Thursday 23rd of January 2020

of dolts and snake-oil salesmen on Q&A, of trump and garbage in forestville...


Little wonder Nick “Goosebumps” Cater very quickly lost the plot on Monday’s Q&A. The poor fellow from the Menzies “Research” Centre had just stepped off his Pollie Pedal bicycle, after he and a bunch of other ageing, angry, white reactionaries in Lycra and dyed hair roared into towns in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland, sweatily inspecting war memorials and other remnants of past glories.

Pollie Pedal was, as usual, helmed by Tony Abbott, who these days is not a pollie at all, but has to find ways to fill in time between taking out the garbage at Forestville.

On the ABC, Goosebumps didn’t seem to have his wits about him, clutching at the “increasing intolerance to free speech … particularly on the left, I have to say”.

When pressed about what he is not allowed to say, the exhaustion of the bike ride became evident. He waffled admiringly about the inspirational free speech of popular heroes such as Pauline Hanson and President Pussy Grabber.

It was all too much for Gadfly and within about four minutes he had switched to SBS On Demand and the new documentary show The Weekly, tracking reporters from The New York Times as they investigated the taxi medallion rort and how poor immigrants trying to earn a living are screwed by moneylenders. There was also a beaut story about a school in Louisiana that faked student entry qualifications so youngsters could get into Ivy League colleges.

Which begs the question: why does Q&A insist on bringing dolts and snake-oil salesmen into our living rooms on a Monday evening?


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le tour de farce in the grasslands...

pollie pedal


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Pollie Pedal is not without its curiosities. The plan this year was that the riders would raise money for an outfit called Soldier On, which not only provides help to defence force veterans but also extends a soothing hand to stressed former “service personnel” from Border Force and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

According to the PP website, the former member for Warringah topped the fundraising effort with pledges of $8927.

“Fantastic” Gus Taylor came in second, with pledges of $7426, including $216.83 from log-rollers Barton Deakin public relations firm. Goosebumps Cater had a goal of raising $1000 but, according to the official information provided online by Pollie Pedal 2019, he had attracted support of $100. Overall, the fundraising efforts were disappointing. The aim was to raise $500,000 for the ex-diggers and DFAT shinies but, at time of press, the 32 riders had mustered only $45,503.


Once again, we find Fantastic Gus all geared up with some pretty solid spadework about #grassgate. He pointed out so clearly this week that the land clearing on his family’s property in the Monaro had nothing to do with him. However, he did attend a meeting while he was assistant cities minister with a compliance officer from the Department of Environment that was arranged by the then minister, Josh Frydenberg.

Gussy explained the meeting was not about compliance but rather the “technical aspects” of the revised listing of the natural temperate grasses of the south-eastern highlands. But of course.

This was at a time when NSW and federal agencies were examining the poisoning of 30 hectares of endangered grasses on the Taylor spread. After Gus got into Frydenberg’s ear, the environment minister’s office canvassed whether the protections for these grasses could be watered down and if the watering down could be kept secret.

As we know, keeping things secret usually means everything is above board. Fantastic Angus told parliament on Tuesday that we should all be very clear about this. “Let’s be clear, let’s be clear,” he doubly insisted. This was all about looking after the farmers in his electorate, although the issue mostly concerned the grass in another electorate.

To suggest that a meeting with an environmental compliance officer was about the family farm’s compliance was a “grubby smear”, Taylor said. Labor had the impertinence to describe this as a “rapidly escalating ministerial ethics scandal”. There were also mutterings of a need for an anti-corruption commission.

Nothing to see here. Move on, please.

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Note Gus (Angus) Taylor, our dolt of the week, has nothing to do with Mr Gus (Gustaphian) Leonisky.



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trump's oneupmanship...

Donald Trump recently hinted that the United States had secretly developed a nuclear-powered cruise missile. The defense expert Philippe Migault delivers his analysis on this blundering admission, which may not be one.

It is known, Donald Trump has an ability to express himself without any restraint that rattles the heart of the entire deep Western state. Never short of innovations in the field, he has just delivered an exceptional performance by suggesting, at the turn of a sentence, that the United States had secretly developed a very powerful weapon. This is not an equivalent of the famous missile 9M729 - not yet - but one of the types of equipment that they reproach nevertheless to Russia to possess: a nuclear-powered cruise missile.

Vladimir Putin, it will be remembered, unveiled during his famous speech of 1 March 2018 a series of five missiles likely to thwart the long-term American missile defense projects including, in particular, the 9M730 Burevestnik (NATO designation SSC- X-9 Skyfall). Propelled by an atomic engine, this one would have an intercontinental range and capacities of maneuverability and endurance high, qualifying it to penetrate the most hermetic interception devices. Under development and testing, the missile would have missed on August 8, its reactor having exploded during tests in the test center of Nyonoksa, located about twenty kilometers from Severodvinsk, on the banks of the White sea. The accident, which caused the death of at least five members of the center, has also prompted a brief but significant increase in radioactivity in the area, a phenomenon confirmed by the Russian atomic agency Rosatom, which added that the dead were his experts, providing "engineering and technical support for the isotopic energy source of a missile engine (on board a maritime platform)." So many terms seemingly designate the Burevestnik directly.

In one of his tweets giving lessons, Donald Trump immediately reacted by worrying about this alarming increase of the radioactivity for the local population, sliding in the passage that the accident was carrier of interesting information for the United States which has similar technology, however, more advanced. And that's where things get tough. Because officially the Pentagon does not have any weapon of this type in catalog.

Therefore, several options are possible.

The first, far from being excluded, is that of a rodomontade of the American president, as ignorant of arms issues as almost all Western political personnel. In the run-up to the 2020 Presidential elections, Donald brings out his slogan "make America great again", the "we are already the best" option, while tickling Russia, which can only be favorable to him in the eyes of the world. American electorate, even though the suspicions of collusion between Trump and the Kremlin were lifted by the Mueller report.

The second, more problematic, is that Trump has said too much. If the United States has, indeed, a material of the same type as the Burevestnik, it is because they developed it secretly, as part of a black program. But such information, while the break-up of the FNI treaty is consumed, following the accusations made by Washington against Russia, would be at least tasty if it was confirmed. Because the development and detention under cover of the secrecy of such a weapon is not trivial. Certainly the possession of a cruise missile with intercontinental range and nuclear propulsion is not illegal under the treaties in force. But if it were confirmed, it would mean that for years Americans have been lying to their allies, the international community, their arsenal and their intentions for nuclear disarmament, a machine of this type being, by definition, dual-capacity. . Therefore it is at least inappropriate to criticize Russia for illegally developing non-compliant weapons, the non-compliance of 9M729 still remains to be demonstrated elsewhere.

The third option is more about manipulation. It consists in sending a message to the adversary by pretending to inadvertently evoke an armament program, real or bogus, on the mode "beware! Know what to expect ..."  Practice that some experts suspect Russia to have used in the context of the fortuitous revelation of the Status-6 program" Poseidon ". Then remains to share the bluff and assets available to each ...

Obviously the first option is by far the most desirable. But it is not necessarily the most likely, despite Trump's temperament.

The second is perfectly credible, the United States having led in the past several programs aimed at acquiring such an armament.

One fact is certain: we are back in a paradigm of intimidation between major powers that does not bode well for the years to come.



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Translation by Jules Letambour



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getting kookier by the minute but he might wing it...

The idea definitely sounds wild on the surface, but as it turns out, there are several very solid reasons for the endeavor. In fact, the United States already attempted this exact plan not too long ago.

US President Donald Trump has set his eyes on buying Greenland, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. Yes, we are talking about that very Greenland here, which is the world’s biggest island.

According to WSJ’s report, Trump has repeatedly floated the idea among his advisors, with varying degrees of seriousness. 

“In meetings, at dinners and in passing conversations, Mr. Trump has asked advisers whether the US can acquire Greenland, listened with interest when they discuss its abundant resources and geopolitical importance, and, according to two of the people, has asked his White House counsel to look into the idea,” WSJ reported Thursday.

Some of his advisers supported the idea, the report says, while others dismissed it as a “fleeting fascination that will never come to fruition.”

Despite being an absolutely enormous mass of land in its own right and lying closer to North America than to Europe, Greenland is in fact an autonomous region within the Kingdom of Denmark. It has a very small population of some 56,000 people, compared to Denmark’s 5.9 million. Therefore, Trump will have to negotiate with Denmark if he ever decides to realize his “fascination.”

As wild as the idea may seem, there are very solid reasons for the US president to acquire the island. Greenland is home to vast amounts of natural resources, including the equivalent of up to 50 billion barrels of oil (which includes natural gas, according to a 2011 report by the Financial Times), according to 2008 US Geological Survey data. Furthermore, 10% of the world’s fresh water is contained in its massive ice cap. But most importantly, beneath that ice lies a huge reserve of so-called “rare earth elements” – a crucial resource for every high-technology industry, from mobile phones to airplanes. About 90% of the planet’s rare earth elements are now controlled by China, which contributes greatly to most of the world’s mobile phones being produced there, and we all know about Trump’s trade war with Beijing.

Besides, Greenland potentially provides significant strategic advantages to the US, as it would greatly increase the US presence in the Arctic and, to some degree, in the Atlantic as well.

Considering these factors, it doesn’t really come as a surprise that former US President Harry Truman attempted to buy Greenland for $100 million in gold in 1946. According to Business Insider, at the time, both the military and Congress agreed that the island was a key geopolitical location and “a military necessity.” Denmark turned down Truman’s bid, though, so Trump will probably have to come up with a more interesting offer.

Neither the White House, nor Denmark comment on the report.


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snookering himself with brilliance...



The president may have outsmarted himself this time. He got rid of National Security Adviser John Bolton because he didn’t like Bolton’s across-the-board hawkish recommendations, but he signed on to the very big change in U.S. policy towards Iran that Bolton had recommended. Trump thought he was in control of the escalation. But when you declare your intention to asphyxiate another country, you’ve committed an act of war. Retaliation from the other side usually follows in some form or fashion. You can then advance to your ruin or retreat in ignominy. 

Trump has threatened retaliation, but he surely does not want a big war with Iran. His supporters definitely do not want a war with Iran. Americans in general are opposed to a war with Iran. Mysteriously, however, the U.S. declaration of war on Iran in fact—though not, of course, in name, heaven forbid—escaped notice by the commentariat this past year. The swamp’s seismograph doesn’t record a reading when we violate the rules, but when the other guy does, it’s 7.8 on the Richter Scale.  

The whole drama, in a nutshell, is just the old-fashioned hubris of the imperial power, issuing its edicts, and genuinely surprised when it encounters resistance, even though such resistance confirms for the wunderkinds their view of the enemy’s malevolence.

Is Trump trapped? That is the question of the hour. He faces strong pressure to do something in retaliation, but that something may aggravate the oil shock and imperil his re-election. As he dwells on that possibility, he will probably look for ways to back down. He will try to get out of the trap set by the U.S. economic war on Iran without abandoning the economic war on Iran. But that probably won’t work; that was Iran’s message over the weekend. Were he to abandon the economic war, however, he would get a ton of flak from both sides of the aisle in Congress. The commentators would scream “appeasement!” In Washington lobby-land, we’d be back to 1938 in a flash. 

Does the president have the gumption to resist that tired line? I hope so.  

David Hendrickson teaches history at Colorado College and is the author of Republic in Peril: American Empire and the Liberal Tradition


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the dunnyman at the white house...