The Weekly Notebook – Climate clock is ticking

Demonstration outside the Katowice climate change conference

Climate clock is ticking away

Mort Rosenblum, aged 74, is a prolific American author, award-winning journalist, editor of the International Herald Tribune (1979-1981) and ex-bureau chief for Associated Press (AP) in Congo, Nigeria, Malaysia, Indonesia, Argentina and France.

He has furiously condemned those world political leaders who failed to take a stand against climate change at a UN conference in Katowice, Poland, in an article headlined: “Climate denial amounts to mass murder”.

Rosenblum, who later became a journalism professor, wrote: “Let’s be clear before it is too late. Any government leader or corporate executive who flouts irrefutable evidence of climate shifts is complicit in murdering the human race.

“Crocodiles and cockroaches will survive as temperatures rise, but humans will be among the first to go. Millions already besiege northern borders as crops fail and fishing nets come up empty. The poorest will go first, but the rich will follow.

“Back in 1981, the Associated Press gave me a sizeable budget and free rein to prowl the planet in search of underreported crises that matter. Most papers routinely spiked them.

“I asked Ben Bradlee [played by Tom Hanks in the Hollywood fantasia ‘Post’] at the Washington Post for advice on how to interest editors. ‘I’ll put environmental stories on the front page when water is up to knees in the news room,’ he replied only half joking.”

Mort Rosenblum

When 13 US federal agencies signed a report predicting a climate “calamity”, President Donald Trump tried to bury it and then, over this year’s Thanksgiving break, he gave his official response: “I don’t believe it.”

With TV coverage of the street riots in Paris diverting world attention, Rosenblum wrote: “Few noticed wise old David Attenborough speak gravely in Poland, ‘If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon’.”

He described the newly elected right-wing, CIA-backed President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro as a “godsend” to Trump. Since his much-disputed election Bolsonaro, a former army captain, has dismantled environmental regulations and described climate change as “a Marxist plot”.

Rosenblum named and shamed ExxonMobil and its predecessors for hiding reports written since 1977 that blamed fossil fuels for poisoning the planet.

The veteran reporter concluded his essay: “It comes down to this. At the rate we are going, we are stealing our children’s world. No leader elected or otherwise has a right to poison their air, burn their forests, destroy their croplands or empty their oceans.”

How important is Rosenblum’s article? He explained: “Sometimes it seems as I’ve banged out a trillion words over the last half century of news despatches, books and assorted screeds. None, I believe are more important than these.”

For what it’s worth, I’m 100% with Mort.

A Table of World Bushfires

  • In November in California, the worst fires in more than a century killed 88 people and destroyed 18,000 residential and commercial buildings. The total cost of damage was estimated to be worth $3.5 billion.
  • In July, fires along the coast near Athens killed 99 people, destroyed 3,000 homes and led to the evacuation of 4,000 homeless people.
  • During Europe’s heat-wave summer, there were wildfires in Italy, Croatia, Sweden and the UK.
  • In Portugal in June 2017 at least 66 people were killed and 45,000 hectares of farmlands and forests burnt out.
  • “Horrific” bushfires tore through NSW South Coast, Central Coast, Victoria’s border ranges and parts of Queensland between August and November 2018. One man was killed clearing a firebreak near his home at Emerald, Central Queensland.

Conclusion? Climate change is creating exceptionally incendiary conditions in coastal and inland Australia. No surprises there.

July 2018 fire at Kineta, near Athens

The extreme fire emergency is worsened by backward land management, over-stocking, industrial scale land clearing, a failure to implement water reticulation schemes, an anti-science and anti-progress mindset led by National Party MPs, particularly since the 1990s when they became rural Liberals.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s answer? He chaired a one-day meeting of all Premiers (COAG) in Adelaide this week which decided to establish a “national population management network” to restrict immigration and to allocate $30 million in drought relief to “charities” for next year’s long hot summer.

The final communiqué contained a paragraph giving nodding obedience to Washington’s anti-China policy: a standard practice in all communiqués since Labor’s Kevin Rudd became prime minister in 2007, an interim position on his way to become UN secretary-general in New York.

The “war on terrorism” featured prominently in the Adelaide communique, saying: “The use of drones has increased dramatically in recent years, bringing with it both benefits and risks to the economy and community. Overseas, terrorist groups have used drones, including to carry explosives and conduct surveillance. At home, drones have been used to invade people’s privacy, deliver contraband into detention facilities and endanger aircraft.

“To renew and strengthen Australia’s focus and the collaboration between all governments on surface transport security, leaders agreed to review and update the intergovernmental Agreement on Surface Transport Security. Australia’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies are among the best in the world. To remain so, they need access to the right tools to deter, detect and disrupt complex criminal activities and networks, while maintaining individual rights to privacy. To achieve this, leaders agreed to a new National Strategy to Fight Transnational, Serious and Organised Crime.” The Pentagon buzzwords will be familiar to anyone who has read US Embassy press releases.

Two days earlier, Paul Krugman, the multi-award winning New York Times columnist, castigated the Trump administration for rejecting an internationally-researched Climate Change report. “There’s a new axis of evil,” Krugman tweeted. “Russia, Saudi Arabia – and the United States.”

So, there we have it. Australia is “all the way with Donald Jay” and the “Axis of Evil”.

“Axis of Evil” was originally coined by President George W Bush in his 2002 State of the Union address to describe US enemies that funded terrorism and were developing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Among them were Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Cuba, Libya and Syria.

Feeling more secure, or less?

Why Australians need a “mother”

Many Australians are likely to refer to Britain as the “Mother Country”. Indeed, I heard a very senior presenter use the infantile expression on ABC Radio National only recently.

But very few will call the United States of America (USA) the “Mother Country”. Why is this?

The UK, USA and Australia are three very different countries but Australians have been tragically slow to recognise this fact and, more importantly, do anything about it.

Britain was chucked out of the United States during the American Revolutionary War (1775-1785), also known as the American War of Independence, led by George Washington. British forces were led by “Mad” King George III who inflamed the rebellion with his Proclamation of Rebellion issued in London in August 1775.

As a result of its humiliating defeat in North America, London clung to its major outpost in the Pacific, the much-mythologised Great South Land, with great tenacity, duplicity and mythology. At the centre of the colonial romance was the English monarchy that underpinned Rule Britannia.

After all, the entire continent was declared Crown Land in January 1788 by Governor Arthur Phillip when his convict fleet arrived at Sydney Cove and the Union Jack was raised.

Since then, Australia has steadily shed its enfeebling dependence on London but after World War Two transferred its security safety blanket to Washington. Australia gave up tugging its forelock in one direction, turned 180 degrees, and began tugging to another foreign power.

As former prime minister Tony Abbott told President Barack Obama in their first encounter in the White House: “Mr President, there may be bigger friends of the US; there may be richer friends of the US. I want you to know that there will never be a more reliable friend of the US than Australia.”

Canberra politicians from all major parties, military lobbyists, academics and journalists all refer to the ANZUS Treaty signed in 1951 as the document underpinning Australia’s “security”.

General Douglas Macarthur, left, and John Foster Dulles

However, historian and academic James Curran has let the cat out of the bag by remarking that the United States has a “very different” understanding of ANZUS from most Australians. Curran wrote: “In reality, it (ANZUS) obliges Washington to do very little at all.” He recalled the conversation between reactionary Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and equally unstable Pacific wartime commander-in-chief, General Douglas Macarthur.

Dulles wrote: “The treaty did not commit any nation to action in any particular part of the world” and therefore the United States could “discharge its obligation by action against the common enemy in any way in any area it sees fit”.

Is this a “security blank cheque” for Australia from Washington? No, it is the USA saying that its priority is safeguarding American interests. Why can’t Australia adopt a similar policy which gives first place to its own economic, cultural and peace strategy?

World’s fastest warplane is a dud

Pastor Scott Morrison beefed up his military rhetoric this week as he clung to minority office and prepared for a Federal Election.

Specially supplied television shots of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) were given to all TV channels. Morrison and Labor leader Bill Shorten were shown at the RAAF base at Williamtown admiring the warplane and its carefully edited acrobatics.

The F-35 arrives at Williamtown

In June 2002, former Prime Minister John Howard signed a deal to buy 100 of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF). Initially, it was to cost taxpayers $35 billion. This has since skyrocketed to $100 billion and the price is still rising.

The open-ended deal, signed by Howard in a Washington hotel room, added billions of dollars to Australia’s public debt for the next 30 years.

Every Prime Minister since Howard – Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison – has loyally stood by the Australia’s “biggest-ever” warplane contract while every Australian and overseas expert is left wondering why the contract hasn’t been scrapped or re-negotiated.

Meanwhile China and Russia have built their own fighter-bombers. They have advanced aerodynamics, greater manoeuvrability, extra power, long-haul flight capacity and additional computerised weaponry, including rockets, missiles and bombs.

Who secretly sold plans of the US warplanes to China and Russia? Americans, of course. Everything and everyone in “free market” America has a price.

The Ides of May

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s fragile survival in a Tory Party no-confidence motion by 200 votes to 117 had one positive outcome. Mrs May and her band of Tory loyalists have isolated the party’s Brexit hardliners: Home County xenophobes, shameless anti-refugee and anti-Moslem bigots.

Theresa May – still British PM

The political origins of May’s Conservative Party are in Benjamin Disraeli’s “One Nation” Tories in the late 19th century.  They include Whigs, Quakers, Protestant non-conformists and refugees from Lloyd George’s war-loving Liberal Party and its latter-day invention, the Liberal Democrats.

In Australian terms, Mrs May’s opponents can be likened to the far-right conservatives of the Liberal Party such as Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Peter Dutton, Craig Kelly, George Christensen and Matt Canavan.

As Tory MP Ed Vaizey said in London after the Commons vote: “If the Archangel Gabriel arrived tomorrow with a [Brexit] deal from heaven, the Brexiteers would still find something wrong with it.”

Tory Brexiteers like Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees Mogg and Sir Bill Cash have been flushed out of the shadows. Along with the self-important grandees of the 1922 Committee, they have been exposed as poisonous opportunists representing the worst features of post-Thatcherite England.

You can ignore the mainstream media “spin” that Mrs May was “humiliated” by the Commons vote and is on her last legs. This “fake news” was organised by the Brexiteers with military-like precision. No TV show, radio studio or newspaper commentator was spared from a Brexit MP offering to give an “exclusive” briefing – albeit reading from prepared “bullet points” supplied by expensive PR agencies.

While it is undoubtedly true that Mrs May has been hugely damaged, she is weaker today than before the Commons vote. She has lost the support of her own parliamentary party and leaders of the European Union (EU). She survives only because she survives. Sounds very much like Australian PM Scott Morrison.

Has anyone seen Jeremy?

Electors all over Britain are asking the simple question: “Why doesn’t Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn move a no-confidence motion in Prime Minister May?”

Corbyn is first and foremost a parliamentarian. He is a fervent believer in the old Stalinist mantras of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. They are “the peaceful parliamentary road to socialism”, “pressure Left MPs to support socialist policies” and, on international affairs, “peaceful coexistence”, “détente” and “world peace”.

Jeremy Corbyn – parliamentary politician

All Corbyn’s advisers are refugees from the same era and they keep Corbyn firmly committed to the parliamentary road.

Corbyn does not want to table a motion of no confidence in Mrs May because he believes he can’t win it (probably true) and he doesn’t want Mrs May’s blood on his hands. He wants the Tories to despatch Mrs May and is prepared to wait until they do it.

Meanwhile, Labour-supporting voters are left in the lurch. Leaderless, ignored, frustrated and increasingly angry, they become a perfect trawling ground for racists and Islamaphobes and some of Labour adherents may succumb to the false prophets of right-wing Toryism and “Little Englandism”.

End of empire was never going to be a pleasant, painless or easy prospect. The abysmal “leaders” of the Tories and Labour have just assured it will be chaotic and violent as well.

Unreported Story of the Week

“The UN General Assembly has voted in favour of a resolution calling an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. The vote was 156 in favour, six against and 12 abstentions. The United States, Israel, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, Nauru and Australia voted against the resolution.”

2 comments

  1. “End of empire …” Alex, you are referring to something that took place decades ago, in the last century, round about the time that the UK elected a Labour government that founded the NHS. I can see that those in power, including our so-called civil servants, might still be in denial and/or acting out some grandiose fantasy. But us proles on the whole have no such delusions.

  2. Great issue with which to end the year, albeit on mostly highly troubling notes.
    Corbyn’s ambivalence, invisibility, scepticism about Europe – not just the EU – worries me. As for that plane, what a lot of expensive militaristic nonsense !

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