# 18/02/21 - dr00's News

Well, these are dark times for journalism stans everywhere with Facebook today banning news from its platform in response to the government's moronic new "Media Bargaining Code". I wrote about this proposal a couple of weeks ago and it seems I was right to suspect this whole thing would blow up in our faces. Facebook has intentionally cast an extremely wide net with this move, banning links to anything that looks remotely like news (including public health information, charities and most tragically of all, satire 😭 ).

Luckily for me, I have cleverly ring-fenced myself from the impacts of this development by garnering almost no profile on any social media website. As if Facebook banning the news wasn't bad enough, we also lost a real one to lung cancer today in Rush Limbaugh. It turns out that hate speech can be carcinogenic.


Image by Nathan Saad.

# The Myanmar Coup

A couple of weeks ago, Myanmar's military, the Tatmadaw, staged a coup by arresting senior figures in the ruling party, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. It has been about a decade since the junta was first replaced by a nominally civilian government (after nearly 50 years of military rule) but on February 1st, with their grip on power weakening, they declared a state of emergency and announced that they were seizing control of the country for one year. Myanmar has a complicated history, rife with ethnic and religious conflicts, but this development has been universally condemned and is an unfortunate regression.

Aung San Suu Kyi is a thoroughly tainted figure now, but it wasn't long ago that she won the Nobel Peace Prize and was being compared by western commentators to Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela (usually supported by typical cartoonish analysis like "errr... democracy equal good"). Soon after her party took power, the military began a genocidal and brutal campaign against Rohingya Muslims, but Suu Kyi (a Buddhist) did and said nothing. Now, in reality, the new "democratic" government still afforded a lot of power to the Tatmadaw, and Suu Kyi could not feasibly have intervened directly, but her decision to ignore and downplay the situation was seen as a betrayal. One of the more interesting reports to come out in recent days has been of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh cheering on the military (the same military who ran the murderous campaign that pushed them out of Myanmar) with a community leader quoted as saying, "She is the reason behind all of our suffering. Why shouldn't we celebrate?".

It does raise questions about how we should think about leaders like Suu Kyi when they are faced with politically existential dilemmas. Defenders of hers argue that she had to fall in line on the Rohingya issue or the military would simply have taken power. Given they ultimately did just that DESPITE her subservience, this seems like a reasonable explanation (though not excuse) for her silence. In recent Australian history, Malcolm Turnbull was in a similar (though far less consequential) bind where he was forced to choose between the terrible policies of the balance-of-power-holding conservative wing of his party and the also-terrible-but-slightly-less-terrible policies he actually believed in. Again the bastards got him anyway so what the hell was the point? You could also argue that Barack Obama was the holder of a comparably poisoned chalice due to the antics of Moscow Mitch during his presidency, but that would be giving both of them too much credit. Obama and Suu Kyi are alike in some ways though since they both have won the Nobel Peace Prize despite sporting terrible human rights records (they are certainly not alone in this... read Henry Kissinger LOL). Fingers crossed Slappy The Dummy Jared Kushner gets the nod in 2021.

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# Tim Wilson Wants to Raid Your Super

Even putting aside the fact that he looks like a chronically water-retentive Armie Hammer, Tim Wilson is truly one of the most odious creatures in public life. You may remember him from his role as Scott Morrison's "Franking Credits" attack dog in the last election campaign, where he was tasked with flying around the country and lying to as many geriatrics as possible. Well, Wilson is back, but this time he's got young people in his rifle scope with a proposed plan to grant folks access to their superannuation in order to buy a home. Here are a few reasons why this is a disingenuous and idiotic idea:

  1. It is robbing Peter to pay... Peter. The current superannuation model is effective because it forces people to be patient with their investments. Those that withdraw money in their 20s under Wilson's scheme will miss out on 40+ years of compound interest and presumably substantial market gains, further entrenching growing inequality in this country. It will also push more people on to the aged pension which already costs the government over $50 billion per year.
  2. House prices will rise. Similar cosmetic policies have been tried before and the result has always been an increase in property prices in the first homeowner price brackets (usually by the exact amount of the new benefit). If you showed up to an auction and gave everybody an extra $10k to spend before bidding began, what do you think the effect would be?
  3. The housing affordability crisis is his fucking fault... I mean not his fault personally, but the fault of his party. There has been plenty written about the gross negative gearing and CGT policies created by this government (policies so outrageous they do not exist anywhere else in the world) but that is just scratching the surface of their complicity. One of the biggest drivers of property investment in this country has been low interest rates, and while this rate is set by the independent Reserve Bank of Australia, the current government has driven our economy into the ground to such an extent that the RBA has had no option other than to continuously intervene through monetary policy. Wage growth has been non-existent and GDP stagnant for years, but our moron leaders have doggedly pursued austerity measures and left stimulation to the central bank. Wilson's policy is kind of like your boss giving you so much work to do that you need to stay back every night, but then generously offering you the chance to come in on Saturdays so that you can get away at 5 during the week.

Wilson is stupid but he is also an ideologue. He describes himself as a "classic liberal", which essentially means he believes deeply in very specific freedoms like the freedom to choose between Coke and Pepsi and the freedom to be a racist piece of shit, but not in insignificant liberties like economic mobility or the freedom to eat food if you're unemployed. The other ideological aspect of this debate is the Liberal party's visceral hatred of unions. This proposal has arrived against the backdrop of a broader debate on a legislated increase in compulsory super contributions by employers, and in the mind of most of the Coalition, the less money invested in Industry Super Funds the better.

# Can't Get You Out Of My Head

Adam Curtis documentaries are divisive; cool people like them and losers don't. Personally I never really grew out of his style of film-making and if anything the conclusions he draws feel even more profound to me now than they did when I was an angsty arts student. The scope of his new 8 hour series is just as ambitious as its incredible title, "Can't Get You Out of My Head - An Emotional History of the Modern World", suggests, touching on a broad array of topics including the Cultural Revolution in China, the origins of The Illuminati conspiracy, Valium and Oxycontin addiction and the oppression of transgender people. Stylistically Curtis sticks to his surreal, yet well-worn formula of archival BBC footage set to post-punk and shoe-gazey pop songs. You get the sense that Curtis would be an amazing director of music videos because he has an uncanny knack for finding idiosyncratic pairings of images and songs (e.g. in one powerful scene he soundtracks footage of Chinese factory workers constructing and testing "Baby born" like dolls with Bright Eyes' "Lua").

One storyline I particularly enjoyed was the juxtaposition of Afeni Shakur's political activism in the Black Panthers, with her son Tupac's futile activism from within the culture industry. We now live in an age of performative revolution, where Macklemore singing about thinking he was gay because he liked crayons is viewed as advocacy rather than the disgusting narcissism it really is. I know a lot of people find Curtis documentaries a bit depressing but his world-view actually strikes me as perversely optimistic (though perhaps this is just a mark of my own cynicism). It's a strong recommendation from me!

# The Australian Open

Despite some early hiccups, the Australian Open tennis is currently being played in Melbourne. Last night Stefanos Tsitsipas knocked over Rafael Nadal to set up an intriguing semi-final with fellow young gun Daniil Medvedev and you can't help but feel like maybe, after many false starts (*cough* Dimitrov), we are finally seeing a changing of the guard. My earliest tennis memories are of Pete Sampras and Lleyton Hewitt, but since then the men's tour has been dominated by the Federer/Nadal/Djokovic show with these 3 players winning 54 of the 64 slams held in the 16 years between 2004 and 2019. To put that in perspective, there were 26 different grand slam winners in the 16 years prior. Aside from this narrative, there are a few other recurring stories that seem to be reheated every year. Here are my thoughts:

  • Everybody hates Djokovic. Honestly, at this point, I just feel bad for the guy. It's true that his style of tennis is less attractive than Federer's and his demeanour less endearing than Nadal's, but I can understand feeling aggrieved at the fact that those players are near-universally adored (except for this woman (opens new window)) and yet he only attracts derision. The tragic thing is, the guy just wants to be loved and spent about six years on a charm-offensive to no avail (sounds like a comic book villain origin story). In this age of identity politics, isn't it about time somebody championed the plight of those with annoying faces?
  • Kyrgios and Tomic are a disgrace! The way I see it, they are just a couple of fellas who don't like their job (what could be more humanising than that?). It does make me laugh that a country full of lazy, useless alcoholics believe they have the right to shout at Tomic and Kyrgios for not trying hard enough at a game. Personally, I prefer Tomic's brand of sulky disrespect to Kyrgios' for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Tomic is at least as naturally gifted as Kyrgios, making it to 17th in the world without actually trying. Mostly I just love the fact that he GENUINELY does not like tennis (famously returning serves with the wrong end of his racquet) whereas Kyrgios is a little too self-conscious and needy. You will also never convince me that Nick got that serve without doing some practice.
  • Should we rename Margaret Court Arena? Yes.

On the women's side of the draw, Ash Barty (Crouch Jr) was looking great until she wasn't, but that's pretty understandable given the minimal tennis she has played in the last 12 months. My money is definitely on Osaka, who has still NEVER lost a quarter-final, semi-final or final in a major! Also, I can't talk about tennis without bragging about my award-winning prediction model. Go read about it HERE.

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