Politics

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Your Sigh Of Relief Is Grounded In Delusion: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/01/2021 - 2:32pm in

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Ahh at long last America is returning to normality: the hub of a globe-spanning empire which rings the planet with military bases and destroys any nation which disobeys it while propagandizing the entire world into supporting its murderousness, without rude tweets.

Biden’s inauguration will be a huge relief for people who aren’t actually affected by US government policy.

Americans want to believe Trump was uniquely evil among recent presidents because they want to believe their government will become significantly less evil when he leaves. This is delusional and harmful.

The only way to find Trump’s presidency remarkably awful is to (A) greatly diminish the scale of Bush and Obama’s crimes and (B) believe foreign lives don’t matter. Saying Trump was the worst president, even since the turn of this century, is saying that you’re a shitty person.

Trump was a US president of fairly average depravity surrounded by an ocean of influential narrative managers LARPing about treason and sedition for four years.

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So many Trumpers told me he’d free Assange. They were 100% certain Trump was going to get re-elected, drain the swamp, end the wars, and free Assange. He did none of these things. If this is you, please overhaul your worldview and drastically change your media consumption habits.

Arguing that Trump wanted to pardon Assange but Republicans threatened him is just saying Trump wanted to fight the establishment but the establishment told him no.

It’s so crazy how the State Department has been led by a man who is even more evil and disgusting than Trump, and now that man is leaving office without the mass media having given him any critical attention at all.

I haven’t yet figured out how so many Americans manage the cognitive balance of simultaneously (A) thinking their country is the center of the universe and (B) thinking it odd that foreigners would have opinions about their country.

Super excited for America to finally get rid of its racist corrupt right-wing asshole of a president, hopefully by sometime in the next four to eight years.

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It’s easy to applaud Martin Luther King Jr when he is dead, when he exists as a legend and you don’t have to meet any of his imperfections and controversies. If you want to know if you would have supported King back in his day, don’t look at King. Look at whether or not you support Julian Assange.

Julian Assange has provided many explosive revelations about the malfeasance of the powerful, but none so explosive as the revelation that the US and its allies will imprison and torture a journalist for exposing US war crimes.

Just tell the truth. Just tell the truth. You will never out-manipulate a manipulator, either in personal relationships or politics. You can’t “capitalize on” this or “leverage” that; they’ll beat you every time. In the battle against the manipulators, truth is our only weapon.

I see socialist groups get behind this or that mainstream liberal agenda like “Hey we can ride the momentum of this to socialist revolution!” No you can’t you sweet precious lamb. You’re swimming with sharks. They’ll take everything you put in and then let you have nothing.

When you’re not a manipulator it’s hard to understand how much better at manipulation a manipulator is than you. They’re SO much better. If you’re a truth teller then you need to drag the battle kicking and screaming into truth like a BJJ black belt taking the fight to the ground.

You’re not going to out-manipulate a globe-spanning empire that is backed by billionaires and powerful intelligence agencies. It will not happen. We make it a battle of truth versus truth, or we lose.

___________________________

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.

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A City Under Occupation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/01/2021 - 10:36am in

Tags 

Politics

Twenty-five thousand National Guard troops arrive in Washington, D.C., for Joe Biden's inauguration — two weeks after right-wing extremists violently stormed the Capitol.

The post A City Under Occupation appeared first on The Intercept.

The Biden-Harris Inauguration

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/01/2021 - 8:48am in

In this episode, Niki, Neil, and Natalia discuss President-Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. Here are some links and references mentioned during...

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Such special advisors…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/01/2021 - 8:16am in

I thought this worth signalling… I find it difficult to believe the number of special advisors Johnson retains – do they all equal one Dominic Cummings? Certainly one thing seems absolutely evident – Johnson finds it difficult to think for himself…... Read more

This is what ‘prospering mightily’ actually looks like

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/01/2021 - 7:37am in

For a few cheese exports – something I used to do: Austria– Meat, Cheese and foodstuffs containing animal ingredients, fish and fish products are prohibited.Belgium– Anything that requires veterinary control is prohibited therefore you cannot send here.Bulgaria– Can be shipped but additional Analysis and Quality Certificates required for customs.Croatia– Any shipment containing animal products are... Read more

Australia’s Covid-19 quarantining – an abrogation of federal responsibilities! There is no national plan

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/01/2021 - 6:41am in

Tags 

Health, Politics

Perhaps the most contentious issue of our Covid year is who is in charge of quarantining? With continuing outbreaks of Covid-19 linked to incoming travellers, Australians have reacted with astonishment that quarantining issues were not foreseen and planned for years ago. How did we end up where we are and what should be done about it?

It seems the handballing of quarantine to the states and territories by the federal government has some legitimacy about it. On that, we note that the eight jurisdictions agreed, with little complaint and with no legal challenge.

At the federal level, there has been no coordination of a national approach. Instead of helping the eight jurisdictions, the federal government has hindered. Worse, it shows no sign of long-term planning.

Overriding everything, however, is that the federal government is responsible for quarantine under the Constitution and while it may have effectively delegated those responsibilities to the states and territories, it should be held to account for all outcomes, including the costs of continuing lockdowns and deaths.

The meaning of quarantine for Australia in the Covid age

Let’s define quarantine as a state, period, or place of isolation in which people, animals or plants are placed due to concerns about exposure to transmittable diseases or invasive pests.

With Covid-19 we do not need to deal with animals or plants. However, that hardly helps simplify the discussion of the quarantine of humans in Australia.

John Hewson in the Sydney Morning Herald (14 January) wrote: “Quarantine is a clear national responsibility explicitly designated as such by S51 of the constitution.”

Peter Van Onselen in The Australian (25 July) wrote: “Simply put, the Australian Border Force is in charge of incoming arrivals, with the commonwealth given constitutionally articulated responsibility for quarantining. The Constitution, in section 51 (IX), lays out in black and white that the commonwealth, not the states, has oversight for quarantine. It is the basis for the Quarantine Act, which has not been legally challenged since 1908, including during the 1919 pandemic. We also now have the Biosecurity Act (2015), which provides extremely broad powers, and it mandates that commonwealth powers supersede those of the states.

Despite the emphatic nature of these statements, it is clear the federal government has abrogated responsibility for Covid-19 quarantine in Australia. The Coate Inquiry (into the Victorian coronavirus outbreak) has pointed to the need to clarify the roles of the federal and state and territory governments.

The federal government is in charge of all international arrivals – who, how many and where from. It is this power that has, in particular, been wielded carelessly and unfairly in regard to Covid-19.

The federal government is also in control of the many immigration detention centres around the country. These facilities have not been incorporated into the quarantine system.

Historical perspective of quarantine

Useful and extensive historical summaries are available from the ABS Year Book archives and from the Victorian Parliament. Both examine quarantining in Australia from the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney.

Settlers, convicts and soldiers were carriers of infectious diseases common at the time, including smallpox, cholera and typhoid. It is estimated that smallpox wiped out about 50% of the indigenous population.

Over time, the various colonies would handle quarantine independently. Quarantine centres such as at North Head and Point Nepean were established. By the time of Federation in 1901 it was well accepted that quarantine should be a federal responsibility. Thus, the Australian Constitution lists quarantine in the commonwealth’s legislative powers. Quarantine powers were conferred from the states to the commonwealth through the Quarantine Act (1908) and establishment of the Federal Quarantine Service in 1909.

However, conflicts between the commonwealth and the states about responsibilities for quarantine and health soon developed.

Australia’s control of the Spanish Flu epidemic (1918-19) involved a form of mass quarantining, with large numbers of returning troops being sent into isolation. Arrangements broke down, with each state following its own course of action, resulting in inconsistent policies on border closures. Spanish Flu ultimately infected about 40% of the population, killed about 15,000 and possibly 50% of some Indigenous communities.

At the end of the crisis, the commonwealth established a new department of health that was intended to be the focal point for pandemics and quarantine measures. However, over the next 100 years complacency led to lack of national planning.

Quarantine stations around the country were gradually decommissioned, and some specialty centres, such as Melbourne’s Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital, were closed or roles redefined. In the 1980s, the federal responsibilities for animal and plant quarantine were removed from the health department to the department responsible for agriculture and primary industry.

In the 20th century, after the Spanish flu, the major worldwide epidemics affecting Australia included polio, Asian flu and HIV/Aids.

In the early 21st century – that is, the past 20 years – the threats of SARS-Cov-1, MERS, Ebola, Zika and Swine flu (H1N1) were negligible or contained. With Swine flu, which did reach our shores, it seems nationwide cooperation for containing outbreaks worked effectively.

Despite unclear government responsibilities, Australia has a history of dealing with epidemics and pandemics with general success.

However, the loose arrangements between the commonwealth and state governments over quarantine in regard to health would be sorely tested with Covid-19 when the country would require mass quarantine for the first time since the Spanish flu.

How prepared were we for another health crisis?

The Victorian Parliament document says: “History also reminds us that pandemic outbreaks are often forgotten, despite the impacts they inflict on societies.”

We have been warned by experts that pandemics will increase in frequency and severity due to the growing global population and international travel, incursion of human settlements into wildlife habitat, live animal trade and modern livestock management practices.

This 2004 CSIRO report writes:

“Infectious diseases previously unknown in humans have been increasing steadily over the last three decades. More than 70 per cent of these emerging diseases are zoonotic in nature – passing from animals to people, for example influenzas from poultry or pigs…”

A 2004 report by the Chief Medical Officer also notes the potential for exotic viruses to spread around the world:

SARS reminds us that new diseases will continue to arise as infectious agents mutate and adapt to exploit new ecological opportunities. We cannot assume, as was widely trumpeted in the 1960s and 1970s, that we have conquered communicable diseases. No-one can predict the next emergency, although we can all be wise after the event.”

Since 2000, the world’s population has grown from 6.1 billion to 7.8 billion. Between 2000 and 2018 the number of international travellers per year doubled, while for the Asia-Pacific region it tripled. The number of international visitors to Australia was 4.9 million in 2000, reaching 8.6 million in 2019; the number of visitors from China went from 120,000 to more than 1.3 million.

Despite all these pointers to the likelihood of new pandemics and their potentially devastating consequences, Australia would be poorly prepared for Covid-19.

The Coate Inquiry noted that recommendations from a review after the H1N1 pandemic in 2009 to clarify the roles and responsibilities of all governments for the management of people in quarantine, both at home and in other accommodation, during a pandemic was not undertaken.

Important legislation, though, was passed in 2015 when the commonwealth Biosecurity Act 2015 replaced the Quarantine Act of 1908. This summary in Wikipedia explains how it is jointly governed and administered by two federal departments, the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. The powers are explained in this article in The Conversation. Prior to 2015 many of those powers weren’t available.

The Attorney General on 3 March 2020 stated that “the biosecurity laws allow the government to do a range of things based on the best medical advice from the chief medical officer … there are a range of powers that are available that were designed specifically to handle something as serious as a pandemic. … many of the orders require very close cooperation between the Chief Medical Officer of the commonwealth and medical offices in the states … it’s very much a cooperative set of circumstances. And the states have their own variations of these laws.”

However, it is one thing to have the legislative power but it is another matter to be properly prepared and ready to use it, and use it with the intent of true cooperation.

Further, despite this powerful legislation, a major flaw seems to be that none of the existing commonwealth or state pandemic plans dealt with mandatory, mass quarantine.

The Coate Inquiry again:

it would be unfair to judge Victoria’s lack of planning for a mandatory quarantining program given the commonwealth, itself, had neither recommended nor developed such a plan.

Nor should the other seven jurisdictions be so judged.

A PM with no national quarantine plan

By mid-March 2020, international arrival numbers were slowing down, but still more than 25,000 a day. By late March, Australia was approaching 4,000 infections, overwhelmingly overseas acquired or sourced, with typically two to four new infections arriving each plane load.

It became an increasing problem that some returned travellers who had tested positive were not self-isolating as directed. Something needed to be done to stem the growth of community transmission.

The National Cabinet met on 27 March.

The PM arrived with full control of international arrivals and federal detention centres, with his own extensive experience in border control and with biosecurity legislation with extremely broad commonwealth powers that superseded those of the states.

However, as reported by Paul Bongiorno, the states were shocked when the national leader arrived at the meeting with no quarantine plan.

It seems the state and territory leaders had no choice but to devise their own plan. The meeting would result in two major decisions, apparently resulting from a proposal by the premiers of NSW and Victoria, the two most populous and vulnerable states:

  • As of 28 March 2020 all incoming travellers would be required to undertake a 14 day supervised hotel quarantine period.
  • The eight states and territories were required to run the hotel quarantine system.

The system was to be operational in 36 hours.

At the time of the meeting there were about 7,000 arrivals per day, though trending downwards. It is estimated that the number in quarantine after the first 14 days would peak at about 20,000.

The Coate Inquiry noted that lack of planning and such short notice was a most unsatisfactory situation from which to develop such a complex and high-risk program.

All (or most) arriving passengers have been quarantined since that time. From the National Review of Hotel Quarantine it seems that by 28 August 2020, some 130,000 had undertaken hotel quarantine with approximately 96,000 international cases and 34,000 (or 26%) domestic cases. Those numbers would be much larger by now.

A PM who controls international arrivals

The commonwealth would control the number of arrivals but would not, it seems, offer access to or establish remote centres for quarantining.

Mid-September the state and territory leaders learned, without consultation with them, that there would be more arrivals from overseas. The ABC reported that the Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the number of people allowed into Australia each week would increase by 2,000 by the following Friday, even though the Government was yet to get agreement from states that would have to house the extra people in hotel quarantine. He said “… states would effectively be forced into accepting the arrivals into their quarantine systems, as the decision was set in stone… The planes will land with people on them, and they’ll be arriving”.

This decision was not a request but an order.

The Prime Minister, through Border Force, has control of all passengers into Australia, including disembarkation, immigration and finally egress from customs. Effectively the federal government has been dumping arriving passengers into airports for the state health authorities to look after. Flights were allowed to continue from major hotspots such as the USA, the UK and India without special constraints, increasing the chance of infected arrivals.

While state and territory leaders possibly thought they could manage certain numbers, they might not have appreciated that the hotel numbers could be unreasonably raised any time. And perhaps they thought that hotel quarantine would be a temporary measure while the federal government worked on alternative arrangements.

Hewson wrote: “A clear acceptance of its responsibility would have seen the Morrison government establish quarantine centres around Australia for all incoming arrivals.” Despite using Christmas Island early in the pandemic, no similar federal offer seems to have been made. Except for Howard Springs in the NT, the states and territories have been stuck with CBD based systems that they might have to operate for some years to come.

Curiously, in 2015 the federal government opened the Mickleham animal quarantine station near Melbourne airport. A state-of-the-art facility costing $380 million, it is described as one of the nicest animal quarantine facilities in the world”.

In relation to securing our borders and quarantine, Onselen wrote in July that these “are the responsibilities of the national government, not the states”, that failure occurred ”… once power was abdicated to them”, that the “fingerprints of failure by the commonwealth are nowhere to be seen, leaving state governments to wear the odium for mistakes made”.

Throughout the whole COVID-19 process Morrison has been a follower, not a leader, with the New Zealand PM and our state and territory leaders, scientists and health experts showing him the way, all the way.

The federal government’s most obvious contribution has been to berate, target or praise selected jurisdictions in a highly partisan way.

What needs to be done in the short and long term

Can our ‘cobbled-together’ system of hotel quarantine prevent a serious third wave somewhere in Australia during 2021? Can Australia survive another pandemic without a national coordinated plan?

We should not assume vaccines are the solution

There are too many unanswered questions about the current Covid-19 vaccines: how effective, how long for, can the vaccinated still become infectious and spread the virus, will an annual shot be required, will vaccinated travellers still have to quarantine …?

We have seen that the science, and the virus itself, is constantly evolving and we cannot assume Australia will be able to ‘go back to normal’ by mid-2021. While new highly transmissible variants of the virus are appearing, will more alarming variants appear?

The Age is reporting that Health Department boss and former federal chief medical officer Brendan Murphy predicts Australia will spend most of this year with overseas border restrictions still in place despite a vaccine rollout, and that even if a lot of the population is vaccinated, it is not known whether that will prevent transmission of the virus. He expects quarantine will continue for some time.

Minimise the number of infected individuals arriving in Australia

It defies logic that the state and territories strive to rid their communities and quarantine facilities of coronavirus, with huge impacts on the lives of the citizens, while the federal government lands more on top of them on a daily basis. The federal government needs to find ways to stop infectious people boarding flights. The Australian Tennis Open is currently under a cloud.

We learn that international flight crews have been allowed to follow their own rules, and that the states – rather than Border Force – have had to negotiate with individual airlines. The Department of Home Affairs approach to air crews was simply advisory, not mandatory, with words such as “advised to” rather than “must”.

All our states and territories, even NSW, have shown that they can eliminate community transmission. Most Australians are keen to get back to that position, so are becoming less tolerant of outbreaks linked to international arrivals.

Quarantine sites must be remote from population centres and be used in the long term

The CBD-based system has proven to leak unpredictably, with immense consequences, and should be phased out.

The risks of hotel quarantining outbreaks might be independent of city size, but the cost of lockdown and tracing is greatly accentuated in Melbourne and Sydney due to their bigger areas and populations and higher densities, with greater flow-on costs to their economies and the entire country. Sydney has been accepting about 50% of all arrivals which magnifies risk even more.

The many options include upgrading federal detention centres, mining camps and tourist resorts. These quarantine centres would employ well-paid FIFO/DIDO staff on site. Outside pandemics, these specialised facilities can be used for other purposes.

The costs of setting up remote centres need to be balanced against the extraordinary ongoing disruption and impacts caused by local lockdowns and border closures, including the costs of testing tens of thousands each time there is an outbreak and having to extend support such as JobSeeker.

After 100 years we need a national quarantine plan

The warnings are that there will be more frequent and possibly more dangerous pandemics.

We need to overhaul federal and state planning and coordination for pandemics, in particular mass quarantining.

Had proper planning been in place some years ago we would have experienced a much more cost-effective, humane and cohesive approach.

Given the warning of future diseases and the rapidity with which the world is changing due to human activity, we need to act as if another pandemic is just around the corner. We should begin this process and start to implement it even as we continue to manage and mop up from the current pandemic and begin a vaccination program. This is a task for the commonwealth and will place us in a far better position next time.

We need to learn from our mistakes, anticipate the worst, and work together as a nation.

PS On 18 January, 7.30 included a report about who is responsible for our quarantine system.

What should Australia want from a Biden National Security Strategy? Avoiding war in Asia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/01/2021 - 6:10am in

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Politics

Australia should hope for a major shift away from President Trump’s strategy but not an uncritical return to President Obama’s 2015 version. For a start a new NSS should reposition the US as a less crusading nation, one more accepting of difference

It is easy to forget that a central theme of Donald Trump’s project was to oppose, negate or reverse Barack Obama’s legacy. This is nowhere more clear than when the 2017 and 2015 National Security Strategies are compared.

However, it would not be good for Australia, or the world, if the Biden Administration failed to notice the big shifts in the strategic environment over the past four years, and sought to resurrect Obama’s strategic vision.

Not all, or even most, of the changes in the strategic environment have been the result of Trump’s policies. While the pandemic has had some relatively minor direct strategic impacts during 2020, the coronavirus also has revealed some disturbing realities that go to the heart of why Biden should not seek simply to revive Obama’s strategy.

If stability and a workable international system are the outcomes the Biden Administration seeks, and Australia should hope they are, then three deeply interwoven issues need to be given serious attention. They are leadership, democracy and sovereignty.

It is already clear that Biden’s planned foreign policy is centred on the belief that there is a role for US leadership in the world, a position the US once filled, and which can be recaptured. To “once more place America at the head of the table”. The link back to Obama is undeniable. The 2015 NSS spoke of “an undeniable truth — America must lead” and said the “question is never whether America should lead, but how we lead”. The 2015 NSS concludes “American leadership in this century, like the last, remains indispensable”.  If ever any of this was true, it is nonsense in today’s reality.

Among the developments that a future NSS must address is that democracy has been demonstrated to be just one option, and not necessarily the teleologically inevitable one, among a number of successful governance models. Outside of the Anglosphere and Western European states, democracy is not as venerated as might be expected.

Throughout the pandemic, people across the world have been able to observe the competence of a number systems of government as nation’s leaders tried to protect their citizens through management of the spread of the virus and then the acquisition, distribution and administration of the vaccines. It will be evident to many observers that China seems to have been more effective. In addition, among the so-called values-sharing like-minded nations, the liberal values touted by many democratic leaders quickly gave way to actions more common to authoritarian regimes.

What might a new NSS look like in practice?

It means accepting that universal rule-based regimes are often counterproductive and arrangements based on regional and geographical solutions can bring about better outcomes. America could commit in the NSS to facilitating a settlement in the South China Sea that separated the strategic and economic issues by abandoning the application of UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). By framing the issue in terms of regional states rights to assert UNCLOS claims to potential resources in their exclusive economic zones (EEZs), and then conflating those claims with the great power strategic competition, no resolution is possible.

A settlement that recognises China’s legitimate security interests, and accepts the presence of Chinese military assets on the disputed Islands, but which is not associated with EEZ claims, could form the basis for easing tensions. A settlement negotiated between regional claimants which agreed on sharing or jointly exploiting the South China Sea, including new arbitration and collaborative institutions. A separate accompanying agreement on force numbers and deployments between the major powers based on legitimate interests, and not confrontation, might just avoid an Asian war.

The Biden NSS could accord the same level of respect and commitment to the sovereignty of all other nations that it expects in relation to its own. Admittedly that would be difficult for the US as it would mean rejecting American exceptionalism. Yet, notions that self-awarded leadership or democracy promotion licenses the US to interfere in the affairs of other states must be rebuffed by the Biden Administration.

The US should be prepared to renounce the use of the dominance of the US dollar in global finance as a weapon, and in particular give up the use of secondary economic sanctions. The NSS should accept that the dominance of the US dollar does not give the US the right to contravene the sovereignty of third party nations to bilateral disputes in which America is engaged.

Accommodation and pragmatism should be the overall tone of any new NSS. Rhetoric about shared values can no longer drive relationships, not just because it is no longer clear what are the values of the US, but because there are few shared values, at least shared liberal values. That India, Turkey, Egypt, and Sri Lanka and other nations hold elections doesn’t mean they share values among themselves or with the US or Australia. That Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia might share some democratic values doesn’t mean they share strategic interests with the US and Australia.

Biden’s intention to “host a global Summit for Democracy to renew the spirit and shared purpose of the nations of the Free World” is anachronistic. It is a facile Cold War idea that doesn’t accord with the contemporary complexities. It is about an agenda that the changing geopolitical and strategic relativities has made redundant. Australia should encourage Biden to view the world in a far less Manichean framework.

A new NSS that repositions the US as a more normal and less crusading nation, and as a nation more accepting of difference would be a huge plus. Putting aside emotional attachments to a legacy world order designed for another time would also be constructive. Australia should hope a new NSS is focused on avoiding war in Asia.

Poor Fellow, my country, indeed: Trump’s Australian fans.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/01/2021 - 6:05am in

Tags 

Politics

Most of the democratic world agrees that the scenes in the Capitol were terrifying. But what of Australia’s democracy? A government obsessed with secrecy, faux threats to security, MPs in the grip of the neoliberal sickness, and some who appear in thrall to the failed US President.

The scenes in the US Capitol might still lead to criminal charges against the President; they have already caused him to be impeached, for a genuinely “unprecedented” second time.

The fact that the crowd was incited by Trump is seemingly settled, and politicians from around the world have condemned both the actions of the murderous mob and those of the ‘Instigator in Chief’.

The political leaders include Boris Johnson, Nicola Sturgeon, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Justin Trudeau, Jacinda Ardern and even Vladimir Putin. They all condemned the revolt, but in good old Australia we weren’t that concerned, it seems.

While Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed his “distress”, he could not bring himself to connect the actions of the mob with President Trump. That is a disgraceful omission for a democratically elected leader, considering that Trump’s goal was to incite a violent insurrection, with the possible outcome of seizing power, perhaps permanently. Trump is still the “Commander in Chief” of the most powerful nation on earth.

Some MPs thought Twitter was more at fault

Michael McCormack, acting Prime Minister last week, was asked whether he condemned Trump’s actions, but went on to say that “violence is violence and we condemn it in all its forms” and then compared the Black Lives Matter demonstrations with the attack on the Capitol. He did not want to be drawn on who was to blame.

Liberal MPs Craig Kelly, Dave Sharma and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Nationals MP George Christensen and McCormack are among government members who have condemned the “silencing” of Trump.

Is this because they believe the right to incite violence is more important than the competing right of having ones vote counted and not overturned by a mob of illiterate thugs? These ‘luminaries’ also seem woefully ignorant of the exceptions to the First Amendment. These are as follow:

Categories of speech that are given lesser or no protection by the First Amendment (and therefore may be restricted) include obscenity, fraud, child pornography, speech integral to illegal conduct, speech that incites imminent lawless action, speech that violates intellectual property law, true threats and commercial speech such as advertising.

Why would Morrison not condemn Trump?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has always been embarrassingly taken in by Trump’s ‘braggadocio’ (an apt term, meaning boastful or arrogant behaviour). Morrison has stopped well short of condemning the President, an extraordinary omission considering Trump’s goal to overthrow the results of a democratic election and retain his power.

A complicating factor is that much of Trump’s electoral success has been built on the white evangelical vote. Footage of charismatic Christians ‘laying hands on’ Trump in the White House may be viewed in Australia as quaint, but is Morrison ‘blinded by the light’ when it comes to Trump? We can only hope he does not see Trump as “the chosen one”, as Trump has been described in the US.

Well after Trump lost the election, he awarded Morrison a Legion of Merit for leadership. Presumably, not for tackling global warming.

So John Howard gets a medal, and we go to war in Iraq. Scott Morrison gets a medal, and we defend Trump’s right to attempt to overturn an election.

Trump has been exposed over the past four years as a violent sexual predator, an adulterer, a white supremacist, an anti-Semite, a religious bigot, a homophobe, a fraudulent businessman, a liar, a thief, an environmental vandal and a putative dictator, and yet many of our elected representatives appear to support his right to invalidate elections and undermine the rule of law.

The death and destruction he caused by mishandling the pandemic are yet to be calculated, but the fallout will continue for years, I suspect. Will he ever be brought to book? Maybe not. Again, where were Australia’s leaders as he touted dangerous and stupid solutions? If you were Craig Kelly, it was shoulder to shoulder.

These matters set Trump apart from most of humanity, and it is worth thanking fate for his incompetence and lack of care for detail. The US is still a democratic republic, and we can only hope Joe Biden can repair some of the damage.

But what of the state of our own democracy? A government obsessed with secrecy, faux threats to our security, unaccountable, most of its members in the grip of the neoliberal sickness, and some who appear to be in thrall to the departing, failed US President. How many times must we utter “Poor Fellow, my country”? It might be time for Australians to actually stop, and think. This is serious.

Reverse the decline in democracy through regular maintenance

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/01/2021 - 5:57am in

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First, eliminate career politicians. Extend parliamentary terms to five years and limit MPs to two terms. This allows plenty of time for them to try to implement their advocacy programs and ensure parliament is constantly refreshed with new ideas and policies.

Michael Lyon’s excellent article in P&I contained the suggestion by David Runciman “that contemporary representative democracy is tired, vindictive, paranoid, self-deceiving, clumsy and frequently ineffectual”. He asks: “Why not replace it?” Runciman suggests that pragmatic 21st-century authoritarianism may be an alternative to contemporary democracy.

Do we merely concede that some form of “authoritarian” democracy is the necessary outcome of the present malaise?

Perhaps the following observation provides an alternative to “a 21st century authoritarianism”.

‘Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…’
Winston S Churchill, 11 November 1947

Churchill’s quote by inference suggests that “Democracy”, like any other form of social or political organisation, is constantly in need of maintenance.

Any moderately diligent political observer is left in no doubt that “Democracy” in the form we imagine it exists has been in serious decline around the world for much of this century.

While the causes are analysed endlessly, there appears little evidence to suggest any conversation is under way to seriously explore how to maintain a system that, in general terms, has served us well. Surely the decline in democracy is at least in part due to the failure to apply necessary maintenance.

To this end, perhaps some ideas that may provoke such a conversation:

First, how do we define “Democracy”?

Do we take the view offered by Tom Nichols, Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College:

“Democracy is meant to be the vehicle by which an informed electorate could choose other people to represent them, come up to speed on important questions, and make decisions on the public’s behalf”.  (Foreign Affairs Magazine March/April 2017)

Such a definition suggests that politics must again be reimagined as “Public Service”. Hence the first logical objective would seem to be the elimination of “career politicians”.

A practical starting point to achieving this end could be to extend parliamentary terms to five years and to preclude any politician serving more than two terms. This would provide adequate time for a suitably motivated candidate to attempt to have implemented the programs upon which they campaign for election, and also ensure the constant renewing of parliament with new members, ideas and policies.

  • Replace currently appointed “staffers” with qualified tenured public servants to aid in the provision of professional evidence-based advice to parliamentary representative.
  • Elections and the basic financing required to maintain political parties to be funded from the public purse. Thus, all political donations would be banned.
  • Any lobbyist meeting with a member of parliament, must have such a meeting minuted and placed on the appropriate government website daily.

Such proposals would be but the beginning of a thought-provoking, challenging and complex approach to maintaining a system of “Democracy” that would fit well within the thoughts of Churchill.

No doubt such ideas will be regarded as the fantasies of an idealist, but it may be instructive to recall.

While Keynesian economics dominated post-war societies, the neoliberal philosophies espoused by the Mont Pelerin Society founded in 1947 by Fredrich von Hayek were initially regarded largely as outlier academic theories with little relevance to the real world. That society worked tirelessly promoting their ideas within universities and think tanks until the 1970s, when circumstances, combined with a few strong leaders, enabled their philosophies to be adopted and become dominant in most world societies for more than 4o years.

It was Thomas Henry Huxley who remarked that it is the fate of a new scientific concept to begin as heresy and end as orthodoxy, and that transformation is not restricted to the ideas of science”. (The Year Book of the Carnegie Institution of Washington for 1969-1970)

Thomas Kuhn’s book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions popularised the term “paradigm shift”.  Kuhn (1922–1996) said that paradigm change becomes necessary when the previous paradigm becomes so full of holes and patchwork “fixes” that a complete overhaul is necessary.

With the continuing decline in democracy perhaps it is time to pursue a “new paradigm”, even if it entails analysing what today are regarded as “heresies”.

How Murdoch, Abeles twisted the arm of the Hawke Government to help Ansett at the expense of Qantas. (Edited and reposted from 1.1.2019))

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/01/2021 - 5:45am in

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Rupert Murdoch repeatedly says that he has never asked a prime minister for anything. That is quite brazen. I know, from personal experience, that this claim is just not true.

I was the intermediary when Rupert Murdoch asked new Prime Minister Whitlam in late 1972 that he be appointed Australian High Commissioner to the UK.

Then there was the time that Murdoch, in association with Peter Abeles, extracted aviation concessions from governments. In 1988 Murdoch and Abeles had a business partnership in Ansett Airlines. I was then CEO of Qantas.

The following is an account  from my autobiography Things you Learn Along the Way, published in 1999: see pp267

In Qantas we were never impressed with Ansett Airline’s business performance after years of living comfortably in a highly regulated domestic airline regime, but we took our hats off to the political clout that Sir Peter Abeles and Rupert Murdoch, major shareholders, had with the Hawke Government. Hawke and Abeles also had a remarkably close personal relationship.

We saw major benefits in merging Qantas and Australian Airlines. Linking international and domestic services would provide an improved service to customers. It would enhance our marketing, spread our costs and lead to a substantial improvement in the utilisation of aircraft, particularly as most Australian Airline aircraft were idle at night. Profits could be lifted substantially. But the merger was always stymied by the Government’s support for Ansett, which saw a merged Qantas-Australian Airlines as a strong competitor. At Qantas we facetiously called Ansett the ‘government’s airline’. We were the public airline.

One episode particularly alarmed me about the influence that Ansett had on the Government’s aviation policy. I made extensive notes at the time, which I quote from below.

In March 1988, we put to Minister Gareth Evans a proposal for a merger of Qantas, Australian Airlines and Air New Zealand in what became known as the ‘tricycle’. We knew that the New Zealand Government was interested in privatisation of Air New Zealand. Both governments were also committed to closer economic relations, and a single aviation market covering both Australia and New Zealand was inevitable and desirable. Further, a carrier with the combined capacity of Qantas, Australian and Air New Zealand would be a stronger competitor against the mega carriers on the Pacific, United and American Airlines. The tricycle was also, we believed, a way of getting the Australian Government off the privatisation hook. Our proposal envisaged that there could be a public float of the new merged entity, hopefully in the first quarter of 1989. Under our proposal,  Ansett would operate on the Tasman and so link its services in Australia and New Zealand.

Evans was very enthusiastic about the tricycle, but he found it hard going. In all important matters involving aviation, the views of Sir Peter Abeles and Rupert Murdoch were influential with the Government. We didn’t speak directly to Abeles or to Murdoch. The Government was the shareholder. Government policy was involved and that was not for us to negotiate. But Evans kept us briefed on discussions. I sensed his growing frustration about intervention by his ministerial seniors, Hawke and Keating.

The only legal and commercial leverage Ansett had was the domestic two-airline agreement which did not expire for another two years, in October 1990. In our view, that could be managed without real difficulty.

At the first round of discussions Evans had with Ansett, Abeles expressed major reservations about the tricycle proposal. He was particularly concerned about competition on the Tasman. Having worked comfortably in a regulated domestic system, he wanted similar arrangements on the Tasman, shared capacity. Qantas would have to withdraw capacity on the Tasman so that Ansett would have less competition. During the debriefing Evans gave us, we pointed out that it would be bad public policy to extend the regulated domestic capacity controls to the Tasman. Regulated domestic aviation was coming to an end, so why extend it to the Tasman? But Evans was adamant that that was what he wanted: ‘It is as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. ‘We were told to produce a formula to make regulation work on the Tasman. We told him that we could do that but reiterated that it seemed bad public policy…

Evans told us that Bill Kelty was briefed on the tricycle. He wasn’t opposed to it but had said that there ‘wasn’t sufficient in the proposal for Peter Abeles’. Paul Keating also got involved. At one meeting with Evans in Sydney, we had to leave the room so that he could take a phone call from Keating on the tricycle. On our return, Evans described the situation: ‘Paul Keating said that there had to be enough in the arrangement to get the support of Murdoch and Abeles.’ It was very clear from Evans that it was Murdoch, not Abeles on the Ansett side, who was now the prime negotiator.

The next concession made to Ansett was that the tricycle would not be allowed to operate its B747s on domestic routes in Australia. That would be too competitive for Ansett. The final crunch was that the tricycle could not operate its B767s either, despite the fact that Ansett had B767s on domestic routes itself.

After the B767 rebuff we said to Evans that, as far as we were concerned, the tricycle was off; too many concessions had to be made to Ansett. The Qantas chairman Jim Leslie queried with Evans after one round of concessions why he made the concessions ‘without talking to us about it’. Evans said, ‘RUPERT WAS ONLY IN TOWN FOR TWO DAYS SO I HAD TO MAKE A DEAL.’

There would have been problems getting the agreement of the New Zealand Government and Air New Zealand to the tricycle, but it was necessary to clarify the Australian position before approaching the New Zealanders. It was disturbing to see a very attractive proposition being derailed to protect Ansett. I made my views very clear to Evans. He warned me not to go public.

I had kept Dr Peter Wilenski, head of the Department of Transport and Communications, informed of what was happening. At the end I recall him saying, ‘at least we have established one thing; a point beyond which the Government will not go to oblige Murdoch and Abeles’. It was, he said, ‘a dismal example of political power ahead of public interest’.

Together with Leslie I reported to the Qantas Board at a special meeting within a day or two of what had happened on the tricycle. I was conscious of what Gareth Evans had said to me about not saying anything publicly but I thought it was necessary to outline to the board my concerns. After the meeting and within an hour, Evans rang me. He had obviously been briefed by a board member about what I had said and reiterated to me not to go public and that I should be careful about what I said on the subject.

In my final note on the subject on 15 April 1988, I noted ‘the demands of Abeles/Murdoch and the Government’s willingness to concede was the reason for the collapse of the three-way merger. Senator Evans acknowledged that this was the case.’

On the same day I had a discussion with Ted Harris, chairman of Australian Airlines. My note for file summarized our discussion.

I outlined to Ted Harris the events that had led to the scrapping of the three-way merger. Although he did not know all the details he said that my outline was quite consistent with his knowledge of events. He said that cronyism and deals, regardless of the public interest, was the driving factor in public life in Australia. There was no point in being too idealistic.

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