The War Against the Kleptocrats & the Oligarchs Starts Here! Now! Today!

I know this blog will probably be read by 2 men and a dog sitting by their computer, also that my Call to Arms will have all the effect on the political discourse of the world at large of a cry in the wilderness, however I decided to set my sights pretty high this time.

I'm as 'Mad as Hell, and I just can't take it any more!'

Now is the time, and Australia is the place, for the Libertarian Social Democrats, my new  crew, to enjoin in philosophical battle with the Kleptocrats & Oligarchs. The 'Fightback' has to begin somewhere, and so today I declare War! On the Capitalist thieves in the night of the Taxpayers' Dollar.

The thought crystallised in my mind recently when I had had enough of reading about the full frontal attacks on taxpayers' dollars and how they are being spent, speciously on the taxpayers' behalf, right around the Western World, by resurgent political parties of the Right, for and on behalf of their benefactors and supporters, from the Tories in Britain, who cunningly co-opted the Liberal Democrats from the Soft Left to use as their blind, to the Republicans in the US, and, of course, to the shills of Big Capital in Australia, the Coalition.

What is so unfair about the interrelationship between government and the economy that it warrants a wholesale revision of the system, you might ask? And, if you don't, you should be.  Well. The fact that those who are obviously not in real need of taxpayers' dollars, or concessions from the government, are getting them! Why?  Because they say that, as taxpayers, they deserve their money back in the form of some sort of 'Benefit' or other! Or, that their industry will not survive, or is 'Too Big to Fail', without taxpayer support, and so will go jobs. What a hypocritical argument. That's not how the taxation system is supposed to work. 'I Contribute, I Employ, Therefore I Am Entitled'.  Erm, no, actually.

Virtually since the time of the Post Depression/WW2 New Deal era, which ushered in the concept of the Welfare State, wherein tax collected by government from companies and individuals was redistributed as fairly as possible to those in need of support by the country in which they lived, such as the Disabled, the jobless, and to those causes which needed support in order to enhance the quality of life of the citizens, such as the Arts, R&D, and 'Start-Up' industries with the potential to grow the country's pie, people have agreed that that was a fair redistribution of our taxes.

However, those who have been successful, both in their personal life and in the Business world, have subsequently manouvered themselves into positions where they have determined who gets Taxpayers' dollars and why.  And they have used their accumulated wealth to hone their communication and persuasion skills.  In fact, for example, at about the time that FM and AM technology diverged so that our radio stations no longer had to play music and talk in about equal amounts, and thus could concentrate on one or the other, such that Talk Radio could become a propaganda tool in the hands of the unscrupulous, the gullible 'mob' have been led a merry dance by the Pied Pipers of the Plutocracy and the complicit shills who spruik for them.

A merry dance that has led to 'Welfare' being considered acceptable, and that is 'Welfare' which=Taxpayers' dollars, to be paid to 'Too Big To Fail' companies, and wealthy, by any reasonable measure, individuals. 

What has been sacrificed at the Alter of the Plutocrats to pay to keep them in both business and a style of living to which they have become accustomed, especially after the GFC?  The benefits from hard fought for Pension and Welfare schemes that had to be clawed, dollar for dollar, out of the greedy clutches of those same wealthy businessmen in our past, that then came cap in hand with their begging bowls to governments around the world when their financially-engineered money-making schemes collapsed in a heap and produced the GFC.

Up until that point, of course, they had been beavering away on the dual track of deconstructing the Welfare State of the postwar era and/or turning it to their advantage.  A process which continues apace especially in America, and which forms the template for the rest of the kleptocracy, where the mantra from the Kochroaches(the Billionaire Industrialist brothers, Charles and David Koch, and their front organisations, such as 'Americans for Prosperity', The Cato Institute, and The Heritage Foundation), wherein they espouse that Social Security MUST be privatised, an oxymoron if ever there was one as Social Security is supposed to be administered by an impartial bureauocracy absent a profit motive which Private companies are bound to consider; and that 'Medicare' must be 'dismantled' and handed to the Private Health companies.  Companies whose behaviour led to the disgraceful scenes we witnessed at the end of the Bush era, where supposedly 1st World citizens of the USA had to queue like 3rd World supplicants, once or twice a year, to have their medical and dental needs attended to by 'charitable organisations'.  Beggars for the kindness of others.  Others, I might add, who on the other 363 days of the year made a fortune off the Middle Class in America by charging them usurious amounts, out of proportion to the real cost of their services, for Health Insurance and Health Care.

It's just not right!

The rich are getting richer.  The Middle Class is getting hollowed out, forced to pay an ever-increasing amount of their wages to the kleptocrats to obtain a halfway decent standard of medical care and Education for themselves and their kids, or throw themselves upon the mercy of a Public system increasingly dysfunctional due to underfunding.  So their standard of living is inexorably worn down as they scramble to pay for it all, staying one step ahead of the political parties who wish to further erode their standard of living with Industrial Relations policies like WorkChoices(which reared its 'Dead, Buried & Cremated' but not quite dead yet, zombie-like carcass up from the grave this week via the Liberal MP, Jamie Briggs and former Howard government Minister for Industrial Relations, Peter Reith). Moreso in countries other than ours, where the project is further advanced. 

Thankfully as a result of the national soul-saving fact that Australians haven't yet been worn down to meekly accept the artificial scenario which has been constructed to advance the agenda of the self-interested Business Class, we are not as far along that 'grubby path'.

Below the Middle Class I can increasingly see forming a Servant/Service Class, or 'Working Poor', which bubbles along just above the mentally and physically infirm on the bottom. Unemployed and virtually unemployable.

So, in this period of time in the lead-up to the Australian Budget in May, and because I have heard murmerings that there are moves afoot to start shifting the balance of the Budget back in favour of those who genuinely deserve help and away from the so-called 'Middle Class Welfare' State which the Coalition prefers as a way of locking in votes and favouring their natural constituency, wherein the more money you make the more concessions and benefits you get from the Taxpayers' purse(such as Abbott's Paid Parental Leave Scheme), I thus wanted to make a few things clear.

The time has come for us to steel the government's spine, and lay it out in black and white that, 'We are as mad as Hell and we're not going to take it any more!'

We're not going to let these conniving bastards who represent a mere 0.5-1.0% of our population but >50% of its wealth, keep successfully appealing to the greed of 'the mob' whilst they stealthily put their hands in our pockets and take our hard-earned for themselves, while at one and the same time giving us back as little of THEIR financially-engineered wealth as possible. 

The fightback begins today and with the Budget in May.

Are you with me, or will you stay comfortably ensconced in front of your computer screens yelling mutely into the internet wilderness? We must start voicing our concerns so that we can get the message through that we believe this is a move worth making and which is worthy of a Labor government to do.

All I can say, finally, is that if the dregs of One Nation can influence one of the two main political parties in Australia as effectively as they have recently, then we can try and have the same effect on the other major political party.

Is it possible to make a political party which is supposed to represent the interests of all Australians right down to the least well-off, do more to redress the obvious imbalances which exist in the Welfare section of the Budget? Should there be a push, especially at the upcoming Tax Summit, for Personal Income Tax to be cut, but also for Welfare Benefits, Private Health and Private School subsidies, to be more strictly limited or eliminated, and be directed to go only to those people and institutions who really deserve government/Taxpayers support? That's my theory of Libertarian Social Democracy. True 'Small Government', but with a heart. The 'Bureaurocracy' and the size of government will truly be able to be slashed, but for the right reasons. That is,  the churn of Taxpayers' dollars will no longer require vast numbers of Public Servants to administer them.

What do you think?

The ugliness of political opportunism

While most politicians are political opportunists from time to time, as are some partisan journalists, some have made an art form of this form of political behaviour. This piece cites some examples and questions the place of opportunism in politics.

There are hundreds of examples of naked political opportunism from the past; this piece draws on recent examples.

First, take Tony Abbott’s comments about the NBN in the wake of the Queensland flood tragedy as expressed in an article in Business Spectator: Flood costs should drive NBN rethink: Abbott on January 7 that began: “The huge cost of responding to Queensland's flood crisis calls into question the wisdom of spending billions on a national broadband network (NBN), federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says.”  Here is my analysis of what was an interesting article that illustrated the multiple facets of political opportunism:

No doubt some would argue that Abbott is entitled to suggest that NBN money would be better spent helping flood restoration. In isolation, that would not be a reason for disgust. There are other reasons. First, as Hillbilly Skeleton pointed out at the time, he was playing on the raw emotions of those affected by the floods and of those who from afar empathized with them, when they were most vulnerable. At a time when everyone was distressed and wanting to help the flood victims and assist in restoring normality in the ravaged areas, the idea of diverting money from the NBN to flood restoration might have had superficial appeal to the unthinking. One could hear some saying – ‘that would be a better use of taxpayers’ money’. A time of high emotion is not the time to carry out complex discussions about such alternatives, or to jump to superficially plausible solutions. Abbott must have known this; if he didn’t, he has no right to be seeking prime ministership. But such considerations are irrelevant to him when an opportunity for wedge politics arises. To make such a suggestion shows once again that the NBN and all it will be able to do for our economy, for health and for education, is not valued by him. He seems unable to see its enormous potential; if he does and still seeks its ‘demolition’, again he is not fit for prime ministership.

Next, in order to reassure any doubters, he argued that: “…the scheme [the NBN] could be ‘perfectly well’ provided in most instances by private sector businesses…” He knows ‘perfectly well’ that is not so; the private sector has had a decade to provide fast broadband and it has not, nor will it, even if invited. The best we could expect would be cherry-picking the profitable parts and to hell with the rest, including most of rural Australia.

He then tried to advance his case by smearing the CEO of NBN Co. Mike Quigley, who was in the employ of Alcatel-Lucent at the time of a bribe scandal by saying: "Senior officials of the NBN were in charge at Alcatel when illegal bribes were paid" although the article itself stated: “Mike Quigley, head of NBN Co, the company responsible for rolling out the network, and his chief financial officer, Jean-Pascal Beaufret, were previously senior executives at Alcatel-Lucent, but played no part in the bribe investigation.” So there although was no association, Abbott still smeared these men with reckless abandon.

Finally, unable to resist any opportunity to smear the Government once again, he repeated his old mantra: “He said this was particularly the case given the government's ‘appalling record of mismanagement’ when it came to the stewardship of public money.”

So an opportunity for driving a wedge was exploited ruthlessly, and the wedge driven in with several well aimed blows.

Another recent example of opportunism, this time by journalists, occurred at the January 11 press conference about the flood crisis conducted by Julia Gillard in Canberra. Her focus was on the depth and tragic implications of this human and economic tragedy. Yet that did not stop a Canberra Press Gallery journalist (identity unknown) asking whether the cost of restoration after the flood would result in the Government revising its promise to restore the federal budget to surplus by 2012/13. No doubt the journalist was trawling for a gotcha statement had the PM said revision would now be necessary. The hoped-for headline ‘PM reneges on promise to bring budget into surplus’ was denied when she unequivocally said ‘no’. Yet he persisted with a variant of the question and got the same response. That she kept her cool and eschewed dealing out a rebuff is a tribute to her patience with such aggressive journalists. Another journalist later asked a question about the timing of the health reforms, implying they might not be able to occur as planned, possibly hoping too for a gotcha moment, and got the appropriate brief response that left the message that such a question was inappropriate on such a solemn occasion.

I was incensed by such insensitive and blatantly political questioning while many of our countrymen were lying dead in their inundated homes or cars, or drowned in flooded watercourses. It was surprising yet gratifying to hear talkback callers on ABC radio expressing similar annoyance. Several from Canberra called to express their solidarity with the people of Queensland, to apologize for the conduct of the Canberra Press Gallery journalists, and assure Queenslanders that the people of Canberra were not tarred with the same self-serving attitude as Canberra’s introspective journalists who seem to live in their own little inward-looking political bubble. It is heartening that the political opportunism of the journalists was so apparent to ABC listeners. Whether any of this filtered into the rarified atmosphere of editorial corridors in Canberra is unknown, but with the Twitter aficionados at large, it would be a pretty disconnected journalist that did not get the feedback.

On the Ashghebranious website, Ash drew attention to Tony Abbott’s utterances early in the flood crisis when Abbott said he would ensure that the Government lived up to his promises, something his supporters would no doubt applaud, in a piece titled Scrutinize.  

Ash said: “Okay I should be more specific. Mr. Abbott plans to scrutinise. He proposes that while a flood is happening and while people are in need and despair, he and the coalition will watch and make sure the government delivers help to the people. See. What I want to know is why he can’t roll up his sleeve, pitch a hand, and then scrutinise later.” We would all like to know.

The serious floods had hardly begun when Barnaby Joyce pontificated on the subject of dams, giving the impression that not enough had been built for flood mitigation, although there had been Coalition opposition to recently proposed dams.

Tony Abbott then appeared in the flooded areas, declared the floods a tragedy, and soon echoed Joyce with more talk about dams. It was not his intervention in the flood crisis, it was not his showing of concern for those affected by the floods that evoked criticism; it was his characteristically opportunistic approach. Had he said: “The Opposition is one with the Government in providing assistance and support for flood-ravaged communities”, he would have earned applause. Instead, with his comments about the need for Australia to overcome ‘its dam phobia’, and his thought bubble to form a Coalition committee headed by Andrew Robb to investigate the building of further dams, leading no doubt to another of his well-tried three-word slogans, such as ‘Build More Dams’, he opportunistically politicized the floods. Like all the other three-worders, it would sound plausible, indeed to the unthinking and uninformed it would seem an obvious solution; it would fit with the Coalition’s ‘Direct Action’ image that Abbott likes to portray, and would paint the Coalition and its ‘Action Man’ leader as on the ball, in contrast to his opponents whom he always portrays as not knowing what to do, and of dragging the chain.

His intervention suggested that Labor governments had got the issue of dams wrong, notwithstanding NLP opposition to recently proposed ones, and that Action Man could get it right, as usual. He knew full well that the existence of the Coalition committee would keep the matter in the public eye as long as he wanted, even if it concluded, as have most experts, that dam building is a complex issue, especially when the dams are somehow expected to store water for when it is needed, as they always have been, but able to catch flood water when that is what was needed. I suspect that the Coalition taskforce is more to give him an opportunity to spread misinformation and keep the blowtorch to the Government than it is about finding a solution to flood mitigation.

So if Abbott had stuck to showing solidarity with those affected by the floods we would have clapped our hands. If he had waited until the crisis was under control to voice his thoughts about the value of dams in flood mitigation, it would likely have been seen as a helpful addition to this vexed debate. It was his penchant for trying to opportunistically turn every event, no matter how devastating, no matter how contemporaneous, immediately to his political advantage, that was reprehensible.

If more examples of political opportunism were needed, this piece could have been many times longer. But these recent examples serve to illustrate its prevalence and to demonstrate its ugliness. It is a sad impediment to balanced dialogue about important national issues. Is there any remedy, or is this an incurable malady in our political system?

What do you think?

Leadership – what do the people want?

There is a gathering storm about Julia Gillard’s leadership. Pundits express learned opinions about the leadership she exhibits, and more stridently about what they believe she ought to. Some predict that she will never make the grade. Mungo MacCallum believes she is an example of the ‘Peter Principle’, elevated beyond her capabilities. So does retired columnist Alan Ramsay promoting his new book on ABC 774 Melbourne radio this week.

Nothing much has changed since I wrote: The enigma of leadership on 15 August of last year. It is worth re-reading.  

There was another piece on 12 August 2009: Brendan Nelson says leadership is everything - how does Malcolm Turnbull rate?   

Then there was What does Julia Gillard stand for? on 21 November and What does Tony Abbott stand for? on 7 December.  Both focused on leadership.

Still further back there was The media’s specifications for an Australian PM on 14 June that outlined some expectations. I won’t go over that ground again, but it’s as legitimate now as it was when it was written.

Today’s talk about Gillard seems different though. Although ‘vision’ is still mentioned, the focus now seems to be on her appearance, her way of speaking, her demeanour, her face to the world. David Williamson, cashing in on his reputation of Australia’s greatest playwright, seems to be the one who first used ‘wooden’ to describe Julia’s performance through the flood and cyclone crises. He expected her to be more animated, more theatrical (even if artificial), to have projected more empathy when making statements about them, notwithstanding the acknowledged difficulty of playing ‘second fiddle’ to Anna Bligh whose responsibility was to keep Queenslanders informed, a task she performed brilliantly and with feeling. It was never going to be possible for Gillard to match her, a fact most observers acknowledge. Yet she was demeaned for her performance by Tony Abbott and many journalists who quickly picked up on the ‘wooden’ epithet, and repeated it endlessly. In fact the first Q&A for this year devoted a large part of its discussion to this attribute, so much so it became boring with ‘wooden’ repeated over and again. It was the same on the first Insiders for 2011. Groupthink took hold and ‘wooden’ was the ‘word of the day’. Journalists use the word in almost every comment about Gillard’s demeanour.

So what is wrong? What do they expect?

It seems as if they expect more animation, more ‘sincerity’, less ‘political-speak’. Yet her role in the crises was not to explain what was going on, or to utter warnings, but what the federal Government was going to do to alleviate the distress – army support, grants for those bereft of possessions, promises of long term relief and rebuilding, mobilizing all the Government’s resources to tackle the emergency and its aftermath – not exactly a breath-taking role that invited lively animation. So how did they expect her to bring to that task the animation Bligh was so easily able to bring to hers? If they had taken a moment to think, not something many journalists do in this pacy media environment, they would have realized that this was not possible or even appropriate. As one commentator observed, Gillard was under pressure to make accurate statements about what the federal Government had committed itself to do, and so needed to watch every word lest a slip-up occur for which the media and the Opposition would pillory her relentlessly. Indeed many of Gillard’s public statements are in that category, and push her into cautious mode where every word is critical. Try being animated when trying to speak with legalistic precision.

Another criticism of Gillard has been her performance among victims of the disasters. She has not been properly attired, she has lacked empathy, and she has been stilted among those affected, so they say. All this of course is a matter of opinion. For my part, she has seemed to be sincere, helpful, willing to embrace the distressed, able to mix it with emergency personnel. I ask, what else did they expect? Did she do anything different to what Bligh did when she was out and about with the people? Take a look at the footage – don’t accept the perceptions of journalists with their inbuilt biases, afflicted by groupthink, looking for what they hope to see. When attire becomes the critical focus of media attention, what on earth has journalism come to?

Yet despite these criticisms, several commentators agree that her address to the NPC and her Australia Day speech were sound and well presented. They were important speeches, but what have we heard of them? Presumably, in the eyes of the media, they were not able to compensate for her ‘wooden’ ones. When you’re on to a good descriptor, stick to it and flog it to death!

On the first Insiders for the year, Dennis Atkins made a cogent point – that the political context in which Gillard’s speeches are now being made is that of a Government that hasn’t got the authority that most governments do, that she has to negotiate everything through the legislative process, and that as a result she is rather stilted and legalistic. Yet Atkins insisted that if her Government had a solid majority, most of her speeches would be seen as appropriate, even lauded. Context is always important, but how many journalists are even vaguely aware of this?

Lenore Taylor pointed out the difficulties John Howard had in his early days with his shoulder twitch and his eyebrows, elements of his presentations that our superficial media people pathetically thought were of great import. She felt Gillard would grow into her role, especially as she notched up legislative successes.

Then of course there is incessant talk about ‘the real Julia’. Show us ‘the real Julia’ the commentators chorus. Have they considered that ‘the real Julia’ has many parts? Sometimes serious and even legalistic when spelling out her program; sometimes animated when answering questions as she was on Four Corners last week where she performed well, sometimes joking with the interviewer; and assured, smiling, even animated in press conferences. Surely we all govern our behaviour to fit the occasion. Why not Gillard?

If you haven’t seen her condolence address at the commencement of Parliamentary sittings last week, please do so. You will see snippets on TV; the whole address shows ‘the real Julia’: comprehensive, sincere, earnest, articulate and emotional, yes emotional to the point of tears. Some will insist that this is the fake Julia; Williamson would likely say she was well rehearsed like any good play actor. Anyone with a modicum of perspicacity would see the very real Julia with her feelings laid bare for all to see.

Tony Abbott’s condolence speech, while workmanlike, while giving due acknowledgement to the Government’s response and Julia’s presence among the victims, could be classed by comparison as somewhat stilted, even ‘wooden’, like so many of his pronouncements. If you want to see a supremely wooden, and at times mute performance, take a look at his interview with Channel Seven’s Mark Riley over the ‘shit happens’ remark Abbott made on a visit to Afghanistan.

Look at Julia Gillard’s performance in the House last week, which even critics acknowledge was good. Look at her press conference last Friday to announce changes to health reform and you will see someone on the top of her game, across the detail, able to answer any question articulately and accurately. Not the wooden Julia that journalists love to lampoon. Of course she talks slowly, and has a broad Aussie accent, but that is Julia. For goodness sake, let’s get used to it and attend to what she says rather than how she says it.

How much longer will the ‘wooden’ slogan be used? When will the media become tired of it and seek another? I long for the day when they put this tiresome mantra back in its box and strike a more imaginative phrase. It’s boring, inaccurate, inappropriately applied, and serves only to demean and make this pejorative label stick harder, perhaps to the point where it can’t be removed. I suppose though that is what is intended.

So what do the people want? My guess is that they do not fully know. There are vague notions out there about what leaders ought to do, what they ought to look like, what they ought to say, how sincere they ought to look. But ask a hundred people and you will likely get a multitude of answers. So who conditions the people to a way of thinking? Largely it is the media, who through slogans, ten second grabs, poor research and superficial analyses regrettably lead the people up the garden path.

What do you think?

The Fox Fish Rots from the Head Down

Ever since the 'kindly' Commission Salesman bowled up to my front door and enthusiastically informed me that I was lucky enough to have Foxtel running down my street now(!), and for the 'Low Introductory Price' that he was offering me I could have access to all those shows that you'll never get on Free TV, like the Movie Channel, the Discovery Channel (lots o' cute, furry animals to look at, preserved as if in an ethereal aspic on the TV screen, for my guilt-sidelined viewing pleasure. Don't think about habitat destruction...Don't think about habitat destruction). And, of course, let’s not forget the Opium of the Masses, the Sports Channel. Note, however, he didn't mention, the Politics Channel, SkyTV, as I'm sure at Commission Sales School they are taught not to mention The War. The War on Progressive politics by the Arch Conservative Plutocrat, Rupert Murdoch and the media minions of Murdochistan, which has been coming at the unsuspecting masses since Cable TV came to this country, and the USA, and Britain (where, in his inexorable way he his aiming for total control over BSkyB). I. Have. Been. Suspicious.

Now, you may say I'm being overly alarmist and paranoid about the Murdoch agenda and the extent that he is prepared to go to to bring about his Conservative Caliphate.


Now, whilst it may not be as overt as in the USA, if we just take a look at how The Australian and SkyTV circled the wagons around Tony Abbott last week after his, so obvious it was embarrassing to watch (but, like a car crash in slow motion we did. Again. And again.), major brain explosion after Mark Riley had the effrontery to not follow the media script, we could see clearly that a pattern of behaviour by the Murdoch journos is in operation here in Australia, just as it is overseas, when it comes to doing the spade work to protect a favoured political son or daughter who has exposed their all too human frailties to the nation. A formula originally conceived in Australia, as it has been said that Australia was Murdoch's Petrie Dish that the behaviour of the rest of his media, for all intents and purposes, grew out of, and now feeds back into.

However, whilst I always suspected this, and thus told the 'nice' Foxtel Salesman, “Thanks, but No Thanks” I never felt confident enough to go public with my conspiracy theory because I never had the proof “That would convince the Old Bailey”, as Howard used to say, and, as an unreconstructed, old Lefty softy (sadly, a dying breed), I always gave those who reported politics from the other side of the political isle the benefit of the doubt that they were just reporting things from their heartfelt perspective, without any particular malice of forethought.

Boy, was I wrong!

The scales fell from my eyes last week when I read an account from a formerly, deeply-embedded Fox News Insider that you may wish to read. 

To call the majority of the journalists who work for News Corp 'unthinking, almost brainwashed acolytes', is not putting too fine a point on it. No wonder they are sent to America to go on 'Retreats' with the Grand Poobah of Fox News, Roger Ailes (Richard Nixon's former Press Secretary, which tells you everything you need to know about the guy), or, if you're lucky, or one of News Corp's Editors, you get to sit at the feet of greatness itself and be in the same room for an extended period of time with Mr Murdoch himself. Whereupon you are given the line and the length you should pitch your game at when you go back home to Australia.

Of course, it's denied. However, we now have the proof that I have craved to justify my suspicions from all those years ago when I denied permission for the man from Foxtel to hook me up with a direct line from Rupert into my house and my brain. I did so because I smelt a rat amongst all the cute and fluffy animals on the Discovery Channel. Now, 10 years later, it's good to know that my initial instincts were right.

Thus my local crusade to get as many of my friends as possible to give up their Foxtel habit as well. Unplug Rupert and put up a Firewall against him, and then keep spreading the word to as many people as possible. It's the hard slog of a Gallipoli-like campaign, but it's worth the effort before it's too late and he has a line into so many households and minds that resistance is futile.

So, in summary, this is what you need to know about how it is 'As Above' (in the US), and thus, 'So Below’ (Down Under in Australia):
- Fox News/SkyTV/News Ltd. is run as a partisan operation.
- Its primary goal is to prop up the Coalition/Republicans/Tories, and knock down the Labo(u)r Party/Democrats.
- It is their modus operandi to undermine the Gillard government, or any Labor State government that doesn't play ball with them.
- They're a propaganda outfit but they call themselves news media.
- We all know their media outlets lean Right, but, over time, they have become an open and active political player; sort of, one part character assassin and one-part propagandist, depending on whether the parties they favour are in power.
- The operation thrives on conflation and fabrication, exaggerations, falsehoods and misleading proselytising. Just look at and listen to Bolt, Akerman, Jones, Hadley, Steve Price, Howard Sattler, the list goes on, into newspapers and TV and Their ABC.

I mean you only have to go back a week to the Abbott Brain Snap to see how the operation worked. The Murdoch/Coalition machine seamlessly snapped into action when needed after the Abbott Brain Explosion occurred (raw footage here). 

Within the hour the ABC and other TV stations had been fed a Press Release from the Opposition Leader's office, which they dutifully and unquestioningly read out straight away on air. Overnight the scribes at The Australian went to work rewriting history. Abbott's virtual catatonia became a 'Dignified Silence'.

Subsequently, a distraction to the Abbott episode is created by the formation of an anti-Labor government story to run over the Abbott story. In this case it was the 'Julia Gillard's tears were confected' meme. This was meant to take the heat off Tony Abbott and direct people's agitation and rage back at Julia Gillard again. And, as today's Nielsen poll in the Fairfax papers proves, it is a strategy that works spectacularly well. The 'Sympathy Vote' has gone all Abbott's way.

To kick one of these campaigns off, a Hate E-mail appears to be the first cab off the disinformation rank, as the forces aligned against Progressive Social Democrat governments attempt to turn the ship of potential or actual positive public opinion around, and redirect gaze away from the fallibility and failings which have been on show from a Conservative politician, such as in the case of Tony Abbott's media faux pas of the past week. Thus we had the 'Julia Gillard's tears were a sham' line which came out as soon as possible after her Condolence Motion speech was made.

Next, the e-mail recipients, having got their lines, flood the accommodating radio station talkback lines, the ABC's website, Facebook and Twitter, and media website blogs, with their, ahem, 'considered opinion'.

The momentum is kept up with a Bolt or Akerman article in the newspapers and online. Throw in a few political cartoons to visually reinforce the point trying to be made disingenuously; send the best Coalition mouthpieces to Lateline, the 7.30 Report and ABC24 Breakfast, Radio National with Fran Kelly, ABC Local Radio around the land, and tie it up with a nice little bow on the weekend, with an 'Opinion Piece' by someone like Christopher Pearson or Greg Sheridan, close friends of the Opposition Leader, and, if you're lucky when an opinion poll is being taken, you will get the desired result. PR101 for Conservatives.

Finally, the weekend political shows on television pontificate on the matter, and never miss the opportunity to have a go at the government too, and reinforce the meme as a result of the strategic presence of one of the Murdoch message machine men on one panel or another.

Now, they may also mention a Conservative politician's travails, but they give equal weight to the entirely confected message campaign that has gone on in the previous few days. And rarely does a host of one of these panel programs, or one of the other panellists, attempt to deconstruct their often stridently put assertions. And, if they do, the Shock Journalist just interrupts their flow of point making by shouting over them and loudly disagreeing with them. Which is a big problem with these shows these days, and why many thoughtful people are turning away from them in search of rational debate wherever they can find it. This is a big problem which these shows ought to try to resolve if they are to maintain a sense of impartiality. However, as things stand at the present time, the over-arching Murdoch/Conservative paradigm is being pursued relentlessly and successfully through them.


So, never forget these wise words from the Fox News Insider:
“I don't think people understand it's an organisation that's built and functions by intimidation and bullying, and its goal is to prop up and support the Coalition/Republicans, and to knock down Labor/Democrats. People tend to think that the stuff that's on TV is real, especially under the guise of news. You'd think that people would wise up, but they don't.”

So, next time that nice man from Foxtel comes to your door, or buttonholes you at the Shopping Centre, say, “Thanks, but No Thanks.” And if you've already got it, treat SkyTV with the scepticism it deserves, or, even better, just bin it and put your money and time to a better and more enlightened use.

What do you think?

Question Time – Rumble in the Jungle Book

G’day Swordians!

Question Time in the House of Representatives was a bit demure this week, so both sides decided to come back for a bit of overtime and try to get one over on the other. However, the extra session was no sooner underway when Tony ‘King Louie’ Abbott and his troop of monkeys ensured it resembles the set of the animated movie, ‘The Jungle Book’.

Accompanying ‘King Louie’ Abbott, there is ‘Gorilla’ Joe Hockey; Julie ‘Owl Monkey’ Bishop; Christopher ‘Chatter Monkey’ Pyne; Kevin ‘Howler Monkey’ Andrews; Greg ‘The Gibbon’ Hunt; Scott ‘Mandril’ Morrison; Andrew ‘The Ape’ Robb; Bronny ‘Baboon’ Bishop; and Peter ‘Drill’ Dutton.

The Speaker, Harry ‘Bagheera’ Jenkins, is definitely not tolerating any monkey business. He has chucked the whole simian lot of them out. Their antics included such stunts as emitting high-pitched screeches every time a minister got up to speak; mooning their red arses at the government front bench; pinching Julia Gillard’s handbag and hiding it in Gorilla Joe’s great big black hole (or down the front of King Louie’s speedos); running over the benches, defecating thereupon, and heaving the steaming proceeds at the members opposite, shouting in unison, “SHIT HAPPENS!!!!”. But the last straw for Bagheera was them taking turns to swing on the Prime Minister’s ample earlobes. After this unpardonable travesty of parliamentary decorum, he told them to sling their hooks, whilst Jooles temporarily retired to the sick-bay to get a packet of band-aids for her sorely-tested dangly bits.

So, King Louie and his troop of simian silly-buggers are out in the corridor and don’t know what to do with themselves. Then, ambling slowly in their direction, carefully inspecting the portraits of former politicians hanging on the walls, is obviously a primary school student on an educational visit who seems to have become separated from his teacher and classmates.

King Louie: Hey, g’day kid! Where are you from?
Kid: Why, my name is Mogli and I’m originally from Sri Lanka...
[At this revelation, an eighty-second noggin-nodding pause ensues from King Louie. Eventually, King Louie’s nods get so violent, his neck does a hammy, and so he attempts to reassert some resemblance of coherence]
King Louie: Mogli? Sri Lanka? You’re not a reffo off one of those bloody leaky boats, are you?
Mogli: Why, I am actually...we fled the civil war there and the only way we could get here was by sea...
[Background chattering emanates from the simians. Derogatory epithets such as, “bloody reffos”, “queue jumpers”, “towel-heads”, “job stealers”, are spat at Mogli]
Mogli: In fact, my father was killed in the fighting and my mother and I now live in Queensland...She is a doctor and is at the moment treating the cyclone victims at Cairns Base Hospital...
[An embarrassed silence falls on the simians, broken eventually by further questioning of the lad by King Louie]
King Louie: Erm...right...So, kid, why are you here in Parliament House? This place must be as boring as visiting your grandma’s and your grandad has scoffed all the ice-cream just before you arrive...heh...heh...
Mogli: No, it’s not like that at all. You see, I want to be a politician when I grow up...I’m here to seek information and inspiration for my future vocation...I want to make a difference for the greater good of my adopted country and the world...I want to champion the cause of the downtrodden, the soar with the democratic walk with the wounded bring about peace and harmony with the
[Mogli goes on with his address, a speech that, if given by Barack Obama, would make the latter sound like Mr Gobbledegook sucking a gobstopper. King Louie is mesmerised (as is Julie ‘Owl Monkey’ Bishop, incidentally) and can hardly speak coherently as he replies, starry-eyed, to Mogli]

King Louie: Oh my god!!! I’m speechless!!! I’m lost for words...There’s nothing else for it but to sing my favourite song:

:- )
Now I'm the king of the flingers’ mob
Oh, the jungle VIP
We’re called that, cos we get flung out
Ev’ry time QT’s on TV
I wanna be a statesman, mancub
And stroll right into town
And be just like the other statesmen
I'm tired of monkeyin' around!
:- )
Oh, oo bee doo
I wanna be like you
I wanna walk like you
Talk like you, too
Time to renew
An ape like me
Can learn to be gospel true
:- )
Now don't try to kid me, mancub
I’ll make a deal with you
What I desire is heaps of power
To make my dreams come true
If you get elected, mancub
Pull me outa my blues
Get the Indos to come alongside with me
And I’ll make you a minister too
:- )
I wanna be like you
I wanna talk like you
Walk like you, too
‘Tis gospel true
Someone like me
Can learn to be
Like someone like me
Can learn to be
Like someone like you
Can learn to be
Like someone like me!
:- )

[After the simians settle down, Gorilla Joe pipes up]

Joe: Hey kid, I see you’ve got a nice heavy lunchbox there...anything nice inside – cos I’m starving!
[Mogli opens up his lunchbox to reveal some food items that are, subsequent to the damage caused in Queensland by Cyclone Yasi, as precious as gold-dust – a bunch of bananas!]
Mogli: Yes, as you can see, I’ve got some bananas – they are just about the last ones to be picked before the cyclone hit...and some of my classmates lost everything in the disaster and can’t even afford to bring lunch with them...So I’ll go and find them to share my bananas...
[At the sight of bananas, the simians, Pavlov-monkey-style, go berserk. Led by King Louie, who has suddenly lost his new-found humanitarian gravitas, they snatch the fruit from Mogli’s lunchbox and barnstorm up the corridor fighting to the death over every tiny morsel. As the racket gradually diminishes into the background, a funereal stillness envelopes the place and Mogli sits down, overwhelmed with sadness at the crass behaviour he has just witnessed. Then, he is tapped on the shoulder by a hand-bag-carrying lady with long earlobes that are covered in bandaids]
Jooles: What’s the matter, little tacker – lost your school-mates?
[Mogli recounts the terrible story of the simian looters scoffing his bananas]
Jooles: Look, mate, don’t worry...cos in this big handbag, I’ve got a great big bunch of bananas that I bought at the Parliamentary canteen and you can have the lot for yourself and your mates...
Mogli: Wow! You are so kind, ma’am...they must have cost you a fortune – with the scarcity of bananas now after the cyclone...
Jooles: Nah, mate...the money didn’t come out of my pocket...That’s the advantage of being Prime Minister – you get to put on great big new tax levies to pay for things...heh...heh...
Mogli: Just like the other side did on about six separate occasions?
Jooles: Very good, little mate...You might only be eight years of age, but I think I might have a pre-selection for you at the next election...You would be more than a fair match for Wyatt Roy in Longman...two can play at that baby-faced game...heh...heh...

Questions for further reflection:

- Should the ringleaders of rowdy kindergarten classes view Question Time, so that they can really see what playing up looks like?

- When Joe Hockey asks a stupid question of the government is it called a Dory n’ Chipszer?

- Should the Speaker be issued with a taser and a bonus system every time he hits Christopher Pyne in the nuts with it?

- Whenever a member is ejected, should the speaker have the authority to substantially deduct from their pay?

- Should a Member only get the ‘nod from the Speaker’ during Question Time if they are able to do a perfect demonstration of Tones’ metronome dome movement?

Let us know what you think.

Abbott in the Toilet: Shit Happens, Tony

Katharine Murphy wrote in The Age on Thursday in an article titled Foul Day At The Office For Abbott:  
"Getting stuck on a rhetorical stumble does us no good when there's serious criticisms to be made of opposition tactics.

“Tony Abbott is serially scatological. It's a problem. Professional help for this affliction can no doubt be sought. Nicola Roxon copped a stray ‘bullshit’ during an election debate, Julia Gillard at one point sported a ‘shit-eating grin’ and now ‘shit happens’ in Afghanistan. It's time for Tony to pop 20¢ in the swear jar and part company with the merde."

Murphy goes on to lament:  

"If political journalists keep playing ‘gotcha’ - crucifying our elected representatives every time they appear before us in three dimensions - we will lead ourselves inexorably back to the vacuum of the past 12 months, and I for one do not want to go there. We can't have it both ways - complain vociferously about weasel words and the spin doctors' capture of politics, and then lynch our elected representatives like a wild-eyed mob every time they stray from the script."

And I couldn't agree with her more.

Abbott thinks it's tough to use the word ‘shit’. It was probably the most he could get away with at Riverview without a belting from Father O'Reilly. So it's stuck. He uses it against women, against his political opponents and now he's used it to describe the circumstances surrounding the death of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan.

Oh, yes, it's how the soldier boys all talk, there's no doubt about that. The talkback shocks and the mindless herd of haters are right about that.

But is it how the Alternative Prime Minister should talk when discussing a tragedy at arms with the very people he had been accusing of negligence just a day or so before?

I also agree with Murphy that the ‘gotcha!’ has become so entrenched in our political discourse that it stands a good chance of ruining it for good. She describes how Julia Gillard has been hounded by the media:  
"... and politics isn't fair - ask Julia Gillard, who has been kicked from pillar to post for having a sub-optimal boyfriend, bogan hair, no fruit in the bowl, colossal ear-lobes, robotic delivery and no progeny, and then flogged mercilessly all summer for not emoting enough." More...

Poisoning the well of our good nature

Julia Gillard's earlobes, Tony Abbott's budgie-smugglers.
Is discussion about politicians' appearance getting too personal?
• Yes, it's irrelevant 81.83% (5440 votes)
• No, it's fair game 18.17% (1208 votes)
Total votes: 6648

It was about the time that this poll came out, beside the now infamous story that accompanied it, which was written by Kate Legge and which featured prominently on the front page of The Australian in the run-up to the 2010 Federal election, just as Julia Gillard was attempting to get traction in the campaign and assume more political gravitas after having deposed Kevin Rudd from the top job of Prime Minister, that the thought occurred to me that this type of tactic, by a crusading newspaper and its editor, who were obviously rooting for the other side in the political contest, was the most extreme manifestation up until that day of a journalistic device which has been employed more and more, and to greater and more devastating effect lately by the Murdoch media mainly, and then copied by others, around the world. That is, in this visually-charged and clogged era in politics, editors and publishers have discovered a new way to 'Poison the Well' of our political discourse, by employing a new paradigm of political character assassination and degradation that focuses, almost literally in a photographic sense, on the physical attributes of politicians, and then casts aspersions about their character as a function of, and around that. More...

The Right to be Angry

Have you noticed how much anger there is in the community? Listen to talkback radio and hear the anger there. If you have the stomach to listen to shock jocks like Alan Jones you will hear plenty there. There is road rage and a level of anger and assaults in our city centres, often alcohol-fuelled, which is unacceptable in a civilized society.

Recently, one of our regular bloggers on The Political Sword, NormanK, wrote a comment about ‘The Right to be Angry’.

He argued it was “…the theme of the current Abbott-led Opposition and many neo-cons around the world. Whilst it is not quite a three-word slogan, their promise to the electorate seems to be:
Day after day, in every way, we will reaffirm your RIGHT TO BE ANGRY.
The Right to be Angry over electricity prices.
The Right to be Angry over asylum seekers taking your jobs and living high on the hog.
The Right to be Angry over government debt, wasteful spending, water management, welfare cheats, public-purse-exploiting politicians, military tribunals, flood waters, food prices, petrol prices, share prices, bank profits, and the list goes on.

“In fact we have Abbott & Co's blessing to be angry about anything we don't like or don't understand. It is our Right. 
And nothing feeds a good bout of anger like a healthy dose of fear - a stock-in-trade of regressives.”

That struck a respondent chord. The more I reflected on it, the more it seemed to portray the approach of Tony Abbott and the Coalition and their fellow travellers in the MSM. More...

The media needs to pull up its socks in 2011

If it doesn’t, it will become increasingly irrelevant to thoughtful people, and will serve only to provide flimflam for the unthinking, the disinterested, the feckless. In case some of you are groaning, ‘not hammering the media again’, my response is ‘yes, yet again’, for unless those of us in the Fifth Estate continue our quest for competent reporting, the poor standard we see much of the time will continue to deprive the electorate of relevant information and what it needs to know to make decisions at election time.

The media in this country fits into the ubiquitous bell shaped curve with outliers, good and bad, but the majority centered round the average. At the quality end we find fine journalists who comment competently on politics and economics such as George Megalogenis of The Australian, Laura Tingle of The Australian Financial Review, and Peter Martin of Fairfax media. At the appalling end of the spectrum we find Piers Akerman of The Daily Telegraph, Andrew Bolt of the Herald Sun, and Terry McCrann of the News Limited stable. The bulk of journalists are scattered around the average. Generally they do a very ordinary job, occasionally surprising us, but generally disappointing those who look for completeness and accuracy in the reporting of significant issues, and well-reasoned opinions. More...