Tag Archives: Tony Blair

You want it darker? We kill the flame

20 Nov

Georgia O'Keeffe

 

Stephen Bannon, chairman of the fascist platform Breitbart News, has been appointed chief strategist in President-Elect Donald Trump’s new administration.

In apparent response to fears that a darkness has fallen on the US since Trump’s election, Bannon countered: “Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.”

(Here’s a useful glimpse into the men Trump is considering as his most senior staff.)

The binaries dark and light, good and evil, have long dominated western political discourse. George W.Bush and his axis of evil; Tony Blair and his messianic conviction that the invasion of Iraq and the destruction of Saddam Hussein was a just and holy intervention: the bright light of democracy beamed into the abyss of despotic darkness by the forces of good.

There’s no nuance in the narrative, no shades of grey, and the lack of hue hasn’t changed with the ascension of Trump, it has merely been reversed. Trump doesn’t pretend the light and the good are superior ideals to which we should aspire. Darkness is good. Evil is power. There’s no longer any need to mask the dark with false light, as did Blair, Bush and sycophant John Howard. Trump has dragged us from those layered duplicities into his unmitigated and unmediated darkness. A million candles burning for the help that never came. You want it darker? We kill the flame.

I’m quoting from Leonard Cohen’s final album, released just weeks before he died. As with all great work, it’s both intensely personal and universal. I’ve been listening to it for days, not just because he’s dead and I mourn his loss, but because the album seems to speak with uncanny prescience of our current transition into a Trumpian world.

At first blush the work is about Cohen’s approaching death, but it is also about the dying of our irresponsible innocence, our smug carelessness, our neglect, our wilful blindness to how the Blairs, the Bushes and the Howards led us inevitably to Trump and Bannon, leaders of the killers of the flame, leaders of those who want it darker.

Trump’s vision for the US (and necessarily the world) Fox News, 2014

You know what solves it? When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell and everything is a disaster. Then you’ll have a [chuckles], you know, you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be when we were great.

Bannon, 2016 interview with the Daily Beast:

I’m a Leninist, Bannon proudly proclaimed.

Shocked, I asked him what he meant.

Lenin, he answered, wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.

Meanwhile, at home, the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia found it necessary to release a press statement expressing concern over inflammatory remarks made by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on the subject of various “cohorts” and “nationalities” welcomed to Australia by former PM Malcolm Fraser. These refugees, Dutton asserts, may well be responsible for producing “terrorist” children and grandchildren. Fraser should have been more careful, Dutton (no doubt emboldened by Trump’s success) claims.

And to top off an increasingly dark fortnight, the UN Human Rights Council has appointed the Saudi ambassador to oversee women’s rights world-wide. The Ambassador will have the right to vote on, participate in and influence the following:

Elimination of discrimination against women
Equal participation [of women] in political and public affairs
Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice
Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences
Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women
The right to a nationality: women’s equal nationality rights in law and in practice
Addressing the impact of multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence in the context of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on the full enjoyment of all human rights by women and girls
Annual full day debate on women’s rights
Annual half-day panel on the integration of a gender perspective

Saudi Arabia has among the worst, if not the worst, record on women’s rights in the world.

What I’m seeing in our new picture is even less nuance than we had before, which wasn’t all that much, we could have done with a bit more. Like an individual who decides to thoroughly trash his or her life as a means of effecting change, so Trump and Bannon see disaster and destruction on what could well be a global scale, as a legitimate method to correct perceived wrongs. We’re post fact, post truth, and post nuance.

You want it darker?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Abbott’s ‘War on Everything’

13 Jan

Before the September 2013 election, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a staunch Catholic who once embarked on training for the priesthood, revealed that he prayed to God every day that he would win the contest, and form the next Australian government.

It would be interesting to ask the PM how much of his victory he attributes to God hearkening to, and answering his prayers. I assume Abbott gives no small measure of thanks for achieving his deepest desire.

I also assume that as well as a believing in his mandate from the people, Abbott believes he’s mandated by God. At least, it feels safer to assume that is the case, than to pretend it couldn’t be thus. Know thine enemy.

This aspect of Abbott occurs to me every time I hear he has declared war on yet one more issue. His ‘wars’ seem to be based on moral assumptions infused with traditional Catholic morality, argued like the crafty theologian he almost became. As an example his statement on November 15 2013, on torture: ‘My government deplores the use of torture but we accept that sometimes in difficult circumstances difficult things happen.’ This sentence seems to me to encapsulate the trickiness of being simultaneously moral and amoral,  a talent I have long associated with some theologians, most recently those who’ve argued for the Catholic church in the matter of child abuse.

Perhaps it’s being too generous to assume any morality in the statement at all, rather it gives merely a token nod in morality’s direction.

So far we’ve had the war on scientists and the entire body of climate change science, the war on education, the war on drunken louts ‘king-hitting’ innocent bystanders, the war on Holden, the war on NDIS, the war on the NBN, the war on same-sex marriage, the war on everything the previous ALP government introduced for apparently no reason other than that it was introduced by them, and then we have the war on people smugglers. This latter war is perhaps the only ALP policy Abbott has chosen to retain and build upon.

I imagine Abbott envisioning himself as a war-time PM, chosen to implement the policies his deity wants to see enacted, some of which include a good deal more attention to said deity’s alleged preferences than we are used, as a secular state, to allowing. What little we are allowed to hear the PM say is invariably infused with moral references, even the ‘liberation’ of those sacked by Holden has moral overtones in its implication that an opportunity for self-improvement has been offered to the newly unemployed, and it is their moral duty to avail themselves of it to the utmost.

There is much in Abbott’s sanctimony and righteousness that reminds me of Tony Blair at the height of his zealous and wickedly dishonest prosecution of the invasion of Iraq. The notion of a ‘just war’ got all Blair’s boyish juices flowing, and I imagine the same can be said of Abbott, even if he has not, as yet, had any war of global significance that he can use, as did Blair, to thoroughly establish his faux gravitas at home and on the world stage. We have as yet seen only glimpses of Abbott the unctuous moral crusader, disguised in the garments of a benevolent guardian, solemnly assuring us that it, whatever it happens to be, is for our collective own good. I suspect we are in for a good deal more.

The two Tonys even look a bit alike:TonyBlair

Abbott also appears to hold a traditional conservative Christian perspective on the natural world, that is, it is here for man’s [sic] use, not as a source of wonder, pleasure and enrichment, but rather as a resource for exploitation. So there’s a war on the natural world and all its sentient beings as well.

The war paradigm would seem to be Abbott’s central organising principle. His natural state perhaps, a mentality born of the confluence of ignorance, fear, prejudice and profit, a mentality shared by enough of the voting public to get him into office. This paradigm is closely related to the law and order paradigm so enthusiastically embraced by that other Liberal head of state, Campbell Newman. Deterrence and incarceration are its hallmarks, supported by the Christian virtues of teaching, reproving, correcting, cracking down with the full force of the law, and training in righteousness for those who are conspicuously lacking in these qualities.

Whether or not Abbott will wage a war on women remains to be seen. His views on abortion are well known, as evidenced in this piece authored by him and titled ‘Abortion rate highlights our moral failing.’ Personally, I doubt anything dramatic will be done by this government to offend women, rather, there will be a slow erosion in the form of the reduction of services with a timely dollop of theatrical distraction so we hardly notice what’s happening until it’s too late and they’ve changed the legislation enough to cause us inconvenience and distress. With Cory Bernardi and DLP Senator John Madigan doing all the dirty work, Abbott doesn’t have to say much. There’s also a strong group of anti-choicers in the ALP and we’ve learned, to our amazement, how certain moral panics can bring about the allegiance of very strange bedfellows, such as the Christian right and radical feminists in the matter of pornography.

By far the most cruel war currently being waged by Abbott is his sustained and increasingly vicious attacks on asylum seekers. Abbott and his Minister Scott Morrison, another Christian, though of different variety, unashamedly use the full-blown rhetoric of war when justifying the government’s position on refugees arriving here by boat. The efforts of these two publicly religious men to beat hapless asylum seekers into submission, as detailed in the above link, beggar belief, from a secular point of view at least.

When asked what is the best piece of advice he could ever give anyone, Abbott replied ‘Avoid the occasion of sin.’ So if he is committed to his war mentality, one can only assume that for him every war he’s fighting is a just one. This, for mine, makes him a dangerous man.

Or as Yeats observed in The Second Coming: The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ are full of passionate intensity.

Abbott intensity

War: what is it good for?

25 Apr

April 25 2012

Last night SBS Dateline reported on how life changes for many military men and women and their families after they’ve seen action in a theatre of war. Post traumatic stress disorder is rife, for example, and the effects of this illness can be horrific. It’s compounded by the stigma attached to those suffering the mental trauma of war, a stigma that can discourage sufferers from seeking help.

Reporter Nick Lazaredes has spent considerable time  investigating the dire circumstances of far too many returned military personnel in the US, and asks is Australia prepared to support and assist our soldiers who come home emotionally and mentally damaged by their service to their country?

This piece has just appeared at The Drum, addressing similar concerns, as does this one by Bruce Haigh.

As well, here at Overland is Jeff Sparrow’s excellent essay on Anzac Day and the celebration of forgetting.

As one observer in the SBS documentary pointed out, politicians like to declare “America is at war!” However, America isn’t at war, he claimed, America is in shopping malls. The military is at war, and America is ill-equipped to deal with the consequences of that when men and women with shattered psyches return to take up an ordinary life. The difficulties they face affect everyone around them, and the wider society.

If politicians are willing to send citizens to war in order to preserve our freedom and values, it seems remarkably short-sighted of them not to ensure the society we’re fighting and dying to protect doesn’t suffer, when those citizens return unable to rejoin it because of their contribution to its protection.

In 2003, then US President George W Bush told then Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas: “God told me to strike al-Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did.” Our own John Howard supported Bush in this endeavour, as did then British PM Tony Blair.

It seems rather remiss of God not to have told Bush, Howard and Blair to make ample preparation for the care of the military personnel they sent to do God’s work, when they returned from their endeavours broken in body and/or mind. It seems remiss of God not to have commanded the leaders to adequately care for the partners, parents and children of these women and men who risked everything in God and George W Bush’s interests.

It seems remiss of God not to have ordered Bush to have a strategy in place for the period after he toppled Saddam Hussein as well. But there you go. The Bush God is a belligerent, obstreperous and ignorant war-monger. He cares nothing for the lives of women, men and children affected by his witless triumphalism. He rewards only the moral fervour of arrogantly incompetent white alpha males who cherish the delusion that American-style democracy must be adopted by the entire world, and it matters not who suffers in the pursuit of this implacable goal of blind universalism, as long as it isn’t them.

Politicians will always find reasons to send their populations to war, no matter how ill-founded, duplicitous, and opposed by the citizens those reasons are. The invasion of Iraq is proof of that statement. While that situation seems unlikely to change in the near future, what governments ought to be forced to do is made adequate provision for the wounded, in mind, body or both, when they return from doing their duty in whatever hell hole they have been assigned to by their governments. Anything less than this is scandalous.

What we need of course is a paradigm change. We need to cease our participation in what is, to paraphrase John Gray,  the US myth of its manifest destiny as a redeemer nation, expressed in missionary-style politics with the salvation of mankind as the goal.  As Robespierre noted in 1792: “No one loves armed missionaries: the first lesson of nature and prudence is to repulse them as enemies. One can encourage freedom, never create it by an invading force.”

I’m encouraged by the perspective of this youthful blogger, who points out that while on Anzac Day we must commemorate those who died in battle, we shouldn’t be celebrating the wars in which we’ve participated. There’s nothing to celebrate in war. War is hell, and it is all too often good for absolutely nothing.

Axis of Arsehats

Jenny Craig & Jackie O

28 Mar

The Alliance of Girls Schools recently invited the CEO of weight loss company Jenny Craig to speak to hundreds of teachers at their upcoming conference. Amy Smith plans to speak on women and leadership, not body image, however the invitation has caused outrage among some health professionals, who have organised an online petition with over a thousand signatures so far, claiming that by inviting Ms Smith the Alliance is endorsing unhealthy dieting practices.

I was initially confused, and thought Ms Smith was speaking to girls about Jenny Craig. Fair enough to question that I thought. But no, she’s speaking to teachers about women and leadership.

It seems to me that if health experts are enraged by Ms Smith speaking, they’re going to have to protest if any woman who has anything to do with the fashion industry, women’s magazines, the cosmetic industry, and cosmetic surgery, all of which promote an unhealthy obsession with physical appearance that ought not to be encouraged in girls, is invited to address any conference that has anything to do with people who are employed in girls’ education.  Otherwise they will appear inconsistent and lacking in credibility.

I’d engage anyone in a debate as to whether Jenny Craig or Cosmopolitan is more damaging to girls’ notions of how they should look. I’d also take on the magazines that contain pages of fashion and slimming advice, followed by an orgy of food porn, followed by scorn for celebrity cellulite and muffin tops. Mixed messages, anyone?

Body Matters eating disorder specialist Lydia Jane Turner says “…the idea of this person [Amy Smith] actually speaking about inequality of girls and the economic standing of women I find incredibly hypocritical.” Ms Turner justifies her feelings by pointing out that Jenny Craig has sponsored the Kyle Sandilands show, and that Vile Kyle has a history of “fat shaming.”

I may be on shaky ground here, as I recently called Clive Palmer a “fat shit” on Twitter. However, in my own defence, the mental image that term of abuse conjures for me is literal: a great big stinky brown log that won’t go down no matter how much you flush.

To me, there is something abhorrent in demanding that anyone not be allowed to speak. For example, I was highly offended when Tony Blair last visited this country, was fawned over by the media, and addressed university students in his usual messianic fashion, justifying his part in the invasion of Iraq because he felt it was “morally right.”  In my opinion, Blair is a war criminal and I don’t like the idea of a war criminal let loose to influence our young. However, petitioning to have him silenced is more offensive to me than allowing him to speak. As with Ms Smith, everyone knows where he’s coming from. Adults can make up their own minds about his message. Not everyone shares my perceptions of him, and why should I claim the right to impose my beliefs on others?

It isn’t Ms Smith’s stated intention to “fat shame” anyone. She’s a woman who’s done well in the business world, and she plans to talk about her experiences. Yes, she’s part of an industry that has a dark side. Is there any industry that doesn’t? And do we silence all representatives because of that? Cardinal George Pell had better give up public speaking for a start. There are few industries more dangerous to children than his has proved to be.

 

Speaking of Kyle Sandilands, this spray against his on-air partner Jackie O appeared on the mamamia website the other day. Jackie O apparently declined to describe herself as a feminist, incurring the wrath of Mia Freedman, who feels that we should all call ourselves feminists a) because we’ve benefited from the efforts of our predecessors, and b) because if we believe in equality we are feminists. This generous definition doesn’t take into account the furious public debates between feminists as to who is and is not deserving of the title, debates that caused confusion and resentment, and quite likely prompted more than one woman to vow she did not want the title anyway.

Prue Goward by publik15 via flickr

I first became aware of Jackie O when she was on the receiving end of a gratuitous attack by the NSW Minister for Middle Class Morality, Prue Goward. At the time I wrote this:

Prue Goward, recently appointed NSW Minister for Families, whatever that is, has taken a nasty swipe at radio personality Jackie O for the manner in which she fed her baby.

Apparently Jackie O gave the child a bottle while simultaneously walking across a pedestrian crossing, an action Goward likened to the famous Michael Jackson moment when he dangled his little son over a balcony in Germany and subsequently earned global contempt for his fathering skills.

Why this is a concern for the Minister for Families remains a mystery to me. An over-zealous commitment to her new portfolio? Is she going to focus on perceived child abuse by the rich and famous? If the mother had been a working class woman would Goward have even blinked?

I’m glad she wasn’t in the nursery when once, in a sleep deprived state similar to those experienced by former PM Kevin Rudd, I accidentally stuck my fingers in the wrong jar and pasted my baby boy’s bits with Vicks Vapour Rub instead of nappy rash cream.

Soon to become a dad himself for the first time, he looked at me speechless, and quite judgmentally, I thought, when I recently confessed this transgression. Too late I realised my mistake. Now I probably won’t be allowed anywhere near the new baby, but at least we know the Vicks didn’t do its daddy any damage.

My sympathies at the time were firmly with Jackie O. I’ve since had cause to reflect that her relationship with Kyle Sandilands does remind me of a variation of an abusive situation, in which Jackie plays the role of enabler.  In spite of this I’ve never quite lost my impression of her as vulnerable, so when I read the criticism of her not identifying as a feminist I wanted to protect her.

The inimitable Helen Razer has her say on the matter here.

Refusing to call yourself a feminist is a crime for which there is apparently no adequate punishment, and from which there is no possibility of redemption. You just have to do as you’re told and say you are, even if you don’t feel it’s really you. Here, as with the attempts to dictate whom the Alliance of Girls’ Schools may and may not invite to address them, we see further efforts by ideologues and morality police to control our public and private discourse, to the degree that we are told we should call ourselves something we do not feel we are.

Life seems increasingly to be a battle to preserve one’s own integrity against the onslaught of busybodies who’s own life purpose seems to be telling everybody else who we should be, what we should do, who we should listen to (invariably them) and what we can see. Personally, I’m over it. The only obligation anyone has is to be upfront about where they are coming from if they want to have a public voice. Silencing people is not on, and neither is telling women how to describe ourselves. Haven’t we got enough of that already from the patriarchy and the beauty industry, and the religious people and and and and……

Sunday with Leonard; born to be bad, and how long is a duck’s dick?

15 Aug

In need of spiritual nourishment and it being Sunday, I gave myself a dedicated Leonard Cohen day. This entailed, along with the scented oils, incense, beeswax candles and floaty shawls, a total immersion in music and lyrics enabled by our new system that transcends anything we’ve ever had before in terms of thrilling quality of sound.

As it turns out, it is perfect for Cohen’s fruity rasp, and for appreciating the brilliance of his musicians and backers, each one of whom is a top class artist in her or his own right.

Later,as the white blond moon peered through the window at me and the dog with the cauliflower ear, I settled down with a glass of red to a viewing of the On The Road DVD, featuring excerpts from Leonard’s recent world tour, and, how sweet it is, backstage stuff about Leonard’s quirks.

Needless to say the rest of the household had buggered off by then. Sympathetic to Cohen’s music though they are, nobody has my staying power.

I am crazy in love with this man, or at least the idea of him, having never met him. Up close he’s probably as irritating as every other human being can be: it never pays to confuse the art with the artist, especially someone like Cohen who writes many of his songs from what appears to be an imagined God perspective. Or channels them, depending on your belief system. This might make him even more difficult personally than the average bloke.

(An aside, check out David Horton’s piece on climate change sceptics today, titled “I believe.” It’s a little gem. As Leonard says: Take the only tree that’s left, and stuff it up the hole in your culture…)

Back to writing in the God voice, look at the Lover Lover lyrics: (I’m using the capital “G” because I’m referring to one imagined transcendental being, not a whole bunch of them in which case I would use the small “g.” The concept of a whole bunch of them doesn’t work at all in this instance. And I know God could just as easily be a woman, but that doesn’t work either.)

I asked my father, 
I said, “Father change my name.” 
The one I’m using now it’s covered up 
with fear and filth and cowardice and shame. 
Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me, 
yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me. 

He said, “I locked you in this body, 
I meant it as a kind of trial. 
You can use it for a weapon, 
or to make some woman smile.” 

Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me 
yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me. 

“Then let me start again,” I cried, 
“please let me start again, 
I want a face that’s fair this time, 
I want a spirit that is calm.” 

Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me 
yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me. 

“I never turned aside,” he said, 
“I never walked away. 
It was you who built the temple, 
it was you who covered up my face.” 

Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me 
yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me. 

And may the spirit of this song, 
may it rise up pure and free. 
May it be a shield for you, 
a shield against the enemy. 

Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me 
yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me. 

Now, personally I can barely resist the notion of an imagined transcendental being driven by such passion and such profound longing for reunion with me. It busts the heart right open, but only if it’s Cohen that’s singing about it, I’m not getting sucked in by those fundamentalists banging on about how God loves me and longs for my love in return.

Which reflects badly on me, I know, suggesting as it does that it’s the aesthetic not God after all, that transports me with delight.

There’s nothing “pure and simple” about violence and greed. Yet this phrase and others like it have been used over and over again as “explanations” of the motivations of those who rioted and looted in British cities last week.

It’s becoming evident that the offenders were not a homogenous group. Students, employed people, young kids, representatives of the middle class, the unemployed and a variety of ethnicities were all involved. Perhaps the only generalization that holds up is that they were young.

That their behaviours are criminal is unquestionable. That they ought to be held accountable is also unquestionable. What does need to be questioned is why this particular group of opportunistic looters are being singled out for attention when the world is awash with the predatory species. Check this link to the Drum today and Michael Brull’s excellent piece.

Like drug mules, the rioters and looters easy targets. They’re at the bottom of the opportunistic criminal food chain.

“They did it because they can” is another “explanatory” phrase. But all opportunistic criminals do it because they can, many of them causing far more mayhem and misery, unchecked, and for far longer periods. Opportunistic criminal behaviours, like domestic violence and incest, cross social divides. Those who are protected from the surveillance of authorities by money, power and influence are rarely called to account. Those who act out their capacity for violence and greed in the public gaze are pulverized by the self-righteous orthodoxy with the means to conceal their own criminality.

Lock them up and throw away the key, stop their benefits, chuck them out of public housing and make them homeless, that will teach them a lesson they’ll never forget.

The orthodoxy will do all this and more, because it can. It will do this because its prevailing attitude is that certain people are born bad and that’s all there is to it, and to them. The born bad fulfill a useful purpose: they distract public attention from greater opportunistic crimes perpetrated by another certain kind of person. This kind of person is presumably not born bad because being born bad means not having the ability to hide your criminality. The not born bad opportunistic  criminal commits crimes that are not perpetrated in clear sight. This species is among those with whom the orthodoxy is on good and mutually self-interested terms.

British politicians led by Old Etonian David Cameron are also engaged in giving the police a bollocking for not doing things properly. Which is a bit rich considering it took Cameron a few days to get back from his holidays in a Tuscan villa. It looks as if the only people not responsible for any of it are the politicians, who have been badly let down by both the opportunistic looters and rioters and the coppers, while they had their backs turned on their hard-earned summer holidays.

I can’t run no more,
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places say their prayers out loud…

 

That last line always makes me think of Tony Blair. You have heard about his Faith Foundation, haven’t you, the one that “promotes respect and understanding about and between the world’s major religions,” and has a flourishing branch at the University of Western Australia?

I suppose it makes a change from bringing democracy to Iraq through Blair, Howard and Bush’s Christian method of bombing the living shit out of civilians no matter what faith they follow.

Finally, I now know that the Argentine duck has a penis that is almost half a metre in length, and is, dear God, shaped like a corkscrew.

Here is a picture of a duck checking on his penis. He looks like he can’t believe it either. That’s mine?! WTF!

I don’t know how the female deals with this appendage. Please don’t anybody feel they have to tell me.

Did God give the Argentine duck his body to make the girl duck smile? Hallelujah!!!

Ministerial Declaration process corrupted by Gillard’s political and personal ambition

8 Aug

Lawyer David Manne and his team have succeeded in obtaining a temporary High Court injunction preventing the transportation of asylum seekers to Malaysia, planned for this morning. They will return to court later today seeking to extend the injunction, and to argue against the legality of the Gillard government’s Malaysia solution.

Manne’s team will argue that Australian law permits asylum seekers to request refugee assessment in this country, and that as the guardian of unaccompanied children, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen will be putting his charges in harm’s way and abandoning them if he sends them to Malaysia.

It’s been revealed that on July 25th, Chris Bowen made a Ministerial Declaration on the suitability of Malaysia to receive asylum seekers Australia refuses to process. In his Declaration Bowen claims that Malaysia is a safe destination, and that the country offers adequate human rights and protections, despite the fact that it is not a signatory to the UN Convention, and is globally renowned for its harsh attitude to refugees.

The government’s agreement with Malaysia was accompanied by considerable hype, however the Minister’s Declaration was nowhere mentioned, and was revealed only in the court action taken by Manne yesterday.

Ministerial Declarations are powerful instruments. The government believes Bowen’s Declaration is protected from being contested in the High Court, alleging that the Court has no jurisdiction to review these Declarations. Manne’s team will challenge the government’s position, and argue that the Court can and should review Bowen’s Declaration.

The danger with allowing this Declaration to stand is that in the future any minister can make any such Declaration about any country with impunity. Clearly there is plenty of evidence to contradict Bowen’s assertions about Malaysia. The Minister has ignored this evidence, and has made his declaration for purely political concerns. This is an abuse of power, and the raw exercise of political power for political gain is not the purpose of Ministerial Declarations.

What is most disturbing is that Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN Conventions that set the standard for the treatment of refugees and also of children, refugee and otherwise. The Gillard government refused to use Nauru as a dumping ground for asylum seekers, because that country is not a signatory either. Gillard took an ethical and moral stand on this. That stand is now revealed as a concern held for a nanosecond by the fake Julia – the real Julia doesn’t give a fig about non signatory countries if they’ll take asylum seekers off her hands.

Political expediency, and utter desperation at hideous polls, have corrupted Gillard and Bowen’s moral and ethical perspectives to the degree that not only are they now willing to use a non signatory country, they are also willing to abuse their power and to lie in a Ministerial Declaration, in the hope that they’ll shore up electoral support for their “solution.”

It’s a very dangerous situation when an individual minister can exercise this amount of power. That power can be, and some argue is currently being, exploited for the advancement of political and self-interest, with little regard for the human beings involved. No matter what your position on asylum seekers, this ministerial instrument of power should give you pause for thought.

If Bowen’s Declaration stands unchallenged it will mean that in theory, any minister can order the refoulement of refugees, despite our agreement with the UN to not engage in such practices. The present government can be grateful to John Howard for making this situation possible. In amendments to the Migration Act brought in by the Howard government, the Immigration Minister may unilaterally decide if another sovereign state  is considered suitable to receive asylum seekers. The law says the minister may declare that a specified country “provides protection for persons seeking asylum” and “meets relevant human rights standards in providing that protection”. The fact that the UNHCR has failed to support the Malaysian solution and has expressed concerns over the Malaysian government’s treatment of refugees is in conflict with Bowen’s assessment. The Howard amendment does not appear to require that ministers substantiate their declarations with evidence.

Some of the most recent boat arrivals have claimed fear of persecution in Malaysia on religious grounds however, Bowen’s Declaration pays no heed to these considerations, as he has declared that country safe. If his Declaration is allowed to stand by the High Court, we will know we are living in a country in which a government minister has absolute power that cannot be challenged, no matter if it is unjust, dishonest, self-seeking and corrupt.

These cynical moves by the Gillard government are beyond despicable. They are an insult to our democratic process, and to the trust we place in politicians to use the powerful legislative processes available to them wisely and compassionately. Instead, they have employed this instrument solely to advantage themselves, and as a consequence are putting the lives and well being of asylum seekers, including children, at risk.

One would hope that a minister would inform him or herself on all aspects of a situation before issuing a Declaration that is apparently uncontestable in law. This is the trust that we place in those to whom we award high office. Once that trust is betrayed, the fabric of our society is torn. Once that trust is abused, and political expediency and personal ambition are placed above the rule of law, our democracy is in deep trouble.

We can only hope the High Court is able to challenge Bowen’s Declaration, for the sake of asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, and all Australian citizens.

Bowen claims he believes it is safe for asylum seekers in Malaysia. Well, Tony Blair and John Howard believed there were WMD’s in Iraq. We know and knew at the time, that they based those beliefs on insufficient evidence because they didn’t want to hear the UN weapons inspectors’ reports that contradicted their beliefs.

The selective beliefs of politicians should not be allowed to take us into war, or to expel vulnerable people to countries where they are at further risk. In both cases, evidence was ignored in the pursuit of political gains. This story is becoming way too familiar in our political system.  We cannot trust politicians with the powers we give them, and those powers urgently need to be curbed.

The war you don’t see; Blair wows the msm, and the Malaysian solution becomes a reality

1 Aug

Whatever the criticisms of John Pilger, he has achieved the remarkable feat of keeping alive his indignation towards government and media manipulations and duplicities for decades. His recent documentary The War You Don’t See is no exception. I rather belatedly sat down to watch this yesterday.

Pilger takes the global media to task for its sycophantic coverage of the Iraq war, when journalists had to be embedded if they wanted to work for any of the mainstream press, and once embedded, were compromised as to what they could reveal and what they would have to conceal.

As with any account of events, current or historical, there is much truth to be found in the authors’ silences. What has been omitted and why is perhaps the first question a discerning reader needs to ask. In the case of Iraq, there are alternative sources such as Al Jazeera, independents and blogs and of course Wikileaks. Pilger has gone to these sources as well as interviewing big names such as Dan Rather  and a couple of very defensive and pedantic VIPs at ITV and the BBC.

“Well, it depends what you mean by the word links,” the ITV VIP argues, in a pathetically unsuccessful attempt at sophistry that serves only to confirm Pilger’s allegations of sycophantic bias. ‘Blair was very careful when he chose to use the word links,” the ITV Blair apologist continues, demonstrating in one sentence the entire Pilger thesis of conspiracy and collusion between government and mainstream media. (Of course, we know even more about this parasitic relationship since the recent Murdoch News of the World downfall. Say what you like, Pilger’s still on track.)

Under Pilger’s politely unrelenting pressure, these media bosses acknowledge their obsequience to their government in the matter of their reportage of the Iraq invasion, as well as WMD’s and chemical weapons allegedly held by Iraq and used, falsely, to justify the invasion.

The footage of the suffering of Iraqi people is horrific. Up to 90% of those injured and killed in this war are civilians. This is of course a reflection of the increasing sophistication of weaponry: in the first World War there were comparatively few civilian casualties. “Collateral damage” in wars has increased exponentially with the aggressor’s ability to bomb the living shit out of anything that moves.

As I wrote here this documentary was banned from screening at some events in the US and Pilger’s invitation to speak was revoked. Having watched it, I can see why it is perceived in some quarters as a threat, as it clearly explains the role of media as the servant of government  in the propaganda of war.

Alleged war criminal Tony Blair has been in Australia this past week, and has been predictably courted by over-awed mainstream journalists. Blair, a convert to Catholicism, is promoting a faith-based attitude to global affairs and has harsh words for secularists like Julia Gillard, who he seems to feel are missing the point.

Personally, I’m unable to take Blair out of the context of his slavoring admiration for  George Bush, and his lack of judgement on the Iraq invasion. There was plenty of evidence available at the time to cause any serious-minded political leader to pause and re-consider his position.

Blair, like John Howard, did not do this, and took us to war in spite of a great deal of opposition from their respective electorates. The consequences of this were and continue to be death, death, and more death with a very large dose of suffering thrown in.

Aren't I having fun?

The first fifty asylum seekers to be sent to Malaysia were intercepted yesterday. They will be taken to Christmas Island, and held for 72 hours for preliminary health and identity checks before being flown out.

As another example of how government propaganda works through information that is either omitted or collectively and consistently ignored, nobody wants to address the small matter of our laws. In domestic law, asylum seekers are permitted to arrive in Australia in any manner whatsoever, with or without papers, and to request protection while their refugee status is ascertained.

I would sincerely like to know why there is no move to rescind this law, seeing as we have no intention now or in the future of upholding it. Like the human appendix, it would seem to be a useless evolutionary remnant, and we should get rid of it in case it turns septic and poisons the whole system.

Apart from that, it is psychologically unhealthy for an individual or a country to exist in a state of cognitive dissonance. No good can come from it, and we ought to be lining up our laws with our actions if we don’t want consequences.

I would also like to know why asylum seekers who arrive by plane are not sent to Malaysia. Why do we have this two tier system in Australia, and why are we creating a two tier system in Malaysia? How to explain this peculiar attachment to promoting inequality amongst the world’s most vulnerable and desperate people?

Of course, I am asking the wrong questions, that is, the ones nobody wants to hear, but there’s nothing to be done except to keep on asking them.

Everybody knows that none of this has anything at all to do with asylum seekers and refugees per se. It is solely to do with “stopping the boats” in the desperate hope of shoring up the increasingly tenuous possibility that the Gillard government will survive the next election. Asylum seekers arriving by boat are collateral damage in this domestic battle. Strangely, many of them are already collateral damage as a consequence of the wars we’re involved in, in their home countries.

I guess there are just some human beings who can be damaged collaterally over and over again by the same people, and nobody thinks it matters.

Why?

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