Error message

Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).

Book Review: This is What Democracy Looked Like: A Visual History of the Printed Ballot by Alicia Yin Cheng

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/01/2021 - 11:09pm in

In This is What Democracy Looked Like: A Visual History of the Printed BallotAlicia Yin Cheng provides a concise yet detailed look at the history of the printed electoral ballot in the United States, locating the printed ballot in the development of voting and enfranchisement and offering dozens of visual examples of past electoral ballots drawn from across US history. This timely and relevant work is a worthwhile read and would make an excellent reference book for the shelves of academic and non-academic readers interested in democracy and politics, writes Chris Stafford

This is What Democracy Looked Like: A Visual History of the Printed Ballot. Alicia Yin Cheng. Princeton Architectural Press. 2020.

The printed ballot is one of the most fundamental yet overlooked aspects of democracies throughout the world. Over the course of their lives, the average voter will probably spend just a matter of minutes in the presence of their ballots and perhaps even less time thinking about their finer details. Yet the things we take as given today – the layout, design, wording and even the act of putting an ‘X’ next to one’s preferred candidate – are all relatively new aspects of the ballot and are the result of many years of development and dispute.

Alicia Yin Cheng’s This is What Democracy Looked Like provides a concise yet detailed look at the history of the printed electoral ballot in the United States. Given the tumultuous aftermath of the 2020 US Presidential election, with outgoing President Trump making unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud, the recent storming of the US Capitol building by his supporters and Trump’s subsequent impeachment, the book is just as relevant now, if not more so, than when it was initially published last summer.

The book comprises two main sections. The first is a succinct write-up of the history of voting and enfranchisement in the US and how the printed ballot fits into this, discussing the history and development of not just how people could cast their vote, but also who could cast a vote. From highly partisan forms given to voters by the candidates themselves to the more standardised, impartial articles we are familiar with today, the development of the printed ballot is invariably linked to the development of democratic processes and enfranchisement within a nation.

Given Trump’s unfounded claims of electoral fraud, the concise history of how genuine electoral fraud was actually committed in the past proves particularly interesting. The book shows how, as the voting processes developed, so too did the methods by which people would try to cheat the system. The book details various methods of electoral fraud, from rather simple methods such as bribery and intimidation to more ingenious and amusing attempts, such as how the same man could cast multiple votes by entering the polling station in the morning with a full beard and then gradually shaving off certain parts in between repeat trips to the ballot box throughout the day.

This initial section is very interesting, well written and easy to read, packing a lot of information into a relatively short discussion. It also provides the reader with the necessary background information and context that they will need to fully appreciate the second section of the book. This second section makes up the vast majority of the work and fulfils the promise made by its title in giving a comprehensive visual history of printed electoral ballots in America. These images are accompanied by short descriptions, repeating the information from the earlier section to remind the reader of the specifics of what they are looking at. There are dozens of examples of past electoral ballots covering the breadth of US history and Cheng deserves particular praise for the significant amount of research and archival time it must have taken to find and collate these many examples.

Examples are drawn from the early 1800s right up until the present day. In the early days, the printed ballot was a highly partisan document printed by the political parties and candidates themselves. They were essentially a campaign pamphlet that voters could use to cast their vote. It is striking just how dynamic some of the earlier ballots are compared to the more sanitised ones we are familiar with today. In the early 1800s the monochromatic ballots used varying text fonts and imagery to entice voters, but as printing processes developed, so too did the extravagance of the ballots. By the end of the nineteenth century many ballots could probably be classed as works of art, featuring colourful, patriotic images, creative layouts and swooping text to grab voters’ attention. However, by the early twentieth century, ballots had become the much more standardised, neutral documents we are familiar with today.  While this is perhaps for the best, one can’t help but feel a little disappointed with the status quo!

Overall, the two sections of the book complement each other well, although one very minor criticism here would be that the initial textual section could provide better links to the second in certain places. The text regularly discusses various ballots which are subsequently presented in the visual section. Although it is not particularly difficult to cross-relate these, some directions in the text telling the reader where they could find a visual example elsewhere in the book would be a good addition. Additionally, for some of the ballots it is difficult to make out finer details of the text or imagery. However, given the size of some past ballots in relation to the size of the pages of the book, this is understandable. One example from New York in 1902 features the names of 600 candidates and runs to around 14 feet in length, so one can forgive Cheng for not including it at actual size!

This is What Democracy Looked Like does exactly what it sets out to do: provide a visual history of printed election ballots in the US. The textual aspect is brief, but full of detail and easy to follow. As such, this book can be read quite quickly, depending on how deeply one wants to examine the various images of historical ballots. Compared to other works of this nature, this book is relatively inexpensive and within most budgets, although cash-strapped students may want to evaluate if a couple of hours of reading is worth the price of the book. However, for anyone with a keen interest in the issues covered, this is certainly a worthwhile read and would make an excellent reference book on any academic’s shelf. The relative simplicity and accessibility of the book means that it would also lend itself well to non-specialist and non-academic readers. Anyone with a casual interest in politics or democracy could quite easily enjoy this book and learn from it. Given the turbulent political climate in the United States at the time of writing, this book is likely to remain relevant for some time to come.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics.

Image One Credit: p. 88. South Division ballot for Democratic presidential electors, 1864. This dense yet precise lithographic ballot is an impressive display of hand-drawn type. (Courtesy The Huntington Library, San Marino, California).

Image Two Credit: p. 117. Administration Union Ticket, Sacramento, California, 1851. The inks on this three-color, double-sided ballot retain a vibrant hue. The artist’s signature is on the back. (Images courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California).


As Fed Chair, Janet Yellen Discounted Economic Desperation. The Pandemic Will Likely Force a Different Approach.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/01/2021 - 10:00pm in



Joe Biden pledged that his nominee for treasury secretary would be “someone who I think will be accepted by all elements of the Democratic Party … progressive to the moderate coalitions.”

In many respects, that is true. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement that “[Janet] Yellen is the right choice for all working families,” while Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said, “I think the Janet Yellen pick at Treasury was a good idea.” And much of the discussion around Yellen has focused on her becoming the first female treasury secretary, instead of on her record as Federal Reserve chair from 2014 to 2018 — where she repeatedly raised interest rates despite no evidence that the economy was anywhere close to full employment.

Yellen will face senators tomorrow at her confirmation hearing. While the January 6 assault on the Capitol and the ensuing threat of further far-right violence has taken precedence over news from the Biden transition, the decisions that Yellen makes — how seriously she takes the economic desperation suffered by millions of Americans — could determine whether or not in 2023 Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is the chair of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee overseeing the Capitol Police.

In December, the economy lost 140,000 jobs, with a total of 9.8 million job losses since the coronavirus pandemic began. Rent debt could be as high as $70 billion. Fifty-four million Americans face food insecurity, an increase of 17 million from pre-pandemic levels. Mass transit cuts are happening across the country, further isolating low-income individuals, making them more dependent on expensive Uber and Lyft rides, and triggering job losses.

Yellen’s tenure at the Fed, which included rate hikes that almost certainly caused higher unemployment rates from 2015 through 2017, demonstrates that Yellen has, in the past, overestimated the strength of the economy for working people.

Her recent statements, however, suggest that the pandemic, along with the run of wage growth and unemployment decline after 2017 many economists thought wasn’t possible, has altered her thinking, and she now believes in aggressive action by the Fed and Treasury to continue to lift up the economy. In October, Yellen said, “While the pandemic is still seriously affecting the economy, we need to continue extraordinary fiscal support. … We need support for the economy from both monetary and fiscal policy.”

Which direction she chooses — austerity or stimulus, deficits or employment — will have enormous import for this deeply divided country.

The late journalist William Greider called his masterpiece 1987 book on the Fed “Secrets of the Temple” because the Fed gives itself an aura of impenetrability, too dense or complex for ordinary people to understand. Greider revealed that this is a deliberate political choice by the Fed to insulate its decision-making from democratic oversight.

The key problem is that the Fed has two mandates that are at odds: control inflation and expand employment. Inflation is often used by monetary policymakers as a proxy for wage growth for working people. So if the Fed seeks to control inflation, wage growth slows and unemployment goes up; if the Fed seeks to expand employment, the way the Fed measures inflation means that inflation will go up. Former Fed Chair Paul Volcker kept a card that detailed construction worker wages in his pocket, seeing his mission to fight inflation as inseparable from stagnating the wage growth of the working class.

“Inflation has been a reflection of class struggles,” said Samir Sonti, a professor at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. “In the late ’70s the Volcker Fed responded to wage inflation with monetary austerity without precedent, and the result was a recession that broke the back of the industrial labor movement.”

“Since the early ’80s we haven’t seen any real consumer price inflation and that is an expression of the weakening power of the organized working class,” Sonti said. “What we’ve seen is asset price inflation which is enabled by interest rates that can be kept low because there’s no significant working class threat.”

Yellen was appointed to the Fed in 2013, beating out Larry Summers for Obama’s nomination. Progressives despised Summers and worked against a potential Summers nomination, not least because he had worked with former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to limit the size of the $900 billion stimulus in 2009 — famously not even showing a proposal for a $1.8 trillion stimulus crafted by economic advisers Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein to the president for review. While by 2013 there had been significant economic recovery since the Great Recession, millions of Americans were still struggling, with 13 percent of the working age population unemployed or unemployed.

On December 16, 2015, Yellen announced that the Fed had raised interest rates for the first time in a decade. “I feel confident about the fundamentals driving the U.S. economy, the health of U.S. households, and domestic spending,” Yellen said. “There are pressures on some sectors of the economy, particularly manufacturing, and the energy sector … but the underlying health of the U.S. economy I consider to be quite sound.”

At that point, there were still nearly 16 million people either unemployed or significantly underemployed in the U.S., or 9.9 percent of the population (otherwise known as the U-6 unemployment rate). The inflation rate in the year prior was just 0.12 percent, the second lowest year on record since 1960. The Fed raised interest rates again in December 2016, when the inflation rate was 1.26 percent, well below the Fed’s 2 percent target rate.

Mainstream economists have praised Yellen’s record. “Under Janet Yellen the United States achieved some of the best outcomes in terms of both low and falling unemployment rates and stable inflation we have enjoyed in the postwar period, you can quibble with any given decision but the overall outcome was very good,” said former Obama economic advisor Jason Furman, who was referred to The Intercept by the Biden transition.

But others have said that Yellen raised rates too soon, artificially slowing down the economy while millions were out of work. The soft 2016 economy contributed to the election of President Donald Trump. “She presided over a premature rate increase,” said Rohan Grey, a professor at Willamette University College of Law. “She was the chair and this was a decision made by her board. It’s pretty clear that was premature. What it shows is that even someone who has framed themselves as a dove and pro-labor is that when push comes to shove she won’t stand out. She was in power and they prematurely tightened the economy and that’s a big problem.”

Yellen oversaw four more rate hikes during her time as Fed chair, one at the end of the Obama administration and three during her overlap with the Trump administration. The economy continued to grow, but the U-6 unemployment rate never dropped below 8 percent. The activist campaign “Fed Up” continuously urged the Fed to hold off on increasing interest rates, with concerns that it would prevent more Americans from getting jobs. In spite of those criticisms, the group did urge Trump to reappoint her as Fed chair.

Grey also raised concerns about Yellen’s closeness to deficit fearmongering groups like Fix the Debt. Yellen is a member of the advisory boards for both Fix the Debt and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which advocate for cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

“She said on the record that the national debt and the size of deficits has a sustainability concern in the long run,” said Grey. “And has in the past conceded that benefit cuts could help to address it. It’s a classic right-wing trope. She’s liked more by team blue but her language is not too different from Paul Ryan or Ron Paul.”

Sonti, the CUNY professor, for his part said that the economic impact of the pandemic may have altered Yellen’s thinking: The “crisis is of such magnitude that even the technocratic elite are likely aware of the need to change course.”

The post As Fed Chair, Janet Yellen Discounted Economic Desperation. The Pandemic Will Likely Force a Different Approach. appeared first on The Intercept.

Now it is official: we are to become Singapore-on-Thames

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/01/2021 - 9:47pm in

The Times has reported this morning that:

Boris Johnson will hold talks with business leaders today about cutting red tape as ministers draw up plans to turn Britain into the “Singapore of Europe” now that it has left the European Union.

The prime minister will speak to 30 senior leaders about topics such as “regulatory freedoms” and reforming EU rules. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, has been charged by Mr Johnson with leading a cross-Whitehall committee which will require departments to closely examine which regulations can be reformed.

The article adds:

A government source said that Mr Johnson was pushing for Britain to become a low-tax, low-regulation regime like Singapore. Last month Mr Johnson raised the prospect of tax cuts for entrepreneurs. He told a Facebook question-and-answer session: “We’ll be looking at the tax environment and the regulatory environment and everything we can do to encourage and support business.”

Amongst those to be addressed are BT, BP, Tesco, Unilever and Jaguar Land Rover.

So, not to be too subtle about it the Prime Minister has three plans.

The first is it ensure that the level playing field conditions in the EU exit deal are breached as soon as possible, creating considerable problems for the businesses he will be addressing as they face the tariff barriers that this will create on top of the administrative ones that they already face.

Second, he is seeking to promote a ‘race to the bottom’ in international  regulation, so ensuring that it is generally undermined at cost to all it protects (otherwise known as you and me).

And third, in the process he seeks to do what all proponents of tax havens seek to achieve, which is to undermine the power of the democratically elected state in pursuit of the goals of the unelected financial elite.

Call it a fascist agenda if you like, because that’s what it is.

As I have argued in my two books on tax havens, their use has always had one purpose at the end of the day, and that is to be the aircraft carriers for the assault on democratic institutions that provide the protection that the wealthy think impede their own well-being, which is defined by them as the preservation of their status.

There is nothing remotely entrepreneurial about this proposal.

There is not a thing in it that is pro-business.

There is overwhelming evidence that business benefits most when there is both regulation, ensuring a level playing field on which to compete exists, and consistency in that regulation that ensures that costs of compliance are minimised.

The stance Johnson is taking is diametrically opposed to both of these. That, of course, is why business always opposed Brexit; business knew the EU and UK membership of it supported their ability to deliver at lowest cost. Johnson’s plans do the exact opposite. It is very unlikely that he will have a very receptive audience tonight.

But Johnson will not care, of course: his aim is to say one thing (that he’s doing this to be pro-business) when he will actually be doing another (trashing democracy).

These are worrying times: the UK is now set on a path that sets us at odds with many countries, and with the well-being of the people of the world, with whom (and some may not like me saying this) real businesses (as opposed to financial services providers) have better aligned interests on this issue.

There may be trouble ahead.....

More Jockeying on Kentucky Pension Case, Mayberry v. KKR

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/01/2021 - 9:25pm in

Mayberry v. KKR may finally be getting to the starting line.

The noise of government ‘playing’ us

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/01/2021 - 8:37pm in

According to this shameful article by Housing Secretary and three houses Robert Jenrick, who has even now, failed to resolve the cladding crisis caused by the Grenfell Tower fire, nonetheless now he has time, in the middle of this pandemic, to turn his attention to the important matter of statues and streetnames as written up... Read more

We totter on the brink of extremism at present: there are no such things as ‘less valuable’ lives

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/01/2021 - 7:04pm in

It struck me over the weekend just how brutal our society is becoming. Take this tweet, and the video to which it refers, as an example:

It is fairly staggering for someone to say, quite blatantly, that some lives are ‘less valuable’, and even more so to the face of a person they are describing as such.

Saying that, I am not naive. I am aware that decisions are made on a routine basis that take into account the value of life. For example, decisions on whether to address accident black spots are taken on the basis of the likely risk to be eliminated, with the value of life being factored in. But the point in that case is that the life considered to be saved is generic: the risk is across the population as a whole. The risk being appraised is not of a particular life. It is a random life. Like many, I feel uncomfortable with such economic reasoning, but it is a fundamentally different approach to the basis of decision making to which Lord Sumption, an arch anti-lockdown campaigner, refers. He is suggesting particular lives are of lesser worth. I profoundly disagree.

The objection to lockdown campaigners is not from the left alone, either. This Tweet is from Neil O’Brien, who is a Tory MP:

O’Brien is right to challenge the facts. He was also right to challenge, as he did in comments later in the thread, the claim that ‘prior medical conditions’ were a factor to take into account. Included in their number were asthma and mental health conditions. I gather high blood pressure and cholesterol also count. These things are very far from uncommon in the population as a whole, and the last two most especially in those over 50. But those making such claims do not make that clear.

Instead they offer what appears to be a profoundly eugenic view of life. There is a ‘pure’ form, blessed upon some of the young and economically active, plus those (maybe) of good fortune amongst the more elderly (where ‘fortune’ might very well have an economic  overtone), and then there are the rest, who are in this world view of marginal value, as Lord Sumption explicitly suggested.

The kindest description I saw yesterday of Sumption’s  comment was that it was a naive, school debating society, form of utilitarianism. I would add that it is one from which the very essence of empathy has been removed to justify a callous economic ethic of indifference. O’Brien got it right. The implication that there is lower life has deep political connotation to it, with profoundly uncomfortable overtones to it.

There is in Sumption’s claim, the essence of the Great Barrington Declaration. It too assumed that lives could be divided between those worth saving or not. Those not worth saving were to be removed from Covid infected society, to be locked away from view for the duration of the pandemic, so that those of pure form might continue life unhindered by those of lesser worth, even if they happened to be their parents, siblings or even offspring. The assumption was that the ‘pure’ would be happy with this, and would indifferently wait to see who if the impure might make it through to the end when the goal  of herd immunity had been achieved, when the survivors amongst the impure might be welcomed back, like the survivors of The Hunger Games.

The ethic implicit in these claims is profoundly unacceptable, but the likes of Sumption and Toby Young, plus some media presenters, feel able to make them. They represent a worldview that is not just indifferent to many, but that is a profound threat to large numbers of people. And that threat only grows. There is, of course, truth in the progression that starts ‘first they came for....’. That progression can start with claims like these at present.

We totter on the brink of extremism at present. Covid has presented an opportunity to those of such views that they seek to exploit. The universal right to be treated equally has to be proclaimed again, and again, without fear. There are no such things as ‘less valuable’ lives. Sumption is wrong. His worldview takes us in a very dangerous direction. It has to be called out. O’Brien did that. So do I. We cannot tolerate views that suggest we live in a fascist society.

What ‘Democracy’ Is Under Attack? Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/01/2021 - 2:37pm in


War, Politics, USA, News, america

To stop the exacerbation of Trumpism the talking heads are recommending internet censorship, regulations on media, new domestic terror laws, literally anything they can possibly think of except changing the conditions which gave rise to Trumpism.

The most imminent threat to US democracy is not Russia, nor fascist insurrectionists, but the fact that US democracy is entirely fictional.

Saying US democracy is being threatened is like saying Grinches are a critically endangered species.

The previous president intervened in the primary to appoint his right-hand man as his chosen successor. That successor will be installed in a five-day, star-studded celebration surrounded by a sea of barbed wire and heavily armed soldiers. What “democracy” is under attack, exactly?

No, the Capitol riot was not “karma” for America’s international coups and regime change interventions.

Karma would be the US actually reaping what it sows.

Karma would be the US government toppled and replaced with a foreign puppet regime, and millions of Americans killed.

Karma would be tens of millions of Americans displaced by widespread violence.

Karma would be the US becoming a failed state where people are again sold as slaves.

Karma would be nuclear bombs dropped on US cities.

Karma would be Americans starved to death by crushing sanctions.

Karma would be America’s forests soaked with Agent Orange.

Karma would be mass executions of Americans in sports stadiums.

Karma would be massacres of entire towns: men, women and children.

Karma would be foreign soldiers raping and killing civilians with impunity.

Karma would be foreign-backed extremists mutilating Americans to death and publicly displaying their corpses.

Karma for US interventionism would be for America to collapse and burn in chaos and torture.

That would be “karma”.

That would be the chickens coming home to roost.

I am not saying it would be a good thing if this happened. It most definitely would not.

I am saying the US must cease brutalizing the world.

We now know for a fact that monopolistic Silicon Valley megacorporations can be pressured by the plutocrat-controlled political/media class to silence political factions online. Good thing there’s no way this can possibly go wrong.

When you realize that corporations are America’s real government, the whole “it isn’t censorship if it’s a private company doing it” argument is seen for the joke that it is. It’s also completely specious, because the government is directly involved in the censorship.

Soon social media will just be an app that sends everything you say to the FBI and gives you regular notifications that the government is your friend, and then everyone will finally be happy.

Back before he was silenced Assange tweeted “The overwhelming majority of information is classified to protect political security, not national security.”

I think of this quote often.

The mass media have earned every bit of the contempt the public has for them. Every little bit of it.

Rightists suck at conspiracy analysis because their worldview requires an elite cabal planning and orchestrating all evil dynamics, whereas leftists understand that many (though not all) of those dynamics will unfold on their own in a system where human behavior is driven by profit-seeking. In situations where you are ideologically prohibited from blaming the obvious culprit capitalism, you’ll come up with all kinds of other wacky explanations.

The best most reliable way to accurately predict what will happen in a given situation is to ignore whatever laws, trends and dynamics everyone else is pointing at and just assume the most powerful people will find a way to get whatever it is they want somehow. Doesn’t mean elites always win, and it certainly doesn’t mean we should stop fighting. It’s just the most reliable way to accurately guess what will happen in a given situation, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Sectarian feuds in the online left always boil down to “the whole system is rigged against the people” lefties versus “we can work with the oligarchic empire to advance our interests” lefties.

The US empire has two faces: the plastic smiling one based in Hollywood, and the blood-spattered one based in DC, Arlington and Langley. If you live in wealthy western nations you’re presented with the former. If you live in the Middle East or the Global South you get the latter.

One of the weirdest things in my life these days is watching people enthusiastically arguing that they should receive less assistance from their government. Never until I began commenting on US politics was this ever a part of my life. The brainwashing there is out of this world.

If a political party always succeeds at advancing sick agendas and always fails at advancing healthy agendas, it’s because it only exists to advance sick agendas.

Victory for your revolutionary political goals won’t be a victory for the ego. If you are sincere about this, you want your marginalized viewpoint to become mainstream and mundane. You want your insight and understanding to become as common as grass. You can’t be in this for you.

A lot of revolutionary-minded types get a sense of coolness and specialness from their marginalized ideology. It makes them feel good to be uniquely right about things. But that attitude will actually get in the way if your goals are attained and your views become mainstream.

If you are sincere about this stuff and not just in it for egoic masturbation (many are), you can’t keep a lot of identity wrapped up in being the underdog, in being fringe and marginalized. Because the ultimate goal is to be the exact opposite.


Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, throwing some money into my tip jar on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of my sweet merchandise, buying my new book Poems For Rebels (you can also download a PDF for five bucks) or my old book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

Bitcoin donations:1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

‘Global Britain’ turns out to shrink the UK

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/01/2021 - 9:50am in

Although I enjoyed this, it comes amid worrying news that Palletways has joined DPD and DB Schenker in suspending shipments between the UK and the EU (including Ireland). It particularly hits home for me because I was such a regular customer of Palletways… Much more of this and Labour will win the next election –... Read more

ScoMo Spends The Morning Telling Colleagues That He Needs A Holiday From His Holiday

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/01/2021 - 7:01am in


Politics, holidays

Australian Prime Minister Scotty from Marketing has returned after his latest holiday and spent the morning walking around the office telling everyone that he encounters that he needs another holiday to recover from his latest holiday.

”It sounds like the PM had a pretty full on week,” said a government insider. ”You should see the photos – well, you probably will over the next week or so.”

”Even though it was just a holiday with Jen and the girls, he did take along his personal photographer to take a few staged happy snaps.”

When asked what was on the agenda for the PM this week, now that he’s back from holidays, the government insider said: ”Well, today he’ll catch up with everyone, see what they got up to over the break, and then, you know, he might go and have a chat to the chaps at Sky News.”

”It will probably be an early finish – maybe knock off at 3 or 4 and swing by his favourite restaurant, Engadine Maccas, for dinner.”

”Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and summon Craig Kelly. The PM is very keen to have a catch up with him and see how he’s doing.”

Mark Williamson


You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter @TheUnOz or like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/theunoz.

We’re also on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/theunoz

The (un)Australian Live At The Newsagency Recorded live, to purchase click here:


Conspiracy Theorists, Free Speech and Australian Politicians

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/01/2021 - 5:59am in



No need to be a wowser to insist that respect for truth cements civil society and that personal relationships, conduct in organizations and the implementation of governments’ policies depend on claims based on proven facts.

Exchange of truths contributes to trust, but if trust is absent, shared values, and mutual obligations slip away. When that happens says Zuboff, (The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, 2019) confusion, uncertainty and distrust enable abusive power to fill the social void.

Conspiracy Theorists

A void in the US has been filled with falsehoods. From claims that Barack Obama was not born in America, to Trump’s assertion that the 2020 Presidential election was rigged, conspiracy theorists have contributed to division and conflict.

Despite the absurdity of the theorists’ stories, millions swallow them. Trump claimed that an injection of bleach could be a cure for Covid. The QAnon theory said that Democrats, Hollywood, and a global elite promoted a paedophile ring commanded by Hillary Clinton from a Washington Pizza shop which was practising abduction, trafficking, torture, sexual abuse, and cannibalization of children.

Social media platforms facilitate opportunities to lie, and in that frenzied world, credibility depends on numbers of Twitter or Facebook followers so why bother about evidence? In the Trump nurtured deceits, self-promotion has become an alternative to the careful compilation of facts.

Australian Response

Commentary on US politics should not allow holier than thou assumptions about the Australian political scene. Prime Minister Morrison and Deputy PM McCormack have not condemned Trump’s encouragement of lying and violence. Unwilling to be held accountable for rorts which look like fraud, they also protect their own conspiracy theorists.

Against the conclusions of over fifty US judges that there was no fraud in the Presidential election, George Christensen claims the Biden victory was stolen. On Facebook, Craig Kelly has supported Trump remedies for Coronavirus, including the use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, even claiming there is a special place in hell for authorities who don’t authorize it.

On the violent invasion of the Capitol, Kelly argues that neo-Fascist and Marxists infiltrated Trump supporters, that leftist loyalists influenced the invasion of the Capitol and must be the real domestic terrorists.

In defence of these MPs, McCormack, the PM and Treasurer Frydenburg produce the lazy cliche that Australia is a free country, so Christensen and Kelly can say what they like. On the contrary, freedom of speech carries a responsibility to search for truth. It does not allow for lying, for crafting fantasy worlds let alone make statements easily interpreted as a license for violence.

Response to the Covid pandemic provides a lesson for those who think that freedom of speech is absolute. Facing a potentially fatal virus, citizens’ freedoms have been secured by lockdowns to prevent infections and thereby protect freedoms. The argument that restrictions interfere with individual freedom may have motivated protesters to demand ‘don’t wear masks’, but this implied ‘spread the virus, it’s a form of freedom.’

Assessing Freedom of Speech

Two criteria, the test of reasonableness and concern for public interest, set boundaries on freedom of speech.

Reasonableness asks for evidence for speakers’ claims. Were judges wrong about the outcome of the US election? Is there any evidence that so-called Marxists were the instigators of the invasion of the Capitol?

Lying fails the test of reasonableness. Like lying in the classroom or in the workplace, it is corrosive, and creates mistrust.

Public interest criteria presuppose a contribution to education about public wellbeing and respect for human rights. It is not in the public interest to make false claims about elections, to deny scientific evidence of global warming or collude in environmental destruction.

It is trite for Morrison to say that Australia is a free country, for Frydenburg to try to sound lofty by referring to Voltaire and for McCormack to say he’s against censorship.

McCormack’s utterances are also inaccurate and divisive. By comparing the right-wing thugs who invaded the US Capitol with protesters in the Black Lives Matter movement, he glosses over the massive racial divides which contribute to injustice in Australia and the US.

McCormack values individual rights and seems to advocate the privatization of speech. Instead, Australia desperately needs a political movement to advocate a language for humanity, for social equality and for humane governance.

The brilliant Turkish novelist and political commentator, Ece Temelkuram, (How To Lose A Country 2019), says if citizens do not spot trends which erode truths, human rights and political accountability, a country’s democratic traditions can be easily lost. She was speaking about Turkey, but her observations apply to every democracy.

Once anti-truth, anti-democratic forces gain momentum, a post-modern world arrives where everyone has their own version of truth, and the universals that have cemented societies – as in reliance on science, on respect for the rule of law and on ethics of responsibility – are discarded.

Freedom of speech is invaluable but not via freedom which ignores falsehoods, not the Trump, conspiratorial variety.