Passing Bull 223 – A weekend riot

 

The weekend press was alive with the sound of bullshit.

Simon Benson gave one of his paper’s encomiums on the Mayor of Box Hill (aka ScoMo) in the lead article on page 1.

On the same page, Dennis Shanahan reported, exclusively, that the drought boss wants to keep politics out of the discussion of drought.  Since that paper eschews discussion of science and drought, what is there left?  And what logic led a senior civil servant to conclude that giving a first page exclusive to the Murdoch press on the subject of drought was a good way to keep politics out of the discussion?

On the front page of the Inquirer, Simon Benson returned to his paean upon the Mayor.  He thinks it’s a good idea that the Ministers choose civil servants that they get on with.  Some unfortunate person actually used the term ‘drain the swamp.’

Paul Kelly ponders.  There is a word for that.

Chris Kenny goes into bat for the accident prone Angus Taylor – with all the set trimmings about the ‘green left’ and the ‘love media.’  ‘Childish’ would be unduly complimentary.  The opening is out of this world.

The impeachment circus plays out in Washington as the resistance tries yet again to tear down Donald Trump as he dismisses the charade as ‘bullshit.’

It is as if popularity is a complete defence for a populist.  For at least six years, Adolf Hitler must have been the darling of this kind of observer.

Janet Albrechtsen matches Kenny.  Her piece is headed ‘Woke hypocrites humiliated as Folaus bask in apology.’  While contemplating a life in exile, as more churches shut their doors.

Gerard Henderson is sniping at a colleague again.  No one on that paper understands what the word ‘professional’ entails.  They are driven from above to attack the ABC.  Mr Henderson starts by saying that what worries him about a Nine report ‘was the absence of doubt.’  Good grief!  Was someone being dogmatic?  Like the jury of a man named Pell?  Or his defenders?

And so it goes, as the man said.

Bloopers

…..it is core religious dogma of all progressives that radical action must be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Activists never level with people that this must mean drastically reduced living standards.  So when inevitably climate action explicitly reduces living standards, the public rebels.

Greg Sheridan, The Weekend Australian, 7-8 December, 2019

Well, not many people like paying tax, but we have to if we want schools, hospitals and armed forces.  There is a process to resolve all that.  It is called government.  And as Sharan Burrow reminds Spanish coal miners in a BBC clip, there are no jobs on a dead planet.

Passing Bull 222 – What is a hoax?

 

The President of the United States trashes everything he touches.  His latest target is the U S Navy.  The Republican fall from grace is complete when its leaders tolerate an attack on their navy – and an attack that may well imperil its members.  The President, of course, does not understand the military.  His cowardice and corruption led him to evade service to his country.

And he does of course trash the English language every time he opens his illiterate mouth.  He says that the impeachment inquiry is a hoax.  What is that?  ‘A humorous or mischievous deception with which the credulity of the victim is imposed upon.’  You get it in commedia dell’arte and the Marx Brothers.  It’s what the merry wives of Windsor did to Falstaff (as had Prince Hal done two plays earlier – Sir John was born to be hoaxed).  It’s what NATO leaders and royals may like to do to President Trump, but they presently content themselves with laughing at him behind his back.

But whatever else the impeachment process is, it is not a hoax or any other form of joke.  The fact that this oaf can make that claim shows what in my view is the main ground for his impeachment – the man simply has no idea of the duties that come with his office: he is quite unable to see, much less accept, that he has committed a great wrong.

His other response is his general fall back – witch hunt.  According to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, this is in political usage ‘the searching out and exposure of opponents alleged to be disloyal to the State, often amounting to persecution.’  Now, whenever someone in authority criticises Trump, the spoiled child in him – and there is not much else – says he is being persecuted.  But that delusion is not enough to create a witch hunt.  It is also true that about six people close to Trump are in jail for conduct in or arising from his election, but that does not mean that there is a witch hunt, any more than that the Nuremberg trials were a witch hunt.

The people of Salem knew what a witch hunt was.  So did McCarthy, and his pet lieutenant, a B grade actor named Ronald Reagan.  So did the Australian government that spent a fortune of our money over about a decade pursuing John Elliott and associates for party political purposes and no result.  But that was nothing like what is going on in Washington at the moment.

Speaking of the NATO shambles, have you noticed that whenever Trump meets a world leader who is smarter than him – that is, any other world leader – he looks ‘alone and palely loitering’ – with his head down and his hands between his knees, in his ludicrously predictable attire, which he is incapable of doing up, like an estranged ourangatang who has been force fed in the jungle on industrial strength Prozac?

As for witch hunts, I like the remark that an English judge passed a long time before the English started settling here – there is no law against flying.

Bloopers

‘He’s still very young in his Test career,’ said Chris Silverwood, the head coach, after stumps.  ‘Jofra’s learning about himself and the game of Test cricket. And, equally, Joe is learning to captain him as well. From a holistic point of view we’re growing together, really.’

The Guardian, 23 November, 2019

Contributions to the pre-conference blog claimed ecosystems could be a silver bullet, they ought to have a value chain — or possibly even be part of one — they should be ‘leveraged’ to ‘maximise value and achieve competitive advantage’ or ‘populated with new addressable customers’. ‘If you orchestrate it and tie the ecosystem on to a platform, you’re really resolving the customer problem holistically,’ enthused one panellist.

Financial Times, 3 December, 2019

Even for addressable customers in Byron Bay, ‘holistic’ is a rock solid guarantee of bullshit of Himalayan proportions.

Passing Bull 221 – Warped minds at Westpac

 

Some of the folks at Westpac remind me of Messrs Trump and Giuliani on their shakedown of the erstwhile comedian who is now the President of the Ukraine.  (Have you noticed this tendency of comedians to go into politics to lead their country?  It says a lot about the other clowns.)  They cannot see that they have done anything wrong.

The Chairman, Mr Maxsted, says that ‘we have not seen anything that is case for his [Mr Hartzer, the CEO] dismissal.’  That is presumably some kind of opinion on the options of the company at law.  If he is right, he may wish to have a chat with the lawyers who wrote the relevant employment agreement.  If presiding over years of a course of conduct that brings the bank into disrepute, if not contempt, does not allow the bank to fire the massively overpaid CEO for failing to discharge his office, then the bank is in more trouble than we thought.

Then Mr Maxsted is reported to have gone from expressing what looks to be a legal opinion to expressing what looks to be a commercial judgment.  ‘He qualified that by saying he was yet to meet with some large shareholders and that could change ‘if there isn’t investor support’ for Mr Hartzer.’

Just who is running this bank – the board or a coterie of large shareholders and investors?  As a small shareholder, I have some interest in that question.  Is corporate governance like our political governance – just a crude numbers’ game bereft of merit?

Mr Hartzer says he accepts responsibility?  ‘As CEO I’m ultimately responsible in the chain of command for everything that happens in this company.’  How can he say that while retaining the office that he has failed to fulfil?

Mr Maxsted says: ‘We accept that we have fallen short of both our own regulators’ standards and are determined to get all the facts and assess accountability.’  ‘Accountable’ is even more weasel than ‘responsible’ – they just get overpaid spinners in to do that.

But in any event, it looks like Mr Maxsted is saying that as presently advised he does not have enough facts to ‘assess accountability.’  This is what is called the Volkswagen dilemma – the directors either knew or ought to have known what was happening for years in the company whose business they manage.  And we might hope that Mr Maxsted has not forgotten that the courts may have their answers to the questions that now pain him so much.  And thank heaven for that.

The well-known line of Horatio comes to mind.  ‘Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.’

Bloopers

Mr Henry Herzog of East St Kilda may or may not have a different view of the world to me, but I enjoy his letters to The Age.  That of today is a pearler.

I’m taking the Morrison approach: Since my contribution to the Good Friday appeal is less than 1 per cent of the total raised, there’s no point in giving.

Truly, it looks as if Mr Maxsted shares the mystical capacity of Mr Morrison to switch trams in the middle of nowhere – say, just outside the Birdsville pub.  The capacity of our P M for inanity is transcendental.  Like the time he bore coal in the parliament; or, even better, the times he said we did not need a royal commission into banks because there was an honest cop on the beat.  From Keystone.

Passing Bull 220 – It takes two to Tango

 

Opinions might vary about whether governance in Australia is as bad as it now is in England or America, but one thing is clear – especially to Australian baby boomers.  For much of the fifties and sixties, Australia was consigned to a form of one party rule because the unelectability of one party made the election of the other party almost inevitable.  The simple truth is that in a two party democracy, governance is only as good as the opposition to the government.

We suffered no great harm in the fifties or sixties because the ruling party practised a soft version of ‘liberalism’ – a benign Tory paternalism – that it combined with agrarian socialism, and the nation was on the up in a quiet phase after two world wars.  The downside was that the cosiness to the Mother Country and royalty left us tugging our forelocks like far away colonials and killed off any movement toward independence.

That relative immunity is not the case now in England or America.  Trump got elected because of the weakness of his opponent.  Johnson may be re-elected for the same reason.  And so might Trump.  Each has done all he can to show that he is entirely unfit for office, but each stays in place because the alternative is so unattractive and inept.  In England, minor parties are scrambling to get ‘Never Johnson – or Corbyn’, and in America, something like panic may induce a billionaire to try to buy a nomination.  It reminds you of the time in the Roman Empire when they put the purple up for auction.

Our current government is hardly any better.  It did all it could to deserve losing office, but it now looks clear that it is still there because the alternative was unelectable.  Sections of the press still chortle over this – even though their preferred man did not get the job – but for those of us who are not tied to either major party, and who are at best cool about the whole lot of them, the result is a very sad failure of governance.

We are left with a prime minister who could be a useful Mayor of Box Hill, but who is way out of his depth in his present office.  He made his name sending armed forces against unarmed refugees; he hugged coal in Parliament; he defended the indefensible in the banks; and he subscribes to one of those evangelical sects of holy rollers that are disembowelling American politics.  The best that could ever be said of this man is that he is Australian mediocrity made visible.  And in the name of God, we know all about mediocrity down here.  It’s what we have aspired to since the English first opened their jail here at Botany Bay.

Can anyone think of a way to ‘impeach’ an opposition party?  If you look around the world, democracy is in trouble everywhere, and disenchanting those coming after us.  New Zealand looks OK, but even Germany and the Scandinavian nations are showing signs of stress.

Democracy, too, may hang on, again for the want of a better alternative, but it is hard to resist the impression that we are on the cusp of lasting change, and the question then becomes whether we will get it by evolution or revolution.

Bloopers

Perhaps because so many on the left were in some measure compromised in their attitude to communism, and the left dominates cultural production in the West, the crimes of communism go substantially unmourned and the heroes of anti-communism are never afforded heroic status.

The Weekend Australian, 9-10 November, 2019, Greg Sheridan.

It is sad in 2019 to see a man viewing the world through a sectarian prism of 1959, but Mr Sheridan gives the Pope some of the credit for the collapse of the Berlin Wall.  As he does with Ronald Reagan.  It is curious to see commentators of that ilk give any credit to human agents for the death of communism in Europe when they are committed by their ideology to the conclusion that communism was doomed to death by the iron laws of economics.

Can anyone think of a way to impeach the press?

Passing Bull 217 – Hearsay

 

Passing on what others say is called gossip.  Donald Trump is addicted to it.

‘They brought in another company that I hear is Ukrainian-based,’ the president said.

‘CrowdStrike?’ the surprised reporter asked, referring to the California cybersecurity company that investigated how Russian government hackers had stolen and leaked Democratic emails, disrupting Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

‘That’s what I heard,’ Mr. Trump resumed. ‘I heard it’s owned by a very rich Ukrainian; that’s what I heard.’

More than two years later, Mr. Trump was still holding on to this false conspiracy theory. (The Guardian, 5 October, 2019)

That’s right, Trump said four times that he had heard something.  Hearsay.

It’s therefore odd to see his loyal lieutenants in the Senate condemning a whistleblower statement as hearsay.  (As it happens, it is far more literate than anything Trump has said – ever.)

It is hard for some – including me – to understand what the whistleblower added to the White House record of the now famous telephone call.  But it is wholly absurd to suggest that the business of government could only be conducted according to the laws that govern what a witness in court might lawfully say in giving evidence.  You cannot, if objection is taken, tender a statement by a witness that another person told him he saw Bob shoot the deceased as evidence of the truth of that assertion made out of court.

But we, including government, all the time act on the basis of the truth of what we are told by others.  For example, it is only hearsay that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified.

Imagine this.  The head of the FBI rings the President to tell him that he has a credible source saying that terrorists are intent on blowing up the White House and killing the President and five world leaders – and the President responds by saying that he is not accustomed to acting on mere hearsay.

And yet – some parts of the infamous base continue to lap up this nonsense.

Bloopers
If Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey,’ Mr Trump tweeted — sending the Turkish lira down 2 per cent.

Financial Times, 8 October, 2019.

He added he had done it before.

Passing Bull 216 – Malicious allegations

 

There is plenty of malice about in London and Washington.  Canberra has always showed some infection.  Politics involves contests, and they can get dirty.

If I see someone disposing of litter illegally, I would not normally be disposed to do much about – in despite of those road signs inviting me to snitch.  But if I saw someone I really had it in for doing it, I might be disposed to dob him in.  My motive would not be to help the law keep the place tidy, but to hurt my enemy.  I would be acting maliciously.  But that says nothing about the worth of the allegation itself.

If the evidence shows a breach of the law, then my motive for setting the law in action is irrelevant.  Socrates ran this argument – and paid the price.  (The law does know of a wrong called ‘malicious prosecution,’ but we can put that to one side.  It is, like ‘conspiracy’, a kind of fool’s gold invoked by silly people who have crawled out of the lions’ den, and want to go back for more.)

Consider then the following.

‘Allegations have been brought to the attention of the monitoring officer that Boris Johnson maintained a friendship with Jennifer Arcuri and as a result of that friendship allowed Ms Arcuri to participate in trade missions and receive sponsorship monies in circumstances when she and her companies could not have expected otherwise to receive those benefits,’ a GLA statement said.

Theresa Villiers, environment secretary, said the allegations were politically motivated. Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Saturday morning, she said: ‘I think this whole thing has been blown out of all proportion’.  (Financial Times, 29 September, 2019)

This is serious bullshit.  There is not even an allegation of malice.  The motivation is ‘political’.  What other motivation would there be for a political act?  Impeachment is a political act.  Does that mean its invocation is necessarily flawed?

Yet, on the weekend journalists who know nothing of the law lined up to criticize the U K Supreme Court for making a decision in a ‘political matter.’  If a government could avoid scrutiny by the courts just by saying ‘political’, you could kiss good bye to administrative law and indeed the rule of law.

Still, the erstwhile associate of the Prime Minister was up to it.

In a statement last week, Ms Arcuri said: ‘Any grants received by my companies and any trade mission I joined were purely in respect of my role as a legitimate businesswoman.’ (Financial Times, 3o September, 2019)

I wonder why the lady felt the need to qualify the final noun in that way – or at all.  Of course the transaction was merely commercial.

Bloopers

The idea that Trump’s conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart justifies this [impeachment], uniquely in the annals of all US presidential history, is utterly ridiculous.

The Saturday Australian, 28-29 September, 2019, Greg Sheridan.

Mr Sheridan evidently shares the inability of Mr Trump to perceive that the abuse of a public office for personal gain is a serious breach of the duty of good faith.  You wonder whether some had the same view of the priesthood.  You also wonder what Mr Trump has on Mr Murdoch.  But, then, Mr Sheridan was one of those getting into British judges.  That suited his current songbook.

Passing Bull 215 –Business and politics

 

If you have lived in a small country town, you know how important it is for people who run a business in that town – such as a pub or general store – to get on with and relate to the other people in the town.  They need to be seen actively to support the town.  People in bigger companies – such as BHP, ANZ, CSL or Westfarmers – have come to the view that the same goes for them and the people of Australia.  These companies – and their employees – want to get on with and relate to other Australians.  The Round Table Conference in the U S and the Financial Times in the U K have both confirmed a shift in big business away from confining itself to the bottom line.  So do those who run MBAs. 

The FT had a note about BHP and its legal counsel.

BHP was among the companies named in an investigation begun by the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines in 2015, into whether fossil fuel groups have violated human rights by causing climate change. The company formally severed ties with the World Coal Association last year, after Australian green groups urged it to quit industry lobby groups whose policies did not match the miner’s support for the Paris climate agreement. Ms Cox says climate change is high on her team’s agenda because the company knows its long-term sustainability depends on support from investors, regulators and the broader society. ‘We need the support of our communities in order to be successful’, she says.

The operative phrase there is that ‘the company knows its long-term sustainability depends on support from investors, regulators and the broader society.’ Shareholders allow a lot of money to go to directors and management to secure the long-term sustainability of the company  – they are put there to do just that, and not just try to get a good next half-year profit statement and dividend.

It is surprising, then, to find people saying that companies like BHP have gone too far in their social outreach.  It is doubly surprising for at least three reasons.  Most of the people making these claims come from politics, the press or think tanks and they have no idea on how to run a business – because they never have.  But they are usually those who shout most loudly about freedom of speech and religion – but not freedom of companies to run their business as they and their shareholders see fit.  And these critics are looking for the short-term view and narrow focus that so disfigures our public life.

In How Markets Fail, John Cassidy said that ‘Economics, when you strip away the guff and mathematical sophistry, is largely about incentives.’  He then discussed the venom injected into our commercial life by executives being paid, say, 100 times the pay of their employees.  He said: ‘In banking, the CEO incentive problem is even more severe than in other industries.’  That was nearly ten years before our royal commission into that industry painfully showed how fine is the distinction between ‘incentive’ and ‘bribe’.

I only invest in companies whose management I trust to maintain their long term sustainability.   For me, BHP is the exemplar – in large part because of the conduct that attracts adverse comment of the kind I have referred to.  I have no interest in investing in a company that is only interested in financial returns to shareholders and that takes no interest in the public costs of its business. 

It is downright silly for people who have never run a business to be offering advice on that subject to people who do.  But, then, we have a government that occasionally calls itself conservative that makes laws that will enable it to dismantle businesses it does not like.  And a government that will empower its agent, the tax man, to snitch on those citizens who are managing their super fund in a way that the government does not like.  The want of reason is at least consistent.

Bloopers

No other US president has faced the prospect of being re-elected or going to jail. Whether a defeated Mr Trump would actually be prosecuted — by the Southern District of New York, for example, and for any number of alleged crimes — is immaterial. All that matters is whether Mr Trump believes he could face jail. To judge by Mr Trump’s words and actions, he considers victory in next year’s election to be an existential necessity.

Financial Times, 13 September, 2019

We may have hoped that the FT was above transcendental bullshit like ‘existential’ – either with ‘necessity,’ or at all.

Passing Bull 214 – Economics and Voodoo

 

How Markets Fail by John Cassidy (2009) is as instructive as it is readable.  On reading it again, I was struck by how evangelical many leading economists are.  They assemble in platoons preaching ideology masquerading as science.  One economist said of Hayek: ‘This kind of writing is not scholarship.  It is seeing hobgoblins under every bed.’  Friedman was the ultimate evangelist.  He could rewrite history to suit his program – he taught that the depression was not caused by market failure but by government failure. 

In 2003, one of Friedman’s successors said that macroeconomics had succeeded in solving the central problem of depression-prevention.  He reminded me of the heart surgeon who said of my chest pain that whatever its cause, it would not kill me.  Six months later, it bloody nearly did just that – because I had delayed in reporting to casualty for hours relying on his advice.  It was, as his Grace the Duke of Wellington observed, a damned close run thing.  So was the Great Financial Crisis – another painful case of a pretty syllogism broken by a sad fact.

It is not as if no one saw the GFC coming.  Mr Cassidy reminds us that in 2003, Warren Buffett told his shareholders that ‘In our view…derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction that, while now latent, are potentially lethal.’  But there you go – the Harvard Business School had knocked back Warren Buffett.  Not the right kind of academic aura – like that of Mr Greenspan.

You can therefore imagine my relief when I read:

The economics department of Morgan Stanley…was refusing to hire any economics Ph D’s unless they had experience outside academe.  ‘We insist on at least a three-to-four year cleansing experience to neutralise the brain washing that takes place’…..’Academic  economics has taken a very bad turn in the road’….’It’s very academic, very mathematical, and it really doesn’t – I want to choose my words carefully here: it is nothing like as useful to the business community as it could be.’

Political parties and think tanks should take note.

When Mr Cassidy goes from ‘utopian’ economics to ‘reality based’ economics, we get:

….the essence of utopian economics is that the free market, by generating a set of prices at which firms and consumers equate private costs and private benefits, produces an efficient outcome.  But from the point of view of society, what is needed is a balancing of social costs and social benefits.  Free markets don’t lead to such a balancing….The market fails, and fails in a very specific and predictable sense.

This is not hard to get.  Dealing in cigarettes or alcohol has social costs – that might be met from taxation.  The same goes for dealing in carbon.  The simple thing to do to meet the social cost would be to impose a tax.

But you can’t do that if tax is an ideological blind spot. And if you subscribe to the ultimate dream of utopia – that money grows on trees.  It’s a bit like asking a keen footy fan to explain a Grand Final that his team just narrowly lost.  After the first few words, you can sit back and hear the needle in the groove as the record revolves fixatedly on its own axis until its predetermined end.

Bloopers

In a blunt message to corporate leaders, the Prime Minister told The Australian the government wanted them to step up and focus on discussions that led to better outcomes for workers and their families.  ‘If you want to advance the cause of your employees so they can earn more, there isn’t time for distractions…The most successful businesses are those that focus on that.’

The Australian, 13 September, 2019

This is hilarious beyond belief.  The Minister for Thongs knows nothing at all about business – absolutely nothing – but he feels free to tell business how to run itself – while saying that business has no place in talking about politics – which business has been driven to do because the politicians are so inept.  And this is from a political party that once had aspirations to being ‘conservative,’ but which is now introducing legislation to enable government to intervene at will in what used to be a free market.  Do those galahs really believe that we came down in the last shower?

Passing Bull 213 –Labels again

 

‘Virtue signalling’ is in vogue in some quarters as a label used as a term of abuse.  The other day, someone asked a sensible question.  What is wrong with virtue signalling?  Big corporates spend a fortune on it.  So do governments – although different considerations apply to different ways of spending public moneys.

Reading Richard Evans’ The Pursuit of Power, Europe 1815 – 1914, I came across some diverting labels.  In 1900, a German gynaecologist said: ‘The use of contraceptives of any sort can only serve lust.’  Given that the survival of the species depends on procreation, what’s wrong with a spot of lust – if you are still up for it?  The notion that sin is inherent in the word lust does not get much encouragement from the Oxford English Dictionary.

A Mayor of Vienna, who happened to hate Jews, was upbraided for sitting at a table with some Jews.  His answer was very simple. ‘I decide who’s a Jew.’

The word Prussian carries a connotation of militant if not military Teutonic discipline and froideur – all ghastly stereotypes.  And Bismarck was the prototype Prussian.  You might therefore be surprised to learn that Bismarck has a good claim to be called the father of the Welfare State.  The Iron Chancellor got in about a generation before Churchill and Lloyd George when he said that ‘the state had to meet the justified wishes of the working classes.’  He dubbed his aristocratic paternalism as ‘state socialism.’  That would be enough to send current Republicans clean out of their minds.’

But the prize for quote of the book goes to a Russian ethnographer who in 1836 said:

According to the observations of old timers, the climate of Kharkov province has become more severe, and it is now exposed to more droughts and frosts.  It is likely that this change has come about because of the destruction of forests.

Yes, that’s right – man made climate change was old hat in Russia in 1836.

Blooper – a good book

The book Finding my place by Anne Aly is a must.  She was two when her parents migrated here from Egypt.  She and they met the full face of bigotry about colour and Islam in Australia.  They were getting over this when Osama knocked over the twin towers and this was followed by the Bali bombing.  Reading this book, you get a clear idea of the damage done by people like Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones – and, I would add, John Howard.

Anne’s parents thought it would be easier for her, but that is problematic.  She went through two failed marriages.  On top of her primary degree at the American University of Cairo, she has a diploma, a master’s and a doctorate of philosophy.  Tickets don’t worry me too much, but she got the last two while raising two sons as a single mother.  That is on any view impressive.

She has a world-wide reputation for her expertise in counter-terrorism.  And she has put her training into effect.  One young Muslim who was being groomed told her third husband that but for Anne he would be dead or in jail.

The book is by turns heart-breaking and hilarious.  It is worth the price of purchase just for the spray she gave a shabby dealer who sought to renege on a sale of fencing and passed a  rude remark about Arabs.  Anne Aly does know my language.  And yes, she does sink the slipper into two politicians who – to my certain knowledge – asked for it.

I will only refer to two quotes.  This on being a Muslim in Australia after the twin towers.

There is something disempowering about hate.  If someone hates you for who you are, there really isn’t anything you can do about it.

This on being a federal MP.

I’ve never liked politics and I doubt that I ever will. I don’t rate my performance in media interviews where I’m pitted against a seasoned politician who barks out attacks and expects me to do the same, and my greatest fear is that I will become that person.

Anne Aly is the kind of person who will get right up the noses of the IPA and their ilk.  She is a Muslim woman who breaks all the templates and has made more of her life than they ever will.  This is her triumph, and I found it entirely uplifting.  I will give a copy to my oldest grand-daughter.  The language can be fruity, but the humanity of this woman is a winner for us all.

Passing Bull 212 –For or against?

 

After I had criticised a comment on where we have gone wrong as being too generalised, I was asked to express my view.  I did so as follows.

It is hard to avoid generalisation, but my sense – for what it is worth – is that the wounds inflicted on the less prosperous part of the middle class by the GFC, globalisation and technology have left them in a very disaffected condition.  They have a big grievance about inequality – which is justified on both capital and income – and an equally justified sense of insecurity. There is a loss of faith in our pillars, and sustaining conventions go west. This drives them back on to what they see as their fundamentals – their nationality or even their race – and, as in Italy and Germany in the 1920’s, this leaves them sitting ducks for populists and their conspiracy theories and scapegoats.  These people in turn fan the flames and increase division.  The inescapable word is ‘polarisation.’  It still has some way to go in the US and UK, but it is not far from the surface in the rest of Europe.  We have so far mostly avoided it – because we avoid politics.  You can forget the rest of the world.

I would be sympathetic to the suggestion that the decline of religion is a major factor but for three things.  The notion that you need God to be moral was blown up more two hundred years ago.  The behaviour of some people claiming to have God – like evangelical supporters of Trump or Catholic defenders of Pell – is genuinely revolting.  And a lot of the worst wars came out of religious schism.

They are what I see as the background to the moral catastrophe of people like Trump and Johnson.  I have the firm but utterly unverifiable notion that a big part of the problem is that for many Americans, Trump is God’s answer to their putting a nigger into the White House.  And I don’t think that too many supporters of Johnson are much better: Farage is shameless.

What we have at least now established is that when assessing a political leader it is fatuous to suggest you can ignore their moral character.

I would add two things.  The populism embraced by people like Trump and Johnson is said to come from parties that were conservative.  As I have said before, a populist is not a conservative.  And these two were born with silver spoons in their mouths.  They could not care less about the less privileged people they appeal to.  Indeed, if either has ever met a working man, that would have been an accident of history.

The result is that these people don’t stand for much. They are in it just for themselves Rather they are defined by what they are against.  Trump is against anything done by Obama, and people of a different colour or religious belief.  Johnson is against Europe – or so he says.  Both are against migrants –their scapegoats of choice.  When your politics are defined by what you are against rather than what you are for, your recipe for bitter division – polarisation – is complete.

A related issue is that people don’t win elections – the other side loses them.  That is an Oz specialty.

Bloopers

Something will have to give.  Environmental awareness is one thing but outsourcing sovereignty is something else.  Amazon fires have exposed what has long been suspected.  Despite international agreements and peer group coercion, in the end nations will pursue their self-interest.  With the passing of each survival deadline that decision becomes easier.

Maurice Newman, The Australian, 29 August, 2019

The man who wrote that was appointed Chair of the ABC.

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In response to an ASX query about its 21% share price jump yesterday morning, OneMarket revealed it had ‘engaged in confidential discussions with a number of parties regarding potential corporate actions.’

‘Those discussions are not mature and there is no guarantee that those discussions will progress or will result in any corporate action,’ OneMarket said after the close of trade.

The Australian, 29 August, 2019

Would you buy a used share in that outfit?  What ‘action’ of a corporation is not ‘corporate’?