Posted March 26, 2014
into Politics by John Birmingham
Let the word go forth from this time and this place that it pleases us to embiggen our lowly antipodean subjects, Bolt and Brandis for their stirring defence of the rights of a fellow to call a nigger a nigger, a slope a slope, or a Mohammedan a queue-jumping terrorist.
Woe unto the realm it was whilst any man might fear for his life and liberty at the hands of straighteners and punishers for stating the simple truth of Chinky Joe’s predilection for sneaking slices of missing puppy into the No. 37 beef noodle. What darkness gathered at the borders of the land when darkies gathered there, arrogant in their assurance that none dared speak of them save to commend their interesting cuisine - which as we know, is full of puppies anyway.
We commend our loyal servants Bolt and Brandis for alerting the realm to the threat of darkies who are not quite dark enough taking all the good jobs and drawing down the public treasury for their own debauchment. We of the royal family, and beyond us, all of the peerage and landed gentry are much chuffed at the exposure of these wastrels and leaches upon the common tit, fearing as we do, some benighted future in which an undeserving parasite class might live large at the public’s expense simply by right of birth.
We commend the righteous Bolt for his most courageous attacks on the wretched and the powerless and for his licking of those jackboots which do get a little smudged by the necessity of keeping them upon the throats of the wretched and the powerless, who are forever coughing up blood and phlegm on the steel capped toes, the bastards. But no mind, for Courageous Bolt is there to speak truth to powerlessness. He is our sword and shield, our champion of the overdog.
We commend now too the excellent Brandis who with pen as mighty as Excalibur has struck from Bolt those chains of inconvenient Law which so oppressed him. Rejoice, our subjects, for our minister has gifted you a land in which Sir Andrew Bolt may traduce and defame the uppity nigger at his will and convenience, but said black skinned and black hearted savage had best watch his mouth, lest Sir Andrew sue him into silence.
Arise Sir Andrew and Sir George. Go forth and do your worst.
65 Responses to ‘A Royal Proclamation for the Embiggening of Sir Andrew Bolt and Sir George Brandis’
Posted February 18, 2014
into Politics by John Birmingham
Hugh White's column is more interesting than mine today, at least to me. He has some thoughts on why the relative decline of US sea power doesn't mean a corresponding rise in Chinese capability. It was inspired by the unannounced passage of three PLAN vessels past Christmas Island last week.
Sending a few ships on a short peacetime passage with some minor exercises along the way is one thing. Projecting power by sea against a capable adversary is quite another. Military power projection involves moving a lot of big, heavy stuff, which takes a lot of big ships. Those ships are inherently vulnerable to modern weapons systems, because they are easy to find with radar and other sensors, and easy to hit with missiles and torpedoes.
Defending them against these threats is essential to successful power projection, but it is extremely difficult and expensive. This means there is a big difference between projecting power by sea and stopping an adversary from doing so. This difference is key to understanding what is changing in the naval balance of power in Asia today, and what is not.
The big change is that over the past 15 years China has quickly built modern forces and systems that can find and sink other countries' ships - both in the waters around China and, increasingly, far from its shores. This vastly increased capacity for what navies call ''sea denial'' has fundamentally changed the strategic balance in Asia.
By building forces that can sink US ships, the Chinese have sharply cut America's ability to project power by sea against them. That ability has always been the foundation of America's strategic dominance in Asia - and of Britain's before it. So the old era of the West's maritime primacy in Asia is finally over.
But that does not mean a new era of Chinese maritime primacy is about to begin. The technical and operational factors that allow China to achieve sea denial over the US also allow the US to achieve sea denial over China. And not just the US. Smaller countries such as Japan and India will also be able to prevent China projecting substantial military power by sea.
Even Australia, if we made the right investments, could exploit the advantages of geography and technology to give us the capacity for sea denial against China in the waters to our north.
Posted February 4, 2014
into Politics by John Birmingham
I've been meaning to blog about this for a while now, but it's not really Blunty material, and the issues are dense and complicated. A lot of the criticism of the TPP is shrouded in anti-American stupidity, but some of the fiercest critics come from the US where the TPP is seen as a way of entrenching big business interests over those of Main St.
For me, the problem is solved by Dr Matthew Rimmer, who has kindly allowed me to reblog this piece from The Conversation.
A mercurial treaty: the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the United States
According to the United States Trade Representative (USTR), Ron Kirk, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is “an ambitious, next-generation, Asia-Pacific trade agreement that reflects U.S. priorities and values”.
The negotiating partners for the treaty include a selection of countries from the Pacific Rim: Australia, New Zealand, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Chile and Peru. There has been much discussion about whether Canada, Mexico, and Japan will join the agreement. And USTR Ron Kirk has observed that the treaty has open architecture to accommodate new members.
Although the draft text remains largely secret, the outline indicates that the agreement is wide-ranging, covering some 20 areas, including competition, customs, e-commerce, intellectual property, investment, industrial relations, and trade.
According to the USTR, the treaty is intended to be a “living agreement” that can be updated to “address trade issues that emerge in the future as well as new issues that arise with the expansion of the agreement to include new countries.” The danger is it could instead be a mercurial treaty, which could be rapidly revised and updated by the parties.
Even within the United States, there are tensions between the Obama administration and the Congress over the Trans-Pacific Partnership - particularly in respect of the impact of the treaty upon open government, intellectual property, the digital economy, and public health. There has been a furore this week about the leak of the investment chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
<h2>Undermining open government</h2>
There has been widespread concern about the lack of transparency, due process, public participation, and good governance surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the United States.
A Democrat senator, Ron Wyden, has introduced a bill calling for all members of Congress, together with staff who have proper security clearance, to be given access to “documents, including classified materials, relating to negotiations for a trade agreement to which the United States may be a party and policies advanced by the Trade Representative in such negotiations.”
His aim: “Put simply, this legislation would ensure that the representatives elected by the American people are afforded the same level of influence over our nation’s policies as the paid representatives of PhRMA, Halliburton and the Motion Picture Association.”
Meanwhile, a group of law professors have issued a statement to note concern and disappointment over the secrecy surrounding the IP chapter of the agreement. They’ve asked for increased participation for the sake for legitimacy and fairness, “if the goal is to create balanced law that stands the test of modern democratic theories and practices of public transparency, accountability and input.”
The USTR has dismissed such allegations regarding the lack of transparency and public participation. But civil society groups have pressed their point, interrupting the Dallas talks with political theatre. The Yes Men infiltrated the Dallas meeting, and awarded Ron Kirk with a “Corporate Power Tool” in a fake ceremony:
<h2>Copyright law, the digital economy and cloud computing</h2>
There’s also concern that the intellectual property chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership represents a similar threat to civil liberties, innovation, and the digital economy as those posed by bills such as Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).
Republican Californian representative, Darrell Issa, has established a website called Keep the Web Open. He has posted a leaked version of a 2011 Intellectual Property Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and called for public comment and criticism of the proposed text.
But for his part, USTR Ron Kirk has maintained the agreement “reflects the incentives and stable framework that can nurture a healthy digital environment in the Asia-Pacific region.” He has argued that the treaty provides safe harbours for cloud computing. However, his purported “safeguards” in respect of copyright law and the digital environment remain somewhat hazy and vague.
Congressmen Issa and Wyden have instead called for the creation of a substantive Citizens' Digital Bill of Rights. The draft calls for an open internet; a free flow of knowledge; and the protection of civil liberties, free speech and privacy.
<h2>Patent law and access to essential medicines</h2>
There have also been concerns that the Trans-Pacific Partnership unduly favours brand-name pharmaceutical drug companies. Senior Democrat Congressman Henry Waxman - a co-author of the Hatch-Waxman Act - has spoken out over the impact of the patent provisions in the treaty on public health.
Waxman has observed that the United States Congress negotiated safeguards for public health in trade agreements with the Republican Bush Administration and complained that the Democrat Obama Administration hasn’t included such measures in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Waxman has noted that the agreement would mean poor countries would wait longer for access to generic drugs than patients in the United States and that it would allow large pharmaceutical companies to increase their profits in developing nations. He has suggested that the agreement needs to be rewritten to ensure “a reasonable mix of incentives for innovators that do not pose unnecessary barriers to poor patients seeking access to low cost generic medicines.”
Waxman stressed, “Australia, a Trans-Pacific Partnership partner, has similarly faced challenges in the World Trade Organization to its tobacco control initiative that will require more visible health warnings and so-called plain packaging on tobacco products.”
In light of recent trade challenges to U.S. and Australian tobacco control laws, Waxman emphasized, “In my view, it is essential to safeguard countries' sovereign authority to take the most appropriate and most feasible action to protect the health of their citizens.” He insisted that the Trans-Pacific Partnership must respect the principles and objectives of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Surprisingly, USTR Ron Kirk has equivocated on the issue of safeguards on tobacco control in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as can be seen in this video:
The leaked investment chapter has created a wider international controversy. The chapter appears to confirm fears that the treaty enhances corporate rights at the expense of public goods and services - such as the intellectual commons; affordable access to medicines and public health; and the protection of the environment.
Dr Matthew Rimmer is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow, working on Intellectual Property and Climate Change. He is an associate professor at the ANU College of Law, an associate director of the Australian Centre for Intellectual Property in Agriculture (ACIPA), and a director of the Australian Digital Alliance. Dr Matthew Rimmer receives funding as an Australian Research Council Future Fellow working on "Intellectual Property and Climate Change: Inventing Clean Technologies" and a chief investigator in an Australian Research Council Discovery Project, “Promoting Plant Innovation in Australia”.
Posted December 6, 2013
into Politics by John Birmingham
I have a confession to make. I used to read The Australian. A lot. But I don't do that anymore. I done been cured of my wicked ways. If I had to put a definitive terminator on the day I stopped reading The Oz, I guess I'd go for the moment they powered up the pay wall. Previous to that I'd drop in for research purposes, mostly for Blunty, a couple of times a week. But like an alcoholic, shuffling past the entrance to a bar, just to prove that he can, just to prove that he's a better man now, I sometimes… I sometimes… I... Oh God, Iread it because… because I wanted to.
Don't you judge me!
I only read it for the good articles, damn you, the ones by mega-George and Matt Price, may he rest in peace, and a couple of the cricket writers, and Amanda Meade's media column. But nothing else, that was it, honest. If I read a Greg Sheridan op-ed I only did so to critique it to within an inch of its life. Oh, and they had Doonesbury too. Matt died young, and mega-George left, Amanda left, so many of the best voices left that the screeching of the trolls seemed to be all that remained.
If I'm honest, I stopped reading for anything other than work purposes long before the pay wall. The vicious derp was too great. The inability of the paper's editors to separate reporting from opinion, indeed their daily efforts to frame their deranged opinions as though it was reporting, became too much. It's not just a question of bias. All media is biased. It was the way that the naturally conservative bias of The Australian sickened and twisted into a stunted, toxic homunculus of reportage and rage. It didnt matter in the end how much quality copy they might source from their overseas partners. The septic mess they served up domestically was just too rank and odourous to be borne.
That's why I enjoyed this blog by Ben Jenkins so much. It is every bit a vicious and unfair as any of the shrieking, crack-fueled machete attacks for which the paper has become known. Perhaps even more so. But it's also funnier, much funnier.
It's funnier because it's truthier.
I would run the whole thing here if I could, but that would be wrong. Hit up the link and read it in its full glory. But allow me to steal just a couple of my favorite pars. That's what we do now in journalism. We're all about the stealing:
Today, The Australian published the journalistic equivalent of a clenched fist being shaken at skateboard. You can read it here. It’s got no byline, which is fitting because you get the sense that this article was brought into being not by a single author but by several, who all stood in a circle and wanked into a fax machine. The editorial reads like something drunkenly written on a napkin up the back of the Walkleys while glaring across the room at Latika Bourke.
It’s petty, it’s indignant, it’s self-righteous and it’s angry. It’s also got a kind of haunting and beautiful fragility to it. Like an old man with his bathrobe tangled in a bush.
Posted November 25, 2013
into Politics by John Birmingham
Scored the cover of the Spectator this week. The fourth time I've written about the DSD/ASD spying imbroglio. It's gone on long enough to attract attention overseas, although I suspect China's unilateral declaration of a military air zone over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands might steal some attention from the international crisis buffs this week.
Anyway, it kicks off thusly:
Who knew that when Tony Abbott promised to focus Australia’s attention away from Geneva and on to Jakarta he actually meant the satellite dishes and microwave antennae of the Australian Signals Directorate? Or that having praised the departing former PM Kevin Rudd for his apology to the Stolen Generation, that Abbott would so soon be digging his heels in, refusing to say sorry with a shell-backed obstinacy that would have done his mentor John Howard proud?