Tag: Australia and New Zealand

The Cancer on the Presidency* Metastasizes

We already know that Trump tried to coerce the President of the Ukraine into digging dirt up on the Bidens, because of the now-public whistle-blower complaint filed by an intelligence operative.

It’s what led to the Democrats in the House officially opening an impeachment investigation.

What we have now learned that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in on the call, which makes the Secretary of State complicit, and that  Attorney General William Barr was personally involved in an investigation to discredit the Mueller report to the point of his personally going to Rome to listen to tapes of a crucial witness, which is certainly inappropriate, and almost certainly conflicted and corrupt.

So pretty much everyone in his most senior cabinet members are implicated in the coverup, but wait, there is more!

It now appears that Trump also strong-armed Australia in his efforts to discredit the Mueller report.

The impeachment investigation should be broadened, because the level of crime here makes the Nixon and Reagan investigations look like an exercise in good governance.

*It’s a quote from Nixon White House counsel John Dean. Seriously, know your history.

When Government Works

Unfortunately, it’s not my government, it’s the government of New Zealand, which just passed a law banning semi-auto weapons in response to the terrorist attack on a mosque in Christchurch:

Less than a month after 50 Muslim worshipers in the city of Christchurch were fatally shot in terrorist attacks on two mosques, New Zealand passed a law banning most semiautomatic weapons on Wednesday — a measure supported by all but one of Parliament’s 120 lawmakers.

The passage of the bill means temporary restrictions imposed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern six days after the massacre, to prevent New Zealanders from stockpiling guns before the law went into effect, will now be permanent. The swift action by lawmakers stands in stark contrast to similar efforts in the United States, where nationwide gun control proposals have stalled despite a series of mass shootings in recent years.


The law outlaws military-style semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles, and violators face five years in prison. Some semiautomatic guns will still be allowed, including .22 caliber rifles with magazines holding less than 10 rounds, and shotguns with internal magazines that hold no more than five rounds. All of the weapons used by the Christchurch gunman will be banned, as well as parts and magazines that can convert lower-powered guns to higher-powered versions.


But while sports shooters and farmers were among those who pleaded for exemptions to the restrictions, lawmakers allowed just two: for commercial pest-control businesses and for licensed collectors of guns, or those who want to keep particular guns as heirlooms or mementos. Collectors will be required to remove a part, making the weapons nonoperational, and store that part at a different location.

And in our case, we had elementary school students, and all we got were insincere thoughts and prayers.

F%$# that.

Also, F%$# the NRA.

Corrupt, Incompetent, and Stupid Is No Way to Go through Life, Son

I am referring, of course to Zuckerberg’s monster, AKA Facebook, where their vaunted legions of programmers were unable (or unwilling) to take down videos of the Christchurch mosque shooting:

Facebook admitted, at best nonchalantly, on Thursday that its super-soaraway AI algorithms failed to automatically detect the live-streamed video of last week’s Christchurch mass murders.

The antisocial giant has repeatedly touted its fancy artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques as the way forward for tackling the spread of harmful content on its platform. Image-recognition software can’t catch everything, however, not even with Silicon Valley’s finest and highly paid engineers working on the problem, so Facebook continues to rely on, surprise surprise, humans to pick up the slack in moderation.

There’s a team of about 15,000 content moderators who review, and allow or delete, piles and piles of psychologically damaging images and videos submitted to Facebook on an hourly if not minute-by-minute basis. The job can be extremely mentally distressing, so the ultimate goal is to eventually hand that work over to algorithms. But there’s just not enough intelligence in today’s AI technology to match cube farms of relatively poorly paid contractors.


Facebook has blamed the failure of its AI software to spot the video as it was broadcast, and soon after when it was shared across its platform, on a lack of training data. Today’s neural networks need to inspect thousands or millions of examples to learn patterns in the data to begin identifying things like pornographic or violent content.

If I were a cynic, I could conclude Facebook probably wanted to keep the video, just to get the clicks and ad revenue.

Wait ……… I am a cynic, and my guess is that Facebook milked this for all it’s worth.

New Zealand Fixes Things

In less than a week, they have banned semi-auto weapons, less than a week after the Christchurch massacre:

New Zealand has banned military-style semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Thursday, just six days after attacks on two mosques in Christchurch that left 50 people dead.

A buyback program will be launched to take existing weapons out of circulation, and gun owners who do not comply will be subject to fines, she said.

“On 15 March, our history changed forever. Now, our laws will, too,” Ardern said. “We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place.”

The gunman who attacked the Al Noor and Linwood mosques here Friday used AR-15 rifles in the worst mass shooting New Zealand has ever seen. In addition to the 50 killed, 40 people were injured.

New Zealand has a tradition of hunting and shooting as sport, but there is no legal provision to own weapons for self-defense.

Ardern has said there is no reason for New Zealanders to own these kinds of weapons, and there is broad consensus on that argument.

The center-right opposition National Party supported the ban. Its leader, Simon Bridges, said it was “imperative in the national interest to keep New Zealanders safe.”

The changes mean that the weapons will now be removed from circulation.

After the return period has passed, those who continue to own them will face a $2,700 fine or up to three years imprisonment.

This is what it looks like when you don’t have an ammosexual lobby poisoning any discussion of gun reform like the United States.

Good on them.

Look Out Below

Two of the most overheated real estate markets in the world are Manhattan, and Australia, and both of them appear to be trending downward, which looks an awful lot like 2007:

The median price of a Manhattan apartment has fallen below $1m for the first time in three years, according to a survey of sales in the final months of 2018, as real estate agents struggle to shift a glut of luxury properties and potential buyers worry about the outlook for the US economy.

The median price paid for co-operatives and condominiums in the prime borough of New York City — some of the most expensive properties in the US — fell 5.8 per cent to $999,000 according to research by Miller Samuel, a real estate appraiser, and Douglas Elliman, a real estate broker.

And from the land down under:

In its latest report on Australia, the OECD focuses to a disturbing extend on housing, household debt, what the current housing downturn might do to the otherwise healthy economy, and what the risks are that this housing downturn will lead to a financial crisis for the big four Australian banks, an eventuality that it says “authorities” should make “contingency plans” for.

The big four banks are huge in relation to the Australian stock market and the overall economy: Their combined market capitalization, at A$341 billion, even after today’s sell-off following the OECD report – accounts for 26% of Australia’s total stock market capitalization.


But then there’s the housing bubble, household debt, and the banks that have funded this bubble and that households owe this debt to.

The charts below are from the report. The first chart compares inflation-adjusted house prices of the two most magnificent housing bubbles, Australia (red) and Canada (green), Spain (ESP), and the US. The index measures changes in price levels, adjusted for inflation. Clearly, Australia and Canada are in a world of their own, but Spain, whose bubble collapsed disastrously and led to numerous bank resolutions and bailouts, got close:

It took more than 40 years for us to forget the lessons of the Great Depression.

This time around, the lessons were ignored from day 1, or more accurately from January 20, 2009 on, and it looks like we are going to head down the same road all over again.

Sympathy for the Chocolatier

Nestle, the company that has pushed baby formula on the poor all over the world, resulting in malnutrition and death from tainted water, is now saying that it’s just too damn hard to keep track of slave labor:

One of the world’s largest food and drink companies has warned proposed legislation requiring big business to report on their efforts to combat modern slavery could hit consumers’ hip pockets.

Companies operating in Australia with an annual turnover of $100 million or more would be required to annually report on the risks of modern slavery within their business and the actions they’ve taken to address those risks under the federal government’s draft Modern Slavery Bill 2018.

The reports would have to cover issues related to human trafficking, slavery, sexual servitude and child labour within businesses’ operations and supply chains.

Nestle, owner of more than 2000 brands in 189 countries, has told a senate committee that Australia’s proposed mandatory reporting requirements could add “cost and time” to businesses and suppliers “which will need to be borne somewhere”.

Capitalism at its finest.

You Cannot Read This without Hearing an Australian Accent

The existing Liberal Party (actually conservative) Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was turfed out, and the slavering reactionary racist who engineered his departure, Peter Dutton, was unable to properly count votes, so he did not succeed.

This essay about these developments, is perhaps the most Australian thing ever: (Evah, Mate)

Go Home C%$#, Says Nation


The nation of Australia has extended a polite request to the Former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton today.

Australia as a collective country has asked the highway cop from the Sunshine Coast to ‘please, go home, c%$#.’

The request comes after Peter Dutton, and his conservative backbench allies and media backers have held the country to ransom over the last fortnight, in a vain attempt to “regain control” of the Liberal Party of Australia.

After destabilising the Coalition Government for months, Dutton looked crushed this afternoon after realising he isn’t very good at counting and had to come to terms with losing the leadership ballot.

Scott Morrison won the leadership ballot 45-40 against Dutton, with Josh Frydneberg taking the reigns as Deputy Prime Minister after edging out Greg Hunt.

After it was announced that Scott Morrison will be the next Prime Minister of Australia, it was confirmed that Peter Dutton, the man who walked out on the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, should just head back to the Sunshine Coast and look out for people changing lanes without an indicator.

Whether, Dutton, the man who refused to bring asylum-seeking children needing urgent medical attention to Australia, will in fact just go home remains to be seen.

(%$# mine)

This is beautiful.

Never Stop Your Enemy from Stepping on His Own Dick

VIDEO: Rep. Chris Collins speaking on his phone at last summer’s White House Congressional Picnic. The photo was taken at approximately 7:17 p.m. According to the indictment, Collins called his son Cameron at 7:16 p.m. (VIDEO: CBS) pic.twitter.com/EvSzrHTkY4

— News 4, WIVB-TV (@news4buffalo) August 8, 2018

Your honor, we find the defendants incredibly guilty

Representative Chris Collins (R-NY) has been charged with insider trading.

What’s more, he was caught on video calling his son about failed drug trials ……… At the White House:

Federal prosecutors charged Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), President Trump’s first congressional supporter, with insider trading on Wednesday, alleging the New York Republican schemed with his son to avoid significant losses on a biotechnology investment.

Collins was at a congressional picnic at the White House last year when he learned that Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biotechnology company, had received bad news about an important drug trial. Collins frantically attempted to reach his son, Cameron Collins, whom he tipped off to the confidential corporate information days before it would be made public, according to prosecutors. Cameron Collins and several others used the information to avoid more than $700,000 in losses, they said.

Collins “helps write the laws of this country,” said Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. But Collins “acted as if the law did not apply to him.”

Collins turned himself in to the FBI at 7 a.m. Wednesday morning and then appeared in a Manhattan federal court in the afternoon wearing a dark suit and white button-down shirt open at the collar. He spoke only briefly during the nearly 20-minute hearing, telling the judge: “I plead not guilty.”


The charges could turn into a headache for several House Republicans who invested in Innate Immunotherapeutics at Collins’s encouragement. Prosecutors did not allege in the indictment that Collins tipped off any of his colleagues in Congress about the failed drug trial before it was made public, but Democrats pounced on the charges and said those lawmakers would have to answer tough questions about their investments in Innate.


According to the indictment, while at the June 2017 congressional picnic at the White House, Collins received an email from Innate Immunotherapeutics’ chief executive alerting the company’s board that an eagerly anticipated drug trial had been a failure. Minutes later, Collins responded to the email: “Wow. Makes no sense. How are these results even possible???”

Almost immediately, Collins tried to get in contact with his son, who owned millions of shares of the company’s stock, according to the indictment. Within a few minutes, Collins and his son called each other six times before connecting and talking for six minutes. During that last call, Collins told Cameron Collins, his son, about the failed drug trial, according to the indictment, which cites phone and bank records as well as texts.

It gets even better: It looks like a number of other Republican Congressmen are implicated in this:


Collins, worth $66 million, apparently urged Republican colleagues in Congress to invest.

“If you get in early, you’ll make a big profit,” Collins reportedly told House Republicans last summer.

At least six Republicans appear to have been convinced by Collins’ pitch (though at various times they claimed to have arrived at the stock purchase through media reports).

They were:

1. Tom Price, who served as Secretary of Health and Human Services. During his confirmation hearings, Price was accused of taking advantage of a special deal on Innate stock only available to a select number of lawmakers at a discount offered by Collins.

2. Rep. John Culberson (R-TX): The Texas Republican claimed he heard about Innate from media reports, but as the Houston Chronicle noted, it’s not clear which. At the time of his purchase, Innate was described as “a tiny pharmaceutical company from Australia that has no approved drugs and no backing from flashy venture capital firms.” The Chronicle pointed out that Culberson’s past investment history does not square with his purchase of biotech stocks and his opponent, a research physician, has wondered what led Culberson to invest, “since at the time he bought it in January there had been no published research articles or significant clinical trial updates on the drug, known as MIS416.”

3. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) is another Texas lawmaker who bought large shares in Innate. He does not appear to have purchased Innate stock at a discount.

4. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) sat Health Subcommittee of the Committee on Energy and Commerce at the time of his stock purchase, raising a possible conflict of interest, reports the Daily Beast.

5. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) sat on the subcommittee as well.

6. Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) reportedly became far more active in the stock market in 2015. Long sat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which addresses health policy.

Republicans, particularly Trump Republicans are not having a good time right now.

In 2006, it was Mark Foley, and now it seems that there a whole passel of Mark Foleys.

H/t Crooks and Liars.

Well, This is a Fine Kettle of Fish

In Australia, a royal commission charged with reviewing child abuse has released a damning report on child sexual abuse:

A royal commission investigating the sexual abuse of children in Australia found Friday that the nation was gripped by an epidemic dating back decades, with tens of thousands of children sexually abused in schools, religious organizations and other institutions.

The commission, the highest form of investigation in Australia, urged government action on its 189 recommendations, including the establishment of a new National Office for Child Safety and penalties for those who suspect abuse and fail to alert the police, including priests who hear about abuse in confessionals. It also urged Australia’s Roman Catholic leadership to press Rome to end mandatory celibacy for priests.

“Tens of thousands of children have been sexually abused in many Australian institutions,” said the report, which was particularly critical of Catholic organizations. “We will never know the true number. Whatever the number, it is a national tragedy, perpetrated over generations within many of our most trusted institutions.”

The bomb shell is that they are recommending that the church end priestly celibacy, and to report to law enforcement child abuse admitted in confession:

Delving into sensitive territory for the Catholic Church, the report recommended that clergy be required to report suspected abuse that they hear in the confessional booth. Church officials, however, argue that confidentiality is integral to the ritual, and Archbishop Hart took issue with the proposal.

I rather imagine that there are a whole bunch of folks at the Vatican reading this report, and its recommendations, and they are banging their heads against their monitors.

Notwithstanding Pope Francis’s moves toward greater inclusion and economic activism, these two recommendations will clearly a bridge too far for him.


Australia just had an official postal poll on gay marriage. The bigots lost decisively:

Australia has taken a decisive step towards legislating marriage equality by Christmas after 61.6% of voters in an unprecedented national postal survey approved a change to the law to allow couples of the same sex to marry.

The result, announced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday, will lead to consideration of a same-sex marriage bill in parliament with the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, promising marriage equality should be law by Christmas.

With a turnout of 79.5% the result in the voluntary survey is considered a highly credible reflection of Australian opinion and gives marriage equality advocates enormous momentum to achieve the historic social reform. Australia’s chief statistician, David Kalisch, announced the results at a press conference in Canberra at 10am on Wednesday, revealing 7,817,247 people voted in favour and 4,873,987 voted against.

Two snaps up!

I Demand to See the Original Birth Certificate!

Australian politics has been thrown into disarray after 5 MPs were ruled ineligible to serve for holding dual citizenship:

The Australian deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, and four senators have been ruled ineligible to sit in parliament by the high court, with only the National party’s Matt Canavan and NXT’s Nick Xenophon surviving a challenge that has hung over seven parliamentarians since their dual citizenship was discovered in July and August.

The court’s unanimous decision to uphold a strict reading of the constitutional disqualification of foreign citizens will trigger a byelection in the New South Wales seat of New England, won comfortably by Joyce, the National party leader, at the 2016 election. The court’s ruling also forced the deputy National party leader, Fiona Nash, and One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts out of the Senate. Two Greens senators, Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters, who had already resigned, were confirmed as ineligible by the court.

Joyce’s exit strips Malcolm Turnbull’s government of its one-seat majority in the House of Representatives for now, but he could return through a byelection on 2 December.


In a joint decision the justices rejected the commonwealth’s argument that MPs or senators would need to have knowledge of their dual citizenship in order to be disqualified.

Speaking after the decision, Joyce, who was born in Australia but held New Zealand citizenship by descent from his father, said he had “no reason to believe that … I was a citizen of any other country than Australia”.

Joyce said the decision was “tough” but he was not “totally surprised” by it. He said he would not “cry into his beer” but rather prepare for the byelection in New England.

The Labor opposition rounded on the government, with its leader, Bill Shorten, claiming Australia now has “a minority government”:

Joyce broke the law and as a result, we now have a minority government. Turnbull should’ve stood him aside, terrible judgement once again.

— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) October 27, 2017

It is the silly season down under as well, it appears.

I Hereby Apologise on Behalf of My Fellow Countrymen for This Gross Disrespect and Am Firm in My Opinion That a Man of His Status Should Have Been Saluted with a Mass Whakapohane*

Following Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accords, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited New Zealand, and the crowds lining the route of his motorcade were rather demonstrative:

The weather was awful and the mood of the locals wasn’t much better when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson​ arrived in Wellington.

US media travelling with Tillerson were surprised by the number of people flipping the bird at Tillerson as his motorcade sped through town.

New York Times correspondent Gardiner Harris said he had been in a lot of motorcades but even he was taken back by the negative reaction.

“I’ve been in motorcades for a couple of years now … I’ve never seen so many people flip the bird at an American motorcade as I saw today,” Harris said.

I am amused.

*Not my line. It was spoken by JH at the Stellar Parthenon BBS is native New Zealander, and the term “Whakapohane” refers to the Maori practice of baring ones buttocks as an expression of contempt .

But of Course

It turns out that the Australian bureaucracy created to collect fees for content creators has been diverting these fees to lobby against changes in their copyright laws:

Even though stories of copyright collecting societies failing to distribute the monies that they collect to artists abound — we wrote about one just a few weeks ago — this doesn’t seem to discourage others from continuing to bend the rules somewhat. Here, for example, is a story from Australia, where there is a major battle to switch to a US-style fair use approach to copyright. Naturally, the affected industries there hate the idea of allowing the public a little more leeway in the use of copyright materials. So Australia’s copyright collection agency decided to build up a war-chest to lobby against such changes. The Sydney Morning Herald explains where the money for that fighting fund is coming from:

Australia’s government-mandated copyright collection agency has been diverting payments intended for journalists and authors to a [$11 million] “future fund” to fight changes to the law.

Specifically, the monies come from payments made by educational establishments in order to use orphan works. That’s a major change of the agency’s policy that was not disclosed to the Australian government’s Productivity Commission that oversees this area:

[The Copyright Agency] has been criticised in a Productivity Commission review that is before the government over the transparency of its accounts and its practice of retaining, rather than returning, millions of dollars collected from schools and universities on behalf of the owners of “orphan works” who can’t be traced.

This reinforces a point that I have made on numerous occasions: IP protections are government subsidies through the enforcement of monopoly rents, and are justified only to the degree that they encourage the creation of protected works.

Any amount in excess of this results in parasitic rent seeking, because this is the most effective way to make EVEN MORE money.

Copyright and patent have gone from a way to “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts,” to a mechanism that corrupts the political process and hinders progress.

Snark of the Day

New record sees woman make it to 9.05am before hearing word ‘Brexit’

The Daily Mash

Opening ‘graph:

Mary Fisher forgot to turn the radio on after getting up at 7.30am and opted to listen to music on her commute, thus avoiding the B-word for a euphoric 95 minutes.

Look at the bright side:  On our side of the pond, we have Trump, which is much worse than Brexit.

Nope, No Corruption Here

Now that Hillary Clinton isn’t going to be President, the government of Australia is ending its contributions to the Clinton foundation:

Australia has finally ceased pouring millions of dollars into accounts linked to Hillary Clinton’s charities.

Which might make you wonder: Why were we donating to them in the first place?

The federal government confirmed to news.com.au it has not renewed any of its partnerships with the scandal-plagued Clinton Foundation, effectively ending 10 years of taxpayer-funded contributions worth more than $88 million.

The Clinton Foundation has a rocky past. It was described as “a slush fund”, is still at the centre of an FBI investigation and was revealed to have spent more than $50 million on travel.

Despite that, the official website for the charity shows contributions from both AUSAID and the Commonwealth of Australia, each worth between $10 million and $25 million.

We’ll be seeing a lot more of this, because the Clinton Foundation was structured to create this sort of, “moral ambiguity,” and now that Hillary Clinton will never be President, expect to see a lot of people ending the relationship with the organization.

The Clintons won’t suffer, they never made any money from the Foundation, but it was an instrument for them to keep their “Posse” together, and the band ain’t getting back together.