Trump presidency in real danger; the fall-out will be wide.

trump mad

“I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

Tony Schwartz, ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal – for Donald Trump.


“I get great intel … people brief me on great intel every day,” Donald Trump boasts. You can tell he’s just busting to share. Show his visitors what a big shot he is. He loves to be liked. Instead, his net approval rating is below zero although he can boast he’s the only president to achieve this within his first 100 days in the White House.

Suddenly The Donald’s spilling the beans, sharing all the classified dot points he has been entrusted with about the latest, HUGE ISIS plot and everything.   A short attention-span is his characteristic, says Tony Schwarz who wrote The Art of the Deal for Trump, it’s impossible to keep him focussed on anything except his own self-aggrandisement.

Trump is big-noting himself to Russian foreign minister, salty Sergei Lavrov and Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, 10 May, at a private meeting to which Russian state media only was invited. The White House, for once, is being prudent. Two years ago, Lavrov was recorded calling the Saudis “fucking imbeciles”.

But Trump has more to over share. “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job.” The New York Times confirms from official documents. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Later The Donald claims he has a right to blab. Is the president trying to impeach himself? Or is this some new post-truth defence against collusion? The nation is flabbergasted this week by the sensational revelation that Donald Trump has shared classified intelligence with the Russians while bragging; showing off about all the secret stuff he knows.

The extraordinary events are the latest episodes of Mar a Lago Hillbillies, a top-rating US presidential soap opera about the rise of a tangerine-tanned former reality TV boss and his gold-digging family. This week in Russia-gate the show blends all the electrifying suspense of the McCarthy era red witch hunt with the Whodunit mystery of Watergate.

Luckily, Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Showboat Bishop drops everything and dashes to help Trump, nine days later. Be there for him, almost. While she could not possibly know what he’s said, she’s sort of right behind him, more or less.

JBish is also in New York for an audience with wacky war criminal Henry Chicken-hawk Kissinger, a step vital to Australia’s application to join the UN Human Rights Council. There’s so much to gain from the wily old wire-tapper.

Julie knows her mentor once helped stage-manage genocide in East Timor. Right wing Latin American dictators who killed trade union leaders? Henry helped overthrow a democratically elected government in Chile. He urged Richard Nixon to wire-tap his opponents, including staffers and journalists. Julie sighs. So much to learn. So little time.

Kissinger got a Nobel Prize for his efforts to end the Vietnam War. These included extending it for five pointless years and  paving the way for Pol Pot and the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge.

“Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy,” he says in Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s The Final Days. Comedian Tom Lehrer protested that Kissinger’s Peace Prize made political satire obsolete.

Julie shyly reminds Henry how her country loves Netanyahu and other strong leaders. How being strong helps Australia keep its borders protected; keep ourselves tough and buff. Just look at Peter Dutton’s wonderfully humane handling of the close of Manus Island. Exemplary. No-one lectures us on human rights. We are proud of our record.

Australia’s treatment of those now in their fourth year in gaol on the islands of Manus and Nauru is “not as a negative at all” as far as our UN bid is concerned, she says, just a way of stemming the flow of people-smuggling and preventing deaths at sea. Naturally, we’ve had to move things along on Manus which is due to be demolished at the end of June.

But we’ve made provision. A few can go to East Lorengau where they face beatings from locals who hate them.

The rest can go to Moresby where they won’t be beaten up or robbed if they stay inside cheap hotels. There are no jobs there anyway. Or they can return to certain persecution. Or get swapped to the US – if and when they’ve passed the “extreme vetting”, a little something Donald plans to whip up later, that he says will be imposed on a deal he detests.

When it’s invented, extreme vetting will detect “American values;” screen out anyone who is not prepared to “embrace a tolerant American society.” Our own PM has a similar scheme in mind to help us select the right type of migrant.

Peter’s also doing terrific stuff rounding up asylum seekers who just rip off tax-payers by living here and not producing any paper-work. He’ll deport 7,500 into war zones and further persecution and to countries with the death penalty.

Of course, our AFP helps prosecutors in countries which have the death penalty, but the worldwide abolition of the death penalty still remains one of Australia’s goals. We have to be practical and “appropriate“.  JBish puts a lot of thought into her vocabulary. You can tell. A cut in her budget has just gone into $300,000 extra funding for the AFP.

But Trump’s in trouble. Australia’s Foreign Minister releases a statement in support of his indefeasible behaviour.

“… The conversations the President has had, are, to our understanding, within the type of conversations that one would expect leaders to hold,”

Julie Bishop tells every nationwide press outlet. One does one’s best.

Betraying top secret information – bragging about sacking your nut case FBI director? It’s all bog-standard, run of the mill diplomacy, really, even if, as the New York Times observes, it rather strengthens the idea it’s intended to dispel. Surely no-one doubts “the president dismissed Comey primarily because of the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives?”

Amazingly, incredibly, Bishop’s defence is simultaneously expressed by Teresa May and a swarm of other US bot-flies in the coalition of the willing who all chorus their independent, spontaneous support. Orchestrated damage control? Never.

If he ever read anything, Trump would take little heart in Bishop’s vacuous endorsement but he’s on to his next big crisis.

Former FBI Director James Comey claims Trump asked him to lay off investigating former national security advisor and Turkish Foreign Agent Michael Flynn because – apart from illegally secretly discussing US sanctions with the Russian Ambassador to the US last December – Mike’s a real nice guy.  I mean I really want him back on the team.

Trump also asked Comey about imprisoning reporters for publishing classified information, reports The New York Times.

Whatever he thinks of muzzling the press, Big Jim, who loathes Trump and everything he represents. Schwarz identifies the essential Trump as his willingness to run over people, the gaudy, tacky, gigantic obsessions, the absolute lack of interest in anything beyond power and money.” Comey formally notes the attempt to obstruct the course of justice. Things go pear-shaped for the orange Commander in Chief soon after. Hugely.

Trump hasn’t helped his case. Bad-mouthing Comey to Lavrov and Kislyak is not a wise career move.

A bombshell follows.  A special counsel is appointed, the widely-respected former FBI Director, Robert Mueller. He’s set to look into “The Russian Thing” as Trump calls it – and anything else he thinks looks fishy such as the Flynn Thing or the Blab Thing. The nutcase thing will probably take care of itself. The inquiry is now a criminal investigation.

Investigation of team Trump’s Russian links moves up a notch even briefly bumping news of the world laptop terror scoop. But it’s not entirely eclipsed. The Donald has confirmed he can’t be trusted with classified information. It will prove a most costly blunder – even if the details of the laptop blab sound suspiciously like a setup.

Classified Israeli intelligence warns the US that ISIS would use laptops to bring down planes. Terrorists may carry on laptops and use them to detonate explosives in the aircraft’s cabin, warn the spooks. News even emerges of a foiled plot involving an explosive-filled iPad. Talk about product placement. Details, naturally, are top secret.

For us, the jig is up. Australia’s government leaps aboard the nearest flight of hysteria to ban laptops and tablets from the cabin. Safer, by far, to stow devices in the cargo hold where an explosion may only bring down the entire aircraft.

Yet it’s not just about the laptops. Trump has named the city where the diabolical plot is being hatched. He’s identified an agent, causing a furore among US intelligence officers and their Israeli counterparts. Can he escape this lynch mob?

Trump digs deep. Using his  signature double switcheroo, he denies he’s blabbed, then blabs about his blabbing.

For Tony Schwarz, lying is The Donald’s second nature. He believes whatever he says at any given moment is true – or sort of true – or at least ought to be true. He lies strategically. He has a complete lack of conscience about it.

As one Washington wag puts it, George Washington was a president who couldn’t tell a lie; Richard Nixon was a president who couldn’t tell the truth. Donald Trump can’t tell the difference. Luckily a bit of gun-running has to be done.

Peddling weapons to Saudi Arabia turns out to be TREMENDOUS; helps rescue Trump from a slump. The human hyperbole toddles off into the record books, extended family in tow, to clinch the biggest arms deal in American history.

Cue massive spontaneous applause from the conga line of suck-holes. Our ABC describes the arms sale at first as part of the president’s focus on “forging peace” in the Middle East. Even The White House modestly calls it, “fighting terrorism and bringing safety, opportunity and stability to the war-ravaged Middle East.” Later ABC reports go big on dollar values.

At $110 billion immediately and $350 billion over ten years, it’s a neat deal which son-in-law Jared Kushner has been keenly negotiating and will help the Saudis supply arms to Syria, Egypt, Lebanon. It is also part of US strategy to create a bulwark against Iran.  Relax. Australians can still feel secure, ten per cent of all US weapons exports will still go to us.

Trashier than the Kardashians but with sensational appearances from not one but two former FBI Directors and a guest spot from the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who is visiting Washington not only to watch on as his Embassy goons beat up US protestors but to stop Trump arming Kurdish fighters in Syria, Mar a Lago Hillbillies has a breathtakingly unpredictable plot.

Sharing many themes and values with much of Australian politics, Mar a Lago Hillbillies  is all about heroic martyrdom. Serving hardworking Americans by cutting taxes for the wealthy and slashing services to the poor while raising pensioners’ energy bills and elevating global warming and boosting atmospheric pollution, a virtuous, yet totally misunderstood but beloved popular leader is persecuted by left media and toxic Washington insiders. Out to get him.

Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean the bastards aren’t out to get you, as Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton well know. And it’s politically expedient to play the victim. “The single greatest witch hunt of a politician in US history”, gripes The Donald, perhaps the greatest witch hunter yet to inhabit the Oval Office, as his sacking of Comey backfires.

So unfair. A soft political coup or even an auto da fe may in fact await America’s presidential heretic. Despite stiff competition, he remains, by far, its most dangerously inept leader. But his biggest sin is that he won’t take advice. Mike Pence disappears. Washington gossips about Trump’s removal from office on the grounds of mental incapacity.

“They will say he has Alzheimer’s” claims pal Roger Stone, a “sinister Forrest Gump”, a mutual friend of Trump’s mentor, Roy Cohn, the lawyer who earned unparalleled emnity as Senator Joe McCarthy’s chief witch-hunter. Naturally attracted to The Donald, by his values, Stone is a self-professed “dirty political trickster” from Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign and an inveterate attention-seeker for whom notoriety is better than no press at all. He warns of a cabinet coup.

Even without Stone’s conspiracy theory, Trump’s abuse of Comey is a tad ungrateful. Comey helped Trump’s campaign and caused a furore by reviving claims Hilary Clinton made “careless use” of a private email server. It remains an unprecedented public discussion and communication with Congress  by an FBI Director just prior to an election.

Could they be frenemies? There was a moment of bromance. On 22 January, during a ceremony, Trump called Comey over from where he was hiding against the curtain to hug him in public, a gesture which Comey found “disgusting“.

More repugnant was Trump’s attempt to recruit the FBI Director at private dinner. He asked me to pledge my personal loyalty, says Comey who Cordelia-like offered his honesty instead, offended by what he saw as an egregious impropriety.

Trump summarily dismissed his FBI head. Despite plenty of gratuitous slagging, he’s providing conflicting accounts for firing him. Comey fudged the Clinton case, (although he was full of praise at the time).  Comey’s a “show-boat”. Nobody likes him. “The Russian thing” is a hoax and a tax-payer funded charade. Now Comey’s a nutcase.

Is it a clumsy Trump cover up? Almost certainly. The FBI director discussed his agency’s investigation into Russian meddling in the US presidential election – and possible Russian ties to the Trump campaign – before a Senate committee. The timing is suspicious. So, too is Trump’s attempt to threaten Comey that he may have been taped.

The tape threat is Trump’s desperation bid to salvage his story that Comey promised him three times that he was not under investigation. Comey, naturally, denies this vehemently. For his part, Trump denies ever asking Comey to ease off his pal, nice guy and national security adviser, Russophile and foreign agent mad Michael Flynn.

Complicating matters for Trump are reliable reports that Comey filed a memo documenting the President’s request. An FBI Director’s memos would be admissable evidence in the current subsequent criminal inquiry or any other.

Comey’s friend, Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, the US establishment’s think tank and editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog is in no doubt about what happened:

“Trump fired Jim Comey because the most dangerous thing in the world, if you’re Donald Trump, is a person who tells the truth, is dogged, you can’t control, and who is as committed as Comey is to the institutional independence of an organization that has the power to investigate you,” Wittes tells NewsHour’s William Brangham.

Trump cries foul. The witch-finder is victim of a witch hunt. One of the least stable, most insecure occupants of The White House beyond even Nixon, Trump’s paranoid attacks on Hilary Clinton, Obama, Washington, Mexicans, Muslims, the media, aliens in our midst and other “real bad dudes” are his signature theme. He has only one other claim to fame.

No. It’s not the abomination of his second attack on Obamacare, his affordable health care Act, which will deny 24 million Americans health care. Nor his anti-Muslim travel bans. Trump’s biggest contribution is the alternative fact.

“Even my enemies would say there is no Russia collusion.” It’s not just “Look over there!”- but, “There is no “there” over there.”  He’s got millions of Americans believing him. Yet, just in case, as events unfold, he’s quick to change his story.

Now a special counsel is on his case, Trump makes it clear, Friday, he’s only speaking for himself. No-one else in the team. He, himself, directly, no Russian collusion. OK? He pulls Sean Spicer from the White House Podium.

It won’t help his cause. It won’t undo the egregious impropriety with which he has conducted himself. It won’t erase the impression that he is a president who holds the protocols of his office in contempt. Even his latest BFF, the Turnbull government, cannot save The Donald from himself.

He’s wedged himself. Now the 45th President of the United States faces an alienated James Comey on the outer, while on the inside, special counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller approaches with his signature painstaking forensic particularity. He has Trump’s number.  Things will turn ugly, however, as the cornered beast lashes out.

Commentators on ABC Insiders Sunday are unanimous in reassuring Australians that the impeachment of a president is a long and difficult process. That’s not the point. Trump’s presidency is already irrevocably damaged.

Inept, inexperienced, chaotically disorganised and overwhelmingly ill-informed, Trump has destroyed whatever credibility or legitimacy he may once have claimed.

A big arms deal with the Saudis won’t save his presidency, however much he trumpets its success or however much the ABC repeats the price tag. Nor will all of the accommodation, the normalisation and the flattery that our government and other US vassals have lavished upon his presidency avert the rapidly building crisis.  We need to get real. Our accommodation of the monster has already cost us dearly.

For all its entertainment and action-packed shock value, the Mar a Lago Hillbillies is likely to have a very bad ending. None of us is likely to come out of this well.

A dodgy bastards’ budget of lies.

 

scoMo

 

“Rather than justice for all, we are evolving into a system of justice for those who can afford it. We have banks that are not only too big to fail, but too big to be held accountable.” 

― Joseph E. Stiglitz


“Pay your staff, you dodgy bastard,” a nineteen year old Sydney FC fan bellows from the stand last Sunday night at the A-League Sydney Grand Final. He’s calling out 36 year old celebrity chef, George Calombaris, whose restaurant group underpaid by $2.6 million 162 of his 430 workers over six years, an oversight which has put Calombaris off-side with the Fair Work Ombudsman, the odd hospitality industry employee, if not an entire nation.

“Pay your staff …” resonates in a week of Fairfax sackings and news of widespread exploitation, underpayment or wage slavery in a range of workplaces and locations including our homes. Despite unpaid internships, the abolition of Sunday penalty rates, cash in hand underpayment, casualisation, the rise in part time work and the use of “contractors” most of us prefer that workers be paid what they are due. Even if we have a problem paying women.

It’s a national trait. Australians will speak up for justice, however, much it may suit government to invoke our law-abiding compliance as it goes about dog-whistling our supremacists with their demands that all migrants be assimilated into “multicultural” submission. To the government’s dismay, our values have a way of finding their own voice, just as its own actions, in its “full astern” budget this week, betray a colossal, cynical pragmatism.

The Coalition is up to its own dodgy bastardry. Its big-spending, high taxing budget, “rests on principles of fairness, security and opportunity” says Morrison who will say or do anything. It’s only about its own survival; a frantic attempt to arrest the PM’s diabolical unpopularity and to cut and run from its 2014 Abbott budget fiasco.

It’s an amazing backflip. The debt and deficit disaster? Never happened. The Malcolm Roberts-esque mantra that “we do not have a revenue problem”, maintained for three years, is suddenly dropped, along with Neoliberalism.

The expenditure problem has overnight become a virtue, provided it is “good debt” ie debt the government likes.

Now the government proposes to raise taxes from middle income earners in the form of a 2.5 % Medicare levy and it will get banks to pay a new tax although, once again it will persist with the fiction that this is a levy.

Proving he has not lost his sense of irony, the Treasurer keeps a straight face as he claims Medicare is guaranteed. At least Peter Costello could smirk as he told us his new charter of budget honesty would banish all mendacity.

Above all, ScoMo screams, “this is an honest budget”. Unlike the last one?

It’s an honest budget all right, apart- that is –  from the dishonest bits such as the Medicare guarantee.  The process sounds OK. Any funds remaining from the increased Medicare levy – after paying for the National Insurance Disability Scheme (NDIS) –  (already funded by Labor) will be paid into a Medicare Guarantee Fund

“Proceeds from the Medicare levy will be paid into the fund. An additional contribution from income tax revenue will also be paid into the Medicare Guarantee Fund to make up the difference.” Provided it passes the senate.

It’s OK- provided the government does not fund the costs of public hospitals. The costs of Medicare are re-defined solely as a combination of expenditure from the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) but minus the commonwealth’s contribution to public hospitals.

Although Morrison claims greater transparency over Medicare funding, transparency is just another dodgy buzz-word. It will, as The Grattan Institute’s Stephen Duckett points out, be much harder to follow Medicare funding.

At the heart of the Morrison magic pudding is the wild assumption that wages will increase. On ABC Insiders Sunday he talks up wage growth to 3%. There are similarly unrealistic expectations placed upon commodity prices.

Surely it would have been more prudent just to have postponed the business tax cuts, handouts which in Thursday’s Question Time, after some embarrassing fumbling, he admits will be $65.4 billion over ten years.

But no. After years of pretending that we battled economic headwinds, suddenly the world economy is on the up. Good times are just around the corner – unless you are unemployed or indigent. The war on the poor continues.

Continued is the demonising of our unemployed as unworthy; dole bludgers, druggies and a burden on society. There will be drug tests, a failed US policy, and extra tests to check that you are single and a beaut three strikes and you’re out tolerance of slip ups in honouring your Centrelink obligations. Robo-debt could be put on to that.

It’s another echo of yet another failed US tough on crime policy and a clear sign that the government is posturing.

The all-new-tough-on-bludgers-crackdown will tackle what government claims are “around 40,000 people(who) appear to be wilfully and systematically gaming the welfare system with no intention of working”. Assuming, of course, that work is available – although work could be redefined on a very part-time basis. Technically, to keep unemployment statistics off the scale, you are employed on one hour’s paid employment per week.

The dole bludger bashing is a divisive, dishonest stunt. Morrison claims it will save $632m over 5 years. As Greg Jericho patiently points out in The Guardian, however, it’s less than 0.1% of total welfare expenditure.

Budget 2017 seeks to punish those out of work. It’s somehow their fault. It caricatures the jobless as too drunk or stoned to turn up to a job interview. It substitutes puritanical political posturing, a justification of denial and withholding for any genuine attempt to share resources fairly according to need. It also punishes by neglect.

It neglects women. There is not one budget measure to address gender inequality; to promote equal pay.  The environment doesn’t get a look in either. Nor does climate change. These matters are clearly all dealt with.

Work, on the other hand, is fetishised, idealised as inherently ennobling in a cruel parody of the harsh and often demeaning realities of the 2017 workplace where exploitation and expendability are defended as “flexibility”. Again the government reveals itself to be totally disconnected from the realities of the modern workplace.

Work is increasingly rare, unfair and insecure. Penny Vickers, a Brisbane night-fill worker, has just won a nine-month legal battle against a dodgy 2011 Enterprise Bargaining Agreement which saw her pay drop by $30 per week below the award wage. Abandoned by her union, amazingly, heroically, she successfully battles alone.

Fairfax, which blew the whistle on the injustice, is in her corner-  yet to The Australian, to stand up for your rights is defiance, even if it delights in the case because it says the Fair Work Act 2009, a replacement for Howard’s Work Choices 2005 is a Labor Law and because it senses endless opportunities for union-bashing.

Forced to represent herself in the Fair Work Commission, Ms Vickers has taken on the power of Coles and the silks of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) a monster union, some 200,000 strong nationally.

Her win is a rare yet significant victory as workers battle to extract themselves from deals which the right-wing SDA has concluded with a range of major companies including Coles and Woolworths. The conservative SDA sets out to offer maximum industrial co-operation and minimal disruption to employers.  Is it a fake union?

This EBA affects 77,000 workers yet under Section 193 of The Fair Work Act, if one worker can prove that he or she is not better off overall than under the award, the FWC cannot approve it. The FWC estimates that 56% of workers could be affected. Wages withheld amount to $77 million.

Across other workplaces, there could be $300 million in underpaid wages every year. Yet it’s never just about the money.

“Pay your staff … ” has a larrikin edge; an echo of the spirit of the fight for fair pay and conditions between the owners and the workers of the Shearers’ strike of 1891, a harshly suppressed yet nation-changing insurrection which, today, thanks to dodgy bastard John Howard would be classed as “an illegal industrial action”.

Nation-building irreverence, independence or wilful insubordination are unlikely, however, to feature in any Coalition government citizenship test. Increasingly, as Fairfax workers discover, again, to their cost, this week, the spirit of the age is not agility and innovation but rather servile docility and subservience to dodgy paymasters with corporate loyalties which put profits before people.

The madly accelerating gap between capital and labour that threatens our entire society is thrown into stark relief. 115 full-time workers lose their jobs while executives get a pay rise for their part in reducing costs.

Richard Ackland quotes business writer Michael West’s claim this week that four top executives at Fairfax “were secretly gifted $6.7 million in share options in a transaction which the company failed to disclose in its annual report. The sneaky pay deal involved half of a $13.4 million options package awarded by the board.”

$13 million would help journalists’ salaries or even defer the planned reduction of payments for contributions.

Yet it’s my way or the highway in an increasingly autocratic and pro-government Fairfax management culture. Mike Seccombe reminds us Paddy Manning was summarily dismissed in 2013 for criticising the “rubbishy” sponsored corporate editorial material and “PR-driven churnalism” increasingly evident in The Financial Review.

Former Liberal Party staffer James Chessell was appointed to run federal politics, business and world coverage in February, an event which a striking worker tells Seccombe is extraordinary.

Workplace agreements are built on the premise that master knows best not that old Aussie egalitarian nonsense that Jack’s as good as his master. The new breed of Fairfax master, moreover is a creature of the investor class. And for the investor the firms’ once great papers are now valued solely in terms of their profitability.

Reporters investigations and all the rest of their craft are now merely ways to drag traffic to Domain, Fairfax’s money-making real estate site.  TPG offers to buy the business as it did with Myer in 2006.

The offer is rejected but is likely to resurface. As Ian Verrender warns, a successful bid will usher in a similar pattern of asset-stripping that has left Myer a shell of its former self. Relisted on the stock exchange and floated to investors at $4.10 in 2009, the company has declined in value ever since is now worth $1 per share

But Fairfax reporters stopped work, in part, to call attention to a matter of national security far graver than any trumped up terror threat. Our once robust national press is about to collapse. A pillar of democracy is in danger.

It’s not just us. The Australian could have the plug pulled at any moment. The News Corp tabloids are struggling. The Guardian’s in a perilous financial position. It’s a looming national crisis.”

For Peter Dutton, however, it’s a real bonus. The Immigration Minister has yet to account for his utter refusal to produce any evidence for his outrageous slur that asylum-seekers on Manus Island were fired upon in retaliation for some unspecified sexual abuse. Nothing but good can come of the loss of Fairfax, in his opinion.

Speaking on Sydney’s (Fairfax-owned) 2GB on Thursday, in his regular sledging session, he puts the boot in.

“I thought the productivity of Fairfax went up last week with the strike. I don’t think lives were affected one way or another,” he sneers. “I think people realise you can live without reading Fairfax newspapers. I think it’s a better way to lead your life – that would be my advice.”

Being held to account is something which does not sit well with Mr Dutton. Nor does it suit our banking oligopoly which are being asked to pay a new tax, a notion they claim which was foist upon them with no consultation. Consultation in this context means a chance to give the government its instructions. There will be hell to pay.

Already, Ian Narev, CEO of The Commonwealth bank who was paid 12.3 million last year, has told the Treasurer that the bank will have to pass on the new tax. Morrison is not budging – not at this stage anyway. He must know that our banks are the most profitable in the world. Their profits in 2016 were a staggering 3% of our total GDP.

Nor is ScoMo in any way discombobulated by the threat. The government will still get the money. In an interesting but equally predictable twist, the banksters are following the same script as the miners who successfully forced a backdown seven years ago for the Rudd Labor government. Bernard Keane says they are recycling the same lies.

The rest of the scenario is quite different. Back in Rudd’s day there was Tony Abbott to lead an opposition in a litany of lies about how the proposed super profits tax would ruin the miners and the entire country.  And some Australians actually liked mining companies, apart from those who held shares in them.

Both these factors do not apply to the Big Four banks of our nation who contrive amongst themselves to run a ludicrously profitable monopoly – in between running governments and Prime Ministers. The banks, do, it is true have a Fairfax paper, The Financial Review on side and there has been the predictable bugling from Simon Breheny at the IPA, while for Paul Kelly at The Australian, politics is knocked off course by the populist drumbeat.

Putting to one side how many of these commentators may own bank shares, which despite the banks’ propaganda number a swag of institutional and foreign investors as opposed to the mainly Mum and Dad investor ploy – expect to hear more of how the process has been at fault and how investors will be driven elsewhere. There will be a lot of bumf about our need for a strong an profitable banking sector rather than four profiteering banks.

Expect to hear how the banks saved us from the GFC and not a word about how the Rudd government successfully protected the banks. Expect to hear less about the reality. How the government is collecting $6 billion over four from our big four banks while contracting to deliver them $7 billion in company tax cuts over a decade.

What is needed, however, is some cheeky teenager in the stands to shout:

“Pay your dues you dodgy bastards.”

Stop grovelling to Trump; stand up to Dutton and for Australia Mr Turnbull.

trump and turnbull

Capping a week of monster surprises, Mitch Fifield, Arts Minister 2.0 , announces government will help media moguls to become even more powerful just as the PM is due to sup with Rupert Murdoch and a conga line of suck-holes at a nosh-up for Australian-US sycophants on USS Intrepid, a New York war-porn museum inside a WW2 aircraft carrier, Thursday.

The billionaires’ relief package is timed for Turnbull’s emergency dash to kiss Rupert’s ring and a unique opportunity to fawn over Rupert’s protégé, Donald the Wunderkind, Trump, while Trump still believes he’s trashed Obamacare, bigly.

Should our government get its way, however, with its media laws, Australians could be reading only of the President’s amazing victory.

While changes proposed will need parliamentary approval, they include repealing the two out of three cross media ownership laws and the 75% reach rule which currently prevent Australia’s media giants from consolidating.

Turnbull’s backers hope there’s a poll bounce in truckling to Trump but either way, it’s a key step in the Coalition’s philanthropic mission to the rich. The $12 billion dollar little Aussie battler could do with a bit of a hand up just as the nation needs more media concentration if it is to be certain that the news it hears and sees is government-approved.

Will Fairfax now at last be free to marry Nine Entertainment? How will the proposed new laws help the 125 workers or the 25% of its journalists Fairfax just made redundant? Do the new “reach” and “two out three” “reforms” allow a virtual monopoly? No time for any further discussion. Look over there, it’s the Ugly Budget Show.

But first a word from funny man and Trump fan Happy Harold Mitchell, chairman of Free TV Australia, the industry group that says it represents the free-to-air networks. Mitchell argues that the changes were needed to help protect Australian media companies from overseas technology giants, such as Facebook and Google.

“Broadcasters must be able to effectively compete with the giant multinational media companies taking advertising dollars out of Australia,” Mitchell says straight-faced. Yet Murdoch’s US business was able to take 4.5 billion from its Australian business in 2015 virtually tax free. Expect Scott Morrison to offer more of the same hogwash Tuesday.

Tuesday will be huge. Everyone’s on edge lest they bugger up The Budget Process or, somehow, mar the “finishing touches” being applied to the Frankenstein’s monster Morrison is building. Or, rather, the monster we are all constructing such is the power of the collective fiction of the Almighty Budget reborn, or recreated, every year.

So powerful it can destroy the futures of those yet unborn, the Budget Monster usurps entire governments and oppositions alike. The Ugly Budget dominates all rational discussion of the economy.

The nonsense of Budget Repair, for example, is widely accepted as justification for cutting government spending while giving tax cuts to the rich.

Forget jobs and growth. Forget the slogans about delivering on its promises. As Treasury will have told ScoMo, the Coalition has in fact delivered budget unrepair. Its policies have massively increased the deficit and helped retard economic growth.

Jobs will continue to be part time and casual while the unemployment rate won’t budge much from 5.25-5.75%, helped by the ABC’s Fran Kelly and the many others in the Coalition cheer squad who say this is “relatively good”.

Expect half measures from the faint-hearted. The Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss warns of a “hodge podge”.  High Priest Morrison, the Malcolm Roberts, of the economy says his budget won’t “tickle the ears of the ideologues”.

Yet after years of ear-tickling about bringing the budget back into balance and its worship of the free market, the government has abandoned some of its neoliberal magical thinking in favour of something which might win it a few more votes.

It will still, however, cling to its trickle-down superstition that making the rich richer is good for all of us.

Gone is debt and deficit disaster. Some debt is good, especially if it’s an excuse to boondoggle. “Good debt” is money borrowed by government for an inland Queensland rail that will never pay its way or an Adani mine that’s a fiscal and environmental liability and other pork-barrel projects that it sanctifies in the holy name of infrastructure spending.

Neoliberal economics has failed spectacularly worldwide but this government puts gut feeling first as Barnaby Joyce says. He can move a whole government department to help his electoral prospects despite no feasibility study no modelling or supporting evidence.

Similarly, ScoMo’s second Budget will preserve the delusion that ripping $48 billion out of the budget in the form of tax cuts for companies will lead to increased productivity, more jobs and higher wages if you say it often enough. Or that welfare is a cost not an investment in a socially cohesive, fair and decent society.

The Market, Amen, must be left to its own devices – mostly. ScoMo will subsidise Adani’s coal mine even though other mines won’t be able to compete. The Coalition will pop up a second Sydney airport while energy companies rob us blind with the help of a market regulator they helped to create and a government keen to protect it.

Undeterred, coal industry shill, Matt Canavan, our quixotic Resources Minister tilts at Westpac Bank again. This week, he accuses a bank of conflict of interest for not falling in with his government’s plans to subsidise Carmichael, a monster coal mine project we don’t need, which won’t pay its way and will become a stranded asset.

On cue, Adani vows to get its railway lines from Whyalla steelworks, a gesture that is hailed as a “lifeline” by Canavan and much of MSM. Yet the steel represents one per cent of Whyalla’s total output. A one off order of 56,000 tonnes of railway line is not a ‘lifeline’ for Arrium Steel but a cruel hoax,” says The Australian Institute’s Richard Denniss.

Under fire from The Incredible Sulk, Tony Abbott, over his Australian values and Gonski 2.0 cons and with the monster of Manus Island at large again after a Border Force worker alleges that Peter Dutton is lying, intrepid Turnbull acts decisively.

He scoops up Lucy and a tuxedo. Dashes to New York. It’s a last ditch bid to cure his electoral scrofula; the laying on of hands by a White House incumbent that guarantees all Australian Prime Ministers a boost in the polls. Or used to.

Turnbull is even up for a Trump love-in staged by Rupert Murdoch in New York, a city that doesn’t trust either of them.

“We’re not babies”, cries man-baby Donald Trump whose self-awareness at 70, like his political self and his emotional maturity are still works in progress. Monster baby Donald is ever ready to reset reality; get the mythic US Australian Alliance back on track with a bit of mature and resposible denial.  As adults do. A few brazen falsehoods always help.

No. He never threw his rattle out of his pram or hung up on Turnbull over that” worst deal ever” to swap refugees.

“We had a good call. You guys exaggerated that call. It was an exaggeration. We’re no babies. That was a little bit of fake news.” Enabling, Turnbull nods. “That’s right”, he lies.

Their relationship is rebuilt on mutually agreed dishonesty. The lie sits well with their mutual exploitation of the ANZUS myth. Trump’s handlers are counting upon an expanded Australian troop commitment wherever whenever it sees fit; Turnbull’s desperate to get his refugee deal. And butch up for the right wing of his own party.

Next, Trump denies all grounds for conflict. “We have a fantastic relationship …  I love Australia. I always have.” “It’s one of the great, great places. One of the most beautiful places on earth. Greg Norman’s here today, a friend of ours.”

The US President is a guest at the American Australian Association Battle of the Coral Sea Commemorative Dinner on USS Intrepid, a refurbuished WW2 aircraft carrier which sits in the silt and the General Electric’s factory’s PCBs of The Hudson River at New York’s West 46th Street.

Turnbull’s mob has moved heaven and earth to book him facetime with the president, even if it’s only a quickie. Now the dinner has come up, our PM has jumped at the chance, even if he has a Budget in the oven at home.

Nicknamed the “Dry I” or “The Decrepit” for the time it spent in dry dock and its incredible run of bad luck, the Intrepid suffered four, separate, kamikaze attacks. It was torpedoed once. It’s not the White House, it’s not Mar-a-Lago but it’s a perfect venue for a lame duck PM, to hoist himself out of range of Tony Abbott’s sniping and to declare fealty to his liege Lord Donald of the USA.

First up, Australian economic refugee and New York parvenu, 86 year-old Rupert Murdoch introduces Trump. Rupert’s father, Keith started the American Australian Association in 1948, an outfit dedicated to” building strategic alliances between the two nations” a process which entails ways of helping wealthy Americans make money out of Australia.

‘These are dangerous times,’ Murdoch observes, windily ‘and we must be, as this great carrier is called, “Intrepid,” that is to say, fearless and bold in our resolve to advance the frontiers of freedom, and in defense of our nation’s shores.’ Putting his mouth where his money is, courageously, he’s turned Fox News into The Trump Show, a paid advertorial.

The alliances include Chevron. The US-based multinational pays its CEO $20 million a year yet in the last two years has paid no tax on its offshore gas projects in Australia. Rupert’s American Australian Association gave Chevron’s CEO an award in 2014.

The Association’s president, former US Ambassador to Australia, John Berry, has urged Turnbull to meet Trump early in his presidency. Turnbull rushes to comply even if it leaves Abbott a loophole and Scott Morrison unsupervised around key Budget leak time.

The Donald’s stand up includes his love affair with everyone he’s ever met from Australia, like Greg Norman and Rupert Murdoch – including its Prime Minister whom he’s just kept waiting three hours in order to talk himself up on Fox news; explaining how bigly he’s scuttled Obamacare, even though he still has to get the bill past the Senate.

Above all, he vows theatrically, the two nations have “a bond sealed with the blood of our fathers and grandfathers.” (Gina Rinehart is there but the women don’t get much of a mention. Sunday she’s in the NT News urging Turnbull to cut spending like Trump.)

The Donald hails a fawning Malcolm Turnbull as a fellow late-bloomer, deal-maker and man of the world, monstering his guest, finessing that excess of affection and patent insincerity that so many celebrities confuse with affirmation. The two nations are blood brothers. Together, we beat back the Japanese; turned the tide of the Second World War.

Now, side by side in the war on terror, we reach out to new enemies. Why, there’s the “enormous risks” Kim Jong–un’s regime has been unleashing with its “reckless and dangerous” conduct, Turnbull obliges, woodenly, -but on cue.

Breathless hacks spin the event as their “first face to face meeting” which it is – for a whole forty minutes.  Or thirty-five before the wives are let in. Ivanka’s book has been described as a strawberry milkshake of inspirational quotes. Her father’s speech, like his account of what was discussed is something similar. Trump bumper stickers.

Face to face? In a post fact, Trumpocene era, two can meet by tweet; just being there doesn’t cut it much any more – but the martial staging of the Turnbull Trump kiss and make up is lavished with careful attention to detail. It’s all about the vibe and the venue.

Love is in the air, albeit belated. A huge bromance. Huge. OK. It’s had its rough patches but true love never runs smooth.

“Got a little testy, got a little testy but that’s OK” Trump ad-libs before returning to script. That Call is woven into his blokey, hokey, narcissist’s shtick, along with how Greg Norman showed up The Donald but saved him embarking on a career as a golf pro.

Turnbull half-grins. His rictus is confined to the bottom half of his face, as if by some inner border force ring of steel. They are two of a kind; both socially inept spoilt brats, utterly consumed by their mutual, fruitless search for approval – along with their love of money and things and their mission to help people like themselves get richer.

Both have done work on their routines. Trump 2.0 loves Turnbull 2.0, tonight, in public at least. Loves Australia. Wonderful country. He’ll visit someday. Has friends there. The genius of convention has kitted him out in a monkey suit –  a costume favoured by Sinatra’s rat pack and countless other crooners, stage magicians and entertainers.

It suits him. Trump looks better, as a riverboat hustler, a con man without the Freudian slip of a tie dangling down past the waistline. Turnbull, however, looks wary, edgy and ill at ease. But it’s hard to relax with Peter Dutton acting up and with respected small “l” Liberal Ian McPhee arguing that the Immigration Minister has too much power.

Former Fraser government Immigration Minister McPhee makes a strong case for Peter Dutton’s powers to be reined in and calls for a halt to plan legislation to expand them.

He is “disgusted by the power accorded to current ministers regarding the lives of people fleeing persecution”.

In a powerful rebuke to Turnbull and his capitulation to the right, McPhee not only finds constitutional fault with the practice of increasing the Immigration Minister’s power, he has a dig at the Coalition’s values.

“Ministers now exercise power that is mostly beyond the review of judges,” he said. “Such power should be exercised humanely and in accordance with morality, not absolute law. “The law and its practice is now unjust. It is un-Australian.”

His comments are made in “Playing God”, a report by Liberty Victoria’s Rights Advocacy Project, released Thursday, calling for current powers to be reduced and for bills to expand them even further to be abandoned.

Report author Lauren Bull points to the creation of a monster, a minister whose powers include “discretions to approve, refuse, or cancel visas, to detain or re-detain an asylum seeker without warning, to send asylum seekers to offshore detention centres and, even in some cases, prevent reviews of decisions not to grant protection visas.”

 “Under Australian law, no other minister – not even the prime minister – is given anywhere near as much unchecked power.”

Dutton is accused of lying by a Border Force Officer on Manus who this week has given further information to ABC’s Barrie Cassidy which supports the police chief and other locals who deny the Minister’s allegation that shots were fired into the  detention centre because of sexual misconduct by detainees against a young Manus Island boy.

Peter Dutton has refused to alter his version of events, a version which effectively blames the asylum seekers for the disturbance.

The Immigration Minister has not only failed in his duty of care to provide a safe environment for the asylum-seekers, preferring instead to offer the lame excuse that PNG is responsible, but he has damaged the reputations and endangered the well-being of those in the camp with his implication of sexual assault.

His actions have exacerbated the already strained relationships between asylum-seekers and Manus Island locals.

While Dutton claims he has information to support his allegations, he refuses to make the information available. He has even demanded an apology from Fairfax and the ABC for a report which he claims is based on discredited witnesses.

Dutton’s conduct is completely unsatisfactory and a breach of his ministerial responsibility. It may be that with the unprecedented increase in his powers that he has been led to believe, wrongly, that he is not answerable to anyone.

Malcolm Turnbull urgently needs to exercise his leadership and stand Peter Dutton down, at least until the incident is resolved. Should the Prime Minister fail to do so, it will irrevocably weaken his authority as leader, let alone a leader who professes Australian values of fairness and justice. The consequences for the welfare of detainees could be dire.

Malcolm Turnbull needs to take time out from his attempts to boost his approval ratings with stunts such as the public forelock tugging with the US President and such as his recent crackdown on 457 Visas and his rhetoric on Australian values which seem little more than a dog-whistle to the intolerant and a shirking of our responsibility to refugees.

Australians deserve more from their government than an abdication of independence in foreign policy. Our alliances with other nations can be maintained without so much overt servility and undignified, fawning obeisance.

Given what we have seen of Donald Trump’s utter unsuitability in ability, temperament or experience to be an effective president and given what we know of those whom he has chosen for his administration and his advisers, it would be prudent, surely to exercise prudence, restraint and discernment.

Instead we are like hysterical teenagers stricken with Trump-mania.

Similarly, it does not advance a democratic nation’s best interests to indulge a wealthy and powerful profit-seeking elite who would seek a monopoly in reporting the news or in any other of the functions of modern mass media.

It is not beyond a government that it is genuinely committed to a free, fair and open society to actively support an independent and diverse press.

Certainly, the proposed new media legislation ought to be rejected for the grave and dangerous mistake it is.

Above all, the nation needs a sensible, rational economic policy on behalf of all Australians, informed by a broad range of experts, not neoliberal ideologues and certainly not a budget driven solely by an out of touch and out of favour Coalition government’s need to regain popularity by whatever means it can find.

Sadly nothing in the week’s events in politics suggests a narcissistic, immature, Turnbull government has the vision or the competence to put anyone but itself first.

 

 

 

“A man who doesn’t understand his job as Prime Minister.”

turnbull in full metal jacket

 

“He [Turnbull] is arrogant, he’s disrespectful. I don’t think he’s genuine and I think he has lost his way.”                                                                                              

 Anastasia Palaszczuk


“Arrogant, disrespectful and shallow … a man who doesn’t understand his job as Prime Minister,” says Anastasia Palaszczuk in disgust, bringing a hapless Malcolm Turnbull down to earth with a bump, ending a flag-waving, morale-boosting, troop-rallying week.

The Queensland Premier pronounces him to be a worse PM than Tony Abbott.

“When Tony Abbott was PM, I could get straight answers … all we’ve seen lately is a fly-in, fly-out prime minister who is espousing thought bubbles without any deep policy conversation,” she says, furious at the PM’s high-handed management of disaster relief after Cyclone Debbie, amongst other abuses of Commonwealth-state relations.

Palaszczuk is also angry that her state was not consulted on the PM’s latest gas plan, at this stage a vague threat to Santos and other powerful companies that the federal government may have to quarantine output for domestic supply.

“It’s about time that he showed some leadership and was respectful, not just to me but to all the other premiers across the nation,” she adds, picking up on a management style which earned Turnbull the nickname “Ayatollah” in merchant banking in the late 1980s.

“Malcolm would always do what Malcolm wanted to do,” explains a former employee.

A good leader inspires his troops. Helpfully demonstrating the Aussie values of mateship and chivalry, Cobber Dutton rushes to his current leader’s rescue. He takes a boot out of his Light Horse stirrup and gives the Premier a swift kicking.

Not only are Ms Palaszczuk’s comments an “embarrassing outburst”, “Premier Palaszczuk is a laughing stock around Australia,” Dutton says, showing the sort of disciplined team work and fine judgement that have helped ensure that this Coalition government, like its predecessor, has the spirit of federation pretty well hog-tied.

Digger Dutton also models the qualities of mind and spirit that make him a peerless contender for the super ministry of Homeland Security, a promotion his PM is about to bestow on him which will make him second most powerful minister.

The move comes despite a track record which makes his Immigration Department the most incompetent agency in the Commonwealth, as Bernard Keane capably details with reference to reports by the Australian National Audit Office.

Dutton implies that Ms Palaszczuk should have a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down. Besides, the gas export plan is just an idle threat. Certainly there’s plenty of wriggle-room in its formulation so far.

The PM’s office says: “The government will have the power to impose export controls on gas companies when there is a domestic supply shortage.” Yet to others it’s nothing short of a declaration of war, a war the PM cannot possibly win.

Turnbull fires back on Facebook, of course! His choice of social media rather than seeek any personal contact confirms her misgivings about his incapacity to consult or interact with her or any other Premier. He adds insult to injury.

“Queenslanders don’t want their politicians hurling abuse: they want them to deliver,” snipes one of the most over-promised and under-delivered Prime Ministers the nation has ever endured. Turnbull fails this leadership test, too.

Yet the week began so well. Buoyed by last week’s “Aussie Values” duet, a rustic air for dog whistle and saw, featuring Peter “two bob each-way” Dutton, Monkey Pod Room convenor and Abbott cup-bearer, Turnbull is upbeat.

Inspired by Gallipoli spirit, our FIFO, leadership-by-though- bubble-PM takes his Aussie Values show on tour to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Valiantly, despite an epic failure to identify a single uniquely Australian value, he uses an Anzac backdrop to proclaim:

“Australian men and women [are] defending our values, defending our liberties, keeping us safe.”

He’s hoping his Aussie values show is paving the way for a turnaround in his government’s low opinion ratings.  Labor polls 52 to the Coalition’s 48% two party preferred. Turnbull’s personal approval soars two whole points in a Newspoll delayed by Easter but held after his values gig. The Clayton’s crackdown on 457 visas may have helped.  He’s pumped.

Pumped? Thirty-two percent approve of Shorten’s performance. Turnbull’s on thirty-three. He’s off like a frog in a sock.

In a bold bid for Aussie hearts and minds, our feckless leader plumps for a quick tour of duty, upstaging even Phosphorous Jim Molan of Fallujah or Abbott knight, Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove, in the vanguard of our nation’s annual assault on the Anzac spirit. For one day of the year, Australia becomes the bullshit capital of the world.

Troy Grant supplies the soothing, ritual, sanctimonious chorus that no-one is grandstanding or political on Anzac Day.

“On April 25 we expect all Australians to stop and give thanks for the dedication of those before us who fought for the freedoms our country holds dear, and to those who continue in this tradition of service and sacrifice. Anzac Day is sacred, should be kept above politics and certainly not hijacked for grandstanding.”

Anzac Day has been political since its inception. Beyond the irony in his own PM’s Anzac grandstanding, or his own grandstanding, or countless others, beyond how “the freedoms our country holds dear” is contradicted by Grant’s edict on correct observance is a chilling example of how close our government chooses to come to a totalitarian state.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten, a veteran US lickspittle, visits PNG to help Cosgrove commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign and the Battle of Milne Bay, a part of the New Guinea campaign in the Second World War.

Yet Turnbull goes over the top. As with the foreign policy of US Oligarch Baron Donald von Trump, whom he’s now scheduled to meet next Thursday on the USS Intrepid, a warship museum moored in the Hudson a long way away from any White House reception, it’s a wag the dog strategy, a foreign adventure to divert from domestic ineptitude.

Wardrobe is put on a war footing. Turnbull is kitted out in helmet and Kevlar vest to blitz our troops on the frontline of a US War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. Battle-weary soldiers yawn and look on warily. Is he taking the piss somehow wearing that over the top outfit?

Few shake hands. Goodwill is conserved for battle. No-one sniggers openly, yet.

Turnbull has good news for the troops in Afghanistan, Australia’s $7 billion plus, thirteen year operation, its longest-war- that’s-not-its-war ever, is to have an extended season. He continues the absurd pretence that all US requests will be carefully considered. Yet the words he chooses leave little doubt that a troop increase is a foregone conclusion.

‘So it is going to be a long-term commitment and we will consider, with our allies in these conflict areas, … requests for further support and as it evolves, we’ll be looking at that.’ 

In other words, the show must go on, regardless of failure. Values? Our troops are endlessly expendable. It’s Kaiser Malcolm’s  deadliest piece of rhetoric yet.

Does he have any idea of the horrors of military service in “the graveyard of empires”? He should heed the warning signs. More soldiers take their own lives than have been killed on active duty in Afghanistan. The suicide rate among young male former defence personnel is twice the national average. Yet his government offers little real help.

The Coalition response to crisis is to order a feasibility study or trial.  It will “trial a suicide prevention initiative” in Townsville to help Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel. Surely, after fifteen years of US failure, it is time to reconsider Australia’s reason for tagging along, too?  Surely, Turnbull can see we are sending troops into harm’s way?

Defeat is staring us in the face. Afghanistan’s army suffered its biggest loss last week when insurgents overran a base near the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. Reports state that “at least 100 soldiers” were killed.

Other reports have revised the figure to 140 while Taliban claim 500 were killed and injured. Trump’s administration is considering a Pentagon request to boost troop numbers but the plan sounds ominously like repeating Obama’s unsuccessful surge strategy.

The Obama administration increased US troop numbers in Afghanistan to 100,000 from less than 30,000. It also embarked on a “nation-building and counterinsurgency strategy” which it hoped would turn the war around in a few years. It failed. Afghanistan is torn between “a resolute insurgency and a kleptocratic, dysfunctional governing elite”.

In Iraq, our “Building Partner Capacity Mission” at Camp Taji, where we contribute 700 soldiers to a joint Australian-New Zealand operation to train security forces personnel and military police is a tribute to the spirit of Anzac.

As vassal states of our US overlord, Australians and Kiwis get to do the menial tasks behind the scenes. But the PM is undeterred.

Turnbull’s quirky bobble-head combat helmet and redundant, unfastened body armour may look more Stanley Kubrick meets Dad’s Army than intrepid Commander-in-Chief but at least he gets his boots on the ground. And into Tony Abbott.

Dressing fit to kill is the latest phase of the PM’s tactical battle to outflank Abbott, his nemesis in the costume wars, a guerrilla campaign of mutually assured destruction to decide the leadership of whatever remains of the Liberal Party.

Abbott now is regular guest sniper on 2GB Sydney radio since his old pal, Cronulla riot veteran, witch-ditcher 2GB’s Alan “chaff bag” Jones, got back his misogynist mike. Abbott also has a regular weekly spot with Ben Fordham’s “Drive time”.

Every other week he’s hazing with Ray. Hadley dropped “boring liar” Scott Morrison, he says, for standing him up for an ABC gig with John Faine and deceiving him about it.  Abbott was only too keen to slot right into his spot.

The phones have been running hot, Ray says, with praise for his decision, but he could have simply played a recording. Abbott will simply recycle the same old, dishonest empty cliches. Yet Hadley’s right about one thing. Morrison sucks.

“My listeners are sick of the obfuscation and non-answers he gives to almost every question.” Your listeners, too, Ray?

A broken record, Abbott bags Turnbull’s government for drifting left despite the PM’s self-eviscerating right wheel and about turn. The PM digs deep. He has to better an action-man predecessor who once stepped out of a SeaHawk chopper on to the deck of USS Blue Ridge in RAAF leather flying jacket and a pair of Douglas MacArthur aviator shades.

The pose led to some golden grovelling. Inveterate US camp follower, Abbott, called US troops a comfort to Australia. How grateful Australia was, too, he said, how thankful we all were for the work US forces did with Australian forces all around the world.

Our diggers were ever ready to follow the US anywhere and everywhere and at a moment’s notice; just say the word, he said. War is a captain’s call for a PM. No parliamentary debate nor evidence of WMD necessary.

Abbott’s baton is effortlessly taken up by Turnbull. Labor does not demur – even though Bill Shorten has called Donald Trump barking mad. Now we pledge unqualified military support, to a nation led by a golfing President who has trouble remembering how many missiles he fired on Syria, in a recent watershed AP interview. Or was it Iraq?

An utter lack of preparation for the Trump presidency has led to a dangerous inertia in the Coalition’s response to the incoherent bellicosity of The Donald’s foreign policy. Are we banking on his being taken captive by his Neocon advisers?

Neither prospect offers much reassurance. Turnbull shows little evidence of independence except to decline offers of a missile shield technology that is vastly expensive and almost totally unproven – yet another business coup for Boeing.

Our noble diggers are always up for a windy blast on Aussie values from any Prime Minister. Super-Mal’s blitzkrieg operation is kept under wraps, it is claimed, to protect the Prime Minister, but there’s a no sense the press have been left out of the loop. Not only is the war on Terror going well, our massive foreign aid is going gangbusters.

Why, in the last year alone, Australia’s aid programme in Afghanistan has helped enrol more than 5000 children in school, trained more than 9000 farmers and funded multiple women’s shelters.  We are doing a power of good.

Imagine what that aid could be if Hockey had not got to it. Despite being one per cent of all budget spending, Australia foreign aid, aka Julie Bishop’s ATM, has borne 25% of all government budget cuts from 2013-14 to 2018-19.

On the home front, Aussie Values foot soldiers are out in force. Local standard-bearer Senator Eric Abetz savages the values displayed by Yassmin Abdel-Magied whose ANZAC reflection on her Facebook page says “Lest. We. Forget. (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine…)” She later deletes the political part of her comment and apologises.

Clear to Abetz is that Yassmin has failed “To understand the significance and high regard Anzac Day is held in our Australian culture” and for that ignorance she must resign from the Council on Arab-Australia Relations, (CAAR).

CAAR was set up by John Howard in 2003, the year the Australian Greens and Australian Democrats opposed military action in Iraq. It’s hard, given the context to think that his intentions had anything to do with free speech.

The Coalition has a track record of setting up hand-picked advisory bodies to fulfil its own purposes. Tony Abbott’s Indigenous Advisory Council also seems thin on representation; set up more to give government the advice it required.

It would do well to heed The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples Rod Little and Jackie Huggins who argue:

“Congress is and will be a much more valuable informant to the parliament than hand-picked individuals with lesser networks, knowledge or experience across matters impacting on our people on a daily basis.” 

Is it guided democracy? Rule by clacque? Clearly, some Australian values are yet to be formulated by the PM’s spin unit. Regardless, calls for Yassmin to resign are utterly unwarranted.

What is clear is that the orchestrated attack upon Yassmin Abdel-Magied is a vivid illustration both of an ugly intolerance  but a narrow-minded vigilantism which is deliberately courted by our government. Turnbull should offer a personal apology.

Intolerance is seen in Troy Grant’s semi-official nonsense and it is given unparalleled expression by our Minister for Immigration, sneaky Peter Dutton who maintains his assertion that the detention centre on Manus came under fire from some drunk local troops as a response to some form of sexual assault by detainees on a five year old Manus Islander boy.

Peter Dutton is contradicted on every detail of his account of the incident which he waited six days to report. When he did break his silence, he chose to utter a damaging smear against the asylum seekers themselves. Dutton’s behaviour has led to increased tension between those living in the centre and those in the community.

His conduct does not become a Minister and his witholding of information does not fit the code of ministerial responsibility. He has not excercised the duty of care his position demands. He has chosen to put his charges in harm’s way. He ought to resign immediately. Any other PM would be demanding Dutton stand aside at least.

Above all, the Minister’s strategy looks suspiciously like a stunt. Commentators note that the incident has all the hallmarks of another children overboard incident.

False claims that asylum seekers were throwing babies overboard helped John Howard demonise asylum-seekers in October 2001 and provided him with the notorious election-winning slogan “We decide who comes to this country.”

Repeatedly, Dutton claims to have access to other “classified information” which he has nevertheless seen fit to share with Andrew Bolt. PNG police chief David Yapu has tried to put the record straight but Dutton is not listening and irrevocable damage has already been done.

The 39 year old Afghan refugee who gave a young hungry boy some food provides a compelling account, an account which could well serve as a prompt to those, like Malcolm Turnbull, who are unable to articulate Australian values.

“I grew up in a country that had war and bombs and fighting and all of these things, and I was raised without a father. I experienced hunger, I experienced being thirsty, I experienced poverty, and I know how it feels for a child to be hungry. And when I see that, I cannot just close my eyes and not help.”

Turnbull needs to stop his mindless military urging and posturing and put away his cynical Aussie values dog whistle campaign to create a narrower, less tolerant society. Australians can see through his government’s stunts, distractions and evasions.

Above all, as the Queensland Premier puts it the nation is ill-served by a government which is arrogant and disrespectful, a government which is not genuine, a government which has lost its way.

Stop obsessing over Newspoll Mr Turnbull. Stop bluffing. Enough of the stunts. Call an early election. It’s the only honourable way out of your mess.

 

 

 

Turnbull dog-whistles on Aussie values while Trump bluffs and blusters.

US Vice President Mike Pence Visits Sydney - Day 1

Mr Turnbull identified Australian values as freedom, equality of men and women, the rule of law, democracy and “a fair go”, and claimed these were “uniquely Australian”.

“They are shared with many other democracies but they are in and of themselves unique. There’s something uniquely Australian about them,” he said.


A haze of fake tan and a whiff of panic hangs over Canberra this week as Malcolm Turnbull vows Australian values be put first. He plays an anti-migrant card to inflame the same blind fear of others as John Howard’s desperate lie of 2001 that asylum seekers were throwing babies overboard. 457 Visas will be scrapped to ensure that any migrant who gets an Aussie job can speak English. Pass an Aussie values test – even if he can’t define those values himself.

The fair go he speaks of certainly does not apply to women who as Michael Short reports continue to be paid less than men, on average $27,000 and $100,000 if we’re talking about executive salaries, according to Tax Office figures. The gender gap, on average 26,000 a year in wages, he reminds us, is unchanged after 20 years.

Australia’s take on a fair go and equality of opportunity ensures that it’s a blokes’ world where men have more power, earn more while women not only earn less and are more likely to be passed over for promotion. Women continue to carry out two thirds of all unpaid domestic work, three quarters of child care and 70 per cent caring for adults in Australia.  Unpaid childcare alone is estimated by PwC at $345 billion a year.

A fair go is a pet rhetorical device for our politicians. A fair go had a fair go from Kevin Rudd when he opposed Howard’s WorkChoices. Julia Gillard wove “mateship” into the skein when she spoke of the ways the NDIS could offer a fair go, a scheme now imperilled by our current government which pretends that there it is unfunded.

Turnbull gave it a whirl when he blathered on about tax reform in 2015. Menzies and Fraser also both hopped into it. It’s at best an appeal to fairness and justice. Equality of opportunity is in there, too. Clearly, however, it’s not something to be taken too seriously although the ten to fourteen per cent of Australians living below the poverty line would disagree.

Above all, Indigenous Australians whose life expectancy is lower than other Australians; whose children are more likely to die as infants; whose health, education and employment outcomes are poorer than non-Indigenous people would , sadly, have plenty of evidence to dispute the sincerity beneath the PM’s glib rhetoric. The irony for Malcolm Turnbull is that his trumpeting of Australian values, as Michelle Grattan points out, raises serious questions about his own.

Is he tapping into community fears; reaching out to ordinary Australians, widely believed to be Hanson supporters – spurned in an age of identity politics? Or is he willing, once again, to forgo his own beliefs to save his career?

There is nothing uniquely Australian about the values which Malcolm Turnbull is able to instance in a patronising interview with Leigh Sales on ABC 7:30, the PM reveals that respect for a woman with a different point of view is often conspicuously lacking. Indeed, viewers, would be forgiven for concluding Australian values include arrogantly talking over the top of your (female) interviewer and chiding, belittling or mocking your adversary’s commitment.

“I’m surprised you’re challenging this on the ABC,” he says. “I don’t think your heart’s in it actually, Leigh. I think you agree with me.” Daddy knows best, dear. Of course, if Turnbull were really concerned to preserve our uniquely Australian freedoms, he’d not only be practising what he preached, he’d be pushing for a bill of rights.

Instead, what’s clear is that his own heart is not in it. He’s toying with populist rhetoric. It’s also a dog-whistle to those who like Peter Dutton would have us believe, against all evidence, that migrants were taking our jobs. That all our problems are caused by people from other countries who don’t know Don Bradman’s batting average.

That’s it! He’ll set a harder test – only three tries allowed – as if migrants need further tests; as if the questions mean anything; as if any test which rests on cultural  assimilation is not at odds with even his lip service to multiculturalism.

Doubtless a focus group or a think tank told him this is how to win over Pauline Hanson’s fans. It’s not going to work. Yet there’s an awkward echo to Australia first. An orange ring around the rhetoric. An echo of the yam that talks.

The PM is, of course, paying homage to another weak, vainglorious lout, Donald Trump, who’s also muscling up, bigly.  Abruptly switching from America First or self-interested isolationism, to an intrusive, if not, trigger-happy foreign policy involving missiles and bombs, a violent right turn in desperate attempt to stem a rocketing disapproval in opinion polls, the Trump administration marks its hundredth day of chaos and dysfunction by picking a fight with everyone this week.

All the old foes cop a serve: China, Russia, North Korea, Iran. Russia’s “vassal” Syria is threatened with regime change. China must pull its spoilt brat, North Korea, into line; stop its “illegal activities” on the Spratly and Paracel Islands in The South China Sea. Pipsqueak Montenegro is pulled into NATO, adding an extra US base in Europe, antagonising Russia.

Yet a US alone in a world of threats is an illusion, a paranoid collective delusion. America’s real enemies are injustice, inequality and ignorance fostered, as in Australia, by a Neoliberal domestic policy which puts profits over people.

Trump promises “massive tax cuts” which would boost the rapid transfer of wealth from worker to capitalist, benefiting the top one per cent on average $214,000. Eight million low-income and single-income families would suffer financially.

It is not clear, however, that he will be able to deliver. Even Republicans – especially Republicans – want to see something revenue neutral. What he has accomplished is a Cabinet of billionaires and millionaires, the wealthiest in US modern history which stars Education Secretary Betsy de Vos, an opponent of state education, a woman who helped Michigan expand private schools with public funds. Students in Detroit now finish last in US tests of numeracy and literacy.

At the top, its role model is a president who knows no better than to claim in public that Korea was once part of China.  Not that it worries him. He has money. “Part of the beauty of me is that I am very rich”, he once told an interviewer.

We don’t care. US allies fawn approval. Mike Pence is feted by the Turnbull government this week as “wise and stable”.

Like Trump, who paid his own business $8.2 million out of campaign funds, Pence has also helped himself. 1990 campaign finance records show that Pence, then 31, was using political donations to pay the mortgage on his house, his personal credit card bill, groceries, golf tournament fees and car payments for his wife.  Not that it was illegal, then.

Turnbull may see this as wise and stable but it cost Pence an election. Public records also reveal as Governor of Indiana, Pence communicated with advisers through his personal AOL account on homeland security matters and security. Yet he’s despatched to Australia on a goodwill tour and to help us tell China to tighten the screws on North Korea.

It’s a rapid, dramatic change of role for the US. Exit stage left, Barrack Obama’s “pivot to Asia”. Enter stage right, Trump’s Team Heavy, a loosely affiliated gang of self-interested thugs united by their insecurity and a desire to kick heads.

Not that anyone can claim to have worked out Trump’s Foreign policy. It’s still a work in progress; a baffling, blustering incoherence based on boosting an already hugely unpopular, geopolitically ignorant President’s bellicose campaign rhetoric which usurps any rational policy based on negotiated mutual interest or calculated strategic initiative.

The US wants Russia out of Syria while it adds Montenegro to NATO.  Another link is added to a ring of bases it has established in spite of its 1990 agreement with Russia not to add a single one. It mouths off at Iran over its landmark nuclear test treaty. Iran, it says, is a threat to the entire civilised world. It’s a pivot to a hard core Neocon agenda which earns it gushing praise from a Turnbull government, desperate to arrest its terminal unpopularity by any means.

America’s reverse charm offensive is unique in US foreign policy history, at least in tone.  Cue VP Mike Pence, the smooth-talking former talk show hate radio host, who styles himself “Russ Limbaugh decaf” Hailed as a moderate, a safe pair of hands, (only by contrast with Trump?), Pence is an “evangelical social conservative“, a climate change sceptic determined to undo 40 years’ progress on abortion, gay rights, civil rights, criminal justice reform and race relations.

Anti-abortion, homophobic, Tea Party Pence is an oddball who won’t dine alone with any woman, a man who must have his wife by his side at events featuring alcohol. As a Congressman, he opposed federal funding to support HIV and AIDS sufferers unless it were matched by government investment in programs to discourage same-sex relationships.

Pence was one of only 25 Republicans to vote against George W Bush’s signature legislation No Child Left behind because he feared its Federal intervention in education. He visits Australia Saturday, with his family, to rapturous applause.

Turnbull is all over him like a rash. Over-zealous US sycophants feature large in the fawning over America that is our political leaders’ response to the US-Australia Alliance, an agreement which binds the US to do no more than consult with us in time of danger, but never has any PM been so keen to gush over a Vice President so far to his right.

Desperate for a bounce in the polls, in thrall to his own powerful conservative party rump, Turnbull dotes on Pence; rashly parrots US anti-China nonsense.

“The real obligation, the heaviest obligation, is on China because China is the nation that has the greatest leverage over North Korea,” Turnbull said. “It has the greatest obligation and responsibility to bring North Korea back into a realm of at least responsibility in terms of its engagement with its neighbours.” 

Does North Korea pose a problem for China? Noting its “medieval leadership” run by a family dynasty with “a habit of murdering its family members”, is problematic, Former Foreign Minister Bob Carr counters that China’s got less influence over North Korea than it has over any of its other thirteen neighbours on its 22,000 km borders.

China does fear, however, he says, that a DPRK collapse would leave US ally South Korea’s army on the Chinese border.

Yet nothing has changed in the behaviour of the leader of the DPRK. The only change has been Trump’s bluster.

Now that The Donald’s got his rockets off over Syria or Iraq, he’s not quite sure where, and the USS Carl Vinson is found to be nowhere near the Korean Peninsula but heading to Australia for war games instead, the confrontation is revealed to be a fake face off or a bluff, neither of which does much for Trump’s credibility. Nor our local media.

Our media eagerly, uncritically recycle the US show of force narrative and its dramatic brinksmanship. Is it a bluff or, perhaps, a double bluff, a signal that the Pentagon has no wish to let North Korea put the wind up it; spring a Thucydides trap? The risk or the trap is that the US will be drawn into war with China, as Karen Middleton notes.

Egg permanently on face Press Secretary, White House fall-guy, alternative factotum and, now, hapless casuist, Sean Spicer, is left to split hairs in the faint yet undying hope that he can claim black is white.

“The president said that we have an armada going towards the peninsula. That’s a fact. It happened. It’s happening, rather,’ he tells a scowl of reporters. “We never said when it would get there.” He could have made a virtue of a calculated delay. When we’ve finished bowls worked for Drake in 1588. But Trump’s White House is in 1984 mode.

War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength and Spicer is credible in the Orwellian world of modern politics.

While The Donald’s armada is found and turned around, our nation’s appetite for hate is regaled, ad infinitum, by a volley of shots of North Korea’s missile exhibitionism.

Scenes of last Saturday’s DPRK massed parades and assorted military porn help imprint an image of a “reclusive, rogue state” which is, paradoxically, never too shy to threaten nuclear Armageddon or put its people in gulags worse than anything Australia has on Manus or Nauru.

At least, that’s how our press packages its hate, served up with double-helpings of demonisation and lashings of fear.

Sample questions are produced to illustrate the type of thinking that will keep us safe from those who don’t share our values. Oddly they are all aimed at Muslims. Fear of 457 fraudsters, a type of visa which is all Labor’s fault, is whipped up in Canberra. Happily our heroic PM will save the day. Clean up Labor’s mess. He’ll rebadge the visa. It’s name will change and there will be some tinkering but the changes will affect only nine per cent of current 457 visa holders.

The PM hoses down any expectations his government’s budget will do anything except talk about housing affordability. It’s re-run of his all talk and no show tax summit.

Not talking, however, Monkey-Pod Top Banana, Immigration Minister and Border Enforcer, former Queensland drug squad copper Peter Dutton puts report of PNG soldiers shooting at asylum seekers on Manus on Good Friday down to a payback for sexual abuse of a young boy. It’s a rumour he starts. His facts are wrong.

But he’ll leave the commentary to others, he says, deflecting any questions.

Dutton should resign. He’s prejudiced any inquiry on Manus. He’s smeared asylum seekers’ motives as John Howard might. The implication of sexual abuse is a despicable attempt to blame the shooting on the victims.

It would seem, moreover, Dutton’s got the date wrong, the boy’s age wrong and that he’s refusing to admit PNG police evidence. He’s conflated two incidents. The boy who entered the camp was begging for food and was given some fruit.

Interviewed on ABC’s Insiders, Sunday, Peter Dutton won’t hear Barrie Cassidy’s protest that the incident involving a young boy was a separate matter; a week apart from when asylum-seekers were fired upon by an intoxicated mob of PNG solders after a football match at which asylum-seekers had refused to leave the field , according to local police. Dutton perpetuates the lie that the centre is run by PNG, to dodge responsibility for an unsafe environment.

The only proper solution would be to bring the asylum-seekers to Australia and out of harms’ way but Peter Dutton’s more interested in blaming the ABC for “commentary”. It’s un-Australian to expect him to account for his actions.

In the deeper international waters of intolerance and mindless enmity, however, a Leni Riefenstahl Logie goes to MSM, for its sensational scenario of a North Korea a goose step away from world annihilation, in a televisual extravaganza set up to loop endlessly, effortlessly across our screens, as George Orwell foresaw, a cheap and easy means of social control in a world of fear, hate and scarcity made possible by perpetual war. Neocons take a bow.

News editors are spoilt for choice of long-running conflict. There’s more dirt to dish on Syria as it dives for Russian cover, fear that ISIS will link with Al Qaeda in Iraq while Iran is back in the US hit list as public enemy number one.

After a cordial meeting with US Saudi leaders and pals who fund and export extremism, Rex Tillerson accuses Iran of being the mother of all evil with its alarming and ongoing provocations that “export terror and destabilise” the world.

“Allowing this dictator to have that kind of power is not something that civilised nations can allow to happen,” says Paul Ryan Speaker of US House of Representatives. He’s talking about North Korea’s Kim but it’s a nifty confection of moral outrage that would suit any number of contemporary US allies including Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who seized power in a coup and killed more than 800 protesters in a single day.

A similarly US-favoured strong man is Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan whose recent referendum win means a sidelined parliament and judiciary. Erdogan can now just get on with the business of growing the economy, cracking down on dissent and providing arms and other support to Jihadists in Syria.

Allowed far too much power, nominal leader of Rogue Superpower US President Donald Trump swears, on the other hand, he’ll put an end to nasty North Korea’s nuclear testing all by himself if he has to. Horrible. “The shield stands guard and The sword stands ready,” fearless leader, dimes in his sidekick, bloodless hulk VP Mike Pence, a villain fresh from a Marvel Comic Universe. International law? We make the rules, boss.

The words get worse. The “era of strategic patience” is now over. Why, he’ll even snatch Kim’s missiles out of a falling sky, while as for Syria, bad-ass Bashar al Assad will get his regime changed on him any day now. Or sometime soon. OK.

Will North Korea launch a nuclear attack? Can China tighten the screws on its wayward neighbour, the DPRK? Will Iran prove itself the mother of all evil by pursuing its own nuclear programme? Can Bashar al Assad continue to defy Trump’s threats of regime change? Will Russia take Trump’s Tomahawk hint and pull out of Syria?

The essence of US foreign policy currently is to keep everyone guessing. What is clear, however, is that beneath the spin, the bluff and bluster and the breathless, apocalyptic reporting is a president whose opinion ratings are at record low.

Only 41.9 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s performance as President. 52.3 percent disapprove, according to the FiveThirtyEight aggregate of polls. Polls from swing states similarly show Trump’s approval rating under water, making him the least popular newly elected president in decades.

Most reassuring – but not to The Donald was that national polling showed that after his Syrian attack, euphemistically referred to everywhere as a “strike”, his polls remain flat. Trump is enough of a dud and a disappointment already to be denied the traditional bounce in approval enjoyed by presidents after ordering military action.

Turnbull should take note. Yet this week his grandstanding and dog-whistling on Australian values and his 457 visa rebadging stunt together with his embarrassingly over exuberant greeting of one of the least distinguished and most disturbing Vice Presidents ever to reach our shores is a signal that our PM’s in full panic mode.

As with our great and powerful friend, the US, Australia’s voters are not going to be fooled by a random attack of misty-eyed patriotism or any con-job about Aussie values. Another babies overboard in disguise at this late stage will not help a government which is so divided, so uninspired and so poorly led it just cannot deliver.

Spare us the embarrassing rhetoric, Mr Turnbull. Your frenzied embrace of a fair go and an Aussie freedom, you and your government are not remotely committed to betrays a lack of good faith and good judgement.

Similarly your adulation of Mike Pence and all he represents will do you no favours. Above all, your supercilious and patronising response to Leigh Sales on the 7:30 Report betrays your real values. Australians, especially women can spot a con.

Give up the fear-mongering. The enemy is not the migrant or the asylum seeker or the terrorist. It is within the neoliberal policy of your government which puts profit before people, a government which wages war on the poor and provides tax cuts for the rich.

Australia doesn’t need a new citizenship test. It does need a government which can honour its commitment to meet the needs of its people.

This means providing access for all to good health, welfare and education; ensuring equal opportunities, equality and justice for all; a fair go for all, if you like, but not just more empty talk or posturing while your policies deny these rights.

 

 

 

US lapdog, Australia, blindly follows Trump in Syrian and North Korean errors of judgement, morality and legality.

posturing trump and turnbull


The Donald follows rave reviews of his hugely popular Syrian bombing this week by trashing his “America First” isolationist foreign policy. “Just a jump to the left then a step to the right” continues his recent Time Warp homage and conveys all the chaos and conflict of the Trump team’s horror show domestic policy on to a world stage.

In one week, Trump has discarded half a dozen major campaign pledges on foreign policy. Happily Australian foreign policy is just as fluid: Trump’s left wheel – right about turn wins instant approval from Malcolm Turnbull and his crew of US cheerleaders, environmental vandals, climate deniers and mindless multinational corporate lackeys.

North Korea is “reckless and dangerous” says Malcolm Turnbull from India while he rashly promises government funding for an uneconomic, environmentally disastrous, toxic coal mine Australia neither needs or wants.

In words that echo Washington, Turnbull says China is “clearly not doing enough” to control North Korea. Astonishingly, the new Donald Trump has been trying to get the same message through to the Chinese President.

“From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first”, Donald Trump promised at his inauguration. It has taken until Easter for his show’s new directors, US Neocons to take him down their rabbit hole; turn him around.

It’s a big turn. Now, despite his campaign stump stuff, Trump must “reverse (Obama’s) downward spiral” of US power and influence, not only in the Middle East, but throughout the world, orders right wing Brookings Institute’s Robert Kagan in The Washington Post. Trump is warned that one missile strike doesn’t cut it. Press on, Donald.

Flip-flopping bigly, Trump tells NATO that it’s no longer obsolete. He crosses currency manipulation off the long list of things the US holds against China. Next, the US drops the Mother of all Bombs in Afghanistan before boxing itself into a corner by threatening North Korea with military action unless it stops its nuclear tests. North Korea responds by what Australia’s The Daily Telegraph, downplays as “a threat to unleash nuclear hell”.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop loves US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s proposal of a pre-emptive military strike against North Korea. She sees it as just an “all options on the table” thingy, a policy posture as familiar to the government as the flip-flop.

It fits well within its steadfast determination to normalise Trump’s aberrance within its role as US sycophant; Australia’s great and powerful friend. All the way with the USA whatever, wherever.

Bishop does have six decades of history on her side. In 1950 McArthur aimed to use six atomic bombs on North Korea. In 1951 Truman signed off on the plan.

Some estimate that the nation may have lost as many as 8 to 9 million people to US bombing, while others put the figure at 3 million close to thirty per cent of its population between 1950 and 1953. With no official statistics it is impossible to know precisely.

What is certain is that the suffering inflicted is seared into the nation’s consciousness.

Carpet bombing was deployed to rase cities.  The US dropped more bombs in North Korea than in the Pacific theatre during its part of World War Two. 29 000 tonnes of Napalm were used in campaigns which level entire cities.

In 1969, Richard Nixon put nuclear-armed warplanes on 15-minute alert. In the 1990s Bill Clinton weighed up nuclear strikes against North Korea’s nuclear facilities while George W Bush added the “rogue nation” to his axis of evil, a list of rogue states to be annihilated after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had been dealt with.

Wednesday, mouth that roars, Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne is on Trump’s new page.  North Korea, is “the most dangerous situation” in the world right now and “worse than the situation in Syria”.

Pyne implies we are at war with North Korea whose erratic regime causes “significant consequence to Australia”.

“I know it seems surprising to say so, but there is a predictability about the war in the Middle East, in Syria and Iraq, and of course the allies there are winning that war slowly but surely,” he tells Adelaide radio 5AA.

The unpredictable slur fits neatly into the portmanteau stereotyping and demonising of North Koreans as erratic, crazy, deluded or buffoons, all ways the Chinese were portrayed in the fifties and early sixties in Western media until China acquired atomic then hydrogen nuclear weapons 1964-7 with the help of the Soviet Union.

The “unpredictable” charge is doubly ironic in the light of the flip-flop foreign policy of the United States or a vassal of a nation which has had five PMs in five years and a government hard to fathom on energy or environment.

A US naval strike group steams to the Korean Peninsula, a show of force that has sections of the media talking war. Is this a showdown between Pyongyang and Washington? No. It’s more show than showdown.

Will “rogue state” North Korea- as MSM love to call it, often adding “hermit” or “secretive” defy the US? Launch another nuclear test? It’s Kim Il-sung’s 150th anniversary.

“Rogue state” was a favourite Neocon term in the Bush, Rumsfeld era. It helped demonise Iraq which failed to respond to cold war deterrence and helped justify illegal military intervention. If North Korea won’t play by the rules, it can’t expect to be dealt with in like manner.

As Bush warned, missile attacks are justified against WND held by rogue leaders in “rogue nations who hate America, hate our values, hate what we stand for.” The same rhetoric is still used by our own government.

In the end, Kim celebrates the birth of the nation’s founder, his grandfather with a parade that helps remind everyone how many missiles North Korea can put on show. There’s a fizzer of a missile launch on the coast. No-one starts a nuclear war, however much representatives of the tabloid press may suggest it’s imminent.

US Defence Secretary, Jim Mattis issues a statement: “The President and his military team are aware of North Korea’s most recent unsuccessful missile launch.”  ”Mr Trump was not making any further comment.”

Yet Trump has been commenting, correcting the record on his dinner with the Chinese president. The correction helps set a context for the week’s brinksmanship with North Korea, an event which ends badly for The Donald who had a notion he could press Xi to call his North Korean pups to heel. Until Xi disabused him with a history talk.

Just as in a February phone call he had talked him out of his nonsense on Taiwan. Xi set up the summit. He’s two strikes up on Trump already. Xi has Trump’s number.

Earlier reports put the pair mid-way through the pan-fried Dover sole with champagne sauce, when Trump chose to tell his Mar-a-Largo, dinner guest, China’s President Xi Jin-Ping he had just gazumped their summit by bombing Syria, or wherever, The Donald now advises that he and Xi were, in fact, on to their sweets.

“So what happens is I said, ‘We’ve just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq, and I wanted you to know this,'” Trump says in the interview. “And he was eating his cake. And he was silent.”

“Syria?” Fox Business Host Maria Bartiromo corrects.

“Yes, heading toward Syria,” Trump says. He follows up by mentioning Xi finished his dessert.

Savouring “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you have ever seen”,  Trump fills Xi in on his latest take on isolationism: he’s just launched 59 Tomahawk Cruise missiles at Syria. Doubtless, Xi’s tickled pink with the Von Trump family’s Tomahawk missile-barrel diplomacy. Learning that China’s last to be told is the icing on the cake.

Xi drops his cake fork. An interpreter has to repeat The Donald’s bombshell.  Not only is it a complete flip-flop, a 180 degree turn on Trump’s campaign rhetoric, it’s a diplomatic gaffe; a breach of protocol, an insult to China.

It’s like breaking off a dinner party conversation with your boss to berate your neighbour, suggests Foreign Policy‘s Asia editor James Palmer.

Above all, China experts agree, no Chinese leader is likely to mistake unpredictability for strength. What Trump claims as tough, a shirt-front victory, the Chinese dismiss as stupidity. Yet a wily panda will not block a US rush to self-destruction in another costly, protracted and unwinnable Middle Eastern war.

In a United States of self-righteous spin, The Donald simply has no choice. “If you gas a baby then I think you will see a response from this president” explains White House word-splicer, Sean Spicer. Satanic Bashar-al Assad, is a poison gasser and a bad man worse than Hitler, he adds. Assad gets his just desserts.  Trump is pumped.

So, too are the decision makers in the alliance between arms’ manufacturers and armies influencing political policy which the US military-industrial complex, as Eisenhower termed it when he warned of its power in 1961. Syria, Iran, North Korea, all present alluring business opportunities. Above all, his son cheers on his father, his hero.

Eric, an affectionate but clumsy pup, eagerly volunteers how the strike shows how tough his father is. He’s not frightened by Putin’s threat of war. He won’t be pushed around by Putin. Just for measure he throws in a threat of his own. There’s “no one harder” than my Dad, the President if they “cross us”. It proves, he adds breathlessly, that his dad is not in league with Russia.  Well, that’s cleared that up, then. Much rejoicing follows in the free press.

“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States,” gushes CNN’s Fareed Zakaria as her nation is smitten by strong man love – and its love of vigilantes bearing arms. Forget policy, integrity or merit, all you need to do to become President is order up a bombing somewhere. NBC’s Bryan Williams waxes Leonard Cohen-lyrical:

“We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean,” he swoons.  “I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.”

Guided? Try dazzled. Blinded. America swoons over the attack. It falls back in love with Trump, a type of Lone Ranger with more big hair than white hat. The “liars” and “enemies of the people”, as he calls the press, now rush to cheer on The Great Disruptor.

Lost in the rush is any case for the bombing. No need to bother with Congress or dreary international law. Forget briefings. To hell with intel. Foreign policy is now decided by whatever TV show upsets the President – or his daugher, Ivanka.

Ivanka Trump, Anne Summers suggests, is the most powerful staffer in The White House. And dangerous. Superbly equipped for a profound and nuanced understanding of foreign policy by her real estate and jewellery business background, “heartbroken”, “outraged” she urges Daddy to bomb Syria when she sees the babies on Fox news.

Her compassion is oddly selective. Did Ivanka reproach her father when he boasted he could look Syrian children “in the face and say, “You can’t come here”? Did she demur when one of his first acts as President was to sign an executive order to indefinitely ban Syrians, even beautiful babies, from seeking refuge in the United States?

“Rather than pay lip service to the plight of innocent Syrian children, President Trump should provide actual solutions for the children who have been languishing in refugee camps for years,” reads a statement released 7 April from the New York based International Refugee Assistance Project.

“Many refugee children have been left in life or death situations following the President’s executive order, which suspends and severely curtails the U.S. resettlement program.”

Former Trump supporter, Republican Pat Buchanan suggests that Donald Trump was independently moved to act, before he was influenced by his daughter’s feelings. In other words, he was impetuous, emotional and uncritical of what may well prove to be a series of propaganda images and at a time when his National Security Adviser warned him that the intelligence services had their doubts about Assad’s culpability?

We do know, from multiple sources, that many in CIA and DIA, including those on the ground, did not accept that President Assad was responsible.

Leading rocket scientists, national security advisor, and former scientific adviser to the US Chief of Naval Operations, MIT Professor Theodore Postol, who has won awards for debunking claims about missile defence systems says in a nine-page report that we should be cautious.

A four-page report released by the Trump administration intended to blame the recent chemical attack in Syria on the Syrian government, Postol concludes, “does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the US government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack”.

Postol is not convinced by such evidence. “Any competent analyst would have had questions about whether the debris in the crater was staged or real,” he wrote. “No competent analyst would miss the fact that the alleged sarin canister was forcefully crushed from above, rather than exploded by a munition within it.”

Australia’s response is similarly conveniently emotional and selective; visceral to the point of being anti-intellectual – unfussed by the illegality of Trump’s bombing and naively accepting of allegations against al Assad, a case which official Washington sources now concede is one of “high confidence” in a supposed intelligence assessment.

In other words, as Robert Parry decodes, “high confidence” usually means “we don’t have any real evidence, but we figure that if we say “high confidence” enough that no one will dare challenge us.” Parry is one of the reporters who helped expose the Iran-Contra scandal for the Associated Press in the mid-1980s.

Instead, we stampede to trust images provided by Al Qaeda-related propagandists and to overlook documented prior cases in which the Syrian rebels staged chemical weapons incidents to implicate the Assad government in the context of what former British diplomat Alastair Crooke calls the most intensely fought propaganda war in history.

Malcolm Turnbull strongly backs U.S. military action in Syria in response to the “abhorrent” chemical weapons attack.

Defence Minister Marise Payne is “open to Australia increasing its commitment” in Syria with no independent assessment of the worst man-made disaster the world has seen since World War II, according to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in a statement to the Human Rights Council March 2017.

No-one bothers much either with the hypocrisy of the confected moral outrage. The US used agent Napalm in Vietnam and its use of Agent Orange is estimated by the Vietnamese to have killed or maimed 400,000 people.

Vietnam claims moreover half a million children have been born with serious birth defects, while as many 2 million people are suffering from cancer or other illness caused by Agent Orange.

In the end, Trump gazumps only himself. He’s boosted expectations. “A very difficult meeting” will not only fix the US trade deficit with China, settle North Korea’s nuclear nonsense but do a whole bunch of other things including blowing the whistle on China’s currency manipulation, slapping a 45% tax on imports and arresting its theft of US jobs.

By Friday the US President retracts his slur about the currency. Heck, he’ll even praise NATO when he has to.

Upstaged by the US president’s illegal Syrian sortie, by Friday, the US-China Summit’s a dud. Xi and Trump mumble goodwill and mutual respect; motherhood clichés cloak a woeful non-event. Required to negotiate, a skill he will never possess, Trump squibs; settles for a stunt, a token show of force. Call North Korea to heel or the US will fix the problem itself. Does Trump really believe he can coerce China’s cooperation?

Did Trump mean to torpedo the talks? Some commentators spin Trump’s blitzkrieg as a calculated plan, even a Nixonesque “strategic unpredictability.

Henry Kissinger would privately let world leaders know that Nixon was an erratic madman who best not be trifled with. It ended badly, however, for Tricky Dicky in impeachment. Does the same fate await The Donald? Certainly, he’s no diplomat. He’s decided offense is the best defence with China.

“The Chinese government is a despicable, parasitic, brutal, brass-knuckled, crass, callous, amoral, ruthless and totally totalitarian imperialist power that reigns over the world’s leading cancer factory, its most prolific propaganda mill and the biggest police state and prison on the face of the earth”

Taking the cake in studied slights and calculated offence is academic Peter Navarro, author of Death by China, newly appointed head of Trump’s new National Trade Council, a body the President has set up to fix industrial stuff and do great deals so America can become great again. Sweet talking Navarro’s begun by attacking China.

It’s been a big week for Trump and for its Australian satellite. Happily for both parties Trump’s erratic and unpredictable reversals departures have not strained the relationship with our Great and Powerful Friend.  Its dog like devotion does not bode well, however, for any expectations of a mature and mutually beneficial relationship.

Given the rapidity with which isolationist Trump has now been overtaken – strong armed by Washington’s hawks, it is possible that this outcome has not surprised our government. Perhaps it was betting this way all along.

On the other hand, it may simply be that chance has dealt a totally unprepared-for-Trump-or-anything-else Turnbull government a favourable hand; a Neocon US foreign policy it can at least understand.  Even if it cannot fathom the cost.

What is truly shocking, moreover, is that the Turnbull government is simply repeating the mistakes made in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq.  It is 2017. Its aggressive tone with China. Should we still be the USA’s humble and obedient and uncritical servants?

Alarming indeed is our incapacity to exercise our critical faculties or perform due diligence on the case for attacking Bashar Al Assad. Similarly with our gung-ho anti North Korean propaganda. Australia, the world, deserves better.

Turnbull government blindly follows Trump in fake Syrian regime change case delusion disaster.

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“What the world saw last night was the United States Commander-in-Chief, and also a father and grandfather,” explains Kellyanne Conway, Counsellor to the President, on Friday. “The world recoiled in horror at babies writhing and struggling to live. And who could avert their gaze – and that includes our very tough, very resolute, very decisive President.”


 

Choked-up, yet resolute and tough, hunkered down in his Mar-a-Largo bunker, the man who walked right off the set of Celebrity Apprentice and on to a world stage, Donald J. Trump, shows everyone he’s made of the right stuff, bigly. Ham.

Trump mugs the camera; a Ronald Reagan parody of fake sincerity. He’ll stop Bashar Al Assad from gassing children. Why, Assad has affected him profoundly, personally. “… a chemical attack that was so horrific in Syria against innocent people, including women, small children and even beautiful little babies, their deaths were an affront to humanity.”

The President is responding to reports of a chemical attack on a building in Khan Sheikhoun, north-western Syria, that killed 80 civilians and left hundreds wounded. The Syrian Air Force is blamed for the bombing. Yet there is no proof.

Syria denies any involvement. Those responsible for the original report, the “White Helmets” function as a propaganda branch of ISIL and have long been discredited by Eva Barlett at the UN. for their fake videos and disinformation.

The Shajul Islam video which purports to document Sarin gas in the  Khan Sheikhoun attack is examined in detail by pharmacologist and lawyer Dr Denis O’Brien, author of Ghouta Massacre Murder in the SunMorgue, a detailed, forensic-pharmacological analysis of the Ghouta Massacre near Damascus, Syria in August, 2013.

O’Brien finds little or no evidence of Sarin gas but identifies symptoms consistent with cyanide poisoning. His reservations are echoed by other experts and critical observers. The “Sarin gas video” nevertheless receives widespread uncritical screening on MSM.

Trump is convinced. He orders a missile strike. It is set to launch during the main course of his welcome dinner for China’s president, for which he selects the a pan-seared Dover sole with champagne sauce and herb-roasted new potato from a plain menu which signals business function as much as an impressive lack of inspiration. He has a deal to seal with Xi Jinping. He’s already threatened that the US will “solve” North Korea alone, although experts are sceptical.

A mid-dinner missile strike on Syria ups the ante. Will North Korea be next? “I am not going to tell you” is all he will say. His deputy security adviser, KT McFarland, talks up North Korea’s nuclear threat. Trump says he wants China to “rein in” North Korea. “Trade is the key.” Yet he’ll need more than bluff and bluster if he is to seal any kind of deal. And he’ll need to deliver on his promises to put America first if he is to arrest his declining support at home.

“The Art of the Deal” author (ghost-writer Tony Schwartz) Donald, has always been an approval seeker. Now he’s keen to arrest his plummeting popular opinion ratings. Only 34 percent of Americans currently approve of the job Trump is doing, a figure two points below Obama’s all-time low, reports Investor’s Business Daily/TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence (IBD/TIPP), a ten percent drop since March. He’d do anything to get America to like him again.

Setting up a Syrian strike to upstage his dinner with Xi Jinping certainly gets a rise out of China’s state media:

“This is his first major decision on international affairs, and his haste and inconsistency has left people with a deep impression,” says the Global Times. It’s hardly an auspicious beginning but the US still puts on an incredible show..

Australians are visually carpet-bombed Friday with sensational saturation video loop coverage of the firing of 59 long-range, all-weather, subsonic, Tomahawk cruise missiles Al-Shayrat air base in the Western Syrian province of Homs.  A barrage of assertion, speculation and general ignorance is lined up in support. A case for regime change is brewing.

Across the nation, lounge rooms flicker in the ghostly glow of endless replays of giant missiles twisting skyward in early morning Eastern Mediterranean inky darkness. Swirling trails of thick smoke transform the Arleigh-Burke destroyers USS Ross and USS Porter, two of a US fleet of seventy-five, into ghastly fire-breathing, death-dealing, vengeful dragons.

It’s a top quality performance, a Pentagon son et lumière; a spectacular display of righteous might intercut with images of gas attack victims supplied by US-UK and NATO funded White Helmet rebels in Syria who always put on a good show in return for a retainer of $123 million a year.  What it lacks in narrative coherence, it makes up for in special effects.

No expense is spared, although a 3.5% US Navy budget cut back to $152 billion in 2017 mean crews are halved to find savings. Replacing one destroyer would cost $1.8 billion. Each missile has a million dollar price tag. Yet inestimable;  beyond all calculation is the value of each one of the lives of seven civilians, including four children who have been killed in areas nearby who remain unnamed statistics in a Reuters’ relay of a Syrian state news agency report.

The pipeline wars have taken a massive toll. More than 1 in 10 Syrians have been wounded or killed since the beginning of the war in 2011, according to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research in 2016 which finds the conflict has killed 470,000 either directly or indirectly. The United Nations stopped counting Syrian war dead in 2014.

Given these circumstances, it’s incredible that Trump’s humanity is affronted so late in the day. Also worrying is his blindspot – unless he’s seeking a diversion. Last month alone, 1472 civilians have been killed in his war on ISIS a result of his decision to alter risk/reward ratio calculations. Yet none of this dints the President’s Australian support base.

Down under we’re gung ho. Huzza huzza, four cheers for Trump. Trump has done something. Thumped Syria. He’s OK. Local commentators love a bit of biffo. Suddenly we are all applauding the man with a plan. Loving that line in the sand.

Panels of experts are mobilised instantly. Cobber Kim Beasley gets a guernsey. Kim loves guns and knows stuff about America. And can he talk! Bobbing up everywhere is model of compassion, jolly Jim Molan, architect of “Stop the Boats” (at any price) and our resident chemical weapons expert, a Major General seconded from the ADF to the US command who deployed white phosphorous in Fallujah in late 2004, a choice corroborated by U.S. Colonel Barry Venable in 2005.

The attack on Fallujah was launched by seizing the only hospital. Oddly, no-one asks for Jim’s special insights.

 “Packed into an artillery shell, white phosphorous explodes over a battlefield in a white glare that can illuminate an enemy’s positions. It also rains balls of flaming chemicals, which cling to anything they touch and burn until their oxygen supply is cut off. They can burn for hours inside a human body,reports the New York Times 

Prior to George Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, there was no ISIS; no civil unrest in Syria. A lot of explaining is left to do. Yet all the talk is of “bringing the Assad regime into line”, as Malcolm Turnbull puts it. Pressure must be put on Russia because Syria is a vassal state, he says. The Daily Telegraph raves about Donald Trump’s “well-considered” attack which it sees as a “circuit-breaker”. Words come cheap but it sounds ominously as if regime change is in the wind.

There is precious little discussion of the gas attack itself; no pause to consider why Syria’s president might gas his own people at a time when things were going very much his own way. The people of Syria would decide their own future leader said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as recently as 30 March.

A more plausible scenario which fits history and circumstantial evidence is that al-Qaeda, ISIS and/or other anti-Assad factions supplied the chemical weaponry. The White Helmets may have orchestrated the attack leaving US Neocons to supply the script. Yet our response has been largely uncritical, pliant and alarmingly receptive to official US propaganda.

More entreprenurial types want to take the false flag and run with it. Celebrity politician Christopher Pyne effortlessly blends expedience with rooting for Trump as he heroically battles over exposure and relevance fatigue to meet US Defence Secretary James Mattis. Like a rat up a torpedo tube, Pyne sees new opportunities for our “burgeoning defence industry” now Trump has upped US defence spending ten per cent.

How quickly we move on. In 2014, former Defence Minister David Johnston disgraced himself by saying he wouldn’t trust the ASC to build a canoe. Jim Molan saw red. Now we are touting our defence industry to the United States.

Other urgers are waiting.  Kevin “boots on the ground” Andrews, a big fan of the US from its wacky fundamentalism to its divine right to regime change in Iraq, is saddled up, incommunicado, on Pollie Pedal with pal Abbott. Wild horses wouldn’t get his Grecian head on the box now. But he’ll be back to argue our need to boost our commitment in Syria.

In brief, with incredible unanimity, once again, our commentators, like our politicians are overwhelmingly, a pack of hawkish US sycophants or apologists. US cheer-leader Marise Payne appears on ABC Insiders Sunday to spin the sudden US flip-flop or Trump’s latest impulse as a  “considered, calibrated and proportionate” response.

A new world disorder is born. Nothing is certain; everything is cast into doubt. Michaelia Cash will proceed with internships regardless of Senate approval and against all advice that it’s exploitation because it helps businesses, Amen . Turnbull’s Adani coal safari will still go ahead but that’s locked in by his coal lobby bosses.

Never to be upstaged, or to pass up on a slogan, “Bashar Al Assad has to go”, the PM says, finding his inner Tomahawk.

Trump’s Operation random Tomahawk attack would upstage anyone. Each missile carries 450 kg of explosive in its nose. Fittingly, for an era of leaders who worship technological disruption, or for the growing army of critics of a US President who has proved an inept stooge, tomahawk comes from Powhatan tamahaac,’to cut off by tool’.

The attack is not a random act of gratuitous violence to distract from investigations into his Russian connections. He may owe billions to Russian banks but who cares? No-one else would lend the multiple bankrupt the money.

Instantly Trump is a moral hero. No longer is he stunningly inept, an accidental president desperate to be taken seriously. He’s drawn a line in the sand, Barnaby Joyce, our man in touch with nature suggests, a signal to Syrian President Bashir Al-Assad that he’s gone too far. It won’t stop at a Tomahawk warning. Regime change is in the wings.

Not only is Assad’s responsibility for the gassing not established, Trump did not bother to check. What is clear is that Trump has violated international law. University of Sydney International law expert international law expert Professor Ben Saul says that force is legal only in self-defence or with the authorisation of the UN Security Council.

A Mexican wall of enmity is rising against him in Syria, if not throughout the Middle East. Russia threatens to shut down its “deconfliction channel” with the US a means by which the two nations co-ordinate their efforts in Syria. Friday Russia’s TASS news agency reports that the Admiral Grigorovich, a frigate armed with Cruise missiles has been despatched from the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Calling upon Russia to bring Syria to heel is having the opposite effect.

Russian defence ministry spokesman Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov suggests a “complex of measures” to strengthen Syrian air defences will be carried out to help “protect the most sensitive Syrian infrastructure facilities.” Not that he is impressed by the last attack.

Only 23 of the 59 missiles reached the Shayrat air base Konashenkov says “the combat efficiency of the U.S. strike was very low”. Photographs on Syrian and Russian media confirm that the airbase is still operational.

The attack has been a wonderful opportunity for our PM, leader of “a government that gets things done”, to posture patriotically, invoke sacrifice and to not so innovatively call for regime change in Syria, the very same mistakes John Howard made when he was seduced by propaganda about the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

There’s a bit of Anzackery to take care of with stirring speeches from Kokoda before Mal must dash to India, doubtless, a mercy mission to soothe the pillow of the dying in a nation where coal smoke fed pollution brings premature death to 3000 people every day.

He leaves his trusty deputy PM, Air Vice Marshall Barnstorming Barnaby Joyce on hand to deal with the more nuanced parts of governing and getting things done such as why Assad would gas his own people.

Joyce doesn’t make a lot of sense but you can tell he’d be keen himself to put a Tomahawk up Assad’s clacker.

To Barnaby, it’s all about a line in the sand, code for a finger wagging ultimatum, a foreign policy strategy not known for its success rate, historically, especially when dealing with leaders whose nations are already a hotbed of insurgency.

Effortlessly, Kaiser Barnaby, who has moved an entire government department single-handedly to shore up his own electoral prospects, grasps the nettle. He has the runs on the board when it comes to the high-handed, patronising arrogance and hypocritical posturing that a nation needs in a crisis. Not that there’s any crisis in our well-oiled economy.

Empiricism is so yesterday. But raise a glass. Government policy passes the pub-test this week. Despite its death spiral opinion polls and signs of an unbridgeable credibility gap in energy, environment, education and welfare and trickle-down economics, almost any policy area you can poke a stick at, really, the government has something to shout about.

Not only does the pub test trump all other forms of evaluation, – as everyone knows, it also means the Coalition won’t bother to explain its company tax cuts for firms with turnovers up to $50 million. This frees up government no end. We’ve already had a taste of how it liberates foreign policy from the dreary burden of proof into mindless sloganeering.

No need to commission another dodgy report like BIS Shrapnel’s March 2016 calculation that cutting negative gearing would drive up rentals and push down prices, a case based on some rubbery figures including shrinking GDP to $190 billion from its true figure of $1 trillion per year.

Treasury said of the whole government company tax project it would deliver a 1 per cent growth dividend and a wage increase of $2 a day – and that wouldn’t be for 20 years.

Even right wing Economist Saul Eslake is among the many experts who dispute that giving smaller companies a tax cut will generate the claimed benefits in jobs and wage increases. He points to much evidence. Joe Hockey rushed to give small businesses breaks. He gave a 1.5 per cent tax cut and an enlarged instant asset write-off in his second budget. Wages are stagnating; not growing. Unemployment and underemployment expand while our budget deficit soars.

A clearly elevated federal Treasurer Scott Morrison explains his government need not release any more fatuous fact-based projection, prediction or any other form of assessment to support its company tax cuts. It’s just not what small business folk are concerned about. He knows what’s best for us. Don’t you worry about that.

“If you go down the pub and you talk to small-business people, they’re not talking about econometric models. What they’re talking about is how they are going to grow their businesses.”

There’s a hint of Turnbull’s old saw, “the vibe of the thing” dressed down a bit as well as a flash of the old born to rule arrogance that is helping this government seal its fate.

Rivalling Pauline Hanson’s powers of clairaudience – or perhaps they are contagious, Morrison now claims he knows what’s on the minds of the Mum and Dads who own the businesses that are this nation’s backbone.

From your local Jim’s mowing to the bloke who fixes your car; from your corner hairdresser to your mobile nail technician, none can stop talking about growing their businesses.  As a unicorn is always talking about growing its horn. Everyone is planning to expand. Sounds absurd, impossible? It’s because it is. But Morrison won’t hear a word against it.

In fact many small businesses are unincorporated and their proprietors will continue to pay tax at personal income rates.

Bugger the evidence. Truth is unassailable. Besides, who needs facts when you can hear the fat cats purring?

Sinking in the polls with not a stitch of useful policy to its name and just less in the way of a programme, a failing government grasps with both hands the news of Trump’s crusade against the bad, mad Aassad with his gas attacks on his own people without exercising due diligence, independence of though or even a modicum of common sense.

It is a disturbing sign. An all-consuming self-destructive collective madness stirs, a type of folie a foule which is totally immune to reason’s dictates. Writ small it expresses itself in a crusade for tax cuts, lower wages and a pogrom on the poor. Writ large it leads to foreign intervention and regime change; in brief, unholy, unmitigated disaster.