Rob Idol is back with his jaunty traipse down the week that was, including Trump’s reality check in Iowa and ongoing apathy toward refugees.
Hello all and welcome to this week’s TBS Current Affairs Wrap: the US election season in full swing, the refugee debate in Australia hitting fever pitch and honours for a couple of US Presidential hopefuls…one that sounds delicious, the other smells of sulfur.
This week has been a pretty big one in the US with the Iowa caucuses.
What is the Iowa caucus and why is it important? No…seriously…I’m asking for someone to please explain it to me.
If I try and explain it in detail, I’ll be approaching Tolstoyian lengths in no time, which is far too long to keep my interest. Or yours. So I’ll explain the why very quickly for you, as it’s a little easier to understand. The reason that the Iowa caucus is considered important is simply because it’s first. It’s the first time that the public get to weigh in on who the two parties are going to put up in the race for the presidency. Sure we’ve got Fox News polls and the like, which might give us a rough idea of voter sentiment, but they are less than reliable for a number of reasons. A caucus result, too, technically has little bearing on who is actually nominated to challenge for the presidency, but they are considered far more reliable, if only for the fact that people need to do a little more than send an SMS or click on a poll on a website to influence the result.
On the Democrats’ side of the fence, it was a dead heat between front-runners Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. After consulting the photo, Hillary took home the biscuits by half a step. So narrow, some might argue, that it was really a win for Sanders, who has become the surprise poster child for a bullshit-free America, with a tantalising twist of Socialism.
The Republican results were far more interesting. It finally gave us the chance to see whether Trump could back up the lead he’s held in the majority of polls. In a miraculous turn for humankind, it turns out he couldn’t…in Iowa at least. Ted Cruz took the day with 28 percent of the vote, Trump behind him with 24 percent and Marco Rubio claimed the last step on the podium with 23 percent.
Trump, in further confirmation that he is little more than a petulant child with too much money he didn’t earn, has blamed the result on anyone and everyone except for himself – including winner Ted Cruz, by accusing him of voter fraud, and whom he threatened to sue. We haven’t seen the last of him by a long shot; Iowa may be historically very important, but far less so for the Republicans who have seen only two of the last six winners of the caucuses go on to take the Oval Office.
It has been revealed this week that a United Nations panel is going to rule that WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, is being “arbitrarily detained” in the Ecuadorian embassy, which has been his home/prison for the past three years. The problem is, the ruling is not legally binding whatsoever and that’s the position to which the British government are sticking.
Assange this week suggested that if the UN panel had not ruled in his favour, he would exit the embassy and surrender to the British police, which would result in him being extradited to Sweden to face rape allegations (which he has denied), before ultimately being extradited to the US, where he would likely be thrown down a deep dark hole marked “Guantanamo.”
At least he has the UN supporting him. The US would never defy a UN mandate…
On the local front this week, it’s all been about refugees. It’s the problem that won’t go away for the Federal government, no matter how many offshore prison camps they build.
The ABC got their hands on a leaked document that outlines a few changes for Peter Dutton to put to the Cabinet’s national security committee, and it has caused a furore, with Shadow Immigration Minister Richard Marles describing it as an “enormously regressive step,” comparing it to discriminatory immigration policies of the 1950s.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten chose to focus on the leak itself, suggesting that it was a sign of an “internal war” within the Federal government. PM Turnbull and Immigration Minister Dutton have denied seeing or even knowing about the document.
The recommendations contained within, whilst deliberately vague, do include a suggestion that some of the 12,000 additional Syrian refugees being brought into Australia will “bring issues, beliefs or associations that lead them to advocate or engage in politically motivated or communal violence.” It also chose to specifically name the Sunni Lebanese community as an example of the dangers of unsuccessful integration. Both points may be fair, but identifying specific cultural or religious groups in this manner is a very slippery slope. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine a future focus on granting asylum to those who will “fit in” better, rather than those with the most immediate need. I suppose drumming up more fear about asylum seekers makes it a hell of a lot easier to justify keeping children locked up…
While we’re on the topic, in a blow for basic human rights and decency, the High Court of Australia this week ruled that our offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island are legal. So not only will this farce of a policy continue, it looks like around 250 asylum seekers (including 37 babies) will be put on a plane and sent to Nauru as early as next week.
The result has sparked outrage, with #LetThemStay protests being attended by thousands across the country.
The most surprising development, and the most heartening, has been a move by a number of churches across Australia who are looking to offer sanctuary to some of the asylum seekers within their walls. The concept is a throwback to a biblical concept that had rigid legal basis in the middle ages, whereby those granted sanctuary within a church could not be removed. The concept has no modern legal basis in Australia, but if the churches follow through, it could result in the most interesting game of chicken in history.
Immigration Minister Dutton has conceded that the government would not be “dragging people out of churches,” but it’s hard to imagine a situation where they would allow the precedent to be established.
The UN have also chimed in, warning Australia that sending the asylum seekers back to Nauru may well be a breach of the convention against torture, which covers cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.
Wacky and wonderful
Now we return to presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. As a testament to his growing popularity, he’s getting his own ice cream flavour. Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s fame created the new flavour, which has been dubbed “Bernie’s Yearning.”
The creation has a chocolate disc (representing the economic top 1 percent) on top of mint ice cream (representing the 99 percent that the rest of us fall in). The idea is you’re supposed to break the chocolate disc and spread it evenly throughout the mint, representing the need for more economic equality.
On the flip side, Donald Trump has been reportedly nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. No, you haven’t accidentally clicked on the satire section…this is really happening.
Director of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, Kristian Berg Harpviken, has confirmed the nomination to French news agency Agence France Presse. Apparently the committee received a letter nominating Trump for his “vigorous peace through strength ideology, used as a threat weapon of deterrence against radical Islam, ISIS, nuclear Iran and Communist China.”