Doctor and activist


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Category: Accountability

COVID Problems Caused by Lack of Respect for Knowledge

7 February 2021

Prof Raina McIntyre argues that the COVID19 problems in the developed world, particularly the Anglo world are the result of an understanding of and a lack of respect for public health.  She charts this as within the medical profession, which has its own hierarchies, but also in the political arena.  The overwhelming influence of the corporate sector and the profit motive, and the managerial approach which assumes that if  you are not an expert, you can quickly find one, bone up and take over has been found sadly wanting.  For a manager or politician, selecting an expert is not as easy as it sounds as there are many people who want to tart up their CVs and market themselves with dubious claims to expertise.

This has resulted in a very suboptimal preparation for and response to the pandemic. The failure in the managerial decision-making process has been laid bare in the COVID situation, but this is not an isolated example.  The lack of respect for expertise, the replacement of knowledge with marketing spin, and public good with corporate profits will lead to more bad decisions, which often take a crisis to become evident.  It happened in the bushfires, and is happening with climate change. Examples in foreign policy, education, health and defence all come to mind.

Here is Raina’s paper about COVID19

https://iser.med.unsw.edu.au/blog/hijacking-public-health-and-price-paid-during-covid-19-pandemic

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Police Leaving the Police On Medical Grounds Triples- Why?

7 February 2021

We might ask why NSW Police leaving the force on medical grounds has increased from 150 a year in 2014-15 to 420 in 2019-20, almost triple.

There is talk of a culture of bullying.

We might ask what they are being asked to do. Public perception seems to have changed when the changed their name from ‘Police Service’ to ‘Police Force’. The perception that they are now revenue raising, and that their cameras are so that they cannot use their discretion as they themselves are being watched may have contributed to this.

My own view is that the ever-more invasive laws that they are expected to enforce tends to have this result as they are more often thrown into conflict with ordinary citizens who they thought that they were there to help.

www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/fish-swimming-amongst-sharks-why-so-many-police-are-quitting-the-force-20210202-p56yp6.html

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Welfare Repayment for Some- Nick Scali Optional?

6 February 2021

We all saw the callous and incompetent saga of Robodebt, where the tax database and the welfare database were imperfectly matched, the welfare recipients were accused of understating their incomes and put in the unenviable position of having to prove that they system was wrong, as their support payments were cut to below survival level.

Now we see some companies who are doing very well getting Jobkeeper and being asked politely if they would mind paying it back.

Nick Scali, the furniture retailer has done very well out of the lockdown as people still at home and working, with forced saving on their out of home recreations have upgraded their furnishings.  His profit has risen 99% to $40 million, and the share price  from $3 to $10.51 in the last 12 months.  The dividends are up 60%.  Nick Scali as the major shareholder with 13% of the company will make $4.4 million personally.  The company has received $3.5 million in Jobkeeper payments, so Labor MP Andrew Leigh has asked that it be repaid.  Of course, Scali has done nothing illegal and has taken money that companies were entitled to.  But the Government which is so careful and niggardly when it comes to poorer people getting money is totally silent on this situation. They are very thorough when it comes to giving out Jobseeker or any type of pension, yet seem unable to restrict much more generous handouts to business, let alone having a mechanism to get it back.   The stockmarket profit reporting season is just starting so we are likely to see many more examples of this.

The only explanation I can find is ‘For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’ — in Matthew 25:29, Revised Standard Version.

www.smh.com.au/business/companies/nick-scali-s-profits-double-in-covid-boom-triggering-dividend-bonanza-20210204-p56zfl.html

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Myanmar-A Coup. What next?

5 February 2021

The history of Burma was that it was colonised by the British, who had colonial wars with increasing control from 1824 to 1885.  It was occupied by the Japanese in WW2, which helped its independence movement and it achieved independence from Britain with some struggle by General Aung San in 1948. 

It had not been a united country, having a lot of tribal and ethnic wars and tensions. General  Aung San negotiated a ‘Union of Burma’, but he was assassinated by conservative forces before the new country came into being.   

It had relatively unstable governments until a military coup in 1962 under General Ne Win and has been under military junta control since.   An uprising of the people in 1988 was brutally suppressed and n 1989 the junta changed the country’s name to Myanmar.  They held elections under a new Constitution in 1990.  Aung San Suu Kyi, who was the daughter of General Aung San, who had defeated the British and who had been educated in Britain and who had returned in 1988 won a landslide victory with her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).  The junta seemed completely surprised by this, but did not allow her party to take control.  She was placed under house arrest.  The world was highly critical of this and she was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1991 “for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.”

In 2003 the junta claimed it had a ‘roadmap to democracy’ but nothing much changed, with Aung San Suu Kyi still in house arrest.  In  2005 the national capital was moved out of Yangon (which had been called Rangoon) to get it further from the population centres to a hilly area 370km away in Naypyidaw. 

There were major protests in 2007.  In 2010, the junta, recognising that they were unpopular, but also that the world’s sanctions were biting, released Aung San Suu Kyi and held some elections, but the NLD boycotted these as a farce. In new election in 2012 the NLD won in a landslide with 41 of the 44 contested seats, but the junta had stopped Aung San Suu Kyi from being President and kept a number of seats and key Cabinet posts for themselves.

Now the military has had a coup. The people are not happy, but are aware that the military will deal with any uprising brutally and ruthlessly. Aung San Suu Kyi herself has been arrested for the trivial crime of having 6 unauthorised walkie talkies.  Presumably she wanted to be able to talk to her immediate staff without the junta hearing every word.  In a sense that is a symbol of her situation and the power of the junta.

I have taken an interests in Burma/Myanmar because when I was in Parliament the elected NLD members who should have been the legitimate leaders of Myanmar came to Parliaments around the world and were photographed with groups of MPs to show that their legitimacy was universally recognised outside Myanmar.  I kept in touch with NLD contacts and visited Myanmar in late 2017. It is a third world country which was trying to use rapid growth in tourism to bring itself up. There were quite new tourist buses, but a shortage of accommodation, and this was expensive for a third world country and for its standard.  Aung San Suu Kyi was nominally in charge as ‘State Counsellor’, with the NLD supposedly doing her bidding.  In reality, she was something of a powerless figurehead with the SLORC junta keeping real power.  She was doing what she could and it was hoped that democracy would gradually win and the junta would gradually fade, but this was certainly not happening quickly.  The local people were not well educated, and most had poor English, but as my contacts pointed out, they were not game to talk about politics anyway- they supported ‘the Lady’ as Aung San Suu Kyi is known, but the military were very much in control and it seemed that there was no love lost between them and the people. 

I travelled to Mandalay, the second city, in a modern tourist bus of Chinese origin.  The Chinese had been helping the junta in exchange for economic concessions.  In a way this bus was reassuring.  Most of the cars in Myanmar are right hand drive, either old British or relatively new Japanese, but in 1989 the junta had decided that the country, which had driven one the left, should drive on the right as most other countries did.  So it was safer in one of the buses where at least the driver could see when overtaking on the fairly basic roads.

Mandalay has a large fortified palace in its centre, complete with moat.  It has been taken over as a military base.  Tourists are allowed in through a military checkpoint, but can only walk up the central path to the royal building and temples, and the greetings are not warm.

I was advised not to bother to go to the capital, Naypyidaw as it was sterile and there was ‘nothing there’.  I went anyway. It was a complete contrast to Yangon, which is crowded and dirty, with little access to the banks of its polluted river.  Naypyidaw had an 8 lane highway through its centre with trees and gardens reminiscent of Canberra.  The Parliament was modern, though it could not be accessed and the National Library was modern also, and about the size of Wollongong’s.  There were no buses to get there- Naypyidaw needs taxis to go everywhere, so there was almost no one in the library. The librarian who spoke excellent English told us that this was the normal number of people.  There was a hotel precinct that had a number of very large hotels that were modern, extremely cheap and built by the Chinese.  We noted at night that there were only half dozen lights on in the hotel that had had hundreds of rooms and there were few people at breakfast.  There were no local people apart from hotel staff near the precinct, and they told us that the local people lived a suburb away and it was not really a walking distance.

Aung San Suu Kyi was much criticised for not acting on behalf of the Rohingya Muslims, but there is a lot of prejudice against this group historically, as they were felt to have no right to have come, which related to a border skirmish a long time ago.  Even with its ethnic divisions Myanmar is 88% Buddhist.  Had Suu Kyi spoken up for the Rohingyas, she would have had lost much local support and, as my contacts pointed out, she had enough trouble as it was. 

The situation looked untenable.  The NLD government was not allowed to govern. The military were obviously undemocratic, unpopular and unprogressive, but supported by Chinese money and trade deals. The loosening that was hoped for had not happened and did not look likely.  Here we are 3 years later.

The NLD had another landslide in the November 2020 elections.   More proof of the unpopularity of the junta, and still they do not want to move.  A re-run of the 1987 and 2007 brutally suppressed revolts does look likely.  Myanmar is unlikely to shift the junta without a lot of blood being spilled.

Here is Kevin Rudd’s opinion- and he was ex-Foreign Minister.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=esHnsZQ59ms

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Chinese Doublespeak as their World Influence Rises

4 February 2021

President Xi Jinping has installed himself as leader of China for the foreseeable future. Central to this is the domination of the Chinese Communist Party.  It does not really matter what a party calls itself if it has unchallenged power.  It objectives will set the policy of that nation totally.

The West has for years preached competition as the route to efficiency, but at the same time its governments have made trade deals that disfavour developing economies, and assume that their companies will be the ones getting access to markets. As they have done this, they have tended to turn a blind eye to the development of monopolies and oligopolies in the multinational companies and a blind eye to their tax avoidance; perhaps because the companies in tax havens buy US bonds as they have to store their money somewhere. Western governments have become weaker relative to multinational corporations.  The Chinese model has a government able to make the rules for the whole economy and focus on priorities in a way that the West has rendered itself usable to do.  This is effectively a new economic model, the implications of which do not seem to have had the attention that they deserve.

Now China is asserting itself.  It has taken over Hong Kong to quell any idea of democratic movements.  It is doing bad things to the Uighurs.  It has fortified islands in the South China Sea.  It is building its military and flying over Taiwan, which it claims is merely a wayward province, so dealing with it would be ‘an internal matter’.  Most of the West has conceded that there is only ‘One China’ is order to be able to trade with China, so they will have trouble with opposing the theory of a Chinese takeover, not to mention the practicalities. China is taking a hard-line with Australia on trade, perhaps just to demonstrate its strength to and on an uppity middle power like Australia who shot their mouth off over COVID in Wuhan and would not let Huawei put in their 5G network.

But China is also preaching equality between nations, which is presumably aimed at the Third World, so that it will seem their champion against the Colonial West. It has raised many of its own people out of poverty. This may be necessary to keep its people controlled, but that policy is good.  Its building of infrastructure in Africa is soft power, which looks a lot like a more modern style of colonialism; but time will tell.

The Belt and Road initiative from Beijing to Western Europe incorporating South Asia as well will take in 65% of the World’s population. It also uses local currencies and the Yuan, which effectively means it excludes the US and the US dollar, which will hugely weaken the US as its significance increases.

Here are two articles, one highly critical of China, the other overlooking its militancy.

www.smh.com.au/world/asia/two-track-xi-reveals-china-is-in-no-mood-for-reconciliation-20210126-p56wvm.html

www.informationclearinghouse.info/56266.htm

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Are Google Algorithms Reinforcing Anti-Science positions? 3 Feb. 2021

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).

https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/peter-hotez-anti-science-movement-killing-hundreds-of-thousands_n_6014b39ac5b622df90f382ee?ri18n=true&fbclid=IwAR19_qqWuNe9t8ySSTdNU5OjL6jKkxPCT3cDbAP0EhAKXoXrLPod_xVfdKM

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Make Google Pay for Content? But who does the money go to? 29/1/21

I searched for something on google today and first up came a message from them on why they should not have to pay for content. Hey, it was like me telling a neighbour where a coffee shop was and then having to pay for having done so. Not quite!
There was no feedback to google- hey we are used to one-way communication these days. Most emails have a ‘No reply’ address and the rest of advertising has been one-way communication since BUGA UP stopped spraying on billboards in the mid-1980s.
But after the google position there was this video by Kevin Rudd, which talks about how the ACCC, which is now claiming to be doing this for media diversity, a.k.a. competition, happily approved Nine buying Fairfax and Murdoch buying almost all Australia’s rural newspapers to get an effective monopoly. They have not looked at media monopolies in Australia and do not seem to want to.
Rudd asks what has changed in media diversity and suggests that Scotty from Marketing is actually just collecting revenue to give to Murdoch. He points out that the legislation does not say where the money will go, and if it goes to existing media, principally Murdoch, it may do nothing at all for media diversity. He also points out that exempting the ABC from getting any money will mean that he can continue to defund them, while subsidising Murdoch, an American citizen who he just gave a gong to in the Australia Day honours. The message is clear from Scotty to Murdoch, ‘Those nasty Labor people want to investigate monopoly in Australian media, but we will support you and give you money- support us next election’.
Google and the multinational tech companies, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, Expedia, the gambling websites and the rest that live overseas and pay no tax should be taxed on their turnover in Australia. The ABC should be better funded, and I am open to suggestions as how to support media diversity. The worry is that the extra revenue could just to used to favour sources that suit the government.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_mSnAKWHZA

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Crikey- While Porter Parties, his protection racket inflicts misery, By Bernard Keene

 
https://www.crikey.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/20181204001374704937-original-600x320.jpg
While Porter parties, his protection racket inflicts misery BY: 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.
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Justice for Some 11/1/21

As NSW builds more prisons (SMH 28/12/20- 1000 bed prison at Camellia) and inequality grows apace, it is interesting to look at what penalties are given for what.  Here is an article about a multimillion dollar owner of aged care homes where 38 residents died of COVID.

He was charged with 101 counts of rorting a government taxi scheme that subsidised fares for disabled people,  pleaded guilty to three to the value of $3000 and got no conviction and 6 months community service.

His nursing home is being investigated and faces a class action on behalf of residents. He resigned when the media drew attention to his lavish lifestyle.  His lawyer warns against defaming his client.

The full story is below

With a justice system like this it is hard to see how we could possibly need more gaols.

http://theworldnews.net/au-news/aged-care-mogul-once-pleaded-guilty-to-deception-charges

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TAFE Merger Fails to Save Money 14/1/21

A report by the NSW Auditor-General shows that NSW TAFE had failed in its social objectives and not made its cost saving from merging 10 institutions into one.
It is significant that these problems are always found by Auditors. One would think that monitoring of costs savings or not would be built into such a major change. Dream on!
The problem with mega-mergers is that it empowers people a long way away, who then make decisions without the facts from those on the ground, who have usually been sacked or depowered.
Speechwriter Martin McKenzie-Murray, writing in the SMH of 28/12/20 opined that the reason that speeches were so unmemorable now was that the content was more about short-term media grabs than any substantial vision, and that since political advisers have replaced public service mandarins as the main source of advice there has been a loss of the sense of past history and future vision. In short the lack of proper thinking is why the speeches are no good.
TAFE was conceived as help up; a technical education for those who could benefit from one, whatever their age, and where good tradespeople were valued and could teach their trade. Interference by those who merely see education as another commodity to compete in a market and who have no concept of equity, justice or a fair go as part of public policy have done immense harm to TAFE, not to mention the rest of the nation.
Policy should have continuity and decisions should be evidence-based. A public service that has expertise and long-term stability is the best guarantee of this, where those giving the advice do not have a financial or ideological commitment to a single option.
The article is important in that it emphasises that ideologues must justify their management pontifications and their failures must be held up to them.
www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/scathing-review-reveals-tafe-s-failure-to-meet-cost-savings-20201217-p56oex.html

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