Weekly salon 22/9

1. From the sublime to the ridiculous

I loved learning German at university through it’s poets and other great writers. One reason I never mastered colloquial German was it’s practice of borrowing foreign words and then rendering them in a way that just isn’t true to the Sprachgefühl (intuitive feeling for the natural idiom of a language. So we have:

Borrowed from Mark’s Facebook, not sure where he got it from.

2. Inspecting the entrails

Yes, Labor is still going through a process of discovering how it lost the last election. The truth will never be fully aired, but with a bit of a view from the inside, it’s difficult to see how Labor could have ever won it. To put it another way, if you deliberately set out to sabotage Labor’s campaign from within with dictatorial internal powers, you could never have succeeded half so well.

Looking on the positive side, there is plenty of room for improvement, and internally there is good-will based on frankness and self-reflection, so we’ll see how we go.

Murray Goot has an excellent piece Did late deciders confound the polls?

He tests every theory on what happened in relation to the polls and finds them all unsupported. We just don’t know, and probably never will know.

We do know that now some poll respondents will be gaming the polls. We also know that if you ask people why they did what they did, whether and when they changed their minds, or even how they actually voted, some will not be able to truly represent what happened. In other words, with the best of intentions, we are not always reliable reporters about ourselves.

Paul Bjionjorno told us the other day (in a discussion Why are voters so disaffected with – everything?) that Clive Palmer spent $60 million on advertising, whereas the election budgets for the main parties were $30 million for the LNP and $18 million for Labor. When both parties approached the media to run their adds they found that Palmer had already booked most of the suitable spots.

Fixing this experience may lead us down the track of public funding of elections, but fix it we must.

We should also ponder the best way of providing a context in which reasonable discourse on public policy becomes possible.

3. Trump’s ‘Whistlegate’

On last week’s thread Geoff Henderson has unloaded on Trump whose utterances have no necessary relation to truth or fact. If you want to follow the story, Buzzfeed has an explainer:

It’s quite complicated, but begins with:

    Here’s the short version of this entirely wild story up front: It seems more and more likely that in trying to find information damaging to former Vice President Joe Biden ahead of the presidential election, Trump pressured Ukraine’s government, both directly and indirectly, to investigate Biden’s son — and potentially did so using military aid as a means of leverage.

See also at VoxBiden wants Trump to release a transcript of the call that led to a whistleblower complaint:

    They have been hampered thus far by a lack of cooperation from Trump administration officials, including the office of the Director of National Intelligence, which has refused to give Congresspeople full details about the complaint, despite being required to do so by law.

    Given that the Trump administration has been uncooperative during investigations involving special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, there is little to suggest it will begin working with Congresspeople to further the whistleblower investigation. And since Trump has said he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong, there is even less chance of him releasing a transcript of the call in question.

    Instead, the Trump administration will likely continue making the case that Biden was involved in illegal activity in Ukraine with respect to his son, despite there being absolutely no evidence to suggest this is the case. The president did exactly this Saturday, tweeting, “Nothing was said that was in any way wrong, but Biden’s demand, on the other hand, was a complete and total disaster.” (Emphasis added)

You can tell from this Getty image photo that he’s guilty!

4. Trump may not hold all the trump cards

Sorry about that one!

Vox has a good explainer of what is going on with the Saudi Arabia-Iran tensions. The article says that Trump is looking at four main options:

  • First, Trump ordered the Treasury Department on Wednesday to place even more sanctions on Iran — a move he naturally announced on Twitter.
  • Second, the administration seeks to get other countries to work together to push back on Iran’s aggressive actions.
  • Third, as the administration announced on Friday, hundreds of US troops are on their way to Saudi Arabia in an effort to deter further Iranian aggression.
  • Fourth, it looks like Trump is weighing a cyberattack on Iran.

Frankly, this is all a real worry considering Trump essentially made Iran a problem. Normalising cyber attack may be spectacular, but others can play that game and I wouldn’t back American technological smarts against all-comers.

However, one comment during the week said that Trump does not want war with anyone. He came to office promising to extract the nation from these situations. In fact he would like to solve one or two in order to enhance his re-election chances.

The Iranian regime knows this, and they are understandably sick of the games that are going on. There is a red line, namely they must not harm US personnel or materiel. They could be expected to cross that red line some time soon. If they can. The US claims they have already tried, and been shot down.

Sparks and powder kegs.

5. How good is meeting the POTUS!

PM Scott Morrison went to the US saying Australia was prepared to do the heavy lifting, and promising ‘another 100 years’ of friendship.

As it turns out Trump is a bit short of the friends he’d like to have, so ScoMo and his troupe have been royally duchessed. Flatter-o-meter has been turned to 11 for Morrison — but at home, things aren’t looking good, according to Laura Tingle.

However, being Trump’s ‘bestie’ comes with its own challenges, as Michelle Grattan explains.

ScoMo has put his trust in a man Australian’s don’t:

    One challenge in being feted by Mr Trump is capitalising on the “bestie” status while avoiding the appearance of over-familiarity and identification with a leader Australians don’t much like or trust.

    This year’s Lowy Institute poll showed that, despite their strong recognition of the importance of the alliance relationship for Australia’s security (72 per cent), only 25 per cent of Australians had confidence in Mr Trump “to do the right thing regarding world affairs”.

Problem is that we are not a properly grown up country able to look after ourselves. We can expect China to test that relationship some time.

32 thoughts on “Weekly salon 22/9”

  1. Bloody hell Brian:

    Yes, Labor is still going through a process of discovering how it lost the last election.

    Funny thing is that Labor lost by a very small margin. If it had won by a very small margin Shorten would have been a hero and we would have got on with fixing some of the damage caused by the other mob.
    Some of the things that reduced Labors vote may have been related to poor policy and some of it was the result of poor politics. (The oldies get nervous when they see their retirement income eroded even if what was being taken away did pass the fairness test. Nervous oldies became open to suggestions that Labor would attack all oldies and bring back death duties and……)
    Part of the loss was due to a politically skilled campaign where Morrison was got away with claiming he had nothing to do with all the crap that went on before his elevation. However the long kill Bill campaign and a string of blatant lies and distortions from the LNP was a critical part of the LNP campaign.
    Then there was Palmer who had a lot to gain if Adani goes ahead. He spent more than all the other parties combined to lock up the key newspaper pages. What he ran on page 2 was just another part of the stop sneeky Bill campaign. (That alone probably lost Labor the election.)
    Labor collectively needs to take a long cold bath, drink a nice cup of tea and then have a long think about what was worth fighting for before all hands start blaming everyone else. (Or am I missing something in what I think you are saying?)

  2. John, you’ve got much of it. On policy, there will be a debate about how we should go, but I’m betting the number of policies will be nearer to 5 than 150 plus as it was.

    I thought Labor was clever and skilled at campaigning, but it turned out not to be so. Labor thought it could win by just talking about it’s policies, ignore the attacks on it, and not attack its opponents.


    Then a heap of other issues I’d best not write about, but not rocket science and fixable, I would think.

  3. I spent most of the day on Saturday at my old alma mater, St Peter’s Lutheran College at Indooroopilly. Met some people I hadn’t seen in a while, plus a few I’d never seen before, but knew some of my siblings. Heard some interesting and amazing stories.

    Back in my day it was a co-ed boarding school for the progeny of farmers and missionaries in PNG. As the only co-ed boarding school in Qld and one of the cheapest we had some non-Lutherans from PNG, Fiji and further afield amounting to about 20%. So it had a good leavening of diversity.

    Now the fees are $25,400 for Year 7, rising to $26,790 in year 12. And that would not include board. In addition, I think you’ll find that the school gets as much government money as a state school would receive.

    So the place now oozes wealth and privilege.

    Today I’ve been distracted by having a stoush with Tim Hollo on Mark’s Facebook. I know he’s a nice bloke, but his opening remark was completely insulting and derisory, so I’ve been giving him a bit of gratuitous advice.

    All in the spirit of trying to help!

  4. There was a sarcastic joke, likely by John Clarke, at the time of the earlier ‘Desert Storm’ armed incursion into southern Iraq.

    “The US is leading an army using tanks, soldiers, artillery for a massive thrust across the desert from Kuwait, with close air support, bombing and strafing.”

    “So Australia is showing its support by sending a naval vessel to the Gulf.”

    I think we sent some Aussie SAS into the western deserts of Iraq a few days before second “Gulf war” ground assault, looking for missiles that might be fired at Israel. (It was vital that Sadam didn’t succeed in drawing Israel into the fight – if that indeed was a ploy he might be considering.)

    BTW, the “Iran problem” isn’t a concoction of US leaders, although most nations regret the US withdrawal from the non-nuclear agreement. The “Iran problem” has been changing, worsening, receding for decades. Recall President IHaveADinnerJacket?

    Nuclear non-proliferation concerns every nation and every human. “Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

    Ask not for whom the surveillance of nuclear weapon development is done; ’tis done for thee.

  5. You may well say that, zoot.
    I couldn’t possibly comment.

    (BTW, I may have inadvertently misspelled that other President’s name: I’mADinnerJacket is closer, forsooth.)

    PS: perhaps it might concentrate the minds of military planners to consider two signal failures:

    I) Pres Jimmy Carter attempts to rescue American hostages detained at the US embassy in Iran by “student protestors”; helicopter crashes in desert; escape plan ditched

    II) One of two troopship helicopters sent by President Obama to find Osama BL at Abbottabad crashes at the secretive compound, putting the mission to arrest and bring to trial the alleged criminal find and execute the fugitive, at risk. Crashed helicopter destroyed on the spot, luckless special forces hitch lifts back across the Pakistan border on local buses.

    Helicopter mishaps both times.
    No “fog of war” as a convenient excuse in either case…..

    Then there was Mogadishu(?) Black Hawk Down??

  6. Jumpy,

    I think you’ll find it goes back further: Jewish persons and Hittites.

    The clues are in the name.
    Hittites: aggressive warriors wearing tights.
    Nothing but trouble.

  7. Moses and the Burning Bush.

    Lousy carbon footprint, ancestor of (much later) US Presidents, many centuries before the UK Imperialists established their Dissenting Religious dominion over the indigenous locals, near Plymouth Rock; laying the foundations for the Boston Tea Party and Revolution, cowboys ‘n injuns, cotton picking slave estates, steel magnates, railway magnates, magnet magnates, IWW, WWI, strikebreaking, Franklin Roosevelt and the Hoover Dam.

    Have I got that précis right Mr J?
    I like to read history quietly and carry a big stick.

  8. Meanwhile, Nine newspapers report that Defence Personnel Minister Darren Chester says an inquiry into war crimes allegations against Australian special forces in Afghanistan should be completed as soon as possible.

  9. The only thing different in the election t hat I saw was Clive Palmer’s aggressive and negatively messaged YouTube campaign which to my mind did enough damage in a medium previous un explored (and I for one will disconnect YouTube if it gets used again) by political parties for an election. As to the rest it was the usual fiddling in the margins wit the hope of getting across the line. It is Labor’s content with being a just over the line winner that puts them at risk every election.

    Labor sings the same hymn every time, completely missing the fact that all Australian’s take their strengths for granted. We’ll give you better health care, …its always the same unless you have a near death experience and how many voters plan for that, we’ll give you better education …most of us are already educated and how can we see any new difference, We’ll give you better safer work conditions …we are now at the point where safer work conditions (most people never experience danger in our work) means tedious nanny state safety fetishism , and that is about it…vote for us.

    In other words Labor is a cliche and they can’t see it. They had an opportunity to offer something for the young and inspired with a bold and aggressive platform on climate action. Failed. Delivered the same old half way watered down “don’t go too far” response. They could have done something dramatic with housing affordability…if only they had the faintest idea, nothing. Failed.

    Australian Society has become stale, dull and boring. Largely because everyone is working endless hours to pay ridiculous mortgages, and anything that could vaguely be called social engagement is overpriced and bled dry by crass commercialisation. And then there are Australian Politicians who are the least inspiring people in the country, and now you have the epitome of that with Anthony Albanese. Good Grief,….why did Labor lose? …because they are community deaf, dumb, and blind.

  10. Morrison with Trump,..how appropriate and how embarrassing for all Australians. Trump and ScoMo get on so well because it was ScoMo that gave Trump the “turn them back” and cage them into submission ideas that culminated in Trumps own special addition,..child separations. What a wonderful couple they make. Callous and Cruel.

  11. BilB, I have a hunch that while Albo most likely would have won the last election, the next one is an entirely different matter. ScoMo is more politically potent than I expected.

    I’d differentiate more than you do about our politicians. There are some good people in the Labor ranks, not all of them in shadow cabinet or in the more senior positions with shadow cabinet. On average they are probably “B+”.

    It would be kind to give the other mob an “F”. Generally they are destructive of the notion of what a politician should be.

  12. Bilb: You would have missed it but Palmer grabbed the second full page of the major newspapers for his advertising. In the run up to the election his advertising switched to “don’t vote for sneaky Bill” (Or something like it.) This built on the long kill Bill campaign that the LNP had been running because they knew how good a prime minister he would be if he ever got elected.
    But you are right, Labor needs to stand for something other than LNP Lite and it has just got a lot liter.

  13. British Labour

    British Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn can fight a general election without having to pick a side on Brexit, after winning a crucial vote on party policy at the annual Labour conference in Brighton.

    But his internal opponents warned it would expose the party to ridicule from voters and from Prime Minister Boris Johnson if they have to fight an election – expected within months – with no clear desired outcome for the biggest question confronting the country.

    And the spokesperson??

    Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said while he was disappointed with the result he believed the party would eventually come to backing Remain.

    I have got a pretty clear idea of where the members are on this and therefore I think it is very likely that the members will want us to campaign for Remain. We campaigned for Remain in 2016, we are currently campaigning for Remain against any Tory outcome, and it seems to me obvious where the membership is on this.

    And another Labour MP?

    MP Stephen Kinnock said Labour had “more Brexit positions than the Kama Sutra”.

    Our position on Brexit is being treated with ridicule on the doorsteps in my constituency,” he said.

    – From Nine newspapers

    Q. What is Kama Sutra? A Sri Lankan trade manual? A WTO policy??

    Or is it like karma? you do something and it jolly well comes back and bites you on bum?

    (“This position is called the Congress of the Congress Party”)

  14. Or in American terms:

    “This Party is called the Congress of the Congress”*

    translated from the Hindi by very much scholarly and hands on chappie who knows his way around, the ins and outs being no mystery.

    * for aides, mentors, interns, donors, CongressMen

  15. Jeremy Corbyn is a warning against letting the broader membership decide who is leader. Think that the Aus Labor method is better because it provides some protection against getting someone who the parliamentary member room don’t support or whom they think is incompetent – while keeping some connection with the broader party.
    The collapse of the Aus Democrats was partly the result of the membership not realizing the limitations of the person they gave the leadership to. (And partly because of the rising power of Bob Brown.)

  16. Good points, John.

    “Momentum” has been described as the Militant Tendency with social media.

    For younger readers, “Militant Tendency” was a small group of Trotskyites using their tactic of ‘entrism’ in the British Labour Party in the early 1980s…. which turned out badly.

  17. The Supreme Court in London found that the issue of the prorogation was “justiciable” = within their power to decide upon.

    The Supreme Court has found unanimously that the prorogation was unlawful and is void.

    The Parliament “has not been prorogued.”

    It is up to the Speaker and Lord Speaker to decide on the reconvening of both Houses as soon as possible.

    When the officials went into the House of Lords with their official papers “it was as if they walked in carrying blank sheets of paper”, said the chief judge.

    Now what?

    Some opine that Mr Johnson must resign immediately.
    However, the PM has said recently that he thinks he can suspend Parliament again.

    This is more complex than 11th November 1975 in Canberra. That PM tried to move no confidence in the Caretaker, but never contemplated going to the High Court, it seems.

    The basic effect is that (some) decisions of a PM can be overruled in a high national court.

  18. Here’s the Guardian link on the UK supreme court erasing Johnson’s proroguing of parliament.

    His decision has been rubbed out, like it never happened.

    I say “his decision” but it’s really his advice to the Queen.

    The word was that good queen Bess was not impressed with the advice she got, but the way things are she’s a mechanism rather than a person with discretion. She knows her role.

  19. Ambi, on Corbyn and remain, Mark follows this stuff far more closely than I do. He says that it’s a simple step by step process.

    The people voted for Brexit. Corbyn will try to get a better deal out of the EU than May did.

    Whatever deal he ends up with he will then put it to a referendum so that the people can accept or reject. Depending on what deal he gets Labour may support ‘remain’ in the referendum.

    Why is it that people want to deal in simple binaries?

    Seems the Lib Dems are now a ‘remain’ party, which means they won’t support the Tories after an election to form government. However, in left/right terms they are still right, and the SNP are probably left.

  20. John, you said:

    Labor needs to stand for something other than LNP Lite and it has just got a lot liter.

    Policies are under review, and while they are under review shadow ministers are allergic to stating a policy position because there are 50,000 members who want a say.

    At the same time members are concerned that ministers might become timid.

    To me the mood seems to be to stay strong and do a better job in the politics. Swan as president has been saying that.

    Mark Butler has just done an article in the AFR A government in denial on energy attacking the government on energy.

    Terri Butler did the same in her interview with Patricia Karvelas.

    In parliamentary tactics, I’m not sure what they are up to. They may be trying to cut the crossbench out of play if the bill is at all acceptable.

  21. Brian (and Mark) on Brexit

    Jeremy Corbyn may feel his simple step by step process makes sense, but it seems that British voters and several Labour MPs have given up on him. It may be, that in the current Parliament, no leader of any Party could wriggle out of the quagmire B***** has become……

    But it seems the voters have decided that Jeremy is not up to it.

    FWIW, personally I find his Trotskyite/Marxoid and anti-semitic tendencies repellent. But not my circus not my monkeys.

  22. Brian: Both the Conservatives and the Labor party demonstrate that giving party members control over who becomes parliamentary party leader is not necessarily smart. The rise of the Brexit party strengthens the case for both preference and compulsory voting.

  23. Why not Mr A, good idea.
    That may tempt them to look at the difference between “ under the influence “ and “ had a few cones last weekend “

    If I were a cheeky bugger I’d argue for single term limits and compulsory Adderall for all politicians 🙂

  24. Looks like a developed country to me, Morrison is correct that they play by the “ developed country “ WTO agreements.

    All those airplanes, Greta’s parents will be donning their antifa shirts again and protesting Xi at the UN surely. At the very least choreographing a hateful stink eye for the media.

  25. compulsory Adderall for all politicians

    This appears to be another example of Jumpy’s inability to distinguish between Australia and the USA. Adderall is not an Australian medication:

    The ADHD medications that are currently prescribed in Australia are dexamphetamine and
    methylphenidate. Methylphenidate is available as a short-acting preparation (eg. Ritalin), and as a long-
    acting or extended release preparation (eg. Ritalin LA or Concerta). Other stimulant medications are
    used to treat ADHD but are not available in Australia (eg. Adderall)

    (see here)
    Perhaps Mr J is trying to stimulate pharmaceutical trade between the two countries.

  26. Jumpy, FYI I understand that under the WTO rules it is up to the country itself as to how it is classified.

    Lists vary, but at Wikipedia China is 73rd on the IMF list and 82nd on the CIA.

    Singapore and South Korea are both still developing countries.

    China is developed in parts. The bottom line is ScoMo criticizing China in public like that was dumb. Dumber than dumb to do it while in the USA.

    I guess that is what you expected me to say.

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