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Issue #1613      October 2, 2013

Culture & Life

Abbott’s crew, US paranoia and abuse of the legal system

Did you notice that when the RAAF flew in to PNG to bring out the survivors (including the injured) after the ferocious attack on the party of trekkers walking the Black Cat Track, they brought out the whites but left all the indigenous victims behind?

Liba Naris, 22, was one of the porters attacked on the Black Cat trail in Papua New Guinea. (Photo: Luke Marsden)

Some of those indigenous survivors had horrendous injuries – limbs hacked off, that sort of thing – and yet not one of them was given a lift by the RAAF’s chopper. They were left to be tended by their relatives when they should have been priority hospital cases.

Racism, do we think? You betcha!

And did you also see where one of Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party MPs who is an outspoken climate warming sceptic actually put his hand up and asked to be appointed Minister of Science? Dennis Jensen holds a PhD in material science, but nevertheless lines up with that international joke Lord Monckton, who toured Australia not so long ago to “debunk” global warming.

According to Jensen, “most of the stuff Christopher Monckton says is entirely reasonable”. He probably thought he was a shoo-in for the science minister’s job in an Abbott cabinet, but Abbott gazumped him by not having a science minister at all! (Abbott also dumped a whole swag of ministries for things he clearly believes to be unimportant, like Status of Women).

Clearly, Abbott’s concerns are going to be in business areas, not social, ethical or cultural. Big business can run society, with High Art for the privileged elite and sport for everyone else. There! A balanced society, Liberal Party style.

Meanwhile Jensen was so peeved at being left out of the Ministry that he launched a verbal attack on his leader even before Abbott’s ministry was sworn in. I wonder how big a fuss the Murdoch press will make of dissension within the Liberal Party’s ranks? Any, do you think?

Up my way, the F3 – the freeway connecting Sydney with Newcastle and points north – now sports innumerable large electronic noticeboards announcing that the name of the road has been changed from the F3 Freeway to the M1 Motorway. Given the approach to such matters so far shown by Barry O’Farrell’s government, local wags are wondering how long it will be before the name is changed again – to the T1 Tollway? It’s unlikely to be long.

The September 18 Guardian featured a report on the back page about the unfortunate experience of a Texas teenager who made a tasteless joke on FaceBook and wound up in jail. The story reminds us once again of the extraordinary level of paranoia that now bedevils the USA and the way the dread of terrorism has so consumed the country’s institutions that it has subverted the very systems intended to prevent abuses of power by government and officialdom.

The youth in question, Justin Carter, made a foolish over-the-top jocular claim that he intended to carry out a school shooting. A touchy subject in the USA, where such shootings are commonplace, unlike every other country on Earth. But only in the US could such a casual remark land someone in jail with bail set at half a million dollars.

The US justice system is intensely political. Judges and prosecutors are elected. Their prestigious (and profitable) careers are dependant on their winning high-profile media-worthy cases. If such cases are in short supply, they’ll make them out of what cases they have.

Justin Carter’s “case” should never have reached the point of an arrest (many police chiefs are also elected). In Australia, police would have seen it as being of no more than nuisance value. But in the USA paranoia is so strong – and is so solidly promoted by official channels – that common sense has little chance of being heard.

The very act of fixing bail at half a million dollars is an abuse of the legal process, a way of jailing the young son of an ordinary family without having to convict him of anything. Close to a quarter of a million people have signed a petition supporting the young man and protesting at the way he is being stupidly and pointlessly persecuted.

Talk about of abuse of power! No wonder Americans are paranoid. Who wouldn’t be?

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