October 19, 2013

Big Ideas 2013

ABC Radio National: Big Ideas


The Last Tree


Arlo Guthrie (1947)

I remember bein' a little kid one day, you know, and the teacher said:
When you see the white blast out of the school room window and the mushroom cloud, be sure and get under the desk right away. …
And that's fine, when you're five years old, or six years old.
You have to do what they say.

But when you're 12 or 13 and you start realizing it doesn't matter which way you fry.
That these people are actually insane, or they're just stupid.
And, either way, you're not expected to listen to them any more.
And so there was a time in the 60s, when it seemed like the whole world had a bunch of young people who said:
What else are these people tellin us, that is as ridiculous as that?
And so, we had, what we would call these days … a cultural revolution. …
It didn't change everything.
But it changed enough stuff.

Now we're talking about the environment.
We're arguing about it. …
We weren't doin that 50 years ago.
There was only one way to think about it, and that was:
Pollute to make money is the best way to do everything!
And that's changed.
It's changed because people started askin questions.

It doesn't matter whether they're on the Right, the Left, the this or that …
There needs to be people in every group who ask that group questions that an outsider could never ask.
So it's important to make friends in all the different groups, in all the different cultures, in all the different places …
And so that you support each other by having at least that attitude. …

I hate idea that, if you have enough money, and you have enough wealth, and you have enough influence — that you can influence entire nations, and groups of people, and take advantage of their, either, poverty or their fears, or their whatever … so that you profit by it.
Only for a short run.
You can destroy the whole world, for what?
Money.

You know, there's an old Cree Indian saying …
After you've poisoned the last lake,
And you've cut the last tree,
And you've killed the last river,
Only then will people realize that you can't eat money. …
I don't want to wait for that.
It's important to get out and talk about that.
You don't have to be right.
It's not a matter of bein right.
It's a matter of not being … herded, like some mindless cattle herd just goin down the road, goin along with the program, without at least askin.
And that's when things change.
When people are at least not afraid to ask.

(15 August 2013)


Contents


The Last Tree

Media Godfather

Ethnic minorities in China, India and the US

The Honored Dead

The Last Tree

Fear of the Disabled

Invisible Killers

Death by Numbers

Failure of Governance in the United States

Nineteen Thousand Children

An Unnecessary War

Stealing from the Poor


ABC Radio National: Big Ideas


Paul Barclay

  • The Reward of Public Life is Public Progress, 27 November 2013.
    Noel Pearson (1965): Chairman, Cape York Group.
  • The Clandestine World of MOSSAD, 25 November 2013.
    Michael Bar-Zohar (1938): Co-author, MOSSAD — the Greatest Missions of the Israeli Secret Service, Random House.
  • How Adolescents Make Decisions, Sulzberger Distinguished Lecture, Duke University, 25 September 2013.
    (Big Ideas, 23 October 2013.)
    Laurence Steinberg: Distinguished University Professor and Laura H Carnell Professor of Psychology, Temple University.
  • Does China have better ethnic policies than the US and India? The Confucius Institute Annual Public Lecture, University of Adelaide, 16 October 2013.
    Barry Sautman (1949): Associate Professor, Division of Social Science, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

    [Obama] has actually done rather little for ethnic minorities except, perhaps, for the top elites. …
    Black household income, in 1999, equalled 63% of white household income, on average.
    By 2012, the percentage had dropped to 55%.

    Blacks account for 44% of the people in prison in the United States although they are only 13% of the American population.
    In 2012, the US incarceration rate was 6.7 times that of whites.
    [Whereas, in] the 1930s, the disparity was only 3 times …
    [The United States has] the highest incarceration rate in the world. …

    In China, it's the reverse.
    That is to say, minority people are not incarcerated at a higher rate than the Han population but rather at a lower rate.
    For example, in the 1990s … the incarceration rate [in the Tibet Autonomous Region] for ordinary criminals (I'm not talking about political prisoners, but ordinary criminals) was about 70% of the national rate in China [and] 1/80 the rate of incarceration of African Americans in the United States. …

    The high incarceration rate of black people in the United States means that almost all the claims that are made about progress that black people have made in the United States are … false.
    And the reason for this is that people who are in prison are never counted in studies that make comparisons, for example, [between] income ratios based on ethnicity — it's only the non-incarcerated population that's studied.
    [And since] such a huge percentage of … black people and latinos, the two biggest minorities in the United States, are incarcerated [it invalidates] many of the statistics about racial progress.

    US schools are now more segregated than they were in the 1970s.
    [Black] student performance is at a level that was the same as the 1980s.
    Most white children in the United States are now in private schools that are supported by the government.
    Most black and latino students in the US are in public and highly segregated schools.
    The graduation rates from high school are … 78% for whites, 58% for latinos, 52% for blacks.

    A [recent] study of 5 million US workplaces [revealed a trend towards] greater racial inequality … than in the past.
    [The] movement for racial equality in US workplaces ended by around about 1980, and since then it's been going backwards.

    On almost every measure of social wellbeing latinos [too,] are worse off now than they were 20 years ago. …

    In the United States 98% of land is owned by white people.
    Black people own only 0.7% of the land …

    In effect, in the United States, there are no government initiatives to better the lot of ethnic minorities.
    The gains in the past were made by the civil rights movement.
    That is, it was a movement from below that forced the government for a while to better the conditions of ethnic minorities, particularly black people and latinos.
    But that all ended decades ago …
    Nowadays, what passes for affirmative action in the United States is the inclusion of ethnic minority politicians. …

    [Almost] everything in terms of the [economic] disparities that exist [in China] can be explained by the differences in location: that is, minorities being more concentrated in [remote and] rural areas …
    So it's very different from … the disparities that exist in the United States [which are] largely accounted for by discrimination. …
    Not much of earnings differentials can be attributed to [employment] discrimination and there have been many studies of this kind. …

    Ethnic disparities in China have grown [in recent decades], in part, for the same reason that [racial disparities] have grown in the United States [—] because of privatization and the retreat of the state.
    The widened gap in China may be largely the result of an increase in disparities between urban and rural income levels, but overall it may not be as sharp as in the US, for example, with regard to urban income. …

    Surprisingly enough, in China, there is a rather high level of national identity among ethnic minorities.
    Differences in degrees of national identity between Han people and minority people in China certainly seem to be less than between US whites and minorities. …

    High school students poll pretty much the same as adults about most questions that they're asked anywhere in the world.
    [In a study jointly carried out by a scholar … at the University of Iowa and one … at Sun Yat Sen University,] Han high school students and people from various minority groups were asked about their degree of closeness to their ethnic group, and their degree of closeness to their country, China. …
    Han people had a fairly high level of closeness to their country and a somewhat lower level of identity with their ethnic group.
    [By contrast, all the] minority groups, including the highly contentious ones, Tibetan and Uyghur, had [both a high to very high] degree of ethnic identity [and] a high degree of national identity. …
    When asked to choose between an identity with Xinjiang, which is where the Uyghur population is concentrated, and an identity of being Chinese, twice as many of the Uyghur respondents chose an identity of being Chinese than having an identity with Xinjiang.
    So there was a high degree of national identity among Xinjiang minority students and the authors of the study said the reason for this was precisely affirmative action.
    If was affirmative action that caused these Uyghur students to have a high degree of [national identification] with China because they could see the concrete benefits they received from that affirmative action. …

    [Ethnic] minority students, in this survey, were actually more patriotic than were the Han students who were surveyed.
    Their degree of trust in the Chinese government was markedly higher than the degree of trust displayed by ethnic minorities in the United States.
    For example, in a 2004 poll in the United States, 39% of whites indicate that they trust the United States government most of the time.
    Only 22% of black people who were polled said that they trust the United States government most of the time. …

    So what would happen if China were to adopt policies like those in the US which is what many Westerners and many Chinese liberals actually want?
    I would guess that conditions for key minorities would deteriorate sharply.
    And that minorities would find this to be highly objectionable.
    And the degree of ethnic conflict may increase radically as a result.
    Certainly in my conversation with ethnic minority intellectuals in China I have found that they virtually all oppose the idea of radically changing the ethnic policies in the direction of eliminating ethnic minority rights and instituting only the same individual rights for the whole population. …

    [What] this study shows is that, the assumption that all policies in liberal democracies are necessarily superior to those in one-party states, like China, has to be questioned.
    Certainly with regard to ethnic policies, but perhaps with regard to other policies as well.
    It's certainly something to think about.

  • The Palestinian Struggle for Self Determination and the Ordeal of Occupation, 15 October 2013.
    Richard Falk (1930): United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights.
    Emeritus Professor of International Law, Princeton University.
  • Copyright is dead, long live the pirates, IQ debate, 8 October 2013.
  • What MOOC's mean for universities, 26 September 2013.
  • Is Australia still the land of the fair go?, IQ debate, 24 September 2013.
  • Acknowledging Australia's 'forgotten war', 23 September 2013.
    Henry Reynolds (1938): Historian, University of Tasmania.
    Author, The Forgotten War, Newsouth.

    Henry Reynolds (1938):
    [It's] quite clear, from everything we know about Aboriginal society had government and laws and therefore exercised sovereignty.
    So if you have conflict which changes the sovereignty and ownership of a whole continent, then this is a war, and a very important war.
    It's one of the most important wars of the 19th and early 20th century because it does change the ownership and … control of a vast area of land. …

    The first Chief Justice of South Australia, a man called Cooper, recognized that the settlers were moving out into the country of foreign nations. …
    [With] the exception … of the Pacific War, [this was] the most important war that Australia's experienced — more important than the First World War because it was in Australia, about Australia, but above all, about these very important questions. …

    [Governor Arthur] was in Tasmania for 12 years, throughout that period that was known [at the time] as the 'Black War'.
    And in his correspondence, inside Tasmania, in the letters he wrote back to Britain, in his own private correspondence, he says:
    This is a war.
    We are engaged in a war. …
    Most of these military officers had been in the Peninsula War in Spain and they knew what a guerilla war was — where the local people took up arms against the invading [French] army.
    So when they talked about guerilla war they knew exactly what they were dealing with.
    And they regarded it as war. …

    Clausewitz said:
    [War is] not the battles, it's not the coming and going, it's not the commanders and the bravery of soldiers, it's what are the great strategic objectives?
    And that is what makes it a war, not just an insurgency or a crime wave.
    The great strategic objectives.
    The great strategic objective in Australia was the ownership and control of a whole continent.
    The resources of which we all live on …
    If there was no war, then thousands of Aborigines were killed in a continent[wide] crime wave tolerated by government.

    [Thousands] of settlers died.
    In the Tasmanian case, 250 died in a few years.
    This is a lot of people dying in a small colonial society. …
    These people aren't criminals.
    They are patriots.
    They are defending their country against a foreign invader.
    They are doing what we would be expected to do.
    [And if we didn't] we would be regarded as traitors and cowards. …
    Are they an injured people, whom we have invaded and with whom we are at war? …
    (JE, Tasmanian Settler, 1830s)

    Why is it we can't identify with the indigenous Australians who were fighting against the foreign invasion? …
    … Ray Evans, and many others, have been writing about this for many many years. …
    That's what provoked the history wars.
    And in particular, the writing of Keith Windschuttle. …
    For a lot of people, that gave great relief.
    They were so pleased when someone came along and said:
    You don't have to listen to these people.
    It wasn't like that at all.
    There's nothing you have to worry about. …
    [There] is clearly a real difficulty about coming to terms with the conflict. …
    It makes people angry.
    [Students] get very upset and they don't want to hear about this.
    And so you've got someone like John Howard [saying:]
    We must have stories that make young people proud of their history.
    These stories make them ashamed of their history.
    So therefore, we want another sort of story.
    And that is, undoubtedly, one of the reasons for the tremendous state-sponsored promotion of wars overseas.
    Because it takes attention away from what happened within Australia.
    [This was, in some ways,] the most significant reaction to what they call 'black arm-band' history. …
    Much of what I write is summing up of things I've written before, and many others have provided the material — its been there for 20 years or more. …

    Why is it [that] we seem to be proud of invading the Ottoman Empire … that presented absolutely no threat to Australia?
    And yet we seem to be ashamed about invading Australia.
    It's a very, very strange way of seeing the world. …

    Had we not experienced this extraordinary publicly-funded campaign to … commemorate and even celebrate war that we are seeing now and are going to see in even greater intensity over the next few years until, presumably, 2018.
    Had that not emerged … then I may not have returned to this material
    But if we are going to make war as the central defining experience [of nationhood.]
    And if, as Brendan Nelson says:
    The War Memorial is the Soul of the Nation.
    Then what do you do about this? …

    One of the questions I ask is:
    Are indigenous Australian's our countrymen, or not?
    Now, if there's one thing that conservative Australians would say … its:
    Yes, of course they are!
    We're all one people.
    We won't have any of this talk about separatism, or sovereignty or self-determination because we are all One Nation. …
    The corollary of that is:
    Alright, if we are all one nation [then] these people are our countrymen.
    How is it that we can ignore what happened to them, when when we rattle on endlessly about our soldiers overseas? …

    [Conflict] began as soon as the settlers began moving out into Aboriginal country.
    Assuming it was their land, or theirs for the taking.
    Assuming they could use force to impose their will on the local people.
    It was inevitable that conflict was going to happen. …

    The 19th century saw a tremendous increase in the power of European weaponry. …
    In 1898 when the British mowed down 10,000 Sudanese with machine-guns and lost about a hundred themselves.
    This was a period when there was a great disparity of force.
    That happened in Australia. …

    When I arrived at James Cook University, many years ago, and was told I was teaching Australian History.
    I was given, as my textbook [Gordon Greenwood's] Australia, A Social and Political History.
    [It] was by far the most widely used textbook in senior schools and universities.
    And it had nothing about the Aborigines.
    They weren't even in the index.
    They had literally been written out of Australian History.
    So if you write them out, what are you left with?
    You're left with Ned Kelly … and a few other bushrangers.
    You're left with Eureka Stockade — a few unionists got killed.
    But apart from that: what a peaceful place it was!
    And that was a very nice story.
    Nations [need] nice stories. …

    Paul Barclay:
    [Australians] spoke of it being a war at the time.
    It was reported in the newspapers as a war.
    You go through the archives and you find reference to it being a war.
    This was not a hidden truth then.
    We are so reluctant to use that term today?
    We've chosen to forget, have we? …

    Henry Reynolds (1938):
    It was never forgotten by indigenous Australians. …
    They had there own history which they passed down by word of mouth.
    And they never had any doubt that this is what had happened to them, and their people and their ancestors …

    Paul Barclay:
    The approximate death toll … was around about thirty thousand deaths of indigenous Australians and perhaps several thousand settlers …
    When you compare that with the wars that we commemorate [at the Australian War Memorial] — from the Boer War, from Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, the Gulf War [—] they rather pale into insignificance compared to the numbers who died in the frontier wars, don't they? …

    Henry Reynolds (1938):
    [Thirty] thousand is … the bottom of the range.
    The important work being done … by Robert Jenson and Ray Evans is going to push that figure up [into] the range of deaths in the Second, and even the First World War.

    Would you like to know more?

  • Living in the edge: coasting along or crisis?, 19 September 2013.
  • The Modern Australian Soldier, 16 September 2013.
  • Superbugs, 12 September 2013.
    Frank Bowden: Professor of Medicine, Australian National University.

    In the 1860s [Ignaz Semmelweis discovered that] obstetric hospitals had a very stark difference in their mortality rate.
    [If] you were looked after by a doctor, your post-delivery fatality rate from infection was 13% …
    If you were looked after by a mid-wife, your death rate was 2%. …
    [The doctors would perform autopsies] and then, without washing their hands or changing their clothes, would go back and deliver [a baby. …]
    People knew than things could be transmitted from person to person, but they didn't understand that these were living organisms that were doing it. …
    [To prevent this Semmelweis suggested that] you had to treat yourself with a solution of slaked lime …
    [This] was a very strong chlorinated chemical [that] hurt people's hands, so they didn't like it.
    [Doctors also found it hard to accept that they] could be causing this problem …
    [Semmelweis] was able, in his hospital, to do it and demonstrated that the infection rate fell to the level in the obstetric ward which was looked after by the mid-wives. …
    [Despite this, it was] 20 years before anyone took any notice of the germ hypothesis …
    [Even] today we have the same arguments with medical staff about hand hygiene as we had 150 years ago.

  • Can democracy survive a disappearing middle class?, 10 September 2013.
  • Numbers rule the world, 3 September 2013.

  • The disability nightmare in our prison system, Cranlana Alumni Speaker Series, 20 August 2013.
    Colleen Pearce: Public Advocate and Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner.

    [While the United States represents] 5% of the world's population … it has a staggering 25% of the world's [prison] population.
    [An] Afro-American is 10 times is more likely, than any other American, to be in prison.
    An indigenous person in Victoria is 13 times more likely, than anyone else, to be in prison. …

    [A] disproportionate number of prisoners have
    • mental illness,
    • drug addictions,
    • low literacy levels,
    • belong to minority ethnic groups and indigenous groups, and
    • have experienced disadvantage of multiple types throughout their lives. …

    [The prevalence] of people with acquired brain injury in prison in Victoria is around 20 times greater than the general population [—] 42% of men and 33% of women prisoners compared to 2% of the general population.

    [Almost] one third of male prisoners have a diagnosed mental health condition.
    The rate of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder is almost 10 times greater than the general community.

    The number of prisoners with an intellectual disability is … around 10% of the prison population. …
    The typical prisoner with an intellectual disability [is] nearly always a very young male.
    He is more likely [to]
    • be single,
    • belong to a minority group,
    • have been imprisoned previously,
    • have experienced institutionalization, abuse and neglect as a child,
    • have come from a disrupted family,
    • have been segregated in a special school,
    • have needed supported accommodation, and
    • generally led a somewhat chaotic lifestyle. …

    [Many] prisoners have … two or more of:
    • intellectual disability
    • acquired brain injury, and
    • mental illness

    Overall … a clear majority of prisoners have some form of disability. …
    Prisons have become the stand-in for a health and welfare system that fails to meet the needs of some of the most disadvantaged people in our community.
    [They] have become a vast warehouse for people that society has failed to deal with.
    Those with mental health needs, with histories of abuse and neglect, with alcohol and drug addictions, and, most importantly, those with disabilities. …

    Overall, Australia has a relatively low rate of imprisonment.
    Around 166 per 100,000 adults.
    Victoria is the second lowest state, with 133 per 100,000, but unfortunately we're catching up. …
    Our prisons are overcrowded and are being expanded though not quickly enough to meet the numbers coming through with measures such as the abolition of suspended sentences. …
    No jurisdiction [anywhere, has] built its way out of prison overcrowding. …

    The formation on the Right on Crime Alliance amongst Republicans in the USA puts the conservative case for more responsible spending designed to reduce crime, stop re-offending and give priority to victims.
    A recent report from the Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council found [as has research in other countries] that people given prison sentences in the magistrates' courts more likely to re-offend than those who received a community based order or a fine.
    The government has rejected the findings of this report. …

    Our imprisonment rate is low compared to the USA, which has an imprisonment rate of 760 per 100,000.
    But high compared to [Scandinavian countries which have] rates around 80 per 100,000. …
    [Nordic prisons are] better staffed, less crowded, less punitive and more connected with their communities than jails in English speaking countries.
    Prisoners access the same social and community services and educational opportunities as the rest of the population.

    The daily cost to the State government of keeping a person in prison is around … $97,660 per year. …
    If a prisoner … has been receiving the disability support pension or other benefit … these benefits cease the costs are shifted from the Commonwealth to the State.
    [And since] prisoners do not receive Medicare [the] cost of their medical treatment is [also] borne by the State.
    The cost of maintaining a person in a … a small group home run by the Department of Human Services … is about $120,369 per year or $74,000 per year [if] run by a non-government not-for-profit organisation.
    [A] proportion of the cost [of operating these facilities] is provided by the Commonwealth government …
    Residents in these facilities continue to receive Centrelink benefits … a proportion of which [they use to] pay for their accommodation.
    They also receive Medicare.
    On financial grounds alone, it makes sense to find alternatives to prisons. …

    Prisons intentionally remove people from society for a period of time for the state purpose of:
    • punishment,
    • public protection,
    • deterrence, and
    • rehabilitation. …
    With the closure in Victoria over the last 20 years of large scale institutions for people with disabilities, prisons are amongst last of the institutions for disabled people that, for so many centuries, have removed them from society and labelled them as outsiders, to be feared and separated from the rest of the community.
    I am not suggesting that people should not take responsible for their actions, to the extent that this is possible to do so. But we need to stand against the tide of thinking that takes us to the easy path of responding to crime with higher rates of imprisonment. …
    When we put a person in prison, that person is in the custody of the state, and the state assumes responsibility for that person.
    The responsibility towards a person with a disability is higher because their needs are greater.
    And arguably … the consequences and impact of imprisonment is more severe for people with disabilities than those without. …

    If you're a person with a disability who is a victim of crime, you are less likely to have your case believed by police officers.
    If you're believed, you're less likely to have your case go to court [because you may] be unable to give … reliable evidence.
    [If a person with a disability does] go to court … think about how challenging it is for you to be interrogated by a barrister …
    Many of them don't know the kind of abuse that happens to them is a crime.
    Because[many of them] been subjected to this kind of treatment for a very, very long time.
    So there is a whole [issue around getting] access to justice.
    What is justice to them?

  • Climate change and cities, 19 August 2013.
    John Conner: CEO, The Climate Institute.

    Because Australia is such a country of floods and droughts and extremes, one of the things which seems to have broken the mold for people is actually super-storm Sandy.
    Which has actually so vividly brought into our television screens subways filled with water, and those storms there which just didn't seem right.
    To some degrees there were many in Brisbane, though, who seemed to think it was okay that they had two, one in a hundred year floods, one year after the other.

  • Stalemate in American Politics: Sorting Out the Culprits, 14 August 2013.
    Burdett Loomis: Professor of Political Science, University of Kansas.

    Stalemate in American politics: who's to blame?

    {First of all the framers [of the Constitution] wanted to put together this strong central government … but were leery of power of a too strong President or particularly a too strong congress …

    We have real federalism.
    We're always talking about how federalism is shrivelling up in the United States.
    I commend you to look at the legislative process in the states.
    You've got a handful of states, twelve now, that have passed gay marriage laws.
    And you've have twenty states that would probably … would shoot homosexuals!
    The idea of gay marriage is off the table.
    In fact, they're passing laws right and left to essentially try to nullify the Obama health care laws.
    So that's something we tried in Civil War — this whole nullification thing.
    So the states are very powerful.
    And are increasingly going their blue and red ways.
    So a tremendous amount of fragmentation here.
    At the national level, you've got separation of powers, you've got a senate and a house. …
    So the framers bear a substantial amount of the blame here …}

    The second set of culprits are the political parties.
    Partisanship has grown … in the United States over last thirty years.
    If you want to look at a good date … its really about 1980, the beginning of the Reagan era. …

    And finally, organised interest groups.
    There are about 30,000 lobbyists in the United States, about the same number of organized interests …
    Everyone with their own agenda.
    Making it very difficult to get things done.
    The NRA would be one spectacularly good example of a successful interest group, but there are many … more. …
    {With all these groups, with so much to protect, 30,000 spending $7-8 billion a year on lobbying, it's very hard to move from the status quo.}

    [We] elect people [for] almost every office [by] first past the post.
    You get the most votes, you win.
    That really does produce a two party system.
    Crucially … it's the candidate selection process that is probably pulling the parties apart.
    And particularly for the Republicans.
    You have lots and lots of Republicans who aren't really not worried about beating a Democrat in a general election.
    They're in a seat that's pretty safe.
    But they're petrified of being perceived as not conservative enough so that a Tea Party challenger might take them on.
    The Republicans would probably control the US Senate today save for the last two election cycles (2010, 2012).
    At least 5 senate candidates were nominated from the very … far right in primary elections, very small turn-outs.
    The activists are by far the most likely to vote and they selected these purists rather than a candidate that could win.
    All five of these candidates were defeated in the general election by Democrats.
    So the pull of the activists to the right in the Republican party is substantial and it really has been going on now for 10 or 15 years.

    … Republicans and Democrats fight over everything …
    [But they do] agree on one thing …
    [That] they should make as difficult as possible for third parties to [gain] any kind of a foothold.
    [If] you can't have a monopoly, the next best thing is a duopoly. …

    [Parties] have got far … more ideological, and again, more on the Republican side than the Democratic.
    I'm kind of a moderate Democrat.
    But the social science scholarly analysis here is pretty clear.
    The Democrats haven't really moved that far from a kind of centrist, left party, Clintonesque party to where they are today.
    Republicans have moved far … to the right over the last 10 or 12 years. …
    The South has become far more Republican.
    There are almost no Republicans in New England.
    And Reagan, Newt Gingrich brought in with them [an] increasingly ideological group of legislators …
    And, with Bush and Obama, partisanship has intensified.
    I think with Bush it intensified because of policies, for the most part, as well as the 2000 election … which cast a shadow on Bush's legitimacy.
    But really it was the Iraq War far more than anything else that caused Democrats to oppose Bush so vigorously.
    With Obama, its been health care, mixed with race, mixed the sense that Obama is the 'other'.
    And the level of … hatred of Obama among the 20-25% on the far right is really staggering.
    You have to be around to see the emails that float through. …

    Republicans become more and more conservative …
    Democrats become get somewhat more liberal …
    And the distance gets farther and farther apart over the last 120 years, but particularly the last 10 or 20. …

    Increasingly, Republicans and Democrats, regularly use the filibuster.
    Regularly require 60 votes for anything to get done in the US Senate.
    That is a truly high standard …

    So not only do you have partisanship growing, but you have the willingness to use obstruction.
    Not just on legislation, but increasingly on nominations, cabinet officials, sub-cabinet officials and particularly the judiciary. …
    And often a senator will stop … a nomination, not because he or she dislikes the nominee [but because] of some unrelated issue.
    … I'm just going to be an impediment over here … until I get my way over here.
    'Hostage taking' it gets called.
    That's not a way to govern. …

    So you get this partisan stalemate, almost no middle in the congress, highly ideological, and the great place of obstruction is the US Senate. …

    We tend to focus so much on the short term.
    It's extraordinarily difficult in the United States to deal with long term issues.
    As the staffers I talked to 10 years ago said:
    There'll be a crisis and we'll fix it.
    That's how we get long term things done.
    [But that's] not really occurring. …

    Not much in the way of accountability. …
    In the United States you've got the House, the Senate, the Presidency.
    Very difficult with divided government, to assess accountability. …

    Rather, when you have these crises, you make deals which really don't solve much of anything. …
    The 'kick the can down the road' metaphor is very powerful …

    [Often] policies that are produced are highly symbolic. …
    After 9/11 we created a Department of Homeland Security.
    The largest cabinet department in the United States.
    Even at the time people did not think the Department of Homeland Security was going to be an answer to true security, to addressing terrorism.
    But we were doing something.
    And the term itself 'homeland' was really important.
    Germanic, as it still seems, when I say it. …
    Well it turns out it didn't work very well. …

    There is a great lessening of compromise.
    Compromise often seems a dirty word.
    And, very importantly, deliberation, real deliberation: being able to talk among each other to get to a better result. …
    That's gone done the tubes. …
    The Tea Party sympathizers continue to hold tremendous sway over many legislators and pull them not to even consider the idea of compromising on something like taxes, for example …

    And Obama remains, pretty much despised by a small but substantial number of Americans, even though he can't be elected again.
    There is a kind of irrational element here. …

    American political parties have been extraordinarily successful over the years …
    [The] Democratic Party is the longest standing electoral party in the world. …

    The Republicans … have to deal these huge demographic trends in the United States.
    The growing number of Hispanics, the growing number of Asian Americans, the growing political clout of the gay and lesbian community, make it very difficult for Republicans absent some changes in policies.
    And Republicans … they don't like to lose.
    Right now, they are really fighting it out.
    How to create a viable conservative party that's not crazy.
    They have not yet succeeded.
    That doesn't mean they won't succeed.
    You had Barry Goldwater in 1964.
    [The] worst defeat in modern presidential history, in many ways, and four years later Richard Nixon wins the presidency.
    So you can't right people off …

    So strangely enough right now, the Senate, which is the great obstructionist body, is actually becoming the body — small enough number, a hundred, you get some real friendships there — and still some ability to deliberate, they're still producing policy.
    The House can't produce a policy now that's not super partisan.
    They simply can't do it …

    The President is becoming more involved in the process.
    He doesn't like it very much.
    He's not a great legislator. …
    Ronald Reagan … he'd call people up, bend their ears, try and get members [on side.]
    Bill Clinton loved to do it.
    Lyndon Johnson loved to do it. …

    There's a handful of issues that Republicans and Democrats can, even now, agree on …
    Voting for the Violence Against Women Act … should have been easy, but was made into a political issue.
    Eventually enough Republicans voted to pass that issue.
    They voted for Hurricane Sandy relief, even though a lot of Republicans did not want to spend that money or had wanted if offset by other spending in the budget.
    And it may well come to pass on immigration.
    That Republicans see that … unless they address the immigration issue seriously … they simply aren't going to be competitive electorally.
    Now there are a group on the far right that really don't care. …
    We're just not conservative enough!
    Definite problem with reality, over there. …
    You're finding, a certain number of Republicans are breaking ranks, on certain issues, because they want the Republican Party to be electorally viable. …

    Even when the … government acts in a dysfunctional way, like across the board cuts.
    Not a got way to do policy at all.
    On the other hand, we're cutting 50, 60, 70 billion dollars in military spending.
    Which [may not be such] a bad idea.
    We're getting it because we did this meat-cleaver approach.
    So even when policy is done badly, sometimes it has good results.
    That's scarcely a great endorsement.

  • Opening up the Arctic, 14 August 2013.
  • Cyber attacks: How war and economics are being transformed by computerisation, 13 August 2013.
    Scott Borg: Director and Chief Economist, US Cyber Consequences Unit.
  • Labor's 'Downfall', 5 August 2013.
    Aaron Patrick: Editor and Journalist.
  • Plain packaging of tobacco, 31 July 2013.
    Mark Davison: Professor of Law, Monash University.
  • Conspiracy of Silence: Queensland’s frontier killing times, 11 July 2013.
    Timothy Bottoms: Historian.
  • Is it treason to have the wrong reason?, 27 June 2013.
  • Austerity: The history of a dangerous idea, 14 May 2013.
    Mark Blyth: Professor of International Political Economy, Brown University.
  • The power of negative thinking, 7 May 2013.
    Oliver Burkeman (1974): Columnist, The Guardian.
  • The contradictions of capital, 16 April 2013.
    David Harvey (1935): Distinguished Professor of Anthropology & Geography, City University, New York.

    … African-American populations in the United States, [have] lost 70% of their asset value over the last 10 years.
    {[The] women have been particularly hard hit [— especially] single-headed households.}
    The same is true of Hispanic populations.
    The White populations lost about 28%. …

    Before the main crisis hit, perhaps $40b [of assets] was lost to those populations.
    This was during a period where the bonuses on Wall Street were about $40b a year. …
    The mortgage companies and the lawyers …
    It was predatory practices.
    It was not trading in the ordinary sense of the word …

    A stewardess on American Airlines was complaining [to me] that she had just lost [her pension.]
    American Airlines filed for bankruptcy.
    [They went] to the bankruptcy judge [and said:]
    We cannot continue to function if we're liable for these pensions and these health care costs …
    [So] judge says:
    Well, get rid of them.
    So there she is, she's been working for 15 years for American Airlines, and suddenly she's lost her pension.
    This is thievery. …

    In New York city, the 2008 income tax returns showed that the top 1% earned, on average, $3.57M a year.
    Half of the population of New York city is trying to get by on $30,000 a year.
    And that inequality is even greater now than it was … 10 years ago. …

    There is … a political project, which is going on world wide, which is about … robbing as much as you possible can in terms of asset values and asset command …
    This is what the Libertarian Right is very articulate about.
    [That this] is not right.

  • Tim Flannery, 12 March 2013.

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