1. Trump’s Syria strike puts the world on notice
Trump’s launch of 59 Tomahawk missiles to smash a Syrian airfield has put the world on notice. As Trump enters talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, suddenly it is clear that Trump is not going to be isolationist, and no-one can be sure how far he will go, in Syria, the South China Sea, North Korea, or anywhere else..
The biggest question is what comes next? There are Russian troops on the ground. The Syrians and Russians have anti-aircraft weapons capable of bringing American planes down, which have been flying freely to strike ISIS targets.
Obama no doubt erred in 2013 when he declared chemical weapons a red line and then did nothing when the line was crossed. Trump is not known as a person who thinks about the subsequent moves after the next. In this case he is stressing that it’s about chemical weapons, not an attack on the Assad Syrian regime as such.
Simon Jenkins says emotions are not a good basis for foreign policy, and Trump’s missiles will do nothing to resolve the war in Syria. Moreover, he says that the American drone attacks constitute terrorism which also kill civilians.
The Australian Greens have condemned such military adventurism from a clueless president:
- “This type of dangerous and impetuous action is exactly what the Greens have been concerned about since the election of Donald Trump. We are shackled to an ally which has no foresight, no strategy, and a deeply insecure and erratic President…”
According to this report a year ago there had already been 161 chemical attacks in Syria, killing almost 1500 people.
This article says Assad wants to win but his army is depleted and exhausted. He may not now use chemical weapons, but other means are still available.
“I am reading now that this strike is to make Assad not use chemical weapons any more,” said activist Abdulkafi al Hamdo.
The message from that, he said, was that the government could “go ahead with using barrel bombs, vacuum rockets, cluster bombs, phosphorus weapons and any kind, just not chemical weapons”.
2. Six degrees of Trump opposition
The Syrian attack might lift Trump’s approval rating, last seen at about 37 per cent. In the long run, though, politics is domestic, and Trump has managed to get just about everyone opposing him.
- The bureaucracy
- The courts
- Democrats in Congress
- The public
- The media
- Republicans in Congress.
The last-mentioned is perhaps the most troublesome. The Freedom Caucus within the Republicans are rampantly anti-establishment rather than anti-Trump, so there is no way of winning them over. In the end with his healthcare proposals Trump was talking about doing a deal with the Democrats rather than the Republicans. I wonder whether he will get anything at all done that needs to go through Congress.
3. Mark Latham calls for ‘whites’ and ‘straights’ to take back Australia
You are no doubt aware that Sky News sacked Mark Latham last week for some, shall we say, unkind remarks about a few personalities, who all happened to be women. He’s now taken his Outsiders show to Facebook, as Crikey says, a platform less watched than his previous gig at Sky, where you had to pay for the privilege.
It’s here, if you want to look. I think he’s flanked by Bettina Arndt and Miranda Devine.
Jacqueline Maley says his core brand is misogyny and recommends you don’t tune in.
Kate Kachor reckons Latham is calling for whites and straights to take back Australia.
I think we dodged a bullet when he ran for PM, and has deteriorated markedly since then. I never did buy his “Third Way’ hocus pocus.
4. The housing crisis
The cost of housing is one of the country’s leading economic problems. Having ruled out changes to negative gearing before the election, Malcolm Turnbull has promised to fix the problem in the budget, so should we all relax?
In the larger cities the price of dwellings has continually outperformed inflation. The CM today puts the five-year gain in Sydney at 55%, in Melbourne 30%, and in Brisbane and Adelaide around 20% – that’s dwellings, presumably including units.
The whole issue deserves a more detailed look but ABC Radio National’s Rear Vision program on the subject makes some interesting points.
Firstly, the most serious pressure point is the affordability of rentals for people on low incomes. Social housing provision, after vigorous expansion post WW2 has fallen into decay.
Secondly, in an alternative world, for example The Netherlands, government policy has had to reign in social housing provision. Apparently it was moving into the middle class market, competing with private enterprise in the mainstream. So now public housing is being restricted to those with low incomes.
Thirdly, towards the end, Peter Martin reckons the problem in our big cities is unsolvable. Certainly, he says, we need to eliminate or reduce negative gearing and capital gains, so that investors don’t dominate the market. However, the problem other than that is location rather than supply. People, if they can, will pay high prices so that they can have ready access to the city centre and avoid long commutes.