Grifonaut - James McDonald


Living in the 70s life, the universe, and the human condition

Living in the 70’s is the name of a song and an album released in 1974 under the Mushroom label by the Australian band Skyhooks. My writing will not be about the 1970s but reflect on the nature of the human condition. Thus the words of the song resonate with the insecurities and challenges of having entered my septuagenarian years:

I’m livin’ in the 70s
I feel like I lost my keys
Got the right day but I got the wrong week….

Life has its grey areas and in my late 50s, life was a constant transition brought about by health, career-ending events, taking on new challenges, and – dare I admit it – my age

Now I am in my seventies I find myself coming to terms with the rapid transitions in what it is to be a septuagenarian. But, in 2017 I spent the half of every weekday in Italian classes in an Italian University with foreigners who are mostly in their 20s and 30s and that has once again set me on an accelerated pattern of identity formation.

In one of my careers I was an academic, which is a constant challenge with the universal critical question, “Why is it thus and not otherwise?” But one of the habits of academia was constantly reading myself – was my lecture good? Am I keeping up with my peers? Am I doing the right thing by my students? And my identity was strongly tied up with the nature of the work, its importance, the cachet of being a researcher, a teacher, and an academic and where I fitted in within the community of scholars generally and in my discipline. It is a habit of self-evaluation, which I have not lost.

My writing is therefore much more than the grumblings of a man refusing to grow old. It is to reflect on the important life questions which are critical for my readers of all ages. And for me.

James McDonald

Il mio cuore verde – reflections on living in Italy

Moving to Italy may be one of the craziest things I have done – or one of the greatest. The oldest house I lived in, in Australia, was a 1885 terrace house in Melbourne. I now live in a building that is really old, built initially in the 14th-century, 650 years ago più o meno. So my Australian sense of history – which otherwise only allowed intellectually for understanding anything over 200 years old, especially the tens of millennia in which the indigenous people of Australia shaped and husbanded the land – is challenged by Italy.

My sense of European and Italian history is evident in the stories written into the walls of the buildings through my windows on the other side of my narrow street and in the echoes of the oldest part of the palazzo in which my modern apartment can be found. The ancient civilisation that is Italian, Roman, Etruscan, and foreign occupations shape the diversity that is Italy and Umbria, the region where I live, the land-locked central region of the peninsula nation. Il cuore verde, the Green Heart of Italy, underwrites my daily experience of Perugia, its capital.

So too does my status as a straniero , a foreigner from the New World, the Antipodes, Australia and latterly also a British citizen appalled at the prospect of Brexit. And the more I learn about Italian life and culture the less I know. That sense of scratching only the surface of Italian life goes to very deep questions of identity, culture, perspectives, my admiration for Italians and the frustrations that embarrass even the most patriotic of Italians.

So much to reflect on!

Il mio cuore verde – riflessioni sul vivere in Italia

Trasferirsi in Italia potrebbe essere una delle cose più folli che abbia mai fatto – o una delle più grandi. La casa più antica in cui vivevo in Australia era una casa a terrazze del 1885 a Melbourne. Ora vivo in un edificio molto vecchio, costruito inizialmente nel XIV secolo, 650 anni fa più o meno. Quindi il mio senso della storia australiano – che altrimenti consentiva solo intellettualmente di comprendere qualcosa di più di 200 anni, specialmente le decine di millenni in cui gli indigeni dell’Australia modellavano e gestivano la terra – è sfidato dall’Italia.

Il mio senso della storia europea e italiana è evidente nelle storie scritte nelle pareti degli edifici attraverso le mie finestre sull’altro lato della mia stradina e negli echi della parte più antica del palazzo in cui si trova il mio appartamento moderno. L’antica civiltà che è italiana, romana, etrusca e occupazioni straniere modellano la diversità che è l’Italia e l’Umbria, la regione in cui vivo, la regione centrale bloccata dalla terra della nazione penisola. Il cuore verde, il cuore verde d’Italia, sottoscrive la mia esperienza quotidiana di Perugia, la sua capitale.

Lo stesso vale per il mio status di straniero, straniero del Nuovo Mondo, Antipodi, Australia e, successivamente, anche cittadino britannico accolto alla prospettiva della Brexit. E più imparo della vita e della cultura italiana, meno ne so. Quel senso di graffiare solamente la superficie della vita italiana va a domande molto profonde di identità, cultura, prospettive, la mia ammirazione per gli italiani e le frustrazioni che mettono in imbarazzo anche il più patriottico degli italiani.

Tanto su cui riflettere!

James McDonald

Australian bushfires and climate crisis triggers

One thing people need to understand about climate change is that it is not a steady or gradual change. There are both peaks and troughs in temperature and other measurements of environmental change, such as the growing proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and its impact on warming. Other gasses are even more volatile in that they are more efficient in contributing to the heating of Earth.

The candidate for the most dangerous to climate stability is methane – the gas that is short-lived in comparison with CO2 but nevertheless a trigger for catastrophic warming – that demonstrably leaks from fracking. But with the melting of the Arctic, methane that has been sequestered on the bottom of the seas in the Arctic circle is blooming [bubbling to the surface] in, for example, the Siberian Sea as water temperatures rise. The melting of the tundra in Siberia, Canada and Alaska in turn is creating further emissions of both methane and CO2 that has been sequestered in the frozen ground for millennia.

Thus, there are feedback loops that can exacerbate trends with a greater speed of change in the records locked in ice and the geological record than before the dinosaurs. One of the key indicators of human industrialisation has done to the balance of our planet’s systems is the relatively rapid increase in CO2 levels in the atmosphere [let alone other forms of pollution].

One factor associated with climate change – longer, hotter summers, for example – has meant dryer forests, conditions that work against safe hazard reduction, and the growth in the incidence of major bushfires in Australia during the past 40 years or so. But this is not exclusive to Australia.

Indeed, as this article points out, the phenomenon of massive bushfires is part of a worldwide trend that adds dramatically to the release of CO2 into the atmosphere. Other recent reports from NASA indicate that the particles thrown into the air by the massive smoke clouds from our fires will circulate at high altitude for some time to come, perhaps another factor that could help an acceleration of the climate crisis.

On a political note, governments must be held accountable not for the fires themselves, but for their failure to plan for the crisis that is upon us all, as fire service funding was cut by the NSW and Federal Governments in their denialism of responsibility to ameliorate the effects of the inevitable.

Australia lags most of the developed world in government initiatives on the climate crisis and has defied OECD criticism on inaction, using paper accountancy as a substitute for policy that involves real action. You have to ask why, because it seems crazy. And the reason lies in the toxic corruption of democracy and elected representatives in the pay of the public purse whose campaigns are funded by coal, oil and gas industries.

Where are the food security plans and the plans for lowering the carbon cost of food distribution to address the challenges of the climate crisis? Where are the water allocation and preservation plans, with the Murray-Darling plan sabotaged and struggling to deal with the direct and economic extremes of climate change, affecting farming? Where are the incentives for sustainable industry and energy? Where are the government plans at all levels for dealing with accelerating sea level rises from the waterfront estates of Queensland to the suburbs of Melbourne? Where are the plans for efficient low emissions public transport both rapid interstate and intrastate rail and in our huge urban areas? These absolutely necessary plans are abandoned for Adani, other coal mines, resistance to decommissioning coal power stations, and the fossil-fuel stained pockets of the Liberal, National and Labor Parties. It is not merely tin-eared stupidity as successive governments have ignored the scientists, it is corrupt idiocy.

The contribution towards a succession of climate crisis triggers could rest in the environmental impotence of platitudes, token targets, and accountancy evasion of responsibility, the unforeseeable impacts of a plethora of natural responses to global warming and the toxic negativity of climate inaction promoted by the corporate greed of corrupting corporations, and especially their irresponsibility and recklessness towards consequences. The anthropogenicity of our climate predicament remains apparent to those whose world view is governed by the empiricism of science rather than the imperialism of capitalist generated opinions and denialism.

For a comprehensive and accessible account of the link between climate change and Australia’s fire crisis read “The facts about bushfires and climate change“.

James McDonald
14 January 2020

Morrison finally commits serious relief for exhausted volunteers – isn’t it a bit late?

I watched Morrison announcing the involvement of military infrastructure this morning on the ABC.

My first response was: isn’t this a little late? The fires have been raging since September. The fire authorities have been warning about catastrophe for a long time. And the scientists even longer ago warned of the danger of extreme fire events as elements in the pattern of climate crisis, which is no longer expected 20 or 50 or a 100 years into the future, but faces Australia here and now. Serious fires are burning in every State in the country.

The Government is funded by taxpayers, the men and women often struggling on 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet, while this loathsome and disloyal Regime continues to attack workers and their families, giving a free hand to business and corporations by destroying the union movement to exploit Australian workers in the name of neoliberal deregulation and ideology.

Morrison, his Ministers and the the Government backbenchers are not doing what Australians pay them to do – look after and protect the country and its people – while Dutton undermines our civil liberties and violates human rights.

It is extremist politics and not the welfare of Australians, which they ignore, that motivate the Dutton-Morrison Regime. One of those areas of negligence lies in the pig-headed refusal to acknowledge the evidence before their myopic eyes of climate crisis, its effect on hundreds of communities, and threatening Sydney . We reasonably expect that government heeds the almost universal scientific concern about emissions, the escalating evidence on the continent of global warming and its effects, and the imperative to plan and develop strategies for the conditions that it is already bringing.

A Government that puts the welfare of its people and the national interest first would not have failed to notice that Arctic forests are on fire, California has suffered wildfires into the beginnings of winter, Spain and Portugal have had a second season of intensive bushfires, the Amazon is ablaze, Madagascar, South-East Asia – that there is a global fire crisis and Australia is probably the most vulnerable of all to disaster from bushfires.

Do not the the Tasmanian fires that decimated old growth wilderness only last year, the Dunally fire a few years ago and the 1960s fires that killed over 60 people a generation ago on Hobart’s outskirts, or the fires that ravaged a Canberra suburb in Morrison’s own time as an MP, have any impact on this tin-eared failure of a leader?

These fires are unprecedented in their ferocity and scale despite examples from the distant and near past. The Black Friday fires of almost a century ago in Victoria and the fires along the Great Ocean Road to the west of Melbourne and Geelong that in 1983 dropped ash and burnt leaves into the backyard of my suburban home in Melbourne over a hundred kilometres from the fires as the crow flies, were ferocious. Have these shysters forgotten the disastrous Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009?

Good governance would have generated contingency planning for another summer of projected record heat. The fact that the fire season can now be marked down as commencing in September, would alone have prompted a competent and responsible government to develop urgent national strategies with State fire authorities to deal with looming potential disaster.

But not the Dutton-Morrison Regime. Their priority is serving the coal and gas mafia, and re-engineering the nation into an authoritarian place of repression, inequity, violated human rights, diminishing civil liberties, asset-stripped services, and arcane religious “protection”. It is a Regime that denies its responsibilities to deal with real measures needed at a national level to ameliorate the effects of climate change and to develop strategies to handle the extreme events that this summer has generated.

Instead, the burden of lazy government relies on unpaid volunteers, often men and women in their middle age, to fight around the clock to protect lives and properties while Morrison announces platitudes and reacts late to events on a scale that should have had the military and reservists on standby months ago. His priority was to clear out to Hawaii for a holiday.

The nation is in a state of prolonged crisis that extends beyond the challenges of this fire season. It cannot afford the dissociated incompetence of minimalist government that sidelines the welfare of the people for venal obsessions, serves a corrupt relationship with the most wealthy and especially coal and gas interests at the expense of the rest, and observes the ideological nonsense of challenging science.

The disloyal and subversive Dutton-Morrison Regime is failing its obligations to the nation. It is at the heart of a national crisis and they have again failed the test of democracy and service.

James McDonald
4 January 2020

While the nation burns: where is the planning for climate crises and catastrophe?

A national state of danger has existed for months and it is only now that the Prime Minister, who cleared out to Hawaii as the disaster built up, announced yesterday a goddam meeting by the Federal Government: “The National Security Committee of Cabinet would meet on Monday to address ‘contingencies’ required for the current fire season “as well as the longer-term response and some issues we have identified to consider amongst premiers after the fires”.

Why it is the National Security Committee of Cabinet [NSCC] that is meeting is not clear. Why is Morrison trumpeting the meeting of the National Security Committee of Cabinet? Is the LNP Government finally recognising that the greatest challenge to the security of the nation is the mounting extreme weather events associated with the climate crisis and that the massive bushfires represent one of the threats of climate change to national security?

I doubt there is a positive answer to this question. The purpose of the NSCC is to consider:

… major foreign policy and national security issues of strategic importance to Australia, border protection policy, national responses to developing foreign policy and security situations (either domestic or international) and classified matters relating to aspects of operation and activities of the Australian Intelligence Community.

National Security Committee,

National disasters do not appear in the official objectives, which relate mainly to foreign policy, terrorism, national security and organised crime. The Minister for Natural Disaster and Emergency Management, David Littleproud, is not even a member.

To put it in no uncertain terms – the Federal Government’s response to the conflagration in every State of the nation marks the incompetence, inadequacy and perverted priorities of a morally corrupt government that long ago abandoned the function of governing for the national interest and the welfare of the people, instead governing for coal and polluters that keep the LNP coffers full of dirty money.

That incompetence, the reluctant involvement of this do-nothing Federal Government, and dereliction of responsibility is part of a vile ideology that subverts democracy in every way and fails the nation and its people. But you expect that from a government whose official policies violate human rights and undermine civil liberties

It is why Morrison’s Regime has no planning for what has been evident for years – the visitation upon the Australian landscape of disasters the scale of which have never before been seen, a situation about which the scientists and fire chiefs warned these tin-earned denialist coal flunkeys.

The slow response of this sociopathic Regime to the bushfire crisis raises a number of questions:

Why is it only now that any meeting of the Cabinet is being called after another weekend of projected emergency when fires have ravaged areas of the country since September demonstrating the need for urgent upscaling of planning and funding?

Why hasn’t the ADF long since been put in the field – after the devastating September fires – to assist exhausted volunteer firefighters confronting the present catastrophe when soldiers are trained in civilian disaster support?

Why has this government consistently denied responsibility in planning for the climate crises, of which fires are only one, accompanying climate change that the science bears out?

Why is laziness the defining characteristic of this government that only acts when it thinks the polls are turning against it?

The anger Morrison faced at Cobargo in New South Wales was met with platitudes in the midst of the wreckage from the conflagration: “Asked whether his response to the crisis was adequate, the Prime Minister said now was a time to remain calm.”

He has attempted for ideology’s sake to normalise the damage of these unprecedented bushfires, that are part of a global threat evidenced in Californian wildfires, in Portugal and Spain, in the Amazon , and in the Arctic. In some cases significant fires have been deliberate actions, often sanctioned by governments – mankind exacerbating the crises that 300 years of industrialisation, transportation and urban emissions have contributed to in the unprecedented rapidity of increased CO2 levels.

It is time to rid the nation of this scourge of malevolent incompetence in government for while individuals can make decisions to cut their personal carbon footprint, the solutions to the global scale of climate crisis are only solvable by nationally and internationally decisive action. And that seems to be unforthcoming among the plethora of platitudes in international agreements to do as little as possible, or nothing at all in the case of Australia. And that is a measure of the demise of political morality that is destroying the future.

For me, political morality has to do with satisfying the ideals of democracy, especially the principles – and processes incorporating those principles – of social justice, equity, equality before the law, government for primarily the welfare of the people, active application of human rights, which have been codified by the United Nations, of civil liberties, which encompass these principles that maintain the dignity of all, and State support for the more vulnerable, the poorer and retired citizens. To this I would add: protection of the environment as a resource for the people, sustainability to pass on the benefits of natural, social, and technological resources, care for consequences in husbanding all these resources, and protection of the national interest against incursions by other nations. These are not the characteristics of the present misgovernment of Australia.

James McDonald
3 January 2020

Sadness at Australian fires and anger at Government denialism

As an Australian living overseas, I weep quietly in sorrow at the destruction to forests, communities, the animals, the loss of life. I read of places burned that I know well from Southeast Queensland, around Sydney, to Mallacoota and Gippsland in Victoria where I was born. For me this picture, which has been repeated in California, the Iberian Peninsula, and wantonly in the Amazon by crooks and corrupt government, is a devastating effect of Governments that are too deliberatively incompetent for us to allow them to continue to destroy our world.

I am not only overwhelmed by sadness: I am angry. We are seeing in my view the trigger switch for disasters to come and the world’s governments prevaricate and negotiate what are emerging as meaningless and impotent emissions targets. And then there is the maliciously corrupt and destructive antics of the Fool in the White House and the morally corrupt Republicans behind him, funded by corrupt corporations and a fossil-fuel mafia, that ushers in the new fascism of extreme capitalism in demolishing any government agencies designed to protect the continent.

In Australia, the same subversive forces are at work under a morally corrupt Regime that actively denies the climate crisis, and attempts to normalise the enormity of this disaster. It has no food security plan, for that would be to acknowledge we are in trouble, while allowing large-scale sell-off of our best land to foreign corporations that are proxies for the authoritarian regimes in China and the Middle East.

Australia is now a climate change pariah among the rogue governments that refuse to act because they are bought out by the polluters. That the NSW Government cut funding for fire services in the face of the scientific advice, the alarm of fire authorities, and the evidence before their very eyes of the series of rising average temperatures is gobsmackingly idiotic, corruptly irresponsible, and malevolently incompetent.

As for food security, the Federal Government’s record on the Murray Darling Basin is one of pushing back against scientific advice, permitting the cotton industry, which they allowed to be sold off to foreign interests, to appropriate huge allocations of water squeezing out the food producers and community water needs, idly allowing the devastation of natural wetlands and the the Menindee Lakes system leading to the death of millions of fish, and presiding over corruption.

To expect these flunkeys of the coal industry to be prompted into serious evaluation of the effects of extended summers and burnt landscapes to plan for the eventualities of ongoing climate crisis is foolish. Expect from them only that they will continue to exacerbate the damage done to agriculture by longer hotter summers and fire.

I’m not suggesting that anything could have been done to prevent these fires unprecedented since European settlement. But Australian people have voted in Governments that deny climate change and act against the national interest and the welfare of the nation.

These neoliberal regimes have failed to do what they are paid by the taxpayer to do – prepare the nation and the environment for the crises of which the scientists forewarned us, initiate sustainable practices and programs to ameliorate the effects of climate change, and to protect communities from the overwhelming natural effects of three centuries of obliviousness to the damage we have collectively done to the planet’s atmosphere and the land.

The time is arriving where the people must throw out these incompetent and corrupt fools by whatever means possible. They are destroying Earth and all upon it.

James McDonald
1 January 2020

Protected: The late Christmas and New year Letter

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I do miss my Australian style double-shot latte

Australia’s coffee culture was introduced by Italian migrants, but it then transcended its origins. Twice I’ve gone back to Australia since I came to Italy and nowhere have I ever got a better coffee – in my favourite cafes in Oz, especially in Noosa and Hobart – than a double shot latte, Australian style. The Dutch, for example, make wussy coffee and as for Starbucks – wash your mouth out!

Mind you, I occasionally do find a very good Italian cappuccino, of course, but usually it is made too quickly and unless you specify ‘caldo’, not hot enough, which is why it is so quick [for my Perugian friends, the caffe’ at Porta Pisa isn’t too bad!]. Nobody could equal an Italian double shot macchiato con caffe’ doppio e latte caldo as a different and superior coffee after the time-limited cappuccino [not to be drunk after 11-ish in the morning], but it’s not my preferred Oz coffee.

Occasionally I’ll have the tiny espresso without sugar or milk – the “caffe’ normale, which is the staple for Italians needing to keep their caffeine levels up at any time of day, drunk quickly and standing up at the bar.

Nonetheless you sometimes get served up something horrible: I’ll never go back to the caffe’ near the Perugia station that gave me a glass full of milk with a stain [macchia] of milk after I asked for my caffe’ macchiato con caffee’ doppio e con latte caldo!

Written in response to this item on the ABC News website

James McDonald
[originally posted on Facebook,
28 December 2029]

Trump’s outing of the whistleblower throws Republicans’ moral credibility into sharp relief

From an international perspective Trump is not only unstable, a sociopath, a venal self-obsessed and emotionally and morally deficient individual, and probably not very bright. He is also lawless.

Non-Americans around the world who care about democracy find this deeply disturbing and threatening to world stability. Evidence given in the House of Representatives impeachment – something that Prime Ministers in other English speaking countries would not survive either as corruption tightens its hold on Western democracy – certainly indicates that Trump is an unworthy and unprincipled incumbent in the White House.

But the impeachment proceedings also revealed to the world a Republican Party whose leaders and representatives almost to every man and woman deny truth, place propaganda above evidence, posture over the seeking of justice, place their political fortunes over the national interest and the law, and display an incapacity for fulfilling the obligations of their oath of office.

The moral inadequacy of their attempt to weave an alternative universe into public discourse has been confirmed once again as the Senate trial approaches in the New Year, if GOP leaders do not condemn Trump’s latest action in outing the whistleblower. Such failure will once again reveal them as an unprincipled rabble. It reveals a man whose contempt for the law has not improved since he won the gerrymandered election, also marred by Russian cyber-espionage.

Should other men and women in the Republican Party, whose actions over a long period display have debased democracy in the USA, disregard prudence, honesty, legal principle, and morality in the Senate trial by blocking the testament of witnesses they will have colluded corruptly in the demise of decency, law, honesty, and justice.

Republicans cannot block the trial of Trump whose latest actions demonstrate the mafia boss impunity Trump seems to think he has [he has actually been accused of having mob links in some of his narcissistic Trump Tower projects] without inflicting an all but fatal blow against every decent principle written into the US Constitution.

James McDonaldw
[originally posted on Facebook,
28 December 2019]

Waking up to the British election results

What an appalling news to wake up to. As an overseas citizen I feel sold out, especially by the Labour Party which has shilly-shallied over Brexit for the sake of the Leave voting constituencies they lost anyway. I expected these Tory nationalists to sell us out in any case.

Well, Britain has just consigned itself to the dregs of a broken democracy. That is not to denigrate that part of democratic process – voting – which is an essential component, but to the more important parts of it: equity, social justice, an economy for all, efficient public services such as the NHS, an informed electorate, an honest media, honest and honourable representatives. In the latter respect, the Brexiteers fail the test and have dragged political discourse into the gutter, with Johnson barely outdone by the reprehensible Farage.

An election was always going to muddy the waters on the Brexit question, for while the Tories have increased their majority at Labour’s expense, the polls support strongly a second referendum, and remain is slightly ahead of leaving. But the re-election of the Tories to government under this most unworthy of men, whose incompetence as Foreign Minister was appalling, leaves no hope for Britain but instead the assurance of a period of crisis, the costs of which will be dumped on British households.
Good luck with that!

James McDonald
13 December 2019
[Originally posted on the Brexit Insider Facebook Group]

Australian Government denial of relationship between bushfire crisis and climate crisis is part of a toxic pattern

The LNP’s policy on climate change – that it will do nothing, that it will not acknowledge the science, that it will trivialise the link between the unprecedented burning of Australia and climate change, that it will do an accountancy exercise on emissions rather than upset its corrupt alliance with the coal and gas mafias – is nothing but corrupt and evil.

It is an abrogation of the government’s duty to protect the nation from the real security issues, some of them inflicted on the people, not by some Islamic radicalism that its racist policies have spawned with its official policies of violating the human rights of children and refugees, but by the essential sociopathology of its philosophy across all its portfolios. For you cannot isolate the failure of successive governments on the climate crisis.

It’s the failure to accept the science, to acknowledge the climate crisis, to recognise that its neo-liberal, “small government“, deregulation thrust of an ideology that has seen funds to fire services cut by NSW and firefighters waiting interminably at the fire front for equipment and safety items. The LNP has failed duty of care in its concentration camps on remote islands. And it fails its duty of care to communities, farmers, businesses, the city dwellers whose conditions rival Beijing’s toxic smog, and the firefighters struggling to protect the nation against the extremity of the bushfires devastating the country.

This regime’s moral incompetence on climate change, fed by delusional ideology in water management, fire and drought management, fracking, coal mining, energy policy, sustainability, its failure to develop food security strategies, its blind eye to the buyout of Australia’s best farming land, the corruption of the Murray-Darling Plan, and refusing to develop an economy to serve the country into the next century puts the whole nation at risk with potential effects flowing into the distant future.

Meanwhile, the Regime’s principals – Morrison and Dutton – are taking the nation along a path to authoritarianism from their largely unchallenged violations of the human rights of children and refugees to the diminution of civil liberties. The government’s deliberate choice to feed the greed of the polluters who contribute financially to the main Parties lies at the heart of what can only be described as a corrupt position on climate change, serves a model of the future that is as destructive as these fires so dramatically demonstrate, one that resembles Mussolini’s model rather than the democratic idealism that would have it serve the interests not only of the nation but of the welfare of all of its citizens.

That Morrison can – as Sydneysiders choke in the smoke and services are affected – still behave crassly and idiotically defiant on his discredited climate change denialism that serves only his and his hopeless but malevolent Party’s collusion with coal, serves to remind us that this government doesn’t even try to serve on any measure. Its behaviour is part of a toxic pattern. The response to the bushfire crisis reveals as starkly as the damage done by these unprecedented events, but forecast by the scientists, and ignored by the politicians, just what consequences exist in the absence of engagement by Australians in their own affairs when government is not brought to account.

James McDonald
11 December 2019
[edited version on comment on “Scott Morrison and the Coalition are fiddling as Australia burns” The Guardian, 11 December 2019 ]


There is a sleazy, international body of espionage against democracy – the “advisors” and campaign consults who care nothing for democracy, employ neo-fascist populist strategies to manipulate public opinion with data-mining techniques, and construct the iterative and blatant lies that Boris Johnson, Donald Trump in the USA, and Australia’s Scott Morrison and their administrations and Ministers live and breathe.

They are the agent-provocateurs of a brand of neo-liberalism, so extreme that it is authoritarian to the core, that serves the wealthy and corporate greed at the expense of democratic government, and bullies backbenchers who exhibit any recalcitrance about the disturbing antics of their leaders.

These “alt-right” ideological fanatics reflect a disturbing inclination to treat as “fake news” coverage by any media that is not at the centre in propagandising this surreptitious war against democracy, a core business of News Limited and the Murdoch empire.

The election of such a monstrous simpleton to the White House as Trump and the 2016 Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom, where a mere 37% of the registered voters elected to vote leave in the referendum, are cases of how damaging and effective their strategies can be.

These strategies divide the nation, capture the terms of debate in the context of Opposition timidity and a false interpretation of democratic voting processes in referenda. The consequent chaos, racism [for that was a core element of the 2016 campaign – remember the lies about Turkey and foreigners taking jobs?] and fading civility are a deliberate ploy of the apparatchiks to control the outcome, promoting calls for the government to “get on with it” and the labelling of “Brexit fatigue” as a facile motive to leave the EU with or without a deal.

The essential condition of the Brexit debate lay in that almost universal misunderstanding of the function of referenda in a democracy. This is clear from the Commons debates, the failings in Cameron’s Bill, and in the passing of the legislation for the 2015 Act setting up the referendum. And the errors persist in, and perpetuate the present crisis. In the week before another deadline passes, the debate is dominated by mantras calling on all to “respect the result” that expressed the “will of the people”, something that statistically, logically, and politically did not exist. The 52-48% result merely indicated that the vote was split with a narrow margin of a minority of registered voters choosing leave outvoting those who chose remain. It provided no information to support a view in reasonable times that the people collectively wanted to do abandon membership of the European Union.

Its best indication – borne out by the subsequent polarisation of views on Brexit – is that no clear position was established and this raises serious questions about the morality of Theresa May’s and the Tories’ decision to push ahead with Brexit.

Meanwhile the back room conspirators put in place their plans for the transformation of democracy into a corporate model. This is characterised by deregulation of work and the environment for busines profits that is clearly demonstrated in Johnson’s omissions from Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement. It is a package promoting “small government”, which is code for asset-stripping services, privatisation – code for selling them off to profiteering corporations, often foreign – and abrogating responsibility for the welfare of the people.

This latter offence against democracy is buried in the ideology – principally emanating from religious extremists from the US and used to justify ultra-right Republicans abuses in government – of blaming the poor for their poverty that is inflicted by a system that is at absolute odds with core democratic principles. These principles include equity, government support for the vulnerable, fairness, and justice for all. Insidiously, these offences are compounded by the neo-liberal mythology of free-trade, the cruel myth of “trickle-down” economics, a lie of the grossest implications, and the persistent denigration of the “nanny state”.

Brexit’s flight from regulation – a core element of Boris Johnson’s mendacious campaign against Europe – and his hubristic and unsupported claims of Brexit benefits for the British people must be seen in the offensive, calculated and ideological preparedness of Brexiteers to lump the costs on the British family of this foolish adventurism into the dark, conspiratorial world of Domenic Cummings and Steve Bannon. And the costs to the economy to small business and agriculture are there for all to see, for those not buried in their intractable but inarticulate beliefs that we must leave the EU.

They are consistent, though, these Brexiteers, in their dishonourable and self-deluded lack of respect for the citizens of the country. Their callous Brexit calculations – which they seek to hide – must be seen in the context of almost a decade of austerity, the punishment of the British people for the excesses of the moneyed classes, the profiteers, the speculators, and the corporations whose overarching mission is greed and accumulation of the national wealth.

These are characteristics of the poisoning of our political system where government becomes the handmaid of Greed, the protection of vested interest, the diminution of civil liberties, the death of truth, the proliferation of misery and poverty, the sell-off of public services for private profit. The Parliament harbours collaborators at the highest level who willingly conspire with the saboteurs, whose aims and objectives are the re-engineering of political, social and economic systems for extreme corporate greed. Brexit is at once a project of their authoritarian revolution against representative democracy and a smokescreen for its implementation.

We are let down by the timidity all those Parties and Party factions that claim to be progressive when politics and Brexit have become a battle for the future liberty in an age where technology, manipulation of information, and sophisticated propaganda techniques are fooling the people into giving up the benefits of an open society for the delusions of Brexit’s political, economic and social model for Britain. The lessons of mid-twentieth century Europe, which led to the establishment of the EU, have clearly been forgotten by too many and the spirit of Goebbels lives on.

James McDonald
[originally posted 27 October 2019 on Brexit Insider, a Facebook group]

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