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Washington is convulsed with fear and loathing | ticker VIEWS

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So, you thought that the last-minute bipartisan breakthrough in the Senate last week to buy some time to deal in December with the debt limit crisis was a good sign? That when the US again comes to the edge of the abyss the lawmakers will have practiced their “get-along” muscles and know what to do?

Forget it.

Bruce Wolpe from the US Studies Centre

Washington is convulsed with fear and loathing.  In the perverted hyper-partisan environment that suffuses the Capitol – both the House and the Senate – the response to working together is … never to work together again.

Let’s start with the loathing first

The Senate Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell, hates the Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer. It’s mutual.  Right after the vote to avoid default, Schumer took the floor and said the Republicans had played a “dangerous and risky partisan game” and that it was the Democrats who could “pull our country back from the cliff’s edge that Republicans tried to push us over.” McConnell, suffused with anger, took his rage to the President, and wrote Biden:

“Senator Schumer exploded in a rant so partisan, angry and corrosive that even Democratic Senators were visibly embarrassed …This childish behavior only further alienated the Republican members who helped facilitate” the temporary fix to the debt limit.

In the House…

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has zero respect for Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. They don’t talk to each other. Even worse:  McCarthy said in August that, if and when Republicans win the House and Pelosi turns the gavel over to him, “It will be hard not to hit her.”  Pelosi has called McCarthy a “moron” over his hostility to wearing masks to curb Covid.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Former President Trump hates a lot of people – especially those Republicans who turned on him for refusing to support Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. 

Most especially, Trump hates Mitch McConnell, and embroiders his rhetoric with a few choice words:  

Weak. Pathetic. Third rate. A stone-cold loser. A dumb son of a bitch. A dour, sullen political hack, bereft of any wisdom or skill.

Former U.S President Donald Trump

This relationship is not going to improve.

Democrats are far from united on how to finally close out the provisions of Biden’s social policy and climate agenda.  Senator Joe Manchin is a major holdout so far.  He does not believe that “we should turn our society into an entitlement society.” To which Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist Senator, said:

“Is protecting working families and cutting childhood poverty an entitlement? Perhaps most importantly, does Senator Manchin not believe what the scientists are telling us, that we face an existential threat regarding climate change?”

Let’s get to the fear bit

For the Republicans, Trump’s loathing of his enemies – or who he sees as enemies – means that Republicans are afraid of crossing him, because he has the power to destroy them.  Even those who deeply want to run in 2024 – former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – know they can’t run if Trump is in, that he will crush them to take the nomination.

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: A large group of pro-Trump protesters stand on the East steps of the Capitol Building after storming its grounds on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. A pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, breaking windows and clashing with police officers. Trump supporters gathered in the nation’s capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

Republicans in the House know that if they make any moves to support the work of the Select Committee investigating the deadly insurrection of January 6, Trump will endorse other Republicans to defeat them in pre-selection for Congress next year. He is already going after the nine Republicans who supported his impeachment for violating his oath of office under the Constitution.

For the Democrats…

If they refuse to agree to agree on the Biden program, the president’s first term will be over this year.

They have in their hands – today – the elements of a wide-ranging legislative agenda that will represent the most significant contributions to improving health, education, income security, and children, since Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s and FDR in the 1930s. Plus massive work on climate change.

U.S President Joe Biden

Unity requires compromise. A loss of three votes in the House, and one in the Senate, dooms the bill.

If there is failure to reach a compromise that brings them all in, the Democrats go into next year’s midterm elections with virtually nothing – except rhetoric and promises – to offer to their voters.

Democrats fear they will lose their majorities in the House and Senate.

And guess what? They will.

And even though Democrats understand the consequences, that fear has not concentrated their efforts enough to agree on the Biden legislation and enact it into law.

And those that survive the purge by the voters will loathe being in Congress without any power.

Bruce Wolpe is a Ticker News US political contributor. He’s a Senior Fellow at the US Studies Centre and has worked with Democrats in Congress during President Barack Obama's first term, and on the staff of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. He has also served as the former PM's chief of staff.

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Aussie comedian on viral climate billboard crusade | ticker VIEWS

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Australian comedian is on a climate crusade to hold world leader’s accountable, one billboard at a time

Dan Ilic is no stranger to the publics attention. He is a renowned presenter, comedian, and filmmaker, and podcast guru. Ilic is passionate about tackling climate change and using his voice and platform to hold Governments to account.

Global attention

In October, Ilic managed to book the biggest electronic billboard in Times Square, New York City. The aim of the campaign was to humiliate the Australian Government and its climate change perspectives.

Ilic raised money from over 2000 people to fund the billboard campaign in one of the busiest places in the world. At the cost of $16,000 for ten minutes on screen, the sign wasn’t cheap, but it was effective.

The vocal billboards captured the attention of the world and did not hold back on their messaging. This campaign followed weeks of debate over Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison attending the COP26 Glasgow climate meeting.

Morrison held off on confirming his attendance at the critical meet until the last moment, announcing on October 15 that he would be going. Ilic suggests it may have been the billboards that convinced the Prime Minister to book his flight to Glasgow.

COP26 Climate Summit

World leaders are preparing to convene in Glasgow at the historical COP26 climate summit. Australia has been divided on what targets it will be taking to the meeting. Its Nationals Party continued to hold off on an agreement but has agreed to net-zero emissions by 2050.

“Do we give them a lollipop or take them to Disneyland, I don’t think you should get any awards for doing the bare minimum.”

Dan Ilic- Comedian, Presenter, Podcast Host

 

COP26 has been deemed one of the most critical climate meets of all time. The world will be watching on as world leaders make their ambitions and targets to cut their emissions.

All of the science says we’re experiencing climate change and if the world doesn’t act now it will be too late.

“The real issue is, what’s going to be our 2030 target?”

Scott Hamilton, energy expert & Ticker Climate co-host

Billboard bonanza

After incredible attention and success with the Times Square billboard campaign, Ilic has his eyes set on other key areas to gain traction. There will be a billboard at the front of Barnaby Joyce’s office of a burning Kangaroo and one near the seat of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

“It’ll say something like… Hey, it’s time to buy a standing desk because you’re about to lose your seat.”

Dan Ilic- Comedian, Presenter, Podcast Host

 

 

 

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Biden channels his inner Gough | ticker VIEWS

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As Joe Biden prepares to face his most momentous week as president, with his entire legislative agenda on the line in Congress over the next few days, Biden is channeling his inner Gough Whitlam, who famously said:

“You’ve got to crash through or you have got to crash.”

Whitlam was more charismatic, more tumultuous in bearing and outlook, more larger than life than Biden. 

Edward Gough Whitlam AC QC was the 21st prime minister of Australia

But not more of a dreamer of what a good government should stand for.  The pillars of Whitlam’s policy agenda – health care, education, labour rights, human rights, anti-racism, gender equity, fairer taxes – are the same as what Biden is championing in his “Care Economy” program.

The president has been clear:  he demands action now

BRUCE WOLPE ON BIDEN’S PLEDGE TO UNIFY USA

He wants to take his climate policies to Glasgow to show the world that the United States is a leader in moving the planet to net zero by 2050 – and a lot more progress before 2030. 

And he wants to tell the American people that more help on the issues they care about every day – good jobs at good wages, education for their children and removing the wolf of poverty from their doors, expanded access to affordable health care, rebuilding roads and digital highways – is about to arrive.

Republicans are unalterably opposed and are resisting the Biden program with full political force.

The Democratic margin in the House is three votes.  There is no margin in the Senate; all 50 Democrats, plus the vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, are essential. This is why Biden said in his CNN Town Hall last week that, in the 100-member Senate:

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the May jobs report after U.S. employers boosted hiring amid the easing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, U.S., June 4, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

“Every one is a president. Every single one. So you gotta work something out.”

That’s what Biden is doing.  He is in the late stages of reaching an agreement with his Democrats in both chambers.  He has had to jettison free community college, reduce paid parental leave, abandon lower prescription drug prices through Medicare and higher tax rates for corporations. 

Still, if this scaled-back legislation is passed, Biden will have this year delivered $5 trillion in economic stimulus and investment in American households. 

In scale and scope, what Biden has on the table in Congress is as significant as Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

This is why this week is Biden’s crash through or crash moment

BRUCE WOLPE ON WHY BIDEN IS AT A CROSS ROADS RIGHT NOW

If he succeeds, it will be momentous in its own right, and will give Democrats momentum as they face the midterm elections for the control of Congress next year. 

If he succeeds, it will give Biden political capital to prosecute the racial equity agenda in a Senate choked by its rules for legislative debate.  

But if Biden fails, if the Democrats do not unify and vote this legislation through the House and Senate, Biden’s presidency will come to a screeching halt.  There will be no more progressive legislation of real consequence. 

Unlike Gough, Biden cannot be removed as president by a Governor General, but there will be nothing to save his presidency from paralysis for the balance of this term.

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The world’s most locked down city is free but is re-entry anxiety hitting Melbourne? | ticker VIEWS

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Melbourne was once the world’s most liveable city. It appears that Covid-19 agrees, as the city recently ended its sixth lockdown

Victorians have been isolated for 262 days. It’s a grim statistic. In fact, it makes Melbourne the world’s most locked down city.

Unsurprisingly, Victoria is also the state with Australia’s highest number of Covid-19 infections (over 73,100), and deaths (1,005).

During lockdown, people began smiling through their face masks as they greeted passers-by on their daily walks. Cupboards were cleaned, old clothes were thrown out, and alcohol consumption was rife.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews put it bluntly, “these are shitty choices”.

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews

But on Friday, restaurants popped open their first bottles of champagne in months; and people left their homes outside of curfew hours. These are the things that weren’t allowed just days ago, under the state’s strict stay-at-home orders.

But for some, the mental health toll of being locked down for such a long time is hitting home.

Ticker’s own Dr Kieran Kennedy says re-entry anxiety are “feelings of uncertainty, fear and anxiety around pandemic restrictions lowering”.

Psychiatrists believe re-entry anxiety is characterised by a major period of change.

What can help?

There are a range of techniques that are clinically proven to reduce anxiety during periods of change.

  • acknowledge it
  • take it slow
  • put a simple routine or structure in place
  • plan steps to get back outside
  • look after yourself
  • talk to people
  • recognise the symptoms.

As Melbourne, and the world opens back up, there’s one word that comes to mind for me: balance.

The shadow pandemic

Australia has recently made the shift from a Covid-zero and lockdown mentality, to living with the virus.

Other countries have already adopted this approach, like the United Kingdom, where case numbers are spiking, and smaller nations like Singapore.

“We need to update our mindsets. We should respect Covid-19, but we must not be paralysed by fear.”

SINGAPORE’s PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG

Some places are still working towards Covid-zero, including China, which was once the epicentre of the virus.

But as countries begin to emerge from the height of the pandemic, the mental health impacts are also coming to light.

LifeLine—a mental health support service—reported its busiest days in its 57-year history. Calls have reportedly increased by 40 per cent in recent months.

“Just two years ago we were averaging under 2,500 calls a day,” the company’s chair, John Brigden said.

You can almost feel these impacts in Melbourne. From businesses with a ‘for lease’ sticker splashed across their front windows, or for me, the reluctance of jumping straight into a weekend of socialising.

“Today we are regularly seeing more than 3,500—a 40 per cent increase.”

Lifeline chair John Brogden.

Our health experts are telling us that it isn’t the end either.

Professor Adrian Esterman is a former epidemiologist with the World Health Organisation. He says there are a “host of potential viruses” that may cause the next pandemic in our lifetime.

It’s important to acknowledge this, because we are not immune to disasters or change. The world is a complex place.

Importantly, there’s no race to get back to anything. Yes, restrictions have eased but for some, the time to adjust may take a little longer.

I’m not trying to suppress anyone’s feeling of excitement, rather, just shine a light on the perils of re-entry.

Back to reality

As cities bounce back from an incredibly devastating and dark period, I’m having different conversations with my peers.

We’re talking more about our mental health—the harsh toll of being isolated from the things that we love.

But moving back into a ‘normal’ routine—with social and community commitments—isn’t easy.

In fact, research shows that sudden changes can lead to tiredness, stress and irritability—the term known as re-entry anxiety.

Above all, it can lead to unease. We’ve all changed our priorities and daily activities for well over a year, it’s bound to affect our recovery.

Picnics are back, as people around the world celebrate ‘freedom day’.

For me, I wonder what the world will look like in a month, and years to come.

I’m not in any hurry to rush back to ‘normal’ because our entire sense of normality has changed.

I think it’s been nice to strip life back, and appreciate the smaller things—a walk on the beach; dinner at the table; or connecting with an old relative.

However, I appreciate that the world moves fast, and people are keen to suppress these recent memories.

As people make reservations; gather outdoors, and see their friends; it’s time to enjoy these freedoms—at our own pace.

But remember, there is always light at the end of the tunnel if you are struggling—short, or long-term.

If you, or someone you know needs help, please contact your local helpline.

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