# 08/07/21 - dr00's News
Is it just me or is it getting crazier out there? - Novak Djokovic
Sure the Haitian president was assassinated, Tokyo is about to host the Olympics while in a state of emergency and Miami has seen their own Grenfell Tower "murder via deregulation" event, but the last few weeks have predominantly been about inspirational comebacks! Firstly we have witnessed the great Roger Federer's highly-anticipated return to Wimbledon at 39 years of age. He was ultimately knocked out in the quarter-finals, making him the oldest man ever to make that round.
Speaking of global treasures, last week Barnaby Joyce unceremoniously knifed affable moron Michael McCormack to reinstate himself as leader of the National Party (and Deputy Prime Minister of Australia). For the uninitiated, Joyce is a veteran MP whose political style would best be described as rabies incarnate. He has been involved in countless scandals and while he is certainly not the only parliamentary figure with lunatic views, nobody else is as proudly deranged as our Barnaby.
The other scourge that has made a triumphant return is COVID-19. Australia has been hit by a wave of infections and the Delta strain outbreak in NSW appears to be rapidly getting out of control. Most worryingly, the messaging has very quickly moved from suppression/elimination to "living with this disease" despite the fact that - due to the federal government's world-lagging ineptitude - only 7.7% of the population has been vaccinated. Of course, even that paltry 7.7% is not uniformly distributed across age brackets but now that the only generation that matters (Boomers) have been vaccinated it's time to let it rip. The boffins in marketing are still trying to decide on whether to call it "Operation Millenial Murder" or "Project Gen-Z Frenzy" but we should see a policy announcement in the coming days.
Oh, and the final comeback kid is Donald Rumsfeld who this week returned to the depths of hell from whence he came.
# The Spy Who Came In From The Pub
A new paper by Cameron Coventry exploring Bob Hawke's role as a United States informer paints a picture of the Ex-Prime Minister that is entirely at odds with his beer-sculling public persona. Of course, this larrikinism is known to have been a well-crafted facade and Hawke is regarded by most historians as a canny operator, but what this recent article demonstrates is the extent of his duplicity.
Coventry's analysis is primarily based on official cables sent between 1973 and 1979 and Hawke is shown to have surreptitiously worked as an informer during this period while officially holding the positions of President of the Labor Party and President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). He passed on information about the Whitlam and Fraser governments as well as the Australian Labor Party and the labour movement generally. Coventry exposes multiple examples of dissonance between public and private positions across the key policy areas of industrial relations, macroeconomics and foreign policy, with the Americans referring to him as "an experienced chameleon".
While president of the ACTU, Hawke was secretly providing intel on union disputes with American and multinational corporations like the Ford Motor Company and privately described some unions as "industrial idiots". The diplomats observed a marked "de-radicalisation" in union politics under Hawke's leadership and one example Coventry points to is when he "masterminded" the undermining of "popular anti-uranium policy".
On the macroeconomic front, the cables detail how the United States applied pressure to the Australian government to abandon Keynesianism and Hawke's government was pivotal in this country's eventual "embrace of neoliberalism" (a role that Hawke himself recognised). In the reported correspondence prior to his Prime Ministership, we observe Hawke's shift to an economic ideology that puts the control of inflation ahead of full employment and wage rises. The logic of this is debatable (and I am not an economist), but it is important to remember that Hawke was still the head of the unions during this period.
Aside from these specific examples, Coventry's piece can also help us understand the broader political landscape of anxiety during the 1970s. The diplomatic cables shed light on the fractious relationship between Gough Whitlam and Hawke, America's influence on the Australian labour movement and the impact of media moguls like Rupert Murdoch on the prospects of political actors. What is also notable is the sheer number of informers who were active during this period, including other senior union leaders and Kerry Packer.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once opined, "it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming". It is fitting that Coventry's paper was released against the backdrop of the aforementioned COVID-related lockdowns across Australia - lockdowns which have been typified by a collective gleeful willingness to "dob in" transgressing neighbours. Our favourite Prime Minister would be proud: we have become a country of alcoholic snitches.
The "Eloquence" of Robert J. Hawke: United States informer, 1973-1979 (opens new window) was published in the Australian Journal of Politics and History. The article is behind a pay-wall but if you are interested, get in touch through this CONTACT FORM (opens new window) and I'll send over a copy (Rest In Power Aaron Swartz).
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# Afghan I Stan
As touched on before, the great Donald Rumsfeld this week finally took his place in the great unknown unknown in the sky, but his legacy of destruction lives on. The US and Coalition forces are set to leave Afghanistan by September this year (20 years after the 9/11 attacks) and it really couldn't be going much worse.
While the US did successfully merk Osama Bin Laden in 2011, one of the primary stated motives for invading Afghanistan was to liberate the citizens and overthrow the Taliban. Technically the latter objective was a success, but the Islamist group have not disappeared. When the withdrawal was announced, the Taliban immediately began recapturing sections of Afghanistan and it is now very possible that they will retake the country. The Taliban were chased out of major cities during the early stages of the war, but this often led to corrupt warlords, whose leadership tended to be even more oppressive, filling the vacuum (e.g. in Helmand Province). Despite this, Coalition forces militarily and financially supported these thugs because Taliban = Bad and Not Taliban = Good. In short, despite costing trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives (including ~50k Afghan citizens), the whole disastrous campaign is likely to achieve approximately fuck all when it's all said and done.
It is also worth remembering America's historical role in spreading Islamic extremism in the region. During the 1980s, the Soviet Union was falling apart domestically but took control of Afghanistan, which quickly became a proxy for the Cold War in which the US supported the rebel Mujahideen. Reagan's regional ally in this conflict was oil-rich Saudi Arabia, and this is how the puritanical teachings of Wahhabism (and Osama Bin Laden himself) entered Afghanistan. The Taliban was initially a movement of religious students educated in Pakistani schools called Madrassas. These institutions were largely funded by the Saudis and were stocked with textbooks provided by America that celebrated holy war and blood lust (the rationale being that this would help defeat Soviet communism in the region). We now know that these were incubators of violent Islamic fundamentalism.
Australia's depravity has also been on show in the twilight of this war. Over the last two decades, our forces have worked alongside many interpreters and "Locally Engaged Employees" in Afghanistan, but once Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of troops, we were out of there like a rat up a drainpipe. These Afghans who collaborated with Australia have been abandoned and are already being threatened and killed for their association with us. Several veterans have condemned our government's lack of concern for those who face persecution but it has fallen on deaf ears and there remains no plan or assurances. We shouldn't be surprised by the despicable behaviour of our leaders (especially given our human rights record on refugees and Indigenous Australians) but we should be disgusted and ashamed.
# 🎥 📕 Media That dr00bot Has Ingested Recently 🎹 📺
I have been indulging in nostalgia recently and so this is a 90s themed edition of Media That dr00bot Has Ingested Recently! On the film front, I rewatched Galaxy Quest (1999) and Thelma and Louise (1991) which both hold up remarkably well. With regards to Thelma and Louise, I still can't quite wrap my head around the fact that Ridley Scott made this movie and belly-laughed imagining him directing Brad Pitt in that hairdryer scene. My key takeaways were:
- Brad Pitt in this film is the best any human has ever looked.
- I always hated the ending but now I think it is perfect.
# Semi-Charmed Life (1997) - Third Eye Blind 🎹
- I was reminded of Semi-Charmed Life's existence after a friend listened to a podcast reappraising it and now it is the only song I need in my life. I keep track of every single song I have ever liked in a Spotify Playlist with >5000 tracks and this song is now unironically in my top 10.
- The songwriting is so much better than it needs to be. The title and chorus are a perfect encapsulation of dysphoric anhedonia (an affliction even more prevalent today than when the song was written) while the lyrics have a greasy poetry about them and are inexplicably great. For a track about crystal meth Stephan Jenkins deftly avoids cliches with lines like "chop another line like a coda with a curse" and "the sky was gold, it was rose, I was taking sips of it through my nose". Unbelievably this is the only good song they ever wrote. I went back and listened to the back catalogue and it is wall-to-wall dog shit (in my humble opinion).
- Stephan Jenkins (the lead singer) is also apparently one of the worst people going around, attracting such descriptions as "total megalomaniac freak" (former bandmate), "douchebag" (frontman of Smash Mouth), "fucking creepy douchebag" (drummer of Jimmy Eat World), "walking, breathing, living cheese" (Rob Thomas) and "a net negative as a person" (John Vanderslice).
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