# 16/06/21 - dr00's News
I've got news and I don't care who knows! I'll admit that sometimes this blog can be a little pessimistic, so it brings me endless joy to be able to share something inspirational with my readers: It's the new Julie Bishop Barbie! From a conservative MP who did nothing about the Pay Gap and a corporation who refuses to close the Thigh Gap comes a brand new collaboration called "Close The Dream Gap". I'll admit I haven't actually looked into what the "Dream Gap" is, but I'm sure it's something totally tangible and that this partnership will make a material difference to people's lives.
In other uplifting news, our archaic defamation laws are finally being put to good use now that John Barilaro is suing Labor Party shill, and all-around annoying guy Friendlyjordies (Jordan Shanks). Now obviously Barilaro is a revolting man, and the Gestapo-style persecution of Shanks has honestly been chilling, but also... it's pretty funny. Anyway, let us proceed with the news!
# Trains, Spurious Claims and Automobiles
A lot has been made of the Australian government's utter contempt for the arts and creative industries since COVID-19 washed up on our shores, but I actually think this is unfair. In reality, they provide a substantial amount of money and jobs to the most creative sector of our economy: Accounting. The ingenuity of the propellor-heads at PWC, EY and the like often go unnoticed, but a few examples of "out of the box" thinking have come to light in recent weeks.
# COVID Recovery
Deloitte Access Economics recently published a highly misleading analysis of Australia's economic recovery since the pandemic. The media release, titled Deloitte Access Economics: Australians ahead of the pack (opens new window), cherry-picks favourable data to create a glowing, though thoroughly distorted, view of this country's post-pandemic economy. While this report was not commissioned by the government, they are Deloitte's biggest client and this is clearly a political document. It's not just the government either, many media outlets have reported these figures verbatim including the ABC and Nine newspapers. As somebody who works with data every day, I can attest to the fact that it is very easy to lie with numbers, and Deloitte is employing every trick in the book here.
Their most egregious claim is that Australia's economy has grown the third most since pre-COVID levels, but the authors have been very selective when choosing countries for comparison. For example, 23 of the countries included in the analysis are OECD countries, but the other 14 OECD members are not included. Five non-OECD countries have also conveniently been included with no explanation. Furthermore, many of the included countries have not published their economic data for Q1 of 2021 so the actual figures are inaccurate. For a more detailed debunking of this report, there is a great piece by Alan Austin titled Propaganda Machine: Deloitte skews facts on economy, media laps it up (opens new window). In this article, Austin asserts that Australia is more like 18th in the world on the above metric and that we are likely to slip further as more countries publish their economic data. While on the face of it, this misleading analysis may not seem consequential, it is another example of the soft corruption present in our political system and further entrenches the myth of LNP economic superiority.
# Transport Asset Holding Entity
The NSW state government (both Liberal and Labor) has been one of the most prolific and consistent exponents of corruption and fraud of the last 20 years, but in 2014, against the backdrop of jaded fans and ubiquitous claims of lost edges, they reached their artistic zenith: the Transport Asset Holding Entity (TAHE). TAHE is a shell company created by this government to mask tens of billions of dollars in spending on transport and keep it off the state budget, but the "corporation" is an accounting trick and doesn't even have a CEO or board. What's more, the scheme hinges on TAHE eventually becoming financially viable by charging Sydney Trains and NSW Trains access fees, but according to an analysis by KPMG, this will cost the budget far more in the long run. A whistleblower described this chicanery as a "public sector Enron".
Speaking of Enron, this is your annual reminder that while Accenture may no longer officially be part of the "Big Four" professional grifters, they are strongly associated with the original Maharishis of white-collar crime: Arthur Andersen. Arthur Andersen was Enron's auditor and was caught shredding documents when the 2001 scandal broke. Around this time, Arthur Andersen's consulting arm split off from the parent company and rebranded as Accenture.
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# Indefinite Detention
A rare spike in public interest in the immigration portfolio occurred last week when the government shook up a potent cocktail of ineptitude, cruelty and neglect that almost resulted in the death of four-year-old Tharnicaa Murugappan. While the Murugappan family previously lived in Biloela, Queensland, the parents' claims for asylum were unsuccessful and they have been held in Christmas Island detention centre since 2019. This case is a great example of why the government restricts journalistic access since our policies are contingent on dehumanisation. A few years ago, my friend Lachie Hinton snuck into Nauru (under false pretences) to document the plight of those held in detention, and like the Biloela family, they all had faces too. Check it out below (I wrote the score).
Even a few coalition MPs have publicly called for the Murugappan family to be allowed to stay in Australia, but this is a transparently cynical ploy to assuage outrage in their electorates. These same blood-suckers voted last month to pass a bill allowing our government to indefinitely detain refugees and asylum seekers. For those playing along at home, yes indefinite detention is illegal under international human rights law. Can we just cut to the chase and legalise shooting asylum-seekers on sight? As long as the policy was coupled with a tax cut for mining companies, all us lobotomised, squealing pigs would vote for it.
# The Dark Emu Debate
Bruce Pascoe's Dark Emu has been a phenomenon since its release in 2014, but a new book, Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers? The Dark Emu Debate takes aim at this alternative history. To be fair, there has actually been substantial criticism of Dark Emu over the years, but the loudest dissenters have often been conservative blow-hards like Andrew Bolt. For those unfamiliar with Pascoe's book, it makes the case that pre-colonial Indigenous Australians were not hunter-gatherers as characterised in the official history but rather lived in complex societies with advanced agricultural techniques. When I read Dark Emu a few years ago, I was intrigued by this narrative but did get the sense that Pascoe was extrapolating pretty wildly from a few examples. It felt more like an argument than a dispassionate history.
In this new book, anthropologist Peter Sutton and archaeologist Keryn Walshe debunk many of the claims in Dark Emu and find countless examples of misleading quotations and factual inaccuracies. I personally think that many of the examples of ingenuity that Pascoe uncovered are interesting in and of themselves, but according to Sutton and Walshe, he often draws wide-ranging conclusions that are not evidence-based. For example, he references the famous Brewarrina fish traps but implies that these fishing techniques were common, when in fact they were incredibly rare.
Although Dark Emu has been championed by many liberals, there is a deeply colonial implication at its core: First Australians would have been more deserving of our respect if they had been living similarly to those in the west. This is precisely why the book riled up conservatives because, through their paternalistic logic, the displacement and subjugation of Indigenous people is justifiable (and in fact moral) if those people are more primitive than the conquerors. In reality, this country should be ashamed of our world-lagging treatment of Indigenous Australians (past and present) irrespective of whether they knew how to make bread or not.
# 🎥 📕 Media That dr00bot has Ingested Recently 🎹 📺
In the last dr00's News, I pontificated about the virtues of all music genres, chiding those too hasty to judge and magnanimously lauding the open-minded. That was before Lorde released her new single though... Some online are suggesting "Solar Power" (and the baffling video clip) is meant to be ironic, but I am not convinced. If anybody reading this can explain what the fuck is going on I would love you to get in touch via this Contact Form (opens new window)...
# The Burnout Society (2015) - Byung-Chul Han 📕
- This is a short book by Korean-born German philosopher Byung-Chul Han about the "signature affliction" of our modern age. While the previous century was characterised immunologically - we sought to distinguish between inside and outside - this society defined by the negative (i.e. the Other) has given way to a society of excess positivity. This was inevitable since globalisation is incompatible with an immunological framework. Excess positivity does not deprive or exclude, it saturates and exhausts and accordingly the neuronal illnesses of today are depression, ADHD and burnout syndrome.
- We no longer participate in a Foucaultian disciplinary society or a Deleuzean control society: ours is an achievement society. The achievement paradigm allows for higher levels of productivity than discipline technology. Obedience remains, but now subjects police themselves.
- Han makes some interesting claims about boredom. Due to excess stimuli, the structure of attention and perception becomes fragmented. We now constantly multi-task, but this is a regression rather than a sign of progress. All wild animals must multi-task, yet humans owe most of their achievements to deep contemplation. "A purely hectic rush produces nothing new. It reproduces and accelerates what is already available. If a person experiences boredom while walking and has no tolerance for this state, he will move restlessly in fits and starts or go this way and that. However, someone with greater tolerance for boredom will recognize, after a while, that walking as such is what bores him. Consequently, he will be impelled to find a kind of movement that is entirely different... Only human beings can dance."
# Inside (2021) - Bo Burnham 📺
- I'm willing to put on the record that I hate comedy songs but this new Bo Burnham Netflix special is undeniable. I feel the same way about Burnham as I do Lionel Messi or Derren Brown, in that I dislike what they do, but they are so talented that I like it when they do it.
- Burnham has theatre-kid talent but he also has a brilliant eye for direction. The entire thing was filmed while in lockdown in a single room but somehow he crafts countless strong and distinct images from within these constraints.
- A few of the to-camera pieces reminded me of Louis C.K. There is a rant where he complains that "no one person can shut the fuck up about any single thing" which almost felt like an impression.
- I'm not sure if it is genuine or just great character work, but Burnham comes across as truly tormented here. It is partly the isolation, but there is an undercurrent of guilt in everything he does and this reflective thread resonated with me. I have always enjoyed creative pursuits, but equally, I can't shake the suspicion that most self-expression is just narcissism dressed up as art.
- The two short interludes about Jeff Bezos are some of the funniest things I've seen this year.
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