Category Archives: Politics

Theresa May needs an election now. Else, she may lose even her own seat

After British Prime Minster Theresa May called a snap election on April 18, many journalists have been at pains to suck up to her and paint what is, in fact, a move born of desperation as some kind of astute political gambit.

This, despite the fact that this kind of sucking up to politicians has been, in the main, the reason why newspapers and magazines have gradually lost readership over the last two decades to other more rough-edged publications that speak the unvarnished truth.

The next British election is due in 2020. By then, Britain would have completed negotiations to leave the European Union, a decision the people voted for in a referendum in 2016. Even if things are not completely sewn up, the general points of the deal would be clear by then.

And given that the UK is bound to get the rough edge of the stick — what Australians call a shit sandwich — it is highly unlikely that May will be able to win any election after that.

Indeed, she would be lucky to retain her own seat.

After the talks begin on Britain’s exit, slowly the extent of what it has lost by leaving the EU will become apparent. Both France and Germany, the two major powers in the EU, are extremely annoyed about Brexit and seem determined to give the UK the worst deal they can.

As the conditions laid down by the remaining EU countries become clearer with the progress of negotiations, it will become more and more difficult for May to continue to put on a brave face and say that Britain will get a good deal from the EU.

She has called an election now to guarantee her survival. That is the plain and unvarnished truth.

But journalists are still willing to talk rubbish and write it too.

On the day that May acted, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Europe correspondent Lisa Millar claimed that winning an election would give May a “stronger hand” to negotiate the terms for the UK’s exit from the EU.

This is bunkum of a very high order; May holds a hand with no cards at all and winning the poll on June 8 will only ensure that she is in power for the next five years. It gives her no additional leverage with the rest of the EU.

She thought she could steal a march on the EU by traipsing across the Atlantic and cosying up to the new orange-haired occupant of the White House, but has found that Donald Trump is not overly sentimental about the so-called “special relationship” now that Britain is not part of a much bigger trading bloc.

The newspaper headline below says it much better:

Then we had the delusional Greg Sheridan, the foreign editor of The Australian, who wrote: “Despite May being ahead in the polls, this is the mother of all gambles.” (High-grade rubbish; if she cannot win a poll now, she might as well commit hara-kiri.)

He went on: “She has a stable if narrow parliamentary majority, and three years of the government’s term to run. She has gambled it all.” (Gambled? Sheridan appears to be hallucinating.)

And on: “But as pro-Tory newspaper The Sun put it in three declarative decks of heading the next day: ‘PM’s snap poll will kill off Labour; She’ll smash rebel Tories too; Bid for clear Brexit mandate’.” (When you have to quote from The Sun to back up an argument, that means you have no smoke in your stack.)

There are loads of Anglophiles who still think Britain, — sorry, Great Britain — is still a colonial power when all it is now is the US’s poodle. But then we all need our little delusions to live, don’t we?

When will people like Sheridan ever learn?

Trump’s detractors still trying to prove their worth

The breastbeating in the US isn’t over, not by a long shot. All those experts who were proven wrong in their pre-election pronouncements are continuing their quest to try and show that they were not really wrong.

Among them is Nate Silver, once known as the man who never got anything wrong, and now known as the god who failed. Silver is still continuing to analyse statistics to try and show that he was actually quite correct in his predictions even though he was totally wrong.

Not for nothing is there a hue and cry over fake news in the US.

People are also acting surprised that Donald Trump has switched tracks on many of the election slogans that won him support. This is normal behaviour as a politician will say anything and everything to win. But Americans seemingly do not believe this.

Trump will not build any kind of wall as he promised. No, he will deport as many people as Barack Obama did but make a big show of doing so. It will seem like he is more active in this area than his predecessor. Trump knows how to manage the public much better than many others.

He has already indicated that he not going to “drain the swamp”, or in other words keep Washington insiders out of executive positions in his administration. He has even given a former Google executive, Joshua Wright, a position at the Federal Trade Commission. This is the same Google, whose chairman Eric Schmidt set up a company to provide Hillary Clinton’s technology needs during the campaign.

Trump knows that politics involves wheeling and dealing as he has done all these years in his business endeavours. He will play the game for all it is worth, quietly boosting his own worth even as he attempts to convince the people who are his constitutency that he is doing what is in their interests.

He will want a second term, if only to prove that he is the equal of Barack Obama. Not that Trump is interested to any great degree in politics or a legacy; no, for him it is more about ego. He has proven all the naysayers wrong once and would love to do so again.

The US will not suffer greatly under Trump, though it will continue to become a more rabid and polarised country. But that has been a trend during Obama’s time too.

The world has already seen plenty of fools in the White House. Trump is just one more, with a loud mouth to boot. That makes him look worse than many of his predecessors, but make no mistake the difference with George Bush isn’t all that much.

Donald Trump has sane supporters too

I have a friend who has been living in the US for the last 30 years. He is an intelligent, rational person who is widely read. We have been close friends for the last 37 years.

He is one of the people who will be voting for Donald Trump on November 8. He went to the US on an H1-B visa.

He wrote what follows, well before Trump’s comments on women came to light. Read, judge if you wish, but ponder: if reasonable, sensible, middle-class people come to these conclusions, there must be something terribly wrong with the social system in the US.

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Religion by itself is not the problem – all religions are, by nature, esoteric and mysterious and, ultimately, a matter of faith. It is the clash of cultures originating from these religions that causes all strife and conflict in our society and all societies on planet earth.

Donald Trump is bringing some strong medicine to this country, and the party elites are scared – that their gravy train is coming to an end, that better trade deals will result in good jobs for minorities, that lobbyists will have to downsize, that waste, fraud and abuse in no-bid military contracts and pharmaceutical purchases are going to stop, and that the immigration rules which determine who, and how many people, can come into this country will undergo some major changes.

“America will be the country we all believe in, we all dream of….” said Chef Andres. The only way to keep that intact is to stop a million new immigrants coming into this nation every year. Already our cities are getting crowded, our roads clogged, and our countryside (what is left of it) is fast disappearing. This has a huge impact on our jobs, our culture, our values, and our standard of living. That is why Trump wants all immigration halted until we come up with a sane immigration policy.

There was a time when this country could use a lot of immigrants. That time has passed. Allowing a million immigrants each year is mass migration. That is like taking over a country without a war. If you are supporting Hillary Clinton and open borders, then we no longer need a military. What is there to protect?

By the same token, Clinton and all her supporters should get rid of the doors in their houses, so that anyone can come in and stay and help themselves to anything they want. You have to get real.

This election is about the choice between open borders and controlled borders, between having a country and not having one. It is also about the choice between insider career politicians who are beholden to big moneyed special interest groups, and Trump, the outsider, who cannot be bought. Godspeed Trump!

It is time for change. Time for a non career politician to step in and stop the 1 million immigrants flooding into this country every year; eliminate ISIS, and build safe havens so like-minded people can live in their own countries; and work the room with our elected representatives and develop consensus around the public agenda and not around what Wall Street wants.

In 2014, 1.3 million foreign-born individuals moved to the United States, an 11 per cent increase from 1.2 million in 2013. India was the leading country of origin, with 147,500 arriving in 2014, followed by China with 131,800, and Mexico with 130,000.

Trump is the only one standing between us and the millions of new immigrants who are coming in each year and having an impact on our jobs, our values, and our culture. Vote for change!

Automation is one reason, and immigration (H1-B abuse) and outsourcing are the other main reasons for job losses in the US.

Clinton has no clue on how to address the former, and — considering her donor class — she has no interest in addressing the latter.

Good negotiators are not necessarily good debaters. How else would you explain Barack Obama who is a gifted public speaker, but could not for the life of him work the room with his opposition in it? If debating skills were the basis for selecting a president, the people would have voted for Ted Cruz who is a better debater than Hillary. No, what this country needs is a good negotiator, not a debate champion.

Thousands of people are ripping into Trump for not speaking like a politician. And yet deep down inside they know that he is the only one standing between them and the millions of new immigrants who are coming in each year and taking over their jobs, their values, and their culture.  Vote for change.

Trump’s favourite Bible verse is 1 John 4:12: “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is perfected in us.”

Notable takeaways from a recent Trump speech:

“Hillary Clinton is the last line of defence for a failed political establishment and she does not have you at heart. The Clinton campaign exists for one reason, and that is to continue rigging the system. We will break up the industrial-media complex. That is why I am running – I will be your greatest voice ever.

“They go to the same restaurants, they go to the same conferences, they have the same friends and connections, they write cheques to the same thinktanks, and produce exactly the same reports. It’s a gravy train and it just keeps on flowing. On November 8 that special interest gravy train is coming to a very abrupt end.

“The insiders in Washington and Wall Street look down at the hardworking people like you, like so many people in this state, like so many people in this county. But you are the backbone, your are the heart and soul of the nation. Don’t ever forget it folks.”

The reasons why I am voting for Trump, shown in the order in which things need to be fixed in this country:

Issue 1. Our rigged economic and political systems – Issues 2-6 have remained unsolved for decades because the special interests who control our rigged system proactively stop any solution from being adopted. Only Trump can fix this.

Issue 2. The flagging economy 𔃀 caused by both automation and globalisation. Prosperity can be more widely spread if we negotiate good deals both within and outside this country. Trump will bring good negotiators into our government.

Issue 3. Unfettered immigration – bringing in a million immigrants a year is transforming this nation into a Third World country. Everything from birthright citizenship to safe zones for war-torn countries must be examined.

Issue 4. Minorities – we need to provide a hand up to minority communities. Wasted and under-utilised human resources are one of the primary reasons/sources for crime in many of our cities.

Issue 5. Healthcare – costs need to brought down and basic services made available to every citizen. There is enough money in the system, it just needs to be managed better.

Issue 6. Debt overhang – we need to write down the debts — both credit card and college loans — held by ordinary citizens. This will also help the economy (Issue 2).

The elimination of waste fraud and abuse will cut across many of the above issues. That, and bringing competent people into our government who can deliver on the public agenda, will surely make our country great again. I cannot wait for Trump to arrive in our capital.

The time has arrived for a literary fraud to resurface

One of the many big-noters in India has announced her return to the literary scene with a novel about the uprising in Kashmir. Coming 20 years after her only other effort, Arundhati Roy’s 2017 publication has already received enough hype to make one puke.

Since her book The God of Small Things was surprisingly awarded the Man Booker Prize in 1997, Roy has been involved in activism, written essays and numerous articles. One has to be grateful that she did not attempt a second novel. Her first effort was terrible; author Carmen Callil, chair of the 1996 Booker jury, pronounced Roy’s work “execrable”, and said it should never have reached the shortlist.

I’m willing to bet that the second book will be an even greater success than the first; in this day and age frauds succeed much better than they did in 1997.

Below is the review I wrote at the time; it is no longer on the Internet as the site hosting it died an unnatural death.

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An Indian writer has received an advance of half a million pounds for her first novel, The God of Small Things. Great stuff, one would say, it proves there is talent in the country. The hype that has necessarily accompanied this has obscured the novel to a large extent. There are reviews floating all over the Web, some of them written by people who have not even read the book. The very fact that an Indian author has received a six-figure advance for a first novel necessarily means that the book must be good – thus runs the logic. It makes for even better copy when the writer is a woman.

A number of Indian publications have gloated over the novel. The customary interviews have taken place with the writer and the usual pithy sayings have emerged. It is time to look a bit more closely at this publishing “feat”, the circumstances of the writer and the actual content of the book. One must remember first of all that this year marks the 50th anniversary of Indian independence; indeed, it is a nice time for a British publishing house to give an Indian author such an honour. Good timing to expiate some of the guilt surrounding the act of partition of the subcontinent.

The author, Arundhati Roy, is the daughter of one Mary Roy, a women who gained her own measure of notoriety by challenging the Christian inheritance law some years ago in Kerala. Mary won her case and thus became an icon for feminists in India. Mary Roy, however, was not the best of mothers; she kicked her daughter out at the age of 18 and the girl thus had to fend for herself. It is not, therefore, surprising that Arundhati has constantly tried to gain her mother’s attention by various means and show her parent that she can succeed on her own as well. A large number of so-called great works have come about because a man feels he has something to prove to his parents.

Arundhati has lived on the edge of the so-called intellectual circuit in Delhi, a city which is a ball of hot air. Her first marriage to an architect ended in divorce and she is now married to a photographer by whom she has two children. She has tried her own attention-getting tactics — berating Shekhar Kapoor over his film Bandit Queen was the latest gimmick — and has, to some extent, gained a fair measure of publicity. Now comes this novel, which, if we are to believe the writer, did not require a single correction (there is a silly line which she has used to explain this: “one does not re-breathe a breath”) and in the space of five years. In other words, this spontaneous creation took a fairly long period of time. Does sound a bit like constipated genius.

Now to the novel itself. It is the story of a family who hail from a village in Kerala, one which Roy chose to call Ayemenem. The story is told within an uncertain time-frame which winds itself back and forth and anyone searching for structure within this book will be disappointed; the writer has an excuse – it is like a work of architecture, she says, and the form develops in any direction. There is plenty of detail in the 350-odd pages; the English is stuffed stupid with a surfeit of similes, most of them very poor ones. There is a bid to copy Salman Rushdie but it does not work; the use of language is stilted and and some words are so obviously contrived that they are out of place when used. Roy would have one believe that this work is spontaneous but the truth is that it is contrived and rather badly at that. It is so obviously wrung out of herself that any claim that this novel was lying dormant within herself just waiting to be written must be taken with loads of salt.

The God of Small Things is seen from the perspective of seven-year-old Rahel. She and her twin brother, Estha, live with their mother, Ammu, who was married to a Bengali from whom she is divorced. Ammu and the twins live in the Ayemenem house with their grandmother, uncle and grand-aunt Baby. The family owns a pickle factory that comes into conflict with the Communists. The family is awaiting the arrival of Sophie Mol, the twins’ half-English cousin and the book drifts back and forth to the arrival and the aftermath of the death by drowning of Sophie Mol and an ill-fated love affair between Ammu and the untouchable Velutha. Rahel returns to Ayemenem as an an adult to a decimated household, a dysfunctional twin and a decaying house.

Were a Keralite to read this book, he or she would obviously understand the setting and a lot of social surroundings. An outsider may find it exotic but that is all. In this sense, the book is insular in the extreme; there are splashes of Malayalam here and there and despite the feeble attempt at translation, the real meaning of the phrase is often hidden. Roy obviously has a huge narcissistic streak and ensures that the reader will identify her as the girl Rahel; whether this is intended to tell the reader that everything, including the incestuous relationship Rahel has with her twin, was also part of Roy’s life is unclear. This is a totally unnecessary twist to the book.

The story line is quite predictable; the death of a child and the love affair between a woman of the higher caste and an untouchable are standard fare in many an Indian novel. The only difference here is that this affair is suddenly sprung on the reader and it cannot be logically deduced; indeed, logic is a major casualty in this novel. There is a process of development in any book but there seems to be none in this book and, in my opinion, it is highly over-rated. One thing which puzzles me no end is the fact that Penguin India did not publish it; David Davidar has been the face of Indian publishing in English and his laconical explanation, “it wasn’t offered to us,” does not answer the question. Davidar is one who has chased after any writer whom he feels has the slightest chance of being a success. Why he did not choose to do so with Roy is a mystery.

Comedy Central screwed up badly by appointing Trevor Noah

It is difficult to think that a company like Comedy Central, which has been so successful in commissioning comedy shows that satirise the news, could make a mistake like it did in 2015 when it let Jon Stewart go with an election around the corner.

It is impossible to believe that the company could not have persuaded Stewart to stick on and go after the November 8 voting took place this year. Perhaps it thought that its choice of replacement, South African Trevor Noah, would be able to find his groove after a few months.

In media outlets here and there, the reason advanced for bringing in a younger host is said to be the need to attract a younger audience; the argument made is that Stewart’s audience was mostly a 45+ demographic while Noah, just 31 at the time he took over, would pull in the crowd below 40, a group that the management deems to be a wealthier demographic and what it needs as it looks to the future.

But if that was the expectation, then it has not been realised. Audiences for The Daily Show, which Stewart nurtured into one of the top-rating shows in the US, have fallen by as much as 40 percent. Comedy Central says it is not worried because the profile of the audience has changed as it wanted. But Noah himself is proving to be a poor replacement as host.

It is true that practically anybody would look bad besides Stewart who, over the 19 years that he was the host, made the show into a vehicle for both satirising the news and also for often conducting more serious journalism during his half-an-hour than most TV anchors and interviewers manage in a month of Sundays.

His interviews with that serial spreader of falsehoods, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and the great New York Times liar Judith Miller, the latter of Scooter Libby leak fame, are masterpieces which any TV journalist would be proud to own.

He also nurtured a whole band of talented artists: John Oliver, Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee all have their own shows now. Any of them would have been a better replacement for Stewart than Noah.

Noah’s shortcoming is just not that he is not an American. Oliver is British but has learnt more about American politics than many American hosts have. No, Noah’s talent lies in stand-up and not the more serious sort of comedy which The Daily Show made its own; he is the equivalent of Canadian Russell Peters who can provoke a good belly-laugh but does not make the viewer think.

At times, watching Noah on The Daily Show these days is a painful exercise. He struggles to move from one topic to another and tries various gimmicks to gain traction, all of which tend to fail. His interview skills are poor and he has the same lines in his opening every single night.

It would not surprise me if the election is Noah’s last stand and the management decides on a change after January 20 next year.

If Howard is a hero, then who is not?

JOHN Howard is making a big noise to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his being voted in as prime minister.

This man is one of the worst leaders Australia has had, using all the country’s resources to buy votes by bribing the population. If he is a hero, then who is not?

Nearly half a trillion dollars came into the government’s kitty during the 11 years that Howard was in power.

Apart from using about $100 billion to pay off government debt, Howard did nothing.

He gave women money as an incentive to have babies, the so-called baby bonus. This was not needed as Howard, despite his public stance, also brought in a large number of migrants during the 11 years to keep the business and housing lobbies happy.

He gave people money to build houses, something called the first home buyers’ grant. When his poll ratings dipped before a by-election in Aston in 2001, he quickly doubled the grant from $7000 to $14,000. He won that election.

This grant has created a huge housing bubble and when it bursts, a lot of people are going to get hurt. But Howard didn’t care, the only thing he was interested in was getting re-elected.

Howard also gave people who took private medical insurance a 30 per cent rebate. Instead of putting money into the public system — and Australia’s is one of the better systems in the world — so that everyone would benefit, Howard went the typical right-wing way – the rich get more than the less-fortunate.

A broadband system, trains to airports in every major city, improving public transport were some things which could have been built during Howard’s 11 years.

But he ignored these needs of the country. He did not dare to broach the idea of broadband because he was scared to offend Rupert Murdoch who owns a major share of the pay-TV service, Foxtel.

Fast broadband means that services will shift to the internet. Murdoch owns nearly three-quarters of the newspapers in the country and Howard did not want to annoy him in any way.

Result? Australia today has pathetic internet services that get in the way of business, education, scientific work and so on.

The mainstream media will not raise these issues. They stick with the bullshit dished out by Howard, a man who had the mindset of the 50s and little interest in anything beyond staying in power.

When Australians begin to look at people like Howard with a little more scepticism and see them for what they are, the country will improve. Until then, Howard and his ilk will be able to sell their snake-oil and get away with it.

We don’t want no reforming leaders

A reforming prime minister. Or a reforming president. That’s what many people think nearly every country in the world needs.

That’s why, when election time comes around, those of us who are interested in the politics of the people who rule us tend to ask what changes this man or this woman will bring. And the people we vote for will ultimately be the ones who say they will bring about the changes that we think are good for our nation. Selfish changes often, but changes nevertheless.

Only, we do not realise that reforming leaders are never going to get going once they are in the seat of power. You don’t have to live in a country that has been around for thousands of years, you could be in the US which is just 238 years old. There are so many vested interests in the system surrounding government at all levels that reform is well-nigh impossible.

For example, before coming to power Bill Clinton promised to reform healthcare, a sector sorely in need of radical change if it was to benefit the people. He handed the task to his wife, Hillary. But once she got going on the task, she realised that the funds providing medical insurance were not going to countenance any change. They were making too much from the existing system and they had enough politicians on their payrolls to defeat any vote that threatened the status quo.

The health insurance lobby won that battle, with ease.

Thus, taking this into account, the achievements of the late Gough Whitlam seem all the more remarkable. The man was in office for just three years or even less and brought about so many reforms that it leaves one dizzy just to think about them.

But then there was one difference between Whitlam and other politicians: when Whitlam got into office, he had a number of plans which he wanted to implement, come what may. His first interest was not securing his own re-election. Which is precisely what every single politician is interested today – making sure that when the polls are called next time, they have enough political capital, and enough money for a campaign that will lead to re-election. The long-term interests of the country do not even begin to come into the picture.

America’s Kurdish adventure will end in tears

AT THE end of World War I, many ethnic groups were able to get a patch of land for themselves, with the area and population therein largely dependent on the extent to which they had pleased the imperial powers that came out as victors of that war – France and Britain.

The Kurds were one group that missed the bus and ended up scattered over four countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. They are a restless lot and the countries in which they lived often had to keep them quiet by one means or another.

The late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein gave them a limited measure of autonomy. But there was always the implicit understanding that if the Kurds got too ambitious, then they would be met with blanket slaughter. Dictators like Saddam – and his neighbour, the late Hafez al-Assad of Syria – do not do things by half-measures and for years the Kurds were content to remain within their allocated freedoms.

After the Gulf War of 1991, there was, for a while, protection in the form of western fighter jets that patrolled a no-fly zone; after the war, the Kurds rose up in protest against Saddam in the hope that their long dormant hope for a country would be realised. But they were tricked by the US which, after initially backing them, changed its mind when George Bush Senior realised that a weak Iraq would lead to Iran being the dominant power in the region.

And that the Americans did not like – they have not had much to do with Iran after the events of 1979. So the Kurds had to eat what Australians call a shit sandwich and stay on as part of Iraq.

Now Washington – and its so-called coalition against the extremist Islamic State – is arming the Kurds in order to get them to fight the militants. In doing so, they are setting themselves up for a lot of trouble in the future. The Americans have forgotten what happened after they armed resistance fighters against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. One of the side effects of that policy was a little event that happened on September 11, 2001.

But the Americans have not learnt. If they read their own history books, they will realise that they are incompetents of the highest order when it comes to intervening in foreign countries. Yet they keep doing it over and over again.

In 2003, George Bush Junior invaded Iraq and broke the entire system. The Americans did not merely topple the government, they ripped out the entire bureaucracy and left the country without any functioning systems at all. The results of that have been self-evident over the last 11 years.

After Saddam came to power in a coup in 1969, he realised that he had a mess on his hands, created by the British and French drawing borders at right angles to satisfy the requests of this group or that. And so he ruled with an iron fist and kept the country intact. Anyone who even indicated a mild dislike for him was shot in cold blood.

The Americans released all his controls. And in so doing, they opened the gates for every sectarian group to do what they wanted. Power was given to the Shias and hence the Sunnis took up arms. The Islamic State is just the most extreme manifestation of that resistance – another group that rose up in reaction to American screw-ups.

Internecine warfare between countries or groups in the Middle East is a routine thing. The West should keep out of these squabbles. But the Americans have oil interests in many parts of the region and hence they intervene again and again. No good has ever come of it.

The outcome will be the same this time too.

Rather than sell his budget, Tony is busy grandstanding to boost his poll numbers

WOULD Tony Abbott be indulging in all the grandstanding he is doing abroad if his government had brought down a budget that was, in the main, acceptable to the people and had cleared parliament with a few changes here and there?

One really has to wonder.

After the budget in May, the popularity of the prime minister dropped like a stone. Little wonder that this happened, given that the budget had several measures that would hit the poorer classes. All of it was done in the name of sorting out a budget crisis which the government insisted existed. Financial experts are still trying to find the reason for the use of the word “crisis”.

Three months later, the budget is still hanging around the government’s neck like an albatross. But Abbott’s poll numbers are up as he has grasped every possible chance to boost them.

The poll standings of any leader tend to rise during periods when the country is under threat. So Abbott has manufactured one; the Islamic militancy in Iraq and the emergence of Australian citizens playing a role in it has given him a handy prop.

He’s also announced a data retention scheme – though what will be retained is unclear. Never mind, it adds to security, says Abbott. The presence of the US State Secretary and Defence Secretary this week, for the annual bilateral ministerial talks, hasn’t hurt.

But before that, the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane, killing 298 people including 38 Australians, came as a godsend to Abbott. He fronted up to indulge in some chest-thumping and fuming against Russia, whom he accused of being responsible. The missile that shot down the plane came from an area in Ukraine which wants to revert to Russian control, hence Abbott’s claims.

Abbott made his foreign minister, Julie Bishop, a show-pony of the highest order, take the lead in pushing an UN security council resolution condemning Russia. And as soon as he could, he imposed sanctions on Moscow. Never mind that Russia’s retaliation, which cuts off something like $500 million of imports from Australia, is going to hurt a lot of small farmers.

Now Abbott has dashed off to the Netherlands, to express gratitude to the Dutch for taking the lead in getting the bodies of the plane crash victims back for examination.

Tony is also threatening to send troops to Iraq – for humanitarian reasons, he says, because the Islamic militants there are threatening a tribe called the Yazidis who live in the north. The fact that the US, which has begun bombing the militants to protect the Yazidis, has ruled out sending ground troops doesn’t bother Tony one bit.

There have been plenty of false leads thrown here and there but with the Murdoch media firmly in his pocket, Tony is going places.

And the budget? Oh, don’t bother, that’s Joe Hockey’s baby. Tony has bigger fish to fry.

When the US bombed Al Jazeera, were journalists not prevented from doing their jobs?

The moment a Western journalist is treated in the Middle East in a manner that is deemed to be different to that in his own country, the West does tend to get rather heavy on the moralising and judgemental pronouncements.

Peter Greste, a journalist for Al Jazeera, the TV network that has revolutionised coverage of the Arab world, was given a sentence of seven years jail on what seems to be trumped up charges of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The Brotherhood came to power in elections in Egypt after the so-called Arab Spring had resulted in the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak who, at one stage, looked like having a permanent mortgage on leading the country, either on his own or through his descendants.

Unfortunately, the Brotherhood began to do what all governments do – govern for themselves – and discontent grew among people who believed all the propaganda that had been spouted in the run-up to the elections. Finally, the military, sensing the mood and knowing that their intervention would be welcome, took over and installed Abdel Fattah Al Sisi as the ruler. One thing has changed – the chief financier. In the days of Mubarak, it was the US; the Brotherhood had a money tap in Qatar and the military that toppled it owes its sustenance to Saudi Arabia which abhors the sight of an administration run by the Brotherhood. The Al Saud know that the day that fundamentalists take power in the Miuslim world, it will spell the end of their own reign and hence they do whatever they can to keep this brand of Islam in the cupboard as far as possible.

Greste has been caught up in the middle of this political snakepit. Egypt’s current administration wants to send a message to Qatar, which owns Al Jazeera, and that is what this is all about.

But in the midst of all the Western raving about the seven-year sentence meted out to Greste, one fact has not been mentioned: when Al Jazeera was doing some pretty robust reporting on the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Americans had no hesitation about bombing the rooms in which the staff of the TV network were staying. One journalist was killed. There was no hubbub at the time about the Americans getting in the way of journalists who were just doing their job. Both George W. Bush and Tony Blair were in on this act.

Of course, this is not the first time, the US has attacked Al Jazeera.

That same US is now crying foul about the sentences meted out to Greste and two of his colleagues and claiming that journalists should be allowed to do their jobs! So who showed Egypt the way?

That the US has no influence in the Middle East has never been demonstrated in a starker manner. The secretary of state, John Kerry, did try to intervene, but was brushed aside. Why should Sisi listen to someone when he has a money spigot that leads to someone else? The Saudis have indicated that they will prop up any government that keeps the Islamists at bay and Sisi is perfectly happy to do just that.