By all means, follow the rules. But after hundreds of years of fighting for our rights, we must fight for the freedoms they won’t give back.
Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.Theodore Roosevelt
In 2019, Beijing went hard on the emerging COVID-19 strain in Wuhan. The world watched in horror as apartment buildings were welded shut. This was the lockdown of our nightmares.
Beijing celebrated the success in bringing the virus to heel, suggesting it could only be extinguished through lockdowns.
Inevitably, as the virus spread across the western world. governments rushed to import the Chinese strategy. Lockdown hard and fast, and the virus will disappear for good.
As I write this in Melbourne, 18 months later, and 200 days of lockdown later, I feel that no one with any commonsense could avoid asking whether China was telling the full story.
One of the key architects of the Wuhan lockdown is now warning about the strategy working against the Delta variant, which has emerged in Wuhan.
Zhang Wenhong is a leading Chinese epidemiologist and he’s now questioning the country’s zero tolerance approach.
Like the rest of the world, the Delta variant has now breached China’s defences, with record local infections in dozens of cites.
Authorities are now deciding whether to reintroduce travel restrictions, mass testing and hyperlocal lockdowns. Even though right now, millions of Chinese are in lockdown.
Living with the virus
“The world needs to learn how to coexist with this virus,” Zhang wrote on his social media Weibo platform, where he has three million followers. “What is really difficult is whether we can have the wisdom to coexist with the pandemic in the long run.”
Needless to say, that hasn’t gone down too well with his Chinese masters.
The suggestion of a softened approach to China’s zero-case approach to virus control enraged nationalists.
Zhang has found himself accused of “pandering to foreign ideas,” while an apparent witch hunt is targeting his academic credentials.
But just like in China, anyone who questions the ongoing tough lockdown restrictions is at best bullied, at worst silenced.
The will of the people
In the background, nervous governments watch closely as their multi million dollar public polling rolls in, showing whether or not they still enjoy support of the people.
So any dissent from one of the key architects of China’s original lockdown isn’t going to go down well here either, because they’ve risked the political careers on China’s lockdown strategy.
It’s true – a pandemic makes public protest dangerous. But protest we must, in whatever way we can without risking our health. Governments and bureaucracy must be held accountable, especially during a crisis.
The west often points fingers at totalitarian states for their grip on the people, because of the freedoms they take away.
Australians, and in particular Victorians right now are being warned our “freedoms” are only earned through compliance. This is very dangerous territory.
It’s far from over
Just like the lockdown debate in China right now, the other inconvenient truth for Australian politicians is the situation in the US. Despite the vaccine rollout, masks are back. Partly because not enough people have been vaccinated (though that figure is many many more times higher than Australia at this stage).
On top of that, Australia has had a dangerous public debate about the safety of its most commonly available vaccine, Astra Zeneca. No wonder people are hesitant.
It’s the perfect recipe for ongoing restrictions. Lockdowns in the most populous state of New South Wales could extend into next year. Melburnians are being told that to get out of a longer lockdown, they need to remain in lockdown indefinitely.
A week after Melbourne emerged from its fifth lockdown of the pandemic, it entered its sixth, with no end in sight, and no evidence the restrictions are bringing case number down. So they just impose more restrictions.
Police are roaming children’s playgrounds. It’s now illegal to remove your mask to drink alcohol outside. It’s illegal to leave the house after 9pm, not that there was anything to do anyway.
Worryingly, in Western Australia, the Premier Mark McGowan is holding firm on life with lockdowns even after 80 per cent vaccine rate is met. His public support is at 78% – it turns out the people of WA love the idea of being cut off from the rest of Australia.
After all, Western Australia had been reluctant to join the Federation in 1900.
It is not the function of government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error.Robert H. Jackson
Protest movements often begin with the young, and so it’s no wonder younger people are flouting the rules and contracting the virus.
Some refer to the Delta variant as an epidemic of the young.
While restrictions and lockdowns have kept the virus low, it’s just one set of statistics.
Lessons from September 11
Twenty years after the attacks on 9/11, we are still reeling from the horrors of that day.
But we are also still living with the freedoms we lost as citizens because of that day.
Passed just six weeks after the attacks, the USA PATRIOT Act was created to strengthen domestic security and broaden the powers of law-enforcement agencies.
The act gave the government unprecedented power to indefinitely access and detain immigrants. The FBI was given the freedom to search telephones without a court order.
Facial recognition is common at airports. And data on millions of Americans are being collected and stored.
Trillions were spent on wars against an enemy that couldn’t be defeated.
The hangover from this pandemic is yet to be seen. Restrictions will be in place for a long time – not to mention the constant threat they will return should just one case be detected.
The bigger threat
The biggest threat isn’t the pandemic we see today. It’s the erosion of our freedoms and the acceptance that governments can do as they please with no consequences.
All while our inner-fight is being worn down by the length of harsh lockdowns and the sense that “we can’t do anything about it”.
But make no mistake, this pandemic is going to last a very long time. Restrictions will be in place for a long time – not to mention the constant threat they will return should just one case be detected.
That’s a very dangerous place to be in for a liberal democracy.
Public servants are just that.
“The best lightning rod for your protection is your own spine.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Trump’s campaign tactic – debase and disgrace the legal process
Donald Trump, former president of the United States, hated Arraignment Day I in Manhattan two months ago, the first time a former president had been criminally charged.
Trump was being forced against his will into a proceeding he had utter contempt for. He was being arrested and fingerprinted and photographed under an indictment under the jurisdiction of Manhattan in New York City for allegations of hush money payments and fraudulent bookkeeping practices to conceal criminal activity. Trump heard the charges read out against him and he entered a plea of not guilty.
Trump had a terrible day. Trump wore a scowl throughout. His countenance was fearsome. What Trump hated most about his arraignment in New York is that he had to sit at a table with his counsel side by side with him — equal to him — and with the judge above him looking down on him. Trump could not control the discussion and could not interrupt to make his points.
Trump was subordinate to the judge. He was subordinate to no one as president.
Arraignment Day II
Arraignment Day II in Miami will be worse from Trump, even more stressful. The charges are substantially more serious: the alleged violation of federal criminal statutes involving the alleged mishandling and illegal possession of classified documents, lying to legal authorities, and obstruction of justice. Potential penalties run to years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.
Trump throughout his business life had always crafted his affairs to avoid being a defendant. But in his term in office, he was caught up in it big time. He was a defendant in two impeachment trials – again, unprecedented events – and left office in disgrace.
But Trump does not feel disgraced. He never does. Trump does not have a reverse gear. He never retreats. Never admits. Never concedes. Never yields. Trump is never embarrassed. Trump never feels ashamed. When something goes wrong, it is always the fault of someone else.
Bill Barr SLAMS his former boss:— Republicans against Trump (@RpsAgainstTrump) June 11, 2023
“He’s not a victim here. He was totally wrong that he had the right to have those documents. Those documents are among the most sensitive secrets that the country has…He had no right to maintain them and retain them”pic.twitter.com/VViNFpwbzt
And Trump never repents.
Trump can feel this way because Trump is waging war on behalf of his armies in “the final battle” for the future of the county. In his first, fiery post-indictment speech in Georgia, Trump said, “They’ve launched one witch hunt after another to try and stop our movement, to thwart the will of the American people. In the end, they’re not coming after me. They’re coming after you … “Either we have a Deep State, or we have a Democracy…Either the Deep State destroys America, or WE destroy the Deep State.”
It is a powerful formulation, and his true believers love it.
Hours later, In North Carolina, Trump mainlined his distilled message for the Republican crowd:
“We are a failing nation. We are a nation in decline. And now these radical left lunatics want to interfere with our elections by using law enforcement.
It’s totally corrupt and we cannot let it happen.
.@RepDanGoldman: "Donald Trump believed the law does not apply to him, and that he would do anything he could to conceal and maintain possession of highly, highly classified national security information that would jeopardize our national security." https://t.co/IfX8bV4EVk pic.twitter.com/Gvjv8aNFkn— The Hill (@thehill) June 11, 2023
This is the final battle.
With you at my side we will demolish the Deep State.
We will expel the warmongers from our government.
We will drive out the globalists.
We will cast out the communists.
We will throw off the sick political class that hates our country.
We will roll out the fake news media.
We will defeat Joe Bide and we will liberate America from those villains once and for all.”
Any lesser mortal would be staggered by these events. Any other presidential candidate would be driven from the race. But not Trump.
Debase and disgrace
Trump is using the same playbook today as he successfully triggered after being charged in New York: debase and disgrace the legal process by terming it completely political. Trump said the federal indictment is “election interference at the highest level.”
Almost every other Republican running for president has adopted this line, insulating Trump from pressure to leave the field.
Trump’s chief opponent, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said after these indictments: “The weaponization of federal law enforcement represents a mortal threat to a free society. We have for years witnessed an uneven application of the law depending upon political affiliation.”
Republican congressperson Nancy Mace: “This is a banana republic. I can’t believe this is happening.” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene: “Democrats are arresting their political enemies. and they work together in their corrupt ways to get it done.”
Trump is using his affliction to raise millions of dollars from his base.
Trump will likely face Arraignment Day III in Georgia in August. A state prosecutor is expected to charge Trump with criminal interference in the certification of Georgia’s vote for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
As of now, there is no sign of cracks in Trump’s support among Republican voters. There is no surge to another candidate. What remains to be seen is whether Republican voters, as they see Trump spend his days in courtrooms and his evenings at rallies around the country, reach a conclusion that this is a spectacle too far, too much to bear, and that they want to turn to another conservative populist who stands for them in the political trials— and not the criminal trials – of 2024.
Donald Trump’s legal woes will serve him well
It’s not often that a U.S. President faces federal indictment, but if it’s going to happen to anyone, it might as well be Donald Trump first.
The news that Donald Trump is facing a federal investigation over the removal of secret documents from the White House in 2021 came as no surprise.
Keen watches of the Washington soap opera have seen this playbook before, albeit in a different form.
There is no doubt that Donald Trump is a Washington outsider. But as seriously damaged as he may be (thanks to the events of January 6), his support base has only grown whenever he faces scrutiny.
For his supporters, his legal woes mirror their own relationship with the government – a giant, unfair beast that picks and chooses its fights.
Trump is accused of storing sensitive documents—including those concerning matters of national security—in boxes, some even in a shower.
The documents were seized last August when investigators from the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago.
The Department of Justice has historically avoided charging people who are running for public office. Whether they should do that is a debate for another day. But it’s happening now. And it’s making it all too easy for Trump to claim there is a concerted campaign to get him away from the White House.
Trump exposed the deep state. IF they exist, they probably don’t want him back in power. Whether they exist doesn’t matter really, because plenty of Trump’s supporters agree with him, and believe the secret state is working against them. Call it QAnon, call it a conspiracy – it doesn’t matter in a democracy.
The DoJ now has to go all in. Failing to secure a conviction would be a serious embarrassment for the department.
This is the second time Trump has been indicted in recent months, yet the opinion polls show he only increases his popularity among MAGA and Republican voters. It leaves the Republican party in a difficult position. Support their leading candidate or support the law?
As other Republicans rallied around the embattled candidate, Trump held on to his loyal base of supporters.
For the Democrats, and for Biden, another reality will soon sink in – if Trump becomes President, and they lose office next year, how will a Trump-run DoJ deal with them?
Broadly, the tit-for-tat one-up-manship of U.S. politics is breaking tradition and potentially breaking the country.
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