Alex Mitchell’s Weekly Notebook

Election secret: Don’t mention capitalism’s storm clouds … Malcolm Turnbull swings from banker to wanker … Little Englanders praise Abbott and turn against Europe … Israel promotes bouncer to Defence Minister … Rupert Murdoch strikes again …

Capitalism is the new dirty word

During Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 US presidential race, his
principal strategist James Carville coined the phrase, “The economy, stupid”.
It subsequently morphed into “It’s the economy, stupid” and was claimed by Clinton himself.
That was almost 25 years ago. The quotation deserves to be updated to suit the needs of today.
We should now be saying, “It’s capitalism, stupid,” since there isn’t a single social, economic or environmental issue which isn’t suffering under the savagery of corporate greed, profit-gouging and over-exploitation.
Needless to say, Australian voters aren’t hearing a word about the capitalist system’s menacing storm clouds in the current election.
When Malcolm Turnbull toppled Tony Abbott nine months ago voters thought a banker was now in charge. However, they made a misjudgement – he’s a wanker.
The former Goldman Sachs operative knows the implicit dangers in the global economic system but he’s saying nothing which might alarm the voters.
Instead, the major parties are serving up the baloney of Australian exceptionalism – “Australia is abundantly rich in primary produce and mining resources, so she’ll be right, mate, we’ll pull through”.
As a result, the campaign is being waged as if Australia was living in the 1950s or 60s when there was full employment, low interest, a strong currency, a healthy share market, affordable housing and lots of disposal income.

Massaging the message

When economic growth statistics were published this week, the ABC boomed: “Australia’s economy grows at fastest pace in four years.”
Yahoo7 News said: “Australia’s economy powers ahead on exports.”
CommSec chief economist Craig James hit the airwaves declaring: “It is hard to argue with a mountain of evidence. Exports, tourist arrivals, home prices, building approvals and car sales are at record highs.”
But overseas voices are saying something quite different. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the pin-up boy among world economists, told last month’s G7 summit in Japan that the global economic outlook is as grim now as it was after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.
“The G7 shares a strong sense of crisis about the global outlook. The most worrisome risk is a contraction of the global economy led by a slowdown in emerging economies. There is a risk of the global economy falling into crisis if appropriate policy responses are not made.”
Abe’s doom-laden advice was ignored by the summiteers and policy responses were shelved.
Earlier this year Lord Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England from 2003 to 2013, had some arresting advice too. “Another crisis is certain, sooner rather than later. It is the young today who will suffer from the next crisis. And without reform the economic and human costs of that crisis will be bigger than last time. (The End of Alchemy – Money, Banking and the Future of the Global Economy by Mervyn King, Little Brown 2016).
Yet in Australia the political and business leaders are whistling in the dark, pretending that the economy is agile, innovative, prospering and bubbling along nicely, thank you, while Glenn Stevens, aka “The Great Mumbler” who has just departed his $1m-a-year job as governor of the Reserve Bank, thinks everything is just hunky dory.
Watch for the backflips over the next year as economic reality sets in!

Britain self-destructs

The campaign to take Britain out of the European Union (EU) at the June 23 referendum is gathering strength, fuelled by a resurgence in anti-immigrant xenophobia.
Brexit promoters from the far right of the Tory Party and the ultra-nationalist UK Independence Party (UKIP) have introduced an anti-immigrant policy based, they say, on the one introduced in Australia by prime minister John Howard and inhumanly enforced by prime minister Tony Abbott.
Leading Brexit identity, Boris Johnson, has studied the Australian “points” system which erects a bureaucratic barrier in front of refugees and legalises arbitrary exclusion.
No one believes that Johnson is anti-European. His mission is to defeat Prime Minister David Cameron in the referendum, force his resignation and take his place at No 10 Downing Street.
He has “borrowed” the shamelessly discriminatory Australian Immigration Department protocols and introduced them into the anti-EU debate.
On 3 September 2015, The New York Times editorial board published a leader, “Australia’s Brutal Treatment of Migrants”, condemning Coalition policy. The board wrote:
“Some European officials may be tempted to adopt the hard-line approach Australia has used to stem a similar tide of immigrants. “That would be unconscionable.
“Prime Minister Tony Abbott has overseen a ruthlessly effective effort to stop boats packed with migrants, many of them refugees, from reaching Australia’s shores. His policies have been inhumane, of dubious legality and strikingly at odds with the country’s tradition of welcoming people fleeing persecution and war.
“‘The Australian model may seem attractive to politicians,’ said Leonard Doyle, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration. ‘Politicians love fences, but what fences do is create a market for smugglers and major humanitarian problems.’
“The world’s war zones are all but certain to continue to churn out an extraordinary number of refugees and economic migrants in the years ahead. Those people will understandably head to the most prosperous nations, hoping to rebuild their lives.
“It is inexcusable that some find themselves today in situations that are more hopeless and degrading than the ones that prompted them to flee.”

Israel’s War Minister

There would be no place for Avigdor Lieberman in any civilised government around the world. A gold-plated pariah, he would either be in jail, on parole, on trial or publicly shunned.
In the Zionist state of Israel, however, the leader of the far right Yisrael Beitanu (Israel is Our Home) pro-settler party is a hero and celebrity. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just elevated Lieberman to Defence Minister, the second most important post in the ruling Koalition’s Krazy Kabinet.
Lieberman has flimsy defence experience, mainly confined to his earlier career as a bouncer at a Jewish bar in Jerusalem.
His record speaks for itself: he wants Israel to retake Gaza and remove its Arab population; opposes any peace solution with the Palestinians; he’s been dogged by corruption allegations for decades; threatened to bomb Egypt’s Aswan Dam on the Nile River; advocated the beheading of Arabs who are “traitors” to Israel; and, when named Defence Minister, vowed to kill Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, within 48 hours if he did not return the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed during the blitzkrieg attack on Gaza in 2014. (The final threat hasn’t eventuated … yet).
Commenting on Lieberman’s Cabinet appointment, Haaretz columnist Amir Oren wrote: “It’s a black day for Israel, a day on which flags should fly at half-mast on all Israel Defence Forces bases” while former prime minister Ehud Barak, 1999-2001, a former Chief of Defence Staff, said the selection sowed “the seeds of fascism”.
Meanwhile, in the final lap of the Democratic Party primaries, Hillary Clinton again affirmed her unconditional support for the Zionist apartheid state. If elected US president she promised to take the relationship with Israel “to the next level”.
What more can Washington’s military-industrial complex do for its gunship state in the Middle East? The mind boggles.

The Crying Game

Grief is a harrowing and singularly personal emotion so I try to avoid it. This week it was difficult to avert when the media gushed news that the remains of 33 soldiers from the Vietnam war were flown to Australia for reburial.
It was a tawdry mid-election PR exercise drummed up by the defence lobby but because it brought relief to close relatives “I’ll keep my peace”.
However, the journalists who trotted out the mythology of anti-Vietnam protesters attacking servicemen when they returned home can’t go unchallenged.
Canberra academic Mark Dapin wrote last year: “Although there were occasionally very small protests at battalion welcome-home parades and send-offs, these events were not generally the focus for confrontation.” (The Nashos’ War by Mark Dapin. Viking 2015).
In his forensically research book Dapin wrote: “Like so much else that happened in the closing years of the war, the march (in Adelaide) is remembered far differently to the rather comprehensive way it was reported – and photographed – at the time. Some soldiers, showered with rice by well-wishers, recalled instead being pelted with vegetables by demonstrators. The silence of the protesters became a cacophony of abuse.”
An official Department of Veterans’ Affairs publication quoted an officer known simply as “Mike” that when he came home in January 1970: “The relief turned to anger. We were pelted with tomatoes and spat on.” It simply didn’t happen!
No photographs of airport anti-war demonstrations appeared in any Australian newspaper during the Coalition commitment; that’s because there weren’t any.
There were 16 successful “welcome home” parades between 1966 and 1971 and the Sydney march in March 1970 was cheered by tens of thousands of well-wishers.
The myths started to emerge after 1982 when the RSL began an intense campaign for pensions, decorations, memorials and recruitment.
During the US-led invasion two million Vietnamese, civilian and military, were killed. When bodies were found they were doused in gasoline and burnt where they lay.

Murdoch strikes again

Rupert Murdoch’s London daily Sun, his favourite media asset, went feral when the Supreme Court upheld an injunction to stop publication of the names of celebrities “PJS” and “YMA” associated with a threesome sex romp.
Wrapping themselves in the banner of “press freedom” to hide their quest for circulation and sniggering prurience, The Sun’s editors ridiculed the court’s protection of the privacy of the adults involved and the welfare of their children.
“Outrage at gagging verdict – The day free speech drowned in a paddling pool of olive oil”, screamed the front-page while the editorial thundered that the judges were “out-of-date old duffers”.
For the record, the average age of the five Supreme Court judges is 67.5 years. The Sun’s owner is a four-times married debauchee aged 85.