Review of George Orwell’s “1984”


1984 is probably the most brilliant Science Fiction work ever composed. It is more terrifying now as the horrible future of mass surveillance and shadowy Party dictatorships is beginning to happen before our eyes. Xi Jinping’s China bears a remarkable resemblance to Orwell’s Oceania. Science Fiction is becoming Science Fact. Orwell’s description of telescreens almost fits with what we now have. China’s surveillance program is frighteningly similar.

Orwell mixes a great deal of philosophical thought in with description of humanity in all its beauty and ugliness. His greatest brilliance lies in his understanding of how tenuous any notion of objective truth really is.

What the rise of China, Putin’s Russia, America’s Donald Trump and Brexit mean for Freedom


As if the looming disasters of climate change and overpopulation aren’t enough we now face a huge challenge to our very notion of freedom. Although Xi Xing Ping’s China could hardly be called a socialist or communist society, it has a massive ideological agenda built around authoritarian power. This China could best be described as a state run capitalist oligarchy with loads of attendant corruption.

Recent history is likely to provoke ample alarm. From building military fortifications on an artificial island in the South China Sea to unilaterally claiming the Spratleys, China has ignored the other claimants to those regions and forged ahead in its quest to become the world’s greatest military and economic power, leaving any notions of freedom and human rights dead in its wake. Any vague notion of liberty for the billion odd inhabitants in that country was quickly dispelled with the advent of the new social credit system whereby the smallest transgressions against the state ideal can result in a person being unable to leave his or her home town.

The One Belt program has amounted to China making loans to poor countries in the Pacific and Africa and, when those nations are unable to repay they become vassals of China. It doesn’t take a genius to see where all this is going. If you didn’t like the USA’s behaviour when it dominated the planet you “aint seen nothin’ yet” as China’s ascendancy rises. Xi Xing Ping’s installation as leader for life (read absolute dictator) is the icing on the cake.

Australia is caught in an ungodly position. Our defence strategy depends heavily on the USA but our main trading partner is China.
The chair of parliament’s powerful Security and Intelligence Committee Andrew Hastie warned Australia against underestimating China and compared its rise to that of Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t go down well with China. How did this unfortunate position happen to Australia? It is fair to blame the Australian Labor Party. Bob Hawke began our Australia’s dependence on China and Kevin Rudd increased it. Under their policies Australia has experienced a huge increase in immigration from mainland China. The big problem here lies in the fact that many of these dual nationals consider that their first loyalty is to China. Xi Xing Ping has also stated that such dual nationals owe such first loyalty to China.

China’s strategic alliance with Putin’s Russia (another authoritarian state, although it denies it) presents major challenges to the Western countries which value freedom. Putin’s Russia is another nation hell bent on increasing its power at all costs. Its track record includes the annexation of Crimea, starting a war in the Ukraine, and direct complicity in countless civilian deaths, including children, in Syria. It is safe to say that without Putin’s intervention the war in Syria would have finished years ago. Strangely enough Putin is popular with the majority of Russians. Of course, like the Chinese, they probably don’t have much access to unfiltered or uncensored information.

The China-Russia duo is a massive assault on the West and its notion of freedom. This brings us to the Brexit debacle. Only by remaining united under the EU can Western Europe withstand the political and possibly military assault from the East. It has been established that Russia interfered in both the Brexit referendum and the U.S. presidential election which saw the installation of Donald Trump. The Cambridge Analytica saga demonstrated how cunning use of personal information can achieve political ends. It is true that Trump is challenging China’s unfair trade practices. However, he is doing it in the most foolish of ways. Instead of joining forces with the EU he insisted on America going it alone. He even imposed tariffs on steel from the EU along with goods from China. Trump seems to love the idea of Brexit. Along with fellow narcissist and ego maniac Boris Johnson, the new British PM, Trump projects an enormous optimism in the face of an ever increasing danger.

 

Once Britain leaves the EU Trump has planned a new trade deal between Britain and the USA. This trade deal would very likely involve a massive weakening of Britain’s National Health system and make health care as unaffordable for many as it is in the U.S. Donald Trump is obviously intending to challenge both Britain and the EU economically. Divide and conquer. Xi Xing Ping and Putin must be laughing themselves sick. It is small wonder that the USA hates Julian Assange and Wikileaks. The only reason that China and Russia aren’t after him as well lies in the fact that he wasn’t able to get his hands on any of their dirty secrets. Whistle-blowers are a rarity in those two authoritarian states as the penalties are so extreme that fear prevails.

The almost total loss of privacy doesn’t just exist in China and Russia. Social media invasions along with almost universal camera and detection systems are on the rise in the West. Under the guise of security, states around the world are increasing their control over their citizens. The use of algorithms doesn’t just mean targeted ads. It is also likely to mean extremely accurate predictors of human behaviour.

It would appear that the only thing George Orwell got wrong was the date!

 

 

The Brexit debacle


Theresa May 12Ju16

The ludicrous situation of Brexit threating to destroy the very existence of the UK begs one very significant question.

How was it that the 2016 referendum was run in such a careless lack lustre way? For such a major constitutional change surely it should have been a minimum requirement that, apart from a simple majority, there should have been also the requirement that a majority of all four countries (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales that make up the UK) agreed to leave. Generally, for such constitutional changes a 66% majority is required.

Yet the diehard Brexiteers are taking to the streets demanding that their votes, ignorant of the consequences, be enshrined as the cornerstone of democracy. Common-sense demands that a second referendum be held, now that the UK populace has some idea of what is involved and the costs.

 

Wretched Recep Tayyip Erdoğan


Wretched Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

The murder of 50 innocent people, and the injuring of many more by a nameless Australian man at two mosques in Christchurch has brought out the best and worst in humanity. The New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and the emergency services in Christchurch all performed magnificently showing their empathy and genuine humanity. This is quite apart from their efficiency in minimising the effects of this horrible tragedy as much as possible.

Alas. the same cannot be said for the President of Turkey. Erdoğan couldn’t resist making stupid inflammatory comments to bolster up support from his radical islamist base before upcoming elections. His remarks about sending home people with anti-islamist attitudes in coffins, particularly Australians, if they visited Turkey are of the same ilk as the views of the nameless assassin of those innocent people in the mosques. What does this turkey (the president not the country) want? More violence and more terrorism?

To add ignorance and absurdity to his statements he said that the Gallipoli campaign of 1915 was an attack by the Anzacs against Islam. How ludicrous! The attack on Turkey was an attempted backdoor strike against Germany, a Christian country that was allied with Turkey in the Great War. Religion had nothing whatsoever to do with it.

The great Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, took great care to make Turkey a secular state and quickly forgave the Anzacs for their attack. After that Australia, New Zealand and Turkey became great friends. The lunatic current president of Turkey, by his extremist promotion of Islam has not only prevented his country from joining the EU but is also endangering its membership of NATO.

This is not to even mention his strident steps towards creating a dictatorship, gaoling his critics at the slightest pretext. No wonder the Turkish military attempted a coup. How else could they protect the legacy of Ataturk? It is a shame that the coup didn’t succeed! Let’s just hope that the people of Turkey will quickly wake up and see this man for what he is and how he is attempting to destroy a previously happy and successful nation.

The other major characters in Brownout-666


The other major characters in Brownout – 666

The character of Marilyn Delgado, Rick’s love interest, is largely based on that of a young woman I once employed as a secretary. Many of Marilyn’s actions in the story are entirely fictional.

Typical Filipina secretary at work

Marilyn is a moderately devout Catholic but remains a physical person with the usual hopes and aspirations. She is a proud Filipino but is often the victim of her own culture.

Christopher Daly, Rick’s uncle, is a really a composite of people I have known. He is a highly moral man who always tries to do the right thing. His own morals often give him a weakness that makes him an easy victim of unscrupulous people and organisations.

Hans Werttenburger, is a diehard Nazi and former SS man, whose views on Hitler and WWII have changed little over the decades. I based him on SS men I met in Germany in the 1970’s.

ss man

The Character of Alma Lopez, the 14 year old schoolgirl, was based on a number of precocious teenagers I met over the years in the Philippines.


Precocious Filipina Schoolgirl

 

Cecilia Crisputa, was based on a qualified nurse who once worked for me as a maid.

Typical Filipino nurse in uniform

Tobacco taxes, poverty and organised crime


Tobacco taxes, poverty and organised crime

   Scott Morrison PM  

Bill Shorten Opposition leader

Richard Dinatale leader of the Greens

While nobody would argue that smoking is healthy or that it shouldn’t be discouraged, the entire Australian federal parliament is guilty of the unintended and horrendous consequences of the current “tax them till death” policy. Australia’s approach to this issue not only makes us the laughing stock of the world but also causes massive harm to our own society. Various political parties and groups have factored in to projected revenues these draconian tax levels.

The hypocrisy is evident to anyone with half a brain. Are “Quit Smoking” aids free? Of course not!

The Negative consequences of this stupid policy

There are many people, who cannot or will not (for various reasons) quit. Quite often these people are amongst the poorest in our community. This reads as “children without shoes or enough to eat.”

Tobacco products are so expensive in Oz that smokers drag their fags until the very end, thus consuming more tar and poisons. The mentally ill tend to smoke and it is always much harder for them to quit than for the general population. My own sister suffers from bipolar type 1, is a pensioner and one of her doctors told her not to try to quit as it would increase her stress levels and thus her illness. I, myself suffer from severe depression and OCD. I can’t see a way to quitting either.

Organised crime is laughing all the way to the bank. This policy is expanding and enabling the reach of organised crime networks. Tobacco is now more expensive than marijuana or ice. Troubled youth, who may have previously resorted to smoking are now taking the drug ice, which is far more dangerous for both the individual and society as a whole.

Alternatives

There are many ways to discourage smoking without targeting the extremely vulnerable. It is possible to set an age for purchase of smoking products (demanding ID) and raising it every year. That should assist in keeping the young from the evil habit. Progressive reductions in public areas where smoking is allowed can also help.

An example of a sensible tobacco policy that I am familiar with, springs to mind. In Taiwan the rate of smoking amongst the young is much lower than that in Oz. Their campaigns against smoking have become a cultural norm. Yet they do not target the vulnerable sections of their society such as the hopelessly addicted elderly, the mentally ill (my brother-in-law in Taiwan is battling schizophrenia and he smokes and is a low income earner).

The Future.

Will any of our parliamentary leaders have the courage to try to solve this problem and set tobacco taxes at reasonable and sensible levels? I can only hope but I doubt it! Australia is heading for third world status in a rush in all areas but one; tobacco prices

Australian Federal Opposition attacks responsible saving


 

Australian Federal Opposition attacks responsible saving

Bill Shorten

The Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Bill Shorten of the Australian Labor Party has promised to introduce, if he wins government at the next election, a policy of abolishing franking tax credits for all but public pensioners (full or part). This policy is unreasonable and unfair. He has also hinted at further financial attacks on self-funded retirees.

I am a self-funded retiree who has just enough income and just enough assets to not qualify for even a part pension. I certainly would not call myself wealthy by any means. This proposed policy will only affect the moderately comfortable self-funded retirees as the genuinely wealthy ones will not be affected by it. Those wealthy ones will earn enough from their investments so that they will get their franking credits off their tax and would not be in the position to receive a franking credit tax rebate anyway.

Each year I donate a similar amount to worthwhile charities as I receive in franking credit rebates. The introduction of your policy would mean that I would not be in a position to make those charitable donations. My father was also a self-funded retiree who did not possess great wealth. Due to dementia he spent the last three years of his life in a nursing home. Because he was not on a pension he had to pay approx. $1500 a week for the nursing home (I personally saw the bills and receipts). The Rudd government introduced a tax on self-funded retirees in nursing homes. My father had to pay approx. $1500 a week extra tax on top of the nursing home charges (I personally saw those bills and receipts also).

Governments over the years have verbally encouraged people to save for their retirements where possible and not be a burden on the public purse. Yet those people who do just this and become self-funded retirees are often punished for their thrift and responsibility. This new policy will further exacerbate this situation if introduced. In times of economic uncertainty and likely government shortfalls in revenue do we really want to encourage more people to go on the government pension and take less responsibility in managing their own finances?

I have voted Labor most of the time over the years. However I will not be voting Labor while this policy remains and I imagine considerable numbers of other self-funded retirees will be doing the same.