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Issue #1750      September 28, 2016


Bourgeois economics is famous for its stoicism before the demands of objective reality: the iron law of wages; the demands of the market place; the inexorable invisible hand of said market; structured unemployment; cheap labour. In this dog-eat-dog tangle of greed and thievery, the dreams of those elevated by the laws of supply and demand to roam the jungle and catch-and-kill their own, include the fancy of being able to glean the future. And so it was that a psychic instructed the chairman of failed stockbroker BBY in the ways of visualisation and incantation to up the share price of coal company Firestone Energy. The psychic told the NSW Supreme Court she put together an astrological chart on Firestone and told him the way to improve the company’s share price through visualisation and incantation. In 2009 BBY invested $25 million in Firestone, which brought the stockbroker crashing down. The court heard that the soothsayer emailed the BBY chairman expressing regret: “When I met … your spirit asked me to hold you in the light and I said we would have a partnership defined by the clarity of the eagle and the heart of the lion.”

In a letter last week the Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane, responding to the drive by hate-speech advocates to have section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act scrapped, pointed out that section 18C protects more than “mere hurt feelings”, as the hate-speech advocates claim. Soutphommasane has also been a target of this campaign, including more recent accusations that he has “touted for complaints” as Commissioner. “It is my function, as stated in the Racial Discrimination Act, to promote public understanding and acceptance of the Act,” he says. This includes informing people about their right to lodge a complaint if they believe they have experienced racial hatred. He also raises that part of section – 18D – which protects any fair comment or reporting on a matter of public interest and any sentiment expressed “in the course of any statement, publication, discussion or debate made or held for any genuine academic, artistic or scientific purpose.” As Soutphommasane puts it: “Given this wide protection of free speech, we have to ask what it is that anti-18C campaigners want to say that they can’t already under section 18D?”

The Abbott/Turnbull government’s climate change denial has become known far and wide internationally. In the pocket of the big coal lobby and a favourite of the uranium miners, Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg (the “Energy” part is a recent add-on to the portfolio) recently stayed on song with Tony Abbott’s “coal is the future” by holding up Germany as a developed industrial economy still in the embrace of fossil fuels, saying Germany is still opening new coal mines. He didn’t mention that Germany has four times as many workers in the renewable energy sector as the coal industry and that by the middle of the next decade coal will represent just one-tenth of Germany’s energy mix.

Next article – Culture & Life – Bernie Sanders and mass action

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