Alex Mitchell’s Weekly Notebook – The significance of Senator Bernie Sanders

With very good reason, most of the coverage of the US presidential primaries is occupied by billionaire Donald Trump, a New York real estate huckster.
Regrettably, however, it has overshadowed the performance of Bernie Sanders, the Democrat senator from Vermont and self-described socialist.
The 74-year-old Sanders, born in Brooklyn in 1941, is being outpolled by frontrunner Hillary Clinton, the representative of the non-Republican section of Wall Street, Big Pharma, Hollywood, African-Americans from the South, tax dodgers and Big Government Washingtonians.
Despite the cash and influence of the Clintons, Sanders has succeeded in polling respectably in the primaries and, much more significantly, resurrecting the good name of socialism.
While TV networks and the mainstream media rarely use socialism in their reports, Democrat voters know better, and they are giving their support to “the Bern” and his repeated call for “a political revolution”.
Sanders has defeated Mrs Clinton to win primaries in New Hampshire, Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Vermont, Kansas, Nebraska, Maine and Michigan (which he carried with an emphatic 63% of the vote). Next Tuesday, March 15, his support will be crucially tested in Illinois, Ohio and Missouri, blue-collar states previously held by the Clinton dynasty and Barack Obama.
The Clinton machine has wrapped up victories in a dozen states and on today’s delegate count the former First Lady is a long way ahead of Sanders: 760 delegates (Clinton) to 546 (Sanders). Mrs Clinton roars further ahead when party chiefs allocate their so-called “super delegates”: 461 to Mrs Clinton but only 25 to Sanders.
None of this should cloud the overriding issue that Sanders and his supporters have laid socialist policies at the centre of their campaign and voters have responded.
The last candidate to propose a moderate socialist programme was Norman Thomas of the Socialist Party in 1948. He came fifth in the presidential race behind Democrat Harry S Truman with 139,569 votes.
For the record, Sanders has already polled more than that number in a handful of Democratic primaries.
After spending 50 years and billions of dollars subsidising bourgeois economists, columnists, academics and think tanks that support unfettered free market capitalism, socialism is part of the currency of political debate in the US.
That’s the real significance of “the Bern”.

Murdoch’s helpers

Rebekah Brooks, the acquitted phone hacker and CEO of Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, has signed a five-year commercial agreement with an offshore betting company called Playtech to supply The Sun with a bingo game.
Playtech is an Isle of Man-domiciled company with a chequered history. Its billionaire founder is Israeli Teddy Sagi who was convicted of bribery and securities fraud in 1996 and served nine months in jail.
Just before reaching a deal with News UK, Playtech’s attempt to buy an Irish online trading company was blocked by the Central Bank of Ireland.
Ms Brooks, 47, is one of Murdoch’s favourite executives. Another was
Michelle Guthrie who was recently appointed the next managing director of the ABC.
For more than a decade, Ms Guthrie was employed as “senior counsel” to Murdoch, a serial tax avoider, in various well-paid roles at BSkyB in the UK, Asian-based Star TV and Australia’s Foxtel.
Her first assignments will be 1) to merger the corporation with the advertising-accepting SBS, and 2) erect a pay wall around iView, the ABC’s highly successful “live” streaming service.
The result will be a weakened, commercialised ABC – the manic objective of Murdoch’s News empire. His corporate strategy enfeebled and humiliated the BBC in Britain, so now it’s full speed ahead in Australia. Murdoch, aka “Jerry and the Pacemaker”, constitutes a deadly danger to public broadcasting and Bill Shorten’s ALP has yet to offer any resistance.

Writers taking a stand

A pleasing number of outstanding Australian writers and poets have written an open letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton expressing their grief, alarm and shame over the cruel treatment of asylum seekers.
“Today we are united in protest against a most shameful period of Australia’s history,” they write in a letter published in the March edition of Australian Book Review No 379.
“We ask that you put an end to a system that not only refuses to grant protection to some of the world’s most vulnerable people, but inflicts harm and trauma on the already traumatised.
“Not only does our current system being shame to Australia, in its demonstration of brutal government power and disregard for human dignity, it brings shame on us as a nation.”
The signatories include Peter Carey, Brian Castro, Robyn Davidson, Anna Funder, Helen Garner, Tom Keneally, Michelle de Kretser, Amanda Lohrey, Drusilla Modjeska, John Tranter, Christos Tsiolkas, Geordie Williamson and many, many more.
Protest letters are much derided these days as being “a waste of time”. That’s because they can be readily despatched to filing cabinets or waste paper baskets by senior staff and not even read by the intended recipient.
Labor staffers are experts at this type of malpractice but the other side – I’m thinking P Credlin – seem have been worthy followers.

Question of timing

I knew my days at Fairfax were numbered when someone suggested at our weekly editorial news conference that one of our reporters should conduct an interview with Tottie Goldsmith.
There was silence for a few seconds before I spoke up: “Who is Tottie Goldsmith?”
Reactions around the table told their own story. Some colleagues were shaking their heads, others were sniggering and one blurted out: “Come off it, Alex, everybody knows Tottie Goldsmith.”
Really? I have no wish to caste any aspersions on Ms Goldsmith – and I truly wish her well wherever she is and whatever she’s doing – but I didn’t know then and I still don’t know who she is.
Equally, she has probably never heard of me – and why on earth should she?
The point is that most of the editorial executives knew Ms Goldsmith and thought she was worthy of a major interview while her name meant nothing to me. It was a personal turning point, a signal telling me that it was time to move on. I decided to hang up my crusader’s cape and leave newspapers after almost 50 years in the trenches of truth.
I was one of the very lucky ones: most of the others at that news conference have lost their newspaper jobs under an element of duress.
Meanwhile, Fairfax columnist Paul Sheehan has been temporarily suspended after writing a pack of lies about a horrifying “pack rape” by a gang of Moslem men which has been exposed as a figment of the imagination of the racist complainant and the ignorant columnist.
No such diplomacy was extended to outstanding columnists Richard Ackland and Mike Carlton whose only “crime” was to write brilliant pieces which drew big audiences but upset the powers-that-be.
Schadenfreude, German for deriving pleasure from someone else’s misfortunes, is a lamentable human trait usually to be avoided. But in the case of the appalling Sheehan I must confess I’m enjoying his shame and humiliation.

Spirit of the Kellys

So congratulations to Gino Kelly, the newly elected Irish MP from the People Before Profit Alliance at last month’s deadlocked election.
Before the election, the alliance was criticised for splitting the left vote but all is now forgiven. Labour was in coalition with the capitalist Fine Gael party before the election. As a result of the party’s treachery the number of Labour TDs shrivelled from 37 to seven.
Fine Gael is now holding secret talks to form a grand coalition.
On his way to the Dail (parliament), Kelly sent hearts soaring on the West Bank and Gaza by waving a Palestinian flag.

End piece

“On budget night (2015) Julie Bishop held a party in her ministerial suites. Standing on a crate in the corner, (Prime Minister Tony) Abbott gave a rousing speech. With his crotch at eye level, there was something distracting about his appearance: an open fly.”
Credlin & Co by Aaron Patrick, Black Inc 2016

One comment

  1. I am a member of a pro-Palestine group here in the Southern Highlands and I am happy that T.D Kelly carried a Palestinian flag to Dáil Éireann.
    Nevertheless, I hope he does not forget that a significant part of his own country is under foreign domination and a significant number of the people in that part of the country live lives that are governed by discrimination and oppression.
    Very good article, Alex.
    Tonight, I am the narrator at a 1916 Easter Rising commemorative concert at Wollongong Diggers (R.S.L.) Club.

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