The world has become the domain of liars

There’s a common element to many, if not most, of the news that flits across the TV screens: lies.

People attempt to add a touch of sophistry to lying, by trying to create classes of lies, but in the end it all adds up to the same thing: saying one thing when knowing that the opposite was correct.

One well-known example: the current president of the United States, Joe Biden, came to office promising a US$15 minimum wage for the country. He also promised to provide medical services for all and forgive at least a part of the billions in student debt.

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Time for ABC to bite the bullet and bring Tony Jones back to Q+A

Finally, someone from the mainstream Australian media has called it: Q+A, once one of the more popular shows on the ABC, is really not worth watching any more.

Of course, being Australian, the manner in which this sentiment was expressed was oblique, more so given that it came from a critic who writes for the Nine newspapers, Craig Mathieson.

Hamish Macdonald: his immature approach to Q+A has led to the program going downhill. Courtesy YouTube

A second critical review has appeared on April 5, this time in The Australian.

Newspapers from this company are generally classed as being from the left — they once were, when they were owned by Fairfax Media, but centrist or right of centre would be more accurate these days — and given that the ABC is also considered to be part of the left, criticism was generally absent.

Mathieson did not come right out and call the program atrocious – which is what it is right now. The way the headline on Mathieson’s article put it was that Q+A was once an agenda setter, but was no longer essential viewing. He was right about the former, but to call it essential viewing at any stage of its existence is probably an exaggeration.

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One feels sorry for Emma Alberici, but that does not mask the fact that she was incompetent

Last month, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, a taxpayer-funded entity, made several people redundant, due to a cut in funding by the Federal Government. Among them was Emma Alberici, a presenter who has been lionised a great deal as someone with great talents, but is actually a mediocre hack who lacks ability.

What marked Alberici out is the fact that she had the glorious title of chief economics correspondent at the ABC, but was never seen on any TV show giving her opinion about anything to do with economics. Over the last two years, China and the US have been engaged in an almighty stoush; Australia, as a country that considers the US as its main ally and has China as its major trading partner, has naturally been of interest too.

But the ABC always put forward people like Peter Ryan, a senior business correspondent, or Ian Verrender, the business editor, when there was a need for someone to appear during a news bulletin and provide a little insight into these matters. Alberici, it seemed, was persona non grata.
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Managing a relationship is hard work

For many years, Australia has been trading with China, apparently in the belief that one can do business with a country for yonks without expecting the development of some sense of obligation. The attitude has been that China needs Australian resources and the relationship needs to go no further than the transfer of sand dug out of Australia and sent to China.

Those in Beijing, obviously, haven’t seen the exchange this way. There has been an expectation that there would be some obligation for the relationship to go further than just the impersonal exchange of goods for money. Australia, in true colonial fashion, has expected China to know its place and keep its distance.

This is similar to the attitude the Americans took when they pushed for China’s admission to the World Trade Organisation: all they wanted was a means of getting rid of their manufacturing so their industries could grow richer and an understanding that China would agree to go along with the American diktat to change as needed to keep the US on top of the trading world.
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In Australia-China spats, the media only gives one side of the picture

Australia has been imposing hefty duties on Chinese steel, aluminium and chemical imports for more than six years, despite a letter from the Chinese side in 2014 saying that holding talks with Canberra on this would be of no use.

Recently, China said it would impose tariffs on Australian barley and also block beef imports from four Australian abattoirs. This latter story has become a big stamping ground for patriotic Australian journalists, a crowd who accuse Chinese scribes of being one-eyed, but act exactly the same way.

But the fact that Australia has been imposing huge tariffs? Only one journalist to date, Angus Grigg of the Australian Financial Review, has written about it.

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They do things differently in China – and it seems to work

Towards the latter stages of his life, Charles Darwin noted that he could not read serious texts any more; the only thing that grabbed his attention was a book on romance. One of the greatest scientific minds we have known could only enjoy a book about the mating game.

One would not liken oneself to the great man, but over the last nine months one has been similarly drawn away from serious work to become a regular viewer of a Chinese dating show that goes by the name If You Are The One.

The show is a record-breaker; it has about 60 million tuning in for every episode and has been running for seven years. The presenter, Meng Fei, is a national celebrity.
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The China wave

PROFESSOR Zhang Weiwei is not particularly well-known around the world. An author and former translator for the Chinese supreme leader Deng Xiaoping, Zhang is, however, a very important figure in China.

He has written a ground-breaking book, The China Wave – which has not, as far as I can make out, been translated into English – about China’s way of approaching development and one that is attracting great interest in his home country.

In an interview with the one news service that seems to have a knack for ferreting out the interesting and the newsworthy – Al Jazeera – Zhang made some very interesting observations.
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Burma: the gold rush has begun

THE push for democracy in Burma by the West has been going on for just one reason: resources.

Burma has gold, copper, tungsten, timber and oil in abundant quantities. All these years, the political situation and tight economic sanctions have not permitted exploration by Western companies. But now oil companies in the US are straining at the leash and waiting anxiously for the change to fly into Rangoon.

The Americans have already lifted some sanctions on Rangoon even though the only move towards a less rigid form of government has been an election in which the National League for Democracy was allowed to contest 45 of 664 seats.
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Desperate US gets set to take advantage of Asia

AUSTRALIA is putting itself in a dangerous position by agreeing to be the meat in the sandwich between the US and China.

The US, realising that it cannot stand up to developing powers on its own, has devised a deal called the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement; this enables the US to act as a parasite and live off eight other countries.

But over and above this, the US wants to use Australia as a proxy staging ground for displaying whatever military might it has left and trying to hold off China from claiming its rightful place as the supreme power in the Asia-Pacific.
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The tragedy of Sri Lanka

AS THE Sri Lankan government twists and turns and manouevres in order to try and prevent a war crimes investigation being ordered by the United Nations into its conduct during the war against the Tamil Tigers in 2009, the first definitive account of the conflict has emerged.

Former UN spokesman in Sri Lanka, Gordon Weiss, has written a book titled The Cage which gives a detailed and powerful account of the tragedy as it unfolded.

Weiss had to tread a difficult path as he wrote the book; given the oath that he took as an UN employee, he was unable to divulge any material that came to him in that capacity. Despite this very difficult obstacle in his path, he has done an extremely credible job in tracing the history of Sri Lanka that has a bearing on the country’s current position.

The Tamil Tigers, formed in the early 1970s, became the most powerful of the groups fighting for a separate state for their people and were known for the reign of terror that they imposed. They killed anyone standing in their way and massacred both Sinhalese and Muslims to enforce their writ. They were also not loath to kill their own people, if those people happened to be standing in the way of their supreme leader, Velupillai Pirapaharan and his ruthless ambitions.

The Tigers made a number of miscalculations. They reasoned that no state would resort to the type of bloodthirsty and ruthless tactics they employed, no government would indulge in the kind of indiscriminate killing that they carried out. The Tigers forgot that the state had twice put down rebellions, by Sinhalese youth in the shape of the Janata Vimukti Peramuna, in 1971 and again in 1989, in a singularly, bloody-minded manner, killing all and sundry and in a pretty gory manner too.

The Tigers also thought that India would act as a bulwark if things became really bad – after all, the main powerbroker in the Indian Ocean had broken a siege of the Tamils in the 1980s, at a stage when the Sri Lankan army had them cornered. India, of course, has a Tamil population to which it has to cater, given that the main Tamil party in India is in coalition with the ruling party at the federal level. And finally, the Tigers failed to realise that in the post-2001 world, countries are less inclined to regard breakaway groups as romantically as they did in the past.

Sri Lanka ensured that India would not act as an obstacle this time by bringing China into the picture very cleverly. The Sri Lankans first asked India if it would be interested in constructing a port in the southern Hambantota area; when India declined, realising that it might be obligated to Sri Lanka if it accepted, the Sri Lankans asked the Chinese who gratefully accepted. The contract was then expanded to include a naval base; when Sri Lanka went to China to seek weapons and influence at the UN level for its pursuit of the Tigers, Beijing was only too happy to oblige.

When India realised that China was cutting in on its normal sphere of influence, it agreed to provide Sri Lanka with intelligence that led to the destruction of many of the Tiger arms re-supply craft, thus depriving the Tigers of fresh stocks of arms. By doing this, the Indians once again hoped to get back into Sri Lanka’s good books.

In 2002, the Sri Lankan government had signed a ceasefire with the Tigers; at that point, the Tamil group controlled something less than the one-third of the island which was its maximalist demand for its own state. At this point, Pirapaharan could well have bargained and got at least two-thirds of what he had set down as his ambit claim. But he refused to budge and in 2003 announced that the Tigers were withdrawing from the ceasefire.

In 2005, the current president, Mahinda Rajapakse, came to power. A year later, having put his brother, Gotabaya, in charge of defence, the war began to eliminate the Tigers. Gotabaya was promised that political considerations would not interfere with this goal; in the 1980s, when India made food drops to the besieged Tamils, Gotabaya was a member of the armed forces and that memory remained with him.

The Rajapakses kept to their word. They massacred the Tigers and shot a number of leaders of the movement in cold blood as they were trying to surrender. They did not mind if there was collateral damage in the form of about 40,000 civilians killed by both sides. They had a goal and they were as bloodthirsty as Pirapaharan in their determination to achieve it, come hell or high water. They had a regular well-paid army which was not asked to fight with one arm tied behind; the Tigers did not have the number of troops to match as several of their hardened fighters had left the movement in 2002, confident that the struggle was over.

While the low-level war began in 2006, the government only formally abrogated the ceasefire in 2008. By May 19 the following year, it was able to declare victory and show Pirapaharan’s body on television. His twisted dream had come to an end, a lesson to all those fighting for separate states that one needs to compromise in order to achieve at least a part of one’s objectives.