Weekly salon 13/1

1. Saudi teen feared for life while waiting on Australia refugee ruling

Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun had applied to come to Australia.

But she told SBS News the process was taking too long and she feared for her life because her father and brother were in Thailand.

“Yes, toooooo long,” she responded to SBS News, when asked about the length of time.

The UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, had hustled to determine her refugee status. Then the UNHCR:

    had raised concerns about Ms Qunun’s security the longer she remained in Bangkok – leading her to be taken to the Canadian embassy on Friday where her visa was processed within several hours.

That’s about how long as it takes the Australian government to approve an oper’s visa for one of their mates.

My understanding is that the refugee application system in Canada is normally handled at arms length from government and one of the criticisms has been that while it is fair it is slow. Seems when a case is urgent it can be speeded up.

Australia on the other hand made it clear that a young woman’s life being in danger was not a consideration at all.

2. Is Brexit about to blow?

Brexit is reaching a crunch point, so there is no shortage of articles in the British media:

Everyone seems to agree that the one outcome to be avoided is a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. However, no-one can suggest a strategy to avoid this outcome which the majority of parliamentarians will agree to. Cross-party alliances to form a Government of National Unity are a possibility, but political tribalism will probably ensure nothing like that happens. A ‘no-deal’ Brexit also requires the least effort, so prospects are not good.

The following article sees a possible way forward. It has the added advantage of banishing the Tories to the political wilderness for a couple of decades, remaking Britain into a decent social democracy along the lines of the ‘Nordic’ model by burying free market cruelty forever, bringing institutional democratic change to the UK. And remake the EU from within.

The underlying issue is Dani Rodrik’s “impossibility theorem” for the global economy that is like that. It says that democracy, national sovereignty and global economic integration are mutually incompatible: we can combine any two of the three, but never have all three simultaneously and in full. In terms of the Brexit trilemma this means only two of the following three are possible:

    a) Retain the benefits of economic integration that come via membership of the EU’s single market and customs union;

    b) Reclaim national sovereignty by returning powers to the British parliament that currently lie with the European institutions;

    c) Uphold democratic principles by ensuring that we have a say over all the laws we are subjected to.

The key fact, however, is that the UK is never going to be a large economic power in global terms.

    The reality is that an independent UK will be reduced to a “rule taker” that has to abide by decisions taken by the EU, China and the USA.

Britain’s best bet is to adopt a ‘remain and reform’ strategy. Germany has shown how EU rules and policies can be made to favour its interests, and how it can ignore them without penalty. Britain within the EU would be a major player economically.

Is Jeremy Corbyn smart enough to pull it off? Probably not, he’d certainly need luck.

3. Ocasio-Cortez shakes up politics

Antonio García Martínez in How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Shapes a New Political Reality:

    I’ll just say it: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a social media marketing genius, and very likely a harbinger of a new American political reality.

Last week there was a kerfuffle over a college-age AOC doing a dance routine, in which AOC gave as good as she got.

It was a spectacle all the way down, but in the media swirl AOC dropped a very concrete policy proposal – increase the top marginal income tax rate to 70 percent. Paul Krugman, economics Nobelist and New York Times columnist, was there in an instant supporting her, and a policy door opened.


    In a world awash in irony and preening phoniness, she possesses the unique and valuable currency of authenticity: She is who she ran as, she’ll be that same person in office, and it drives her political opponents crazy.

Ocasio-Cortez is not just remaking the way politics is done, she is extending and enlarging what is politically possible.

Now More than 600 environmental groups just backed Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. A letter sent to Congress laying out the 626 groups’ vision for a Green New Deal:

    emphasizes respecting indigenous rights and a transition away from fossil fuels that centers justice, including a “comprehensive economic plan to drive job growth and invest in a new green economy that is designed, built and governed by communities and workers.” A similar plan has been implemented in Spain to help coal workers, while the pitfalls of not engaging with the people most impacted by the transition away from fossil fuels are clear in France’s yellow vest protests.

An important point is France’s gas tax disaster shows we can’t save the earth by screwing over poor people.

Ocasio-Cortez understands this, but I’m not sure she goes as far as Naomi Klein, who in the challenge of climate change sees a choice between capitalism as we know it and civilisation as we know it.

Historian Rick Perlstein sees Ocasio-Cortez in a real sense as a throw-back to a braver Democratic Party of the past. He sees the Democratic Party as having been traumatised by the shock of Ronald Reagan. Certainly Ocasio-Cortez espouses a brand of politics that threatens the accommodation the Democratic Party has made with the capitalist system of modern America by seeking to disrupt privilege, inequality, marginalisation and exclusion.

4. Family matters

Coming up three months ago Mark fled Sydney and holed up with us here in Brisbane. Two generations separate us – I’m pre-baby boomer and he’s Generation X – but we are good friends and my wife and I have enjoyed conversation and watching TV etc.

This has crowded my screen time into a corner of the day where it has been difficult to sustain blogging.

On January 22 to 29 my daughter and granddaughter are coming to stay, so I’ll be comprehensively distracted.

Immediately after that the changeover begins. Mark has rented a studio apartment in Brisbane City (22sq m – the size of a decent motel room – ready to inhabit, with bed, kitchenette, electricity, water and wi-fi included, corner position, views to city Botanical Gardens, access to full kitchen, swimming pool etc) from 1 February and from the 7th at latest our young son is moving back in with the aim of buying his own digs. Might take a while.

I’m told an opinion has been expressed that there is a distinction to be made between blogging and living, but I assure you blogging is important to me, and I’m not finished. Just constrained, and, yes, families do matter.

18 thoughts on “Weekly salon 13/1”

  1. Thanks Brian

    Over in the Federal electorate of Indi, a meeting of about 200 electors in Benalla has chosen Helen Haines to be the “Voices 4 Indi” candidate if/when the redoubtable Cathy McGowan MHR retires or is defeated at an election.

    “The successor” is a nurse, midwife and rural health researcher from Wangaratta.

    The process took 6 hours of question/answer and discussion.

    Cathy McGowan will give a press conference tomorrow.

  2. I’d like to see AOC debate someone, on anything.
    I don’t think math or logic are her strongest suit.
    But I hope she continues.
    AOC for 2024 !!

  3. Will our government maintain its hard line against economic refugees when the poms suddenly realize what Brexit means to them.
    If the government agrees to relax its economic refugee policy policy for the poms is it going to distinguish which Poms it is going to allow in on the basis of colour and religion?
    Am I the only one who remembers how the Poms dumped the Commonwealth trade agreements so that they could join the EU?

  4. There’s such a thing as an “ economic refugee “ now ?
    Where is that written in International Law ?

  5. Jumpy: The government has been labelling some people economic refugees and rejecting their claim for refugee status on this basis.

    Suspect your ancestors like mine came to Aus because of better economic prospects.

  6. On Brexit, Joseph Harker in I’m a remainer. So why do I feel more and more sympathy for leave voters? does well on the political issues.

    He says only the southeast and London have recovered from the GFC. Economically the rest have been left behind, but don’t realise it’s not actually because of the EU, and Poles taking their job. If Britain leaves the Poles are likely to be replaced by Nigerians.

    So leaving would be a hard lesson, but learnt over a period of years.

    The politics now looks relatively clear. May’s Brexit deal will go down, but even if she gets it through the small Irish party DUP will vote against May in a no confidence motion, which Corbyn would then bring on no matter what. If that leads to an election, which it should, Labour would likely win.

    What Corbyn does then is not clear, but the EU would likely give him an extension to sort it out.

  7. AOC’s use of Twitter etc is not ground-breaking.

    Remember the fuss made about Obama’s ability to attract thousands of small donations through online appeals?

    And I suggest that DJ Trump has been the most successful political manipulator of free media the world has yet seen.

    Yes, he used his TV profile to launch into the Primaries, and probably some of his (allegedly gigantic) wealth, but after that an astounded Press and Twit feed and other electronic media gave him millions of $ of free publicity.

    Unprepared for public office, lacking learning or humility, undisciplined, apparently chaotic..
    But what a master of the media.

    AOC will need to be very clever to outfox him.

    Who knows? He might outFox her.

  8. Zoot, coming up to the Bicentenary a prominent graffiti graced the asphalt of the road to a scenic place in our town reading “Masturbation of a Nation”. A take on the ‘Celebration of a Nation’ slogan at the time, which is still applicable until such nation deals with its divisiveness best expressed by the treatment the First Nation people got and still get. This a graceless attitude, the bullying behaviour, the wilful ignorance and lack of reflection from the top to the bottom is a national disgrace.
    Today one of my Facebook ‘friends’ shared a meme posted by The Australian ANTI-Greens. It depicts a mob in traditional garb and the caption reads “It is not these Aussies leading the fight to change Australia Day.”while underneath is another image of Di Natale with a bunch of supporters waving the The Greens sign and the caption reads “It’s these Guys“.

    I made the following comment on my ‘friends’ post:

    Steve, what gets me is that those who so adamantly want to celebrate THEIR history know very little of what actually went on.
    An Indigenous national conference declared the 26 of January in 1938 as “Day of Mourning” way before the rest of the nation started to celebrate Australia Day consistently as a public holiday on that date in 1994.
    The petty squabbling, adding insult to injury, with our Indigenous people is one thing, but the greenie bashing gets a bit tedious when basic facts on the topic are either deliberately or more like conveniently ignored by cultural warriors.
    Have a good day 🙂

    And I offered him the this link

  9. Ootz, more food for thought in your link – many thanks.
    I fear the topics will still be current after I have shuffled off this mortal coil, although I would welcome a solution before then.

  10. I’m guessing there’ll be a more positive view of most Australians, by almost half the population, when Bill wins in a landslide this year.
    The other almost half will be disappointed but will still have a positive view of most Australians but slightly less for a month or two.
    Those that are consistently negatively view most Australians always make up those that can’t fit into the first two groups.

    Just a guess, not pointing fingers.

  11. Apparently the PM
    [fill in name here, check with Google first, but]
    wants Mr Warren Mundine to be the Liberal candidate for Gilmore.

    Mr Mundine was an ALP member for two decades but quit that party in 2012. For a while there, he was its Federal President.

    Mark Latham to stand for the ONP?
    When will the ALP stop supplying its senior exes to make up the numbers for other parties?


    Meanwhile, “The Shovel” says that Kelly O’Dwyer, Minister for Employment and Women, is resigning because it’s too difficult being a woman and employed at the same time.


  12. John Birmingham has just returned from communist Vietnam.
    It’s not Venezuela, but what he observed there may interest our resident anti-government evangelist.

    It’s a weird place, Vietnam. Still a one-party state of course, but bizarrely libertarian in its economics. Everybody is running wild and free to make a dollar. I didn’t see much evidence of any laws being enforced, alhough armed enforcers of the state are everywhere. In some ways it seemed people had much greater freedom. If you wanted to start a chicken strangling business, you just started strangling chickens on the footpath. Whether your venture lived or died depended entirely on the market demand for chicken murder. (But you better believe that if you did make a few bucks, the whole street would be overrun with competitors and feathery corpses within days).

  13. zoot,

    Have they freed up the internet in Vietnam yet?

    I heard that locals were monitored by the government peacekeepers there, perhaps not as heavily as in China, but still….

    Could Mr J use this blog in the DRV?

    Of course, what we really need to know is: does Vietnam buy Venezuelan oil???

  14. In breaking news on Fairfax online, the family of Mr Geoff Clark of Framlingham, Warranambool etc now faces a total of 1,170 charges relating to fraud, to be heard at the Warrnambool Magistrates Court on 5th April.

    Fairfax says the total amount allegedly taken is about $2 million.

    Mr Clark protests his innocence. He says, “These charges are being used to blacken me and prevent me representing Aboriginal people. “

  15. G’day Brian and all. Sorry. been somewhat busy – family, health, crumbling dwelling stuff.

    Still amused that the aristocrats, commissars and cadres of the EU still consider themselves completely blameless in this whole mess – wasn’t their inflexibility, arrogance and foolishness a major factor in making so many ordinary Brits completely cheesed off with the EU?
    No matter which way things go with Brexit, we in Australia are going to be affected adversely.

    The Day That Must Not Be Named:
    I shall not be getting an “OZ – Love It Or Leave It” tattoo. Nor will I deprive Australoid Australians of their title, Aborigines, in favour of that fashionable , neo-colonialist, land-restealer label, “indigenes”, a term that denies their presence in Australia since the beginning of time.
    As for the day itself, I intend passing it with a little gentle gardening and some quiet reflection;. Unless there are cyclone or bushfire warnings likely around here on That Day then the TV will be left off since I have no need at all to be entertained by the circus of show-offs, hatred-mongers, history-squeezers and blame-shifters.

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