One of the impressions that I had visiting Myanmar was that the army was a society unto itself. It seemed to have no contact with and no respect for ordinary people, and they felt no warmth for it. It was like an occupying force. The artificial capital, Naypyidaw is 4 hours from the biggest city and former capital, Yangon and is in the mountains. It has had a fortune spent on it, presumably Chinese money, with 8 lane tree-lined streets with almost no cars or people and large multi-storied international hotels with almost no lights in the rooms at night, and almost no one at breakfast. The military junta seems totally divorced from the people, which is presumably how they could be surprised that they lost the elections so dramatically.But they will shoot the people to retain power and if people without guns are going to take over from a government with guns, it is going to be horrific. I am reminded of East Timor trying to get independence- was it 28% of the population killed?
We have heard so many stories about bad treatment of women in Parliament, that each one now becomes just become one more and focus has shifted to the government’s response.
Prime Minister Morrison has been hugely criticised for his response, which now belatedly includes thanking rape victim Brittany Higgins for bring up the subject. SMH 26/3/21.
Having protected Christian Porter he is now considering a cabinet reshuffle, which supposed moves Porter but does not sack him. This is unlikely to placate criticism, and the criticism may eventually threaten his own position. SMH 26/3/21
The talent pools seems quite shallow with over-religious people, but Treasurer Josh Frydenburg seems the most likely and is apparently replete with ambition. He has experience in banking, law, and international relations. A son of Jewish post-war refugees, he was educated in Jewish private schools and is very pro-Israel. It is rumoured that Lachlan Murdoch would like to see the change from Morrison to Frydenburg, which may give the Liberals a better chance in next year’s election.
Morrison has concentrated all the attention for this government on himself, so it he goes the Libwrals can pretend that there have been big changes. There is a lot of precedent for this as a successful tactic. When Abbott won the 2013 electi0on and quickly became unpopular, he was replaced by Turnbull, who managed to turn the tide just long enough to win the 2016 election. Turnbull was powerless within his party and when this was perceived, the Liberals again crashed in the polls, but Morrison replaced Turnbull and they won again in 2019. Now if Frydenburg replaces Morrison, Labor remains lack-lustre, COVID recedes helping an unexpected recovery, can they win a 4th time? No doubt that is the Liberals hope.
As the anti-science movement seems to gain strength and undermines the campaign for COVID vaccination, there has been increased interest in the origin, strength and tactics of this.
It is blamed on the Russians, who presumably are trying to weaken and divide the West, and on civil libertarians, who want to politicise medical common sense. But when it helped by people like Trump in the White House and Kelly in Australia the conspiracy theories are put into perspective, as the anti-science views are given legitimacy.
But in the fuss about Google withdrawing from Australia, or not covering Australian politics, I wondered what effect this might have and tried a different search engine, duckduckgo. The difference is that google gives me a personalised feed, but duckduckgo gives everyone the same information for the same key words.
Search engines at a basic level give a ‘top pops’ of popularity of a topic in that those with the greatest number of clicks go to the top. This may be fine if you are looking for a movie review, but if you want older material it will be a long way down. Scientific articles are a lot further down than mainstream ones, and the algorithm is influenced by the viewer’s previous viewing habits. If a person has viewed a lot of conspiracy articles, it is presumably then likely that these are more likely to come up again and reinforce the existing views of the viewer. If the feed is continually biased to a point of view, the viewer is likely to come into contact with more of this view and people who share t, so that they are eventually in a bubble or subculture of people with this belief, and are unaware that their reality has been changed.
As an example my son went to school with a boy in NZ whose father controlled feral pests for a living, which meant shooting rabbits, ferrets, deer, pigs, cats and possums which are predators on various farms in NZ. He kept in touch with his friend and they played video games online. But his friend went shooting quite a lot with his father, joined a gun club and started to receive the literature of this subculture. His previously non-political, mainstream views are now hugely influenced by the American gun lobby and rabidly right wing. This is quite unusual in rural NZ. My son commented, ‘In the end, you think what you get in your feed’.
The algorithms exist to make you happy and to keep you clicking in order to get you to buy things. But the result might be quite different- a creation of a bubble environment where everyone’s opinion tends to be magnified, sometimes going in a bad direction.
How this can be controlled is a question- if we all got the same feeds, would the sensible people make sensible articles come up first? Presumably; if most people were well educated. We had better go there also. Which Big Brother will tell google how to do its algorithms?
(The longer version of this attached article is available via a link at its end).
While Porter parties, his protection racket inflicts miseryBY: BERNARD KEANE As Alan Tudge tried to protect Christian Porter from embarrassment, so Porter is trying to protect Alexander Downer from scrutiny over his role in the bugging of Timor-Leste. Privilege protects privilege. So it seems after further revelations today about how Alan Tudge pressured an ABC journalist to delete a photo taken in a Canberra night spot that, according to Four Corners’ bombshell report on Monday, would have embarrassed and compromised Christian Porter. Any minister of the Crown learning that a colleague may have placed themselves in a position to be compromised should have immediately alerted the prime minister, possibly for referral to intelligence agencies. Public Bar in Manuka is a well-known locale for politicians, staffers and journalists, the latest in a succession of such nightspots in Canberra. Don’t think people connected to foreign intelligence services weren’t mingling there on Wednesday nights as well. Who else took a photo of Porter, more surreptitiously? In any event, Tudge, a child of Melbourne privilege — elite Haileybury, Melbourne University, Harvard — sought to protect another child of privilege, Christian Porter, whose offensive frat house behaviour as a young man — as opposed to his alleged continuing partying these days — was well documented by the ABC. Significant as it is in itself, the incident is the perfect symbol for what party boy Porter himself is doing for Alexander Downer. Downer ordered ASIS to bug the cabinet rooms of the Timor-Leste government in 2004 in order to give Australia an advantage over the fledgling state in negotiations over resources in the Timor Sea. The advantage gained would accrue to resources company/de facto government agency Woodside. After leaving politics, Downer took a job with Woodside. His DFAT secretary of the time, Ashton Calvert, took a directorship. Porter’s authorisation of the prosecution of Witness K and Bernard Collaery for revealing ASIS’ crime is intended to punish them for exposing Downer and the Howard government. Porter’s conduct in the prosecution, however, is designed to cover up Downer’s role.
He has sought to make the trial secret, he has repeatedly intervened in proceedings (separately from the DPP; Collaery and K face two legal oppositions — the barristers of the DPP, and Porter’s barrister trying to keep as much as possible secret); Porter has so stymied and delayed the trial of Collaery that his barrister has been twice chided by magistrates for delays. There is a key question in this trial about Downer: what authority did he have to authorise ASIS’ conduct? Did prime minister Howard, his cabinet or the National Security Committee approve it, or did Downer decide himself? We may never publicly learn the answer to that crucial question because Porter is trying to keep it secret. Privilege protecting privilege. Only, instead of demanding the deletion of a photo, Porter is trashing basic rights like open trials and long-standing norms like the Commonwealth’s status as a model litigant. Porter’s conduct has had enormous impacts on K and Collaery — two men who have served their country and protected its national security in ways Porter could only dream about as he sleeps off another big night on the dance floor. K remains unclear exactly as to what he is being asked to plead guilty to, having indicated that, given his health and the mental toll Porter’s vexatious prosecution has inflicted, he wants the whole thing done with. Collaery’s practice has been wrecked and he is living on borrowings. The process has so far dragged on for more than two years, with 42 hearings so far without a trial date in sight — the majority driven by Porter’s interventions. It includes the juvenile tactic of requiring Collaery to travel interstate to view, but not retain, the allegedly secret brief directed against him. All while Porter, according to footage aired by the ABC, carried on carousing, and allegedly compromising himself as a national security risk far worse than even the fantasies claimed by the prosecution of K and Collaery. The bugging of Timor-Leste and the persecution of K and Collaery are the biggest political scandal of recent decades in Australia. That the press gallery seems to have been mostly uninterested in it — or have fallen for Porter’s tactic of dragging things out so long people forget about it — doesn’t change that. It’s been a raw demonstration of the ugliness of how power is used in Australia by well-connected corporations, their political shills and the parties that protect and enable them. Power used at the expense of the people of Timor-Leste. Power used at the expense of K and Collaery. And despite Porter’s efforts at secrecy, at least some of it has occurred in plain sight at the ACT Law Courts building, in full view of the press gallery if they wanted to come five minutes down the road. Like Porter’s alleged behaviour in Public Bar, in full view five minutes in the other direction from Parliament House. If you’re not enraged by the smug, smirking indecency of it all, you might want to check your moral compass. It’s an obscenity.
But Judge Baraitser accepted most of the US government’s arguments that journalism could be espionage, that he would get a ‘fair trial’ in the USA. and that his extradition would have been legal, though political crimes are supposedly excluded from the extradition agreement. He has not actually been freed, and one might reasonably ask why he is being held at all, since the trumped up Swedish rape case is no longer being pursued. There is also a possible appeal from the US government, at a time when Trump is on his last legs and looking for publicity and a legacy.
Julian Assange is still in danger from COVID in Belmarsh prison. It is hard to see anything other than the British, US and Australian Establishments trying to destroy him, if not by COVID, then simply psychologically. One shudders to think what his mental state will be after being locked up for a decade with no substantial charge and having tried to do good. ‘All journalists beware!’ is the message.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was smugly distancing Australia from the riots in the USA over the George Floyd public murder, but voices were quick to point out that there had been 432 deaths in custody in Australia since 1991, despite Royal Commissions and their findings, which were not implemented.
The demonstration was planned as everyone here knows the COVID19 lockdown is gradually being eased as there are now few community-acquired cases in Australia.
But the Police applied to the Supreme Court and got them to declare the rally and march illegal under the COVID19 restrictions. I had been going to miss the march on health grounds, but the Police rather than the public health authorities wanting it declared illegal made me want to attend.
As I have written before, Police intolerance of any sort of dissent was clearly brought home to me when I wore a sign that said, ‘Respect the Dead by working for Peace’ at the ANZAC service in Hyde Park in 2019, where the police sergeant said that he would arrest me if I did not move 50 metres away.
John Howard initiated the needless Australian invasion of the Middle East against the wishes of 74% of the population who marched in 2004. The creation of a terror threat due to that folly, the handling of that threat by increasing surveillance, decreasing civil liberties and increasing Police power without supervision is a trend of our time. The other trend, the increase in social inequality has put pressure on Police, as the enforcers of the norms of a social system that excludes an increasing percentage of the population.
But the Police inability to handle mental illness or drunkenness and conflict has not been sufficient. There are too many deaths in custody, which principally affect Aboriginal people and too many Police shootings, which principally affect the mentally ill.
So I was not willing to sit at home because the Police did not want a demonstration that asked that they be called to account and change their ways.
Interestingly some of my son’s friends who are overseas students did not dare to go lest their visas be cancelled.
The Supreme Court’s ban on the rally and march was overturned on appeal in the morning, but my opinion was that most people going to the 3pm event were unaware of this and, like myself had decided to go anyway.
The city had prepared for the event by stopping the trams from Circular Quay, (could they have run from Central to Randwick?), and by the trains not stopping at Town Hall. So we walked from Circular Quay and the demonstration went back almost the full length of the Queen Victoria building in George St. It later went back further than this. Protesters were socially distancing and about two thirds were wearing masks. People were walking among the protesters issuing masks and hand sanitiser, and soon more than 90% were wearing masks. There was a wide spread of ages and racial origins.
The protest speakers were on the Town Hall steps, but could not be heard at all for a fair percentage of the crowd as the PA system which is on the traffic lights was not in use by the speakers. After about half an hour, at about 3.30pm the speeches stopped, and everyone assumed that the March would start. It did not. It was not clear what was happening, whether the rally was allowed and the march not. There was quite a lot of chanting of ‘Black Lives Matter’ and also activist shouting, ‘Too Many Coppers’ with the reply ‘Not enough Justice’.
There were Police amongst the protesters. They did not look comfortable, and I noted Glock pistols in their holsters. Glock pistols have no safety catches, so the only thing stopping them or someone else grabbing them was the flap and press stud on the top of the holsters.
We kept thinking that we were about to march, as we went forward in little bursts. But looking a long way ahead we could see that the placards were not moving. All that was happening was that the social distancing was being taken up. This and the chanting would have increased the infection danger somewhat, so one could only wonder at the reason for the delay. The rally and march had been scheduled from 3pm to 5pm with a break at 4.32pm when we were all to kneel for 1 minute to remember the 432 people who had died.
The March started a bit before 4pm and wound to Belmore Park near Central station with the stop and kneeling at 4.32pm an impressive moment. Belmore Park was totally packed, with social distancing quite undermined, so we took a photo and left. Apparently there were some minor scuffles between Police and people who stayed after 5pm.
It was interesting that the public, who have been very compliant and responsible throughout the COVID19 epidemic, were willing to defy the Supreme Court ban on the rally and march. The large Police presence suggested that they were willing to suppress the event, but there were a very large number of protesters, 17,000 seems a reasonable estimate. I do not think that the crowd would have tolerated not having the rally and not marching, so it might have escalated with lines of Police, riot shields, water cannon and tear gas. Fortunately sense prevailed.
It was a victory for the people in the sense that they stated in large numbers their attitude to Black Deaths in custody, and the limits to which they are willing to tolerate the Police, the government and the Supreme Court telling them what they may and may not do. The relatively poor uptake of the COVID19 tracking app is a similar indicator of the trust of government. No, we do not want COVID19, but we do not trust the government either.
As I get older, I trust people more and government and institutions less, and work for the power to go to those who legitimately own it, the people. This was a good day. Hopefully no COVID19 cases will result.
Australians looking at the riots happening in the US may be tempted to feel smug that it does not happen here. The riots don’t, but there has been a long history of Aboriginal deaths in custody, seemingly unchanged by a number of Royal Commissions. This is long overdue to be addressed, and is the peak of the tendency to criminalise our social problems.
You might argue that the policeman who tripped a 16 year old to arrest him did so because the youth threatened to break his jaw, but you cannot argue with the many deaths and inquiries’ findings.
31 May 2020 The absurd case of Witness K, who was an intelligence officer who blew the whistle on Australia’s bugging of the East Timorese Cabinet room during the negotiations over the border in the Timor Sea goes on. The bugging is now public knowledge. East Timor took legal action in The Hague against Australia […]
30 April 2020 The secret trial of Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Colliery is on in Canberra today. As most know Witness K blew the whistle on Australia’s bugging of the East–Timorese Cabinet room during negotiations of the maritime boundary in order to get the oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea. What […]
Sometimes we have little experiences that are wake up calls. We need to note them, and act on them. I have little to do with Centrelink. Like most North Shore doctors I assume it does its job, and also tacitly assume it has nothing to do with me. It wrote to me about 6 months […]