Three documentaries–one of them a surprise thanks to NITV

No matter how you look at it, the key fact in this country’s history since the 18th century is dispossession. On the other hand none of the current possessors/inhabitants is going anywhere.  That’s the paradox we have inherited and have to deal with.

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And then the strangers came…

On Sunday I watched the excellent episode of The First Australians dealing with Western Australia: Jandamarra, the revolting A O Neville, Moore River and so on.  Here were events from my grandparents’ generation, then from my parents’ generation and indeed my own lifetime. A fitting climax to the episode, even allowing for the disappointments one feels at times, was the Kevin Rudd apology of 2008.

In Redfern February 2008 – I was there.

Then last night ABC1 showed Coniston.

In 1928, following the murder of a white dingo trapper, Central Australia would witness the last known massacre of it’s indigenous people. With over one hundred killed during a series of punitive expeditions, now known as the Coniston Massacre, many lived to tell of the wholesale slaughter of innocent people. For the first time those who survived this bloody episode get to tell their side of the story in this new documentary on the Coniston Massacre co-produced by PAW Media and Rebel Films.

Not a single academic historian in sight – just the descendants of survivors or, indeed, actual survivors in some cases. Compelling stuff, and all happening in my parents’ lifetime. Just as my mother’s stories of the same years in another part of the country command my respect so, more so even, do these.

But of course Australia is far from the only country whose history is rooted in dispossession or where that dispossession has been followed by greater or lesser death of peoples and cultures and languages. So to North America, and the USA in particular. Last night NITV surprised with the showing of a 2012 German documentary, Bury My Heart in Dresden.

A Catholic cemetery in Dresden. A grey and weathered gravestone protrudes from the snow. At its foot stands a small American flag. The inscription on the old stone reveals who was laid to rest here in 1914: Edward Two Two, Sioux chief. Strange. How did one of the Sioux Indians, whose home is North America, end up in Dresden of all places? And why was he buried here?

Bettina Renner pursues this question, rummaging in archives and travelling to South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation to visit Edward Two Two’s old homeland. Edward Two Two came to Germany as part of one of the so-called “human zoos”. In those days, people who fulfilled the local audience’s desire for the exotic would be taken from all over the world and presented in elaborately choreographed shows. The participants, who were sometimes paraded through town, would attract a lot of attention as soon as they arrived. Edward Two Two initially came with his wife and a granddaughter to Hagenbeck, based in Hamburg, later moving on to Dresden’s Sarrasani circus. At the time, Indians were the biggest attraction. Living in tepees in front of the circus tent, they were required to wear a feathered headdress and traditional clothing at all times as well as dance and sing. Flocking past, the large audiences loved them. They corresponded to a common, romanticised image of the Indians. Yet in their homeland the reality had long been far different. From their free life on the prairie, the Native Americans were forced into reservations and subjected to a programme of re-education. The consequences were fatal; hunger and disease were rife. How are things today in the reservation Edward Two Two left behind for Germany at the beginning of the last century? Bettina Renner embarks upon a journey, meeting descendants of Edward Two Two. Gradually she comes closer to the answer of why the Lakota Sioux Edward Two Two, who in real life was never a chief, was determined that his final resting place be in Dresden soil.

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“Chief” Edward Two Two of the Latoka Sioux

See also "Bury My Heart in Dresden" Makes North American Premiere in Chicago and Dokumentarfilmerin Bettina Renner — Ein Sioux in Sachsen.

And dispossession takes many guises.

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Click to see who, what and where.

Dispossession always comes at a cost – to the dispossessors as well as to the dispossessed.

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Good things on TV last night

I long ago downloaded Louis Theroux’s excellent 2007 doco on the barking mad Phelps clan miscalled a church and much loved by atheists all around the world, so I was hot to see the sequel on ABC2 last night, Here is was called Louis Theroux: Return to The Most Hated Family. There is nothing worth admiring about the Phelpses, though one’s heart does go out to those brave and bright enough to escape Lady Macbeth and the execrable bigot Gramps.

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Louis Theroux showed himself more truly Christian, even if he is an atheist/agnostic, than his hosts. And if ever you doubted that individualistic Bible Study can be very dangerous, an odd position to hold given the history of the Christian church and its offshoots, then surely this clan would convince you. One thing was for sure – Jesus, should he have turned up, would have been totally alienated by the Phelpses and all they stand for. They really are quite revolting.

In 2007, Louis Theroux spent a summer living with the community of the Westboro Baptist Church in the USA, famed for their offensive ministry. Now Louis returns to find the family more hateful than ever.

When Louis first met the Phelps family, he accompanied the family as they travelled the country holding signs such as ‘God Hates Fags’ and ‘Soldiers Die God Laughs’. America hated them and they revelled in their notoriety.

Now Louis returns to find a very different community. More like a cult than ever before, they are convinced the world is about to end and are making even more outrageous gestures such as burning the Koran.

Louis is accepted back into the family, but he finds them more combative than before. They see him as part of the prophecy; the ‘mocker and scoffer’ sent by God to chide his elect.

As the family’s behaviour becomes even more extreme, some of the younger members of the Church have fallen away. Louis catches up with those who made the decision to leave the family, knowing that in doing so, they will never see their parents again.

Although Louis finds the Phelps family more vengeful, more hateful and more controversial than ever, he also finds a family heading towards uncertain times, losing its members as it binds its youngest ever more tightly.

The doco is also called Louis Theroux – America’s Most Hated Family IN CRISIS.

Over on ABC News 24 at 9.30 there was an excellent documentary Who Makes The News? exploring the relationship between television and politics.

Narrated by ABC broadcaster Geraldine Doogue, the program retraces some of the biggest political stories of the past 50 years, with archival vision and interviews with ABC reporters and political operatives that shed light on the mindsets and decisions that shaped Australia and its broadcast news.

Who Makes The News? revisits ABC political coverage: the impact of the Vietnam War; the rise and fall of Gough Whitlam; the day Bob Hawke became Labor leader; Paul Keating’s Redfern speech; John Howard’s gun buyback program and the security scares of 2001; and the Rudd/Gillard contest of 2010.

This documentary also explores current views on the impact of the continuous news cycle on political outcomes. Interviews include: Kerry O’Brien, Gerald Stone, Tim Bowden, Barrie Cassidy, Greg Turnbull, Jim Middleton, Grahame Morris, Lachlan Harris, Chris Uhlmann, Mark Simkin, Arthur Sinodinos, Russell Mahoney, Ken Begg and Fran Kelly.

This TV special has been produced in conjunction with the celebration of 50 years of local ABC TV broadcasting in Canberra. Executive Producer: Eric Napper.

If it is shown again don’t miss it. It was also, in my view, very fair-minded.

Gaza… What the f***!!!

I can’t help seeing merit in Gaza Bleeds as Israeli Right Wing Prepares for Elections. Yes, written by Zainab S Khan on The Platform. So? Alan Dershowitz is more objective? You jest, surely… According to Khan:

So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.”

Obama’s speech at the Cairo University, Egypt (4 June 2009)

With these words echoing throughout the Middle East, the world was made a promise four years ago – a promise of ‘change’ and ‘freedom’. As we got sucked into the euphoria of the inauguration and momentarily turned our gaze, Israel took the opportunity to disable Gaza, bringing its people once more to their knees.  By December 2008, Operation Cast Lead was in full effect. The three-week Operation strategically bombed schools, hospitals and urban areas resulting in the deaths of 1,417 Palestinians, including 926 civilians, compared to three Israeli civilians. The people of Gaza looked to the newly elected President, only to find that his earlier sentiments had withered away with power.

As of 14 November 2012, Israel – yet again – launched a systematic attack on the largely defenceless population of Gaza. Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’ has reportedly killed 45 Palestinians, including a pregnant woman and 12 children, and has caused over 400 casualties. The American response followed its usual course, as it has largely done for decades – of unwavering support: “the United States’ support for Israel’s right to self-defence in light of the barrage of rocket attacks being launched from Gaza against Israeli civilians”. The hypocrisy of Obama’s words in Egypt are further highlighted as the people of Gaza once more face continuous bombardment, with no electricity and declining food and medicine. Gaza’s right to exist is again denied.

Writing this, I am left asking myself the same questions as I did four years ago. How long will Israel maintain the facade of self-defence to justify the mass slaughter of a besieged population, and what are the real reasons behind Israel’s aggression?

Israel’s disproportionate attacks have sent their PR team into overdrive…

Paul McGeough in the Sydney Morning Herald sees such a  pattern too.

We don’t have a clue how it will end, except there is a growing sense that even by regional standards, it will set a new benchmark in ugliness and that it has a special ability to draw in the rest of the region. Might be a time to tread lightly – yes?

So with all that in mind, it was courageous – in the Yes, Prime Minister meaning of the term – for Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu to decide that he absolutely had to go to war against Gaza this week.

Still testing its footing after the tectonic shifts of the Arab Spring, Israel might have opted for a less aggressive test of its ”cold peace” alliance with Egypt, which, after years of dictatorship, has an Islamist administration that is required to respond to its people’s massive and heartfelt sympathy for the Palestinians.

Could Netanyahu be so cynical as to stage-manage this show of force, because he faces re-election in a matter of weeks? That’s what some commentators say. Even as he threatens war on Iran and contends with the Syrian conflict on his doorstep, might he have hit Gaza in the hope of showing the world what a bad lot the Palestinians are – on the eve of a Palestinian bid for greater recognition at the United Nations?

It has to be said that for a conflict that can cause so much pain to so many people, it may well be the leadership aspirations of a handful that drive this current chapter – and not just on the Israeli side…

He also notes today that Obama has to factor Arab Spring into reaction to Israeli-Hamas crisis.

Absolute support has been the default position of American politics for decades. But might this President see that the geopolitical reconfiguring of the Middle East in the past two years makes that historic position untenable?

The Arab Spring was a bolt from the blue – an event that most who monitor the Middle East didn’t see coming. But in it, millions of defenceless Arabs found the courage to rise to meet and to grasp the soaring rhetoric of Obama’s famous Cairo speech delivered in June 2009.

It was brilliant stuff. You remember the lines – ”I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.”…

In Haaretz Khaled Diab begs: “Israelis and Gazans: Don’t buy your leaders’ rhetoric!”  Chemi Shalev notes “For Israel’s PR war on Gaza, it may be all downhill from here.”

I took the photo above in January 2009 in Sydney. It is linked to the relevant entry. See also A rabbi on Gaza from that time. And on this blog Tread warily in the graveyard called Palestine/Israel among other posts tagged “Israel”.

This letter in today’s Sydney Morning Herald is truistic but nonetheless totally relevant.

My Facebook friends include people with more or less partisan views on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a result, in recent days I have had many graphic colour pictures appearing on my wall, some showing bloodied Israeli civilian casualties, others showing bloodied Palestinian civilian casualties.

What all these pictures demonstrate is that the colour of the spilt blood of innocent Israelis is exactly the same as the colour of the spilt blood of innocent Palestinians.

Paul Norton Highgate Hill (Qld)

Searchings — 2

There really have been so many things I have seen or read in the past few days that deserve to be shared, that have provoked more reflection than I can possibly capture in one blog post or even two. To continue…

Sunday and Monday we had the two compelling episodes of Devil’s Dust.

An intensely personal drama based on one of Australia’s most shocking corporate scandals, Devil’s Dust tells the story of ordinary Australians caught in a web of deception in the James Hardie asbestos saga.

The two-part series follows four people – led by everyday hero and ex-Hardie’s employee Bernie Banton (Anthony Hayes) – thrown together by a tragedy that becomes a high-stakes battle through the corridors of corporate, political and media power.

Spanning four decades, Devil’s Dust shows industrial manufacturer James Hardie first cover up its knowledge of the dangers of its asbestos mining and products and then threaten compensation plans by moving the company overseas.

But it is not just a story of court cases and corporate legalese. Devil’s Dust depicts Australians from all walks of life whose lives are ripped apart by a deadly dust that looks so innocent, yet is so lethal.

In the 1970s, Bernie Banton works on the James Hardie BI factory floor in Parramatta where asbestos dust is piled like snowdrifts. Little does he realise the impact the dust will have on him, his family and his colleagues – and that he will inspire a nation with his determination to hold his former employer to account.

Young and tenacious ABC journalist Matt Peacock (Ewen Leslie) uncovers the dramatic gap between the dangers of asbestos known to international scientists and the public position of James Hardie and its allies.

When Matt meets Bernie during an interview for The 7.30 Report he anoints him the unofficial spokesperson for the asbestos compensation campaign. As the two become fixated on pursuing James Hardie, it’s up to Bernie’s wife, Karen (Alexandra Schepisi), to pick up the pieces at home. Karen helps Bernie handle the emotional burden of fighting for victims of asbestosis and mesothelioma, the cancer caused by asbestos – and to face his own asbestos fate.

The fictional character of James Hardie spin doctor Adam Bourke (Don Hany) is Matt and Bernie’s nemesis, as he works hard to protect the interests of the company’s shareholders. But far from being ruthless and uncaring, Adam experiences terrible moral dilemmas when he realises that the health and survival of thousands of Australians is jeopardised by the materials his company manufactured.

Based on interviews with those who have survived and the stories of those who have died, Devil’s Dust is inspired by the work of Matt Peacock, author of the book Killer Company.

The legacy of asbestos will continue for decades to come. By 2030, asbestos-related illnesses are expected to have killed more than 60,000 Australians, more than our country’s death toll in WW1.

Remember one of Tony Abbott’s less noble moments, from 2007?

Still putting his size 10s in his cakehole in 2012, I see…

That the events depicted dramatically but essentially truthfully in Devil’s Dust should serve to destroy any naive belief in the intrinsic goodness of capitalists, entrepreneurs  and markets is so obvious as to be hardly worth saying, and on an even greater scale consider the book I am now reading: Inside Job: The Financiers Who Pulled Off the Heist of the Century, by Charles Ferguson, Oneworld 2012. Thanks, Wollongong Library.

Charles Ferguson’s Inside Job, winner of the 2011 Academy Award for best documentary feature, is essential viewing for anyone who wants to understand the causes of the financial crisis. Although narrator Matt Damon brought Hollywood glitz, the film’s stars were the bankers, regulators and academics interviewed by Ferguson. The director’s gentle interrogation and good humour coaxed his subjects into attempting to explain their actions. Most failed. Like all good political documentaries, it informed and infuriated, while the creator remained in the background….

So begins a rather critical review in The Financial Times, linked to the book title above. As for me, I am thus far drawn in and impressed by Ferguson’s narrative, and by his anger which strikes me as well justified and rooted rather firmly in facts.

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See also Inside Job: how bankers caused the financial crisis; Corporate criminals gone wild by Andrew Leonard; Heist of the century: Wall Street’s role in the financial crisis, an extract from the book.

…The Obama government has rationalised its failure to prosecute anyone (literally, anyone at all) for bubble-related crimes by saying that while much of Wall Street’s behaviour was unwise or unethical, it wasn’t illegal. With apologies for my vulgarity, this is complete horseshit.

When the government is really serious about something – preventing another 9/11, or pursuing major organised crime figures – it has many tools at its disposal and often uses them. There are wiretaps and electronic eavesdropping. There are undercover agents who pretend to be criminals in order to entrap their targets. There are National Security Letters, an aggressive form of administrative subpoena that allows US authorities to secretly obtain almost any electronic record – complete with a gag order making it illegal for the target of the subpoena to tell anyone about it. There are special prosecutors, task forces and grand juries. When Patty Hearst was kidnapped in 1974, the FBI assigned hundreds of agents to the case.

In organised crime investigations, the FBI and government prosecutors often start at the bottom in order to get to the top. They use the well-established technique of nailing lower-level people and then offering them a deal if they inform on and/or testify about their superiors – whereupon the FBI nails their superiors, and does the same thing to them, until climbing to the top of the tree. There is also the technique of nailing people for what can be proven against them, even if it’s not the main offence. Al Capone was never convicted of bootlegging, large-scale corruption or murder; he was convicted of tax evasion.

A reasonable list of prosecutable crimes committed during the bubble, the crisis, and the aftermath period by financial services firms includes: securities fraud, accounting fraud, honest services violations, bribery, perjury and making false statements to US government investigators, Sarbanes-Oxley violations (false accounting), Rico (Racketeer Influenced and Criminal Organisations Act) offences, federal aid disclosure regulations offences and personal conduct offences (drug use, tax evasion etc).

Let’s take the example of securities fraud. Where to begin?…

Searchings — 1

There really have been so many things I have seen or read in the past few days that deserve to be shared, that have provoked more reflection than I can possibly capture in one blog post or even two. But to begin.

God’s Politics asked Is God a Cosmic Jerk?

That’s how I ask the question, but professional theologians use the term theodicy. It comes from two Greek words: theo, which means “God,” and dike, which means “justice.” Theodicy asks, “If God is good and just, then why is there so much evil in the world?” There are many answers to this question. Some claim that God causes evil. In which case, my question becomes relevant – Is God a Cosmic Jerk?

Let’s first examine the word “evil.” Theologian Joe Jones succinctly defines evil in his book A Grammar of Christian Faith “as the harm to some creature’s good” (280). Jones distinguishes between two categories of evil that harms a creatures good. First, there is moral evil – the harm humans inflict upon one another through violence, injustice, and oppression. The second category is natural evil – the harm caused by cancer, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural events…

The older I get the more unsatisfactory the theologians seem to me, and the more “fundamentalist” they are then even less satisfactory are they likely to be – unless you are better at believing a thousand impossible things before breakfast, to paraphrase Lewis Carroll, than I am these days.

"Alice laughed: "There’s no use trying," she said; "one can’t believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven’t had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

Unfortunately the impression one is left with after much fundamentalist apologetics/theology is that God indeed could very well be a Cosmic Jerk!

This especially plagues the bibliolatrists who constitute the more conservative wings of Judaism and Christianity and, alas, far too much of Islam. The unfortunate tradition of Divine Mouthpieces and Pens is as much a curse as a blessing, indeed I suspect more a curse than a blessing. Infallibility and certainty are among the most dangerous and foolish human constructs.

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Take Monday’s poem from Three Quarks Daily.

For insulting the Quran, "’Thousands of people
dragged a Pakistani man … from a police station …
(and)
beat him to death,’ police said Wednesday."

Insulting Books

Is it even possible
to insult a book?

Has it a soul within its leaves
a heart that beats
an eye that winks
a cord running through its spine
descending from a thing that thinks?

Is a book of inky lines
(of characters not themselves sublime)
capable of being hurt or ridiculed
or cheapened by critiques
either of the wise, or fools?

Has it veins between its covers
salty with the blood of lovers?

Is there something in its pages
(even if put there by sages)
that warrants death to critics?

Is it a thing so lame that priestly brothers
(arrogant, imperious, parasitic)
who worship sheaves of ink on paper
must, for its sake, snuff the holy breath
of others?

by Jim Culleny

11/6/12

Go and read the comments that follow it. An excellent series, those daily poems from Three Quarks Daily. Jim is the editor of this feature and most wide-ranging in his selection and very knowledgeable. Even Aussie poets score there at times.

Back in 2008 I read Rich Merritt’s Code of Conduct and discovered his rather occasional blog But Seriously…

I am reading Rich’s Code of Conduct at the moment.

In Code of Conduct, former U.S. Marine Rich Merritt, explores the secret double lives of Don, Eddie, Karl and Patrick, all currently serving as closeted military men. Agent Jay of the Naval Investigative Service struggles with his past as he follows his own personal vendetta against homosexuality. As hope of President Bill Clinton’s promise to relieve the ban on gays in the military flourishes, Jay attempts to ruin the careers of our heroes. Action-packed, this novel kept me on the edge of my seat, while at the same time beautifully illustrating the passion and love that gay servicemen and women can have for each other.

A fast read, Merritt’s novel explores a fascinating section of the LGBTI community through his and others’ experiences in the military. Although the dialogue reads rather unrealistically, the novel was thoroughly enjoyable…

That last criticism is true at times; it is not the world’s greatest novel. Also, I would that it began differently, without quite so much military-speak and boys’ own adventure stuff so early. That aside, this is a passionate novel on several levels. It could have been even better if it had been written for outsiders rather more than it is. It would, I think, make an excellent movie though, so long as it was a movie-maker with the right political as well as artistic nous.

Rich Merritt was unfortunate enough to go to Bob Jones University from which he was expelled. His latest blog post is about his new novel Spiritual Probation.

What is it about?

Nate O’Connor wants to do right. His senior year of college, though, gets off to a rocky start. He’s a student at Bob Johnson University, the flagship institution of higher learning in American fundamentalism, where he and his best friend are placed on spiritual probation after being accused of disloyalty to the school. Their attempt to repair their reputation backfires and when Nate meets two women–one beautiful and smart, the other wise and charming–his entire belief system is uprooted. Nate’s world is further rocked by tragedy and his life will never be the same.

What are people saying about it?

“Setting his tale inside the closed society of a fundamentalist university, Rich Merritt tells a fascinating story that is alternately disturbing and inspiring. Spiritual Probation opened my eyes and touched my heart.
Joe DiPietro, Tony-Award winning playwright of Memphis

“In every decade, a true classic emerges, which demonstrates the strength of the human will to conquer and survive the ills of its society. Merritt has written such a work in this coming-of-age story of courage and conviction in a world that is perceptively lacking in empathy and compassion for the individual spirit and soul. A poignant ‘must read’ for such present times, which is so heavily burdened with the painful effects of emotional bullying and spiritual abuse, so currently at the forefront of daily life.”
Lynda Mandell, M.D., Ph.D., Board Certified Psychiatrist

Over on Goodreads another Bob Jones survivor says:

As an apologetic alumna of Bob Jones University, I truly enjoyed this book. I sympathized with the protagonist and his exit from fundamentalism as he realized how nonsensical most of it was. I cried with Danny’s family as they dealt with his tragedy. I was frustrated, but not surprised, by the reactions of the university. Even though the events of this book occurred before my time at BJ and some of the rules had changed by the time I arrived, much of the culture of the university has stayed the same, and the reactions to those who are outside the university or who disagree with the university are exactly the same. I would recommend this book to anyone who’s dealt with the IFB and wants to dwell in the big questions rather than accepting all words spoken from a pulpit as truth.

See also Dr Camille Lewis.

Local colour

Running low on my a data allowance again, so a quickie today.

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Taken this morning on the way back from the Yum Yum Cafe in West Wollongong, where the Christmas decorations have just appeared. Flame trees and jacaranda.

Oh, and I believe Barack Obama is still President of the United States. The other guy was a clone or a robot, so I am quite pleased they chose a human.

You probably missed it…

Last night I watched ABC News 24 at 9.30pm because I had seen this promo:

It was one of the most informative features on the current US election that I have seen. It added considerably the what I knew about the 21st century Republican Party, aside from its amazing array of total nutters of whom Romney is one of the best of a bad lot. Is it true that most of Middle America rely on Fox for their knowledge of the world, that in places there is hardly any alternative? If so, that is beyond sad… And for the world, as well as the USA, it is an appalling thought.

So glad we have ABC, SBS, and through both even things like Al Jazeera – and easy to see just about anywhere in the country with access to digital, cable or satellite—not to mention via the Internet.

The Republican Party is at a crossroads, and regardless of its chances of retaking the White House next week, its future is far from assured.

On the eve of what may be one of the most remarkable comebacks in American political history, some long-time conservatives fear their party has been drawn too far away from the political centre.

It may not stop Mitt Romney being sworn in as president in January 2013, but it may in the future confine The Grand Old Party to permanent opposition.

And that wouldn’t just be bad for conservatives, it would be bad for all Americans, because while the minority party may not be able to get much done on Capitol Hill, it can exert tremendous power to obstruct and prevent anything being done.

The unprecedented use of the filibuster in the US Senate since the Republican Party went into the minority in 2006 could be just a prelude to the profound dysfunction and gridlock that would bring the federal government to a complete halt.

And most worryingly, that would suit some Republicans just fine.

The Republican Party, once proudly the party of Lincoln, has now become the party of Reagan.

It still stands philosophically for individual freedom, but to current conservatives the modern slave-master is the government itself and taxation is the whip and yoke.

Yet Reagan’s record of cutting taxes has been distorted, proponents of the new orthodoxy that no Republican will even support a tax increase conveniently ignore the fact that while Reagan cut taxes sharply in 1981, he raised them 11 other times.

But his legacy has been streamlined into a tax-cutting, cold war-winning all-American hero.

And to be sure, president Reagan achieved many things, but also blew out the deficit and amplified the gap between rich and poor.

Still, that trickle-down, low-tax message has made a comeback in recent years with the rise of the Tea Party Movement, but it is out of step with many Americans who value the role government plays in ensuring they can get health care and other social services especially into their old age…

I examine the forces driving the Republican Party further to the right and the legacy of president Reagan in a new documentary, The Party Of Reagan, featuring interviews with the most influential conservatives in America today, leading members of the Reagan administration and Reagan’s son Ron Jr…

Ron Reagan Jr.
Sen. Alan Simpson
Edwin Meese III.
Sen. Arlen Specter
Prof. Roger Porter
James Fallows
Patrick J. Buchanan
Bruce Bartlett
Mike Lofgren
Grover Norquist
Gary Bauer
Matt Kibbe

Well done, John Barron.

I earlier caught up with the moving Australian Story on Journalist Malcolm Brown.

DARREN GOODSIR, SMH NEWS DIRECTOR: We’re now in a period where we’re considering who is going to stay and who is going to go.

MALCOLM BROWN (throwing papers into a recycling bin): Well that’s it. That’s my life’s work. I don’t want to be compulsorily made redundant so I decided ‘Well, it’s time to move on’.

DARREN GOODSIR, SMH NEWS DIRECTOR: It’s not just Malcolm who’s affected. It’s a tough decision to make.

KATE MCCLYMONT, SMH SNR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: It’s been incredibly difficult to work today. In fact no one seems to be doing much work. There are little pockets of people and somebody will come back from the Editor’s office waving their white envelope, saying ‘I’ve got redundancy’. Other people are just putting their white envelopes under their coats. People have been in tears. (choked up) It’s been… It has been really difficult, incredibly difficult thing. Because you look at these people who are going, it’s people you’ve worked with for years and you think ‘I can’t imagine what…’ You know, how are we actually going to get this paper out without the experience of the education reporter, the medical reporter, Malcolm Brown’s work?

MATTHEW MOORE, SMH URBAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: I’ve been married to this joint for nearly three decades now. So it’s been… it’s been my life.

DEBORAH SMITH, SMH SCIENCE EDITOR: It’s a sad day but it’s also a good day because I’m confident that science and environment, which is my passion, is going to continue at the Herald and we’re going to do it well here. And we’ll continue to lead the country in that coverage, which is what throughout my career I’ve always (choked up) wanted to achieve.

Next Sunday’s must see: This ABC mini-series on the James Hardie asbestos scandal packs a punch.

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Nailed it … Anthony Hayes stars as Bernie Banton in Devil’s Dust.