Fueling murder: Britain to send £100mn in aid to war-torn Yemen while also selling £3bn in arms to Saudis – BY RT

© Khaled Abdullah / Reuters
Workers and journalists inspect damage at the Alsonidar Group’s water pumps and pipes factory one day after it was hit for the second time by Saudi-led air strikes in Sanaa, Yemen September 22, 2016.

Britain is to increase spending on humanitarian aid to war-torn Yemen while at the same time signing off multibillion-pound arms deals to Saudi Arabia, which stands accused of war crimes.

International Development Secretary Priti Patel announced Britain will send an additional £37 million (US$48 million) in aid to Yemen this year, bringing the total package to £100 million.

It comes as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson faces calls from two senior MPs to support an independent investigation into whether war crimes have been committed in the Yemen conflict.

Johnson has refused to block UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the government has rejected calls for a vote in Parliament on the matter.

The foreign secretary maintains there is no evidence international law has been violated in the Yemen conflict, where Saudi Arabia has led a coalition of nations fighting Houthi rebels since March last year.

Patel defended the UK’s weapons exports to Saudi Arabia – which totaled £3 billion last year – saying the government has a “robust policy and position” on arms controls.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, Patel said: “People are suffering. There’s no water or clean sanitation, there is a public health crisis, children are dying, there is a need for food and shelter.”

She added that 19 million people lack access to water or sanitation, while 80 percent of the population are in need of humanitarian assistance.

The gesture was quickly criticized by Shadow International Development Secretary Kate Osamor, who said Britain’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia “negate” development work in the region.

She called on the government to suspend arms sales to Riyadh until a full investigation has been carried out.

Her call has been echoed by two senior MPs who have urged Johnson to “to seize this opportunity and support the establishment of an international, independent mechanism under the auspices of the UN.”

Chris White, chairman of the Committees on Arms Export Controls, and International Development Committee Chair Stephen Twigg expressed hope an inquiry will “deter future violations of international humanitarian law as well as providing independent and conclusive evidence in relation to allegations that have been leveled at both sides of the conflict.”

The MPs say an inquiry is needed because of the staggering death toll in the conflict. Some 7,000 people are thought to have died, 1,100 of them children.

Comment: The US is also helping the Saudis: Human rights be damned: US Senate green lights $1.15 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia

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US deliberately killed Syria ceasefire to prevent exposure of its systematic arming of terrorists – By Finian Cunningham

There are several sound reasons for concluding that the US-led air strike on the Syrian army base near Deir Ezzor last weekend was a deliberate act of murderous sabotage. One compelling reason is that the Pentagon and CIA knew they had to act in order to kill the ceasefire plan worked out by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The compulsion to wreck the already shaky truce was due to the unbearable exposure that the ceasefire plan was shedding on American systematic involvement in the terrorist proxy war on Syria.

Not only that, but the tentative ceasefire was also exposing the elements within the US government responsible for driving the war effort. US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter – the head of the Pentagon – reportedly fought tooth and nail with Obama’s top diplomat John Kerry while the latter was trying to finalize the ceasefire plan with Russia’s Lavrov on the previous weekend of September 9 in Geneva.

While Sergey Lavrov and media reporters were reportedly kept waiting several hours for Kerry to finally emerge to sign off on the deal, the American foreign secretary was delayed by intense haggling in conference calls with Carter and other military chiefs back in Washington. Even days before Kerry’s diplomatic shuttle to Geneva, Carter was disparaging any prospective deal with Russia on a Syrian ceasefire.

It is well documented that both the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have been running clandestine programs for arming and training anti-government militants in Syria since the outset of the war in March 2011. Officially, Washington claims to be only supporting «moderate, vetted opposition». However, on occasion, Western media reports allude to the deeper sinister connections between the US military and terrorist groups when it has been reported that American weaponry «accidentally» finds its way into the hands of extremist jihadist networks.

This pretense by the US – and its other NATO and Arab allies – of supporting «moderate rebels» and of having no involvement with recognized terror groups like Al Nusra and Daesh (ISIS) was being exposed by the latest ceasefire.

It is conceivable that the diplomatic corps of the Obama administration, including President Barack Obama and his foreign emissary John Kerry, may be benighted about the full extent of America’s dirty war in Syria and its systematic connections to the terrorist brigades. Perhaps, this Obama flank is gullible and venal enough to believe in Washington’s propaganda of a dichotomy between «moderate rebels» and «terrorists».

Thus, when Kerry announced the ceasefire plan with Lavrov in Geneva on September 9, the American diplomat’s calls for the US-backed «moderate rebels» to separate themselves from the terror groups may have been made out a naive notion that such a distinction might exist. How else could we explain such a futile public appeal?

Not so, thought the Pentagon and CIA. The covert warmongers in the Pentagon and at Langley know the vile truth all along. That is, that all the militant groups in Syria are integrated into a terrorist front, albeit with a plethora of different names and seeming differences in commitment to al Qaeda Wahhabi ideology. The masters of war know that Washington is a sponsor of this terrorist front, along with its NATO and Arab allies.

Anyone with an informed knowledge about the origins of Al Qaeda from CIA authorship in Afghanistan during the 1980s would not be surprised in the slightest by such a systematic American role in the Syrian conflict.

This perspective reasonably explains why Carter. and the US military generally, were making conspicuous objections to Kerry’s ceasefire plan with Russia. They knew the ceasefire was not only infeasible because of the systematic links between the US and the terror groups, but also that a failing ceasefire would furthermore expose these systematic connections, and create wider public awareness about American complicity in the Syrian war.

And, as it transpired, the apprehensions of the Pentagon and the CIA terrorist handlers were indeed founded. Within days of the Kerry-Lavrov ceasefire being implemented on September 12, the following was undeniable: there was no separation of «moderates» and «terrorists». All militant groups were continuing to violate the nominal truce in the northern battleground city of Aleppo and in other locations across Syria.

The US and Western media then began venting about the Syrian «regime» and its Russian ally not delivering on giving humanitarian aid access to insurgent-held areas of eastern Aleppo. But that rhetorical gaming could not disguise the fact that the ceasefire was being breached by all the militant groups, which made it impossible for humanitarian aid convoys to enter Aleppo. Another factor played down by the Western media was that the Turkish government refused to coordinate with the Syrian authorities in the routing of UN truck convoys from the Turkish border into Aleppo. Given Turkey’s past documented involvement in using «humanitarian aid» as a cover for supplying weapons to insurgents, the vigilance demanded by Damascus is understandable.

The floundering ceasefire was thereby providing a withering world exposure of American terrorist complicity in Syria. The US lie about backing «moderates» as opposed to «terrorists» was being shown once and for all to be a cynical delusion. Evidently, US claims of supporting a «legitimate» opposition were seen for what they are – an utter sham. That leads to an even more damning conclusion, that the US government is a sponsor of a terrorist proxy army in Syria for its criminal objective of regime change in that country. In theory at least, this disclosure warrants legal prosecution of Washington and its allies for the commission of war crimes against the state of Syria.

Given the grave stakes for American international standing that the ceasefire was endangering, it is reasonable to posit that a decision was taken by the Pentagon to sabotage. Hence, on September 17, American, British and Australian warplanes struck the Syrian Arab Army elite forces’ base near Deir Ezzor, in eastern Syria, killing over 60 personnel and wounding nearly 100 more.

The US, Britain and Australia have since claimed that it was an accident, and that their aircraft were intending to attack Daesh militants in the area. The US-led coalition claims it will carry out an investigation into the air strike. As with many times before, such as when the US devastated a hospital in Afghanistan’s Kunduz killing more than 30 people last year, we can expect a cover-up.

Briefly, a few factors for doubting the US coalition’s claim of an accident are: why did the Daesh militants reportedly launch an offensive operation on the Syrian army base less than 10 minutes after it was struck by F-16s and A-10s? That suggests coordination between the coalition air forces and the terrorists on the ground.

Secondly, it defies credibility that sophisticated air power and surveillance could mistake an army base and adjacent air field containing hundreds of troops for ragtag guerrilla units.

Thirdly, as Russian military sources point out, the US coalition had previously not been active in that area over the past two years of flying operations. The Syrian army was known to be recently waging an effective campaign against Daesh around Deir Ezzor. That suggests that the US air power was being deployed to defend the terrorist units, as the Syrian and Russian governments were quick to claim after the US-led air strike on Deir Ezzor. That is consistent with the broader analysis of why and how the entire Syrian war has been fomented by Washington for regime change.

But perhaps the most telling factor in concluding that the US and its allies carried out the massacre at Deir Ezzor deliberately is the foregoing argument that the Pentagon and CIA war planners knew that the flawed ceasefire was exposing their terror tentacles in Syria. And certainly, if any US-Russian joint anti-Daesh operations were to take place as envisaged by the Kerry-Lavrov plan, then the charade would definitely be blown apart.

In that case, only one thing had to be done as a matter of necessity. The unwieldy, discomfiting ceasefire had to be killed off. And so the Pentagon decided to make a «mistake» at Deir Ezzor – a «mistake» that has gutted any minimal trust between the US and Russia, unleashing recriminations and a surge in ceasefire violations.

The American and Western media respond in the usual servile way to aid the cover-up. The massacre at Deir Ezzor is being largely ignored as a news story, with much more prominence given to a relatively minor bombing incident in New York City on the same weekend in which no-one was killed. Or, when reported on, the US media in particular have automatically accepted without question that the air strike was an accident. CNN also dismissed out of hand Syrian government claims of it being proof of American collusion with terrorists as «absurd». A claim that would otherwise seem fairly logical.

The New York Times had this gloss to paint over the air strike:

«The United States’ accidental bombing of Syrian troops over the weekend has put it on the defensive, undercutting American efforts to reduce violence in the civil war and open paths for humanitarian relief».

The American so-called newspaper-of-record then adds:

«The United States had thought that if a deal to ease hostilities in Syria, struck by Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart in Geneva nine days ago, fell apart, it would reveal Russia’s duplicity in the war, in which Moscow has supported the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad».

How ironic. According to The New York Times, the Americans anticipated that the ceasefire deal would reveal «Russia’s duplicity in the war». Maybe, they calculated that Russia and Syria would not abide by the cessation, which they very much did during the first week, showing discipline and commitment to finding a peaceful settlement.

Far from revealing Russia’s «duplicity», it is Washington that emerged as the culprit, as the Pentagon and CIA had feared all along because of their deep complicity with the terrorist proxies.

Killing the Syrian ceasefire was like the necessity to extinguish a spotlight that had suddenly come on and begun exposing the putrefaction and bloodied hands in America’s dirty war.

Comment: See also:

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Kunduz Redux: Australia joins US in Deir al-Zour cock up. – By Sean Stinson

On Saturday at 5pm local time US Central Command launched airstrikes on Syrian army positions in Deir al-Zour in the Thardeh Mountain region, killing 62 Syrian Aran Army soldiers and leaving over 100 injured. The SAA was defending a position it had recently reclaimed from Islamic State, and the air strike enabled IS militants to advance. This has led to accusations by the Russian foreign ministry that the White House is defending Islamic State.

According to a statement issued by US Central Command the coalition believed it was attacking positions of so-called Islamic State, and “the raids were halted immediately when coalition officials were informed by Russian officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military”.

Details of Australia’s involvement in this ‘mistake’ have slowly begun to emerge, but it is still unclear at time of writing which our F/A-18A Hornets, Wedgetail command planes and RAAF KC-30 aerial refuellers were involved in the attack. In deference to our betters, Defence issued a statement today stating “As Australians would expect, the US-led Coalition will review this incident thoroughly and Australia will cooperate fully [bend over as far as possible] with this review.”

In the wake of the attacks Russia convened an urgent UN Security Council meeting, in which Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin made it clear that the US had violated the terms of the current cease fire agreement by attacking a Syrian army position. US Ambassador Samantha Power was dismissive, accusing Russia of joining the Assad regime and playing the pot-kettle-black card, repeating allegations of Russian attacks on refugee camps and hospitals. (Power appears to suffer from selective amnesia regarding the events of 3 October 2015, when a United States Air Force AC-130U gunship attacked the Kunduz Trauma Centre operated by Médecins Sans Frontières in northern Afghanistan, leaving 42 people killed and over 30 injured.)

The 2003 invasion of Iraq and lynching of Saddam Hussein cost the lives of over a million innocents, destroyed an entire country, and, so we are repeatedly told by the MSM, set the stage for Islamic State. Less than a decade later, the US is supplying weapons and giving air support to so-called moderate rebels in a bid to depose the Syrian government and its elected leader. Needless to say, turning Syria over to Islamist terrorists intent on imposing Sharia law would mean the complete destruction of the last secular democracy in the Middle East?

So tell me again. Why are RAAF jets flying missions inside Syria? Why are we following the United States blindly halfway around the world to drop bombs on a country with whom we are not at war? And why, in the name of all that is holy, are we supporting ISIS?

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Modern economics has lost sight of people – By KEN WOLFF


This is the first of four articles looking at particular changes, and potential changes, in our economic environment and approach to economics generally.

For those who have followed my pieces on TPS you may recall that I am qualified as a social anthropologist. I take the anthropological view that economics is about how a society uses and distributes its resources — that is any society, whether hunter-gatherer or a modern technological society. It is a view that raises some questions about our modern approach to economics.

Basically the ‘use’ of resources includes a social responsibility for sustainable use so that resources can be utilised by others when required and also be available for future generations. And ‘distribution’ of resources includes a social responsibility to ensure that everyone in a community gets a reasonable share to enable them to survive comfortably within the context of their society.

Classical Western economics, however, is based on the tenet of the rational self-interested individual: that people make rational choices in the market that best provide ‘utility’. ‘Utility’ is something that provides the user/purchaser with satisfaction and/or meets their desires in some way. Adam Smith also introduced the concept of the benevolent ‘invisible hand’ whereby decisions made in an individual’s self-interest actually prove beneficial for society.

In classical economics there are also the concepts of ‘perfect knowledge’, by which the individual makes rational decisions based on information about all the prices in the market, and ‘perfect competition’ by which a product reaches an equilibrium (supply matching demand), and its price also reaches an equilibrium for all suppliers of that product, meaning there is then no competition nor need for advertising of the product. Of course these do not exist in the real world. Neither are individuals always rational in making their decisions in the market. So what was classical economics actually describing?

Even the concept of the market needs exploring. Markets of course go back millennia but the concept of the market has changed over time. Early in human history people shared goods, then exchanged surplus goods for other desirable goods and, as villages and towns developed, for services. Money eventually became the medium of exchange for any good or service.

Markets were not always based exclusively on the individual. In medieval Europe if a merchant from town A left debts when he departed town B, the merchants from town B didn’t pursue that individual merchant directly but would detain the next merchant who arrived from town A and hold him until he, the original merchant, or anyone from town A paid the debts. In that sense, the role of the individual in the market wasn’t as important as it later became — at that time it was believed that the community from which the merchant came also had a responsibility for his behaviour (and his debts). Subsequently merchant guilds were formed in which debts could be settled and over time that grew towards individual responsibility for the settlement of debts.

The other concept relevant to the modern market is private property. While the idea of private property now dominates our economic and social thinking it was not always so. Even in medieval England when land was held by dukes, barons and the like, there was common land used by the serfs, so both common and private property co-existed. It is estimated that, although serfs had to provide labour to the rich landholders, by using the common and small plots around their own dwellings they were actually able to keep from 50% to 70% of the product of their own labour. An industrial labouring class was created during the industrial revolution with the enclosure of the commons (in modern parlance, the land was privatised) and poor farmers and rural labourers no longer had access to that land to supplement their incomes and so had little choice but to work in the factories.

In the market, the logic is that to exchange something I must own it in the first place and the other party must also own what they are exchanging. The logic of that seems apparent when one considers what a thief may offer for exchange: we undoubtedly consider that not to be a fair exchange because the thief does not actually own the item of exchange — or does he? The thief clearly has ‘possession’, so is there a logical difference between ‘ownership’ and ‘possession’ in the economic system?

The emphasis on private property as central to a market economy goes back at least to the 1700s in England. C B Macpherson, a political scientist also trained in economics, argued that political freedom came before economic freedom and was first obtained by the property-owning elites who then used their new political power in their own self-interest to entrench private property rights. And it also goes back in history in the sense that much modern ‘ownership’ is based on past dispossession of previous owners and yet the economic system is based on the modern possession not the historic ownership.

Now private property, whether physical or intellectual, is central to thinking in a modern market and in modern economics.

These concepts were put together by the philosophers Hobbes and Locke but Macpherson also argued that they were bound by the values of their time and hence developed their philosophies around the market, contractual obligations and property; and the concept that an individual is the sole proprietor of his or her skills and owes nothing to society for them — what Macpherson called ‘possessive individualism’.

In rejecting a social element to ownership, economists refer to the ‘tragedy of the commons’ to justify that individual ownership, that is private property, is superior to common or social ownership. Although the idea has a longer history, the phrase came from a paper by Garrett Hardin in 1968. It was suggested that, when people grazed their herds on a ‘common’, a self-interested individual could improve his situation by adding one animal to his herd. The individual would gain the benefit. But if each individual added an animal the common would quickly degrade. While the individuals retained the benefit of having an extra animal, the ‘cost’ (the degradation) was shared, leaving them with a self-interested benefit — before the failure of the system. Following this argument, and its corollary that Adam Smith’s benevolent ‘invisible hand’ of individual self-interest does not work for the commons, economists argue that private property, and the individual’s responsibility for that property, remedies the situation and that became central to modern economics.

That approach is based, however, on a misunderstanding of how commons worked. They were not ‘open access’ as the theory implies. Throughout the world where people shared resources there were usually social and cultural rules that controlled that sharing. In Iceland, for example, the common resource of the fisheries was traditionally controlled by kinship rules that allocated spaces on the beach, that were necessary for launching fishing boats, to individual families. In some communities in India the allocation of the common resource of water for farming was determined by community meetings. People accepted these approaches as essential for the well-being of their communities or, in other words, social responsibility was more important than individual self-interest.

The modern market idea of private property and individual self-interest has basically destroyed social responsibility and the concept of the common good and allowed polluters to pour their waste into the ‘commons’ of the rivers, oceans and atmosphere.

We now use GDP to measure the ‘success’ of our economy but the use of GDP to measure economic activity only arose after the Great Depression of the 1930s when the American government was concerned that it did not see the depression coming. The government asked economic experts for a model that would allow it to keep track of the economy and so have a chance of foreseeing such events in the future.

The use of GDP, however, was being questioned as early as the late 1950s. Even its creator, Simon Kuznets, said that ‘the welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income’.

A major problem with GDP is that it measures only productive activity and takes no account of the losses or costs associated with the activity:

… it tends to go up after a natural disaster. Reconstruction and remediation spur intense activity that is registered by GDP, while the destruction, lives lost, suffering and disruption to families and communities in the wake of a flood, cyclone or bushfire are ignored.

Or as Robert Kennedy said in 1968:

… the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. [emphasis added]

Yet we still rely on GDP as a measure of a nation’s progress although it has nothing to say about the well-being of the people. Gross GDP per head is sometimes taken as a measure of the economic prosperity of individuals: if that is rising people are said to be better off but it does not tell us whether that prosperity has enhanced ‘happiness’.

There is a long history in which ‘happiness’, or well-being, was removed from economics. A chapter in the World Happiness Report 2013 provided a potted history of the changes in the Western view of happiness: from the Greek philosophers and early Christian church’s view that happiness was achieved by being virtuous, to the economic theory of ‘utility’ in which individualism and consumerism prevailed — the early economic theorists brought material goods into the happiness equation, suggesting that people purchased that which brought them pleasure or happiness (‘utility’). In the twentieth century, however, economics came to be dominated by mathematical formulae and the question of whether market consumption could increase happiness and well-being was no longer a consideration.

Economists claim their field is a science and value free but the economy depends on social values like trust. We cannot even have a ‘market’ unless we trust each other. In a shop, the shopkeeper trusts that I will hand over the money after he hands over the goods or I trust that he will hand me the goods after I give him my money — otherwise we could be there all day arguing over who should make the first move. It could be argued that the behaviour of large multi-national corporations is destroying that trust, as is the use of tax havens to avoid social responsibility. And are we now so distrusting that we require automated payment systems, including even when paying for our goods in supermarkets? — now we have to trust a machine! Human interaction is being removed from the basic market process of exchange.

As Jeffrey D Sachs wrote in the World Happiness Report:

A prosperous market economy depends on moral ballast for several fundamental reasons. There must be enough social cooperation to provide public goods. There must be enough honesty to underpin a stable financial system. There must be enough attention paid to future generations to attend responsibly to the natural resource base. There must be enough regard for the poor to meet basic needs and protect social and political stability.

After all the economy does not exist in its own right. The market and the economy is people, as producers and consumers, as it has always been. It is the approach to it that has changed.

In an article in The Monthly, Richard Denniss argued that we are being led to believe that governments, in making their decisions, have to be conscious of the reactions of ‘the markets’. He wrote that we should remember that ‘markets’ per se do not have feelings, do not have needs or demands. What we refer to as ‘markets’ is actually people buying and selling and attempting to manipulate trading for their own advantage.

So historically we have moved from social co-operation in economic activity to twentieth century economic theories that have reduced people almost to invisibility. We discuss economics in terms of markets, GDP and monetary and fiscal policy as though these are entities in their own right. There is no economy without people, no markets, no goods and services without people as producers and consumers but this now gets less attention. The economy is deemed to have its own ‘scientific’ rules that operate irrespective of people and, as mentioned earlier, can now be analysed simply in terms of mathematical formulae.

Until people are re-introduced into the equation (both metaphorically and literally), the economists will not be describing the real economy nor will those utilising economic theory, such as governments (and their advisers), pay enough attention to the needs of their people. When ‘markets’ and GDP come first, people come last.

We need to measure the well-being of the people rather than only production; we need to pay more attention to the sustainability of our use of resources, not only for future generations but to ensure that current generations have reasonable and continued access; we need to ensure a fair distribution of resources, not only within our own society, but for all people globally; and only then will we have an economic approach that is realistic rather than the narrow view of current economic theory.

Next time, continuing the economic theme, I will discuss ‘an economy without people’ as robotics and other changes reduce the size of the workforce.

What do you think?
Who benefits from economic theory if it does not pay enough attention to people?

Why have we accepted the propaganda that even social progress hinges on the economy?

Let us know in comments below.

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The sharks, the scent of blood and Sam Dastyari – By David Donovan

David Donovan 7 September 2016, 12:00pm 147

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samdastyariandthelnp

The mainstream media are relentlessly – frenetically – in pursuit of Senator Sam Dastyari over a meagre $1,600 donation — but why? Managing editor David Donovan explains.

TURNBULL IS IN TROUBLE. Falling in the polls and beset upon on every side. Then suddenly the mainstream media are fascinated ‒ obsessed, even! ‒ with a political donations scandal.

But which one? There are so many to choose from…

Is it Parakeelia? Money-laundering and rorting on a huge scale? Where Liberal Party MPs fraudulently funnelled their IT allowances, worth collectively hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, through a wholly owned subsidiary into their political party?

No, no-one of the media is at all interested in that outrageous scam.

Was it the NSW ICAC Operation Spicer report being finally handed down last week, which found about a dozen Liberal Party MPs in NSW had flagrantly violated NSW’s donation laws. Allegedly committed crimes and engaged in corruption, in other words — although NSW Premier Mike Baird calculatedly changed the definition of corruption in NSW last December so ICAC couldn’t call it corruption in the report. Which is even worse corruption, when you think about it.

Operation Spicer also, as Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones reported on Friday, far from cleared forgetful Arthur Sinodinos, despite the self-serving Senator’s squeaks in Parliament last week about ICAC “exonerating” him. 

No, although they did report on this matter a little early last week, the media really isn’t very interested in that scandal either.

The donations scandal the media are relentlessly fascinated with is, of course, the one relating to Sam Dastyari. Someone in the media found that Dastyari had, on his register of interests, a bill for about $1,670 having been paid for by a Chinese company. This matter has not become so vital, so key to our national interest, we even saw accomplished wedding singer Leigh Sales move out from under her ABC Ultimo desk to confront Dastyari at an outdoor press conference.

Now, IA wouldn’t for a minute advocate a politician having an expense paid for by anyone, let alone a foreign corporation. But then, we don’t think politicians should collect donations from any organisation. And we think donations should be limited in amount — perhaps to less than $1,000 from any one individual. Or failing that, MPs should be forced to wear their sponsors’ logos on their suit jackets so we can all see who they are really representing. And, most importantly, we think that all donations should be declared in real time — so we can’t be fooled before elections about who is really pulling a politicians’ strings.

And as for organisations responsible to shareholders to deliver a profit, there is obviously an expectation the business will receive something in return from its political donation. Otherwise, wouldn’t it would be in breach of its fiduciary duties to its shareholders to make these payments? This system of quid pro quo is a barely concealed, seldom discussed, but nevertheless extremely real feature of Australian politics. An appallingly undemocratic feature. It is something we have talked about over and over again on these pages. The influence of big business on the Liberal Party is well known, as is the influence of unions on the ALP.

But the media isn’t talking about any of that. Well, on the margins, a little, quietly — but not really.

Distinguished former journalist Jim Parker summed it up well on Twitter this morning:

Yes, this is just a typical “pile-on”, where the media smell blood in the water and thrash around until they reach fever pitch. They drag the mob along, making every ill-informed and gullible person see, vividly, just exactly who the monster is and forget about anything else. Anything else at all. Truth, moderation, perspective, context — all those things go right out the window, as the media, public and opposing politicians firstly throw their arms up in the air in a sanctimonious display of moral panic — and then fall upon their victim in a vicious and unrestrained shark-like feeding frenzy.

We saw it with Peter Slipper. We saw it with Craig Thomson. Neither were the devils the media painted them. The media overlooked or ignored the real criminals. And now we are seeing it all again.

But here’s the kicker. Dastyari did nothing illegal. He didn’t break any rules — not as they currently stand, anyway. He did declare the donation. A gift for a relatively small amount. I’m not sure how many favours $1,670 gets you as a donor on the free market of Australian politics, but I can’t imagine it would be many. The whole “scandal” would appear to be little more than a political beat-up. And one, moreover, with a distasteful whiff of anti-Chinese bigotry. A storm in a green tea cup, you might say.

So why are they going after Dastyari when, for instance, a Chinese businessman with links to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop gave over half a million dollars to the WA branch of the Liberal Party — even though his business doesn’t even operate in Western Australia? Could it be because Dastyari has been the main one advocating for corporations to start paying their taxes? Speaking out against rich people like Malcolm Turnbull dodging tax through Cayman Island tax avoidance schemes? Had been the main proponent for a banking royal commission? Had said in February, in a “fiery speech”, ten big corporations had taken control of Australian politics?

Is it possible that the big corporations he talked about – the ones who donate large sums to the Liberal Party and really run Australia – have decided that Dastyari must be punished? Preferably sacked and silenced, but at the very least discredited?

And, of course, it has given Turnbull, humiliated last week in Parliament and beset upon by even his own side, some cover from which to attack the Opposition.

How very, very convenient.

You can follow Dave Donovan on Twitter @davrosz. Independent Australia supporters and members can also listen to managing editor Dave Donovan in his weekly podcasts in IA’s Member’s Only Area. In the most recent podcast, Dave speaks to Dr Evan Jones about political and financial corruption.

 

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Suffer the Sydney City pensioner, for local votes still matter – By Jane Salmon

By Jane Salmon

Any gerrymander where the rich get double the votes of ordinary residents is a complete attack on democracy.

The battle for universal male suffrage in the UK in the 1800s was a protracted saga (through which many history students have indeed suffered). It was rich versus poor. The structure of parliaments throughout the Commonwealth still reflect tension between “Lords” and “Commons” (or commoners).

One vote per adult citizen and everyone having an equal say is meant to be the cornerstone of a representative system. New council voting rules in NSW are an attack on the agreed fundamentals of our nation.

In Sydney, your basic “one person – one vote” principle has been undermined by new rules for City Council elections. These rules brought down by the Baird state government, double the vote for businesses and landlords.

Baird has given virtually granted the rights of “personhood” to companies. (They’ll be wanting to marry next). Unions who own city property, however, get no say. Local residents with citizenship also get only one vote. Rigged or what??

A liveable city is a healthy, safe, tourist-friendly and a workable commuter destination.  It is used by many visitors who do not get to vote at all.

The older major parties for all their strengths, barely attempt to conceal their tight and often corrupt relationships with big business, banks and developers.

Decisions made often affect residents adversely. Polluting stack or waste incinerator location, footbridge plans, Westconnex plans, casino plans, binge-drinking, lack of late night public transport, ad hoc planning created (sacred state development) sites like Barangaroo, public housing sell-offs with their brutal “decantings”, relocations, excessive foreign ownership plus an over-supply of cheap and ordinary units are all cases in point.

Sydney’s Liberal Mayors frequently overlooked locals in the past. Now their preference for CBD corporations even gives them advantages at the ballot.

Some Liberals ignore the fact that a friendly, affordable city works for all, not just companies: service workers, tourists, commuters, recreational visitors, sports fans, revellers and residents of every stripe including the mobility impaired.

Incumbent Lord Mayor Clover Moore brings both continuity and change, introducing a lively young team of prospective councillors.

Strata properties in the CBD and their residents face unique challenges. They are represented on Clover’s fresh team by strata expert Catherine Keenan and architect Philip Thalos.

Clover herself mixes with all sorts yet intimately understands the needs of local pensioners, having advocated for them across more than 30 years as a councillor, state MP and now as Mayor.

There are several reasons why inner city residents should not be “over Clover” despite the urgings of slippery shock jocks and politically-aligned media.

Liberal fixations with parking and late night drinking miss much of what is truly at stake.

Social housing residents are more or less a residential United Nations of vulnerability.

Residents cannot afford to buy or bribe their way out of situations. Many aspects of their lives and needs are managed tokenistic-ly or through bulk processing.

Social housing residents often feel powerless, frustrated, overlooked, disengaged and ranty. They are not always fun to deal with. And yet Clover Moore persists in visiting and engaging with pensioners, where most other candidates do not.

Low income residents of social housing are forced to get along. There are no large borders between them. We must salute the people who manage, given mixed levels of trauma, addiction, education and opportunity concentrated into a tower precinct with urine pooling in stairwells.

Government levels (federal, state, local) almost intentionally obfuscate the path of accountability and redress. Pensioner concerns or complaints must often be redirected to the relevant political entity.

Pollution, bad diet and health care cuts  are genocidal to the poor.

(Who can put solar panels on tower blocks to run power, heating or air-conditioners? Who moved the bus stop and why?)

Long and patient discussions are needed to explain how cycleways reduce air toxicity near towers. (Bikes in laundries and stairwells suggest that many social housing residents do in fact value the Council’s bike network).

Petty rules indexing rent to income levels create tensions among residents while reinforcing, demanding and rewarding ongoing poverty.

Few people in social housing can afford to escape their urban nightmare for weekends in the mountains or at the beach, even if they have the  mobility; so flower beds and window boxes are appreciated and cherished. Sydney City Council under Lord Mayor Clover Moore excels st these.

Residents still have several ways of achieving individual expression and significance.

One key way is that precious vote. It gives each individual relevance for as long as they feel functional enough to respond. Right wingers are actually attacking that significance not just by austerity cuts to health and education but by this dangerous gerrymander.

Door-knocking to inform social housing residents of the opportunity to participate in and of issues pertinent to this particular election is important. People who have never been approached face to face with an election flyer in their own first language feel validated by the effort to recognise their struggle to become bi- or tri-lingual. When we write, print, carry and offer that information we show them respect and acknowledge their own efforts to help themselves and one another.

Until now, poorer Australians could still express themselves and have some significance through their community and their vote. Each vote has had almost equal value (dodgy donation rules aside) regardless of income.

Representatives who recognise that the poor matter and are doing their best are very, very important to the fabric of the city.

They provide dignity, shelter from the storms that accompanies a concentration of disadvantage.

A gentle retiree invited me into his tower block unit yesterday. He offered tea. He was proud of the order he had created in his clean unit. He shared his great joy in the lorrikeets bickering in the huge fig on the corner of Phillip and Pitt Street outside his window, commenting that they were dressed like lairs from Miami Vice. (We joked about their loud Hawaiian shirts). Such connection is good for us all.

And the City needs to value and preserve those glorious sprawling fig trees.

I see much evidence that Clover Moore is a representative who will keep these residents in mind and who will dare to bring about changes that make for better inner city living for all visitors and locals. The Liberal attack on her is an attack on all of us.

The shift to mixed housing dilutes dysfunction. It is not a plot to up the rates or fill developer pockets.

If you have time in Sydney City this week, please share information about the Council election on the 10th September with everyone you meet. Every person and every vote still counts.

 

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Kathy Jackson exposed as a thief, liar and hypocrite – By Ben Schneiders

 

 

Ben Schneiders

Kathy Jackson ordered to repay $1.4 million

KATHYJACKSON

Kathy Jackson has been exposed. As a thief, a liar and a hypocrite of the highest order after the judgment against her of $1.4 million.
Kathy Jackson.
Kathy Jackson. Photo: Jason South

Just 18 months ago, Jackson received a rare apology from the House of Representatives as she was lauded by Coalition frontbencher Christopher Pyne as a “lion of the union movement”.

The apology was to Jackson and others defamed in a 2012 speech delivered by former federal MP and Health Services Union leader Craig Thomson. Even Labor leader, and the one-time friend of Jackson, Bill Shorten supported that apology.

That’s how untouchable she was, the “whistleblower” who had exposed a one-time Labor national president Michael Williamson and helped send him to jail for his crimes.

Many in the labour movement were deeply suspicious of Jackson being portrayed as a “whistleblower”. Their instincts and inside knowledge were right.

Jackson was a crook of a scale far in excess of Craig Thomson, the MP who faced serious allegations of spending union money on prostitutes, a scandal that dogged the Gillard government.

But Jackson, who helped amplify the crisis around Thomson, was harbouring some secrets of her own. As the Federal Court decision on Wednesday shows, for many years she had been systematically stealing from the HSU including on a lavish personal lifestyle.

The judgment by Richard Tracey is largely symbolic as Jackson, in her latest move to avoid justice, declared bankruptcy just before her civil trial was to begin in July.

But the decision is important for the HSU and its new national secretary, Chris Brown, as they try repair the union’s soiled reputation and its important role as a voice and advocate for low-paid health workers.

Jackson may not have to pay back the money she has stolen but it is far from over for her.

A joint Victoria and Federal Police taskforce, connected to the royal commission into union corruption, is probing Jackson for widespread fraud and theft. They will be watching Justice Tracey’s decision closely.

The taskforce’s inquiries have been extensive and it has been keenly interested in a $250,000 payment from the Peter MacCallum cancer hospital to Jackson’s old union in 2003.

They want to know if that payment was a bribe to help settle a back-dispute and what she did with all the money from the hospital.

The civil trial has also revealed the full extent of Jackson’s spending on credit cards and the hundreds of thousands drawn out in cash from the HSU.

While civil trials have a lower burden of proof than criminal inquiries, there has to be a real chance now that one day Jackson will join her old HSU comrade Michael Williamson behind bars.

ARTICLE FROM THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

CLICK ON =   http://www.smh.com.au/national/

 

The Big Four, super profits and a Royal Commission – By John Passant

John Passant 8 August 2016, 7:30am 47

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BANKINGINAUSTRALIA

The super profits of the Big Four banks continue to impact on the rest of the economy and Malcolm Turnbull’s solution of ordering them to appear before the Economics Committee is not likely to make them give up those profits. 

FOUR YEARS AGO I pointed out that Australia’s banks were, in 2010 and 2011, the most profitable in the world.

Nothing has changed. Australian banks in 2015 were, once again, the most profitable in the world.

As The Australia Institute says:

‘The figures … show 2.9% of every dollar earned in Australia ends up as bank pre-tax profit compared with the U.S. and UK at 1.2 and 0.9% respectively.’

The super profits of the Big Four banks impact on the rest of the economy. They make it more costly for business to borrow. Those bank super profits divert what would the profits of other businesses into the arms of the lenders. They make life in general (and especially housing) more costly for workers.  

Personal debt in Australia stands at about 180% of annual income. it may be that the increase in debt of workers mirrors to some extent the fall in their share of national factor income over the last few decades. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics the share going to labour has fallen from about 62% in 1974 to 53% or so last year, with a concomitant increase in the share of national factor income going to capital, from 17% to 27%). I have written about this elsewhere too.

Making super profits from workers as borrowers is why the banks have, since the GFC, shifted their focus from short term debt to domestic deposits to fund their activities. From not quite an equivalence of funding from domestic deposits and short term debt in 2007, the difference between the two as a percentage of total funding is now around 35%, as this Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) graph makes clear.

Source: rba.gov.au

Those increased real funds are then used to more safely fund loans to workers for home purchases, to investors for rental property purposes and to businesses for productive and often unproductive activity. The government and (RBA) strategy appears to be for the construction industry to take up the slack resulting from the end of the mining boom. However, concerns are growing that with a glut in the pipeline for apartments (both for housing and investment purposes) there will be a big increase in investment defaults in the near future. Oversupply will make some of the returns on these investment uneconomic. It will force a slowdown in home prices if not a fall in some cities.

From the point of view of capital overall it makes perfect sense to have a super profits tax which redirects some of the economic rents back to other sectors of capital through, for example, company tax cuts. That, indeed. is exactly what Labor, as the party best able to impose solutions on capital as a whole, tried to do with mining super profits in a very small way with its Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT).  

A super profits tax is a substitute for competitive processes in circumstances where competition does not, or cannot, break down the monopoly or oligopoly — in this case of the Big Four. It lowers the return that in a competitive environment new entrants might have caused. The higher the rate of the super profits tax the closer it comes to producing results similar to genuine competition. 

The Coalition, as the party of specific interests of capital, repealed the MRRT. The idea of a super profits tax on banks – one that David Richardson and Richard Denniss from The Australia Institute and others have argued for – would provoke a political and ideological response from the banks and the Coalition one hundred times more toxic than that from the mining companies and Coalition in 2010. 

In an earlier paper, Josh Fear, together with Richardson and Denniss, estimated that the super profits of the banks in 2010 were in the order of $20 billion a year. While they put this down to their quasi-monopoly position, I would argue these profits can only be transferred from other sections of capital because of the actions of the bank workers in doing all the hard work that produces the result flowing from the oligopoly position of the Big Four.  

The banks’ oligopolistic power means that they would pass on any super profits tax in the form of increased costs to Australian workers and business unless there was state price control of their offerings. That is the key to understanding the actions of the banks, especially the Big Four banks. They will do everything in their power to protect their profits, including their super profits.

Reflecting popular anger with banks, anger which is in part driven by an inchoate sense among many Australians that the banks are in fact ripping us off, Bill Shorten proposed a Royal Commission into the financial industry in the run up to the July election. While this struck a chord with many people, it was not enough to win Labor the election.

Of course, Labor’s concern was not just with the impact on workers or even if they could pick up votes with this call. It was also to right a monopoly wrong that distorts capital accumulation for non-banking capital. And the Liberal Party, led by a former merchant banker and as the party of, among other things, banking capital, opposed that.

However, reality has caught up with the re-elected Turnbull Government — a government with a wafer thin majority.  

After the election, the board of the Reserve Bank of Australia decided to lower the cash rate by 25 basis points to 1.5%, effective 3 August 2016.’ What this says about the slowing Australian economy is in itself a topic for another article. The banks did not pass on the whole cut to their borrowers. They cut home loans by between 0.1% and 0.14%. So, again, they are protecting their profit.

They did increase term deposit rates to help savers. Their argument is that they had to balance between the needs of borrowers and savers. This is spin. The increase was to term deposits — locked in deposits with locked in interest rates for a locked in period, typically about 8 months. Most people do not have their savings (if they have any) in such fixed term deposits. The rate increases only apply to new deposits after 2 August. And the banks can change that slightly increased rate any time they want. They do it all the time. The term deposit increase was cover for the Big Four protecting their super profits. 

According to Sophie Elsworth at News Corp Australia Network:

Estimates compiled by financial comparison website RateCity tipped the banks to make a massive windfall. The largest home lender CBA would collect an extra $475 million a year in interest and the second biggest Westpac would reap $350 million more, while NAB’s miserliness would deliver it more than $300 million. ANZ would net $265 million when compared to having passed on the full 0.25%.

So what to do? Malcolm Turnbull has ordered the CEOs of the banks to appear before the House of Representatives Economics Committee every year. Seriously? That is going to make them give up their super profits? Remember in April this year when Turnbull berated the banks about their activities? Nothing changed, of course. Malcom Turnbull is the wet lettuce man.

Bill Shorten is still pushing for a Royal Commission, which, like the neoliberal Henry Tax Review, will by and large offer up market, not working class, solutions. It may offer some trickle down benefits but we all know how reliable they are.

Of course, we ordinary working people could push for a super profits tax and price controls over interest rates to prevent the Big Four Banks from recouping any such tax. As I argued above, a rent tax is likely to be used to fund tax cuts for business. 

We could push for nationalising the banks, although the High Court might find that a step too far. Workers could take over the banks, in effect nationalising them under their own control. The current political climate is far from seeing that on the table let alone being achieved at the moment.

There is one way, however, some workers could cut into the banks’ super profits. Workers in the finance industry could fight for massive wage increases and for increased numbers of full time staff. Any real and militant fight they lead would cut the profits of the Big Four banks and redistribute some of the super profits back, initially, to those bank workers winning big pay increases but over time, to all workers as the bank workers’ pay increases flow through to workers in other sectors.

Of course, I recognise finance union leaders are not going to do this so it is up to the workers themselves. In the current climate, that is also unlikely to occur. So that throws us back to the Keynesian neoliberal solution of a Royal Commission. Tax the super profits of the banks at 100% and spend the money on socially useful programs — not tax cuts for big business. To guard against the Big Four passing the tax on to customers, control the price the finance industry can charge for home loans, personal loans and credit cards.

Read more by John Passant on his website En PassantYou can also follow John on Twitter @JohnPassant.

For more on bank malpractice, we recommend you read the latest IA series of articles by Dr Evan Jones for an in-depth analysis of the parliamentary inquiries into systemic bank corruption. 

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Hypocrisy and Censorship from the Right – By Christian Marx

By Christian Marx

Right-wing regimes have a history of censorship and obfuscating the truth. From Mussolini to Hitler to Pinochet, one of the first actions of Fascists is to totally control the media. All dissenting progressive views are silenced. The media becomes merely a propaganda and disinformation unit to brainwash and divide the populace.

It is rather ironic that people of a right-wing bent repeatedly and noisily call left-wingers Fascists. Laughable! Fascism by its very definition is very much a right-wing philosophy. At its most basic definition, it is the merging of the state and large corporate power. Unions are crushed and all workers find their working conditions under attack. The media becomes an echo chamber of hatred against minorities, intellectuals, the poor and anyone else who is not wealthy and white.

One of the most familiar clichéd babblings from the lunar right is “You oppose freedom of speech”. Freedom of speech is fine, but scapegoating and stereotyping minorities is not free speech, it is bigotry and has NO PLACE in a civilized society. When the fourth estate, largely controlled by corporations begins to spread hate and unhelpful stereotypes, bad things happen. There are many unstable and easily influenced people in our society. History has illustrated that when media propagates hate and division, evil ensues, and in extreme circumstances, millions can perish. This is precisely why there are racial vilification laws in place. They are designed to protect the marginalized from unfair and hateful attacks.

Another very noticeable trait from the right, particularly on Facebook, is to report people. When they are soundly beaten in a debate, they either resort to foul abuse or very often will report their protagonist to Facebook for the most absurd reasons. The author of this article was recently reported to Facebook for calling one such person a “simpleton”. The result was a 30 day ban from Facebook. I kid you not! It is fair to say which side of the political spectrum Facebook is sympathetic to!

Some of the sickest abuse from many right-wingers is totally ignored by Facebook, including death threats, but this doesn`t seem to breach Facebook`s “community standards”.

Not only do the right own and control all mainstream media, but it appears they also run Facebook too!

Another familiar catch cry from the lemmings is “ABC is communist” or “ABC is a far left organization”. Excuse me while I laugh. If the ABC appears far left to you, you may just happen to be lunar right-wing. The ONLY television station with a charter that ensures it MUST remain neutral is apparently “Communist”. Time and time again, independent audits have confirmed that the ABC is indeed centrist. Contrast this to the commercial stations that have no such charter. They are flagrantly and blatantly biased. Particularly channel 9 and 10. We won`t even mention Sky News! Even more biased are the horrific publications such as The Herald Sun and The Australian. No nuance or intelligent analysis is to be found within these rags. They push the narrative of bash unions, bash refugees, bash Muslims and repeat ad nausea.

Not happy with their monopoly of spin, the right must also try to gag the ABC, as it is too honest and apparently a threat to the commercial propaganda machine. We see recently the appointment of Murdoch stooge, Michelle Guthrie as CEO, and the dozens of far right ideologues infiltrating the ABC such as Janet Albrechtsen, of the militant far right organization, the Institute of Public Affairs.

Ultimately it appears that the right will scream bias and howl with derision when civil minded folks take them to account for their racial and religious hate. They call us “totalitarian” and “Stalinist”. Yet it is not the left that want to destroy the only balanced non-partisan media in Australia. The hypocrisy runs deep within the right. The irony is astounding.

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Chinese media targets Australia in South China Sea dispute – By Sputnik

© AP Photo/ Zha Chunming

The state-run Global Times issued a scathing editorial calling for war between Beijing and Canberra if Australia continues to meddle in the South China Sea dispute.

Chinese state-run media declared Australia “an ideal target for China to warn and strike” if it ventured into the contested South China Sea in a scathing call for war laced with insults against the country.

The Global Times, known for a hardline nationalist editorial line, blasted Canberra on Saturday, in an opinion piece titled “‘Paper Cat’ Australia Will Learn its Lesson,” for supporting the July 12 ruling by the international arbitration tribunal at The Hague countering Beijing’s historical claims to the South China Sea.

Beijing denounced the decision and has refused to abide by the tribunal’s findings arguing that the court lacked requisite jurisdiction because China never submitted to bilateral arbitration – a position supported by legal scholars who argue that the Philippines unilateral call for judgment was not binding.

Australia, joined by the United States and Japan, immediately called on Beijing to act in accordance with the ruling claiming it was China’s responsibility under international law despite the fact that Canberra, Washington, and Tokyo are not parties to the territorial dispute.

Chinese nationalists have not taken to this outward exertion of pressure for the country to relinquish control over the valuable South China Sea waters and islands, through which some $5.3 trillion or 30% of the world’s maritime trade passes through and under which lies some of the world’s largest underwater oil deposits – the loss of which would represent a major setback for Beijing’s ambitions.

The Global Times struck back calling Australia a “country with an inglorious history” that was “first an offshore prison of the UK” and was “established through uncivilized means, in a process filled with the tears of the aboriginals.”

Comment: Australia summed up in a nutshell!

The paper also blasted Australia’s vocal position in opposition to Beijing on the South China Sea dispute as a blatant attempt to curry favor with the United States saying that Canberra “intends to suppress China so as to gain a bargaining chip for economic interests.”

“China must take revenge and let [Australia] know it’s wrong,” the editorial said. “Australia’s power means nothing compared to the security of China. If Australia steps into the South China Sea waters, it will be an ideal target for China to warn and strike.”

The editorial closed with one final insult saying that “Australia is not even a ‘paper tiger,’ it is only a ‘paper cat’ at best.”

Euan Graham, director of the International Security Program at Lowy Institute in Sydney said the editorial “ratchets up the insulting, menacing rhetoric by several notches” and that he hopes “it will wake up some people in Australia to the dark side of China’s chauvinism.”

Comment: Insulting, menacing rhetoric… no match for America’s insulting and menacing attempts to cripple China by any means necessary.

The security analyst, however, did not believe that the commentary rose to the level of requiring a response by the Australian government despite its undeniable belligerence.

“It doesn’t merit an official response from Australia, though in the days to come some message of alliance reassurance from the US might be welcomed here,” he said.

Comment: From Pepe Escobar’s recent Escalating activities in South China Sea – Is war inevitable?:

For Beijing, it’s crystal clear; the eastern seaboard must be protected at all costs – because they are the entry and exit point of China’s global supply chains. Yet as Beijing improves its military sophistication, the hegemon – or exceptionalist – machine gets itchier and itchier. Because the whole ingrained exceptionalist worldview can only conceive it as a “threat” by a peer competitor.

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