Episode 271 – Lockdown Polls, Less Educated Voters and Hidden Agendas

In this episode we discuss:

  • Why Trump will not replace RBG before the election;
  • What the polls say about Australians reaction to the lockdowns;
  • Why the Chief Health Officer is in charge;
  • How education levels affect voter intention;
  • The hidden agendas of lobby groups; and
  • How editors push journalists around.


Why worry?

Our civilisation is based on each generation being able to take the knowledge of previous generations in order to build better outcomes.

Blatant lying is no longer punished. Truth has been devalued. We can’t trust information.

If civilisation is like building an office tower, we can’t trust the new scaffolding that is being erected. Our civilisation is stalling.


RBG is dead

There is going to be a shitfight over the appointment of a new US Supreme Court Judge.

Just days before her death she said: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Her wish will not be honoured.


  • Just the Senate
  • She should have resigned earlier. It was selfish to stay.
  • Trump tactics
  • Bill of Rights


Marc Tracy got it right back in 2013 (The New Republic)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a great American. She was a pioneer in the women’s rights legal movement, co-founding its first journal and lecturing on the topic as Columbia’s first tenured female law professor (my father was in her first-ever class, and recalls her as a great teacher). She was the American Civil Liberties Union’s general counsel after founding its Women’s Rights Project.

And, of course, she has been a Supreme Court justice for more than 20 years, only the second woman on the highest court, where she has been a stalwart liberal vote.

So it pains me to say the following things. First: she is dead wrong about something big. And the big thing she is wrong about is insisting that she should not consider retiring soon, while she knows that a Democratic president and a Democratic-leaning Senate will be in-charge of replacing her. Which brings us to the second thing: she should retire soon.

Directly asked Tuesday about the commonly held theory that justices, who have lifetime appointments, should step down so as to maximize the chance that their replacements will be like-minded, she replied, “I think one should stay as long as she can do the job.” This follows her bizarre statements published two months ago that she need not worry because the next president, too, will be a Democrat: “The Democrats do fine in presidential elections; their problem is they can’t get out the vote in the midterm elections.”

As I reported then, it is relatively common practice for justices to step down at politically strategic moments. And why shouldn’t they? The justices, most of all, understand that they are quasi-political actors, and sometimes not even quasi. (Ginsburg dissented in Bush v. Gore.) Yet Ginsburg believes this shouldn’t factor into a justice’s decision. “Can you think as well? Can you write with the same fluency? At my age you take it year by year. I’m OK this year.”

Where do I get the chutzpah? Partly it is from the knowledge that this is the way things work—that a justice appointed and confirmed in 2014 is likely to be more liberal than a justice appointed in 2018, or 2028, or any time when we do not know the composition of the presidency and Senate for sure—and that there will be untold cases on individual privacy, corporate speech and power, abortion, discrimination and voting rights, gun control, and who knows what else in the interim where we could use all the liberal justices we can get.

And partly it’s from Bush v. Gore, and other cases where the court has less blatantly but no less substantively made partisan decisions while hiding behind a phony, un-democratic veil of disinterested legal deliberating-cum-wizardry. I am sick to death of the unquestioning awe in which many Americans appear to hold the highest body of an entire third of the federal government because they are constitutionally disarmed from instead holding that branch accountable.

So let’s speak truths: Ginsburg is a liberal; Democrats will more likely get a liberal confirmed, Republicans a conservative. If Ginsburg cares about her legacy and her vision for the country, she will step down.

In fact, a modest proposal: she should step down explicitly for this reason, making clear that she wishes she could stay, and suggesting that her precedent should provoke serious discussion of common-sense constitutional reform—Supreme Court-level senior status, for instance—to make future such insanities moot.

Lockdown sentiment

The Chief Health Officer

Was given extra powers in March

36 Insertion of new ch 8, pt 7A Chapter 8— insert— Part 7A Particular powers for COVID-19 emergency Division 1 Preliminary

362A Purpose of part The purpose of this part is to confer additional powers for the COVID-19 emergency on—

(a) the chief health officer; and (b) emergency officers. Division 2 Chief health officer 362B Power to give directions

(1) This section applies if the chief health officer reasonably believes it is necessary to give a direction under this section (a public health direction) to assist in containing, or to respond to, the spread of COVID-19 within the community.

(2) The chief health officer may, by notice published on the department’s website or in the gazette, give any of the following public health directions—

(a) a direction restricting the movement of persons;

(b) a direction requiring persons to stay at or in a stated place;

(c) a direction requiring persons not to enter or stay at or in a stated place;

(d) a direction restricting contact between persons;

(e) any other direction the chief health officer considers necessary to protect public health.

(3) A public health direction must state—

(a) the period for which the direction applies; and

(b) that a person to whom the direction applies commits an offence if the person fails, without reasonable excuse, to comply with the direction.


Fist: It seems to me it was passed without a division

The 4 R’s

Race, religion, red neck and rustbelt

Education and Political leanings

According to Mike Seccombe in the Saturday Paper

Writing back in May 2017

Ignorance advantages the political right, as John Stuart Mill noted in 1866 when, during a British parliamentary debate with Conservative MP John Pakington, he famously said that while not all conservatives were stupid, “stupid persons are generally Conservative”.

His words were perhaps a bit harsh. It might have been better if he had substituted “uninformed” for “stupid”. For it is less a matter of intellectual capacity than of access to the tools of critical thought.

Book learning is a real danger for conservative politics. Numerous studies show that the more educated a person is – the more developed their analytical faculties – the less likely they are to vote for a party of the right. And vice versa.

Conservative leaders are well aware of this, which is why they have historically sought, by one means or another, to limit the provision of education to the masses. They also are aware, though, that in a modern, knowledge-based economy, education is the key to growth. And so they face a dilemma: how to harness the brainpower of the masses without losing their political support.

Popular political wisdom holds that economic division led to the election of Donald Trump as United States president last year. Wrong, according to the analysis of America’s leading psephologist, Nate Silver.

He studied the county-by-county shifts in voting between the election of the rational progressive Barack Obama in 2012 and the populist right-winger Donald Trump in 2016. He found that in 48 of the 50 best-educated counties, more people voted for Hilary Clinton than had voted for Obama four years previously. Conversely, she got fewer votes in 47 of the 50 least-educated counties.

That applied largely independent of the incomes of people in those counties. In short: it was not economic disadvantage that drove them to move their votes to Trump; it was intellectual disadvantage. Education, not income, concluded Silver, was “the critical factor in predicting shifts in the vote between 2012 and 2016”.

The uneducated had their world view reflected back at them by Trump, and voted for it.

As with Trump, so with Pauline Hanson. In his recent Quarterly Essay The White Queen, David Marr noted there was “nothing particularly special about the pattern of employment for Hanson’s people”.

They were not deprived in a material sense. Indeed, overall they were “middling prosperous”. But though they were not poor, they were extraordinarily fearful of poverty – the thought that they could be left behind by rapid social and economic change.

The standout demographic characteristic of One Nation voters was their lack of education. The typical One Nation voter didn’t finish school, much less, as Marr put it, “set foot in a university”.

Marr’s work relied on data culled from the most comprehensive, ongoing analysis of voter behaviour, the Australian Election Study. The numbers were prepared by the study’s co-director, Australian National University political scientist Professor Ian McAllister.

In May 2013 the then-opinion editor for The Australian newspaper, Nick Cater, launched his book The Lucky Culture at a Melbourne function sponsored by the Institute of Public Affairs, the right-wing think tank with great influence in conservative political circles.

The biggest response to Cater’s speech came when he noted that the number of people with university educations was climbing ever upward in Australia. The IPA crowd booed loudly.

It was very revealing. The IPA is apt to portray its long advocacy of reform in tertiary funding through “the application of free market principles” – meaning full deregulation of university fees – as based on libertarian and meritocratic principles. Those boos, though, tell the truth: underlying it is the desire to restrict education to a wealthy and conservative elite.

From The Guardian


Education, Not Income, Predicted Who Would Vote For Trump

From FiveThirtyEight

I took a list of all 981 U.S. counties1 with 50,000 or more people2 and sorted it by the share of the population3 that had completed at least a four-year college degree.

Hillary Clinton improved on President Obama’s 2012 performance in 48 of the country’s 50 most-well-educated counties. And on average, she improved on Obama’s margin of victory in these countries by almost 9 percentage points, even though Obama had done pretty well in them to begin with.

Now here’s the opposite list: The 50 counties (minimum population of 50,000) where the smallest share of the population has bachelor’s degrees:

These results are every bit as striking: Clinton lost ground relative to Obama in 47 of the 50 counties — she did an average of 11 percentage points worse, in fact. These are really the places that won Donald Trump the presidency, especially given that a fair number of them are in swing states such as Ohio and North Carolina.

How do we know that education levels drove changes in support — as opposed to income levels, for example? It’s tricky because there’s a fairly strong correlation between income and education.4 Nonetheless, with the whole country to pick from, we can find some places where education levels are high but incomes are average or below average.

And in most places that fit this description, Clinton improved on Obama’s performance. I identified 22 counties5 where at least 35 percent of the population has bachelor’s degrees but the median household income is less than $50,0006 and at least 50 percent of the population is non-Hispanic white (we’ll look at what happened with majority-minority counties in a moment, so hang tight). Clinton improved on Obama’s performance in 18 of the 22 counties, by an average of about 4 percentage points:

Trump improved on Romney’s performance in 23 of 30 counties where median incomes are $70,000 or higher but less than 35 percent of the population have college degrees and the majority of the population is white.

Clive Palmer

Hiding their religious petticoats

From Dying for choice

See article


Public misinformation about VAD law reform and practice arises largely via organised religious commentators who coalesce and focus their efforts against parliamentary law reform bills.

Given how common misinformation about VAD can be from organised religious sources, it’s understandable that the public and legislators alike might simply ‘switch off’ if a commentator reveals a religious background.

It’s no surprise then that coordinated religious public relations efforts against VAD law reform try to look as non-religious and as broad-based as possible.

The article

Back in 2011, the now Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, wrote a lengthy, deliberative editorial against VAD, calling on the church to enlist people with no obvious religious connections to help the church fight VAD law reform. He wrote:

He went on to describe how various doctor, patient, lawyer, indigenous, disability and palliative care specialist groups might be corralled into this public relations campaign.

Despite this, when promoting anti-VAD messages, he argued, “we do not have to hide our religious petticoats altogether.”

However, this standard of transparency seems to have been abandoned in recent years.

Take the Tasmanian pop-up group Live & Die Well, for example. Convened just six weeks ago for the sole and express purpose of defeating Tasmanian MLC Michael Gaffney’s VAD bill, its website doesn’t mention religion… at all. No identified religious connections nor religious arguments of any kind. Meticulously absent.

Indeed, the anti-VAD campaigning pamphlet the group puts about expressly advises folks when writing to their MPs, “DO NOT use religious arguments”.

That’s quite curious given the religious backing of the group, headed by Mr Ben Smith.

The Catholic church gets busy

Who is Mr Smith? He’s the Director of the Life, Marriage and Family Office at the Catholic Archdiocese of Hobart. He reports directly to Archbishop Julian Porteous.

Unsurprisingly, core attributes given in the 2017 job advertisement for which Mr Smith was the successful applicant, require deep knowledge of the Catholic church, unquestioning support for its doctrines, and “highly-developed communication skills” to promote the church’s agenda.

And, Messrs Smith and Porteous’ arguments are strikingly similar, as I’ve revealed previously.

Does Mr Smith declare this on the Live & Die Well website? Nope. He’s just a “resident of Hobart”.

And the other “leaders”?

The other three “team leaders” at Live & Die Well are Mrs Patricia Gartlan, Mrs Karen Dickson, and Mr Daniel Bosveld.

Mrs Gartlan is a recipient of the Catholic church’s Knights of the Southern Cross National Award for services to the “sanctity of life”. (Recently, her “team leader” entry has been removed from the website.)

Mrs Karen Dickson is Chair of Mothers of Pre-Schoolers (MOPS) Australia, a Christian fellowship group. She’s previously campaigned against same-sex adoption, which she opined is against God’s will and would result in inevitable “moral decay” and the destruction of “the very foundations upon which society is built”. Predictably, she’s also actively campaigned against marriage equality, likening it to “dropping a brick on your foot”.

Mr Bosveld is a university student (most likely protestant) and President of LifeChoice Tasmania, a tiny student group promoting the “life from conception through [to] natural death” position. His Facebook page “Likes” more than 20 Christian groups, including the Australian Christian Lobby.

Look… over there!

The extent to which Live & Die Well exquisitely attempts to paper over its religious petticoat is exemplified by the inclusion of two articles purporting to strengthen the non-religious case against VAD law reform.

The first is a piece republished from Spectator Australia, in which an atheist says he opposes VAD law reform. Of course there are non-religious people who oppose VAD law reform: but robust survey evidence shows that they’re rare, and that in fact strong opposition is strongly correlated with high religiosity. Nor are there teams of atheists actively organising others, as the churches are, to oppose law reform.

The second is an article by Mr Wesley J. Smith which tries to imply that opposition to VAD law reform is more widespread amongst humanists than it is. He’s a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute. Remember them? They tried and failed to have “Intelligent design” (creationism with lipstick), taught as science in US schools.

I’ve had words to say about his misinformation and incoherent slippery slope nonsense herehere and here. Oh, and Live & Die Well omits the real publication date of the reproduced op-ed — which is more than a decade ago — presenting it as though it’s fresh and contemporary.

Another group

Another group that’s been actively and vocally opposing Mr Gaffney’s VAD bill is Health Professionals Say No.

A major newspaper ad against the bill was recently taken out in the group’s name. It was authorised by a certain Mr Ben Smith. Yes: that’s the same Mr Ben Smith who is Director of the Life, Marriage and Family Office at the Catholic Archdiocese of Hobart. And the authorisation address is… the Catholic diocesan centre of Hobart.

One might wonder who actually paid for the ad…

The who’s who

The group’s website advances the usual slippery slope conjectures, and promotes the video Fatal Flaws, produced by Canadian loyal Catholic, Mr Kevin Dunn. That’s the “documentary” that Go Gentle Ausralia’s Fatal Fraud(link is external) film exposes for its extensive religious connections, revealing how it employs emotional manipulation, fear, framing and omission to sow Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) in the minds of legislators and the public.

Prominent members of Health Professionals Say No include:

  • Prof. David Kissane, a Knight of Obedience to the (Catholic) Order of Malta.
  • Dr Maria Cogolini, a Catholic bioethicist.
  • Dr Megan Best, a Catholic bioethicist who got her facts fundamentally wrong.
  • Dr Douglas Bridge who has identified his “supreme Christian calling”.
  • Prof. John Murtagh who says medicine and Christian ethics are inextricably linked.
  • Prof. Ian Olver, a lay preacher.
  • Dr Peter Coleman who has called for “placing the Christian revelation at the centre of university education.”
  • Dr Peter Ravenscroft, past Chairman of the International Christian Medical & Dental Association.
  • Dr Anthony Herbert, former National Secretary of the Australian Christian Medical Fellowship.

Too many yet too few

It also includes Victorian, Dr Roger Woodruff. That’s significant because one of the group’s key claims is that people will feel unduly influenced to use VAD law, i.e. too many people will die from VAD. Yet Dr Woodruff previously published an opinion in the Journal of Palliative Medicine that the most striking feature of the VAD experience in Oregon is “almost total disinterest shown by the terminally ill” due to the small numbers of VAD compared to the number of cancer deaths.

So to sum up that approach: VAD mustn’t be legalised because too many people will use it, but it’s not worth legalising because too few people use it. Which is it? It can’t be both.

Avoiding the ad hominem fallacy

We should be sure not to reject arguments automatically just because they are made by religious people. People of faith have just as much right to be heard in the public square: otherwise one would be arguing special privileges for non-faith Australians. Standards for public discourse are necessary, however.

“Dig here”

The connection being made here is not to reject arguments because of the religion of the informant, but to identify where misinformation almost exclusively comes from. I’ve been writing about this for years, with exposés on deep religious misinformation like:

  • The Vatican claim that Dutch elderly supposedly go to Germany for medical treatment because they fear being euthanised in Dutch care homes (the claim causing a diplomatic crisis).
  • The Catholic church in Australia spreading grotesque propaganda about Belgium’s assisted dying practices, prompting a rare, savage rebuttal from the authors of the scientific study the church misrepresented.
  • The claim that a Council of Europe resolution “banned euthanasia” throughout Europe, when the resolution did no such thing.
  • Spreading the appalling conspiracy theory that 650 babies a year are euthanised in the Netherlands when no such thing happens.
  • Catholic Professor Margaret Somerville’s repeated claims, based on cherry-picked data, wrongly claiming suicide contagion from VAD laws, and loftily dismissing extensive evidential rebuttals.
  • A mathematical confection by Catholic bioethicist Dr David Jones and Catholic loyalist and economist Prof. David Paton to attempt to “prove” suicide contagion in Oregon, in which they committed ten deadly sins.
  • The above report being glowingly endorsed by a Catholic psychiatrist, Dr Aaron Kheriaty.
  • Catholic-backed Alex Schadenberg of the “Euthanasia Prevention Coalition” and Catholic “HOPE”‘s Branka van der Linden polemicising an article purporting to show ‘inhumane deaths’ under VAD, but which established no such thing. (“HOPE” was established by the Australian Family Association, a Catholic lobby group founded by Australia’s most famous lay Catholic, B. A. Santamaria).
  • Indefensible slippery slope argument from Dr Bernadette Tobin, Catholic ethicist and daughter of B. A. Santamaria.
  • Serious cherry-picking including the negation of cited source meaning, by Victorian Catholic MP, Mr Daniel Mulino, whose report is hosted online by the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.
  • Senior clerics of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne misinforming a parliamentary inquiry.

One could go on, but I think the point is amply made.


Public misinformation about VAD law reform and practice arises largely via organised religious commentators who coalesce and focus their efforts against parliamentary law reform bills.

Given how common misinformation about VAD can be from organised religious sources, it’s understandable that the public and legislators alike might simply ‘switch off’ if a commentator reveals a religious background.

It’s no surprise then that coordinated religious public relations efforts against VAD law reform try to look as non-religious and as broad-based as possible.



Wtih thanks to my friend Chrys Stevenson for contributing research details in this report regarding members of Health Professionals Say No.


Gary Ablett Snr

Thanks Adam for the message

You cannot be Kyrgios

27 min and 38 sec of craziness

Good footballer, bad ideas

Right Wing Hypocrisy

Part A

Freedom loving libertarians on Sky, Spiked and Spectator are filled with outrage at the overreach of tyrannical governments (Victoria, Queensland and China) but are strangely silent or even pro government when it comes to Julian Assange and the Witness K trial.

These guys demand freedom but only their flavour of freedom.

Part B

The economy is so important we must be prepared to accept premature deaths from Covid and let the cards fall where they may yet when it comes to China, we are prepared to sacrifice our economy for brownie points from the USA.


I wouldn’t be surprised if the economic fallout from ruining our relationship with China is not greater (in the long term) than the economic fallout from shutdowns.

Part C

They love advanced western civilisation but have left universities out of Covid job keeper programmes. Why?

According to Mike Seccombe in the Saturday Paper

In the early days of his prime ministership, John Howard shared with some a private view about universities: don’t spend money on them, the people there don’t vote for us.

What do editors do?

From The Guardian

Nine news’ political editor, Chris Uhlmann, is not a fan of the Victorian Labor government’s response to the pandemic, and he told Sydney Morning Herald readers all about it in a rather forthright opinion piece on Wednesday.

“The Victorian solution punishes the many for the few,” the Canberra-based journalist said. “It preferences the very old over the young, mortgaging the future of the entire school and working-age population. It is hard to imagine how you could design a policy that is more profoundly unfair or damaging to a society.”

As an employee of Nine Entertainment, Uhlmann has the additional platform of a fortnightly column in print in Nine’s metropolitan newspapers, the SMH and the Age. But on Wednesday morning Uhlmann’s criticism of the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, was not in the Melbourne paper.

Age sources say the column was rejected by editors who do not subscribe to the “Dictator Dan” view of the world embraced by its competitor, the Herald Sun, and they believed Age readers wouldn’t like it.

It was certainly the opposite line to the one taken by fellow Age columnist Jon Faine a few days earlier when he said Andrews had been bullied but “shows little sign of bowing to the media and corporate pile-on”.

… On Thursday, the column was belatedly published in the Age, after some swift intervention from the executive ranks at Nine.


Since we started 5 years ago, total downloads have reached 100,000

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Bob Ellis

The reading at the end is from the writing of the late Bob Ellis

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