Episode 219 – Cashless Cards, Tamils, Penises and Brexit

No other podcast would attempt to explain cashless cards, Tamil refugee status, offensive penises and the history of Brexit going back to 6500 BC.

1:40 Deep Throat

William Mark Felt Sr. (August 17, 1913 – December 18, 2008) was an American law enforcement officer who worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from 1942 to 1973 and was known for his role in the Watergate scandal. Felt was an FBI special agent who eventually rose to the position of Associate Director, the Bureau’s second-highest-ranking post.

In 2005, at age 91, Felt revealed that during his tenure as associate director of the FBI he had been the notorious anonymous source known as “Deep Throat” who had provided The Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with critical information about the Watergate scandal that had ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974. Though Felt’s identity as Deep Throat was suspected, including by Nixon himself, it generally remained a secret for 30 years. Felt finally acknowledged that he was Deep Throat after being persuaded by his daughter to reveal his identity before his death

3:14 Compassionate Conservatism

Oxymoron: a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction

From The Guardian

What’s the proposal?

The drug-testing trial would take place in Logan (Queensland), Canterbury-Bankstown (New South Wales) and Mandurah (Western Australia). New welfare recipients would be selected for testing at random. Don’t offend the public servant in charge of your case.

Bad luck if you own an investment property in Logan

Those who fail a test would have 80% of their welfare benefits quarantined for two years using the controversial cashless debit card. If a person fails a second test in 25 working days, they would be referred to a medical professional for treatment.

The government has scrapped a previous measure that would force those who failed a second test to pay a portion of the costs. How kind.

People will be tested for ice (methamphetamine), ecstasy (MDMA), marijuana, cocaine and heroin. The government has also promised $10m to bolster rehab services.

Internal documents suggest the trial will cost $5.6m and the Australian Council of Social Service (Acoss) says the testing is likely to cost between $500-$900 per person per test.

So we can’t increase Newstart but we can find $5.6m.

Has it been tried before?

In New Zealand, about 40,000 welfare recipients undergo drug tests each year.

The tests are only for those referred by the NZ government’s equivalent of Centrelink to employers who request a mandatory drug test for job applicants. If a person fails the test, they can be forced to pay the cost of the test and later have their welfare payments cut.

The policy was introduced in 2013 by the National government, which cited statistics suggesting between 10% and 20% of people on welfare benefits used drugs.

But data from NZ’s Ministry of Social Development shows that of the 47,115 people who were tested in 2017-18, only 170 recorded a positive result for drugs. That equates to 0.3% of those tested. Statistics from previous years tell a similar story: consistently less than 1% of those tested have recorded a positive test.

In 2014-15 there were 29,049 people tested for 159 failures (0.5%) while in 2013-14, 29,800 were tested. Of those people, only 121, or 0.5%, were found with drugs in their system.

Are there other examples?

In the US about a dozen states force welfare recipients to undergo testing when authorities say there is “reasonable suspicion” the person is using drugs.

Data collected by the news website Think Progress shows that of those screened, very few are referred for a test. And of those referred, only a tiny fraction had drugs in their system.

In Missouri, of the 38,970 welfare applicants, 446 were tested and 48 tested positive in the 2014 calendar year. In the 2018 calendar year, 121 were referred to a mandatory test, with 47 testing positive.

The statistics are fairly similar across the states. For example, last year North Carolina authorities drug-tested 321 welfare applicants after 25,808 were screened. Only 17 tested positive.

What do the experts say?

Ross Bell, the executive director of the New Zealand Drug Foundation, says the NZ policy saw the government “playing into these stereotypes” that those on welfare are “all losers … sitting around smoking joints all the time”.

“The New Zealand experience shows that that stereotype is one that is not held [up] by the truth,” Bell tells Guardian Australia.

From what Bell’s seen of the Morrison government’s plan, the Australian drug-testing trial would be worse. “[The NZ policy] is all a bit silly, but certainly that process is much better than what the Australian federal government is looking at.”

Among the long list of critics of the drug-testing trial – which spans Acoss, the Australian Unemployed Workers Union, a former police commissioner and drug, health and medical experts – is Jobs Australia, which represents non-profit job service providers. These are the agencies charged with getting jobseekers into work.

While the government says drug use is preventing welfare recipients from getting a job, Jobs Australia tells the Guardian its members say this is not common.

“There is no research that says an approach like this benefits jobseekers,” says the acting chief executive, Nicole Steers.

What about the government?

The government told a Senate inquiry into the legislation there is no “comparable evidence” of the model it has proposed. That is why the “measure is designed as a trial”.

It has also cited the national drug strategy household survey, which found the unemployed were more likely to use methamphetamines and cannabis than wage earners.

Morrison told Nine Newspapers at the weekend: “Being on drugs stops you getting a job. It’s that simple.

“Losing all your money to gambling means you can’t put food on your table for your kids. This is just looking at a real situation and being honest about it.”

The social services minister, Anne Ruston, says the policy is not a “punitive measure” and is aimed at helping people “address their addiction”.

It’s Orwellian

Ahh, sounds like a combination of the Ministry of Peace and prosperity gospel.

Orwell said “Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”

The measure, first floated by mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest in 2014, is designed to limit an unemployed and youth allowance recipient’s spending on alcohol, drugs and gambling.

But Alcohol and Gambling are legal !!!

This is a tricky one. I think I’m with the libertarians on this one. We pay them hardly anything. And a lot more of us are going to be on welfare in future when jobs disappear.

What about Maccas, soft drinks, Uber Eats and church donations?

Mr Morrison said it was important to remember the program had started with calls from communities in remote Australia, leading to about 2300 people in the East Kimberley and in 900 in Ceduna, in remote South Australia having 80 per cent of their welfare payments paid onto a cashless debit card.

It has since been rolled out to WA’s Goldfields and earlier this year for people under 36 in the Queensland regional towns of Bundaberg and Hervey Bay, the first sites which have a minority Indigenous population.

The Prime Minister says the results from the program’s trials – which quarantines 80 per cent of unemployment and various other welfare payments to prevent them being spent on alcohol, drugs or gambling – are “commending itself for wider application”, potentially for an under-30s age group.

Welfare advocates continue to dispute the effects of the program, with the government having commissioned new independent appraisals of the card’s impact on communities after the auditor general found its department’s evaluations were “inadequate”.

People take drugs to deal with despair. Also, we should legalise it and allow them to grow it. And we should ban pokies.

28:07 The Tamil family

A Quick Tamil History Lesson

From Wikipedia

Tamils are an ethnic group who speak the language Tamil as their mother tongue and trace their ancestry to Southern India and north-eastern Sri Lanka.

Although most Tamils are Hindus, many, especially those in the rural areas practice what is considered to be Dravidian folk religion, venerating a plethora of village deities; while a sizeable number are Muslims and Christians. A small Jain community survives from the classical period as well.

The British formula – put a minority in charge and they will be loyal to Britain. (Sunnis in Iraq)

British colonists consolidated the Tamil territory in southern India into the Madras Presidency, which was integrated into British India. Similarly, the Tamil speaking parts of Sri Lanka joined with the other regions of the island in 1802 to form the Ceylon colony. Ceylon remained in political union with India until India’s independence in 1947; it gained independence the following year, as Sri Lanka, with both Sinhalese and Tamil populations.

Tamil Eelam is a proposed independent state that Tamils in Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora aspire to establish in the north and east of Sri Lanka. Irrespective of the ethnic differences, the British imposed a unitary state structure in British Ceylon for better administration. During the British colonial rule, many Tamils held higher positions than the Sinhalese in the government, because they were favored by the British for their qualification in English education. In the Sri Lankan highlands the lands of the Sinhalese were seized by the British and Indian Tamils were settled there as plantation workers. After the British colonial rule in Sri Lanka ended, ethnic tension between the Sinhalese and the Sri Lankan Tamils rose. The Sinhalese, constituting a majority of the country, resented the minority Tamils having huge power in the island. In 1948 about 700,000 Indian Tamil tea plantation workers from Sri Lanka were made stateless and deported to India. In 1956 the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka passed the Sinhala Only Act, an act where Sinhala replaced English as the only official language of Sri Lanka. Due to this, many Tamils were forced to resign as civil servants/public servants because they were not fluent in Sinhala.[112] The Sri Lankan Tamils saw the act as linguistic, cultural and economic discrimination against them.

After anti-Tamil pogroms in 1956, 1958 and 1977 and a brutal crackdown against Tamils protesting against these acts, guerilla groups like the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were established [by whom?]. They aimed to set up an independent Tamil state, Tamil Eelam, for majority-Tamil regions in Sri Lanka. The burning of Jaffna library in 1981 and Black July in 1983 finally led to over 25 years of war between the Sri Lankan army and the Tamil Tigers, in which both sides committed numerous atrocities. This Sri Lankan civil war led to death of over 100,000 people, according to the United Nations.[113] The Sri Lankan government allegedly committed war crimes against the civilian Sri Lankan Tamil people during the final months of the Eelam War IV phase in 2009, when the leader of the Tigers, Prabhakaran, was killed.[114] The war led to the flight of over 800,000 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, many going to the UK and India. As of 2018 Tamils made up 25% of the population of Sri Lanka.

Sounds like the Sunnis in Iraq. The British, when they took responsibility for Iraq in the wake of the First World War, installed a Sunni King, and attendant bureaucracy. Put a minority in charge and they will be loyal.

So, Is It Still Dangerous?

From SBS

Tamil advocates also point to a 2018 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Ben Emmerson.

“The Special Rapporteur observed a pervasive and insidious form of stigmatisation of the Tamil community [in Sri Lanka],” the report said.

“The pervasive lack of accountability for the war crimes that were perpetrated during the war, the climate of impunity that prevails within the security sector, the overwhelming economic weight of the military, its involvement in civilian activities, as well as the overwhelmingly Sinhalese nationality within the military all contribute to perpetuating the resentment and disenfranchisement felt by the Tamil community as a whole,” it said.

Dr Matt Withers, a Sri Lanka expert at Macquarie University, told SBS News that in the 10 years since the civil war ended, reconciliation had stalled and “continuing ethnic discontent is very much alive”.

“In the aftermath of the civil war, there has been very little genuine reconciliation or redevelopment in [Tamil-majority] areas in the north,” he said.

Dr Withers said although “it’s hard to speak specifically to the sorts of conditions this family will encounter, I’m inclined to agree there is a high likelihood of structural discrimination, if not a real threat of violence”.

What is a refugee?

According to Article 1 of the 1951 UN Convention, as modified by the 1967 Protocol, a refugee is defined as a person who ‘owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.’

The Tamil family in Biloela

To deport or not? That is the question.

It is 10 years post the civil war and 25% of Sri Lankans are Tamils. If not this case, when would refugees go back? We are basically talking about systemic discrimination. That would include a lot of people around the world. Eg West Papuans in Indonesia and Blacks in the USA.

Kristina Keneally calls for a Christian response.

From Andrew Bolt (referring to Keneally)

She says she wants Morrison “as a Christian to look into his heart and decide what the generous Christian response” is to a family of illegal boat people he’s trying to deport to Sri Lanka.

In Keneally’s view, Christ would insist these people be allowed to stay, although I’ve searched the Bible and can’t see Christ expressing any opinion on border controls, other than the ones strictly enforced on the border of Heaven.

But Keneally claims it’s all in Christ’s parable of the good Samaritan, which she says “invited us as Christians to take care of the stranger in our land”.

But all that the Samaritan did for some injured traveller was bring him to an inn. He sure didn’t let the man live the rest of his life in the Samaritan’s home.

But if that’s really Keneally’s take, I assume she, as Labor’s spokesman for home affairs, will now demand Labor stop backing the policy to turn back boats of illegal immigrants.

Hello? Kristina?

Bolt points out the problem with identifying Christian values

For instance, Keneally supports legal abortion, and says “abortion is a necessary medical service”.

Is that really the “Christian response”, Kristina?

Isn’t your own church against abortion? Doesn’t your Bible command “thou shalt not kill”? Doesn’t it exalt all forms of human life, declaring “children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward”?

And how about divorce, Kristina? Labor supports divorce laws, but what’s the proper “Christian response”, when the Bible declares “a wife is not to depart from her husband … and a husband is not to divorce his wife”?

And gays, Kristina. What is the “Christian response”?

The Bible says “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals … will inherit the kingdom of God.” Don’t you agree?

And what’s the true “Christian response” to euthanasia, Kristina, which you support but your church opposes?

Hmm. Maybe Christ doesn’t actually give the pat to Labor policies Keneally implied.

Maybe Christian politicians can honestly differ on what Christianity commands them to do.

48:23   The Virgin Mary and the Penis

Guys, we haven’t spoken about penises for a while.

A painting on display at Griffith University Art Gallery has copped some serious backlash from church groups and members of the public. The painting, Holy Family, by Juan Davila depicts the Virgin Mary cradling a giant penis.

This is better than Falou.

Sex, religion, politics, free speech and offensive speech all rolled into one.

Paul – … can we count on you to whip up some suitably provocative pieces with religious themes by Tuesday? Muhammad riding a penis to heaven? Or how about the Great Rainbow Penis that created landscapes in the Dreamtime?

From Kylie Lang in The Courier Mail

It is not often I agree with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, but she’s right when she says a grotesque painting depicting the Virgin Mary holding a penis has no place in a publicly funded art gallery.

While some might think that denigrating the Catholic Church is fair game given the shameful and ingrained cover-up of paedophilia within the clergy, this work takes it too far.

Two wrongs don’t make a right.

And just imagine if it trashed a religion that wasn’t such an easy target as Christianity where the expected response is to turn the other cheek.

Ms Palaszczuk says her staff has decided the piece is “too obscene” and won’t let her see it.

Good for them. This is positive censorship — and it should be extended to all of us by removing this disgrace from The Abyss exhibition.

How very predictable of a gallery director to defend the decision to include it — “the role of art is to challenge and push boundaries”, says Griffith’s Angela Goddard, like we haven’t heard this before — but what about the public’s right not to have lewd imagery shoved down their throats, as it were?

Telling people who might be offended not to bother coming is another familiar cop-out.

The real problem here is the appalling direction society is heading when demeaning “art” predicated on shock value and vulgarity is treated as perfectly acceptable in a mainstream gallery.

As one Courier-Mail reader has observed: “Nobody has the right to display a giant penis anywhere in any form publicly is this way, religion or not. It is an affront to every parent.”

Another notes that if the depiction was of the prophet Muhammad, the reaction would be vastly different. “Muslims here and overseas would be proposing death to the artist at the very least. Some things, legal or otherwise are immoral and tasteless. This is one.”

And this: Hanging this painting is a “rabid visceral insult to all Christians designed for its puerile, banal shock value in order to gain cheap and instant notoriety”.

The work is crudely based on Michelangelo’s sculpture The Pieta, which is housed at St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and depicts the body of Jesus Christ on the Virgin Mary’s lap after the Crucifixion.

Having seen The Pieta several times, I consider it to be one of the most breathtakingly beautiful masterpieces of all time. I challenge any atheist to disagree.

To send it up in such a fashion as Davila has done is deplorable.

Ok, so this isn’t as much a case of a secret penis as much as one of, wait for it, secret shrinkage. It has often been speculated why Michelangelo, who clearly sculpted the practically perfect man in his iconic David, would choose to make Little David quite so little. Well, a 2005 study actually shows that every anatomical detail of the little fella is consistent with what happens when a man is affected by fear, tension and aggression, which makes sense since David is about to face Goliath. This penis isn’t tiny, it’s just hiding.

An art show featuring a poster of Jesus Christ with a wooden penis glued to his face was closed after Philippines president Benigno Aquino intervened amid threats, vandalism and claims of blasphemy.

The closure came as a church group in the mainly Catholic country announced it was filing charges against the Cultural Centre of the Philippines over the installation by local artist Mideo Cruz, which it said violated religion.

Mr Aquino told reporters Tuesday he had called the government-run centre the day before and told its staff he opposed the artwork.

“I did stress the idea that there are rights but if those rights hurt the rights of others, there is something wrong, and that is not covered by the law. I reminded them that there is no freedom that is absolute,” he said.

58:35 Jackie Trad

She owns an investment property affected by a cross river rail project.

Apparently it is a big deal but what about politicians owning investment properties making negative gearing decisions?

Or what about politicians not declaring religious affiliations?

1:01:58 Ethics teacher stood down for saying Stolen Generations due to bad parents

A volunteer ethics teacher has been stood down from a Sydney primary school for telling students that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Stolen Generations were taken from their families because of poor parenting.

The incident has raised questions about whether volunteers should be allowed to teach ethics and religion in public schools.

The Special Education in Ethics (SEE) discussion, involving year six students at Dulwich Hill Public School, began as one about homelessness but became heated when one student mentioned the long-term trauma of the Stolen Generations.

The elderly teacher told the students that what they had been told about the Stolen Generations was a beat-up, and that the real reason children were taken from their families was bad, lazy parenting, according to the parents of two students who attended the class.

“[He said] we should only listen to him because he was 75 and had lived in Townsville for 10 years.” Ms Albany said the teacher became increasingly agitated when the students argued back. The following week he was replaced by another volunteer.

A spokesman for Fairness In Religion In Schools, Darrin Morgan, said the incident demonstrated the problem with allowing volunteers with a few days’ training into public schools to teach religion and ethics.

“The Department of Education’s reliance on a reactive complaints process is a grossly inadequate risk control measure, made even more useless by the fact that it seems complaints are managed by the SRE and SEE providers,” he said.

“It is time for all students to be returned to professional educators.”

1:05:19 Religious Discrimination Bill Discussion at QUT

Thanks to Jason for pointing this out. Here is an interesting event at QUT

Wed., 18 September 2019

12:00 pm – 2:00 pm AEST

12-1pm: Religious Freedom Bill seminar

QUT’s Peter Black will take us through the Religious Freedom Bill and gives an insight into the legal questions raised, implications, and opportunities for change.

1-2pm: Stay and workshop concerns relating to several themes within the legislation.

The workshop will offer several streams for participation including:

  • developing arguments against the bill as a whole
  • developing arguments against some specific elements of the bill which go further than other discrimination laws, e.g. employer conduct rule, and discrimination protections;
  • sharing and collecting personal stories that could be used in submissions to the government by Queensland Aids Council, Equality Australia or other organisations;
  • strategies for raising awareness and encouraging as many people as possible to meet with their MPs and Senators as well as providing a submission to the Government on the Exposure Draft.


1:05:42 The RSA met the AG

The NSL was not invited. Trying to meet the PM. I say don’t bother. Go for the opposition and cross benchers.

I like the prayer argument.

I asked: “What about a workplace that might have a rule that disproportionately affects non-religious people? For example, if the Lord’s Prayer is recited each morning and everyone is expected to participate or at least be present?” His answer suggested this might indeed constitute indirect discrimination against a non-religious person unless the workplace could show that the non-religious person’s wish not to be involved in such religious activity could be reasonably accommodated somehow.

The exclusion of hospitals and nursing homes should be noted.

… the exemptions do not apply to hospitals, including Catholic hospitals. So Catholic hospitals cannot claim blanket conscientious objection.

1:07:16 Jackie Lambie

Seems to be opposed to the Religious Discrimination Bill.

Freedom for Faith got straight onto its followers with addresses, emails and phone numbers.

“Tasmanians need to pick up the phone.”

Electorate Office
(Principal Office)
Shop 4
22 Mount Street
Burnie, TAS, 7320

Postal address
PO Box 256
Burnie, TAS, 7320

(03) 6431 3112
Parliament Office
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

(02) 6277 3614

1:08:22 Religious Ethos

I didn’t pay enough attention to the ability for religious charities to employ only people of their religion.

Michael Kellahan, the head of Christian legal thinktank Freedom for Faith, told Guardian Australia that religious discrimination was different to other forms of discrimination because it was inherently about people who “gathered together.”

“That isn’t a tricky legal argument, it’s the very nature of religious belief that people don’t have it in isolation,” he said. “It is not just an individual right, it is actually a right to gather with others, it is a right to teach children it’s a right to gather on the basis of belief.”

He said that even though there was a push from conservatives for a broader religious freedom act, a religious discrimination act that captured religious organisations would be a welcome “first step”.

“But it would be a strange result if this first piece of legislation dealt just with an individual’s rights divorced from institutional kinds of rights,” he said.

The Fist says:

The right to gather together to worship is fine. The right to exclude others (who don’t worship) when worshipping is fine. The problem is when the gathering is not for worship but is for normal community activities such as education, work or leisure and religious groups want to exclude non-religious from those non-worship activities. That would divide society and be very harmful. Of course, religious groups say that worship activities cannot be separated from other lifestyle activities. I disagree. These religious groups want to take the benefits of an integrated society while erecting their own gated community when it suits them.

Go and live on Libertarian Island.

The ACL has said “freedom of religion allows for the reality that a person’s religious faith encompasses not only their private worship but their whole being, including their public activity.”

The Fist says:

If religious faith prevails then the religious are a law unto themselves.

Under this law, a mixed race wedding could be denied on religious grounds. If you don’t think it could happen, check out:

An event venue in the southern United States refused to host a mixed-race couple’s wedding, stating that the union went against its “Christian beliefs,” in a viral video that has drawn a barrage of criticism.

The husband-and-wife-to-be had been in contact with Boone’s Camp Event Hall in Mississippi for several days, before receiving an email rejecting their request to hold their nuptials at the facility.

The groom’s sister then went to the venue to ask in-person why the wedding had been rejected, filming an exchange in which a woman bluntly told her: “We don’t do gay weddings or mixed race.”

Asked why, the woman responded: “Because of our Christian race, I mean our Christian beliefs.”

Following the episode, the event space’s Facebook page was taken down, but not before the woman posted several excuses, stating that she had grown up in Mississippi where the unspoken rule dictated “staying with your own race.”

At her husband’s request, she said, she had searched the Bible for text supporting her notions on mixed-race marriages.

“After searching Saturday evening, Saturday night, most of the day Sunday and sitting down with my pastor Sunday night after church I have come to the conclusion my decision which was based on what I had thought was correct to be supported by The Bible was incorrect!” she posted.

Marriage between black and white people was legalised in the United States in the 1967 Supreme Court decision Loving v Virginia.

In 2016 Mississippi, which is located in the US Bible Belt, passed a “religious freedom” bill allowing businesses to refuse services based on religious beliefs about same-sex marriage or transgender people.

1:24:21 Brexit

portmanteau  portmanteau word is a linguistic blend of words,[1] in which parts of multiple words or their phones (sounds) are combined into a new word,[1][2][3] as in smog, coined by blending smoke and fog,[2][4] or motel, from motor and hotel.[5] In linguistics, a portmanteau is defined as a single morph that represents two or more morphemes

British and exit

A quick summary.

Doggerland was an area of land, now submerged beneath the southern North Sea, that connected Britain to continental Europe. It was flooded by rising sea levels around 6,500–6,200 BC.

What is the UK?

1973 – Edward Heath (Conservative) decides the UK shall join the European Economic Community

1975 – They had a referendum over the decision and the result was 67% in favour of staying. Labour was deeply split (leave was official policy for much of the 80’s). Memories of war were fresher (so avoiding conflict was a higher priority) and the UK economy was poor and people felt the UK wasn’t strong enough to go it alone.

1994 – Norman Lamont (Conservative and former Chancellor of the Exchequer) revived “leave” as a conservative possibility. In 1994 he railed against EU integration. It’s been dividing the conservatives ever since.

1997 – Blair took office. He was very pro-Europe so to be anti-Blair meant being anti-Europe. Blair wanted a single currency. Blair was so pro-Europe that Brexit was an intellectual counter-revolution to Blair and his refusal to consult the electorate on ratification of EU agreements.

2004 – In response to a proposed Rome treaty, Blair announces a referendum on EU membership but the treaty was scuppered by referendums in France and Netherlands so it never went ahead.

2007 – The Lisbon treaty was signed but Gordon Brown refused a referendum which angered people because it was really a reheated Rome treaty.

2010 – David Cameron in government. Cameron was a former adviser to Lamont but told MPs to stop banging on about Europe. Younger conservative MPs wanted Brexit.

2013- Cameron announces a review of EU relationship to be followed by a referendum.

23 June 2016 – the Referendum. Leave cleverly used emotion and identity while remain relied on facts and figures. 51.9% voted in favour. Cameron resigned. Theresa May was left to implement Brexit.

November 2018 – A draft withdrawal agreement was published. The House of Commons thrice voted down the agreement. Labour didn’t like the power transfer from parliament to the executive (to allow easy law making), and many Conservatives rejected the agreement’s Irish backstop. The Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party and others seek to reverse Brexit through a second referendum.

The backstop seeks to prevent a hard border by keeping Northern Ireland in the single market even if no trade agreement is reached by the end of the transition period.

So, the EU is saying any agreement must avoid a border with Ireland (which must inevitable rely on Northern Ireland compliance with EU rules) but Leavers want a clean break from the EU.

Brexit is no big deal to the EU so the UK has no bargaining power.

If there is a hard Brexit, there is no agreement at all.

The UK government has said it will not apply checks and tariffs at the Irish border – a stance which is at odds with its commitments under, inter alia, WTO rules. The EU, however, has made it clear it intends to apply the rules, though whether all checks will be imposed from day one is less obvious. Both sides are likely to blame the other, with unforeseeable political and economic consequences.

Enter Boris Johnson

The UK is due to leave on the 31st of October.

Doesn’t care if the UK is fucked. Is happy to take a no deal Brexit. Says he is negotiating with the EU but clearly isn’t because he hasn’t said what deal he wants. He doesn’t want pesky questioning in parliament so he prorogued parliament. It won’t be back till the 14th of October. The EU council meets on the 17th of October to potentially agree to any new Brexit deal. The parliament passed a law forcing him to ask the EU for an extension to 31 January 2020 if he doesn’t get a deal acceptable to parliament by 19 October (or if parliament doesn’t vote for no deal). Boris tried to bring on an election but the opposition said no because the need parliament to be sitting in the days after 19 October so they can pressure him. (An election would dissolve parliament for 5 weeks). He has indicated he won’t obey and ask for an extension. (He’d “rather be dead in a ditch” than obey the law, he said on Thursday) He might end up in jail.

Johnson and his advisers are this weekend exploring further legislative possibilities, including the “nuclear” option of tabling a no-confidence motion in the government and ordering Tory MPs to vote for it, in order to trigger an election. Such a motion would require only a simple majority of MPs to pass, but may not be allowed by the Speaker, John Bercow.

Jonathan Pie on Brexit

From Nick Cohen in The Guardian

In The Usual Suspects, Kevin Spacey has a line for all Remainers laughing at the sight of Boris Johnson striding to power and then tripping over his shoelaces and falling flat on his face. He tells of a “gang of Hungarians that wanted their own mob. They realised that to be in power, you didn’t need guns or money or even numbers. You just needed the will to do what the other guy wouldn’t.” If they broke even gangsters’ lax conventions – not just kill a rival but his wife and kids – they would dominate.

Johnson is showing a ruthlessness that no one has seen in British politics.

Dominic Cummings is his strategist.

“When are you fucking MPs going to realise we are leaving on 31 October? We are going to purge you,” the Mail reported Dominic Cummings screaming at Greg Clark. Cummings and Johnson duly purged not just the former business secretary but two former chancellors of the exchequer, Winston Churchill’s grandson and 18 other “fucking MPs” who refused to do as they were told.

The historian Peter Hennessy authored the “good chap” theory of British government. Whereas other countries were governed by written constitutions, our politicians and civil servants ruled discreetly, because they respected unwritten conventions and never pushed their power too far. For three years, Brexit has drained the goodness from the system. But it has taken the chaps in the Johnson administration to empty it.

We are in a new world and as opposition parties confronted with political gangsters from Trump’s America to Orbán’s Hungary have learned, you must believe them capable of anything and act accordingly. The British opposition should not think of trusting Johnson to “do the right thing”. It should ask how it can stop him and, once it has an answer, find the determination to act. Not trusting Johnson means there cannot be an election before late November, because parliament must be sitting in the days after Saturday 19 October when Johnson will be mandated by act of law to seek an article 50 extension from the EU.

If you treat the Johnson administration as a crime gang, you will understand why.

A tweet from Hugh Grant on suspending parliament:

You will not fuck with my children’s future. You will not destroy the freedoms my grandfather fought two world wars to defend. Fuck off you over-promoted rubber bath toy. Britain is revolted by you and you little gang of masturbatory prefects.

From John Harris in The Guardian

To paraphrase the 20th-century communist Antonio Gramsci, it is not so much that the old world is dying and the new cannot be born: it is that the only vivid and coherent vision of the future of power and politics on offer is currently being offered by irresponsible chancers, whose chief concern is not the ghouls they are letting loose, but their own survival. Their opportunity lies in the chasm between this week’s protests and the millions of people who either avert their eyes or see them as so much liberal, remainer nonsense; it is also our side’s greatest challenge, whose urgency, even now, has yet to sink in.

Sounds like our issue with “Religious Freedom” and the Morrison theocracy.

The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

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