How stupid are you?

12 06 2014

So who’s stupid? Not you, of course. Certainly not me. Hey, maybe none of us.

No, that’s not what people were saying today as journalist Mark Sawyer opined that anything less than white supremacy was not racist, parsing a quote from an Australian Army officer condemning the sexual abuse and harassment of women in the defence forces that included the word ‘’standard’’.

Here was another cretinism, depressingly fresh on the heels of Mia Freedman’s insight that Madonna’s poor brown children from a poor brown country were better off skiing with the rich people.

It may pay to look at the bigger picture pays to have a long, hard look at ourselves. We’re living in a an era when evil critical thought is an outmoded concept, when there are no bad people, only bad acts only baddies and more baddies.

Yes, of course, ‘‘the stupid I walk past is the stupid I accept’’, to paraphrase the angry Army officer again vogue reasoning . Sorry #notsorry but I stopped walking past it plenty of times.

I stopped walking past it when a man in Spain told me not to put my Masters degree on my CV, because I ‘look too smart on paper’, when the mother of an old friend asked if I still ‘had my little job’ and when an old lady in country NSW offered me his ultimate accolade a bewildered stare: ‘Press secretary? Are you from the typing pool?’

Hey, I also stopped walking past it when people assert that Australia is a uniquely wicked racist <WAIT… DIDN’T HE SAY TEH EVILS WERE NO MORE?> country. I said Australia wasn’t unique, or wicked, but we are home to a hella bunch of racists.

You see, indigenous Australians once won a court case against Andrew Bolt. From this came the appointment of a Freedom Commissioner to protect us from the oppressive dictatorships which terrorises us daily … what exactly? To fight for the freedom of satirists to call someone a dog fucker on a comedy programme oh wait that didn’t happen.

But how many people alive today are honest to god stupid? You know, willing to grandstand at the school gates like a southern US governor in the 1950s and ’60s on panel shows and say “you shall not pass university without incurring crippling debt”? Refuse to not quit Twitter WHEN YOU PROMISE IT, drama monarchs (© Dan Savage)? Oddly, when Prime Minister Abbott failed to offer his hand to European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton kick Russia out of the G20 there was not a glimmer of protest from those who are “for freedom” and apparently little else. Abbott saw fit to call Russian President Vladimir Putin a “bully”. Truly, a foreign policy colossus.

Are white South African migrants to Australia racist? Are black Zimbabwean leaders racist for pushing whites off farms? Considering the hierarchy of oppression that is so fashionable now, are any non-white people racist at all? Fuuuuuuuuck… shelve your bullshit “what about Mugabe” logical fallacies.

<INSERT RANDOM EXAMPLE OF RACISM>

For seemingly endless days in May 2013, Australia was obsessed with the Eddie McGuire controversy. The ‘Who Wants to Be A Millionaire/Hot Seat/Hotpants/whatever it’s called these days’ host and President of the Collingwood Football Club doubled down on racist comments about Adam Goodes. He now has to sell the franchise and will end his days as a pariah called a laughable press conference, kept all of his lucrative media gigs, including ‘Press Red for Ed’. Isn’t that enough? Not for Sam Newman, though The Footy Show was not alone. Fox Sports’ AFL 360 anchors weighed every nuance, reading tweets from another brown AFL player Eddie took on the show with him to prove he wasn’t racist, interviewing each other endlessly.

For what? Only because there was bad press at stake for the AFL did McGuire even try and weasel out of his ‘brainfade’. And yet plenty of stupid people think and say and write in the most appalling “English” on any social media platform/online comment section they can find, McGuire’s racism is the fault of the brown person who should STFU & HTFU. I’d rather ask how healthy it is for the leader of any sporting team to be owned by a single plutocrat this level of stupidity to go unchecked. Minimising racism emboldens other racists.

<THANKS, EDDIE. THIS IS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF WHAT MARK SAWYER WOULD CALL “NOT RACISM”>

My contention is that people can say racist things because they are afflicted, temporarily or permanently, with stupidity racism. Why? Because I believe there are that many racists, even if they lack the self-awareness to realise they are, in fact, racist. These would be people <FAIRFAX YOU REALLY NEEDED YOUR SUBS> obsessed with the supremacy of their race feels to the exclusion of facts. They are out there. And their numbers are significant. And the best frontman they can present is not the Prime Minister, as John Oliver found in Last Week Tonight last fortnight, he ain’t growing the brand. Scott Morrison. Seriously. He is my worst nightmare. Because he would win a poll held whenever in a canter. Because of the stupid racists.

I’d wager that the overwhelming majority of us, no matter the colour, are roughly as ‘‘racist’’ our formal education, are is not as stupid as each other <OK WHOEVER PRESSED ‘GO’ WITHOUT SUBBING THIS COLUMN IS DOING MY HEAD IN>. In other words, let’s stop the stupid. Not just the stupid things we say. Stop electing stupid governments. Stop watching unqualified people erect plaster board and selling their bodgy renos to stupid people with more money than sense. Stop labelling basic human decency and not being a racist as “political correctness”. Stop appropriating the future by thinking about electricity bills. Stop decrying learning and instead reach for something beyond ourselves. Just stop being so bloody stupid.

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The spying game

19 11 2013

“My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”

~ Edward Snowden, “Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations”

The Guardian, 11 June 2013

 

 

Here’s a quick backgrounder on those members of Indonesia’s political and military classes named yesterday in materials leaked by Edward Snowden and obtained by The Guardian Australia and ABC as targets for Australian SIGINT (signals intelligence) gathering in 2009:

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono former General, President since 2004. His government has been criticised by groups including Human Rights Watch for repeated abuses against minority ethnic and religious groups, and for rewarding political supporters including Hatta Rajasa with key cabinet posts. As security minister under Megawati Sukarnoputri, SBY was in charge of the crackdown on the Papuan reformasi movement. SBY is reported to be working to ‘quell’ members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, which admitted the West Papuan National Coalition for Liberation (WPNLC) as a full member in June, before Indonesian intervention saw the decision delayed by six months.

At the time of Australia’s alleged spying activities (2009), Wikileaks cables revealed the US refused a visa for a ‘senior aide’, former Indonesian army general Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, to attend the Pittsburgh G20 leaders’ meeting, for ‘alleged involvement in East Timor war crimes’. SBY responded by making him deputy defense minister. Other leaked cables state that the family (the First Lady in particular) sought to benefit financially from their political position, and allege that SBY used the Indonesian State Intelligence Agency (BIN) to spy on his political allies and opponents, a charge former President Megawati Sukarnoputri made this year. Elected on an anti-corruption platform, SBY has been accused of underfunding agency efforts to clean up one of the world’s most corrupt countries – just last month the chief justice and head of the constitutional court was arrested by the Corruption Eradication Commission KPK.

Kristiani Herawati (also Ani Bambang YudhoyonoFirst Lady and Vice Chair of the Democratic Party (graft beset political party she cofounded with her husband. Daughter of Soeharto-era special forces general. You can read an interesting primer on the Yudhoyono / Wibowo families here. Her brother Pramono Edhie Wibowo was most recently Army Chief of Staff, and former head of Kopassus (the Indonesian Special Forces). Pramono commanded a Kopassus team deployed to Timor Leste in the lead-up to the 1999 independence referendum.

Boediono Vice President (preceded by Yusuf Kalla). Succeeded in 2008 as Coordinating Minister for the Economy by Sri Mulyani Indrawati, following his election as governor of the central bank. He resigned this post to become SBY’s running mate in 2009. The Jakarta Post speculated yesterday that the ongoing Bank Century bailout investigation may step up to include the Vice President.

Yusuf (Jusuf) Kalla former Vice President. The former chairman of the Golkar Party, Kalla may run as VP candidate on a ticket with former President, Megawati Sukarnoputri. Kalla has supported (and acknowledged as an honorary member of) the paramilitary group Pemuda Pancasila, formed in the 1950s as an anti-communist group and has been filmed wearing the organisation’s colours. Kalla laid the blame for the trillion-rupiah ‘Bank Century’ bailout at the feet of Sri Mulyani, Hatta Rajasa, Sofyan Djalil and his successor as Vice President, Boediono.

Dino Patti Djalal recently resigned as Indonesian Ambassador to the United States to run in presidential primaries for SBY’s Democratic Party; together with Andi Mallarangeng, he is a former spokesman for President Yudhoyono. East Timor and West Papuan activists strongly opposed his appointment as Ambassador, labelling him an apologist for the Indonesian military and militias in his role as spokesman for the “Task Force for the Implementation of the Popular Consultations in East Timor” in 1999. He has since spoken out against the government’s tactics and actions as Timor Leste moved toward independence.

Andi Mallarangeng former spokesman for President Yudhoyono, former Youth and Sports Minister, now under KPK (Corruption Eradication Commission) arrest in relation to the $42 million Hambalang sports center graft case. It is alleged he used kickbacks to buy votes in an attempt to secure the chairmanship of the Democratic Party.

Hatta Rajasa Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs (preceded by Sri Mulyani Indrawati)  and chairman of the National Mandate Party. Former State Secretary of Indonesia; Minister for Transportation; Research and Technology. Alleged to have clashed with former finance minister Agus Martowardojo over implementing corruption and accountability measures. Despite several transportation disasters, including the crashes of Mandala Airlines flight 91, Adam Air flight 547 and Garuda Indonesia flight 200, as well as the sinking of the Digoel and Senopati Nusantara ferries occurring on his watch, SBY rewarded him with the position of state secretary (giving him the ear of the president and the ability to speak on his behalf). He is now second only to SBY in terms of setting Indonesian economic policy, despite having little financial experience.

Sri Mulyani Indrawati finance minister until 2010, now Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director of The World Bank. With no political affiliations, she has been an easy target over the Bank Century scandal, with parliament voting for criminal investigations into her role (& that of VP Boediono).

Widodo Adi Sucipto retired Admiral, former Commander-in-Chief of Indonesia’s National Armed Forces (TNI), and Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs until 2009. As TNI chief, and as security minister, he held a hardline stance toward independence movements in Aceh and Papua.

Sofyan Djalil former state-owned enterprises minister; questioned over corruption claims in 2012. Previously held the communication and information portfolios.

Do I feel more informed, knowing this was being done in my name? I’m not even surprised. Am I outraged that it was done? No. Here are some examples of how the media have treated allegations of Indonesian spying:

  • “Indonesians spying on Papuans: Greens” The Age, 26 May 2006
  • “Yudhoyono leadership tested by murder case” AM, 2 December 2005
  • “‘Death threats’ to widow of lawyer” The Australian, 17 September 2008
  • “Spy chief says Jakarta embassy bugged” SMH, 14 November 2004

I think it’s important to consider the context – both the personalities involved and the timing of this activity (read more here) – were the phone tapping activities linked to the twin bombings at the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels? It was reported at the time of that the same explosive materials were used in the 2002 Bali bombings, and that security agencies including the CIA had been caught off guard. BIN used charity funds to hire Washington lobbyists to get Congress to drop ‘legislative and policy restrictions on security cooperation’ with Indonesia. Hell, former President Wahid told SBS Dateline he believed the second of the 2002 Bali bombings was a ‘false flag’ – organised by Indonesian authorities.

All of this counts for nothing, now. Our ‘friendship’, elastic for years, may have been irreparably damaged. Australia has lost Indonesia’s trust. What cooperation we could expect on transnational crime and terrorist activities is dust. That is the cost of being found out.





Great expectations

8 02 2013

Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence.

In other words, it is war minus the shooting.

 ~ George Orwell

I’ve written about doping in sport several times on this blog (here and here), mostly about procycling, but also what I consider the sporting crime of our times: State Plan 14:25 – the East German ‘diplomats in tracksuits’, approximately 10,000 athletes (including children) doped by the State with performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). The scale, the cruel consequences, the ‘win at all costs’ regime makes Lance Armstrong look like a kindergarten bully.

The release yesterday of the Australian Crime Commission’s Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport report – the result of a 12 month investigation, aptly code named Project Aperio (a Latin verb meaning ‘uncover’ or ‘open’), hasn’t surprised or shocked me. Not the scale of its findings, not the scope of the investigation, or that the coercive witness powers of the ACC were used – and I love sport. I love it because I can’t run out of sight on a dark night. I can swim a bit, and play tennis. That’s it. Oh, I can leg press 180 kilograms (hardly surprising; I have long, strong muscles attached to metre-long legs). I love people who are good – brilliant – at their jobs. If those jobs involve a football, a tennis racquet or swimming caps, all the better.

Orwell captures the essence of my take on the last few days in those few sentences above.

Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play: don’t give me piffle about Don Bradman, or golden ages forever tarnished by a 40-odd page report and a press conference. Sporting organisations and their products have traded on the notion of ‘fair play’ since the first Olympics. You don’t need to use elite athletes to test ‘undetectable’ drugs to make a mockery of an ideal. You can throw tacks on the road in front of cyclists racing aerodynamically down a mountain. You can use your elbows to cause your opponents to fall over in a distance race. You can punch someone below the belt. You can bowl a ball with the intention of hitting a batsmen, instead of the stumps, or roll a ball down the pitch against a valiant, disgusted foe. You can field a below par team to pick the cream of the next crop. You can employ wrestling techniques to slow play.

Serious sport is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness: You can grunt, dive for a penalty, taunt an opponent so tastelessly that they head butt you. You can threaten to rip a man’s heart out, rip his children’s hearts out, bite, gouge, brawl, engage in ultimately deadly rivalries, label yourself the greatest and another man an ‘Uncle Tom’, king hit a player for doing nothing more than marking your patch. You can smash racquets and abuse officials. You can, without proof, label someone who swims faster than and sets world records an ‘obvious’ drug cheat. You can call yourselves leaders in drug testing, and be revealed as a sham. You can lie to yourself and courts, fool millions of people and foully degrade and discredit anyone who dares stand up to you. You can choose to become part of a code of silence instead of speaking what you know to be the truth, or pursue a lead on a story. You can choose to be a cheerleader, ingratiate yourself with athletes, managers, clubs, administrators because you are so close to glory you can taste it.

Serious sport is bound up with a disregard of all rules: you can set a pathetic policy where your players, your product, aren’t subject to the laws that apply to every other citizen, where recreational drug users you catch out are rarely named or reported to police. You can surrender your place in an Olympic team to someone who hasn’t qualified, and watch them win a gold medal. You can handle a ball to score a goal instead of your feet, and win a place or a game in the ultimate exhibition of the joga bonito and blithely admit it in a post-match interview, or claim divine intervention. You can break salary caps and make dodgy deals. You can tweet garbage  ohberniebecause you are witless. You can bet on or against your own team or race, consort with criminals, paint a horse so it resembles another, poor performer. You can insist drivers race on unsafe tracks, and take action only when one life too many is lost.

Serious sport is bound up with sadistic pleasure in violence:  We, the stadium fillers, bay for ever-harder, brain-rattling tackles, celebrate the spilling of claret or a knockout in the boxing ring. Our games may not be violent, but they become sadistic. Rule changes push athletes to, and beyond, the limits of pain and endurance. We find intermediate stages of three-week races boring, and thrill when tour organisers announce brutal stages. Players who miss penalties never live down the ignominy. We take pleasure in hating rival teams, rival codes, rival sports, other countries. We bait rival fans and rely on other fixtures so we ‘win’ at the expense of another’s loss. We resort to racial abuse and defend those who practice it. We, the fans, have voices. We choose to silence ourselves and demand ever-greater performances. We buy pulp peddled by pundits who self-censor and allow the brave to be damned.

Sometimes, we bear witness to horror, and react with every ounce of human kindness and concern, sorrow at the loss of athletes dying young or stretchered off a ground with broken limbs or hearts which have ceased beating. We remember serious sports bear serious risks and consequences. We remember, and try to right wrongs. We can think, call, write, refuse to pay for memberships, support the outspoken against the omertà. We can accept losses with good grace, instead of crying with indignation that ‘we wuz robbed”. We can be better, act with integrity and ask the same in return.





Move your bloomin’ arse!

31 10 2011

My flexi trifecta is probably a bit dodgy this year, here are the six, no order:

No. 2: Jukebox Jury

No.6 Manighar

No.9 Lucas Cranach

No.12 Red Cadeaux

No.22 Tullamore

No.23 Niwot

Happy punting.

 

 





Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

23 10 2011

Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate.

Hubert Humphrey

This is a cropped image taken (stolen) from the Herald-Sun’s #occupymelbourne gallery. I was flicking through, & this poster caught my attention. I flicked back & forth & still ended up at the same image.

Why? Because it speaks to me so loudly of everything that I find disturbing about the occupy movement as it exists in Australia. No economics or factoids in this post. Purely visceral.

Firstly, an apology to #occupysydney participants for not fully understanding why the camp was established outside the Reserve Bank of Australia. I was hammering away, railing inside my head & on Twitter as to why camp hadn’t been set up in Bridge Street (drunken aside: #occupybs would be a cool hashtag) given it’s home to the ASX? I asked a question on Twitter tonight (depending on how quickly I write this, maybe last night) and, thanks to @hailants, I learned something. Securency. I thought polymer notes were just a cool invention. I asked politely, genuinely, & I got a polite, genuine, informative answer about something I knew nothing about. That’s pure gold to me.

OK, so back to the poster. This is so fucking far from pure gold to me it’s not funny. Starving African child juxtaposed with obese Western kids eating junk food. Seems like everything capitalism, everything wrong, everything #occupy represents. Not to me.

I am in no way accepting of how totally fucked it is that gross poverty, is delivered in white 4WDs to the Global South by, yes capitalism, but also inept, corrupt governments & non-state actors. The answer (according to me) to a fraction of that starving African child’s problems is not the carte-blanche, lazy finger-pointing at evil capitalism. It is pathetic infrastructure. It is more expensive to transport food to famine-declared areas from a food bowl IN Africa than it is to ship food aid from Europe. As this Massachusetts Institute of Technology project contends, it is only through global actors such as the World Bank that intra- and inter-country roads in Africa can be built and maintained (the example it uses is the Mombassa – Nairobi road project in Kenya). People in sub-Saharan Africa starve not because there is no food, but because transportation costs are so high, making them aid dependent, and if the greedy Global North cannot be arsed, they die. Dambisa Moyo’s seminal work, Dead Aid may not be popular, but her central thesis, that cutting aid will force these capitalist solutions to take hold, is worth study. I do not agree with cutting foreign aid; but I would play with the idea and put forward the following solution – that the member states which signed up to lift aid to 0.77 per cent of GDP under the UN Millennium Goals – make that abysmal fraction higher, and invest in an infrastructure fund that will assist in building transportation routes and enable, empower the most impoverished to trade with their neighbours. It’s a capitalist solution to a problem that exists, that is so obvious, that for the life of me, I cannot understand.

Next: is this problem assisted by a poster in Melbourne? No. Bring forth the person in, Melbourne, or my Sin City of Sydney, this city of 4.5 million, who is not aware, that somewhere in the world, people are starving. Seriously, I will travel to them, I will jam my foot in their front door  & show them this poster if I am wrong. People know famine exists; they may not understand why, beyond natural causes such as drought; but we know it happens. Forgive me, Occupiers, but where are your solutions, where are your ideas, to fixing this unnecessary, base evil, ill? Capitalism Isn’t Working? It’s not an idea; it’s a statement of questionable fact. There is no attempt to make a constructive argument; it’s not even a talking point memo. Where, in the general assemblies or working groups, are the solutions? I know what the problem is. I’m disgusted by it. I’ve been to Dharavi, one of the world’s largest slums. I’ve seen poverty in South London, where I worked in social housing; in Gaza; in Russia; in Redfern – none of which this poster represents – barring one teeny, tiny thing. The fat kids. The ultimate representation, the tool to demonstrate, about the greedy Global North. Shyeh, right on.

Yep, the fat kids eating junk food. What greater depiction of corporate greed could you imagine? Oh, I can. Teeny, tiny mind of mine suggests that the kiddies sat at the Golden Arches of the capitalist piggery of the Global North, are the the poorest percentile, those totally dependent on welfare; the kids who grow up in households where generational unemployment is a fact of life … these kiddies, the fat capitalist pigs gorging on the fries – they are the 99 per cent. Not you, not even me, with my multitude of fucktardness visited, uninvited, on my childhood. Fact: poor families sacrifice, or cannot afford, fresh fruit and vegetables. They eat fried food. They have less playing space. They are the children whose life expectancy is slashed; who will develop NCDs (non-communicable diseases) such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They will die earlier, their lives straining public health systems in between. They will, on average, not go to university. They won’t make these posters & camp in Martin Place or City Square, because they have never fucking been to Martin Place. They are in our rural and regional centres. They are on the fringes of our cities & at there epicentres. They do not regularly attend school. They are supplied with breakfast & taught how to read by the best of the 99 per cent – our under-valued teachers. These are the children Occupiers need to speak to; not Twitter twats like me. These children are growing up poorer than any of us – not in terms of disposable income, the measurable, cold, economic indicators I have written about before but under-educated, not even disengaged. They are the scorn of our ‘current affairs’ programming. Fringe-dwellers, regardless of race. The underclass. The illiterate and innumerate. The kids who set London on fire while we, the lucky 99 per cent of the Land of Oz sat here and watched. Rail against quantitative easing, #occupysydney … give me a small break while I imagine an austerity package, two or three, visited upon us. The truly frightening thing is that these children are not the stereotypical fat, unruly progeny of Macquarie Fields, or Fitzroy Crossing, or Frankston: they are the middle classes of  the BRICs, especially China and India. There are 78 million Indians with Type 2 diabetes. To work these most basic health issues through, we – who are not the 99 per cent – must get off Martin Place and reach Mumbai. Indians don’t see themselves as victims of capitalism. Indians thrive on trade; not just now, but through the ages. They live in a post-colonialist, still caste-ridden and religiously-divided country. They are more powerful than this lazy portrait, the Indians, South Americans, South Africans, Russians than our piss-poor democracy can imagine.

OK, I am drunk, and tired and I have ranted and railed more than enough for the early hours. Please leave a comment or tweet me about what this poster says to you. I am a cranky old woman, sure; but I genuinely want to know, in more than a cut and paste about how we are controlled by the banks, the media, the corporations and politicians, just what this poster represents. I want more of you,from you, as the individuals who claim to make up the 99 per cent. Agree, disagree; just don’t ignore. Oh, and don’t bash the people you have so long admired for kicking against the pricks of the right, and laughed at the idiocy of the Convoy of No Confidence. If you believe that Wayne Swan is going to chuck a Tony Abbott and stand in front of an ‘occupy buildings, abolish gaols’ banner, you are sorely mistaken. Barack Obama is endorsing #ows in his cool, pragmatic style. He wants to save his presidency by appealing to his base. End of Politics 101. Time for bed. Like this, loathe me, just think about it. Please.





Occupy This

16 10 2011

To steal from Network, Americans are mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore.

The #Occupy movement, which began as #OccupyWallStreet, a protest against bankers, bailouts and corporate greed.

In my tiny mind, Americans have every right to be angry. They might be angry enough to consign Barack Obama to a one-term presidency – unthinkable a few years ago. The left is angry, the right is angry and the Tea Party is the small government, small tax version of the pro-life, pro-gun, pro-Christian base for this decade

A few fast facts on why I think Americans are mad:

The economy: No wonder President Obama is playing golf with President Clinton. The baseline in American politics is the economy, stupid. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics‘ latest release (7 October), seasonally adjusted unemployment in September 2011 was 9.1 per cent. That’s a 0.5 per cent improvement on September 2010. Breaking that down:

  • 14 million Americans are registered unemployed
  • Of that number, the long-term unemployed (people out of work for more than 27 weeks) make up more than 44 per cent, or 6.2 million)
  • 24 per cent of teenagers (16-19 year olds) are unemployed
  • 16 per cent of blacks are unemployed (c.f. with 8 per cent unemployment among whites; 11.3 per cent for Hispanics and 7.8 per cent for Asians)
  • The annual 2010 unemployment rate of ‘Gulf War II’ veterans (i.e. military personnel who have served post September 2001) is 11.5 per cent
Delving slightly deeper, while the labor force and employment figures lifted, the civilian labor force participation rate (64.2 per cent) and employment:population ratio (58.3 per cent) remain fairly static. Disturbingly, 9.3 million Americans are classed as involuntary part-time workers (i.e. their hours have been cut or they’re unable to find full-time work). In August 2011, the number was 8.8 million – an additional 444,000 people in one month. Those ‘marginally attached to the workforce’ – some 2.5 million Americans who have sought work in the last year, but not in the last four weeks, are not counted as unemployed. There are 1 million ‘discouraged’ American workers. These are the defeated and demoralised. They believe they cannot get a job, so they’ve given up. Average hourly earnings? $23.12. Average weekly earnings? $793.02.
‘Failed’ stimulus: President Obama signed The Recovery Act on 7 February 2009. The total package of $787 billion was increased to $840 billion in 2011. I bracketed ‘failed’ because it’s open to interpretation. There is certainly a perception that while some of the leading indicators have resulted in an improvement in certain sectors of the economy and regions, in my view, this is counterbalanced by one of the saddest statistics I think I’ve ever come across: $8 billion additional spend on food stamps to feed 38 million hungry Americans. (Reuters)
Dysfunctional government: the White House is caught in a pincer movement. President Obama has come out swinging at Congress recently, most notably on his jobs bill. He’s moving to Candidate Obama, criss-crossing the country selling a Bill which has no chance of passing. These people who were willing to play brinkmanship with the country’s credit card. It is pathetic.
The cost of foreign policy: President Obama got Osama bin Laden. Terrific. It doesn’t change the economic and human costs of the country’s operations in Pakistan and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the key findings of a recent report from the Eisenhower Research Project based at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies:
  • The U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan will cost between $3.2 and $4 trillion, including medical care and disability for current and future war veterans. This figure does not include substantial probable future interest on war-related debt.
  • More than 31,000 people in uniform and military contractors have died, including the Iraqi and Afghan security forces and other military forces allied with the United States.
  • By a very conservative estimate, 137,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan by all parties to these conflicts.
  • The wars have created more than 7.8 million refugees among Iraqis, Afghans, and Pakistanis.
  • Pentagon bills account for half of the budgetary costs incurred and are a fraction of the full economic cost of the wars.
  • Because the war has been financed almost entirely by borrowing, $185 billion in interest has already been paid on war spending, and another $1 trillion could accrue in interest alone through 2020.
  • Federal obligations to care for past and future veterans of these wars will likely total between $600-$950 billion. This number is not included in most analyses of the costs of war and will not peak until mid-century.
That’s just war. Don’t start me on the President’s broken promise to close Guantánamo Bay; conduct of extra-judicial killings and the disconnect between endorsement of the Arab Spring where it’s easy (Libya, for example) and wilful disregard for others (such as the Shi`a of  Bahrain).
The 99 per cent: Campaign finance reform; the disparity between tax breaks for the super-wealthy and the middle-class; corporate bailouts; out-of-control student debt it’s the beginning of a national conversation Americans haven’t engaged in for a long time.
So … it was with a general sense of irritation that I heard about the #OccupyPickAnAustralianCity protests that took place yesterday, for one reason: the great Australian propensity for whingeing. If whingeing was an Olympic sport, it would be, ‘GOLD! GOLD! GOLD!’ for Australia. I whinge, I hear others whinge and I read about people whingeing on a daily basis. It’s healthy to vent, to verbalise frustrations, irritations and feelings that systems, services and other people are failing us; but when you conflate whingeing into the #Occupy movement, you cheapen it. Yes, I am fully aware that Australia was only one of 78 countries to hold protests yesterday. I would also contend that people in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece have legitimate fears and grievances against prevailing economic conditions and systemic corruption. Australia? Not so much. While many on the ‘left’ view Tony Abbott as the Nabob of No, the Occupiers of Australia are playing his game of fear and loathing:
The economy: 5.2 per cent unemployment in September 2011. As the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Measures of Australia’s Progress 2011 report shows, pretty much everything (barring productivity) has improved since 2000. Including unemployment. The bad news? That increase applies to threatened animal species due to climate change. The average weekly income per full-time employed adult is $1,305. The average hourly income is between $29.70 and$33.10 (the disparity? Female wages c.f. men) (Source: ABS)
‘Failed’ stimulus: I’m leaving this one to George Megalogenis
Dysfunctional government: I am not a cheerleader for the current Government, but I am thankful that there are some quality people in our Parliament. Not naming names, but as close to the bone it has come on major issues – especially in the last few weeks – it is functional. I may not like the politics, the policies, the poor communication and quality of political discourse, but it continues to roll on.
The cost of foreign policy: Defence estimates an approximate $6 billion spend in Afghanistan to 2014. Iraq Mk II, approximately $2.3 billion. To me, the irreparable damage is in civilian deaths, leaving Australian citizens in Gitmo, irregular migration flows (UN-speak for refugees), international reputation and pathetic policy reactions to the problems we helped cause. That said, I don’t think we’ve been breaking arms embargoes, killing people willy-nilly or uneven in our condemnation for despots the world over.
The 99 per cent: according to a new release into household wealth from the ABS, the top 20 per cent of Australian households have seen their average net wealth increase by 15 per cent to $2.2 million since 2005/06, accounting for approximately 60 per cent of total household wealth. The bottom 20 per cent’s average net wealth grew by only 4 per cent. They account for approximately 1 per cent of total household wealth. That leaves almost 30 per cent of Australian households with an average net wealth of $720,000, up 14 per cent since 2005/06 – almost on par with the richest in the land and 10 per cent ahead of the poor. I contend that there is no ’99 per cent’ in Australia. Of course there is disparity in wealth; but the two major assets of Australian households (property – $520-540,000; superannuation – $60-154,000) put ‘average’ Australia within striking distance of the top 20 per cent. This is not the case in the US. It never has been and never will be.
I hope this stirs some pots & kettles. It stirred mine.




A Simple Message to Cadel

22 07 2011
Dear Cadel,

You’re a fine man & a champion athlete. You have shown that time & again. Last night was no different. You rode your own race … and a few others’ as well.

Tonight: the Alpe d’Huez. Tomorrow: the race of truth.

Marcus Burghardt said it best in a tweet after stage 4:

Today we saw what BMC Racing Team can do with 9 riders and 19 staff pulling for one goal

Now, there is a million-plus army clad in the black & red of BMC.

A whole country willing you on.

Your bella Chiara – her humour & grace beloved by all.

All pulling in the same direction.

One goal – to see you in the maillot jaune on the only road that matters … the Champs Élysée.

Two more efforts. Chapeau. Forza

 

Close to Flying

One man against the clock
Chiara Passerini and her World Champion, Mendrisio, 2009
BMC Pro Racing, on their way to 2nd in the Team Time Trial, 2011 TdF