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Psycho Pompeo Exits With Nary A Scratch Of Media Criticism On Him

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 2:48pm in

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Politics, War

My eclectic news feed looks odd as the hours count down to the end of the Trump administration. Westerners are largely celebrating the exit of Donald Trump himself, whereas with those I follow from areas targeted by US imperialism, the man they’re happiest to see the back of is Mike Pompeo.

It looks very bizarre, as this part of our weird collective adventure comes to an end, how Pompeo’s tenure first as CIA Director and then Secretary of State were almost entirely unmarred by criticism from the political/media class. This is after all a man whose word and deed have been easily more depraved than Trump’s during this profoundly corrupt administration, yet both rank-and-file Democrats and rank-and-file Republicans have been kept only dimly aware of his existence amidst the nonstop scandalous shrieking about the president and his other goons.

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This is the man who has spearheaded all of this administration’s most depraved initiatives, like its latest Yemen sanctions which the UN World Food Programme executive director says is “literally is going to be a death sentence to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of innocent people”, its Venezuela regime change ops which have starved untold tens of thousands of civilians to death, its murderous brinkmanship with Iran, and its world-threatening cold war escalations against Russia and China. The man who openly boasted about lying, cheating and stealing in the CIA. The man who privately said the US would intervene to prevent Jeremy Corbyn from becoming Prime Minister in the UK. The man who admitted the US is slamming Iranians with starvation sanctions to force them to rise up against their government. The man who designated WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service” as Julian Assange’s imprisonment was being orchestrated.

This person is disgusting. You could hardly find a worse specimen of human life than Mike Pompeo. Yet amid all the mainstream news media’s relentless histrionics about the Trump administration, criticism of Trump’s own Secretary of State has remained a rare sight there, and shrill vitriol like that to which we’ve become accustomed with the rest of Trump’s inner circle has never existed. After all this time and after all his depraved actions, he is walking away with nary a scratch of media criticism on him.

This is because Mike Pompeo’s depravity is the “normal” kind. The kind we’re all meant to be used to. The psychotic, mass murdering American exceptionalist imperialism that the billionaire news media exists to protect and facilitate.

You don’t bite the hand that feeds you, and you don’t attack the man who serves the same empire as you. Gotta maintain that access journalism. This could be your next president, after all.

https://medium.com/media/fd4b7909d47b81cfbec14f4aadd1a411/href

Pompeo’s exit provides a very short respite between the time he leaves for whatever lucrative neocon think tank gigs he winds up with and the time he re-emerges from the sea like Cthulhu to once again try to devour the world. He will be replaced as secretary of state in that interim by Tony Blinken, who is another psychopath because that is a job requirement.

The US Department of Defense used to be called the Department of War, which would be a much more honest label today for a military which virtually never operates in any way that could be described as defensive. An even more suitable name would be the Department of Eternal War.

The State Department was meant to be the counterpart to the War Department, focusing on diplomacy and peace. What ended up happening as the US government morphed into a globe-spanning empire dependent on endless violence and aggression is that the State Department wound up focusing more and more on manufacturing interventionist narratives on the world stage to gin up international support for starvation sanctions, proxy wars and war coalitions.

So in practice the US ended up with two war departments: the DoD and the State Department. Which is why you’ve seen the nation’s Secretaries of State becoming more and more jingoistic and psychopathic, to the point where some sort of antisocial personality disorder is really a job requirement for the position. Hence Psycho Mike.

I wish humanity a pleasant sigh of relief on Pompeo’s exit. Please enjoy it as much as possible until the Biden administration does whatever horrifying things it’s going to do, and until the eldritch monster re-emerges from the sea.

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With No Allegation to Investigate, UMass Creepily Probes Alex Morse’s Romantic Life Instead

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 10:06am in

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Politics

A recently released report by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has added new evidence of the state Democratic Party’s involvement in the public attack on Alex Morse just ahead of his primary against Rep. Richard Neal. It also found that Morse, formerly an adjunct professor at the school, did not violate university policies, yet the report still delved deeply into Morse’s private dating life with other adults.

In early August, just a few weeks prior to the election against Neal, chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, a number of college students made vague accusations of impropriety against Morse, the youngest and first openly gay mayor of Holyoke.

The involvement of state party officials, who coordinated with the Massachusetts College Democrats to accuse Morse of sexual impropriety, was first revealed by The Intercept and later confirmed by an internal review by the Massachusetts Democratic Party.  The new report, however, includes emails and text messages indicating that party attorney Jim Roosevelt took a more active role in the dissemination of the smear than previously known. It also reveals that party leaders were more involved in walking students through media and legal strategies than they had previously admitted. In an interview with The Intercept, Roosevelt denied the allegations; Mass Dems Executive Director Veronica Martinez implied in an email that the new report exonerated party leadership.

The UMass report, issued on January 13 by the law firm Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein LLP,  found not only no evidence of wrongdoing by Morse, but also that he was not accused of anything that would have violated the school policy. Still, the report left open a vague possibility that the mayor had violated “the University’s general expectations for the conduct of its employees.”

Morse, who has acknowledged having consensual relationships with students in the area, has never been accused of inappropriate relationships with students he taught. The university only bars relationships between faculty and students whom they supervise or teach — not all students generally. In a statement, UMass said that the school is reviewing the investigation’s findings to see if revisions to its consensual relationships policy are warranted. Morse, over the course of several years through fall 2019, taught a once-a-week class on government. There are nearly 30,000 students enrolled at UMass Amherst.

The university said publicly that Morse declined to participate in the investigation, but did not mention that the reason was because the university told him it was not investigating any particular allegation. Rather, the school launched a general probe into his dating life. Given that there were no specific allegations to investigate, Morse told The Intercept that he is considering legal action against the university for its decision to conduct an investigation into his behavior.

“The investigation was launched to conclude whether or not I violated policy or whether or not there was necessary evidence to support a Title IX investigation,” Morse said. “That was the scope of the investigation and the conclusions were reached that neither were met. So anything else is erroneous and irrelevant and an intrusion on my personal life.”

Morse added that the report relies on the word of “UMass Democrats that have been documented to have a clear agenda” against him.

Investigators made a detailed exploration into the psychology of the students who ultimately launched the attack on Morse, saying that a key figure in the scandal did not find his interactions online with Morse remotely problematic until other students convinced him in hindsight that they were. A second student also told investigators that he considered his interactions platonic and innocent but that they took on a different connotation when put in the context of rumors being spread by other students.

The report’s authors included trivial information they had collected. “Witness Three reports that he was later told by other students that Morse gave him a ‘look’ when he entered the [October] event (indicating romantic or sexual interest). Witness Three did not observe anything of that nature,” the report found fit to inform the public.

Matt Walsh, a member of the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee and a board member of the Bay State Stonewall Democrats, said the exoneration of Morse is welcomed, but that in his view, the manner in which the report was written lingered on salacious details and sensationalized the mayor’s private life.

“I expected an official investigative report by a state university to be an objective assessment of facts, not a tabloid-style gossip piece,” said Walsh. “I’m glad UMass cleared Morse of wrongdoing, but they could have done so without legitimizing homophobic tropes that paint gay men as ‘creepy’ for engaging in consensual relationships.”

The allegations against Morse — first reported by the UMass Daily Collegian newspaper — relied on Tinder and Instagram messages from Morse to students at UMass over the past few years. Members of the College Democrats of Massachusetts and the UMass College Democrats accused Morse in a leaked letter of abusing his power as mayor and a part-time instructor at the school to solicit sex from young men who were students on campus, and decided to ban him from future events. But the UMass report’s findings do not show any impropriety — and, if anything, indicate that Morse was careful to stay away from even the hint of abuse of power or inappropriate relationships.

The Intercept’s previous reporting revealed that some students had planned to entrap and expose Morse in order to do political damage to the mayor and secure themselves internships with Neal. Neal has denied any involvement in the scheme. Campaign spokesperson Peter Panos told The Intercept in an email that the latest report makes the congressman’s innocence clear.

“This report confirms what Chairman Neal has always said, that he and his staff had nothing to do with these allegations,” said Panos. “We commend the University for their thorough investigation into the facts.”

The report doesn’t conclude anything either way on Neal’s involvement, but does note that there is no evidence of it.

Screenshots of text messages uncovered by investigators show that students also saw Morse’s position as a mayor and congressional candidate as a possible avenue for volunteer and internship opportunities.

Exhibit-13

Screenshot of Exhibit 13 from the UMass report.

Screenshot: University of Massachusetts

The report notes that Morse popped up as a “potential match” on Tinder for some students 18 and up, though most students did not receive an indication of interest from the mayor; in Tinder parlance, he did not “swipe right” on their profiles. Witness One in September 2019 “matched” with Morse on Tinder months after first meeting him at a spring event hosted by the UMass College Democrats.

As the report explains:

The two exchanged messages via Tinder, but did not arrange to meet in person. After the exchange of a couple of messages over a few days, Witness One sent Morse a photo from the event where they first met and asked of Morse,“now, do you remember me?”

Morse replied “yes,” and promptly un-matched with Witness One.

Witness One was not made uncomfortable by the interaction, he told the investigators, but after hearing from peers that the age difference between them was problematic, “he became discomfited by the fact that his attraction to Morse stemmed from the ‘allure’ of Morse’s role as a Mayor, which Witness One considered a position of power.”

Holyoke, a town of just 40,000 where Morse served as mayor after being elected at the age of 21, is a 30-minute drive from UMass Amherst.

Morse and Witness One connected later on Instagram and exchanged messages for several weeks. Around Halloween, Morse messaged Witness One to tell him the costume photo he posted was “cute.” Witness One replied, “Thanks!” Witness One told investigators that he found the message flirtatious.

Witness Three met Morse at an October 2019 event after the mayor had announced his run for Congress. The two exchanged contact information and connected on Instagram — a few non-campaign-related, but nonsexual, exchanges followed.

The report includes a large amount of gossip, including one of the key witnesses questioning why the other witnesses were so bothered by matching with a 30-year-old on Tinder after necessarily having set their age ranges to show interest in men of that age: “Witness Three states that both Witnesses One and Two expressed discomfort with Morse’s outreach to them on Tinder. While Witness Three understood their discomfort, he also questioned why a college student would set their Tinder preference to include matches in Morse’s age range if, in fact, they felt that matching with someone Morse’s age was ‘creepy.’”

The report makes clear that at least some of the allegations against Morse that later went public were rumor-driven group think, as is often the case in a college setting.

Throughout the exchanges, students talked among themselves about Morse and their perception of his interest in them, whether to reciprocate it, whether it could be leveraged for career-boosting moves down the line, and what effect the revelation of it could have on his campaign.

After the College Democrats event in October 2019, the group told investigators that they became concerned about Morse’s conduct and rumors about sexual contact. The following April, some members of the group began reaching out to journalists, as The Intercept previously reported.

The UMass report makes clear that at least some of the allegations against Morse that later went public were rumor-driven group think, as is often the case in a college setting: “Witness Three noted that, but for the fact that he later learned of Morse having messaged other students on Tinder and Instagram, he would not have interpreted Morse’s outreach to him on Instagram as evidence of interest in pursuing a physical or romantic relationship.”

Those concerns extended beyond the school’s group. Student A, a student at UMass, said a friend of hers had had sexual contact with Morse and later felt uncomfortable because of the “power dynamic.” Witness One described her to investigators as “especially adamant that the group needed to go public with what they knew.”

Student A wanted to take the statement to Twitter in July and went so far as to work with Witness One to draft a statement to post to the site, though she ultimately declined to do so.

According to The Intercept’s previous reporting, the report produced for the Mass Dems by attorney Cheryl Jacques, and the emails and text messages reproduced in the new UMass report, the leadership of the UMass College Democrats and the College Democrats of Massachusetts took their allegations against Morse to the state party. College Democrats of Massachusetts President Hayley Fleming reached out to Massachusetts Democrats Chair Gus Bickford and Executive Director Veronica Martinez for guidance as the group prepared to bar Morse from future meetings.

Bickford and Martinez pointed the students to their attorney Jim Roosevelt. Roosevelt, an attorney with Verrill Law and a grandson of former President Franklin Roosevelt, has been involved with Democratic politics at the state and national level for decades. In addition to being the Mass Dems lawyer, Roosevelt is a co-chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee and was CEO of Tufts Health Plan for 10 years.

Evidence in the new UMass report implicates Roosevelt in the writing of a letter for the College Democrats to send out to chapters. As one student said in a text on July 29 to other members of the CDMA executive board, Roosevelt advised the students through Bickford and Martinez that “if we want to move forward on leaking it to the press, someone would contact BLANK and tell him (on the record but unattributable so that their name doesn’t get published) that the CDMA eboard voted on this and sent it to the CM.” The full message exchange is attached to the report.

Exhibit-22

Screenshot of Exhibit 22 from the report.

Screenshot: University of Massachusetts

In an interview with The Intercept, Roosevelt said that the texts and prior allegations were wrong.

“It’s not clear to me what lawyer they’re talking about there, because that was not my advice,” said Roosevelt.

The only other lawyer that the students talked to, according to the Jacques report, was Andrea Kramer, who advised the students to talk to Morse on the phone if necessary but that the allegations could lead to “legal problems.”

The Intercept asked Roosevelt if there was a third attorney involved.

“I don’t know,” he replied.

Exhibit-41

Screenshot of Exhibit 4 from the report.

Screenshot: University of Massachusetts

The report includes an August 6 email detailing Roosevelt’s alleged role:

This is the statement that Mass Dems’ lawyer wrote for us and recommended we share with chapters:

“The boards of college Democrats of Massachusetts, UMass Amherst Democrats, and Amherst College Democrats have voted to notify Mayor Alex Morse and his campaign that he is no longer welcome at their events. This action was taken at the request of student members of the organizations. It is not based on his ideology or any current or past political contest. It is based on his past interactions with these students.”

Asked about it by The Intercept, Roosevelt emphatically denied any involvement in writing the statement.

“I did not write it,” Roosevelt said. “I did discuss it with them, so it’s not literally correct, but I did discuss it with them — but this was after the letter to Alex Morse and his response confirming all the allegations had already been in the press.”

The Intercept pointed out that the email is dated August 6 and that the allegations were not made public until the next day, August 7.

“Well, then, what the students told me was that they had already heard from reporters that it was going to be in the press the next morning,” Roosevelt said.

Within the state party, those involved in the scandal faced no consequences. Bickford was resoundingly reelected by party members to serve another four years as chair in November.

“To me, it says that many longer time members don’t care what he did,” Walsh told The Flashpoint newsletter in November. “They don’t care that he acted unethically, and they don’t care that he broke the bylaws. At the end of the day, he’s the devil they know. No matter what he does, they prefer him to a progressive who would change the status quo they rely on.”

Bickford did not respond to requests for comment. Martinez, in an emailed statement, appeared to claim that the report exonerated the state party.

“The UMass report shows that some of those involved have made conflicting statements about their interactions with the Party,” Martinez wrote. “The Party is committed to repairing the damage done as a result of this ordeal.”

But DSC member Nancy Stenberg, whose district includes Morse’s home, told The Intercept that the new report’s findings only served to confirm the bad behavior by party leadership — and are yet another sign that nothing will fundamentally change at the top.

“It has been business as usual from Gus Bickford since his declaration in November that he would work to repair the damage that his actions caused,” said Stenberg.

For the mayor, the emails and texts just confirm what he already knows to be true.

The report, Morse said, “just offers further evidence that there was a direct collaboration between the Mass Dems leadership and Jim Roosevelt and these students to time this letter and allegations as close to the election as possible to cause maximum impact.”

The post With No Allegation to Investigate, UMass Creepily Probes Alex Morse’s Romantic Life Instead appeared first on The Intercept.

The EU/GB agreement may not be approved before April – or ever…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 9:45am in

Tony Connolly of the Irish Television network RTE has disclosed that the EU member states want to extend the Brexit agreement deadline from the end of February to some time in April. This could be of interest to Johnson, already seemingly throwing his weight around with regard to labour and tax laws, which he seems... Read more

The Class Composition of the Capitol Rioters (First Cut)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 9:25am in

A self-funded, petite bourgeoisie riot?

Big Tech Critics Alarmed at Direction of Biden Antitrust Personnel

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 7:02am in

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Politics

A last-minute campaign by a coalition of groups working to check monopoly is being launched to stave off what they worry could be a series of calamitous antitrust appointments by President-elect Joe Biden. The move follows reports on Friday from the American Prospect and The Intercept, confirmed and expanded on Sunday by Reuters, that Biden is leaning toward two attorneys with deep experience advising monopoly platforms to head the antitrust division at the Department of Justice.

Renata Hesse, a former Justice Department official under President Barack Obama, worked alongside Sen. Ted Cruz defending Google a decade ago, helped shepherd through the Amazon/Whole Foods merger, and represented several pharmaceutical companies and other clients in antitrust cases. She is the leading contender for the assistant attorney general for antitrust position, multiple sources told the Prospect and The Intercept on Friday. Sources also said that Juan Arteaga, another Obama Justice Department veteran who defended JPMorgan Chase and several other financial firms in fraud cases and represented AT&T in its merger with Time Warner, was also being considered but was more likely to be appointed deputy assistant attorney general in the antitrust division. Reuters on Sunday reported that Hesse and Arteaga were the leading candidates for AAG.

The Big Tech ties have progressives particularly exercised by the possible Hesse pick, though Arteaga’s long track record of working on behalf of consolidation is also alarming. There are active anti-monopoly cases at the antitrust division against Google and Facebook, the biggest such cases in 20 years. Hesse’s work for Google would likely force her to recuse from the former. There is bipartisan support for reining in Big Tech and a blueprint for how to do it in an exhaustive report from the House Antitrust Subcommittee. Picking a Big Tech lawyer would open up Biden to criticism from the left and right, aside from the unusual circumstance of the top attorney in the division recusing herself from the most important case under her watch.

“Bringing in anybody from Big Tech to a leadership role in antitrust is a political, policy, and managerial disaster,” said Zephyr Teachout, author of “Break ’Em Up” and a frequent Big Tech critic, referring to Hesse. “We know how the revolving door works. The ideology of big companies shapes the ideology of government.”

As recently as a couple years ago, Hesse seemed to dismiss antitrust concerns from Google’s control of the online search market. “The reason why people use Google Search, generally, is because they like it better,” Hesse said at a Federal Trade Commission field hearing. “This is when I start to worry about, are we gonna punish someone because they did a great job?” She also said that it’s “really easy to switch” away from Google if users don’t like the product. Hesse noted at the hearing that Google was a former but not a current client of hers.

The final decision on who will take the AAG position has not been made, but the current candidates for the top job and the deputy positions include a number of additional corporate attorneys, as well as at least one with progressive backing. Jonathan Kanter, a plaintiff’s lawyer who helped design the cases against Google and Facebook, remains in the mix for the AAG job. Gene Kimmelman is being considered for a deputy position, and while he brings consumer protection experience and has some progressive support, a recent paper of his suggesting that an entirely new agency is needed to tackle digital platforms has some reformers skeptical of his commitment to aggressive antitrust enforcement. Floating his name could be a way for the Biden team to make a show of progressive inclusion without changing the actual dynamic.

The elevation of Hesse and Arteaga suggests that Biden loyalist Terrell McSweeny may be disinclined to take the job. People close to the process have said that it has long been hers if she wanted it, but a recent family tragedy is weighing on the decision. If she passes, Biden is said to be willing to create a White House position for her that would coordinate antitrust policy across the FTC and DOJ.

Hesse, Arteaga, and others short-listed for deputy positions immediately raised eyebrows among progressive groups. “American democracy is in crisis, and it is in some ways a result of social media corporations who have killed local newspapers and structured their business models to engage, radicalize, and addict users so they can monopolize ad markets,” reads a letter to Biden led by Public Citizen and the American Economic Liberties Project. Organized within a couple days, by Monday 40 groups had signed on. “We believe that appointing antitrust enforcers with no ties to dominant corporations in the industries they will be tasked with overseeing — particularly in regard to the technology sector — will help reestablish public trust in government at a critically important moment in our country’s history.”

Renata-Hesse-1

Renata Hesse, a former Justice Department official under President Barack Obama.

Photo: U.S. Department of Justice

Hesse has gone in and out of the antitrust division and corporate defense law firms since the 1990s. A stint at the Justice Department from 2002 to 2006 featured one notable action: advising the IRS in 2005 that it could restrict free tax filing services for taxpayers making above $50,000 per year. If private companies did so, they would be engaging in illegal price fixing. Because the IRS took the action, blessed by Hesse’s advice, it went through, ruining an effort by TaxAct to give free tax filing services to everyone. This allowed market leader Intuit (makers of TurboTax) to dominate and gouge consumers for tax preparation.

After the Justice Department service, Hesse spent five years practicing at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Google’s go-to law firm. She did significant antitrust work for Google during this time, including defending the company against state attorney general investigations. Advocating for Google in a case in Texas in 2010, she teamed up with a lawyer from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius named Ted Cruz, accompanying him to numerous meetings with the Texas attorney general. Ultimately, Hesse and Cruz were successful, and no action was taken against the company.

Cruz is currently fighting to retain his law degree and bar license after contributing to the incitement of a riot at the U.S. Capitol, an event promoted on Big Tech platforms like Google’s YouTube. Hesse is on the verge of getting a promotion.

She went back to the Justice Department in 2012, overseeing the Comcast/NBCUniversal deal, which kicked off a trend of vertical combination in media of networks, movie studios, and cable distributors. She waved through Humana’s purchase of insurance provider Arcadian and the acquisition of Virgin Airlines by Alaska Airlines, among other deals.

Hesse rose to become acting assistant attorney general for the antitrust division from July 2016 until the end of the Obama administration. In September 2016, at a time when the Obama administration was reckoning with economic consolidation on their watch, Hesse gave a speech that was lauded for its willingness to criticize traditional economics-based approaches to antitrust and its endorsement of “looking more broadly at the effects of business practices on competition.” That approach dovetails with the one anti-monopoly advocates are pushing.

Hesse argued that mergers between large competing firms that would result in significant market share should automatically be looked at skeptically, even if it couldn’t be proven that consumers would suffer through higher prices immediately. (Then-Vice President Biden’s office reportedly helped write the speech.)

“Nobody out there thinks Obama’s administration was strong on antitrust. There’s no need to go back to a weak, ineffective regime.”

The speech hit a nerve, as evidenced from the Heritage Foundation’s concern over sending the “wrong signals” to businesses. But notably absent in the speech was any reference to the big technology platforms, which at the time were dominating the conversation about the need for stronger antitrust enforcement. Within a few months, the Obama term was up, and Hesse was out of the Justice Department. And she more than made up for her heresies.

She became a partner and co-head of the antitrust group at Sullivan & Cromwell, a major corporate law firm, where she now works. The hiring announcement cited Hesse’s “deep and highly relevant government experience.” It almost immediately paid off. Later on, accepting the “Competition Group of the Year” award by Law360 in 2019, Hesse highlighted how the firm’s small teams were able to clear giant mergers, because “the quality of the resources is what really matters.”

Hesse was a lead advisor to Amazon on its $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods, which elevated the e-commerce giant into physical retail. She worked for drugmakers Merck, Novartis, and Amgen on various mergers. She advised Fiserv’s $22 billion acquisition of First Data, which created a near-monopoly in financial services technology solutions. She advised Praxair’s $80 billion merger with Linde, creating a market-leading industrial gas giant. She worked on the Harris/L3 Technologies defense contractor combination. She helped push through American Express’s purchase of online lender Kabbage.

These numerous involvements with major companies whose future deals would come under the purview of the Justice Department presents a significant problem for Hesse, Teachout noted. Large swaths of the pharmaceutical, technology, and banking sectors would probably have to draw a recusal from the head of the department. “You would have Hesse recusing from the biggest ongoing antitrust case that key decisions have to be made on,” she said, citing Hesse’s work with Google. “It’s weird and awkward; it creates weird management questions. Who will be running the Google case then?”

Hesse’s involvement with Google is a family affair. Her husband, Joshua Soven, a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, is currently working for Google. He’s also represented Grubhub, LinkedIn, Marriott, Tenet Healthcare, Hewlett-Packard, and BNSF Railway, and he was lead counsel for T-Mobile in its successful acquisition of Sprint. Soven, who worked in President George W. Bush’s antitrust division, is a regular donor to Republican candidates, including Sens. Josh Hawley, Mo., Ron Johnson, Wisc., Pat Toomey, Pa., and Susan Collins of Maine. His antitrust work could also trigger Hesse’s recusal from various cases.

For her part, Hesse maxed out donations to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign and has contributed over $27,000 to the Democratic National Committee since 2008. To reformers, relying so heavily on Obama alumni is setting the antitrust agenda up for failure. “If you put in Obama alumni, you have evidence that they’ve done a bad job before, and there’s a natural human nature to believe that your previous decisions were the right ones,” said Teachout. “Nobody out there thinks Obama’s administration was strong on antitrust. There’s no need to go back to a weak, ineffective regime.”

Monopoly opponents remain hopeful that Kanter could emerge from all the jockeying if the decision is elevated to the highest levels. Bruce Reed, a longtime Biden friend and ally, has long stood on the furthest-right end of the spectrum within Democratic politics, but the politics of monopoly scramble the conventional calculus, and Reed happens to be a longtime critic of Big Tech’s dominance.

Biden Chief of Staff Ron Klain has traditionally not been seen as a skeptic of Silicon Valley, but the politics on the issue have moved fast. Klain has spent parts of the past 15 years as general counsel for a venture capital shop called Revolution, founded by AOL chief executive Steve Case. He also has advised Higher Ground Labs, an investment firm focused on campaign tech backed by Reid Hoffman, cofounder of LinkedIn.

The staffing decisions take on added import now that Biden has chosen FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Consumer finance advocates cheered the selection of Chopra, known as an unapologetic ally of the little guy. But his exit from the FTC leaves a gaping hole that is wider than just his one vote, as Chopra’s depth of knowledge and political dexterity shifted the balance of power on the commission and allowed him to create unlikely coalitions against the power of Big Tech and other consolidated industries. Unless he is replaced by someone of similar stature, such as Columbia law professor Lina Khan, a leading anti-monopoly voice who co-authored the House Antitrust Subcommittee report and is being pushed by advocates of checking consolidation, tech titans will have an easier time before the commission. Chopra’s move from the FTC to the CFPB also underscores a major problem plaguing progressives in Washington: Even as the conversation gravitates toward their perspective, the bench is so thin from four decades of neoliberal hegemony that there aren’t enough bodies to execute that vision.

 Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gene Kimmelman, senior adviser at Public Knowledge, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 7, 2016.

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In the absence of that progressive bench, several Obama-era colleagues could reunite at the Justice Department’s antitrust division, according to several sources. Arteaga (if he doesn’t get the AAG job), Sonia Pfaffenroth, and Kimmelman are among those likely to be placed in senior positions. No appointments have been made as of yet.

Arteaga, a partner at Crowell & Moring, served in the antitrust division from 2013 to 2017. At Crowell, he has defended JPMorgan Chase from charges that it manipulated benchmark interest rates known as LIBOR; Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS, and Deutsche Bank in litigation involving corruption in the mortgage-backed securities market; Morgan Stanley in a securities fraud case; a “global investment bank” in a separate mortgage-backed securities case; and Mastercard in antitrust litigation brought by American Express and Discover. Arteaga has also worked on numerous cases involving AT&T, a top Crowell client, including its acquisition of DIRECTV and its purchase of Time Warner. He represented United Technologies in its acquisition of Rockwell Collins, and defended private equity giant KKR against accusations that it purchased grocery chain Bruno’s and forced it into bankruptcy while extracting value.

Pfaffenroth has also gone back and forth between top corporate antitrust law firm Arnold & Porter and the Justice Department. Pfaffenroth’s clients in private practice have included Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, Bayer, Koito Manufacturing, Fujikura Ltd., Snapfish, Unilever, Boston Scientific, mining company Bucyrus International, and more.

Kimmelman was chief counsel for the antitrust division in the Obama administration and has served in several Washington, D.C., think tanks and organizations like the New America Foundation, Consumers Union, the Consumer Federation of America, and Public Citizen. He was CEO of the telecom-focused Public Knowledge and is now a senior adviser there.

Public Knowledge takes a modest amount of money from Google, but Kimmelman is normally described as a critic of Big Tech. He recently co-wrote a paper for the Brookings Institution with former Federal Communications Commission chair Tom Wheeler that called for a separate agency focused on digital platforms to regulate large technology firms. This irked some reformers who believe that a new agency would only muddle already clear anti-monopoly cases against the platforms and would be subject to corporate capture.

Other tech critics have not forgiven Kimmelman for his role in the Justice Department suing book publishers early in the Obama administration for teaming up with Apple on a pricing system for e-books to defend themselves against Amazon’s market power. “Instead of suing Amazon for monopolizing the book market, Kimmelman chose to sue publishers for defending themselves against Jeff Bezos,” said Matt Stoller, author of “Goliath” and director of research at the American Economic Liberties Project. “That is an example of using antitrust law to help monopolists.”

Obama’s performance on antitrust and corporate power was savagely criticized last week in a comprehensive report from the American Economic Liberties Project, showing how economic concentration tightened across a host of industries in the Obama era and federal regulators did little to stop it. The report recommended that Biden move on from the failed philosophy of the past and choose aggressive reformers to crack down on monopolies. The names being floated oversaw several disastrous mergers in the Obama era, including American/US Airways, Anheuser-Busch InBev/SABMiller, and Comcast/NBCUniversal.

“An Obama restoration in antitrust is the worst possible outcome,” said Jeff Hauser of the Revolving Door Project, another Big Tech critic. “Hesse would represent Obama 2.0 on antitrust, which would give us ever-strengthened Big Tech platform monopolies and so much more.”

The title of the report, “The Courage to Learn,” was a nod toward the likelihood that at least some Obama alumni would wind up in positions of power, coupled with the demand that they learn from their previous mistakes. But combining a record of reticence to enforce antitrust laws with experience working on behalf of the very firms now being sued was a bit much, said Sarah Miller, executive director of AELP, which produced the report. “Especially at this moment, it’s critical to avoid appointments that have a track record of helping monopolies like Google and Amazon consolidate power,” she said. “Elevating aggressive state enforcers or experienced plaintiffs’ side attorneys will set the department up for success rather than looking backwards to those who oversaw a catastrophic era of lethargy.”

The post Big Tech Critics Alarmed at Direction of Biden Antitrust Personnel appeared first on The Intercept.

ScoMo Tells Everyone To Ease Up On All The Questions As He’s Still Getting Back Into The Swing Of Things After His Holiday

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 6:00am in

Australian Prime Minister Scotty from Marketing has asked the media to please ease up on all the questions, especially those about his colleague Craig Kelly, as he’s still trying to get back into the swing of things after his most recent holiday.

“It’s good that the press is taking an interest in what I got up to during my holidays,” said Prime Minister Scotty. ”However, when it comes to questions about what my colleagues are up, to or what President Trump did this week. I ask you all to just give me a few months to get back into the swing of things.”

“After all, it’s not like I set the Nation’s agenda!”

When asked why he was so hesitant to discuss his colleague Craig Kelly and his controversial social media posts, the PM said: ”Whilst I was on holiday I didn’t take along my phone, so I am a bit oblivious to what people are talking about on the Facebook or the old Instagram.”

”Are the Kardashians still popular? What about that wacky dude from Korea? Is he still kicking it Gangham-style?”

”Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s been a long day – so I might head off work early. Is Maccas still doing an all-day breakfast?”

”Nevermind, I’ll call into Engadine Maccas on the way home.”

Mark Williamson

@MWChatShow

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Latest hits from His Master’s Voice – Little Johnny and the Trumpettes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 5:59am in

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While our parliament houses will not be stormed any time soon, Sky News is still around, as is Rupert Murdoch, Trump’s great backer, and The Australian. So, too, are George, Pauline and Craig.

Have you heard the nostalgia band currently playing in RSL clubs in rural towns? Little Johnny & the Trumpettes? On the mouth organ is band leader Johnny (“Sparkles”) Howard; there’s Joey (“Chuckles”) Hockey playing the buffoon, sorry, bassoon. Then there is Micky (“Cow Gate”) McCormack on the cow bell. What a virtuoso! And last up is Scotty (“Holidays”) Morrison on the spoons.

The band’s travelling from one climate-killed town to the next. Playing for two bob. Trying to get their sounds louder than the pokies. It wasn’t always like this. These men were something … once. Johnny Howard was, for heaven’s sake, the Prime Minister of Australia. He even got the US Medal of Freedom, bestowed on him by George Bush. The proudest day of Johnny’s life. Poor guy thought he was getting all medalled up for his contribution to the War on Terror. No, it was a new Boy Scout patch for being a lapdog to American interests.

Band leader Johnny really loved all things American. Hell, he even said some lovely words about Donald Trump. Speaking at a US Studies Centre event titled “Howard on Trump”, six months after Trump slithered into the White House, Johnny said he did not believe Trump was a racist. All while Trump was dropping clues that white is the only right as fast as he was shedding orange dandruff. The rest of the world knew Trump was a racist. Johnny, never one for perspicacious wisdom, figured otherwise.

Johnny also warned us not to rush to judgment on Trump. “I think people who are writing him off now are foolish. And a lot of people who are doing that still can’t accept that they lost.” Asked about Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement, Howard said (again) that he, like Trump, remained a climate sceptic (Hi Tony!). described himself as increasingly sceptical of climate change.

Then there is bassoonist “Chuckles” Hockey. Before that incarnation he was the best Treasurer for big business since Peter (“Cheshire”) Costello. After that mediocre stint Hockey accepted a job for the boys and became Australia’s ambassador to the court of mad king Donny. Another mediocre stint but a great time to play golf. Hockey was often seen on Trump’s courses, playing with the man himself.

Hockey’s thoughts on Trump? According to Peter Hartcher, from the Sydney Morning Herald:

“Everyone keeps underestimating him. It’s a major mistake.” Trump was not merely a political leader but “the leader of a movement” that commands the unswerving devotion of about one-third of the American population, regardless of criticisms and revelations. Trump has come to “own” patriotism as a potent political tool, he said. Indeed, he’s even more likely to win re-election today than he was six months ago.”

So wonderful was their relationship that Hockey stayed on in Washington to reap what he had sown. He now runs a political lobby push group called Bondi Partners.

On its website he still describes himself as “Ambassador Hockey”. He planned to position himself on K Street with a shed full of pro-Trump contacts he met along the way. Problem was, Trump became toxic soon after Bondi Partners opened. That’s how “Chuckles” found himself playing the bassoon in Boggabri.

Next up is Michael (“Cow Gate”) McCormack. When asked for his response to the insurrection in Washington on 6 January, he could not contain his “fury”.  The riot was all terribly “unfortunate”. “Unfortunate”? Is this guy on medication? The world he sees through the cow gate grill is not the same world the rest of us see. In that interview McCormack used words like fire blankets. But we knew that the real McCormack, the Trump supporter, the guy who called the Black Lives matter protests a “race riot”, was wriggling to be set free. “There was destruction,” he said. “There was uninsured property that business owners then have to dig deep into their own pockets to rebuild.” That’s after the Black Lives Matter protest by the way. This is our deputy prime minister talking.

Speaking of which, the last band member to meet is Scotty (“Holidays”) Morrison. There are two photo images I keep in my head. One of them makes me ashamed to be an Australian. The other gives me hope.

The first was taken on Morrison’s last visit to the US in September 2020. It’s an up-close image of the Morrison and Trump on the south lawn of the White House. Their shoulders are touching; heads close together; Morrison is smiling, like he just offered Trump an enormous compliment; Trump has that self-satisfied look he gets when a sycophant has delivered a gift to his ego. Trump called him a “man of titanium”. Poor Johnny had to do with “man of steel”.

When the man of titanium returned to Australia, he took a call from Trump who asked him to gather information to assist an inquiry to jeopardise the Mueller Inquiry and Morrison agreed to assist. He was in love and love can be blind to ethical and legal standards. Trump then got Morrison on board to push for an international investigation into the origins of the corona virus. Trump wanted so badly for the evidence to show it started in China. Morrison, still in love, said yes again.

Morrison, the Pentecostalist, standing with Trump the [add your own words] is a shameful photo.

Cut to the next photo when Trump calls in on Pope Francis. Trump and Melania are all smiles. Francis is glum, disapproving and cannot wait to get the hell out. No airs and graces here. Just the photo of a man who has smelt raw sewage.

Trump is gone (sort of). Trumpism is heading our way. In a brilliant essay for Crikey, Kishor Napier-Raman got it right when he said that after the Berlin Wall fell, predatory capitalism “had become so dominant that it was dogma even for centre-left parties in the West”. When it started to fray: “Trumpian populism turned up with a brutally effective solution.”

It’s as if Trump said:

“Your lives might be shit, but here, I’ll give you an outlet for your rage. We might be working to line the pockets of our super-rich friends and family while you toil away working four de-unionised jobs in the gig economy, but here’s why you should direct that hatred towards Democrats, China, Muslims, immigrants and Antifa instead.”

The version we are seeing in Australia is Trump-lite. Our parliament houses will not be stormed any time soon. But Johnny and the Trumpettes are still around. Sky News is still around. Murdoch, Trump’s great backer, is still around. The Australian is still around. So are George and Pauline and Craig.

‘I don’t hold a hose, mate’: for overseas students Morrison’s ‘hands-off’ approach was writ large

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 5:58am in

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From June last year, the Morrison Government increased the number of offshore student visas even though it knew these people had little to no chance of entering Australia while the pandemic rages around the world. Why would it do this? 

Morrison’s initial message to the more than 2 million temporary entrants in Australia at the start of the pandemic was to “make your way home”.

The 2 million included about 600,000 students and about 100,000 temporary graduates. Many would have paid well over $100,000 in tuition fees and most would have been part-way through their course. The message they should just “go home” was as callous as it was bizarre and impractical given the shortage and cost of flights once the Government had closed international borders.

In response to Morrison’s message, the Department of Home Affairs temporarily stopped processing offshore student visa applications from early April to around early June. This is affirmed by a blow-out in processing times. But I have been unable to find any prior public announcement of this processing suspension or the Minister signing any relevant legal instrument for the suspension of visa processing as required by the Migration Act.

In June 2020, the Department appears to have resumed processing offshore student visa applications with 1,778 offshore student visas granted, up from less than 500 in each of the two months before. The offshore student visa grant rate in the June quarter jumped to more than 96 per cent while it had been consistently less than 90 per cent in previous quarters. The onshore student application approval rate jumped to almost 100 per cent.

The increase in grant rates for onshore student applicants has been explained. The Department says that “due to welfare, visa status and flight availability considerations, in early April 2020, the Department sought to delay finalisation of applications that may adversely affect a student”.

Leaving aside the legality of such a delay without the Minister having signed a publicly available legal instrument, this explanation for the jump in approval rates for offshore student visa applicants makes no sense.

In fact the Department actually increased grants to offshore student visa applicants in the September quarter to 21,069 and 12,353 in the two months of October and November 2020. This occurred while the Department knew the vast majority of these students could not possibly enter Australia to start their courses.

We also do not know how Home Affairs implemented Public Interest Criterion (PIC) 4007, the health requirement, for these offshore student visa applicants. Part of PIC 4007 requires the Department to ensure visa holders do not have a disease or condition that would be a public health risk to the Australian community – in fact we do not know how it has implemented this legal obligation for all visa holders since the pandemic started.

We do know that the federal Education Minister has used the large number of offshore student visas granted since the pandemic started to ramp up pressure on state governments to expand the number of places in hotel quarantine – a task the states have had to take on due to the Commonwealth failing to develop a national quarantine plan.

This is despite quarantine constitutionally being a Commonwealth responsibility and subject to the Commonwealth Quarantine Act 1908 (renamed the Bio-Security Act in 2015).

But why would the Commonwealth increase the number of offshore student visas granted from June 2020 when it knew these people had little to no chance of entering Australia while the pandemic rages around the world?

Why wouldn’t the Minister sign a legal instrument suspending offshore student visa processing until the pandemic had passed or a sensible quarantine solution could be found?

That would at least be consistent with Morrison’s message to temporary entrants such as students already in Australia to go home.

Was the Commonwealth embarrassed by its decision to deny JobKeeper to universities despite the ongoing revenue hit they were going to take from the closure of international borders? A hit that they would have to take on top of the hit from the Commonwealth’s mismanagement of the bi-lateral relationship with China?

Was the Commonwealth keen to deflect from the large job losses that universities were announcing by showing it was trying to help universities by processing offshore student visa applications – thus locking in some tuition fee revenue even if the students couldn’t get to Australia to start their course?

Was the Commonwealth embarrassed by its decision to deny any support for students already in Australia who were queuing up at food charities after losing their jobs?

Surely granting even more offshore student visas would only increase the pressure on charities if the students did not have the financial capacity to survive? But of course, the Commonwealth knew that most of these offshore students would not be entering Australia any time soon.

But most significantly, was the Commonwealth embarrassed by the fact that it has responsibility for student visas, borders, quarantine, the international education industry and funding of universities yet was taking responsibility for none of these?

Seems a case of “I don’t hold a hose” writ large.

Avoiding legal responsibility and accountability while taking credit for other people’s work is perhaps the Morrison Government’s most abiding characteristic.

Seditious assault on Congress. Why is Christianity so grafted to corrupt politics?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 5:57am in

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The link between the Christian right and Trump has nothing to do with Christian discipleship. Trump provides the evangelical right with the closest thing they have found to a theocratic state and in return Trump gets a strong voting bloc.


Credit – Unsplash

There have been a few watershed moments in the history of Christianity from which there is no turning back. One of these was in the 4th century when, through various Ecumenical Councils, it became clear that to claim the name of Christian it was necessary to say that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that in him there is life.

A second moment in the 15th century, facilitated by the printing press, saw authority transferred from a clerical, centralised and often poorly educated elite to the whole family of God, the laity, via scripture. The faithful had been manipulated by this elite to protect their institutional power and authority.

Are current events in America heralding another such moment?

Christianity has been associated with a seditious assault on the Congress, an assault from which Christianity cannot be distanced and appears not to want to be distanced. American Evangelist Franklin Graham compared 10 members of the Republican Party to Judas after they voted to approve President Trump‘s second impeachment. Ted Cruz, a GOP president wanna-be who speaks for conservative Christian values has done all he can to discredit the election of Biden.

Trump is not, and has not pretended to be, a Christian. As far as one can tell he is biblically illiterate. There is no evidence that he is a regular Church attender. His moral failures are legion and the damage he has done by claiming truth to be fake and what is fake to be true is immeasurable. Chaos and confusion are being played out in the lives of those whom he has convinced the election was stolen.

So, why this link between the Christian right and Trump? Quite simply it has absolutely nothing to do with Christian discipleship and everything to do with politics and ideology.

The right and Trump have needed one another. From Trump’s point of view the evangelical right provide him with a strong electoral base, while Trump provides the evangelical right with the closest thing they have found to a theocratic state. He delivers, or purports to deliver, their agenda: supremacy of individual rights over social reform, prohibition on abortion, denial of gay rights and unconditional support for Israel. The situation is truly shocking.

Is this the moment when any possible link between Christianity and a theocracy is completely, and finally, rejected?

It is their obsession with a theocratic ideal, and apparent desire to fight and die for it, that has led to conspiracy theories about its opposite – a satanic cabal. The Christian right’s very identity is immersed in the belief that they are soldiers for right against forces of evil. At a spiritual and moral level, this is a helpful image as long as we understand that the possibility of good and evil are ever present in the lives of each one of us.

The dangerous error occurs when the idea of evil is transferred to those with whom we disagree or, worse, do not understand. According to the conspiracy theorists, the existence and power of the cabal is led by paedophiles and demonstrated through a massive fraud that stole the election from them and their patron Donald Trump.

In this context, the conspiracy theory makes absolute sense. If you believe God and God’s will is delivered through a theocracy; if this has been thwarted, there must be a reason big enough to match the thwarted aspiration.

It is unlikely that this dangerous nonsense with its seditious implications is going to be abandoned any time soon unless or until the ambition that led to it is corrected. The correcting is not the responsibility of secular politics, but of Christian leadership. Where is that leadership? Where is the voice?

It is of course wrong and deceptive to make generalisations, to accuse by association. Evangelicalism is a ‘broad church’. All evangelicals are not Trump supporters or believers in a theocratic ideal. However, it remains the case that evangelicals predominate in the Trump movement, that the name of Jesus was carried by the riotous mob into the congress alongside the name of Trump.

The irony, of which these people seem totally unaware, is that Jesus eschewed power and the exercise of it. When asked to use it he refused, rebuking those who made the request. He made it clear that the only power with legitimacy is the power of salt and light. Without wishing to eulogise Joe Biden, his demeanour, words and influence in the face of relentless provocation has so far been of this kind.

The Christian right have no business condemning attempts to revive a Muslim caliphate while they embrace language of violence in attempting to enforce their own.

In the absence of strong contemporary Christian leadership in condemnation of Franklin Graham and thousands of other self-appointed and theologically illiterate evangelical illuminati, I commend the fifth chapter of one of the earliest extant Christian writings, the letter to Diognetus:

Christians are not distinguished from other men by country, language, nor by the customs which they observe. They do not inhabit cities of their own, use a particular way of speaking, nor lead a life marked out by any curiosity. The course of conduct they follow has not been devised by the speculation and deliberation of inquisitive men. The do not, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of merely human doctrines.

Instead, they inhabit both Greek and barbarian cities, however things have fallen to each of them. And it is while following the customs of the natives in clothing, food, and the rest of ordinary life that they display to us their wonderful and admittedly striking way of life.

They live in their own countries, but they do so as those who are just passing through. As citizens they participate in everything with others, yet they endure everything as if they were foreigners. Every foreign land is like their homeland to them, and every land of their birth is like a land of strangers.

They marry, like everyone else, and they have children, but they do not destroy their offspring.

They share a common table, but not a common bed.

They exist in the flesh, but they do not live by the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, all the while surpassing the laws by their lives.

They love all men and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned. They are put to death and restored to life.

They are poor, yet make many rich. They lack everything, yet they overflow in everything.

They are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor they are glorified; they are spoken ill of and yet are justified; they are reviled but bless; they are insulted and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evildoers; when punished, they rejoice as if raised from the dead. They are assailed by the Jews as barbarians; they are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to give any reason for their hatred.

Those who think Franklin Graham, Cruz and their admirers in Australia are somehow followers of the man from Galilee, please read the above letter and become acquainted with real witnesses, first and second century Christians.

Frydenberg knows nothing of Voltaire

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 5:55am in

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Fydenberg’s misuse of Voltaire is a complete travesty, a total misrepresentation of Voltaire’s beliefs and values. Voltaire fought against the kind of political power enabling the incarceration of people deemed to have no rights under the law, as in the imprisonment on Christmas Island of children by Frydenberg’s government.


Credit – Wikipedia

Josh Frydenberg has ignorantly followed many other so-called supporters of “freedom of speech” by soliciting Voltaire as a prop for his thoughts on the matter.

Frydenberg has been quoted by numerous media outlets as saying that “freedom of speech is fundamental to our society. As Voltaire said, I might not agree with what you say, but I defend your right to say it”.

It has long been established that the source of the quote, in its various manifestations, cannot be traced back to Voltaire, and even if it could be it would mean something entirely different from the meaning Frydenberg seeks to give it.

But let the question be thrown back to Fydenberg. Where, in all that Voltaire wrote, is the quote to be found? Was it in one of his poems? Or one of his letters, perhaps to Catherine the Great of Russia? One of his plays, or his political essays, his history books, his philosophical writing?

And just because others before Frydenberg failed to do their research on what Voltaire said, or believed, does not excuse the Treasurer from falsely using Voltaire to support Frydenberg’ juvenile, shallow and dangerous interpretation of “freedom of speech” without responsibility.

It might interest Frydenberg to know that Voltaire’s interest in freedom of speech was not in giving support to autocrats to incite violence against critics or political opponents, but exactly the opposite. He was a strong opponent of the authoritarianism of the French monarchy of the ancien régime and its accompanying ecclesiastical partner, the Catholic Church, and spent much of his life in exile from France due to his opposition to the régime.

Freedom of speech to Voltaire was not the defence of unacceptable lies, nor of the George Brandis notion of the “right to be a bigot”, nor its use by those in power to disenfranchise opponents, vilify those with different views or those without civil rights.

Frydenberg is “uncomfortable” that Trump has been banned from Twitter, which can only mean he has no concerns that Trump’s tweets “summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack”, to use the words of Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, daughter of the former vice-president Dick Cheney, when she stated she would vote for Trump’s impeachment.

Fydenberg’s misuse of Voltaire is a complete travesty, a total misrepresentation of Voltaire’s beliefs and values, for Voltaire actively fought against the kind of political power enabling incarceration of people deemed to have no rights under the law, as in the imprisonment on Christmas Island of children by Frydenberg’s government.

When Voltaire owned a property close to the French-Swiss border he actively supported workers in the district who had no civil rights and called for the elimination of serfdom in the nearby Jura region. Voltaire chose to live near the border because it enabled him to cross to either country to avoid arrest.

Frydenberg has nothing in common with Voltaire, and can’t even quote him accurately.

The person who wrote what Frydenberg falsely attributes to Voltaire was historian Evelyn Hall, writing in 1906 in her book The Friends of Voltaire. They were her words, and she always insisted they were her words. But people like Frydenberg aren’t interested in such essential distinctions. All they have come to learn is that truth is unimportant and that they have some sort of entitlement to appropriate the name of a famous writer in a fatuous attempt to give weight to their intellectual dishonesty.

Evelyn Hall wrote before the First World War and before the advent of Nazism. I wonder what she would have thought about her words being so thoroughly taken out of context and then misappropriated by generations of self-serving propagandists, lazy journalists and others before and after the end of the Second World War.

In 1939 she wrote about the matter to Professor Burdette Kinne, of Colombia University’s French Department, who was also a writer for the New Yorker during the 1930s. In 1943, Kinne wrote an article published in the John Hopkins University journal Modern Language Notes entitled “Voltaire Never Said it!”.

Too many have fallen into the trap of believing that “balance” is served by giving equal voice and credence to quacks, liars and charlatans who have no evidence-based knowledge and sitting them at the same table as qualified and experienced scientists, medical practitioners, engineers and other highly qualified professionals who rely on accumulated knowledge based on detailed research. Such people should sort out in their muddled minds that giving credence to Trumpist lies is little different from those Australian politicians who gave credence to Mussolini and Hitler during the 1930s.

Maybe Frydenberg should read that story. In the meantime, his use of Voltaire to support his views must be condemned as dishonest and fraudulent and contemptible.

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