaganda and blatant lies were told to the populace of Western countries. Lies, such as, “these countries had weapons of mass destruction”, and that “Islam wants to destroy the West and needs to be contained”. The populace was manipulated and divided by fear, through a corrupted corporate media and various puppet governments. The real enemy was the West itself, one again raping and pillaging sovereign nations for their corporate backers.

These two wars are just the tip of the iceberg as far as capitalist imperialism is concerned. Here is a list of just some of the capitalist wars waged by The U.S and their allies, and their corresponding death toll:

  • Iraq and Afghan wars: More than 2 million
  • Angola: 500,000+
  • Cambodia: 2.5 million
  • Chile: 3,000 murdered by the CIA backed Augusto Pinochet
  • Cuba: 2,000-4,000
  • East Timor: Indonesian government backed by the U.S: 200,000 dead
  • Al Salvador: U.S financed puppet government to kill its own citizens protesting against austerity and fighting for social justice: 75,000
  • Indonesia: 1 million Communists murdered
  • Iran: 262,000

In all, 37 sovereign nations have either been invaded or attacked by foreign backed, corrupt puppet governments. These puppet governments have been installed by the U.S. in a bid to smash socialist movements and protect U.S profits. (Global research, 2015).

While imperialism is responsible for the overwhelming amount of deaths attributed to the capitalist system, it is not the only source of misery and death.

Austerity measures have contributed to an astonishing increase in suicides in the U.K and the U.S. A study conducted by Scientists, Stuckler and Basu confirmed that a spike of over 10,000 suicides and over 1 million cases of depression have resulted since the introduction of austerity measures in the U.K and the U.S (Guardian, 2013).

Some 5 million Americans have gone on to lose their healthcare insurance, as a direct result of their job loss, and a staggering 10,000 U.K families are now homeless (Guardian, 2013).

Stickler goes onto say “If austerity was run like a clinical trial, it would have been discontinued. The evidence of its deadly side effects – of the profound effects of economic choices on health is overwhelming”. (Guardian, P.1, 2013).

The media also has to shoulder much of the blame for the lies and propaganda that they feed to the masses. How many times have we heard the blatant lies and rationalizations for more tax cuts for the wealthy and less services for the needy? Just today Scott Morrison is using the new tax slogan “The taxed and the taxed nots,” and hitting the most vulnerable yet again!

Not only does capitalism, and in particular Neoliberalism champion war and attack social systems, but it also now destroys jobs! Offshoring of our manufacturing industry and now even some of our service industry is the order of the day. Compounding this, are both major political parties slavish devotion to the causualisation of the workforce. They then wonder why consumer spending is down! The mind boggles at the craven stupidity of these lunatics.

Austerity and offshoring is not only deeply flawed but highly immoral. On the one hand they destroy jobs, and then they attempt to shift the blame on the unemployed whose jobs they wantonly destroyed! Casualised jobs keep the workers desperate and compliant. Off shoring jobs, exploits cheap labour in foreign countries and maximises CEO bonuses.

Ultimately infinite growth on a finite system is suicide. The only organism that replicates this system is the cancer cell. Just like cancer, capitalism will ultimately destroy its host.

References

Henley, J. (2013) Recession Can Hurt, But Austerity Kills. The Guardian, 16 May.

Lucus, James, A. (2015) U.S Has Killed More Than 20 Million People In “Victim Nations” Since World War 2. Global Research, 27 Nov.

 

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Dear America, please don’t make Donald Trump your president

So Donald Trump wants to be president.

Well I would implore all Americans to think long and hard before casting a vote in his favour. Do you really, really want him in the White House?

I love America. One of the great things about America is that it embraces religious freedom. Take that away and not only will you diminish as the ‘land of the free’ but it just might not have the results that Trump hopes for. However, I’m not here to talk about that. There’s something else I want to warn you about.

I’ll start off with what a commenter on one of the articles on this site wrote:

I remember the first couple of weeks of Trump’s campaigning.

There were those who said that it was funny. They insisted the buffoon was in it just for publicity, he’d be gone in a month. The man was so ridiculous that common sense would prevail and people would dismiss him.

Rather than burn out, Trump has dragged the Republican candidates to [a] dangerous group … he has normalised ideas that should be abhorrent … he is desensitising the mass media. His comments draw much less outrage than they should.

Letting Trump spew his relentless, loathsome rubbish has not caused people to turn away in disgust. Rather, it has placed him as a front runner to be the next US president.

As a nation [Australia] we took a laid-back attitude . . . And how did that turn out? Well, as usual, the politicians resorted to pandering to the lowest denominators … fear and ignorance.

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” – Voltaire

The underlying message there is that we in Australia know exactly how it turns out. We’ve had a glimpse of what life under a Trump-like disaster can be like.

And that’s how it was under our recently dethroned prime minister, Tony Abbott. In two short but destructive years Tony Abbott completely turned on its head the character and soul of our nation. In two frightening years under this manipulating dangerous man we saw the rise of patriot groups, supported by rogue politicians … encouraging racists to whip up fear and hatred with a passion never before seen in this country. And that, simply, is what changed us.

Dangerous, powerful men – supported by an obliging media – can easily change any nation. If they can change an easy going, laid back nation like Australia one can only shudder what they might do to a nation that has been on edge since the terrible events of 9/11.

You’ve been lucky not having a leader anything like Abbott: One that has made us frightened of shadows; of having us fear anyone with a long beard, a tanned skin, or a different religion. Of making us afraid that these people, at best, will take our jobs and security. At worst, slit our throats.

He turned us into a nation of nervous, frightened, angry vigilantes. Vigilantes who have set fire to homes belonging to people who speak Arabic; who threatened to kill people just because their skin was dark; who wanted people expelled from this country simply because they spoke a different language; who assaulted people in the streets because they wore a scarf around their head. No questions asked. Anyone who looked ‘different’ was a threat to our national security and had to be dealt with. Attacks on these people have become more daring, more devastating, and more frequent as each week passes.

It hasn’t helped us or ‘saved’ us one little bit, because to put it simply, the threat wasn’t there in the first place. If anything, payback might be on the horizon. Or worse still, blowback.

Tony Abbott was removed from office a few months ago but the seeds of hate he planted are now growing uncontrollably wild and unchecked.

It is as if overnight we were no longer a tolerant and welcoming nation. Fear mongering prime ministers (or presidents) don’t succeed in such nations. Their political survival hinges on maintaining their political capital: fear. And then more fear.

Yes, there are troubles in the world which must be addressed, but are they being addressed by turning people against their neighbours, their work colleagues or people sharing the same bus? Are the troubles of the world being addressed when a young Muslim lady is bashed in a busy street in your city by stirred-up punks? Punks who, only a couple of years ago, would not have batted an eye lid at the same lady.

What good is it when the public discourse is one of hatred and violence? When talk around the local bar, the restaurant table, the coffee break at work or at family get-togethers is filled with nonsense at how people from other lands or other religions are obsessed with destroying us and our country. Yes, it’s nonsense, but people are frightened into believing it to be true.

Abbott frightened us and feasted on it. Trump will do the same to you.

And like Australia you have the same gutter-dwelling media who will keep boiling the pot of racism and bigotry for their own selfish needs.

Having said all that, I must say though that we’ve been lucky to date in that only kicks, punches and threats have been flowing. Blood has not been spilled. And that’s probably because of the one big difference we have with you. We don’t carry guns.

 

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Free Trade Agreements – economic or electoral?

Since September 2013, the ‘achievements’ of our government could be broadly summarised by ‘knock it down, rip it up, sell it off or shoot it.’

Their one supposedly constructive achievement, apart from promises about roads, is hastily finalising several free trade agreements.

Aside from the co-incidence/concern of agreements that had been negotiated over several years all reaching conclusion at the same time (what did we agree to?), are these actually in Australia’s best interests or are they just political opportunities?

When John Howard signed the Free Trade Agreement with the US in 2004, it was suggested that his motive was electoral rather than economic – to highlight the American alliance and hope that if Labor opposed it it could be cast as anti-American, and hence a security risk.

The Coalition’s reaction to Labor’s attempts to safeguard Australian jobs in the China FTA has used a similar approach, branding Labor as racist.

In the first five years after the signing of the US FTA, Australia’s exports to the US grew by only 2.5 per cent, compared with double-digit growth for exports to all the major Asian trading partners. America slipped from third to fifth among Australian export destinations, overtaken by Korea and India.

By 2009, the value of Australian exports to the US was only about a quarter of those to the two leading customers, China and Japan. The four Asian countries together took more than 10 times the value of exports to the US despite having no such trade agreements.

Moreover, between 2004 and 2009, the bilateral trade gap in America’s favour grew even larger. Australia’s imports from America grew much more quickly than its exports to America. According to US data, the gap in America’s favour grew from $US6.4 billion to $US11.6 billion.

In 2004 Australian exports to America were worth about 54 per cent of the value of imports from that country. By 2009 the figure was down to 41 per cent.

And our current endeavours do not promise any better.

Hockey’s second MYEFO showed a revenue write-down of $1.6 billion due to the FTA with Japan.

Also, the agreements with Japan and Korea effectively sounded the death knell for our car industry and manufacturing more broadly.

The Chinese deal on beef is only for an extra 10% exports before a trigger where tariffs will be charged again, and the proposed tariff reduction will not fully take place for nine years.

Agribusiness lawyer Lea Fua told a Brisbane hearing that China has a safeguard clause which allows it to add customs duties to fresh and frozen beef carcasses and meat when Australian beef imports hit a volume trigger of 170,000 tonnes.

“In 2013-14, Australia exported 161,000 tonnes of beef to China worth $787 million,” Mr Fua told the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Treaties.

“The concern here is that given the growth in Australian beef exports to China, which has been exponential in the last few years, the risk here is that the trigger will be reached fairly quickly and China is able to apply extra customs duty which appears to be against the spirit of chapter two [of the FTA],” he said.

Mr Fua said a similar situation applies to Chinese imports of Australian milk and cream solids.

As Bob Katter has warned, rather than being the food bowl for Asia, on current trajectory, Australia will become a net importer of food, and pretty much everything else other than coal and iron ore. This will have significant implications for domestic prices as farmers can make a greater profit by exporting their produce.

If, as the unions warn, foreign companies are allowed to bring in their own workers, it becomes even more difficult to believe these agreements are in the best interests of our country.

A bilateral meeting with a friendly leader presents many domestic political advantages. It gives the appearance of advancing the national interests and attracts intense and usually uncritical media coverage, but it inevitably favours the biggest countries, such as the US and China. Their power affords them superior bargaining leverage to win concessions favouring their domestic constituencies.

After bilateral meetings, leaders can sing each other’s praises and hail the breakthrough their mutual brilliance has achieved. In practice, the promised benefits often fade just a little more slowly than the TV lights.

 

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Can America really ban guns?

By Kerri Lynn

I just read a NY Times article/debate on the Gun Lobby’s power in US politics and gun control.

We all know the US is slave to corporate power and the continued wealth generated by business. In fact most Aussies know that the US values business over and above people. Some have said life is cheap in China but how cheap is life where regular mass shootings, as a statistic, take out more citizens than in any other country in the world?

I am not alone in suggesting that the US needs war for the business it offers. US corporations, from uniform manufacture to rebuilding nations, thrive on the merry go round of arm a nation, bomb the nation, rebuild the nation.

Without the army, air force and navy the US would have a serious unemployment problem. The same goes for the many police and quasi military bodies who patrol and police American states. (Sherriffs, National Guard, Homeland Security, Marines, CIA, FBI, NSA, State agencies, County agencies, City agencies and University agencies to name a few. I tried to research names but when the Wiki article listed by states, then within that county, and within that . . . OMG! Lists within lists. All this policing and yet still so much crime).

The US corporations also makes a huge yearly profit from guns and all that rampant gun ownership requires: ammunition, storage, carrying equipment, bulletproof clothing and vehicles, camouflage etc. Then there is the huge amount of money tied up in cleaning up after gun crimes. Apart from the actual mess there is the investigation that follows. Would the US need so many law enforcement agencies if no one was shooting up the populace on a daily basis?

We know the US has inefficient healthcare programs so how does the nation pay for rehabilitating and saving the lives of the victims of gun crime? The media focuses on the deaths after the usual US shooting incident (which incidentally I don’t know about you but I am beginning to get confused as to which shooting is which) but next time you see a report have a look at the number of injured. That represents a huge amount of medical costs getting victims treated, rehabilitated, back home and to some sort of life. After their medical treatment there is their mental health treatment which must go on for years for anyone who has witnessed a lunatic enter a building and start taking pot shots at their friends and work colleagues.

Then there is the industry of litigation and civil lawsuits against shooters and the failure to protect the innocent.

It is somewhat shattering to hear that after the latest Oregon Community College shootup the citizens of Oregon went on a gun buying spree as did the citizens of Virginia after the Virginia Tech shooting and the Sandy Hook shooting and pretty much any shooting that has occurred on US soil in the last several years! Anyone who remembers the news images of the 1996 and 2003 gun buyback programs in Australia would no doubt have noted the huge piles of guns sent into the crusher. The images of the claw squeezing the life out of stacks of rifles was very comforting. A bit surprising just how many guns had been surrendered! Imagine the piles of guns the US would have to “buyback”, confiscate and destroy?

So the question I find myself asking today is: What would happen to the US economy if the politicians could muster the guts to ban certain firearms and put restrictions on many others?

Are US politicians more concerned about the huge rift in their economy if they do vote to restrict guns and repeal the 2nd amendment (the right to bear arms) than they are about the deaths of innocent US civilians at the hands of gun owners?

Would the unemployment created from cessation of manufacture of guns, ammunition, accessories, medical personnel, law enforcement staff and security personnel be such a big problem that the politicians of the day would rather turn a blind eye?

Reports abounded today in the US criticising Australia’s “draconian” gun ownership laws.

Many other American citizens look to Australia as a shining example of how gun control can work, which basically allows recreational shooters some freedom to hunt or practice their skills at a range. And so far we can be pretty proud about that. When, sadly, we do have shootings the number of victims is vastly less than if the killer were allowed multiple or fast action firearms.

Can America really ban guns?

Can they even ban just some guns?

Will they ever be able to find and confiscate any and all guns they do ban?

Will people actually hand them in?

Will they ever be able to get ahead of gun manufacture and distribution which we all know is pretty rampant?

It seems a far greater task than getting to Mars but the US seem more determined to settle life on Mars than to preserve life here on Earth!

Will they allow guns on Mars?

 

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Have you heard the news about Rupert Murdoch?

Your answer to the question in reference to what I have in mind would probably be ‘no’.

Rupert Murdoch does make the news in Australia now and again, such as with his recent IPA speech in Melbourne or his visit to Darwin but generally our local media don’t find him very newsworthy. For example, when the world had their collective eyes and ears positioned at any favourable vantage point to get the latest on the Leveson Inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal at Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid, the dearth of reporting on this heinous crime in the Australian media was breathtaking. Most of us relied on foreign news sites for what we lacked here: news. The dirty doings in the Murdoch world would be of no interest to the Australian public. Of course not. We don’t belong to the ‘need to know’ collective.

Even his Papal Knighthood, awarded in 1998 has been un-newsworthy in this country. It has been all over the news in America and England since the knighthood was publicly announced recently, and it is being widely and vociferously condemned, particular within the Catholic Church and the British Parliament. Given that Papal Knighthoods are only awarded to people of “unblemished character” it seems odd that our local arm of the Murdoch media empire aren’t front and centre defending the old man against the current wave of international condemnation. Maybe the local media don’t want to upset the Catholic Church here in Australia, after all, they support the same political party as Murdoch does. The international condemnation is something else we don’t need to know about.

Here again is something else that received little attention in Australia but was worthy enough of discussion in lands far away:

Several weeks ago, the Judiciary Report warned that News International/News Corp CEO, Rupert Murdoch, would attack, Julia Gillard, the prime minister of his homeland Australia, for publicly and correctly stating his company’s conduct in the phone hacking scandal is wrong.

On July 22, 2011, in the article Australian Prime Minister Slams Rupert Murdoch And News Corp the Judiciary Report wrote of Murdoch, “Of course, now Murdoch will lie about and smear Gillard in his papers, online and on television, with estimates placing his share of the newspaper market in Australia at 73 percent.

Well, this week Murdoch’s done just that – viciously and vindictively attacked Gillard in one of his newspapers, via a defamatory, baseless article, he could not prove, as it was fabricated to malign her out of revenge for denouncing his unlawful conduct.

As a result of the defamatory piece, Gillard, took the unprecedented step of threatening to sue Murdoch in court for making up a damaging story about her and publishing it in his newspaper. This scared Murdoch, which forced him to issue a public retraction and an apology to Gillard in the newspaper.

It’s amazing what you learn about Rupert Murdoch from overseas media. Don’t expect big news items like this to be splashed across the Australia media:

So the famous Australian-American protector of British sovereignty Rupert Murdoch not only tried to persuade Tony Blair to take a hard-line stance against Europe. He also pressed another United Kingdom prime minister, John Major, for “policy changes” relating to the country’s relationship with supranational institutions. This even went as far as calling for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union – alleges Major.

In his evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards, Major stated that just before the 1997 general election Murdoch “made it clear that he disliked my European policies, which he wished me to change”. Major added: “If not, his papers could not and would not support the Conservative government. So far as I recall he made no mention of editorial independence, but referred to all his papers as ‘we’.”

I’ve done a search for it. I can’t find anything. We humble Australians don’t need to know that Rupert Murdoch uses his political clout to agitate political change.

But the real big overseas news is that old Mr Murdoch is in deep shit, as Kristina Chew reports:

Will the scandal that has engulfed Rupert Murdoch’s British media holdings spread to the U.S. and, in particular, Fox News?

At the start of May, Senator Jay Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate committee on commerce, science and transportation, wrote to Lord Justice Leveson, who has been heading a British judicial investigation into media ethics in the wake of the phone hacking scandal that broke out last summer following the revelation that reporters from News of the World had hacked into the voice mail of murdered the 13-year-old Milly Dowler, prior to her body being found. Rockefeller is inquiring if, in the course of his investigations, Lord Leveson has uncovered any evidence suggesting that “unethical and sometimes illegal business practices occurred in the United States or involved US citizens.” More from the senator’s letter:

“Evidence that is already in the public record clearly shows that for many years, News International had a widespread, institutional disregard for these laws.”

“I would be very concerned if evidence emerged suggesting that News Corporation officials in New York were also aware of these illegal payments and did not act to stop them.”

The catalyst for Rockefeller’s letter was the final report from British parliament’s culture, media and sport select committee, which stated that Murdoch was “not fit” to run a major international media company.

As the Guardian notes, Rockefeller’s letter marks the first time that a member of the U.S. Senate has taken a more focused interest in the hacking scandal. The Senate could hold public hearings about the hacking scandal and subpoena witnesses and documents from News Corp.

There is yet no discussion of such but much is at stake. The commerce committee oversees the Federal Communications Commission, which has the final say about issuing broadcast licenses including the 27 issued to what the Guardian calls the “jewel in Murdoch’s crown, Fox News.

News Corp. also faces a possible inquiry related to the charges of corruption levied at the company in the U.K. On the same day as Rockefeller’s letter was sent, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg called for a “robust inquiry” about whether New York-based News Corp. could be charged under anti-bribery and corruption laws, in the wake of reports about voice-mail and email hacking and also of corruption, including bribes to police. News Corp. could be charged under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it illegal for American citizens and companies to pay bribes to government officials abroad.

Indeed, two weeks ago, lawyer Mark Lewis, who has represented a number of hacking victims in the U.K. including the family of Milly Dowler, started investigations into four allegations of phone hacking that had occurred in the U.S.

Lewis has said that there are “so many American aspects” to the hacking scandal, including potential American victims of hacking and the possibility that News Corp. executives have withheld “material information” from shareholders and potential investors.

Writing in the Associated Press, Raphael Satter describes how what he calls not the hacking scandal, but the Murdoch scandal, is following a “classic script” for the rise and fall of a media baron:

“Scrappy outsider turns modest newspaper business into international media conglomerate. Ambition turns to hubris. Mogul dramatically falls from grace.”

Murdoch’s star has surely been tarnished — blackened — in the U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, who made a special trip to Murdoch’s yacht in 2008 to “receive his blessing” said last week that “we all did too much cozying up to Rupert Murdoch.” Just on Tuesday, the Guardian reported that Cameron texted Rebekah Brooks to “keep her head up” in the week before she resigned as CEO of News International and prior to what has turned out to be the first of two arrests for her.

Murdoch still possesses the vast share of his media holdings, and is the head of a “fabulously successful media company.” News Corp.’s share price has remained high despite months of reports about the scandal and the company just reported a big gain in its quarterly profits on Wednesday: For the three months up to March, the company’s net profit rose to $1 billion, as compared to $682 million in the same period last year. In the U.S., the Fox News network, whose decidedly unfair and unbalanced version of the news is what New York Times columnist Bill Keller calls Murdoch’s ”most toxic legacy,” continues to attract legions of viewers while annoying and outraging many of us.

Increasingly isolated in Britain, and certainly despised in the U.S., Murdoch has, writes Satter, become like a figure in the closing scene of Citizen Kane, “successful, wealthy, but unloved.”

There’s still a lot to play out and we haven’t heard the last of it. Meanwhile, he owns over 70% of the Australian newspaper media which is why you’ll never hear that:

The fact of the matter is Murdoch uses Fox News in America and Sky News in Britain, in addition to his many newspapers, to illegally get richer and shape politics as he sees fit according to his will, not what is in the best interest of the public, which is completely unethical and disgraceful. He is one of the greediest, most vengeful and abusive people on the planet with absolutely no moral compass. Murdoch has been trying to rule the world and no one elected or appointed him king.

Is it reasonable to suggest that he runs his Australian media arm no different to that of the USA or the UK?

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