America

Post #48 – Clinton has declared an ‘Information War’, but who’s the enemy?

State-sponsored news channels like Al-Jazeera and RT are contributing to widespread repercussions that go beyond that of the family lounge room. The question is, what are those repercussions? After all, it’s only a TV show, right?

When defending the growing budget of the State Department, United States Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton proclaimed that America is in the midst of “an information war, and we are losing that war”. She specifically singled out the predominantly state-funded cable news channels Al-Jazeera, RT (Russia Today) and CCTV (China Central Television) as competitors in this war for the ‘hearts and minds’ of the masses. Within the last twenty-five years, countries that can be classified as ‘non-democratic’ have produced and disseminated cable news channels that can be broadcast across the entirety of the globe. These state-sponsored news channels are challenging traditional media organisations in breadth, prestige and influence. The implications of this steady rise in cable news channels materialising from non-democratic nation-states is both reflexive and consequential of a changing economical, political, technological and cultural environment.

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Post #47 – Trump Ain’t A Fascist (yet), But the Truth is a Lot Scarier

In the wake of Britain’s EU Referendum, it seems we have been asking the wrong kind of questions about Trump… and Clinton too.

With the recent shock vote for Great Britain to leave the EU, Trump exclaimed from the grand opening of his new Scottish golf-course that BREXIT was a “great thing“. Many are now questioning whether Thursday’s result will significantly increase the chances of Trump’s anti-establishment ideals. For example, CNN pondered whether the result would trigger…

… a cascade of events that could spark global economic chaos, remake the Western world, reverberate through November’s presidential election and challenge U.S. security for years to come.

Such an event means that comprehending what Trump actually stands for becomes tantamount to comprehending if the American ‘establishment’ are in for the same treatment in November. Naturally this has led to the current debate amongst the intellectual elite as to whether Donald Trump is a fascist – or at the very least, he has fascist tendencies. According to The Atlantic, The Telegraph and Forbes – he’s not. Salon, New Republic and George Clooney think he is. Most can agree that he is an unashamed populist, positioning himself as an anti-establishment messiah campaigning on a platform of economic protectionism and a critic of free trade deals (such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the TPP/TTIP).

The question as to whether one is a fascist depends on one important element though – power. As the German-born political theorist Hannah Arendt once said,

Revolutionaries do not make revolutions. The revolutionaries are those who know when power is lying in the street and then they can pick it up.

So if Trump is the revolutionary he paints himself to be, it won’t be until after he becomes President of the United States (POTUS) that a proper assessment of his fascist tendencies can take place – anytime beforehand (more…)

Post #43 – 10 Myths of the Australian Housing Market

Every time I try to suggest to my family and friends that the Australian housing market is in a bubble – the likes of which no developed Western nation has ever seen before – I’m dismissed as a bit of a ‘crackpot’. Amongst the sneers and chuckles, I’m told that the Australian housing market is ‘different’. Yes, different. What makes it ‘different’ is something nobody can really tell me – but here are a few of the excuses I’ve heard:

ARGUMENT 1: WE’VE GOT BIG HOUSESLargest in the world by some counts. According to our former Treasurer Joe Hockey, this means that Australia has a fundamentally different ‘asset’ class. Here’s exactly what he said:

A lot of Australians put a lot of new capital into their homes – renovate their homes, upgrade their homes – and we have the largest homes on average perhaps in the Western World, and the world more generally. So it’s a very different asset class in Australia than in other jurisdictions.

This means, naturally, we have to pay more for our houses – because they’re bigger than everyone else’s.

DEBUNKED: Hockey is correct in saying that a bigger house costs more than a smaller house. However, it doesn’t excuse why a median house price in Sydney is $1 million, whilst in Houston, a city of comparable size and wealth, it’s about $US146,600. Americans tend to challenge us for the title of most obnoxiously big houses in the Western world, so we’d hope to see some correlation there. But we don’t, the maths just simply doesn’t add up.

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Post #42 – Evangelical Christians Are Literally Ruining My World

 

The other day I had the (mis)fortune of getting into a protracted conversation with an evangelical Christian friend about climate change. Walking to our cars’ from the train station after work, we innocuously stumbled into the conversation as we rattled on about the large storm that hit Sydney over the weekend just gone.

We both noted the intensity of the storm, our personal experience whilst it was happening, and the damage that was done. Then as an off-hand comment I stated that the “weather is going crazy these days, eh?” – more a rhetorical question than anything else. But also, deep down I was seeing if he would take the bait. You see, I wanted to know if he took the threat of climate change seriously. I remember this individual being a wiz in our science class back in high school, but I also knew his deeply-held religious convictions. What I wanted to test was my hunch that evangelical Christians don’t give a shit about climate change, or worse, they actively challenge the science.

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Post #38 – Common Sense (or Lack Thereof… ) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership

After being under wraps for over five years, it arrived a couple of days ago. The long-awaited full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was released to the general public… and it’s fucking huge. Like, literally huge (30 Chapters all up). Across the expanse of the Pacific, people have been trying to sift through the text and figure out what it has in store for all of us… and thus far, it’s not pretty. But the question is, what can we make of it all? Well, the TPP signifies a new era in free-trade agreements, in that “the agreement goes beyond traditional trade issues such as tariffs and import quotas and includes giveaways to powerful business lobbies”. It’s a new kind of monster, the likes of which we have never seen before.

WHY THE HOSTILITY, MAN?: This is why the TPP faces such stiff opposition – both here in Australia and abroad. But like other things we the people despise, it will most likely pass into law across the Pacific over the next year or so. There’s a feeling of inevitability and helplessness wrapped up in these convoluted and secretive trade agreements our governments keep buying in to.

There was a man who understood better than most why we accept these bullshit trade agreements, and he died in the process of essentially, calling ‘a spade a spade’. He was a visionary in (more…)

Post #37 – Hillary Clinton Is Like That Aussie Ice-Skater Who Shouldn’t Have Won That Gold Medal But Did…

I want you to think back to 2002, specifically the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in the good ol’ U.S of A. We Australians are pretty shithouse at any winter sports (due to our lack of snow and ice) but we also love any and all competition. For example, we’ll jump at the opportunity to turn two flies climbing up a wall into a contest. We’re frequently referred to as a ‘sports mad‘ nation, and the Winter Olympics is no exception to this. We don’t understand half the fucking ‘sports’ that are being contested, but we’ll watch in wonderment anyway – because that’s how we roll.

Now when it specifically came to the 2002 Winter Olympics, we didn’t really have high hopes. We’d never won a gold medal at a Winter Olympics and to be honest the team we sent over weren’t predicted to be bringing much of anything back other than some STDs, some souvenirs and some killer hang-overs.

But then a saviour came along – an accidental hero. His name was Steven Bradbury. (more…)

Post #36 – Why We Should Ban Credit Derivatives

I think we should ban credit derivates. In fact, on one occasion they nearly got me killed. But just what are derivates, and why are they so bad? Well… I’ll get to that in a minute.

To keep this post as deriveting (ha!) as possible, I’m going to adopt at least one more bad pun and pop culture references to illustrate my point. I believe there are six major reasons we need to ban credit derivates – and those points are as follows:

  1. The first is the obvious detriment of counter-party risks.
  2. The second is that they are a sneaky way to hide credit risks from the markets.
  3. The third argument will revolve around regulation being good-for-nothing.
  4. The forth will be an examination of morals (i.e. that thing bankers don’t have) and how credit derivatives play to our worst characteristics.
  5. My fifth point will focus on how these ‘weapons of mass destruction’ as Warren Buffett refers to them – play a major role in the financialisation of labour and the further commodification of the working class.
  6. Last but not least… payback. The conglomerates involved in credit derivatives, and let’s look at the big picture here – there are only a few major players in the game – refused. (more…)

Post #35 – The Language Used to Sell us the TPP and Other Shitty ‘Free Trade’ Agreements

The famous American philosopher and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that…

Language is a city to the building of which every human being brought a stone

That was in 1876. Today, I reckon Ralph might agree with me that large multinational corporations are on the brink of buying up all those ‘stones’. You see, language is no longer simply a form of communication between us common folk – it is a tool. As with any tool, it can be used for good… or evil. Contemporary ‘free-trade’ agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) demonstrate the latter.

From his self-imposed refuge inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, the whistle-blowing Wikileaks founder Julian Assange recently railed against this new global ‘free-trade’ agreement by calling it out for what it is. He proclaimed in succinct and somber terms that…

if you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs

With Abbott and Co. close to signing an agreement that you and I have no control over (or that most Aussies have never heard of), but that the largest corporations in the world were brought to the negotiating table for – you have to ask yourself, ‘how’d they get away with it?’. It’s nothing to worry about according to Tony Abbott, we’re just ‘open for business!‘ –  but what does this phrase, and others like it, really mean?
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Post #34 – GST From the Perspective of a Fluffy, Comfy Pillow

Hi there, I’m a pillow. Mr Comfy McPillow to be exact.

You may know me from mundane life experiences such as sleeping, providing comfort and support for a Netflix binge, or a weapon to whack someone over the head with when on camping trips. However you decide to remember me, I know you reminisce of me fondly. In fact, you may be taking comfort from me right now.

My mates and I come in all shapes and sizes plus a multitude of different designs, forms and levels of softness. Sometimes we’re just for decoration, sometimes we’re ergonomically designed for therapeutic needs. Occasionally we’re stuffed with something called memory foam, or feathers, or possibly latex and we can even assist with circulation and a good nights sleep. So yeah, we do heaps of cool shit.

But what’s the best part about being a pillow? I cater for everybody! ‘Leave no weary head behind!’, I always say. Whether you’re young or old, black or white, male or female, rich or poor – I’m there for you, I’ve got your fucking back. Literally!
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Post #30 – I Want To Apologise For ‘Fat-Shaming’

You might have missed it the other day, but someone in our Parliament’s Question Time actually put two-and-two together and queried something that I thought was painstakingly obvious. Greens Senator Larissa Waters questioned whether our ‘mad monk’ Prime Minister Tony Abbott (and other Catholic ministers like him) should pay attention to their most holy of bae’s when the Pope says it’s their moral duty to act on climate change.

The response to her queries went a little like this:

– Firstly, nobody even attempted to answer her question

– Then Attorney-General George Brandis labelled the question ‘disgusting’ (seemingly ignoring the irony of calling others actions disgusting whilst his own party does it’s own disgusting things like politicise a terrorist attack, or brush off the sexual abuse of children under their care… ya know, that kinda shit)
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