Month: November 2014

Wheels are falling off as Abbott careers to year’s end

Illustration: Eric Lobbecke

TONY Abbott is desperate to distinguish himself from Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. Instead he wants to mould himself in the image of John Howard — a leader he rightly admires, even if I suspect privately Howard has been less than impressed by the job the Prime Minister is doing.

So far, however, Abbott’s government more closely resembles the dysfunction of the Labor line-ups he fought so hard to defeat.

The PM wouldn’t want to talk about removing barnacles too often, as he did in the partyroom this week. After all, his deep unpopularity and predilection for listening to his office’s advice rather than that that of his parliamentary team are the biggest ­barnacles weighing down the Coalition ship of state.

Abbott would do well to remember his “team” isn’t featuring in an episode of The West Wing; rather, it is operating within a Westminster parliamentary system in which Abbott is merely a first among equals.

Partyroom meetings can be humbling for politicians who are starting to believe their own talking points. After a week of strutting the world stage, Abbott was brought down to earth on Tuesday in a meeting with his colleagues. But was he listening?

When a marginal seat backbencher such as Craig Laundy — who holds a seat the Liberals had never won before last year’s federal election — uses the partyroom to tell the PM “people don’t like verbal gymnastics”, in relation to the denials of the undeniable cuts to ABC funding, the worst response Abbott could give was the exact one that he did: “There’s been no verbal gymnastics,” Abbott responded.

A Liberal and a National — a member of the House of Representatives and a senator — had already called out the stupidity of the PM in denying something he promised in front of a television camera. South Australia’s Rowan Ramsey politely had a go at the PM when entering Parliament House on Tuesday morning. John Williams did it the night before on my program on Sky News.

Does Abbott think his own party­room is full of fools? He certainly treated them that way in his responses to concerns about his performance. It is bad enough for the leader of a political party to treat the public that way, as Abbott has been doing by denying that he broke an election commitment during question time debates.

The strangest moment of the week came when Abbott, in trying to defend himself against accusations that he hadn’t lived up to the words he uttered previously, evoked the memory of Wayne Swan failing to live up to his repeated promises to deliver a surplus budget. I’m not sure the PM particularly elevated himself by liken­ing his performance to that of a much-pilloried former treasurer.

Parliamentarians want Abbott to admit that he has broken the promise, so that he can move on to explaining why doing so was necessary. The week started with complete denial — stonewalling Labor questions on the subject. By Tuesday afternoon, despite thumbing his nose at Laundy’s comments that morning, Abbott at least was admitting that he uttered the “no cuts to the ABC or SBS” words the night before the election last year. It wasn’t much of an admission, given the camera was rolling when he said them. The previous denials were getting to the point where the PM was starting to be mocked — dangerous territory for a political leader.

But Abbott couldn’t bring himself to take the all-important next step and admit the cuts consti­tuted a broken promise. Why? Because his office is telling him that to do so would give Labor footage for attack ads in a campaign. This is despite the responsible minister, Malcolm Turnbull, owning up to Abbott’s broken promise. Saying sorry is always easier when someone else does it for you.

If the PM’s office were so concerned about attack ads for broken promises being used against Abbott, it should have advised him not to define himself by a truth-in- politics mantra when unpicking Gillard for her pledge of “no carbon tax under a government I lead”. Or if doing so was a neces­sary evil to win the election last year, then sticking to commitments should have been the No 1 priority for government.

Privately, members of the real Team Abbott (not his office but his parliamentary line-up, including his frontbench) have long criticised their leader’s decision to play the “rule out” game on SBS the night before the election. It gave Labor the same footage Gillard gave Abbott when she appeared on Network Ten on the eve of the 2010 election. It is a delicious irony.

But nothing can be done to reverse that state of affairs now. At issue instead is how Abbott lifts himself and the government out of a quagmire of his own making. I’ll tell you how he won’t do it: by continuing to deny the undeniable; by defending a defence minister who has said he wouldn’t trust Australian shipbuilders to build a canoe when they are completing three destroyers for him; by refusing to reshuffle his frontbench as Rudd refused to do in his first term because he thinks leaving dead wood in ministerial positions avoids the appearance of chaos; by maintaining a centralised command-and-control structure where loyalty to Abbott’s office sidekicks matters more than ability; or by letting his office leak to the media an intention to dump the Medicare co-payment, only to then announce that it is looking at passing the policy via regulations instead of legislation.

Misleading journalists is almost as bad as misrepresenting exchanges with them. And a government should always be prepared to put legislation it ideologically believes in before parliament, even if the Senate rejects the proposed laws.

Labor made the mistake of withdrawing legislation it thought would be defeated in parliamentary votes. There is nothing wrong with Abbott’s government putting its legislation before a Senate that knocks it out.

A good government can sell difficult policies. Howard’s government did it when amending Paul Keating’s industrial laws in his first term, and when legislating the GST in its second term. The Hawke and Keating governments did it ahead of multiple elections they won in the 1980s and 90s, all while modernising the Australian economy.

The political times in which we live require governments to embrace difficult decisions to set Australia up for the Asian century. Reform and free trade must be understood, sold to voters and ultimately legislated.

All the good work done by Trade Minister Andrew Robb in securing multiple free trade agreements won’t matter politically for the Abbott government if the PM can’t get his act together.

After little more than a year as Prime Minister, the question is already being asked: is Abbott up to the job?

Déjà Vu in Jerusalem? In the latest round of violence, the Israeli government has been rebuked by its own security chief.

 Neve Gordon November

Israeli soldier in Hebron

There is a feeling of déjà vu as we witness the events currently unfolding in Jerusalem. Yet, like all déjà vus, some things are fundamentally different. The latest round of violence occurred on Wednesday, when a Palestinian teenager was critically wounded by police gunfire in East Jerusalem. On Tuesday, two Palestinians wielding meat cleavers, an ax and a gun murdered five people in a synagogue—four of them while praying, along with a police officer who tried to save them—before they were shot dead by an Israeli policeman. A day earlier, a Palestinian bus driver was found hanged in his bus, and while the Israeli pathologists claimed he had committed suicide, the Palestinian pathologist disagreed, maintaining that he had been murdered.

While these were just the most recent casualties in the Holy City, it is crucial to remember that other structural forms of violence directed against its Palestinian residents have been deployed without restraint over the past weeks. Jewish settlers have embarked on yet another round of expansionist real estate schemes in Arab East Jerusalem, taking over Palestinian houses. Simultaneously, Palestinian neighborhoods in the city have been blockaded, restricting the movement of thousands of residents, as the Israeli government decided yet again to build new apartment units on expropriated Palestinian land. The old British Mandatory practice of demolishing homes belonging to the families of suspected terrorists has been reinstituted as a form of deterrence. And, perhaps most importantly, Members of the Knesset and right-wing groups have launched a concerted campaign to nullify the existing status quo on the Temple Mount—whereby Jews pray at the Wailing Wall and Muslims at the Haram al-Sharif—by allowing Jews to assert their sovereignty over this sacred Muslim site.

This last bit is crucial for understanding one of the alarming transformations taking place in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One might recall that the second intifada erupted immediately after Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the Haram al-Sharif compound in late September 2000. At the time, Palestinian demonstrators hurled stones at Israeli police, who fired back tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets. Demonstrations rapidly spread to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and it took several years and thousands of fatalities before Israel managed to quell the popular uprising.

This time around, events are influenced by other theaters of violence in the Middle East. Put differently, the nationalist discourse of Sharon—as well as Yasir Arafat—is now being successfully hijacked by a religious rhetoric. Members of ISIS are threatening to smash all national borders until they reach Jerusalem, while in our neck of the woods, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is invoking religious tropes to condemn Israeli efforts to change the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites in the hope of garnering support among a constituency that has become more religious over the years.

Naftali Bennett, the right-wing economy minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet, retorts by calling Abbas “a terrorist because he said that Jews are contaminating the Temple Mount.” Bennett and his allies in government are thus playing into fears of Muslim fundamentalism in the West, even as they present Jewish fundamentalism as innocuous.
This transformation is dangerous not necessarily because nationalist struggles are less bloody than religious ones—they are not—but because it is fueling extremism on both sides.

This, it should be stressed, is precisely what the Israeli government wants. It would like to present the conflict as a clash of civilizations à la Samuel Huntington, rather than as a Palestinian struggle against colonial domination. Alongside the government’s attempt to pit fundamentalist Jews against Palestinians, most Israeli politicians on the right, which now dominates the country’s electoral landscape, have been working overtime to bolster the “no partner for peace” myth as another justification for their ongoing refusal to resume negotiations with the Palestinian leadership. The Palestinians are not only part of a different and barbaric civilization, they claim, but their leaders are terrorists, or at the very least support terrorism.

A few hours after the synagogue massacre, Netanyahu maintained that the attack was “a direct result of the incitement lead by Hamas and Abu Mazen [President Mahmoud Abbas].” And in a televised address that echoed Bennett, he averred that the Palestinian leaders are “saying Jews are contaminating the Temple Mount, that we intend to destroy the holy sites and change the prayer routines there. These lies have already exacted a very heavy toll.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman added that “Abbas has intentionally turned the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict into a religious one between Jews and Muslims, and the systematic incitement he leads against Jews—who he says cannot visit the Temple Mount because they are ‘impure’—is the ‘go-ahead’ for these despicable terror attacks.” Bennett concluded that “Abbas, one of the biggest terrorists to have arisen from the Palestinian people, bears direct responsibility for the Jewish blood spilt on tallit and tefillin while we were busy with delusions about the [peace] process.

This is the moment when the déjà vu becomes most apparent. Arrows just like these were shot at Arafat in the years and months before his mysterious death a decade ago. This time around, however, there was an unexpected intervention that exposed the lie behind the demagogic scare tactics: Yoram Cohen, the head of Israel’s secret services, also known as the Shabak, weighed in against Netanyahu and his cabinet members.

On the day of the attack on the synagogue, Cohen asserted that no one among the Palestinian leadership is calling for violence. “Abu Mazen is not interested in terror,” he explained, “and is not leading [his people] to terror. Nor is he doing so ‘under the table.’” The head of Shabak went on to blame the Israeli leadership for the religious turn. He warned that the Palestinian reactions in East Jerusalem were exacerbated due to “a series of confrontations centering around the Temple Mount—including the ascent to that holy site by MKs [Knesset Members], as well as proposed legislation that would change the status quo in the compound.”

Wittingly or not, Israel’s top security officer thus accused the prime minister and his comrades of incitement and spreading lies, exposing how these political leaders are fueling religious tensions as well as producing the “no partner” myth in order to sustain the strife. This is not a minor event, since it is the first time in Israel’s history that the head of the secret services—during his tenure in office—has contradicted the prime minister and has publicly revealed his duplicity.

If even the Shabak, the organization responsible for torturing and assassinating Palestinians during forty-seven years of occupation, thinks the Israeli leadership has gone too far, then matters are becoming really scary. Yes, there is a sense of déjà vu, only this time it seems that Israel’s political entourage has already fallen into the abyss

5 US Assumptions About the Middle East That Are Just Plain Wrong After thirteen years of the failed war on terror, it’s time to scrutinize America’s assumptions about military involvement in the Middle East. Andrew Bacevich Novem

Iraqi soldiers

Shi’ite fighters and Iraqi army members participate in an intensive security deployment against Islamic State militants in Jurf al-Sakhar,

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com.

“Iraq no longer exists.” My young friend M, sipping a cappuccino, is deadly serious. We are sitting in a scruffy restaurant across the street from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It’s been years since we’ve last seen each another. It may be years before our paths cross again. As if to drive his point home, M repeats himself: “Iraq just doesn’t exist.”

His is an opinion grounded in experience. As an enlisted soldier, he completed two Iraq tours, serving as a member of a rifle company, before and during the famous Petraeus “surge.” After separating from the Army, he went on to graduate school where he is now writing a dissertation on insurgencies. Choosing the American war in Iraq as one of his cases, M has returned there to continue his research. Indeed, he was heading back again that very evening. As a researcher, his perch provides him with an excellent vantage point for taking stock of the ongoing crisis, now that the Islamic State, or IS, has made it impossible for Americans to sustain the pretense that the Iraq War ever ended.

Few in Washington would endorse M’s assertion, of course. Inside the Beltway, policymakers, politicians and pundits take Iraq’s existence for granted. Many can even locate it on a map. They also take for granted the proposition that it is incumbent upon the United States to preserve that existence. To paraphrase Chris Hedges, for a certain group of Americans, Iraq is the cause that gives life meaning. For the military-industrial complex, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Considered from this perspective, the “Iraqi government” actually governs, the “Iraqi army” is a nationally representative fighting force, and the “Iraqi people” genuinely see themselves as constituting a community with a shared past and an imaginable future.

Arguably, each of these propositions once contained a modicum of truth. But when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 and, as then–Secretary of State Colin Powell predicted, broke the place, any merit they previously possessed quickly dissipated. Years of effort by American occupiers intent on creating a new Iraq out of the ruins of the old produced little of value and next to nothing that has lasted. Yet even today, in Washington the conviction persists that trying harder might somehow turn things around. Certainly, that conviction informs the renewed US military intervention prompted by the rise of IS.

So when David Ignatius, a well-informed and normally sober columnist for the Washington Post, reflects on what the United States must do to get Iraq War 3.0 right, he offers this “mental checklist”: in Baghdad, the United States should foster a “cleaner, less sectarian government”; to ensure security, we will have to “rebuild the military”; and to end internal factionalism, we’re going to have to find ways to “win Kurdish support” and “rebuild trust with Sunnis.” Ignatius does not pretend that any of this will be easy. He merely argues that it must be—and by implication can be—done. Unlike my friend M, Ignatius clings to the fantasy that “Iraq” is or ought to be politically viable, militarily capable and socially cohesive. But surely this qualifies as wishful thinking.

The value of M’s insight—of, that is, otherwise intelligent people purporting to believe in things that don’t exist—can be applied well beyond American assumptions about Iraq. A similar inclination to fantasize permeates, and thereby warps, US policies throughout much of the Greater Middle East. Consider the following claims, each of which in Washington circles has attained quasi-canonical status.

* The presence of US forces in the Islamic world contributes to regional stability and enhances American influence.

* The Persian Gulf constitutes a vital US national security interest.

* Egypt and Saudi Arabia are valued and valuable American allies.

* The interests of the United States and Israel align.

* Terrorism poses an existential threat that the United States must defeat.

For decades now, the first four of these assertions have formed the foundation of US policy in the Middle East. The events of 9/11 added the fifth, without in any way prompting a reconsideration of the first four. On each of these matters, no senior US official (or anyone aspiring to a position of influence) will dare say otherwise, at least not on the record.

Yet subjected to even casual scrutiny, none of the five will stand up. To take them at face value is the equivalent of believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy—or that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell really, really hope that the Obama administration and the upcoming Republican-controlled Congress can find grounds to cooperate.

Let’s examine all five, one at a time.

The Presence of US Forces: Ever since the US intervention in Lebanon that culminated in the Beirut bombing of October 1983, introducing American troops into predominantly Muslim countries has seldom contributed to stability. On more than a few occasions, doing so has produced just the opposite effect.

Iraq and Afghanistan provide mournful examples. The new book Why We Lost, by retired Lieutenant General Daniel Bolger, finally makes it permissible in official circles to declare those wars the failures that they have been. Even granting, for the sake of argument, that US nation-building efforts were as pure and honorable as successive presidents portrayed them, the results have been more corrosive than constructive. The IS militants plaguing Iraq find their counterpart in the soaring production of opium that plagues Afghanistan. This qualifies as stability?

And these are hardly the only examples. Stationing US troops in Saudi Arabia after Operation Desert Storm was supposed to have a reassuring effect. Instead, it produced the debacle of the devastating Khobar Towers bombing. Sending GIs into Somalia back in 1992 was supposed to demonstrate American humanitarian concern for poor, starving Muslims. Instead, it culminated in the embarrassing Mogadishu firefight, which gained the sobriquet Black Hawk Down, and doomed that mission.

Even so, the pretense that positioning American soldiers in some Middle East hotspot will bring calm to troubled waters survives. It’s far more accurate to say that doing so provides our adversaries with what soldiers call a target-rich environment—with Americans as the targets.

The Importance of the Persian Gulf: Although US interests in the Gulf may once have qualified as vital, the changing global energy picture has rendered that view obsolete. What’s probably bad news for the environment is good news in terms of creating strategic options for the United States. New technologies have once again made the United States the world’s largest producer of oil. The United States is also the world’s largest producer of natural gas. It turns out that the lunatics chanting “drill, baby, drill” were right after all. Or perhaps it’s “frack, baby, frack.” Regardless, the assumed energy dependence and “vital interests” that inspired Jimmy Carter to declare back in 1980 that the Gulf is worth fighting for no longer pertain.

Access to Gulf oil remains critically important to some countries, but surely not to the United States. When it comes to propping up the wasteful and profligate American way of life, Texas and North Dakota outrank Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in terms of importance. Rather than worrying about Iraqi oil production, Washington would be better served ensuring the safety and well-being of Canada, with its bountiful supplies of shale oil. And if militarists ever find the itch to increase US oil reserves becoming irresistible, they would be better advised to invade Venezuela than to pick a fight with Iran.

Does the Persian Gulf require policing from the outside? Maybe. But if so, let’s volunteer China for the job. It will keep them out of mischief.

Arab Allies: It’s time to reclassify the US relationship with both Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Categorizing these two important Arab states as “allies” is surely misleading. Neither one shares the values to which Washington professes to attach such great importance.

For decades, Saudi Arabia, Planet Earth’s closest equivalent to an absolute monarchy, has promoted anti-Western radical jihadism—and not without effect. The relevant numbers here are two that most New Yorkers will remember: fifteen out of nineteen. If a conspiracy consisting almost entirely of Russians had succeeded in killing several thousand Americans, would US authorities give the Kremlin a pass? Would US-Russian relations remain unaffected? The questions answer themselves.

Meanwhile, after a brief dalliance with democracy, Egypt has once again become what it was before: a corrupt, oppressive military dictatorship unworthy of the billions of dollars of military assistance that Washingtonprovides from one year to the next.

Israel: The United States and Israel share more than a few interests in common. A commitment to a “two-state solution” to the Palestinian problem does not number among them. On that issue, Washington’s and Tel Aviv’s purposes diverge widely. In all likelihood, they are irreconcilable.

For the government of Israel, viewing security concerns as paramount, an acceptable Palestinian state will be the equivalent of an Arab Bantustan, basically defenseless, enjoying limited sovereignty and possessing limited minimum economical potential. Continuing Israeli encroachments on the occupied territories, undertaken in the teeth of American objections, make this self-evident.

It is, of course, entirely the prerogative—and indeed the obligation—of the Israeli government to advance the well being of its citizens. US officials have a similar obligation: they are called upon to act on behalf of Americans. And that means refusing to serve as Israel’s enablers when that country takes actions that are contrary to US interests.

The “peace process” is a fiction. Why should the United States persist in pretending otherwise? It’s demeaning.

Terrorism: Like crime and communicable diseases, terrorism will always be with us. In the face of an outbreak of it, prompt, effective action to reduce the danger permits normal life to continue. Wisdom lies in striking a balance between the actually existing threat and exertions undertaken to deal with that threat. Grown-ups understand this. They don’t expect a crime rate of zero in American cities. They don’t expect all people to enjoy perfect health all of the time. The standard they seek is “tolerable.”

That terrorism threatens Americans is no doubt the case, especially when they venture into the Greater Middle East. But aspirations to eliminate terrorism belong in the same category as campaigns to end illiteracy or homelessness: it’s okay to aim high, but don’t be surprised when the results achieved fall short.

Eliminating terrorism is a chimera. It’s not going to happen. US civilian and military leaders should summon the honesty to acknowledge this.

My friend M has put his finger on a problem that is much larger than he grasps. Here’s hoping that when he gets his degree he lands an academic job. It’s certain he’ll never find employment in our nation’s capital. As a soldier-turned-scholar, M inhabits what one of George W. Bush’s closest associates (believed to be Karl Rove) once derisively referred to as the “reality-based community.” People in Washington don’t have time for reality. They’re lost in a world of their own.

Someone Called The Cops Because A Black Guy Had His Hands In His Pocket: By Susie Madrak

Someone named B. McKean posted this online today without much information. It took place in Pontiac, Michigan. He started videotaping the encounter and the cop whips out his phone and does the same thing. The cop sounds apologetic, but says he had to check him out because they got a phone call about his “suspicious” behavior.

Damn. Walking with your hands in your pocket while black. In Michigan, in the cold.

What the hell is wrong with this country? I guess we should be grateful the cop didn’t shoot him, what with him being “suspicious” and all.

Darren Wilson: America’s ‘Model Policeman’ Even as activists are organizing against police violence, many Americans continue to see blacks as criminals—and want our police to act accordingly. Khalil Gibran Muhammad November 29, 2014

Police confront a civilian in Ferguson, Missouri.

Truth is stranger than fiction; it is also most certainly harder to accept.

In a nearly hour-long interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday, a day after thousands of protesters took to the streets from coast to coast, expressing outrage that yet another white police officer got away with the murder of another unarmed black person, Wilson stuck to his story: “I just did my job. I did what I was paid to do. I followed my training…. That’s it.”

Sure, there are plenty of reasons to doubt his account. If he knew Michael Brown was a robbery suspect, why did he politely stop him and Dorian Johnson for jaywalking only to “have a conversation,” as he described to Stephanopoulos? If the West Florissant section of Ferguson is “really a great community,” why did he testify that it was a not very “well-liked community” and a hotbed of anti-police sentiment?

And yet, despite all the equivocations, the shooting death of the teenager on August 9th and Monday’s grand jury decision not to indict Wilson were entirely unsurprising. They are the predictable outcomes of a criminal justice system doing exactly what it was meant to do. For all the dissecting and debating of the veracity of Darren Wilson’s grand jury testimony this week, one thing seems crystal clear. He was in fact doing his job.

Indeed, by this standard, isn’t Darren Wilson actually a model police officer?

He certainly thinks so. When asked by Stephanopoulos if he could make “something good” come of this experience, he said he would “love to teach people” and give them “more insight in uses of force.” That he may have logged more time on first-person shooters—emptying clip after clip to take down demonic super-villains who “run through shots”—than actual police work is beside the point. Darren Wilson has the kind of experience that many Americans value.

Evidence abounds that the United States is the world’s most punitive nation. More people are behind bars and incarcerated at higher per capita rates here than anywhere in the world. African Americans are the nation’s prime suspects and prisoners. White police officers are our chosen protectors, enforcing the law in the name of public safety.

In a Pew research poll conducted shortly after Ferguson made national headlines this summer, researchers found that most Americans have a “fair amount of confidence in local police.” Eighty-five percent of respondents, white and black, gave a fair to excellent rating on police “protecting people from crime.” And on “using the right amount of force,” 66 percent of respondents gave a fair to excellent rating; white support stood at 73 percent and blacks at 42 percent. Though a clear racial divide exists, African Americans are only 13 percent of the population nationally. Everyone is therefore implicated in police performance writ large, if not by choice, certainly through political representatives.

Critics and protesters of police violence among African Americans and on the political left, as polling data suggests, see things differently. They are organizing against the routine killing of unarmed men and beating of helpless women on an unprecedented scale not seen since the anti-lynching movement of the last century. Even with such evidence in hand that black men are twenty-one times as likely to be killed by law enforcement than white men, as analyzed in a recent report by ProPublica, today’s movement like the one before it might fail to overcome deeply entrenched fears of black criminality without a massive shift in white public opinion and a new model for law enforcement.

Most whites do not realize they are reading from very old racial scripts. When Ida B. Wells, the world’s leading anti-lynching activist and black social worker of the early twentieth century, tried to explain to a wealthy suffragist in Chicago that anti-black violence in the nation must end, Mary Plummer replied: Blacks need to “drive the criminals out” of the community. “Have you forgotten that 10 percent of all the crimes that were committed in Chicago last year were by colored men [less than 3 percent of the population]?”

Like Mary Plummer, Darren Wilson is emphatic that the issue is not racism. Brown’s African-American neighborhood is “one of our high-crime areas for the city,” he said during the interview. “You can’t perform the duties of a police officer and have racism in you. I help people. That’s my job.” On that day, “the only emotion I ever felt was fear,” before my training took over. “We are taught to deal with the threat at hand.”

Implicit bias research tells us that most Americans are afraid of black people and subconsciously associate dangerous weapons and animals with them. They see things often that are not there. Stanford psychologists Rebecca Haley and Jennifer Eberhardt note in a study last month that the more people perceive blacks as criminals or prisoners, “the more people fear crime, which then increases their acceptance of punitive policies.”

The truth is that Wilson has no regrets. He wouldn’t do things differently. He’s looking forward to a new chapter in his professional journey as a teacher, trainer or a consultant. He’s our representative figure—a model policeman—acting on our collective fears.

Dave Zirin: Do #BlackLivesMatter to White Athletes? Let’s Ask Them $1 Billion: That’s How Much Walmart Avoids Paying in Taxes Each Year Leslie Savan: Some Fox Newsers Are Falling Short in Bashing ‘Bamnesty’ Mychal Denzel Smith: In Ferguson, a Militarized Police Force Isn’t Necessary for Suppression The Cowardice of Bill Maher’s Anti-Muslim Bigotry What is brave about expressing an opinion that’s already held by a plurality of Americans? Omar Ghabra October 23, 2014

Bill Maherhttp://platform.twitter.com/widgets/tweet_button.2dbfc52aff624254c17d0ae518d60e15.en.html#_=1417291670005&count=none&id=twitter-widget-1&lang=en&original_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.thenation.com%2Farticle%2F185105%2Fcowardice-bill-mahers-anti-muslim-bigotry&size=m&text=The%20Cowardice%20of%20Bill%20Maher%E2%80%99s%20Anti-Muslim%20Bigotry%20%7C%20The%20Nation&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.thenation.com%2Farticle%2F185105%2Fcowardice-bill-mahers-anti-muslim-bigotrySince 9/11, Muslim-Americans have struggled to overcome the suspicions of their non-Muslim neighbors. These doubts have often manifested themselves in outright discrimination, and Muslims have been targeted by bigots in hate crimes across the country. In my own hometown in southern West Virginia, the mosque has been repeatedly vandalized, and local students report being subjected to routine racist bullying from their peers, as I reported for Al Jazeera America earlier this year.This is not atypical. According to a survey conducted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, half of Muslim-American students in California schools report being bullied for their religious beliefs. The FBI has also catalogued a sustained increase in hate crimes targeting Muslims since 9/11. These crimes are occasionally violent, and they often target non-Muslims whose only crime is fitting the description of what a bigot thinks a Muslim looks like.

The anti-Islamic sentiment that fuels these ugly incidents is exacerbated when negative stories pertaining to Islam dominate the media cycle. Whether it’s a terrorist attack or a contentious debate involving Muslims, such as the proposal for the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque,” there is typically an uptick in anti-Muslim bigotry following these events. It is for this reason that every time news of a mass violent crime breaks, we in the Muslim-American community collectively hold its breath in the hope that the perpetrator is not a Muslim.

With the rise of ISIS and its beheading of many Westerners, we are currently experiencing another one of these events that accentuate Islamophobia in America. This time around, comedian and political provocateur Bill Maher has been at the center of this discussion. For weeks, Maher has advanced the argument that Western liberals are soft on Islam, which he says poses a distinct threat to “liberal principles.” This is not necessarily a new position for Maher, who has long criticized Islam. What inspired his latest series of denunciations of the religion was President Obama’s repeated assertions that “ISIL is not Islamic.” For Maher, Islam “is not like other religions.” It is “like the mafia that will fucking kill you” if you cross it, and there is “connecting tissue” that binds the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to ISIS (also known as ISIL, or IS) and its savage practices. In the hours following a shooting that left a Canadian soldier dead, Maher had this to say: “Turns out the attacker was Islamic—what are the odds, huh? Its almost like there’s an elephant in the room.”

Maher is not alone among Americans in his distrust of Islam and its adherents (they’re called Muslims, not “Islamics,” Bill), as illustrated by a recent Zogby poll. This survey found that a plurality of Americans—45 percent—hold an “unfavorable view” of Muslims, while only 27 percent espouse a “favorable view.” This data undermines the preposterous notion that Maher is somehow taking a courageous stand by expressing his negative opinions of Islam. Richard Dawkins, another prominent critic of Islam, tweeted that Maher’s latest stand exemplifies his “typical bravery.” What is brave about expressing an opinion that is already held by a plurality of Americans?

With powerful media personalities like Maher perpetuating the notion that Americans should associate the horrible atrocities committed by ISIS with their Muslim-American neighbors, it shouldn’t be surprising if anti-Islamic sentiment continues to grow. That possibility alone is enough reason to condemn Maher’s fear-mongering. When one delves deeper and uncovers the simplistic, reductionist nature of Maher’s argument, it is clear he is also guilty of intellectual laziness, if not dishonesty.

First of all, one has to wonder which Islam Maher is talking about here. As Reza Aslan eloquently described in his recent essay in The New York Times, religions take on different flavors in different cultural, ethnic and geographic contexts. As a religion that spans the entire globe, Islam encompasses a tremendous diversity. The Islam of President Barack Obama’s Indonesian stepfather, which he describes in Dreams from My Father as an “Islam that could make room for the remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths,” is not the same as the Sufi-brand of Syrian Islam I grew up with. Nor is the Islam that inspired the historic advances in science, mathematics, medicine and philosophy that precipitated the Western Enlightenment the same as the Islam of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. We are talking about over 1.5 billion people here. The notion that there is a single, unified Muslim world that has the same problems and requires the same solutions is beyond absurd.

In addition to the utter lack of nuance when it comes to his generalizations about the Islamic world and its perceived backwardness, it is worth paying particular attention to Maher’s attempts at emphasizing the supposedly Islamic roots of ISIS. Incredibly, in none of his discussions on this topic has Maher or any of his panelists pointed out the role American foreign policy has played in creating this monster. As Tom Engelhardt recently argued here, “Thirteen years of regional war, occupation and intervention played a major role in clearing the ground for [ISIS].” The Obama administration has repeatedly pointed out that ISIS traces its origins to Al Qaeda in Iraq, a group that did not exist until the Bush administration’s ill-conceived 2003 invasion. Instead of blaming Islam for ISIS, it might behoove Maher and his proponents to consider the complicity of their own government in its rise.

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There is no denying that many Muslim communities across the world have a long way to go when it comes to women’s rights, minority rights and freedom of expression. We can have an honest, nuanced discussion on how to approach these problems, which vary from community to community, without reducing it to a simplistic attack on Islam as a whole. The fact that many of the countries where these problems are the worst are governed by politically repressive dictatorships should not be absent from this debate. Nor should the negative impact of American foreign policy in particular, and the legacy of Western colonialism in general, be ignored. Just in the span of President Obama’s presidency, the US military has bombed seven Muslim-majority countries. It has also continued to prop up several authoritarian regimes across the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, the chief exporter of the fundamentalist Wahhabism that serves as the ideological foundation to many extremist militant groups, including ISIS.

Since 9/11, Muslims in America have been subject to discrimination, hate crimes and racial profiling. Their own government has illegally spied on them, arbitrarily detained and in some cases tortured members of their communities. A disturbingly large portion of their fellow Americans view them with suspicion and associate their religion with violence. There is nothing courageous about a white, wealthy male with a privileged position in the media utilizing his platform to perpetuate the negative stereotypes that encourage mistreatment of a vulnerable minority group. Maher’s fixation with Islam is not constructive, and it certainly isn’t brave—it’s bigotry, plain and simple.

Trans -Pacific Partnership: The agreement has not been made public or opened to public debate or scrutiny and we are a democracy.

 

Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP is a massive trade agreement between Australia the United States and a host of Pacific Rim countries Abbott is trying to introduce  with limited debate and no opportunity for amendments.

The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership includes investor-state provisions that are likely to hurt poor communities and undermine environmental protections. Instead of being “fast tracked”  as is Abbott’s want, future trade agreements like the TPP—and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership being negotiated between the European Union and the United States—must be subject to a full debate with public input.

Such agreements must not, at any cost, include investor-state mechanisms. Because trading away democracy to transnational corporations is not such a “free trade” after all.

From the outset, the politicians who support the agreement have overplayed its benefits and underplayed its costs. They seldom note, for example, that the pact would allow corporations to sue governments whose regulations threaten their profits in cases brought before secretive and unaccountable foreign tribunals.

Tobacco companies could sue for loss of profit due to our plain packaging laws. Pharmceutical companies  could for the introduction of generic medications.

Ten years after the approval of DR-CAFTA, in Central America we are seeing many of the effects they cautioned about. As a consequence Americas immigration problems have expanded.

One of the most pernicious features of the agreement is a provision called the Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism. This allows private corporations to sue governments over alleged violations of a long list of so-called “investor protections.”

The most controversial cases have involved public interest laws and regulations that corporations claim reduce the value of their investments. That means corporations can sue those countries for profits they say they would have made had those regulations not been put into effect.They can also prevent governments from making democratically accountable decisions in the first place, pushing them to prioritize the interests of transnational corporations over the needs of their citizens just what mining companies would like to access Indiginious land.

In Guatemala TECO wanted to charge higher electricity rates to Guatemalan users than those the state deemed fair. Guatemala had to pay $21.1 million in compensatory damages and $7.5 million in legal fees, above and beyond what it spent on its own defense.

What’s at stake here is not only the cost of lawsuits or the impact of environmental destruction, but also the ability of a country to make sovereign decisions and advance the public good.

More recently in Guatemala, the communities around San Jose del Golfo—about 45,000 people—have engaged in two years of peaceful resistance to prevent the US-based Kappes, Cassiday, and Associates from constructing a new mine. Protesters estimate that 95 percent of families in the region depend on agriculture, an industry that would be virtually destroyed if the water were to be further contaminated. But the company threatened to sue Guatemala if the mine was not opened. “They can’t afford this lawsuit,” a company representative said. “We had a big law group out of [Washington] DC fire off a letter to the mines minister, copied to the president, explaining what we were doing.”

On May 23, the people of San Jose del Golfo were violently evicted from their lands by military force, pitting the government in league with the company against its own people—potentially all to avoid a costly lawsuit.

Bankers dishonest by training, not by nature, Swiss study finds: The World Today By Nick Grimm

Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street

A Swiss study has set out to establish once and for all whether bankers are scheming, untrustworthy scoundrels.

The study of more than 200 international bankers put their honesty to the test and found them to be fundamentally decent human beings, until they were reminded about what they did for a living.

At that point, the research team discovered they began cheating on their tests.

Interestingly, that result was not replicated when sample groups from other professions were asked to complete similar tests.

Behavioural economists Alain Cohn, Ernst Fehr and Michel André Maréchal laid out their findings in a report entitled Business Culture and Dishonesty in the Banking Industry.

In the wake of a series of finance industry scandals, the team set out to test the bankers’ honesty with a simple coin-tossing test.

“They were asked to flip a coin 10 times and to self-report the outcomes of the coin flip,” Mr Cohn explained to The World Today.

“Their behaviour in the coin tossing task is a measure of their dishonest behaviour.”

In order to test that behaviour, the researchers also gave the bankers a financial incentive to lie about their results.

“They could cheat to increase their earnings,” Mr Cohn said.

“For example, in the first coin flip they knew that heads would give them $US20 and so, because they knew that heads would give them a good outcome, they could easily cheat and hide behind chance.”

But the researchers knew that, given half a chance, the promise of easy money could result in many non-bankers cheating on their results as well.

So, to refine their methodology, they first split their cohort of bankers into two groups.

Mr Cohn said the first control group was tested after being asked a series of questions unrelated to their occupation, for example “questions about tea consumption or favourite leisure activities”.

The second experimental group was asked a series of questions about their careers.

“In the experimental group we manipulated the saliency of participants’ occupation and role as a bank employee by asking a few questions about their professional background,” he said.

“So for example, we asked them what banks they worked for or how many years of professional experience they have.”

Bankers started cheating when reminded of their job

When the two groups were then asked to perform the coin-flipping task, the results were revealing.

The bankers who had been primed to think about their jobs were more likely to cheat than those whose minds were still occupied with thoughts about their homes and families.

The results suggest bankers are not inherently dishonest.

“They were very honest in the control condition,” Mr Cohn said.

“[It was] only when we rendered their professional role more salient [that] they began to cheat.”

It was a technique used by researchers previously with another segment of society suffering reputational problems, according to co-author Mr Maréchal.

“Everything actually started with an opportunity to conduct an experiment on cheating with inmates at a maximum security prison,” he said.

“The inmates cheated more when they were reminded of the fact that they were criminals. So we used a similar approach in this study to examine the business culture in the banking industry.”

‘Unwritten rules’ of industry promote dishonesty

When the researchers sampled a range of non-bankers – those employed in manufacturing, telecommunications and the pharmaceutical industries – they found no variation between control and experimental groups.

“We ran the same experiment with professionals from other occupations or in other industries,” Mr Cohn pointed out.

“We didn’t find any difference between the control and the experimental group, so this implies that there is something specific in the banking industry that promotes dishonest behaviour.

“It’s about unwritten rules of behaviour in the financial services industry that encourage or maybe tolerate dishonest behaviours.”

The research makes for uncomfortable reading for bankers, but the study received support from those inside the finance industry, conscious that recent scandals reflect a serious problem with banking culture.

One international bank allowed 128 of its staff to take part in the research on condition of anonymity. Another 80 participants were drawn from a range of other banks.

So if there is a genuine will to change the culture of banking, what can be done to encourage more scrupulous behaviour?

The researchers said the payment of bonuses for those generating high profits first needed to be closely scrutinised.

“It shouldn’t be that financial incentives reward employees for dishonest behaviour,” Mr Cohn said.

He also questioned the efficacy of forcing bank staff to sit through honesty training courses.

“If the ethics training remains in the abstract, it will not help much. Just pledging integrity is not enough. We think you have to exactly name and be very concrete about the behaviour deemed desirable.”

Cuban Medical Workers Fighting Ebola: Alexander Reed Kelly

Cuban doctors await travel to Liberia and Guinea in mid-October

The phrase “generosity of nations” is unlikely to appear in textbooks assigned to American political science and economics students. Nonetheless, the concept is visible in action in certain parts of the globe—perhaps most inspiringly in the countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia in West Africa, where the Cuban government has defined itself as a world leader by providing hundreds of doctors and health workers to combat the raging, deadly Ebola virus.

As of mid-November, the tiny island state with a population of 11 million and an economy valued at slightly more than that of Belarus has provided more health care workers in the battle against Ebola than any other nation. That’s 256 doctors and nurses with an additional 200 professionals on their way. By comparison, the U.S. sent 3,000 military troops, none of them providing medical assistance, but instead focusing primarily on building treatment centers. It also pledged $400 million in aid. An article in The Wall Street Journal noted that “nations with some of the world’s most advanced health-care systems have come too late with too little to the crisis, said leaders from Ebola-affected countries.” China and India were reported to have contributed an “underwhelming” $5 million and $13 million, respectively.

Officials put the number of deaths caused by Ebola at over 4,000, but experts say the actual figure is twice as high. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said ending the outbreak would require “at least a 20-fold surge in assistance.”

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It is clear that money alone will not solve the problem. In mid-September, the World Health Organization issued a desperate plea for medical staff and supplies to resolve the outbreak. “Our response is running short on nearly everything from personal protective equipment to bodybags, mobile laboratories and isolation wards,” said Director-General Margaret Chan, calling for 500 to 600 foreign doctors, and at least 1,000 additional staffers. “But the thing we need most of all is people: healthcare workers. The right people, the right specialists—and specialists who are appropriately trained and know how to keep themselves safe—are most important for stopping the transmission of Ebola.” The WHO reported that all members of the first contingent of Cuban workers had more than 15 years worth of experience and had worked in other countries facing natural disasters and the outbreak of disease.For a new generation of observers, the Ebola response is helping Cuba make a name for itself as a force for global good. And the reputation is deserved. The WHO reports there are currently more than 50,000 Cuban-trained health care workers in 66 countries. By 2008 it was training 20,000 foreigners a year to be doctors, nurses and dentists, largely free of charge. The generous export is a function of the country’s publicly funded universal health care system, which was established by the Communist regime shortly after it overthrew U.S.-backed Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and enshrined as a human right in its 1976 constitution.

The country has consistently extended this policy beyond its borders to other nations in need. Its medical missions began with a provision of aid to Chile after an earthquake in 1960. In the 1970s and ’80s it offered wartime assistance to South Africa, Algeria, Zaire, Congo and Ghana. More recently, Cuban doctors went to Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami and treated victims of the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan and the 2010 quake in Haiti. In 2013, Cuba sent 4,000 doctors to remote rural areas of Brazil. The government offered assistance to the U.S. in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but the offer was apparently rejected.

Cuba’s medical tradition was partly inspired by Che Guevara, the Argentine physician-turned-revolutionary who helped foment the Communist uprising. The medical workers have been nicknamed the “ejército de batas blancas”—the “army of white coats.” The contingent in West Africa is known as The Henry Reeve Brigade. It was founded in 2005 and named after a Cuban soldier in the country’s first war of independence. The doctors take their mission seriously. A wall in Cuba’s most prestigious medical school, the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina, bears a quote by dictator Fidel Castro: “This will be a battle of solidarity against selfishness.” The workers are reported to be eager to risk their lives for what they regard as an obligation to people everywhere. Before departing for Liberia, 63-year-old doctor Leonardo Fernandez expressed resolve in the face of danger and uncertainty in an interview with Reuters. “We know that we are fighting against something that we don’t totally understand,” he is quoted as saying. “But it is our duty. That’s how we’ve been educated.”

And the doctors are suffering too. While consultants from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention enjoy the comfortable lodgings of a more than $200 a night resort, The Wall Street Journal reported, the Cuban medics “are living three to a room in one of Freetown’s budget hotels. The hotel’s toilets are broken. Flies buzz around soiled tablecloths where the Cubans eat in cafeteria-style shifts.”

Cuba’s efforts have received some praise from the U.S., which has maintained a destructive trade embargo against the island since 1960. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry praised the country for its work. And U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power was “very grateful” to Cuba for its response. There was no question about working alongside the U.S. in the effort. “Against Ebola, we can work with anyone,” said Dr. Jorge Juan Delgado Bustillo, who has led Cuba’s response in West Africa. “The United States? Yes, we can.” In the state newspaper Granma, Fidel Castro wrote that he would be happy to put aside the country’s political differences to help nations afflicted with the virus. U.S. officials eventually confirmed they were willing to cooperate with Havana and the rest of the international community through organizations such as the WHO.

A tiny nation excluded from so many of the benefits of global trade is leading the humanitarian response to the Ebola outbreak. Cubans have every reason to glow with pride as their doctors and nurses undertake the grim work of attending the health of people of other countries that have been degraded by economic and often military aggression. Cuba’s officials and health care workers are our Truthdiggers of the Week.

We may never have another coldest year in history: No matter what deniers try to tell you. Did you know the Republicans passed a bill which prevents scientists providing their results to the government climate authority.

We may never have another coldest year in history

Don’t let the polar vortex fool you. This year is the hottest on record — and things are only getting worse VIDEO

This piece originally appeared on Climate Central.

A surge of Arctic air has left much of the continental U.S. shivering in unusually bitter November cold. But this early foray into winter weather is just a small blip in the overall global picture, which is of a warming world that is still on track to see 2014 set the mark for hottest year on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.

That warming — fueled largely by the manmade rise of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere — is so relentless, in fact, that the odds of seeing a record coldest year in the future are vanishingly small. As the animation below shows, the last time the world experienced a record-coldest year was in 1909, more than 100 years ago. But in that period, 18 records for warmest year have been set, with 2014 likely to be the 19th.

Much of the central and eastern parts of the contiguous U.S. have been relatively cool all year, with a few states even possibly set to see a top 10 coldest year. But the year as a whole has actually been close to average for the country, and California is set to see its warmest year on record by a large margin.

The bigger picture is markedly different. The globe is bathed in warm spots, with the small cold spot centered over the Great Lakes area being just one of a handful of blue spots on the world map.

August, September and October of 2014 have all been the warmest such months on record, as shown by data from NASA, the Japan Meteorological Agency and NOAA, which released its October global numbers Thursday.

This single-year snapshot of the planet’s warmth fits with the pattern of ever-warmer temperatures that has been in place over the past century, particularly since the early 1980s as the warming fueled by an accumulation of greenhouse gases clearly emerged. The animation shows just how much warmth has dominated the temperature records since they began in 1880


Record cold years are plentiful in the early decades, but they stop in 1909. From there, it’s a  steady march upward, with the expected year-to-year ups and downs that come from natural variation. Warm records are set through the 1930s and 40s, with a long stretch of no records until the 1980s, when the global warming signal firmly emerges from the noise of natural variation.

After that, a string of record hot years follows. And though many of the years in between weren’t records, they still ranked among the warmest. In fact, all but one of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred in the 21st century (1998, when there was a very strong El Niño, is the exception).

How temperatures across the globe ranked from January through October 2014.
Click image to enlarge. Credit: NOAA

“The globe continues to warm just as climate models have long-predicted,” climate scientist Michael Mann, of Penn State, said in an email.

The steady uptick in warming, even with a relative slowdown in recent decades, means that the likelihood of seeing a record cold year in the future is, according to a quick calculation by Mann, “astronomically small.”

The final year in the animation, 2014, is of course not yet over. But with the October numbers now in, the year-to-date is the warmest on record, measuring 1.22°F above the 20th century average of 57.4°F, according to NOAA data. The chances of 2014 becoming the warmest year are now quite high. Even if November and December only rank in the top 10 warmest, which is likely, 2014 will take the title of warmest year.

“It’s becoming pretty clear that 2014 will end up as the warmest year on record,” Deke Arndt, chief of climate monitoring for NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, said during a press conference.

And as the animation shows, it’s a long-term trend that is likely to continue until the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are significantly curtailed.

Mann said of the possible record, “hopefully it will also drive home the urgency of reducing carbon emissions if we are to avoid dangerous interference with our climate.”

Will Tony Abbott have the courage to accept some blame for the Victorian loss? Absolutely not!!

Image from 9news.com.au

Written by: r

Federal politicians have always been quick to point out that party losses at the State level have been, and always will be, because of State issues. Federal politics and personalities play no part whatsoever in the election and the subsequent result; it’s fought on State turf.

Yet . . . federal politicians have also been quick to point out that victories at the State level – for their party – were delivered as a protest vote against the ruling federal party, should of course, they themselves be in opposition at the time.

Or they could go completely overboard – such as Tony Abbott did after Labor’s loss in the Tasmanian State election – and announce that they single-handedly won the election for their State counterparts.

(Mind you, when the South Australian State election didn’t go the way Abbott had hoped, he went to great pains not to comment on suggestions his involvement in the campaign had a negative impact on the Liberals’ result).

News is now in that the Napthine Government has been kicked out after only one term. Already members of Abbott’s Government have distanced themselves from the result. Head on over to Twitter and look at the ‘it wasn’t us’ tweets.

I live in Victoria and this is the first Victorian State election I’ve voted in. However, I haven’t been here long enough to have much of an idea about State issues and what issues the parties have campaigned on. So I went against my ‘norm’ and registered a protest vote against the Federal Government, and in particular Tony Abbott.

I wasn’t alone. Speaking to polling-booth volunteers, the message was the same: people weren’t voting against Napthine – they were voting against Abbott (or his government/Hockey’s budget). In the word of one voter, just to “watch him squirm”.  Again, head on over to Twitter but this time look for the ‘it was them’ tweets. They dominate Twitter.

Pre-election it was forecast that Abbott could be the factor that will lose the election for Napthine. It looks to be the way.

But will he squirm? I doubt it.

Either he won’t have the courage or he is so full of hubris that he is blind to the simple fact that he’s totally on the nose. In 2016 he will join Napthine as the leader of a ‘one-term’ government.

Nonetheless, I look forward to what he has to say about the Victorian election result.

Is he in hiding?

The broken clocks are right twice a day

 BrokenClocks

  • November 29, 2014
  • Written by:
  • As if a switch has been flicked, as if a group memo has gone out (perhaps from Rupert Murdoch), Australian political journalists have all very neatly and in a scarily synchronised fashion all decided there are problems with the Abbott government. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but this is the biggest case of too little too late that I have ever witnessed. It is now official that the mainstream political press is exactly one year and three months behind the independent media who, like me, have been pointing out to our readers since the day Tony Abbott became Prime Minister, that he is not fit for the job. Actually that’s not true. I and most others were saying it for six years before that. And now, after over a year of relentless, daily horrors from the Abbott camp, including internationally embarrassing gaffes, broken promises, horrible and unfair revenge policy, rorting of the public purse, corruption and mean spirited behaviour, it’s as if they’ve all suddenly had permission to point out that there might be a problem here. Low and behold, I think they might be right! Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

    But if only it ended there. No. There’s another clause in the ‘you may now point out how bad the Abbott government is’ memo which they have all dutifully complied with to the letter. Not that I think it took any convincing. You guessed it. They only have permission to call the spade of the Abbott government a dysfunctional spade if they also maintain their completely misrepresentative and downright dishonest anti-factual narrative of Labor dysfunction at the same time. So the narrative goes like this: Abbott’s government is bad. We only just noticed. We also can’t help but notice it’s just as bad, if not possibly not quite as bad, as the previous Labor government.

    Don’t believe me? I hear people like Bolt, Albrechtsen and Alan Jones have been piling on Abbott in their own synchronised act of ‘let’s give Julie Bishop a run’ narrative, while carefully laying the blame mostly at the feet of Abbott’s support team. Because criticising Abbott himself would be career suicide for these types I assume. I’m not, however, going to link to these bottom-feeders. But I will link to Murdoch-Liberal-lite commentator Peter van Onselen, who today contributed this piece: ‘Wheels are falling off as Abbott careers to year’s end’. This article provides bad feedback from Abbott’s Liberal friends about his dire political situation, and also helpfully highlights this line:

    ‘So far, however, Abbott’s government more closely resembles the dysfunction of the Labor line-ups he fought so hard to defeat.’

    Then we also have Peter Hartcher, who today contributed ‘Abbott’s rudderless ship won’t scrape by’, which quotes numerous un-named Liberal sources who are ‘panicking’ about Abbott’s terrible performance (Hartcher’s favourite sources are un-named). Hartcher then summarises:

    ‘Is the rising panic justified? The comparison with the Rudd and Gillard years is particularly striking. In a couple of ways it is apt.’

    I won’t bore you with the ways that Hartcher thinks criticism of Abbott is an apt comparison with Rudd and Gillard, as it’s really just more bullshit from a journalist we have come to expect this sort of bullshit from. Anyone who has read Gillard’s My Story will understand Hartcher is the lowest form of gutter rat ever to inhabit the Press Club and can’t be trusted to report anything about Labor in a way that is objective and fair. Here is a quote from Gillard about Hartcher and his similarly badly behaved Press Club colleagues:

    ‘No journalist apologised to his or her readers when dramatically reported [leadership vote] deadlines passed in silence, nor publically discussed how they themselves were systematically used and misled in order to puff up claims about the number of Labor members who wanted to vote for Kevin Rudd. A few, like Peter Hartcher, became combatants in Kevin’s leadership war’.

    So not only was this man, Hartcher, a key player in the leadership dysfunction that he then wrote about I assume every week for the three years of Gillard’s government (although I couldn’t say this for sure because I gave up reading him after the first broken-record Labor-leadership-tensions crap), he is also still a keen-perpetuator of the misleading information that the previous Labor government was dysfunctional. How this man is still employed and still welcome in the Press Club is beyond me. I’ve written before about how leadership dysfunction doesn’t automatically lead to political dysfunction. Note this isn’t an opinion. This is based on fact. Even while Gillard was fighting against Rudd’s betrayal and white-anting, she was delivering political stability, in a minority government. Here’s another quote from her book to back up my opinion with some facts:

    ‘Minority government delivered the nation effective and stable government. This was the most productive parliament, able to deal with the hardest of issues. During the terms of my government, members of parliament sat for more than 1,555 hours and 566 pieces of legislation were passed. This is more legislation than was passed in the last term of the Howard Government, notwithstanding their complete command of parliament with a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.’

    This record can’t even be compared with Abbott’s first year as Prime Minister, because any comparison would just be too ridiculous to even contemplate. Abbott’s biggest achievements are noted as turning good policy off. The Mining Tax. The Carbon Price. And his ability to stop. the. boats. Even if you’re a Murdoch hack and you think these three policy successes constitute achievements, and not crimes against Australia’s future and the lives of desperate asylum seekers, it’s still a very lonely looking policy achievement scoreboard. It can’t compare to Gillard’s success because it’s too pathetic to even begin to compare. Abbott’s budget is a barnacle covered ship that never even set sail before it became a rusted shipwreck. Abbott’s government is defined by, is awash with failure to its very core. There is no justifiable comparison with the previous Labor government that does justifiable comparisons justice.

    Lastly, I’ve include Lenore Taylor. Even when Taylor is being accurate and generally reasonable in the Guardian about the awfulness of the Abbott government (and to be fair, she has been very critical since the start of Abbott’s term), she still manages to get a punch in for the previous Labor government. It does seem to be entirely compulsory for every member of the Press Club to follow this pattern. In her article today, ‘Three things that a good government would do’, Taylor wrote:

    ‘Abbott told his party room on Tuesday (in the same speech in which he promised to clean the barnacles and before all the confusion about what they were) that his government’s “historical mission is to show that the chaos of the Rudd/Gillard years is not the new normal”. After a truly chaotic week we can safely say that mission has not been accomplished.’

    The Labor-government-was-dysfunctional narrative is just not true and everyone who repeats it is treating their readers like idiots. It’s just not true. It’s a misrepresentation of political reality. It’s certain proof of journalistic bias and misinformation. It was rampant throughout the media for the entire length of the Labor government’s previous two terms. And now the myth continues as journalists come up with ways to justify how they missed the incompetence of the Abbott government while the Abbott government was campaigning to become the Abbott government. They missed their opportunity to scrutinise the Abbott government and for that reason they should never be trusted ever again. It’s not like any of them have the courage to stand up and say ‘yes, we got it wrong. Our obsession with Labor leadership tensions led us to misrepresent the Labor government as a bad government when on all objective measures it was a surprisingly successful government. We’re sorry we did this, and we’re sorry our focus on this one political angle prevented us from properly scrutinising Opposition Leader Abbott and his plans for Australian. We’re all paying for our mistakes now’. You just won’t ever see this happen. So instead we get bullshit served up to us as truth. Even when the broken clocks are correct twice day, they’re still wrong about the Labor government.

An Open Letter to the corporations and people of the 1%

champagne

Dear Winners,

Congratulations on all your achievements. You have all played the game of capitalism like absolute champions, and you are, without doubt, superlative operatives of the capitalist system. Kudos to you.

Obviously it has taken a huge amount of vision, hard work, guts and determination to get you to where you are now, and I think every one agrees you should be duly compensated for all your (and your employees) efforts; and I am personally relieved to know that you have all been sufficiently remunerated so as to never want for anything ever again. Once again, kudos to you.

While I am absolutely dazzled by your stellar successes, there are a few things about the way you conduct your lives and businesses that I find quite baffling, and I was hoping you might be able to clear up my confusion.

Firstly, I want to share a little something with you that we in here 99% have known for quite some time…

YOU’VE WON ALREADY!

With the richest 85 people in the world now owning the same amount of wealth as the 3.5 billion who make up the poorer half of the world’s population, there can be no question, in the game of acquisition you are the undisputed winners. NO CONTEST!

So here’s what puzzles me… Do you not realise the game is over and that you have won? Because quite honestly the way you are carrying on, it’s like a boxer relentlessly pummelling an opponent that is passed out on the ropes, it’s just not sportsmanlike, and really, it’s not making you look good.

starving

In spite of all your wealth and unmitigated successes you continue slash real wages, cut costs, off shore, out source, trim benefits, buy off politicians, lobby for favourable legislation, dodge taxes, and exploit loopholes with a staggering rapacity. In your relentless drive for profit you mercilessly exploit sub living wages, control the public discourse through your media domination, and poison and pollute our world with utter impunity.

poverty 2

So my question is this…. why are you continuing to play hard ball when you have so clearly already won? Surely at a certain point the figures displayed on your profit statements must start to seem fairly abstract? What on earth are you hoping to achieve? Do you really need a better quarterly result? What for? You already have everything that money could possibly buy you. And quite frankly if being stupefyingly wealthy hasn’t made you happy yet, it’s bordering on disillusion to think that a few more zeros on your balance sheet are going to do the trick.

And if you are truly happy with all you have achieved, then don’t you think it might be just the teensiest bit psychopathic to keep on punching when the fight is so clearly over?

While I personally find your unabated appetite for capital acquisition somewhat unfathomable, it obviously makes perfect sense to you, (either that or you have never actually sat down to analyse the broader costs and benefits of your chosen course).

Given the utter pain, despair and deprivation suffered by the worlds poor, (such as the average Bangladeshi garment worker who works 12 hours a day, 7 days a week in dangerous, overcrowded conditions for a paltry $38 a month), I am sure you must have some very good reasons for your steadfast persistence in squeezing those at the bottom ever harder. Although I struggle to understand what those reasons may be I have, in my speculations, come up with a few possibilities.

1. You are competing amongst and against yourselves.

I suspect there is a fair bit of this going on among you 1% ers’. It’s not enough that you have well and truly surpassed the 99%, (it would appear that that victory has long since lost it’s taste); now it’s just a competition between you 1% er’s to see who’s got the biggest bank account/company/summer house/yacht.

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I find it difficult to attach any other motive to the recent attempt by Rupert Murdoch (one of your most famous poster boys) to acquire Time Warner. At 85 years of age, the builder and controller of the largest News Empire on the planet is still playing for more? Doesn’t he realise that to most people this just looks like the chest beating, ego pumping manoeuvre of a recently cuckolded old man trying desperately to prove that he’s still top dog? Kind of tragic really, and a little undignified.

The sad fact is this is not a game that can be won, no matter how much you’ve got you will always want more, it’s a bottomless bucket of desire.

So let me say it once again ; if you in the 1% can not be content with what you have already achieved, then trust me, one more victory is not going to help.

2. You are simply acting out of blind habit and you have never bothered to stop and question what you are actually doing?

I am willing to bet that this is bottom line for quite a number of you. You learnt the rules, and you’ve played the game so hard and so long that it’s the only game you now know. You live for the sport of it, the hunt, the chase, the endless craving for that next conquest; the ruthless reduction of wages, the corporate take over, the quarterly profit statement, the pumping up of your share price, the tucking of another politician snuggly into your pocket, this is your heroin.

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You are, for want of a better word, addicted to the game. If this indeed is the case then let me remind you of something I am sure you already know; addiction is not a road to happiness! It is an itch you can never scratch in an endless cycle of craving and pain, and it effects every one around you (and not in good way).

3. You are completely ignorant about the suffering you are causing others?

This is a bit of a stretch, but I am prepared to concede that SOME OF YOU may have spent so little time out in the big, wide, underprivileged world, have spent your lives so steeped in privilege as to have no idea of the havoc you are wreaking, the pain you are causing, and the abject poverty you are creating.

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That said it’s worth remembering that ignorance is no excuse, neither in the eyes of the law, or in the eyes of those whose necks you are so gleefully standing on.

4. You still feel genuinely insecure?

I realise that most people wouldn’t suspect it, but there is some research that suggests the richer you are the more insecure you feel, if this is true then you 1% er’s must be living in an absolute paranoid lather; worried that people don’t really care about you and are just drawn to your money, or maybe just fearful that you might loose your money. Clearly your answer to this is to get more money (so you will still have some left if and when you loose a wad) and surround yourselves with other hyper rich people, (who have enough money not to be eyeing off yours).

fear of poverty

At the risk of repeating myself; if you in the 1% can not feel secure with what you have already have, then trust me, a bit more money is not going to help.

5. You simply don’t care about others?

I admit I find this highly unlikely. I am sure you love your family and friends, and would go to great lengths to protect them. What maybe the case however is that you do not experience yourselves as part of the broader human family; and thus those that are not known to you personally are too abstract to you to evoke your natural caring human instincts.

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This disconnect is broadly supported by a media narrative that casts the “have nots” as either lacking in the smarts to get ahead, or as shiftless lazy leaners trying to gouge a free ride, which makes it much easier to see them as deserving of their wretched fate, (after all, they are not hard working, self made actualisers like you and your cohorts).

While I understand you may find this narrative very comforting, and a perfectly adequate justification for your modus operandi, that doesn’t make it true. Even here in the west there are plenty of people working 2-3 jobs, 80 hours or more just to subsist, so you could not call them lazy. And does a person possessed of an average or lower intelligence really deserve to be denied a decent life just because they were born sub-brilliant?

6. You have never read the history of the French Revolution?

Perhaps you are not aware that history is awash with stories where the peasants decide that quietly starving is not a viable option and have taken up arms against their wealthy oppressors. And as a general rule when they get their hands on them, they kill them!

Now I’m not agitating for that, I don’t want to see you, or anyone else killed; but it’s worth noting that when legislation is passed making it illegal to feed the homeless, when you cut off the water to supply to poorest 1/3 of a city, when you squeeze wages and benefits to the point where employees need to work 3 jobs, never get to see their children and can barely make rent. When you smash unions, or fail to pay your taxes so their is no money for social support…. you need to understand you are creating an environment you may not be able to control. Keep playing hard ball and eventually THE PITCH FORKS WILL COME!

french revolution

7. You are genuinely unaware of your power to effect change?

With the stroke of a pen the Walton family could raise tens of millions out of abject poverty, and it wouldn’t make a whip of difference to them personally; they wouldn’t have to go without anything. NIKE could raise the wages of it’s manufacturing staff to a living standard, and all it would cost them would be one or two less basketball players in an ad.

How is it that you guys are not doing this? Don’t you get it? YOU HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE A BETTER WORLD for millions and millions of people.

Bill Gates gets it, Oprah gets it, Bob Geldof gets it, Nick Hanauer gets it, Bill Liao gets it, and whether or not you like their choices, they are all out there pitching for a better world.

I realise the system has it’s own momentum, and you are just going with the flow, but the system is causing insane amounts of grief and suffering for billions of people.

We have more than enough food to feed the planet, but people are starving; we have cities full of empty houses and streets full of homeless people; we have amazing medicines and people dying for lack of access; there are cities with water supplies denying clean water to citizens. Does this seem right to you?

What kind of life should a person working full time be able to afford? Should they be able to afford a house, food and water, healthcare and an education for their children? I really want to know your thoughts on this, because it looks to me like you think a living wage is way too high?

But seriously, would it kill you to pay living wages?

So I am asking you, the 1% er’s, what exactly is your end game? Pushing billions of people into crushing poverty so you can die with a bigger bank balance? Is that really what you want for your legacy? Does that make you happy? Because if not, then maybe it’s time you guys stirred things up a bit; raised some wages, paid some taxes perhaps, who knows, maybe working towards a better world for ALL of our human family will be the trick! It might seem like a crazy idea, but it’s worth a try.

Sportsbet Have Paid Out In The Victorian Election = Labor Win. Anyone Want A Bet That Abbott Wins The Next Election?

Liberal Party p

  • “It is an absolute principle of democracy that governments should not and must not say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. Nothing could be more calculated to bring our democracy into disrepute and alienate the citizenry of Australia from their government than if governments were to establish by precedent that they could say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards.” Tony Abbott, August 22, 2011Ok, you must note that he didn’t say that there was any problem with OPPOSITIONS saying one thing before an election, and something else after!!!!

    See, the promise you all thought he made…

    Anyway, let’s move on. There’s no point in living in the past. As Tony Abbott will clearly tell you, the adults are in charge, so stop talking about what promises I may or may not have made when the only important one was removing the Gillard government, because – after all – we have to talk about what Labor governments are like. Lets stop talking about the past and look at history.

    Anyway, as I said, let’s move on…

    Tomorrow, the Victorian Election takes place.

    As I pointed out in the title, Sportsbet are paying out already on a Labor win. Why would they do that? I mean, it’s close and the Liberals can win, right? After all, hasn’t Dennis Nap-time been campaigning in seats that the Liberals hold by a margin of up to 7%? Surely that’s a sign that they’re confident of the marginals and he just wants to reward the faithful by his presence! And surely, Tony Abbott’d be down here campaigning for all he’s worth if it was it wasn’t already in the bag for the Liberals…

    Mm, am I missing something?

    Like the fact that Mr Abbott needs to stay in Canberra and brief the other members of his party about the things he briefed the journalists about a few days ago, because it seems that some of them don’t seem to know that the Medicare copayment has gone the way of the sugar. It’s off the table.

    It’s being reconsidered/dropped/negotiated/introduced/slid in via regulation/sent to a tax haven/um, I’ll get back to you on that/let me be very clear/um/I’m backing Tony Abbott and whatever he said is our policy.

    >Sigh<

    Who thinks that Abbott’ll be replaced before Christmas? Yep, neither do I?

    Let me just say this: If Abbott is replaced before Christmas, I promise there’ll be no cuts to trees this year…

    And if there are, let me just say that I won’t let anyone stop Christmas or logging and I thought I made that clear when I said that there’d be no cuts!

Opinion The ‘Jewish state bill’ doesn’t matter to us, Palestinians The ‘Jewish state bill’ will simply put on paper what is already a reality in apartheid Israel.

Palestinian women are blocked by Israeli security forces outside the al-Aqsa mosque compound [AFP]

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Despite the uproar over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet passing the new “Jewish nation-state” bill, its discriminatory contents are part and parcel of Israel’s long history of marginalising and discriminating against the country’s Palestinian minority.

The bill, which still needs to be passed by Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, defines Israel as the “nation-state for the Jewish people” and enshrines the Zionist principles that the state was founded on at the expense of all Palestinians more than six decades ago.

Its defenders point out that it protects “the personal rights of all [the state’s] citizens”, ignoring that it only guarantees “communal rights” to Jews, who, regardless of their ancestral origins, have always been permitted to immigrate to Israel and gain citizenship.

Within Netayahu’s cabinet, the bill was passed by a 14-6 vote and reportedly sparked a passionate debate. As usual, that debate didn’t focus on the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up 20 percent of the total population, but centred on the state’s Declaration of Independence and founding ideology of Zionism.

For the 1.7 million Palestinians who were forced to take Israeli citizenship and continue living in what became Israel after the Nakba, this bill is nothing more than Israel finally taking off its mask in front of the world.

The debate it has thus far sparked is also nothing new: Despite our nominal citizenship, we have always been rendered second-class citizens with limited rights, for no reason other than not being born Jewish.

Discrimination from day one

Whether Netanyahu’s latest bill passes is irrelevant to Palestinians everywhere – in present-day Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories and the diaspora, where millions of refugees are waiting to return to the lands they were violently expelled from in 1948.

For those of us living in present-day Israel, the law is merely symbolic, as there are already dozens of laws that “discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel in all areas of life, including their rights to political participation, access to land, education, state budget resources, and criminal procedures,” as  Adalah Legal Centre has revealed.

Was it not already clear that Palestinians in Israel are living under the same occupation as Palestinians in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and the imprisoned Gaza Strip? Treating us as a “demographic threat”, Israel champions our citizenship in front of the world as alleged proof of its democratic nature, while simultaneously attempting to limit our presence and influence in society.

Following the state’s declaration of independence, the first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, dismayed at the number of Palestinians who stayed in their ancestral lands, lamented that Israel wouldn’t be able to “clear the entire central Galilee region” of the then 100,000 remaining indigenous residents without a war.

But Israeli leaders have actually attempted to do so, even in peacetime. In recent years, a plan to demolish the Galilee village of Ramiyya and expel its people is one example of attempts to make Ben Gurion’s dream come true. As Professor Hilel Cohen of the Hebrew University said, “The project of ‘Judaizing the Galilee’ commenced when the state [of Israel] was founded and has continued in various guises to the present day.”

In the Negev region, Palestinian Bedouins with Israeli citizenship have been exposed to home demolitions and denied basic services, such as water, electricity and education. Living in more than 40 “unrecognised” villages across that region, an estimated 53,000 men, women and children face impending eviction.

Al-Araqib, for instance, has been razed by Israeli bulldozers 78 times since July 2010. Its residents, however, refuse to leave, returning and rebuilding it each time. Was it not already clear to them that Israel’s leaders viewed us as second-class citizens from day one? And can a Jewish “nation-state” bill, largely devoid of practical content, possibly make their daily lives any more difficult?

The opposition to the law by Israel’s so-called “centrists” and “liberals”, such as finance minister Yair Lapid and justice minister Tzipi Livni, exposes the whole affair as yet another case of Israel’s political establishment debating over and controlling our future without our input.

A failed project

Nonetheless, Palestinian political parties in Israel continue to sit as lawmakers in the Knesset. Ostensibly convinced that they could impact the laws being pumped out of the parliament, they continue to vie for our votes and encourage us to support them each time campaign season comes around.

But this has proven to be a failed project. Despite giving the opportunity to speak in the Knesset, they have not made our daily reality any better. The onslaught of racist laws hasn’t slowed down, the incitement from Israeli politicians has also grown and our ability to organise as a unified political force has been impeded by internal divisions and competition between the Arab political parties.

Palestinian lawmaker Hanin Zoabi was recently expelled from the Knesset for six months after remarking that Palestinians who kidnapped and killed three Israeli settlers this past summer were not “terrorists”.

Now, Netanyahu and his rabid rightwing cohorts are pushing a new bill to expel Knesset members “who in a time of war or military action against an enemy state or terror organization offers public support for military struggle”. It was aptly named the “Hanin Zoabi bill” by its sponsors.

Israel’s claim to not be an apartheid state has always relied on the fact that Palestinian citizens of Israel can vote and participate in the Knesset. Do we need any more proof that this was a facade from the outset?

With a law that outright declares that this state exists solely for the Jewish people, it’s high time that Palestinians in Israel drop the idea that participating in this theatre of absurdity that is the Israeli political process will improve our lives and further our cause.

It is time to take steps to dissolve our political divisions and build ties with our compatriots in the occupied Palestinian territories and the diaspora in order to build a joint struggle capable of posing a serious challenge to world’s last settler colonial occupation. 

Waad Ghantous is a Haifa-based Palestinian activist and a member of the Al-Awda organisation. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.


Seven Dead At McCaysville Drug And Gun In Black Friday Tragedy: In 2013, approximately 141 million U.S. consumers shopped during Black Friday, spending a total of $57.4 billion, with online sales reaching $1.2 billion

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THE CABIN ANTHRAX, MURPHY, N.C. (CT&P) – The Fannin County Coroner’s office declared seven shoppers dead at the scene earlier today at McCaysville Drug and Gun in downtown McCaysville, Georgia after a tragic Black Friday stampede shortly after the doors opened at 6 A.M. Two dozen other would-be shoppers were taken to Ducktown Regional Medical Center to be treated for a number of broken bones and internal injuries.

WAR & CONFLICT BOOKERA:  WORLD WAR II/WAR IN THE EAST/ATROCITIES

A crowd of over two hundred hunters, drug addicts, and meth lab proprietors had been milling about the entrance to the store for over 24 hours in anticipation of the beginning of the annual “Sudafed and Ammo Spectacular Sale.” The sale has been a big hit in the tri-county area for many years.

“It was horrifying,” said assistant manager R.W. Scrotum. “There were dozens of hillbillies dressed in all sorts of camouflage clothing and about fifty toothless sleep-deprived maniacs clawing at each other to get inside first. When the doors opened it was like a dam had burst. The poor bastards at the front of the line didn’t stand a chance.”

The store owner, Mr. Billy Bob McSneed, told Eyewitness News Chattanooga that he had hired three sheriff’s deputies to try to control the crowd after what happened last year, when three shoppers were killed and several children went missing and remain unaccounted for.

“I really thought we had a grip on things this time around,” said McSneed, “but I guess there is just no controlling a crowd of murderous gun-totin’ rednecks and a bunch of drug-crazed hillbillies. Next year I’m hoping that we can borrow Cherokee County’s tank that they got from the Pentagon. That should slow these guys down a little bit.”

The McCaysville city council has tried to ban the Black Friday sale several times over the years but Mayor Thomas Seabolt has blocked every attempt saying “hell, it’s the only viable business we have in this God-forsaken town. Do you want to ruin our tax base? If those cretins want to kill each other getting in every year, then so be it.”

The American legacy: It’s what Conservatives simply want us to forget. However it’s internalised in each and everyone of us in different ways. It’s history it’s culture for some Australians it’s a 40,000 year journey. It doesn’t mean that’s all we are , but it’s better recognised. In decades to come we will be judged because of who we are today.

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By Dave Harrison

When Osama bin Laden was killed in cold blood in Pakistan and many demanded to see his death-photos for verification, President Obama refused and said, “That’s not who we are,” which begs the question: Who are the Americans?

Are Americans the ones who annexed the Philippines, denied them their own republic and then engaged in a war (1899-1902) with those who opposed them at the cost of 1.4 million Filipino lives? Are they the ones who burned villages, murdered their entire populations, and rounded up all boys over ten and young men and had them executed? Is that who they are?

Are Americans the ones who supported, supplied with arms and intelligence-gathering and bolstered many, brutal South and Central American dictatorships like Batista and Pinochet whose death-squads callously murdered tens of thousands of people in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s simply because they believed in social justice by way of a social-minded government?

Are Americans the ones who experimented with atomic weapons on Hiroshima which killed over 80,000 people – including innocent men, women, and children – who were not actively involved in the war and then repeated its massacre on Nagasaki? Hiroshima had no military value and American bomber pilots were warned not to drop conventional bombs on it lest they ruin their precious experiment. Is that who they are?

Are Americans the ones who succeeded the French in Vietnam, picked up an already lost war and made it their own all based on a faulty thesis known as the “Domino Effect” which later proved to be nonsense?  And while they pursued this baseless theory, put an entire country to the torch at the cost of another 2,000,000 Vietnamese lives and 58,000 of their own, the American military-industrial complex thrived. Is that who they are?

Are Americans the ones who burned villages, shot the villagers’ animals, destroyed their crops and in one instance evacuated an entire village of 504 defenseless old men, women, children and even babes in arms in Mi Lai in 1969 and then shot them down like dogs in a ditch with their M-16 rifless? Is that who they are?

 

Are Americans the ones who provided the experimental drug LSD to a Montreal asylum to test out on Canadian patients including one MP’s wife in the 1960s without their knowledge or consent? Are they the ones who sprayed a Canadian city (Winnipeg) to make long-term chemical tests on Canadian civilians rather than risk their own? Is that who they are?

Are Americans the ones who entered Korea on a “police action” and then engaged in the “Forgotten War” at the cost of 2,000,000 civilian Korean lives? How can Koreans forget? Is that who they are?

Are Americans the ones who followed George Bush and his senseless side-kick, Dick Cheney, to invade Iraq based on outright lies and half-baked intelligence, which almost everyone else knew was completely untrue? Are they the ones who headed the “Coalition of the Willing” to wilfully destroy a complete country and its infrastructure, kill 50,000 of its soldiers defending their own country, kill another 100,000 civilians, displace over a half million Iraqi citizens and then occupy it and rebuild it under the direction of Halliburton Company which was once headed by Dick Cheney himself? Is that who they are?

Are Americans the ones who set off their first, atomic test in the Nevada desert on July 16th, 1945 with American and Canadian soldiers present within 1000 yards of the blast without any radiation protection whatsoever, marched them to Ground Zero through the atomic dust afterward, and then casually swept them off with corn brooms to show that it was harmless? When they later died off like flies from cancer, victims were told, “Prove it.” Is that who they are?

Are Americans the ones who deviously tested Agent Orange in New Brunswick, Canada along transmission lines before they used it inVietnam at the cost of many Canadian lives and the tortured lives of thousands of Vietnamese? Is that who they are?

Are Americans the ones who incarcerated hundreds of individuals at Guantanamo Bay and left them without any legal rights, tortured them in various ways – like water boarding and sleep deprivation – and then threw away the keys? Is this who they are?

Are Americans the ones who send in drones to kill one individual whom they suspect of being a terrorist – without arrest and a fair trial but only their suspicions – and without any consideration for the rights of hundreds of innocent victims? And, when they anonymously kill dozens of innocent victims – women and children included – they simply issue an apology for the mistake and do it again later. Is that who they are?

Are Americans the ones who place on their coins, “In God we trust“? We are left to ponder: Which God is that? (It’s certainly not the one I know.) Is that who they are, or is that how history will remember America?

In decades to come, America will be judged harshly.

Dave Harrison

Australia: nature needs you

Image from theguardian.com

What is fundamentally at stake in Australia right now is life – all of it!

From Australia’s last great wilderness in the Kimberley (Western Australia), to the Pilliga woodland of New South Wales, and the towering rainforests of Tasmania and Victoria, we are all connected to this country in one-way or another.

Yet, our governments and their industrial sidekick corporations continue to put at risk the community’s land, food, air, water, wildlife and significant cultural and heritage values in order extract fossil fuels from the ground for emerging super power countries and sustain, in the short-term, Australia’s “economic viability”.

To deny life support to your own people in need is clearly an act of violence. All political power rests on this violent foundation – from the first dominion of kings and emperors to the elaborate systems of state land management today.

In effect, it’s an invisible violence of security – a hostility that many Australians are facing, imprisoned by an all-powerful, imperial-like external force. Some may like to term this type of violence a form of “terrorism” but therein lies “terrorism’s” ambiguity.

Stand-by Australia to be bombarded with fossil fuel campaigns over the next 18 months, telling you how safe and clean these resources are to human life.

The ‘clean’ fossil fuels campaign will undoubtedly be another sorcery of social relations, that which big industry, governments and their corporate media partners will spin (spending millions of dollars in the process to back the fraudulent financial Ferris wheel), until the public are convinced of its moral and economic rationality – thus creating another modern-day myth for society to accept.

The truthful facts of how the industrial state complex is crippling Australia (economically and sustainably) must be exposed to the wider public.

The Australian nation must bond together and work up a mass system of deterrence against this “polluted democracy” to not only save themselves and their families but the environment that sustains us all.

Environmental destruction endorsed by governments and carried out by big business and fossil fuel banking cartels is a challenge to Australian society, and it must be responded to as such. If we don’t do something right now, we will all be tied to a human catastrophe that can never be reversed.

It’s the people alone who can lead us to a cleaner, better future. People such as Albert Wiggan, Anne Kennedy, Bob Davey, Hedley Hoskinson and Madeleine Deveson are standing their ground to protect nature and attempting to reach out to the rest of Australia to wake us up from of the propagated fossil fuel slumber.

These ordinary Australians are speaking out in a new short film produced by Balangara Films and The Wilderness Society Inc to help inspire all of us to act from the heart consciousness.

Watch the short film (an absolutely stunning and inspiring video):

The death of due process, transparency and accountability

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Increasingly this government is seeking to subvert due process and impose their agenda in totalitarian fashion.

Regardless of whether you think the increase in fuel excise is an appropriate measure, the move to introduce it through regulation rather than legislation is specifically designed to bypass parliament.  The regulations will need to be backed up with proper legislation by the Senate within 12 months or the money raised will have to be refunded.

As reported in the SMH

“The government believes the ploy will put Labor and Greens senators in a bind at that time forcing them to choose between keeping the escalating revenue stream, or voting it down forcing the government to pay potentially hundreds of millions of dollars collected from motorists back to oil companies.

While the incremental inflation adjustments will raise an expected $167 million from motorists by November next year, little-appreciated new compliance costs for service stations are calculated at $5.06 million according to Treasury estimates.”

So much for cutting red tape to help small businesses.  They also ignore the flowon costs to households as businesses pass on increased delivery expenses, and the cumulative effect of twice yearly increases.

And it seems they may be trying to introduce the GP co-payment in the same way.

Initially, on Tuesday Peter Dutton said

“There is no capacity to introduce a $7 co-payment through regulation, the advice from our legal people within the department as well as with attorneys is the $7 co-payment needs substantive legislation to support the co-payment.”

But yesterday he changed that message, refusing to rule out the introduction of the $7 levy by regulation to bypass the need for legislation.

“I am not going to rule things in or out. I am saying that there are options that are available to the Government,” Mr Dutton said.

Finding ways around our parliament and our laws is becoming a habit.

After the High Court ruled in June that the federal government could not directly fund religious chaplains in public schools, Christopher Pyne chose to give the money to the states with the direction that it could not be used for secular welfare workers.

So much for their claim that education decisions should not be dictated by Canberra.

In February, a Senate inquiry paved the way for the Parliament to give Environment Minister Greg Hunt legal immunity against future legal challenges to his decisions on mining projects.  It will protect him from being challenged over deliberate or negligent decisions that do not comply with the law.

The Coalition government has now licensed Greg Hunt to avoid compliance with the EPBC Act.  The amendment retrospectively validates ministerial decisions – even if they did not comply with the EPBC Act when they were made.

We are also losing our right to appeal development decisions.

The Abbott government’s move to establish a single approval process by passing environmental approval responsibilities onto the states and territories creates a conflict of interest as they raise revenue from land sales and mining royalties.

In early 2014 the Queensland government proposed to confine the objections and notifications process for a mining lease to people owning land within the proposed lease.

The Coordinator-General is fast becoming an almost supremely powerful czar for large projects in Queensland, subject only to the political whims of the state government.  He can also prevent any objections to the environmental authority for a coordinated project from being heard by the Land Court. When combined with the severe restrictions on objections to mining leases, very few people can now challenge matters such as impacts on groundwater of large mines that are declared a coordinated project.

Under the federal Coalition’s one-stop shop the Coordinator-General is also proposed to have power to approve projects impacting on matters protected under federal environmental laws.

And that’s not the only avenue for appeal that is being shut down.

Australians could be left with no appeal rights against government secrecy by the end of this year.

The May budget cut $10.2 million funding for the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) which handles Freedom of Information appeals.  The government wants appeals to be handled by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal instead.  This move is being blocked in the Senate so we will be left with effectively no avenue for appeal.

But perhaps the most blatant disregard for the law is being shown by Scott Morrison who, in a Napoleonic gesture, has conferred on himself the power to revoke a person’s citizenship.  The new laws provide the Minister with the power to set aside decisions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) concerning character and identity if it would be in the public interest to do so and confer on the Minister the power to make legislative instruments.

Morrison has condemned innocent people to indefinite incarceration and washed his hands of any responsibility for their welfare.  He has ignored warnings that his actions are in breach of human rights and is actively outsourcing our responsibilities under the Refugee Convention at enormous cost to this country.  He is now even blocking refugee applications from people coming through official UNHCR channels.

Journalists have been denied access to detention camps.  Even the head of the Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, was denied access to child asylum seekers on Nauru on the grounds that the commission’s jurisdiction did not extend beyond Australia’s borders.  The cost of a single-entry media visa to Nauru rose from $200 to $8,000.

And if any of us report on the machinations of this government, our fate is in the hands of Attorney-General George Brandis who has the individual power to determine if we should face a possible ten year jail sentence.

So much for free speech, transparency and accountability.

“Trust me,” they say.  Not friggin’ likely.

The right’s vile Ferguson ploy: Why they really want to focus on “riots”

The right's vile Ferguson ploy: Why they really want to focus on "riots"

Supporters of Darren Wilson and apologists for Ferguson officials are desperate to change the subject. Here’s why

From the very beginning, before St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch had uttered the first word of his defensive and dissembling speech, the fix was in. The conspiracy this time was not to protect Officer Darren Wilson from standing trial for the killing of Michael Brown, though that was certainly related. This time, the conspiracy was to organize the announcement of Wilson’s exoneration in as provocative a way as possible. The ultimate goal was to manipulate the public and the press into forgetting the real story of Ferguson — of police brutality and racial injustice — and bickering about the morality of rioting instead.

At the very least, that’s the impression I’ve had throughout the Ferguson controversy, especially as the wait for news from the grand jury dragged on, and as the county’s offices began leaking pro-Wilson factoids like a sieve. And after witnessing last night’s spectacle, which was preceded by multiple delays and conspicuous readying of the state’s police forces, I’m no less convinced that the powers that be in Missouri approached the Wilson verdict with little concern for accountability or justice. All they wanted was to improve the Ferguson power structure’s battered images — not by doing good, but by making the protesters look even worse. It’s a tried and tested strategy; as Rick Perlstein has documented, it helped make Richard Nixon president.

A quick look at the nation’s front pages on Tuesday indicates that the plan worked on some, but fewer perhaps than these would-be Pat Buchanans wanted. By maneuvering to incite disorder and polarize public opinion along race lines, these would-be Nixons probably thought they could “cut the … country in half,” as Buchanan recommended, and walk away with “far the larger half.” But while some of the biggest names out there fell for the trick, focusing on the small number of rioters instead of Wilson’s verdict, most editors understood that the controversy in Ferguson remains what it’s always been: A jarring and dispiriting reminder that the Declaration of Independence’s assertion of universal human equality (the “promissory note,” as Martin Luther King Jr. once called it) remains, for millions of Americans, a debt unpaid.

There’s a lesson here, one that those outraged by what’s happened this year in Ferguson — and happens countless times throughout America, each and every day — should keep in mind as they contribute to our amorphous yet powerful national conversation. Put simply, we must not allow supporters of the Wilson verdict to distract us by making this a conversation about rioting or poverty or race. That’s not to say we should condone the riots; and it’s certainly not to say we should avoid subjects that involve issues of race and poverty. What it means instead is keeping in mind that riots are nothing new, that the unique struggles of the African-American community can’t be simply attributed to poverty, and that discussions of “race” that aren’t linked with specific policy changes often result in little more than frivolous declarations of privilege.

If we can combat the dual influences of a Ferguson elite that wants national attention to drift elsewhere; and a national media that dislikes policy and favors more watchable, clickable, shareable and fundamentally empty manifestations of the culture war — if we can do that, there’s hope that even though the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson will always be an obscenity, it won’t have been entirely in vain. So let’s ignore those in American society who would rather debate the merits of trashing a bodega than the killing of a child, and let’s not listen to those who would use this opportunity to relitigate the civil rights movement, the Rodney King riots or the Trayvon Martin case. Let’s honor the wishes of Michael Brown’s parents and decline to “just make noise” in favor of making “a difference.”

How to define that difference — whether through body cameras on police, constraining the power of prosecutors, mandating that police departments reflect the communities they serve, etc. — is the debate we need to have right now. The culture war can wait.

Elias Isquith Elias Isquith is a staff writer at Salon, focusing on politics. Follow him on Twitter at @eliasisquith, and email him at eisquith@salon.com.

The right’s favorite new race guru: Why you should know Jason Riley: You will see his ideas transplanted to Andrew Bolt’s explanation of Indigenous Australia. Has Bolt anything original to say?

The right's favorite new race guru: Why you should know Jason Riley

WSJ’s Jason Riley blames liberalism for brainwashing black America. Here’s why it’s so wrong — and dangerous

The American left should start paying attention to the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley. His name is on the rise. An editorial board member of one of the nation’s most well-known publications, a paper that boasts an average weekday circulation of 2.4 million and falls under the umbrella of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News empire, Riley has a new book out, “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed,” which is beginning to pick up steam. This weekend, he’ll be featured on C-SPAN to talk about it. A few days ago, he sat down with Lou Dobbs. Before that, Bill O’Reilly. Now, his name is being praised by the National Journal (who called him an author who “annihilates nonsense”) and circulating throughout the Twittersphere as a man who has written “a great primer on race.”

As an African-American columnist, Riley has built his brand by diverging from the “black liberal” moniker. In fact, his career has been predicated on maintaining a conspicuous level of skepticism toward the “Lean Forward” stylings of MSNBC and the left’s alleged coziness with black America. He once said: “I think there’s a pattern at MSNBC of them hiring black mediocrities like Melissa Harris-Perry, Michael Eric Dyson, Touré and, of course — the granddaddy of them all — Al Sharpton, simply to race-bait.” Quite often he goes “against the grain” (much like ESPN’s Jason Whitlock). Perhaps this explains why a friend and former colleague of his at the WSJ lauded Riley for being an “affable” editorialist “who came to his views as a college student reading writers such as George Will and Charles Krauthammer in the otherwise liberal Buffalo News,” an independent thinker whose mind was heavily influenced by the works of “economist Tom Sowell and historian Shelby Steele, black thinkers who rejected the liberal pieties about race.”

Riley’s recent New York Post column“Why Liberals Should Stop Trying to ‘Help’ Black Americans” (much like his book) is undoubtedly a continuation of these teachings and his latest effort to invalidate liberal ideas. In it, he attempts to disentangle liberal rhetoric from the actual effects of liberal policies on black Americans. He wants to show how liberal ideology holds black success in the Lex Luger torture rack. But behind his fundamental question — “At what point does helping start hurting?” — also lies a troubling and familiar query, one that has historically proven resilient in American political discussion despite the best efforts to lay it to rest: Do black Americans actually need to be saved?

Riley thinks this to be the case. And it’s liberalism that black Americans need to be saved from. The crux of his claim, it seems, is that liberalism’s coercive powers cause more harm to black advancement than the painful enduring legacies of American slavery and Jim Crow era racism. These legacies, Riley writes, “are not holding down blacks half as much as the legacy of efforts to help them ‘overcome.’” To attach a sense of urgency to his words he then cites a few obvious statistics to show how the plight of the black community has worsened in the last 50 years. “The black-white poverty gap has widened over the last decade,” he writes, adding that the “black-white disparity in incarceration rates today is larger than it was in 1960” and that “the black unemployment rate has, on average, been twice as high as the white rate for five decades.” These grim statistics Riley puts forth demonstrate what we supposedly should have been skeptical of all along, liberalism’s ability to save black America.

Central to Riley’s rebuke of liberal politics is the presumption that black Americans have somehow been brainwashed into thinking of themselves as victims. “Today,” Riley writes, “there is no greater impediment to black advancement than the self-pitying mindset that permeates black culture.” This condition, Riley argues, is evidence of the triumphs(?) of liberalism, which “has also succeeded, tragically, in convincing blacks to see themselves first and foremost as victims.” Black Americans, so the story goes, have been duped by the liberal conspiracy. What’s more, they are as much to blame for conferring the status of victim as the grifting liberals who bequeathed that status upon them.

The problem with this logic is that it is unprovable and only exists in the minds of those who rely on myth to explain their own shallow assumptions. There is no evidence that blacks see themselves as victims any more than any other demographic, whether they be white, Latino, Asian-American or whatever. Black people don’t carry with them, in the words of New York’s Jonathan Chait, a “cultural residue” of oppression that they remain entangled in any more than the next race. If Riley bothered to survey actual black Americans he might realize this much. That blacks see themselves (like I hope Riley sees himself) not as victims, but as human beings, operating from unique experiences and disparate backgrounds while all tied to a larger complicated history. While, undoubtedly, self-pity may exist for some black individuals, it has not infiltrated the masses.

This is not to say that blacks have not been injured. The plundering of black people is as old as the country itself and still exists today. But it is not a result of the failures of liberalism; rather, it is a triumph of white supremacism. Liberalism did not deny opportunity and prosperity to black Americans; instead, racism attached itself to liberal policies. As the Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates eloquently articulates in his June cover story, “The Case for Reparations,” the liberal holy grail, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, was crafted specifically to include the racist traditions of the Jim Crow South. “The omnibus programs passed under the Social Security Act in 1935 were crafted in such a way as to protect the southern way of life,” Coates explains. “Old-age insurance (Social Security proper) and unemployment insurance excluded farmworkers and domestics—jobs heavily occupied by blacks. When President Roosevelt signed Social Security into law in 1935, 65 percent of African Americans nationally and between 70 and 80 percent in the South were ineligible.” Coates also recounts how troves of black soldiers were denied access to low-interest home loans under Title III of the G.I. Bill due to racist local V.A. officials and racist lending practices by banks. Liberalism was overpowered by America’s most time-honored tradition.

Of course, despite evidence to the contrary, Riley is quick to remind us that this all happened in the distant past. And to be fair, his critique supposedly is limited to the last 50 years. Perhaps that is why he calls the spoils of the civil rights movement — “the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed racial discrimination in employment and education and ensured the ability of blacks to register and vote” — the shining example of “liberalism at its best.” This statement is not difficult to dispute, even if you only think (mistakenly) of liberalism within the confines of curbing racial discrimination. Other landmark achievements include legalizing interracial marriage and constitutional amendments banning slavery, giving blacks the right to vote, and bestowing full-personhood — rectifying the three-fifths clause — to blacks. “Liberalism at its best” was a set of laws guaranteeing black people what they supposedly were legally entitled to 100 years prior. The reoccurring theme was that “liberalism” (Riley’s definition) had to reassert its will against white supremacism.

Ironically, Riley’s beacon of “liberalism at its best” — the Voting Rights Act — is currently under threat, not by liberals but by conservatives. Yet, he makes no mention of this whatsoever in his column. Instead of standing up for what he says he believes, he chooses to stand with the very man, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who voted to effectively destroy it. Last year, Thomas was part of 5-4 split decision that ruled the VRA was unconstitutional. The court’s reasoning was that essentially, things have changed and gotten better; racism is a relic of the past. Riley’s complaint against liberals echoes the dangerous logic used by the court (what’s in the past is in the past!). Liberals “continue to blame the past,” he writes, inferring that times have changed. Liberals, black and white, seem drunk off their “obsession with racial slights real or imagined.” Essentially, this means that we talk too much about race. He then quotes Thomas who said to a crowd, oddly enough, despite what he wrote in his memoir, that America is more color sensitive now than during his time as a black child integrating into white schools in the deep South before the legal abolition of Jim Crow. “My sadness is that we are probably today more race-and difference-conscious than I was in the 1960s when I went to school … Everybody is sensitive,” Thomas said. Doubling down, Riley claims that we live “in an era when public policy bends over backward to accommodate blacks” and that even “King and his contemporaries demanded black self-improvement despite the abundant and overt racism of his day.” Once again liberalism’s best efforts to save black America have had a deleterious effect on the black psyche. We can’t even help ourselves.

According to Riley, the key offender of liberalism’s stranglehold over the black community is none other than America’s first black president, Barack Obama. Citing a sliver of the president’s remarks following the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin — “They understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country, and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history” — Riley misconstrues the president’s empathy for liberal brainwashing. He writes: “Obama was doing exactly what liberals have been conditioning blacks to do since the 1960s, which is to blame black pathology on the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow laws. And the president is conditioning the next generation of blacks to do the same.” Riley calls the president’s words a “dodge” for his policy failures, a representation of the “left’s sentimental support [that] has turned underprivileged blacks into playthings for liberal intellectuals and politicians who care more about clearing their conscience or winning votes than advocating behaviors and attitudes that have allowed other groups to get ahead.” Another example of the left’s indoctrination of black minds.

If this all seems like déjà vu, it should. Many of Riley’s criticisms echo the oft-cited talking points of the right wing. Which makes his polemic, one that excoriates liberals for “more of the same,” particularly laughable. It is not new ideas he yearns for, but old ones that conform with his limited pre-established political leanings. But on a deeper level, Riley’s invective sheds light on the twisted logic that continues to pervade Republican circles. He thinks that once the liberal spell is lifted, black liberation will be realized. That when blacks no longer drink the liberal Kool-Aid, believing in their status as victims, they will be made whole. Republicans, desperately trying to convince blacks to abandon the Democratic Party, have imparted the same messaging (evidence be damned): Liberals have made your lives worse; but we can save you. Rid yourselves of liberalism, and follow us down the road to salvation.

But the truth is no political ideology can save black people from the tireless forces of racism. White supremacy knows no party or clique. American history has proven how resilient the virus of racism can be; even when blacks have been made equal in the eyes of the law, racism resurrects itself and spreads through the veins that gives life to the American ideals of freedom and liberty.

This is history. And the Jason Rileys of the world can try to ignore it all they want. But they can only obfuscate what we feel all around us, that which we cannot separate ourselves from, that which we carry with us each day. As James Baldwin reminds us, “The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.” To tell ourselves otherwise is to subscribe to a much more troubling pathology than victimhood, which is to detach ourselves from who we are.

Strangely, this is the path Jason Riley has chosen. And the sad part is none of us can save him.

Israel and Mississippi: Racist Plans for Second Class Citizens and Religious Legislation:

Israeli activists dressed up as members of the Ku Klux Klan as a critique of right-wing politicians at the annual human rights march in Tel Aviv in 2011.

The Guardian reports that

“A controversial bill that officially defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people has been approved by cabinet despite warnings that the move risks undermining the country’s democratic character.

Opponents, including some cabinet ministers, said the new legislation defined reserved “national rights” for Jews only and not for its minorities, and rights groups condemned it as racist.

The bill, which is intended to become part of Israel’s basic laws, would recognise Israel’s Jewish character, institutionalise Jewish law as an inspiration for legislation and delist Arabic as a second official language.”

Netanyahu’s measure is much worse than that of Mississippi fundamentalists who want to declare Mississippi a principally Christian state and want to celebrate the white-supremacist Confederacy as part of the state’s heritage.

I wrote earlier of this kind of development when Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was planning it out:

“So either way Netanyahu defines Jewishness, it disenfranchises substantial numbers of self-identifying Israeli Jews. If it is a matter of maternal descent, it leaves 300,000 or so out in the cold. If it is a matter of belief and observance, it leaves nearly 2 million Israeli Jews out of the club.

In addition, of course, 1.7 million Israelis, about a fifth of the population, are Palestinian-Israelis, mostly Muslim but some Christians. They are, in other words, a somewhat greater proportion of the Israeli citizen population than Latinos are of the US population (Latinos are about 17% of Americans). If current demographic trends continue, Palestinian-Israelis could be as much as 1/3 of the population by 2030.

Saying Israel is a “Jewish” state in the sense of race would be analogous to insisting that the US is a “white” state and defining Latinos as “brown.”

And saying Israel is a Jewish state in the sense of observant believers would be like asserting that the United States is a Christian state even though about 22% of the population does not identify as Christian (roughly the same proportion as non-Jews in Israel). The point of the US first amendment is to forbid the state to to “establish” a religion, i.e. to recognize it as a state religion with privileges (the colonists had had bad experiences with Anglicanism in this regard). While we can’t stop other countries from establishing state religions, we Americans don’t approve of it and won’t give our blessing to it, as Netanyahu seems to want. In fact our annual State Department human rights report downgrades countries that don’t separate religion and state.

While some countries have a state or official religion, that is different from what Netanyahu is demanding. Argentina’s constitution says Roman Catholicism is the state religion. But Argentina is not a “Catholic state” either in the sense of being mainly for people of Catholic religious faith (only 20% of Argentines are observant) or for being for persons descended from traditionally Catholic populations. Indeed, Argentina has about half a million Muslims, who are not discriminated against in Argentine law the way Palestinian-Israelis are discriminated against (their villages not ‘recognized’) in Israel. Anyway, as I said, in the U.S. we don’t approve of that part of the Argentine constitution. If all Netanyahu wanted was that Judaism be the ‘state religion’ of Israel, that could surely be achieved by a simple vote of the Knesset. He wants something much more, something that requires that outsiders assent to it.

Netanyahu’s demand is either racist or fundamentalist and is objectionable from an American point of view on human rights grounds either way (and I’m not just talking about the human rights of Palestinian-Israelis).”

Elsewhere I pointed out that Israel is moving in the opposite direction from Morocco, Tunisia and other more successful Middle Eastern states, which have new constitutions affirming citizen equality and freedom of conscience and avoiding specifying Islamic law (sharia) as the main source for law, in the way this new Israeli measure specifies Jewish law (halakha) as the inspiration for Israeli legislation.  Netanyahu’s Israel looks more and more like the Muslim Brotherhood Egypt of now-deposed President Muhammad Morsi.

“Netanyahu is also moving in the opposite direction from the more positive developments in the Middle East itself. Iraq’s old Baathist Arab nationalism (qawmiya) had racialized Arabness (which is really just a linguistic group) and had excluded the Kurds, who speak an Indo-European language, from full membership in the Iraqi nation. Interestingly, many Arabic-language news items on Netanyahus speech translate his use of “national” by the Arabic qawmiya, which has overtones of extremist nationalism of a racist sort. The new Iraqi constitution rejects that kind of racist nationalism. It recognizes Kurdish as a national official language (and Turkmen and Aramaic as provincial ones). Without denying the Arab or Muslim identity of the majority, it recognizes the right of the minorities to their own ethnic identities within the nation. It doesn’t say that Iraq is only a homeland for the Arab-Shiite majority.

And Morocco suffered deep political divisions between its Arab majority and Berber/ Amazigh minority in earlier decades. But its new constitution finally recognizes Berber/ Amazigh as an official language and celebrates Amazigh identity as one of the key heritages of all Moroccans, including Arabic speakers. The constitution does say that Islam is the religion of state, while guaranteeing freedom of belief and religion to the country’s Jews and adds:

… the Kingdom of Morocco intends to preserve, in its plenitude and its diversity, its one and indivisible national identity. Its unity, is forged by the melting together of its Arab-Islamic, Berber [amazigh] and Saharan-Hassanic components, nourished and enriched by its African, Andalusian, Hebraic and Mediterranean influences.”

So could we really expect Netanyahu to say that Judaism is the religion of the Israeli state and that:

… Israel intends to preserve, in its plenitude and its diversity, its one and indivisible national identity. Its unity is forged by the melting together of its Jewish and Palestinian components, nourished and enriched by its Hebraic, Arab and Mediterranean influences.”

No. Netanyahu is talking of an indivisible national identity, but its unity is achieved by exclusion, not by melting and inclusion. He does not celebrate Israel’s Arab heritage, but wants to exclude it from any claim on the national homeland, wants to make it lesser. (Arabic is an official language of Israel, but Netanyahu’s rejection of the idea of a binational state makes it clear he thinks it is very much a de facto and unfortunate component of Israel, not something to be celebrated).

Interestingly, the Israeli left has a different objection. They mind the idea of Israeliness, of the Israeli national identity (akin to the Moroccan national identity in the constitution, quoted above) being demoted in favor of a Jewish identity. Haaretz’s Hebrew edition wrote on May 5:

“Yesterday Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu explained why he is promoting a new Basic Law: ‘The Nation State of the Jewish People’: ‘Israel’s status as the nation-state of the Jewish people is not given sufficient expression in our Basic Laws, and this is what the proposed Basic Law is meant to do’… For 66 years now ‘Israeliness’ has attempted to gain recognition and win independence, and has been rejected repeatedly by the establishment. It has been described as the ‘slivers of people-hood’ whose existence has not been proven, while at the same time, no one seeks to enact a law that will define and protect it. Again and again it is forced to bow before its ‘big sister’, the Jewish state… The creation of Israeli literature, Israeli art, Israeli music, Israeli theatre, Israeli humour, Israeli politics, Israeli sports, an Israeli accent, Israeli grief – are these not enough to speak of an ‘Israeli people’…?” [From [Hebrew language] editorial of left-of-centre, independent broadsheet Ha’aretz]. – [Trans. via BBC Monitoring]

Cleveland Police Kill 12-Year-Old African-American Boy Carrying Fake Gun: Andrew Bolt is sick of victimology.Suck it up and get on with it.

As America continues to reel from the killing of Michael Brown in Missouri, news has spread from Ohio that a black child was shot by local authorities Saturday afternoon while carrying a replica gun at a playground. Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy described by his family’s lawyer as having a “baby face,” died Sunday morning from the wounds he’d received the day before.

BBC News:

A 12-year-old boy has died after being shot by police in the US city of Cleveland, after carrying what turned out to be a replica gun in a playground.

Police say an officer fired two shots at Tamir Rice after he failed to obey an order to raise his hands.

He did not make any verbal threats nor point the gun towards the officers…An audio recording of the 911 emergency call made by the man who reported the incident reveals that on two occasions he said that the pistol was “probably a fake” and on another occasion that the person holding it “was probably a juvenile”…But Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland police association, said the two officers at the scene were not told about the caller’s comments.

An investigation is now under way into the shooting of Tamir Rice

Related Stories

A 12-year-old boy has died after being shot by police in the US city of Cleveland, after carrying what turned out to be a replica gun in a playground.

Police say an officer fired two shots at Tamir Rice after he failed to obey an order to raise his hands.

He did not make any verbal threats nor point the gun towards the officers.

A lawyer representing his family said it would be carrying out its own investigation into what happened.

The incident comes as a grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, will decide imminently whether to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.

A recording reveals the 911 caller did not know if the weapon was real

His shooting in August in Ferguson sparked days of violent protests in the town, prompting a heavy police crackdown’

The boy was shot on Saturday afternoon and died in hospital early on Sunday morning.

Cleveland deputy police chief Ed Tomba said the boy was shot twice after pulling the gun from the waistband of his trousers.

Tamir Rice had a “baby face” according to his family’s lawyer Timothy Kucharski

Police said the weapon was an “airsoft” replica gun that resembled a semi-automatic pistol, adding that an orange safety indicator had been removed.

An audio recording of the 911 emergency call made by the man who reported the incident reveals that on two occasions he said that the pistol was “probably a fake” and on another occasion that the person holding it “was probably a juvenile”.

The caller also said that he was not sure whether the weapon was “real or not”.

But Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland police association, said the two officers at the scene were not told about the caller’s comments.

One of the officers involved was in his first year on the local force, the other had more than 10 years of experience.

The BBC’s David Willis in Washington says an official investigation is under way and both officers have been placed on administrative leave.

Tamir Rice’s father, Gregory Henderson, said that police should have used a stun gun – or Taser – to subdue his son rather than shoot him.

“Why not Tase him?” he was quoted as asking by Cleveland.com. “[They] shot him twice, not once, and at the end of the day you all don’t shoot for the legs, you shoot for the upper body,” he said.

Mr Henderson said that Tamir was a “respectful young man” who “minded his elders”, and that it was a mystery to him why his son, reported to be tall for his age, allegedly did not follow police orders.

The BB gun taken from the 12-year old shot by Cleveland police (23 November 2014)The replica handgun taken from the 12-year old shot by Cleveland police

There have been calls for tighter controls on fake guns, with one local lawmaker – Alicia Reece – saying she intends to introduce legislation that would require fake guns sold in Ohio to be brightly coloured.

A lawyer for Rice’s family, Timothy Kucharski, told the BBC that he would be conducting an investigation, in “parallel” to the police, in order to establish exactly what happened.

“If in fact we determine that Tamir’s rights are violated, we will proceed with civil action against the police,” he said.

Cleveland’s police force has come under increased scrutiny in recent years, most notably over a high-profile car chase in 2012 that ended with two deaths and officers firing 137 shots.

Ferguson, Missouri: 8 Thoughts On A Smoldering Dumpster Fire

Ferguson, Missouri: 8 Thoughts On A Smoldering Dumpster Fire

As I have been watching the Michael Brown/Darren Wilson case unfold, a few things have occurred to me.

1: Let’s just get this out of the way first: there were two distinct groups in the streets the other night. Group A comprised people with legitimate grievances about this case and its place in a much longer running history of injustice for minorities in the US. Group B was made up of punks and hooligans looking for any excuse to cause trouble. There’s no defending this element’s behavior in the wake of the announcement that no indictment for officer Darren Wilson was forthcoming. I mean, you done me wrong, so to show you how pissed off I am I’m going to burn down my own house? Not a lot of rocket surgeons in that crowd, huh? I never ate at Red’s Barbecue, but I bet it was good and I hate to think what the owners are going through right now sifting through the ashes and trying to figure out what to do next.

2: I want to consider some numbers. Ferguson is 70% black but 50 of the police department’s 53 officers are white. The city has argued that it has done all it can to recruit black officers. That may be true. But if you’re skeptical, I understand why.

3: More numbers: Ferguson is 70% black, right? But the grand jury was 75% white. Just saying.

4: How about this number: 0.0068%. What’s that?

In the more than 162,500 cases prosecuted by U.S. attorneys from 2009 to 2010, grand juries voted not to return an indictment in only 11, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics — equivalent to one in 14,759 cases, or 0.0068 percent.

The article goes on to explain that this isn’t a perfect comparison. But even if it’s off by two freakin’ decimal places, that’s still an eyebrow-raiser, init?

5: How in the hell did this grand jury find itself in such rarefied statistical company? Good question. It isn’t clear that the prosecutor tried real hard.

Faced with the high burden of proof surrounding a contested police shooting, what’s clear is that McCulloch did not aggressively push for a prosecution. Rather, the lead prosecutor took a series of steps that are unusual in a grand jury proceeding and that likely influenced the jury’s final decision. Rather than building a case intended to prove Wilson’s criminal culpability before the jury, McCulloch presented all the evidence in the case. In effect, the lead prosecutor gave equal weight to the prosecution and the defense. That’s technically in keeping with the prosecutor’s responsibility to “disclose any credible evidence of actual innocence,” but highly unusual, since prosecutors usually only appear before grand jurys in cases where they are convinced of a party’s guilt.

Was the whole grand jury proceeding an elaborate dog and pony show staged by a man determined not to put the officer on trial? Good question.

6: But why would County Prosecutor Robert McCullough behave in such an unusual fashion? Well, there’s a history there. This isn’t the first time he has been perceived as acting to provide cover for the police in racially charged cases. And while we can’t say for sure that he was biased by his own personal history, it should be noted that his own father, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty when McCullough was 12. By a black man.

I’m not going to suggest for a second that I don’t understand how that might leave a scar on a man. Seriously. And I’m not going to argue that a boy who faced that kind of adversity couldn’t grow up to be a paragon of color-blind justice. But – and I cannot stress this enough – in a case like this it is not enough to act justly. It is also critical that one appear to be acting justly. For better or worse, there are times when perceptions are simply too overpowering, and in these cases officials whose motives are potentially suspect must recuse themselves, handing the reins to someone that the public can trust.

If McCullough didn’t realize this he was either stupid or pathologically naïve.

7: Hey, I know – let’s wait and announce this decision, which we know a highly agitated population has been planning for since the grand jury was seated, after dark. You know, because they’ll probably think it’s too late to go out, right?

Hey Hollywood, I have an idea for Dumb & Dumber 3. Have your people call my agent and let’s do lunch.

8: I wonder what President Obvious has to say? Obama didn’t tell us that water was wet or that the sun rises in the east, but he came damned close.

It’s still hard to say how this is all going to play out. I’m the sort of guy who can’t help hoping for the best, but I’ve learned to expect the worst.

Sam Smith is a writer and photographer living in Bend, Oregon. He’s the founder and publisher of Scholars & Rogues and by day works in the exciting world of marketing. Sam holds a PhD from the University of Colorado and loves craft beer, Chelsea FC and Scottish Terriers perhaps a bit more than is strictly healthy.

Wisc. Police Come To Man’s Home, Arrest Him For Calling Them Racists On Facebook : Coming our way Australia. Even more Scott Morrison can make you stateless.

Wisc. Police Come To Man's Home, Arrest Him For Calling Them Racists On Facebook

A federal lawsuit filed by a Wisconsin man alleges that Arena police violated his civil rights by charging him for calling officers racists on Facebook.

A federal lawsuit filed by a Wisconsin man alleges that Arena police violated his civil rights by charging him for calling officers racists on Facebook.

In 2012, Thomas G. Smith had seen an Arena Police Department Facebook post thanking community members for helping to detain two black children. Smith responded with a profanity-laced message about how Arena officers were racists.

A federal lawsuit obtained by the StarTribune said that Officer Nicholas Stroik had deleted Smith’s comments, and the comments of others who accused police of targeting suspects based on race.

Smith then received a call from officers, who wanted to know if he had posted the comment. Smith replied that he had posted the Facebook message, and that he had meant it.

That night, officers arrested him at his home in Arena. He was charged with disorderly conduct and unlawful use of computerized communications.

Prosecutors asserted that his words had not been protect by the First Amendment of the Constitution because they could incite violence. Smith was convicted, and sentenced to probation with community service.

But in July, a state appellate judge overturned the case on the grounds that the Supreme Court’s so-called “fighting words doctrine” only applied when the speaker was in close proximity to the listener. The judge ruled that Smith’s Facebook messages should have been protected under the First Amendment.

Smith’s lawsuit alleges that the officers retaliated against him. He is seeking legal fees and unspecified damages. The lawsuit noted that his arrest could have the effect of chilling free speech, and that the department only chose to delete Facebook messages that were critical of officers.

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What Incompetent Amateurs.

Happy bedfellows. Picture courtesy of The Age. Photo: Alex Ellinhausen

After a disastrous first budget, Joe Hockey looks to be a man without ideas. So too his dear leader Tony Abbott who, in what appears to be an act of desperation, has pleaded with the business community to help him.

In what could be interpreted as a cry for help, Abbott has called on business leaders and state governments to be the drivers of a new wave of economic reform. Speaking at a Business Council of Australia dinner, this week, the Prime Minister signalled out taxation as the most urgent of the nation’s woes. Really?

One can rightfully ask if this is analogous to waving the white flag. As well as the business community, Abbott has included the Labor party in this invitation and all state governments, “to join Team Australia and to think of our country and not just the next election.” Could it be the Prime Minister is telling us he doesn’t know how to govern the country?

What? These magicians of spin, these production wonder boys, these wealth creation gurus, these self-proclaimed ‘budget emergency’ busters who conned so many of the electorate into thinking they were our economic saviours, are they now giving up?

teamThese lying, deceitful cretins who supposedly had the answers to all our problems are now asking members of the former government who saved us from the GFC to come on board as partners in ‘Team Australia’?

What a pathetic way for a national leader to acknowledge that he and his treasurer are no longer up to the task. And if that is true, they should hide their heads in shame and go back to the people.

Abbott’s plaintive call to 400 of the country’s leading executives came after another week of management failures that covered a range of areas involving his own stupidity, his Defence Minister’s stupidity, and the Communication Minister’s stupidity.

It came after a week that included other ministers sending mixed signals about dumping the $7 GP co-payment, which itself came right on the heels of some disastrous fiscal projections from the Parliamentary Budget Office concerning the ever ballooning deficit.

Laura Tingle of the Australian Financial Review notes that “Prime Minister Tony Abbott finds himself defending the indefensible, or the already mortally-wounded, on three different fronts”. She is referring to a now dead budget strategy, the ABC broken promises parody and Defence Minister, David Johnson’s ‘rhetorical flourish’.

With the government’s Senate option’s now even harder to negotiate, little wonder Abbott is showing signs of desperation. How humiliating it must be for him to ask for Labor’s help. Particularly, as Laura Tingle explains, the markets and the business community now see the budget impasse as “a disaster of the Coalition’s own making.”

In a quite feeble defence, the government has also called on Labor to say what it would do to ‘fix the budget’. Once again, they seem to forget that they are no longer in Opposition.

budgetAnd, seen through their narrow-minded neo-liberal eyes, what a fix it needs. Just last May, Hockey projected a budget deficit of $29 billion for 2014-15. The report just released by the Canberra-based consultancy Macroeconomics suggests that on current trends the deficit will more likely be $47 billion. Worse still, they are projecting a deficit of $24 billion in 2016-17 against Hockey’s projected $2.8 billion.

How vindicated must Wayne Swan be feeling right now as he witnesses these incompetent amateurs stumbling around in the dark desperately trying to spin their way out of their own ineptness.

Meanwhile the Parliamentary Budget Office has released an analysis emphasising the “sensitivity” of the economy to the areas of productivity growth, the labour force participation rate, and the terms of trade and the likely outcome on revenues if the present targets are not met. Take a look. It isn’t pretty.

missingThere are some dark days ahead for Hockey, right up to the next election. But Abbott’s position is worse. He has all but lost credibility within his own party. As Laura Tingle puts it, “As Abbott’s credibility is under deadly assault, and the authority of his senior ministers is missing in action, the resolve of both Labor and cross benches to stand their ground only increases.”

They say what goes around, comes around. Surely that Sydney Daily Telegraph front page headline of the 5th August 2013, urging the electorate to “kick this mob out” must certainly be resonating around the country right now. If asking Labor to help get it out of its fiscal mess is any guide, perhaps it is also resonating from within the Coalition.

Suicidal hubris or a trick up the sleeve?

Tony Abbott - oozing arrogance (image from canberratimes.com.au)

Has this federal government lost its grip on reality, fooled by its own rhetoric, destined for a grisly political death or do they have a grand game changer ready to be unleashed?

The Abbott Government seems to be on a mission to systematically annoy, exploit or degrade as many pockets of the Australian electorate as they can in one term of government. But for a party that regards the power of office as an end in itself, they appear to be running a flawed strategic agenda.

Let’s not kid ourselves, this bunch really do want to get themselves re-elected. They’re not a squadron of kamikaze neo-con pilots, biting off the last piece of ideological territory before their poisonous political movement crashes to its inevitable death. They are not that stoic.

Who can forget the embarrassing three year tantrum Abbott threw when Julia Gillard beat him to the punch, negotiating her way to minority government?

The madness we are witnessing are the actions of a government that thinks it belongs in power. The men in blue ties hold every hope of being re-elected. They may even be under the impression that the things they are doing are contributing to their chances of re-election.

Since coming to office this government has waged vicious attacks on our most vulnerable, acted as an unabashed lobbyist for our most harmful and moribund industries, ignored, denied and chastised science, killed off promising new industries, skipped their way excitedly into a religious war, ignored a global health emergency, defamed global leaders, pursued nasty political vendettas, punished its detractors and nobbled our national broadcaster.

And they’ve done it all without whiff of charisma. The people inflicting these horrible wounds are not classy, well-spoken, smart practitioners of the dark arts. No! Our tormentors are a ramshackle group of misfits: a punch drunk Luddite who struggles from word to word in every sentence he delivers as he gaffs his way across the domestic and international stage; a hateful, angry, glutinous, cigar-smoking leaner; an eighteenth century dandy with a nasty streak wider than the gap between rich and poor; an extreme Christian zealot who thinks crimes against humanity are not quite harsh enough; an asbestos defending, globe-trotting lawyer who rates a mean stare amongst her greatest attributes; and a smooth talking could-have-been hero of the Australian centre who lately has taken the strange step of selling his soul on national television in defence of the man whose job he covets.

Ramshackle? This mob are an outright circus of evil clowns and it makes the pain, torment and burden just that much more difficult to bear.

But bear it we must. And we also must, apparently, tolerate the fact that all of these crimes against Australia and what we stand for are committed within an atmosphere of dishonesty and hypocrisy that has never before plagued our land of sweeping plains. We are served undergraduate linguistic gymnastics, developed by the Abbott Ministry of Truth, for which we pay millions, designed to convince us that black is white, up is down and herpes is good for us.

And yet, be assured, this mob expect to be re-elected next time around.

Can the support they receive from Rupert and his anti-democratic, anti-truth attack dogs be that reassuring? Is Abbott and his gang of shifty fiddlers betting the farm on the power of Bolt and friends to spin their lunar right, IPA-inspired agenda?

Murdoch certainly has been putting his best foot forward when it comes to his little game of telling people what to think and who to hate. To give some perspective, Bill Hayden, Whitlam’s last Treasurer, recently told Wayne Swan that Murdoch’s current behaviour was ‘three to four times worse’ than at the time of the dismissal.

That’s heady stuff. But it’s still hard to imagine that our government of power-hungry, ideological vandals could be so trusting. Would they really put all their eggs in one basket? Murdoch may have cranked up the mendacious absurdity, but his readership is declining rapidly at the same time as the Fifth Estate is gaining competence, credibility and readers.

Either this government is drunk on hubris, fooled by the ease of their 2013 election win with misplaced confidence in the support of the world’s most evil media ‘empire’, hurtling their way towards what the polls have long suggested will be a landslide loss in 2016. Or they have one last, grand nasty trick up their sleeve; a devilish plot to frighten, threaten and corner an under-informed public into voting for them again.

Let’s hope it’s the former and that the damage done in the meantime can be reversed, because trying to imagine what that devilish plot might be is enough to send shivers down your spine.

Fox and Friends praise Australia’s mistreatment of immigrants

Image from theaustralian.com.au

Tony Abbott didn’t win many friends in America with his less than impressive performance at the recent G20. But he does have one friend in America – Rupert Murdoch – and as in Australia, his media empire grabs any opportunity it can to promote Abbott above his capabilities. Now they are praising his treatment of asylum seekers. ‘Left of Center’ reports from America.

The Abbott Government’s immigration policy is unpopular in Australia, but the friends on the curvy couch don’t believe in facts, they fawn over a xenophobe from Down Under.

To the average Fox and Friends viewer, a man with an exotic accent from the land of Oz is a fine choice to deliver the daily dose of essential fearmongering. Nick Adams, the author of American Boomerang, is a proponent of the incredibly unpopular policies of the Teabagger Down Under, Prime Minister and gaffe machine, Tony Abbott. Australia has its share of folks who are not afraid to tell him what they think.

Tony Abbott’s approval rating is tenuous at best. Recent polls show men were 45% approve/50% disapprove and women 35% approve/51% disapprove. One reporter, when commenting on his xenophobic approach to immigration said,

“He offended the world’s most populous Muslim country and one of Australia’s closest and most important neighbors, Indonesia, over his handling of his policy to turn back boats carrying would-be asylum seekers from countries such as Afghanistan who often depart from Indonesia.”

Fox News and its audience are literally terrified of anyone who looks differently than they do. Naturally, a government that has been criticized and ridiculed for myriad reasons would serve as the paradigm for immigration policy. Abbott’s Australia has been embarrassing especially among people from Nauru who have been treated abysmally.
But none of those human rights issues matter to these folks. Adams explains,

We had a terrible problem. We had tens of thousands of illegal immigrants coming on lots and lots of boats because we weakened our border protection policy. So the Conservative government came in and said, right, this has got to stop. We are a generous and caring people, but we have laws and things need to happen the right way. So we got tough because we know weakness is provocative and things like amnesty only lead to more and more immigration.

Image from crooksandliars.com

Now that Adams has everyone’s attention, it’s time to put them in checkmate for the win. In discussing immigration policy, why not insult Democrats in America to really get the Fox amigos to eat it all up. Adams says,

Well Elisabeth, it’s liberal arithmetic straight from the Pelosi Institute and it’s the last thing America needs…We haven’t had one single illegal immigrant. Not ONE.

Fawning over Adams, Brian Kilmeade asks if there has been any pushback from folks who believe Australia isn’t just for Australians.

So Adams plays the reverse-racism card:

Well, you’ve always got the politically correct types, Brian, the same people who are behind the idea that because I’m a white, Christian (of course), middle-class male, I don’t get an opinion or a voice, but if I was a naked, gay, Ecuadorian wind-turbine engineer that got on his mat and faced Mecca five times a day with a credit line at the bank of Jihad, you know the world would be at my feet.

Right on cue, he admonishes President Obama for fundamentally changing (aka destroying) America and he cautions our nation to be as racist as his country’s leadership. Fox News and Adams prefer a fundamentalist, science-denying, xenophobic white-supremacist who is the ideal leader of a frightened and ignorant population that will soon be in the minority. Thankfully, Australia is on to Abbott’s antediluvian thinking and will close the history books on him as soon as he can be sent packing from Canberra in 2016.

This article was first published on crooksandliars.com.

 

George Brandis Straight-Up Refused To Answer Questions In Parliament The Other Day

GeorgeBrandisMain

Yesterday the Senate passed the government’s third batch of anti-terror legislation, giving Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) broader powers to conduct operations in Iraq without approval from a government minister, and letting ASIS undertake operations against a “class of Australian persons” rather than against named individuals.

Crucially, the laws allow the Australian Federal Police to issue control orders on people suspected of “aiding or facilitating” foreign fighters like those currently in Iraq and Syria. Control orders let police detain someone without charging them, a process the Australian Human Rights Commission describes as having the potential to “impact on fundamental rights and freedoms including the rights to liberty, privacy, freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of movement”.

Considering the scope of powers the new laws give to intelligence officials who already wield great authority, and given even supporters of previous anti-terror laws believe they become law without sufficient scrutiny, it’s reasonable to expect lawmakers to ask questions of a bill of this magnitude so they can fully understand what they’re about to vote on.

Two nights ago Greens national security spokesperson Penny Wright attempted to do exactly that, grilling Attorney-General George Brandis on crucial aspects of the bill like what “aiding and facilitating” might be taken to mean, or who might be included in a “class of Australian persons”.

Unfortunately, Brandis decided he didn’t feel like answering questions that day. Like, at all. Instead of responding to questions about major anti-terror laws, or even giving a snarky non-answer like he often does, Brandis just sat in the Senate and ignored them like he was waiting for a bus.

On one level, this is bad because it’s just not done. Questions put to a government minister, especially one with the seniority that the Attorney-General has, should be (and almost always are) provided with some form of answer. If a person in government just decides they don’t have to answer questions in the Senate, they could just as easily decide as much about journalists or members of the public in general.

On another level, though, Brandis’ attitude is genuinely frightening. Laws that give security agencies the power to deprive people of their rights and operate overseas, even when they might be overwhelmingly necessary, deserve rigorous oversight and clarity so they aren’t abused. At the very least, people deserve to know what’s in laws like that before they come into effect. We now have anti-terror legislation on the books that Australia’s most senior lawmaker either can’t or won’t explain the purpose and effects of.

You can watch the whole exchange here (skip to about eight minutes in), or watch one of the highlights below.

Australian actor Bryan Brown launches campaign against holding asylum seeker children in detention

A group of prominent Australians are lending their voices to a campaign to end the practice of holding children in detention centres.

The We’re Better Than This movement includes well known Australian sportspeople, business people and actors such as Ita Buttrose, Ian Chappell, Claudia Karvan and George Gregan.

The song We’re Better Than This has been released online amid comparisons to Live Aid’s We Are The World.

A group of prominent Australians are lending their voices to a campaign to end the practice of holding children in detention centres.

The We’re Better Than This movement includes well known Australian sportspeople, business people and actors such as Ita Buttrose, Ian Chappell, Claudia Karvan and George Gregan.

The song We’re Better Than This has been released online amid comparisons to Live Aid’s We Are The World.

Actor Bryan Brown is heading the campaign and said it was time for the Government to find an alternative way of managing young asylum seekers.

“These children are self-harming. They’re in there for 400 days on average, and we’ve got to treat them better than this,” he said.

“We want the subject talked about. Our Government, our politicians, are being given the responsibility to look after these children and we want them to take that responsibility and to do it properly, which is what they are not doing at the moment.

“We want it discussed and we want them to come up with an alternative way of dealing with these children which is humane and proper.”

Brown said he came up with the idea for We’re Better Than This after recieving a “magnificent” response from a number of prominent people who said they wanted to join the campaign.

“A couple of mates were talking to me about how wrong this was and we had a few discussions and we thought we had better do something about it,” he said.

“It’s too easy to sit around and talk about things and you sort of have to get off your bum and do stuff. This is appalling how these children are being treated.

“So I sent out emails to a number of prominent people, some I knew and others I didn’t, and the response from them was magnificent, and they said ‘yes’ – they wanted to be part of a We Are The World type video.”

Brown said the Australian Government needed to be held accountable for how children in detention were being treated.

“There’s about 700 children being kept on the mainland and offshore. We want all of them – we want this addressed – as to how you treat 700 children, or more, or whoever we take in while we’re dealing with immigration problems,” he said.

“How do we look after those children? Whether they go into homes in Australia – into Australian homes or how it’s done. We want that talked about, and we want the Government to address it.

“I find it deeply depressing to think that a country that I have a lot of pride in can actually think that this is alright how we look after children, by putting them behind barbed wire where children are self-harming. That somehow this is OK.”

‘The more I think about it, the more I’m just appalled’

In response to the Government’s announcement earlier this year that young children and their families held in detention in Australia would be released on bridging visas, Brown said the move was positive but not enough.

The policy will not extend to children being held on Nauru and Christmas Island.

Most Australians know how to look after children. Our Government doesn’t. Both sides of politics have failed in this. And I think it’s time they pulled their finger out.

Actor Bryan Brown

“I don’t know how we’ve got to this position. And that was a comment made by many of the people that are in this video. ‘How did we get here? How did we think this is alright?’

“If we don’t know how to look after children who are put in our care, how do we know how to do anything else? The more I think about it, the more I am just appalled.

“I don’t know how decisions can be made by people who represent me and my friends and the other people that are Australians, how they can choose to think this is the way to look after children.

“These children are here. How they got here and why they got here is a whole other conversation. But we have the responsibility to look after them. It’s as simple as that.

“I know how to look after children. I brought up three of them. Most Australians know how to look after children. Our Government doesn’t. Both sides of politics have failed in this. And I think it’s time they pulled their finger out.”

Professor Gillian Triggs, president of Australian Human Rights Commission, also took part in the video and said the practice of detaining children marred Australia’s international human rights reputation.

“No other country in the world holds children in the way that we do and the United Nations is very, very concerned about Australia’s policies,” she said.

Buttrose, who is part of the campaign, said the detention of children was responsible for destroying childhoods.

“I think when you lock a child up, you lock up their imagination and when you do that, you destroy the childhood,” she said.

Home / News / Sportsbet pays out early on Labor to win Victorian election Sportsbet pays out early on Labor to win Victorian election

early-payout

Yet again, Sportsbet has beaten Sky News, the ABC, Fairfax and Newscorp to the punch, we’re calling it:

Labor will saunter to a comfortable victory in the Victorian election and as a result we’re paying out on them early.

At 6am we paid out over $100,000 on Dan Andrews sweeping to power after Saturday’s vote.

Victoria election betting odds

Despite us paying out on Labor, our Victoria election markets are still open.

Still fancy a punt on the Liberals to take it? You can still bet on them, they’re a tasty $5.50.

You can have a punt on everything from seats, to the upper house majority, the last declared seat, and each individual Victorian electorate.

Political betting

And if you’re a bit of a political eagle, then why not have a flutter on our other politics markets – everything from the gender of the next US President to the Republican Party nominee.

There’s surely some value in Ted Cruz as an outside bet at $17.

Out of Tragedy comes the Truth – Black Deaths in Custody

On the morning of August 25th 2005 the category 5 Hurricane named Katrina made landfall in Florida, it would go on to cause carnage and destruction across Southern States, cause $100billion worth of damage, leave tens of thousands homeless and claim the lives of nearly 2000 people. As this tragedy unfolded and America’s eyes were forced once again to view its deep-seated racism on prime time TV, this time by the disproportionate number of Black people killed, injured and struggling post Katrina, some truth began to emerge. Despite the horrendous loss of life, the struggles to survive of those left behind and the apocalyptic damage caused to many towns and cities, the American media largely focussed on a handful of people (some black) who were shop lifting and stealing. At the obligatory benefit concert a week later, with lives still being lost and others battling to find food and shelter, Kanye West made the following statements.

“George Bush doesn’t care about Black people”. Driven by frustration at the lack of Government response and action, driven by the demonising of an entire community struggling against a once in a generation storm, Kanye West (Not known for his eloquent political prose) said some real shit, George Bush and by inference the US Government and power structures neither care for nor like very much Black folk. Of course as time went by, Kanye West apologised, Bush wrote in his memoirs that West’s comments were a “low point” and told a National TV audience that “it was one of the most disgusting moments of my Presidency”. To which the interviewer, NBC’s high respected Matt Lauer, simply nodded along. Yes, that’s right, to the President behind the Iraq and Afghan Wars, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Systematic torture, the US Attorneys crisis, The GFC and yes the disgraceful response to Hurricane Katrina… the problem was not any of these tings, they were not low points nor disgusting. That said the 43rd President of the United States of America were the comments made by a rapper.

And so out of the tragic death of 22 year old Indigenous woman, Julieka Dhu, let me say, Australia doesn’t care about Black people. Let me correct that, around the same time as Ms Dhu was slowly and agonisingly dying in a West Australian jail cell, Michael Brown a young Black man was shot to death by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Rightly, a large number of Australian’s were outraged by what had happened to this young man, it was intensely followed on social media, broadcast on national TV and discussed at length in the weekend papers. But you could count on one hand the number of journalists who even know Ms Dhu’s name, nor politicians who have made statements about her death, nor protests and complaints from the Non-Indigenous community.

Ms Dhu was in jail in the Pilbara (Western Australia) for $1000 in unpaid fines, she had been attempting to see a doctor for a leg infection when arrested but “despite days of vomiting, worsening pain and complaints of fever and paralysis — first in her lower body and then her face — authorities deemed her medically fit to be kept in custody after two visits to the nearby hospital, although she reportedly wasn’t seen by a doctor.” Her partner Dion Ruffin was held in the cell nearest cell to Ms Dhu’s “We had to beg for hours to get them to send her to the hospital, she was in so much pain and was vomiting, it got worse and worse until she couldn’t move her legs and was slurring.”

“She was begging for help until her last breath.’’

Australia doesn’t care about it’s own Black People.

And then there is this…. “there is also medical evidence of a head injury, possibly sustained while being held in the South Hedland Police Station watch-house”. Mr Ruffin described what he could hear “I couldn’t see into her cell, she said she was on the floor and when the cops finally agreed to take her to hospital the last time they were laughing and saying she was acting. They opened the cell, and I heard one of them say get up, but she couldn’t and she was begging for help to get up and I heard a big thud, and then silence. I saw her being dragged out of the cell by her arms, her chin was on her chest and I cried out to her, but she was staring down, blank.’’

Is that thud the blow that ended Ms Dhu’s life after days of agony and suffering? We may never know, the case of course has been handed to an internal affairs unit, that will then report to the state’s coroner and….. forgive me if we have been down this road before.

It was in the Pilbara 30 years ago where 16 year old John Pat died from severe head injuries while being held in police custody that help spark the Royal Commission into Black (Aboriginal) Deaths in Custody. Of course nothing changed, Black men and women continue to die in gruesome fashion in custody around the nation. Again in WA, an Elder died in 2008 when he was literally cooked to death in the back of a transport van. Mr Ward was driven for 4 hours in the back of the van, in 50 degree heat without air-conditioning and died of heatstroke and burns just as the journey ended.

Of course often “negligence” is the alleged problem, a lack of staff or the appropriate training, investigations are had and promises of never again. Largely there is silence from the broader community, maybe Black deaths in Australia aren’t as “sexy” as those in the US like the tragically departed Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown. Maybe talking about Black Deaths here wont get you as many likes, retweets or favourites, maybe it’s the media’s fault for not telling you it had happened, maybe there is so much wrong in this world that what happens next to you is drowned out by what happens a world away. Or maybe you live in a country, Australia, that doesn’t care about it’s own Black people.

My comments are not disturbing, nor are they a low point and for them I will not apologise. The needless death of Black people, young and old, male and female in the custody of the state in this nation is what is disgusting, it is a low point and from the cells all that can be heard is your silence. But as there was in the death of Mr Pat or the death of Mulrunji whose liver was split in half on Palm Island, or 22 year old Ms Dhu there was a sound, her partner heard it and it was a “thud”. And if you watch this video of another of the 100’s of Black deaths in custody since the Royal Commission was held that was meant to put an end to all this, you too can hear the thud too. In the space of being in police custody for 2hrs, Mr Briscoe, another Black man in Australia was dead. You will hear the thud, you will see where it comes from and then once your eyes have closed, and if you remain silent, there will be another and another and another….

Ferguson Australia, Murder under the Red, White and by Blue

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A Missouri grand jury has decided Darren Wilson, a white police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August, will not be charged.

The rest you know.

The police have yet again either killed a black man or allowed a non black man who did the killing to go free. What is statistically strange about today’s decision is this  – According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them. Grand Juries are a rubber stamp, Former New York state Chief Judge Sol Wachtler famously remarked that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.” That is of course unless the Grand Jury is deciding to indict a police officer, rarely does it even get to that stage, then the police officer almost always flips the statistics on their head and faces no charges.

Now there is absolutely no point in me adding anything else, millions of column inches, radio reports and TV news stories will cover all the gory details. From the killing of Michael Brown, to the following riots, the travesty of justice and who knows what will happen next. Black child Ivins Rosier a 17 year old boy received 23 years in jail having been tried as an adult for killing a retired police dog. While the killers of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown have walked free after shooting dead unarmed black boys.

In Australia… cue the outrage!

This would be perfectly acceptable, mandatory, inspiring even that from all this distance away thousands of Australian’s have taken to social media to express solidarity with Ferguson and disgust with the US justice system. But while Australian’s line up for this noble cause they are deafly silent as to the Black Deaths in Custody that occur right under their noses, right here, under another Red, White and Blue flag, in the United States of Australia.

Tell me Australia, about the time you took to social media in your thousands and exploded with anger at the death of Mr Briscoe (Pictured above) at the hands of Police in Alice Springs. You can see if you wish reporting on this website, that highlighted the case, that showed Mr Briscoe slowly dying in a cell, that showed his head being smashed into a wall and which showed his blood being casually cleaned up with an officers foot.

Or you can read about Ms Dhu, dead at the hands of police in WA while in custody for a few unpaid fines. Who begged and pleaded to see a doctor, yet died an agonising and needless death. Also from WA you can read about Mr Ward an Aboriginal elder from the Ngaanyatjarra lands in Western Australia, who having been driven a total of 922km in a boiling hot prison van literally cooked to death. He was a artist, a lands right activist who visited China as part of a delegation, a skilled hunter, an interrupter and assisted scientists in conservation. He’s dead at the hands of the justice system for a crime he was alleged to have committed that would have resulted in no more than a fine.

In NSW young TJ Hickey was chased by police to his death and died impaled on a fence. Witnesses believe his bike was clipped by a police car, police say otherwise. No action was taken. In Queensland on Palm Island, Mulrunji would become the 147th Aboriginal person to die in police custody in just 14 years. They were the 14 years that had followed the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody. Mulrunji had been arrested for causing a public nuisance, allegedly, but died a short time later when his liver and spleen were ruptured in two at the hands of police. Back in WA Aboriginal man Marlon Noble served 10 years for a crime he didn’t commit, in fact he never even faced trial, he was simply held, imprisoned and warehoused like perished goods.

There are countless other cases, by countless I mean hundreds in the last 30 years, each and every time the Aboriginal community fight for justice. Each and every time communities are left without justice at the hands of the justice system.

These incidents didn’t happen in Compton or Atlanta, in NYC or the Southside of Chicago. They didn’t happen in rural Texas, inner city Memphis or in the backwaters of Georgia and they certainly didn’t happen in Ferguson.

They happened in your country, in your state, in your city and under your version of a flag wearing Red, White and Blue. The officers here, like the officer from Ferguson have never faced Justice. The Black community here, like the Black community there have begged, pleaded, lobbied and advocated for Justice. Both communities have been failed.

So why haven’t the cases that happened under your nose received anywhere near the attention? Why isn’t Ms Dhu “Trending” like Ferguson is right here in Australia. Why aren’t there thousands of angry and appalled Australians taking to social media calling for Justice for OUR BLACK DEAD…

…. Well that’s on you!

Phillip Hughes death plunges cricket into mourning

Hughes cuts on day one

Phillip Hughes has died in hospital two days after he was hit by a bouncer at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Hughes had been rushed to hospital after he was hit in the head in the Sheffield Shield game.

He was admitted to intensive care after surgery, but was announced dead this afternoon.

Hughes had made 63 out of a Redbacks total of 2 for 136 while batting for South Australia in the match against New South Wales at the SCG.

He was hit in the head after misjudging a ball from Sean Abbott.

The 25-year-old was wearing a helmet but the ball hit him beneath the helmet. He bent over before collapsing on to the ground and was taken off the field on a stretcher.

He had been in an induced coma at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital after surgery to relieve pressure on his brain.

Indigenous leaders to meet at First Nations Summit for Freedom

G20 protest for Aboriginal rights

First nations leaders and elders are holding a summit to establish a community-elected committee which would reclaim Indigenous rights and representation from a few high-profile voices.

About 100 people from across the country are expected to gather at the First Nations Summit for Freedom to discuss the major issues facing Indigenous people and address a feeling that the federal government is not speaking with Indigenous people when making decisions which have a direct impact on them.

The summit is being held on Thursday and Friday at the Old Telegraph Station in Mparntwe/Alice Springs. The site is the birthplace of the Aboriginal social activist Charlie Perkins.

“This is all about the local issues first and how the national agenda is responding to them, and how we’re not very happy about it,” said one of the summit organisers, Tauto Sansbury.

Sansbury pointed to attempts by the WA government to amend the Aboriginal Heritage Act, stripping traditional owners of a say over the cultural heritage value of their land and sacred sites, as well as a recent announcement that remote communities would likely be closed.

“The heritage act is having a big impact on Western Australia,” Sansbury, who is a long time Aboriginal advocate and was heavily involved in the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody, told Guardian Australia.

“The closures of the communities over there … Aboriginal people are going to be removed off their land and there are suggestions that the SA government is thinking along the same lines.”

Federal government cuts to Aboriginal legal services and frontline organisations and attempts by state and territory governments to water down land rights and other Indigenous legislation are also on the agenda.
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Increasingly high rates of Indigenous incarceration, suicide, protective orders on children, and recent deaths in custody are also not being addressed, organisers have said.

“For all of us this is totally unacceptable and it’s governments talking to governments about what they’re going to do with Aboriginal people. We’re not in the discussion, we’re just an item for discussion.”

The prime minister Tony Abbott receives much of his advice from the Indigenous Advisory Council, headed by Warren Mundine, as well as the chairman of the Cape York Group, Noel Pearson. Sansbury said he hoped the summit would end with the establishment of a community-elected committee of Aboriginal leaders from across first nations who could approach governments, confident they were representing the concerns of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“For me I’d like to see fair representation from each state or territory representing their communities, and I’d like to see them elected by their own community,” he said.

Behind the summit is an increasing dissatisfaction with the national focus on the voices of a few high-profile people. Anger boiled over at G20 protests when effigies of Pearson, Mundine and academic Marcia Langton were burned, alongside an Australian flag.

“It’s totally unacceptable when you have three people speaking for the rest of Aboriginal Australia,” said Sansbury.

“That’s not really a democracy for us. Governments have got so many ministers representing so many people and it’s a bit ridiculous, why does it work for them and not us?”

Aboriginal lawyer and activist Michael Mansell told ABC radio the focus needed to remain on government policy.

“The real issue is that after 226 years we still have a white person deciding Aboriginal policy for Aboriginal people,” said Mansell on Tuesday.

“The single voice that we hear is the right-wing conservative voices from North Queensland who tend to blame the victims for the problem … but if we keep our focus on where the issues are – federal and state governments, then I think this summit could … make the agenda one that Aboriginal people agree with.”

The federal minister for Indigenous affairs has been contacted for comment.

There is no Left: However there is in the mind of the conservative right.

In July, incoming senator James McGrath became the latest Liberal Party politician to accuse the ABC of bias. “While it continues to represent only inner-city leftist views, and funded by our taxes, it is in danger of losing its social licence to operate.” His most senior colleague, Tony Abbott, told the Australian Financial Review while he was opposition leader that “there is still this left-of-centre ethos in the ABC”. Last year, Cory Bernardi launched an impassioned attack on the national broadcaster in a party-room meeting, reportedly calling it “a taxpayer-funded behemoth that is cannibalising commercial media while spreading a message that ignores the majority views of Australians”.

A belief that the ABC is biased toward the “left” is an article of faith among the right that emerged during and after the Vietnam War and the cultural revolution. Bias is now assumed by a small army of media commentators, including Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine, Janet Albrechtsen, Peter Reith, Gerard Henderson, Alan Jones, Piers Akerman, Greg Sheridan, Sharri Markson, Judith Sloan, Tom Switzer, Paul Kelly, Niki Savva, Nick Cater, etc, etc.

The main problem with the theory that the ABC has a left-wing bias is that it’s not true. None of the neverending stream of independent reviews commissioned by both the ABC and governments from time to time has ever found bias.

And yet, the Right continues to allege bias – and not just in the ABC. News Corp’s flagship tabloid columnist Andrew Bolt, for instance, also finds left-wing bias in the Fairfax press, the universities, the courts, not to mention the Labor Party and the Greens. During the period of the last government he also dismissed as left-wing Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott. His list of “leftist columnists in Murdoch’s Australian newspapers” includes Graham Richardson, Laurie Oakes and Malcolm Farr.

To qualify as a “leftist” for Bolt, one must believe at least one of the following heresies: that climate change is happening and man-made; that the Stolen Generations exist; that minorities should be protected from bigotry; that companies should be restricted from selling harmful food products to consumers on the free market; that governments should go into debt during downturns or times of slow growth; that experiences of Indigenous people should be incorporated into the narratives of Australian history; that education should promote critical thought; that governments should support education, health care and public broadcasting out of general revenue; that social security is a vitally important safety net; that taxes should be progressive and redistributive; that prison should be used only rarely; that employees should be entitled to minimum wages and conditions, and penalty rates for long or irregular hours; that drug use should be decriminalised; that fossil fuel-based energy should be replaced by renewable energy sources; that the powers and activities of police, security and intelligence organisations should be kept in check and subject to scrutiny; that most government information should be freely available; that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry; that the power of governments and corporations should be limited and subject to scrutiny; that the rights of people seeking asylum should be protected; that Australia should be a multicultural community. Together, this is broadly the policy platform of the Australian Greens – a political party the right describes as “extreme”.

“Extreme” – or just evidence-based and respectful? Most of the positions in the above paragraph are standard positions based on the best available evidence in respective fields – climate science, history, nutrition science, economics, pedagogy, criminology. Even the idea that governments should invest in preventive health and public education is an uncontroversial conclusion based on economic evidence that governments get a substantial return from investment in these areas – unlike defence, which is often a sunk cost. The above positions on same-sex marriage and asylum seekers and multiculturalism are based on a philosophy of respecting and empathising with people who have come from backgrounds and had experiences different to one’s own.

Labelling these positions “left-wing” is akin to labelling scientific and sociological research as a leftist activity, and compassion and empathy as leftist impulses. This side of the Enlightenment, that’s patently ridiculous.

Not that the ABC or the universities, for instance, can be said to preach these views, or even hold them to the exclusion of all others. What the ABC does, uncommonly among broadcasters in Australia, is allow the space for the discussion of secular and humanist ideas in rational ways. It also allows space for the discussion of non-secular, conservative and dogmatic views, including occasionally socialism and capitalism, though nearly always in a pluralistic framework. The universities do largely the same thing. The Right curiously marginalises itself by calling this kind of pluralism left-wing. Are we to assume the Right wants dogma instead?

The Right in the inappropriately named Liberal Party and its media cheer-squad, however, often take strong positions against the evidence base, and in favour of so-called “conservative” ideas that in practice stigmatise and marginalise people who aren’t causing anybody any harm. Global warming isn’t happening and, if it is, it’s a natural event. The carbon “tax” wasn’t working and it was costing jobs. No Indigenous child was ever stolen for “purely racist” reasons. The responsibility for healthy eating choices rests with individuals, and for children’s choices, with parents. Government budgets should always be in surplus, so downturns should be met with austerity – and Australia’s current budget deficit represents a crisis. We’re spending too much on health and education. Schools should teach children about the achievements of western civilisation, “Judeo-Christian culture”, British settlers and the Australian nation. Welfare recipients are probably bludgers, or “leaners”. Taxes should be regressive and should “reward hard work”. More criminals should go to jail to keep the community safer. Coal should continue to power Australia’s energy needs and its exports. Nobody who has nothing to hide should be worried about more powers for ASIO. Marriage is between a man and a woman.

Many of these positions, when they inform policy, actively cause harm, socially or to the environment. Many ignore lessons of history and research. They’re based on a set of values that are clearly out of step with our best knowledge about human behaviour and the world around us.

* * *

Our values inform our theories of human behaviour and social relations, and our theories in turn become the “frames of reference” we use to understand and analyse other people’s statements or behaviour. If we’re not careful, we can misinterpret another person’s motivations entirely, by applying to them our own frame of reference. Psychologists call this “projection”.

The “Left” that the right complains about – a small, self-interested, influential but out-of-touch and loopy elite that’s engaged in a fierce battle of ideas in the pursuit of weird policy outcomes – doesn’t actually exist. If there’s a group of people that could be described in that way, it’s not “leftists”. It’s the Right.

Those of the Right assume that people who disagree with them are engaged in a similar, explicitly ideological project. Very often, they’re not. Very often, “leftists” are climate scientists, nutritionists, historians, researchers, social workers, teachers, lawyers, humanists. When they intervene in a public debate on the side of the evidence, they often disagree with the Right’s project – and are attacked and/or dismissed as “leftists”.

When Joe Hockey, Gerard Henderson and Judith Sloan establish themselves as unswervingly “pro-business”, they often align themselves with the private interests of corporations – and often against the private interests of employees (in industrial relations disputes), or the public interest in environmental protection, nutritious food and relative social equality. When they establish the maximisation of shareholder returns as the highest value, they see people with different, pro-social values – people for whom the maximisation of shareholder returns has nasty consequences in terms of health and job security – and dismiss them as “left-wing”.

When Andrew Bolt and George Brandis establish themselves as unambiguously in favour of the free expression of bigotry, they align themselves with the private interests of racists, against the private interests of their victims and the public interest in multicultural harmony. When they establish the freedom of bigoted speech as the highest value, they see people with different values and dismiss them as “left-wing”.

The frame of reference the Right uses is self-interest, based on rational choice theory, the theory of human nature that informs economic rationalism. So when the Right sees unions pushing for better pay and conditions for their workers, it sees their activities through the frame of self-interest – and assumes rent-seeking. (The right remains oblivious to, or approving of, the far more prevalent rent-seeking behaviour among corporations.) When the Right is confronted by scientists and governments urging reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, it assumes rent-seeking and goes looking for possible motives. Do the scientists benefit through career advancement? In grant applications?

I’m not suggesting there’s no rent-seeking in unions, that there’s no self-interest in ABC journalists protesting against budget cuts. But the modern Right sees only self-interest through its myopic frame of reference, and dismisses any evidence of alternative values as either deceptive or “extreme”.

* * *

There are senses in which the “Left” can be said to exist, of course. The theory of communist socialism after 1848 and especially 1917 dominated an explicitly left-wing agenda for much of the 20th century, with terrible consequences wherever its proponents took the power of the state. When the modern right complains about “leftists”, it’s as if it’s still fighting the Cold War. But for practical purposes this communist Left doesn’t exist anymore in Australia, and hasn’t for at least 40 years.

There’s an even older Left. The democratic ideas the French commoners propagated in 1789 were “left-wing”, if only because they sat on the left of the Estates General and demanded a National Assembly. “Left” politics came to be associated with the challenge to illegitimate power and privilege.

If this challenge is what the Right objects to when it dismisses scientists, researchers and humanists as “leftists”, then surely that exposes its own project as illegitimate. Surely we’re all democrats now? Even if a pro-democracy, pro-equality attitude could have been described in 1789 (or 1989) as “left-wing”, it’s now being demonstrated – through the work of social epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson, among others – that policies that encourage greater levels of equality within societies actually do generate both material and intangible benefits for everyone.

If a Left exists in Australia at all, now, it’s simply as a shorthand description of those who don’t agree with the prescriptions of the modern Right, which seems primarily interested in reversing many of the intellectual and democratic gains of recent decades and centuries and restoring and confining power and privilege to the few rather than the many. To be labelled “left-wing” by the modern Right is probably an endorsement that one’s ideas are sound.

In the end, the Left exists largely in the Right’s own mind – as a straw man onto which to project its delusional and self-interested chatter.