Episode 183 – Vetoes, walls and fishing for whales

No other podcast would be game enough to tackle in one episode an explanation or debate over the Trump wall, presidential veto powers, presidential transition arrangements, EU funding of the wall between Turkey and Syria, US foreign policy in Latin America, the history of capital gains tax and dodgy bank lending in Australia, the religious affiliation of politicians,  your chances of inheriting DNA from ancient ancestors, whether the Rosetta stone should be returned to Egypt, a registry of shell companies in tax havens, Japanese whaling and French riots.

2:14 Trump wants his wall

The presidential veto power is interesting.

Shutdowns of the type experienced by the United States are possible in other countries that have presidential systems; however, they are nearly impossible in other forms of government. Under the parliamentary system used in most European nations, the executive and legislative branch are not separate, with the parliament designating all executive officials, typically called “ministers”, and typically an election is triggered if a budget fails to pass; see Confidence and supply.

8:45 ‘This guy doesn’t know anything’: the inside story of Trump’s shambolic transition team

Trump was apoplectic, yelling: You’re stealing my money! You’re stealing my fucking money! What the fuck is this?

He went to see Trump about it. Trump said he didn’t want a presidential transition team. Why did anyone need to plan anything before he actually became president? It’s legally required, said Christie. Trump asked where the money was going to come from to pay for the transition team. Christie explained that Trump could either pay for it himself or take it out of campaign funds. Trump didn’t want to pay for it himself. He didn’t want to take it out of campaign funds, either, but he agreed, grudgingly, that Christie should go ahead and raise a separate fund to pay for his transition team. “But not too much!” he said.

in July 2016, when Trump was formally named the Republican nominee. The transition team now moved into an office in downtown Washington DC, and went looking for people to occupy the top 500 jobs in the federal government. They needed to fill all the cabinet positions, of course, but also a whole bunch of others that no one in the Trump campaign even knew existed. It is not obvious how you find the next secretary of state, much less the next secretary of transportation – never mind who should sit on the board of trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.

The first time Trump paid attention to any of this was when he read about it in the newspaper. The story revealed that Trump’s very own transition team had raised several million dollars to pay the staff. The moment he saw it, Trump called Steve Bannon, the chief executive of his campaign, from his office on the 26th floor of Trump Tower, and told him to come immediately to his residence, many floors above. Bannon stepped off the elevator to find Christie seated on a sofa, being hollered at. Trump was apoplectic, yelling: You’re stealing my money! You’re stealing my fucking money! What the fuck is this?

Seeing Bannon, Trump turned on him and screamed: Why are you letting him steal my fucking money? Bannon and Christie together set out to explain to Trump federal law. Months before the election, the law said, the nominees of the two major parties were expected to prepare to take control of the government. The government supplied them with office space in downtown DC, along with computers and rubbish bins and so on, but the campaigns paid their people. To which Trump replied: Fuck the law. I don’t give a fuck about the law. I want my fucking money. Bannon and Christie tried to explain that Trump couldn’t have both his money and a transition.

Shut it down, said Trump. Shut down the transition.

Here Christie and Bannon parted ways. Neither thought it was a good idea to shut down the transition, but each had his own misgivings. Christie thought that Trump had little chance of running the government without a formal transition. Bannon wasn’t so sure if Trump would ever get his mind around running the federal government; he just thought it would look bad if Trump didn’t at least seem to prepare. Seeing that Trump wasn’t listening to Christie, he said: “What do you think Morning Joe will say if you shut down your transition?” What Morning Joe would say – or at least what Bannon thought it would say – was that Trump was closing his presidential transition office because he didn’t think he had any chance of being president.

Trump stopped hollering. For the first time he seemed to have listened.

“That makes sense,” he said.

With that, Christie went back to preparing for a Trump administration. He tried to stay out of the news, but that proved difficult. From time to time, Trump would see something in the paper about Christie’s fundraising and become upset all over again. The money that people donated to his campaign Trump considered, effectively, his own. He thought the planning and forethought pointless. At one point he turned to Christie and said: “Chris, you and I are so smart that we can leave the victory party two hours early and do the transition ourselves.”

17:01 The EU-funded wall that nobody wants to talk about

This is not Donald Trump’s desired border wall between the USA and Mexico, nor is it Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán’s fence which stops the flow of migrants into Europe – this is a 764-kilometre wall between Turkey and Syria, funded by none other than the European Union.

Turkey shares an 822 kilometre border with Syria, a country which has suffered bombardment from all angles since 2011, including several EU member states. The wall runs through the provinces of Sanliurfa, Gaziantep, Kilis, Hatay, Mardin and Sirnak and incorporates physical, electronic and advanced technology layers.

The physical layer includes modular concrete walls, patrol routes, manned and unmanned towers and passenger tracks.

While the EU and its loyal followers persistently preach that any form of borders are racist, many will be shocked to learn that the construction of this wall was largely funded by the 28-member state union.

According to DER SPIEGEL:

“The EU states have provided the government in Ankara with security and surveillance technology valued at more than 80 million euros in exchange for the protection of its borders.

This included the transfer of 35.6 million euros by Brussels to the Turkish company Otokar as part of its IPA regional development program for the construction of armoured Cobra II military vehicles, which are now being used to patrol the border to Syria.”

Additionally, in 2016, the EU pledged €3 billion to Turkey under the guise of humanitarian aid to the Syrian refugees in the country. In reality, this deal served to trap the existing 3.5million refugees in Turkey and left those hoping to flee their war-torn country at even further risk.

27:03 Frydenberg defends discounts for capital gains

Frydenberg thinks he is on a winner for favouring capital gains over ordinary income but he is in for a shock.

31:05 Frydenberg has no sense of history

Josh Frydenberg has called on the banks to reignite “affordable and timely” lending after new figures revealed national house prices ­suffered their worst year since the global financial crisis.

Prospective home-loan borrowers are being frustrated by ­extended loan applications and tougher screening processes at the country’s major banks, after they were shamed over lending standards at the financial services royal commission.

RBA figures this week showed lending to property investors had fallen to its slowest rate since the Reserve Bank began collecting the data in 1990. Lending to owner-occupiers has also slipped to its slowest rate since the end of 2015.

Figures released yesterday showed that the big four banks all but turned the tap off for in­vestor loans over the year ended November 30. Two lenders — the ANZ and ­Commonwealth Bank — shrank their investor housing ­exposure. APRA statistics show the total investor loan book of the big four banks was $471.4 billion compared with $471.1bn in the same month of 2017. There are signs banks could be prepared to dip back into the market.

Analysis for The Australian, collated by comparison site Finder, shows in the past two months CBA has reduced the rate on at least one investor loan product at subsidiary Bankwest, while Westpac has cut a raft of investor interest rates across its St George, Bank of Melbourne and BankSA loans.

Analysts warn weakening house prices could result in falling wealth, with a corresponding cut in spending that could dampen growth. “With a federal election likely to be held sometime in May, we may see a further negative impact on confidence, ­especially among investors who will be impacted by changes to taxation policy should there be a change of government,” Core­Logic head of research Tim Lawless said.

34:20 The Fist is jealous of the stats for the religiosity of the Congress

See here

38:09 DNA is not a liquid that can be divided down into microscopic drops.

The geneticist Graham Coop of the University of California, Davis, and his colleagues have studied how DNA disappears. If you pick one of your ancestors from 10 generations back, the odds are around 50 percent that you carry any DNA from him or her. The odds get even worse beyond that.

39:40 Should ancient artefacts be returned from overseas museums?

Should the Rosetta stone and other artifacts be returned to their country of origin?

53:02 Glencore

54:00 Coalition pledge to crack down on tax avoidance achieves almost nothing in three years

After the publication of the Panama Papers revealed how some of the world’s wealthiest companies and people were using a law firm to minimise their tax responsibilities, and following a similar move in the UK, the Australian government agreed to establish a public registry of beneficial ownership of shell companies.

The register would be designed to expose the shell companies and allow tax authorities to scrutinise who exactly owned each part of a business.

Kelly O’Dwyer confirmed the move in April 2016, saying it would “improve transparency” and would mean the public and authorities would know “who ultimately controls the company”, making it easier to “disrupt illicit financial flows” and “much, much harder to engage in tax avoidance”.

But since then, the register has stalled. Inquiries on the register’s status to O’Dwyer’s office were referred to the assistant treasurer Stuart Robert’s office, which then passed them to the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, who sent the inquiry back to Robert’s office.

Labor has committed to introducing one if it wins the 2019 election, with the shadow assistant treasurer, Andrew Leigh, saying it would also include trusts, which were excluded from the government’s 2017 consultation process.

It’s been over two years after they promised to implement reforms that would tell us who really owns Australia’s firms, and over a year since the consultation ended,” Leigh said.

Reform has stalled … It is clear that the only way Australia will get a beneficial ownership registry is under a Shorten Labor government.”

Ikea

But financial statements issued to the Australian Securities & Investments Commission show Ikea’s 15 per cent increase in gross profit of $530.6m in 2018 was quickly eroded by a myriad of opaque expenses and fees that ultimately saw Ikea post a $12.7m loss for the 2018 financial year.

Patreon, Sam Harris and Free Speech

The right to curate may be lost if you have a monopoly.

In a conversation published in February on the Dutch right-wing YouTube account Michelle Catlin, Benjamin said the following of the alt-right, who he opposes and claims have launched a targeted campaign against him:

I just can’t be bothered with people who chose to treat me like this. It’s really annoying. Like, I - . You’re acting like a bunch of n******, just so you know. You act like white n******. Exactly how you describe black people acting is the impression I get dealing with the Alt Right… Look, you carry on, but don’t expect me to then have a debate with one of your f******.…Like why would I bother?…Maybe you’re just acting like a n****r, mate? Have you considered that? Do you think white people act like this? White people are meant to be polite and respectful to one another, and you guys can’t even act like white people, it’s really amazing to me.”

I think we will stick with Patreon but give people an option to donate outside of Patreon.

Also, after feedback from patrons, the free content will continue.

1:01:35 Japan confirms it will quit IWC to resume commercial whaling

Our friend Caitlin is not happy but isn’t it just another case of fishing?

Japan is facing international condemnation after confirming it will resuming commercial whaling for the first time in more than 30 years.

The country’s fleet will resume commercial operations in July next 2019, the government’s chief spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said of the decision to defy the 1986 global ban on commercial whaling.

Suga told reporters the country’s fleet would confine its hunts to Japanese territorial waters and exclusive economic zone, adding that its controversial annual expeditions to the Southern Ocean – a major source of diplomatic friction between Tokyo and Canberra – would end.

He said Japan would officially inform the IWC of its decision by the end of the year, which will mean the withdrawal comes into effect by 30 June.

… “Most whale populations have not yet recovered, including larger whales such as blue whales, fin whales and sei whales.”

1:10:26 Can the Yellow Vests Speak?

When the ruling classes and certain media talk about homophobia and racism in the gilets jaunes movement, they are not really talking about homophobia and racism. They are saying “Poor people, shut up!” 
There are different ways of saying “I am suffering.” And a social movement is precisely the moment where the possibility opens up that the suffering will no longer say “I am suffering because of immigration and my neighbor who’s on benefits,” but will instead say “I am suffering because of those who rule. I am suffering because of the class system, because of Emmanuel Macron and [prime minister] Édouard Philippe.”
Voltaire exaggerated when he quipped that insurrection was France’s only invention, as did Carlyle in claiming that forming riotous mobs is the “talent (that) distinguishes the French People from all Peoples, ancient and modern”.
… but technology cannot explain the movement’s success; rather, it spread so rapidly because it tapped into such deep discontent. The immediate spark — a now abandoned increase in fuel taxes — is well known. What merits closer attention is the ferocity of the reaction. Listening to interviews with participants, it is clear that its sources were not solely economic.
No less striking, however, was the elite’s reaction. Macron’s regal arrogance was on full display when he referred repeatedly to “the French people” and “their leaders”, as if the country’s governing caste was a natural aristocracy. But even more shocking (including to the newspaper’s editors) was the response when Le Monde featured a gilets jaunes couple who, with three young children, struggle to make ends meet. The newspaper’s online comments were inundated with abuse, as its highly educated, well-heeled readers — whose sense of liberteegalitefraternite unfailingly extends to migrants and refugees — denounced their fellow citizens as worthless white trash, highlighting the roots of the gilets jaunes’ fury.
That is the essence of our predicament. A destabilising outrage on one side; the incomprehension of governing elites on the other.
Then the author ruins a good article by saying: Forty years ago, faced with a similar crisis, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan founded a new politics that gave the roar a voice, rebuilding the foundations of political stability. Now, however, neither the Right nor the Left seems to have the capabilities — of political craftsmanship and imagination — required for devising such a new politics.

1:20:01 The Masterpiece Bakery is back

The US baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple on religious grounds is facing a fresh lawsuit — this time for refusing to bake a cake celebrating a gender transition.

Transgender lawyer Autumn Scardina called Mr Phillips’s bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop, in 2017, requesting a cake that was blue on the outside and pink on the inside.

Mr Phillips’s shop refused to make the cake after Ms Scardina revealed she wanted it to celebrate her transition from male to female.

1:21:10 Sky After Dark

This is going to be a bigger problem. My Qantas flight home from Sydney featured these vandals.

The problem with Sky after dark is that it is basically a small, narrow group of people talking to a small, narrow, group of people who happen to be influential in the National and Liberal parties. These party members spout back extremist arguments to their MPs who are “completely spooked by it”, and are easily swayed on climate change and refugee policy.

As News Corp implemented a full takeover of Sky in 2016, the rightward lurch was being watched over by Lachlan Murdoch from New York, apparently the only person with a Foxtel set top box outside Australia. It seems, like his father, Lachlan is anything but a passive viewer, and, according to some, further to the right. Murdoch has a “great interest in what is going on at Sky – particularly after dark”, one observer noted. There appears to be no mystery about the direction from New York.

1:23:35 Another Criminal Who Cannot Be Named

A well-known Indigenous leader who repeatedly attacked a woman, including choking her until she played dead and pushing her head into mud, has been jailed for trying to strangle her. Should the privacy of the victim outweigh the public interest of publicising criminals?

1:25:40 How Replicable are the Social Priming Studies in “Thinking Fast and Slow”?

This result confirms Kahneman’s prediction that priming research is a train wreck and readers of his book “Thinking Fast and Slow” should not consider the presented studies as scientific evidence that subtle cues in their environment can have strong effects on their behaviour outside their awareness.
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