Inside the system

‘Age of entitlement’ not over for royals

ABBOTT GREETED the visiting Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with the enthusiasm of a sycophantic courtier. As far as the May budget is concerned it’s cuts, cuts, cuts but when it came to Will and Kate the tough talk melted. The Australian government footed the entire $2 million bill for their trip. This included flying the royals and their entourage around the country in dedicated RAAF planes at a cost of $17,000 per hour.

Despite being presented as “modern royals” the couple travelled with a small army of personal underlings: two private secretaries, a tour secretary, three press officers, a hairdresser, an orderly, a nanny, a personal assistant and a former diplomat. Their luxury accommodation at “Longitude 131” near Uluru is reported to cost $2200 per night—and that’s just one stop in a ten day trip. It seems no expense is too great when pampering Prince William, a hereditary millionaire with a net worth of $40 million.

CIA torture architect says he supports Amnesty International

THE ARCHITECT of the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program, Dr James Mitchell, has defended his actions, telling the Guardian that he’s, “just a guy who got asked to do something for his country”. The torture program recently came under renewed scrutiny in a still classified US Senate committee report 6600 pages long, that concluded it generated no useful intelligence.

It’s no wonder the CIA’s mad doctor is on the defensive; leaked sections of the report mention Mitchell personally and confirm already well-established records of “enhanced interrogation” methods that violate the Geneva Conventions. The program included waterboarding, wall slamming, sleep deprivation, sexual abuse and humiliation and confinement in a box. In one case Khaled El Masri, a German citizen, was handed over to the CIA in Macedonia in 2003 without ever getting a trial or so much as seeing a judge. After over four months of torture the CIA dumped him on an Albanian road. They had accidentally mistaken him for an al-Qaida suspect with a similar name.

Dr Mitchell used his expertise as a psychologist to construct the torture program and actually participated in some of the torture personally. Demonstrating the depth of his derangement, he described himself as a supporter of Amnesty International in his recent interview.

An Amnesty spokesperson said “If he wants to help Amnesty, Dr. Mitchell should start by supporting our call for all those involved in torture to be investigated and prosecuted. Should that day come, he can rest assured that we would campaign for…his right to a fair trial.”

US a plutocracy not a democracy

THE COUNTRY that is supposedly “the world’s greatest democracy” is not a democracy at all, according to a study published this year. Princeton and Northwestern University researchers found that ordinary Americans have virtually no say over government policy despite the rhetoric and trappings of democracy in the US.

The study examined 1779 policy issues in order to find out to what extent policy outcomes were actually shaped by ordinary people compared to the wealthy. The authors say that, “When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” The authors conclude that “the majority does not rule—at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes.” After the Occupy movement denounced the influence of the 1 per cent, this comes as statistical proof that society really is controlled by a tiny minority.

Poor left to rot in NSW

MORE THAN a million people in NSW are living in poverty, according to a new report by the Council of Social Services NSW (NCOSS). This equates to one in seven people. One in five of the poorest households can’t pay their bills on time, leading to a 37 per cent increase in utility disconnections in the last five years alone.

The skyrocketing cost of housing was identified as a key cause of this growing desperation, compounded by the fact that there has been no real increase in unemployment payments for a decade.

NCOSS found that only 2 per cent of NSW homes are affordable for those on very low incomes while public housing is meeting less than half the current demand. Instead of offering a remedy for this disgraceful state of affairs the NSW Liberals are trying to evict public housing tenants at Millers Point, as Abbott comes after Medicare, pensions and welfare.

Tourism body says rich should be able to skip queues

The peak industry body the Australia Tourism and Transport Forum has called for new “premium processing” at airports to allow the wealthy to skip long queues at immigration and customs.

This would continue the trend started earlier this year when Abbott introduced new multiple-entry visas for rich business people. As the government tries to close the door on refugees, dumping them on Nauru and Manus Island and subjecting them to murderous attacks and Dengue fever, they are considering opening even more doors for the rich.

Chinese mining boss ran capitalism as organised crime

Chinese billionaire mining kingpin Liu Han has been netted in a high-profile government crackdown on corruption. After a 10 month long investigation the Sichuan province heavy-weight, his brother and many of his associates are facing charges for nine murders and other gang-related crimes designed to flatten business rivals.

The gangster-like activities of Liu Han are embarrassing for the Australian Foreign Investment Review Board who gave Liu Han’s mining company the all clear to take over Australian iron ore miner Sundance Resources in 2012, although the deal eventually collapsed.

Since Xi Jinping became President in 2013 his anti-corruption campaign has mostly been a self-interested attempt to sideline rivals. Liu Han is a classic example, he is linked to Communist Party player Zhou Yongkang, a backer of the now disgraced Bo Xilai. But this is not a fight to end corruption in China; it’s a fight over who gets the spoils.

Research and writing by Adam Adelpour


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