The Weekly Notebook – Brexit and Trump change the world

How Brexit and Trump changed the world

Two unrelated events on either side of the Atlantic – Britain’s referendum vote to leave to European Union (Brexit) on June 23, 2016, and Donald Trump’s presidential election victory five months later on November 8 – have changed the face of global economic and politics.

Commentators have treated the two events as separate, unique and peculiar whereas they bear many similarities.

In Britain and the US the result of the respective votes have been attributed to interference by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Or as The Sun newspaper might say: “It woz Putin wot wunnit.”

Some have gone further and named other democracy thieves: Russian hackers, troll farms and algorithm nerds. Meanwhile the US House Intelligence Committee has pointed the finger at global IT firms such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Instagram.

I have discounted all of the above. While 1% of votes may have been influenced by external interference, I believe that the results in the UK and the US were authentic expressions of voter intentions. In other words, Brexit and Trump represented a mood within their respective electorates at the time [2016].

The questions are:

  • How many British voters were genuinely voting to end Britain’s membership of the EU and how many were voting against then Prime Minister David Cameron’s Tory Government and its arrogant, austerity-driven policies?
  • How many American voters were supporting the host of the mega-rating TV show, The Apprentice, in a calculated rejection of the Wall Street and Hollywood rich list preoccupations of the Clinton-Obama leadership of the Democrat Party and their contemptuous treatment of alternative candidate Bernie Sanders?
Protest against Brexit

When Mrs Theresa May replaced David Cameron as British Prime Minister in mid-2016 there was no vote by the Cabinet, the Tory Party or Parliament. It was a very English kind of coup organised behind closed doors by grandees of the Establishment’s own party. Other leadership contenders were destroyed one by one until only Mrs May was left standing.

She switched from being an avid Remainer to the Leave camp and pledged to take Britain out of the EU (Brexit) at the earliest possible time.

She rejected any suggestion of a General Election to legitimise her occupation of No 10 Downing Street, only to change her mind a few months later.

In charge of a commanding majority, she led the Tories into the election in June 2017 but ended up losing so many seats her government fell into minority. Henceforth she headed a fragile administration supported by the Paisleyite dregs of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

The biggest winner was Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. It won 30 seats and a swing of almost 10%. Voters showed that they wanted Labour in office and not the Tories.

Since then Mrs May has lost the support of her own parliamentary party, UK voters and the EU leaders in Brussels. The far right wing of the Tories are keeping her in office while forcing her to make concession after concession on leaving the EU, pro-military policies and supporting woolly-minded overseas ambitions.

What terrifies the Tories and their tax-evading supporters is a fresh General Election or a second referendum on Europe. The country’s mood has shifted dramatically since 2016. Having let off anti-Tory steam in the EU referendum, the country now wants to live as Europeans and not as “Little Englanders”.

Anti-Trump demonstration in Seattle

Meanwhile, over in the USA, the adoring fascination with Donald Trump has done its dash. His “base” comprises about 10 to 20% of voters. The other 80% think he should be charged, impeached, thrown out of office or just shut up.

His White House family and rabid loyalists keep telling him the “base” is still “huge” and that he needs to keep it “energised”.

The truth is that the red-neckers, white supremacists and gun-toting survivalists are a very small minority of the electorate and they have moved way beyond Trump. They are on neighbourhood and Mexican border patrols, they carry military-style automatic weapons, wear uniforms and regularly conduct target practice.

Both Mrs May and Mr Trump are wildly different politicians. They are yesterday’s politicians talking a language that few voters understand and most reject.

During the clusterf#ck which followed Brexit and Trump’s election, the UK and US governments went into a form of paralysis. Decisions weren’t taken, they were postponed or “reviewed” i.e. kicked into the long grass.

“Favourites” were promoted while ministers or advisers who had fallen out of favour (or been white-anted by leaks to the media) were sacked … after signing confidentiality agreements.

The economies of both countries fell deeper into debt. They over-borrowed and over-spent to buy social passivity. Now they’re drowning in debt with no capacity to pay the interest let alone the debt itself.

Caught in a rip, May and Trump are being swept beyond the flags. The rescue boats are immobilised; they can’t help either. Most people have turned their backs and gone back to the barbecue: they don’t care whether their so-called leaders sink or swim.

The biggest change during the May-Trump debacle has been the growth of what I call “migrant phobia”. Whether in Europe, America, the Middle East, Africa, Asia or the Pacific, the rising tide of climate change has brought a rising tide of refugee bashing. It is manna from heaven for the racist politicians and their fringe parties. They are spreading their poisonous propaganda and their influence. Mainstream politicians and editors are running scared.

No one is stating the obvious: the history of human civilisation is the history of mass migration. It has been going on for centuries.

There is no single race of humans that isn’t the sum total of many “races” – black, white, brown and yellow. The border-builders in America, Britain, Europe, Asia and Israel are nuts and have as much chance of stopping the mass movement of people as the English King Canute had in stopping the incoming tide.

I want to know who is going to clean up the political, economic and social mess they have left behind? I reckon 2019 is going to be a vintage year.

Leigh Sales gets Stoned

When a senior male politician is interviewed on camera by a senior male TV presenter, it’s a very unedifying spectacle reminiscent of a cockfight between two self-important roosters.

A set-piece interview between two high profile women, when both of them are on the make, is simply sad and tragic.

Yael Stone: on the make II
Leigh Sales: on the make

I was reminded of this the other night when ABC-TV’s Leigh Sales conducted a full 30-minute episode of 7.30 with mini-series actress Yael Stone. It was pre-recorded in New York last weekend.

Who paid for the flight? Who paid for the Big Apple accommodation? Did the ABC pick up the tab or someone else? We weren’t told.

The subject of the interview was Australia’s greatest living actor Geoffrey Rush, a man of unimpeachable goodness and tremendous talent.

The heavily edited programme was 30 minutes of scripted defamation of Geoffrey Rush. All I could do was stop myself from throwing up.

The Oscar-winning actor, an inspiration to a generation of stage, film and TV artists, had his career torn to shreds by these colossal egos – one trying to position herself at the top of the ABC and beyond, the other trying to build a new acting career in the US and Australia on the back of the MeToo movement. She reminded me of another TV starlet, Her Royal Highness Meghan Markle.

The primitive assumption of the programme was that Geoffrey Rush is an enemy of women and therefore of feminism. He isn’t.

The unstated contention of Ms Sales and Ms Stone was that if Geoffrey Rush could be torn to pieces and knocked off his pedestal, women will be better off and feminism will have scored a significant victory. This isn’t true either.

Geoffrey Rush: career destroyed

The sad truth is that Rush’s career is finished. Those responsible will have to live with their role in his very public destruction. I’m very confident that they will. The morally righteous don’t feel remorse or regret. Living in a world of moral certitudes, second thoughts are impermissible.

Billionaire Rupert Murdoch and the MeToo crowd will celebrate while Australian cultural life – not for the first time – will have lost one of its great figures.

These were among the obvious issues not raised by Ms Sales with Ms Stone. Nor was Ms Stone asked:

  • Have you ever spoken to the lawyers or any of their representatives engaged by Rupert Murdoch’s Sydney Telegraph in the defamation case brought by Geoffrey Rush?
  • Are you the unnamed witness who failed to have your evidence heard – which would have delayed the Geoffrey Rush case for 12 months – at the conclusion of the Federal Court trial?
  • Who organised the 30 interview with Leigh Sales? The ABC, you, your theatrical agents or somebody else?

For what it’s worth, my verdict on the Sales-Stone interview is this: I don’t believe either of them.

No one except a gossip columnist employed by Rupert Murdoch has claimed Mr Rush is a sexual predator. I don’t believe him either.

I’m thinking of starting a movement called: “I believe Geoffrey.”

Trump era movie

Peppermint, the latest blockbuster from Hollywood, is a cultural expression of the most dramatic time in contemporary feminist politics – the election of President Donald Trump in November 2016 and the depraved sexual revelations about film mogul Harvey Weinstein.

The blurb provided by the production company accurately describes the plot: “Riley North awakens from a coma after surviving a brutal attack that killed her husband and daughter.

“When the system shields the murderers from justice, Riley sets out to transform herself from citizen to urban guerrilla. Channeling frustration into motivation, the young widow spends years in hiding – honing her mind, body and spirit to become an unstoppable force.

“Eluding the underworld, the police and the FBI, Riley embarks on a deadly quest to deliver her own personal brand of punishment.”

In other words, Peppermint is a classic revenge movie; the only difference being the lone avenger is a female and not Charles Bronson.

Made on a budget of $25 million, it has taken almost $50 million during the pre-Christmas movie bonanza.

The film has been received rapturously by people from the hashtag community. For example, 90% of people using one major IT site posted “likes” after seeing the film (or perhaps after hearing about it: one is never sure).

Someone called Crystal wrote: “I loved it. I’d watch it again for sure!!”

Peppermint: box office hit

Another fan wrote: “In spite of having to close my eyes during the more graphically violent parts, I loved this movie! I loved that at the end of the day, Justice was served.

“Jennifer Gardner [who played Riley] reminded me of the female version of Rambo. She made things right within a corrupt system. Jennifer Gardner you rocked!”

Pierre Morel, the French-born movie director, is the schlockmeister responsible for Peppermint. Some of his other sex-murder-drugs-rock movies include The Transporter [2002], War [2007], Taken [2008], From Paris With Love [2010], The Gunman [2015] and Overdrive [2017].

David Stratton, a globally acclaimed critic and film historian, summed up Peppermint as a “dispiriting and ultra-violent piece of rubbish” and he concluded: “Peppermint is jaw-droppingly ugly, horrendously violent, implicitly racist and routinely handled. It represents perhaps the dregs of contemporary mainstream American cinema.”

With gun sales soaring in the US, particularly among young urban dwellers, this movie is unlikely to spread the Christmas spirit as it known elsewhere in the world.

Remembering Dick Cheney

Christian Bale (left) as VP Dick Cheney (right)

For my money, the best movie over the holiday period is Vice, a biopic on Vice President Dick Cheney, the evil monster behind President George W Bush, the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) hoax, the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and the wholesale larceny by US oil and war contractor, Halliburton.

Cheney is played by one of the great movie actors of all-time, Welsh-born Christian Bale, who blew the lid on Wall Street corruption with his film The Big Short in 2015.

Vice is directed by Adam McKay, the brilliant producer, scriptwriter, comedian, actor, Bernie Sanders supporter, self-acknowledged social democrat and political activist.

I’m giving Peppermint a #pass and watching Vice instead.

“Happy clappy” Gold Coast project

Pastor Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party of Australia is opening a major branch of its political and “happy clappy” Pentecostal franchise on Queensland’s Gold Coast.

Lord Mayor Tom Tate is fast-tracking approval through the Gold Coast Council with the support of right-wing Liberal Federal and State MPs.

Rupert Murdoch’s daily Gold Coast Bulletin is on board as well with a booster article beginning: “A prominent charismatic Christian organisation which boasts Justin Bieber as a member wants to build a mega-church at a Gold Coast retail centre.”

Just as every press release from the “Church of Scientology” used to begin with a mention of Tom Cruise or John Travolta as members, Morrison’s Pentecostalists use the name of Bieber, an androgynous pop singer who was baptized a Pentecostal pastor at the Hillsong centre in New York in 2014 after an unspecified “born-again” experience.

Bieber’s body is covered in religious tattoos, including a cross on his chest, a tiny cross under his eye, a “son of god” text on his abdomen accompanied by a large design featuring two angels, gothic arches, a skeleton and a serpent.

I would not be surprised to see pastor Bieber making an appearance in next year’s Federal Election campaign of his fellow pastor, Scott Morrison.

Hillsong’s Gold Coast HQ will be located at the 3,802sq.m. former Masters hardware emporium at Highland Park. The total site, which also includes a full equipped gymnasium and a distribution business, covers 34,120 sq.m. How long will they remain outside the ownership of Hillsong?

Hillsong plans seen by Gold Council officials show that the Pentecostalist Liberals are building a major piece of infrastructure to conduct political and community relations.

The Gold Coast Bulletin believes the new building will feature a “700-seat auditorium, a mezzanine level, meeting rooms, Sunday school teaching centres and administrative offices”.

Renovating the headquarters will cost tens of millions of dollars and will include the construction of teaching, learning, conference and catering facilities.

Can you imagine the howls from Gold Coasters if the Islamic faith, the Hindus, Sikhs or Buddhists planned an operational headquarters of this size? The screams would make international headlines!

A Liberal Party milch cow

As a registered religious entity, the Hillsong church is exempt from paying tax. However, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has calculated that if the Hillsong business group was required to pay tax, its payment to government revenue would be about $20 million to $30 million. (By comparison, the Australian branch of the Roman Catholic church would be liable for an annual tax payment of $100 million).

Local councillor Peter Young is a major booster for Hillsong’s mega-development. A member of the council’s transport, infrastructure, economy, planning, environment, water and waste committees, Young is a key supporter of Lord Mayor Tom Tate.

“It is not likely to impact on neighbouring residents or business,” Young soothingly said. “I am pleased the owner will have full tenancy.”

In his former life, Young was director of his own consulting company “providing award-winning specialist advice and services” to Federal and State governments and has been “focused on achieving complex export sales outcomes for Australian companies into China and South East Asia”.

The right-wing LNP is being driven out of Brisbane by Labor and progressive small “l” liberals in the Liberal Party. The Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast (where Peter Dutton clings to a Federal seat of Dickson) are seen as fertile recruitment grounds for far-right conservatives. The proposed mega-church on the Gold Coast is the first move in this strategy.

Liberal Party racism

The Liberal Party of Australia is a depraved organisation. Not only has it sabotaged progress, the arts and science for more than half a century, it also practises racism in a particularly pernicious way.

The plethora of anti-China headlines this week can be traced back to the Liberals. They would throw any community in multi-cultural Australia under a bus to score some votes.

“ICAC raids NSW Labor headquarters in Sussex Street” blared the front-page of the Sydney Morning Herald (Independent.Never).

NSW Labor HQ in Sussex St: raided by ICAC

The timing of the raid was exquisite; it came just as the national conference of the Labor Party in Adelaide was discussing its foreign policy objectives with a degree of factional unity and common sense. A coincidence?

It followed earlier headlines about an operational collision between China and Australian military forces in the South China Sea, and tariff disagreements.

There are other disturbing developments. Former Foreign Minister Bob Carr, China academics and journalists have all been interviewed by mysterious people in dark suits. It conjures up images of 1950s McCarthyism: “Have you or anyone you know ever been a supporter of the Communist Party of China? Have you ever knowingly or unknowingly accepted gifts, money or favours from any Chinese person living in Australia or the People’s Republic of China?”

It sounds like preparations for khaki elections by Scott Morrison and Gladys Berejiklian. China and its telco giant, Huawei, loom as the bogeymen while Chinese-Australians will be cast as the “enemy within”.

Morrison has handpicked another “khaki” Governor-General especially for the job. Between them, Morrison and General David Hurley can start hostilities against China without reference to Cabinet, Parliament or the public.

No wonder Washington, the Pentagon and John Howard’s epigones, including Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, are so happy with Morrison’s pick.

End-of-year Message

Many thanks for your support and encouragement during the year. Now it’s time for a break.

Let’s talk again in 2019. Stay strong, everybody!

One comment

  1. ALEX, In a world of poseurs, it was a joy to read your piece on Geoffrey Rush. He’s such a great actor & in every respect an admirable man. I’m with you. I believe Geoffrey. The ambitious poseurs are making a lot of noise. But the smoke will clear. Well said old pal. Love to the bride.

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