Pumas eye unthinkable Tri Nations triumph


Fitness or fatigue won’t be factors as the Pumas bid to turn the Tri Nations upside down with another earth-shattering win over the All Blacks on Saturday night.

The unfancied pre-tournament outsiders have emerged as potential champions after backing up their historic first-ever win over the All Blacks with a gritty draw against the Wallabies last Saturday.

If they can pick up anything from this week’s return bout with New Zealand in Newcastle – even a bonus point for a loss by fewer than seven points – the Pumas will be on the box seat to escort the coveted Tri Nations trophy back to Argentina.

That would be a mighty effort for a team that hadn’t played a Test in more than 400 days before their series-opening triumph over the All Blacks.

Some members of Mario Ledesma’s squad have had to quarantine twice, for a total of 28 days, since spending a fortnight holed up first in Uruguay and then in Sydney after joining the Pumas from Europe.

Despite the gruelling campaign, the Pumas remain upbeat about their chances of collecting the most significant piece of silverware in Argentine rugby history.

“We are not looking for excuses. We are looking for our best performance on Saturday. That is our focus,” Pumas assistant coach Nicolas Fernandez-Miranda told AAP on Monday.

“We are feeling very good, we are feeling excited. These are two very important weeks for us.

“The first one is New Zealand, focusing on that, putting our mind, our physical fitness and everything together to be as sharp as we can be on Saturday.”

The All Blacks will be smarting after suffering successive Test defeats for the first time in 2011, having lost to the Wallabies in Brisbane before falling to the Pumas in Sydney.

But even if they hit back with a win this week, the All Blacks will have to await the result of the Pumas’ last-round showdown with the Wallabies in Sydney to learn their fate.

Third at the 2007 Rugby World Cup and semi-finalists against in 2015, the Pumas are delighted to have control of their own destiny after fighting back from nine points down in the second half to secure a priceless 15-15 draw against the Wallabies at McDonald Jones Stadium.

“We are very proud of what we did in the first two games of the competition,” Fernandez-Miranda said.

“But our mind is on our job and what we are trying to do and trying to win this week as best as we can.

“I don’t know what people think in Argentina. We are very alone here and that’s very good for our team because we are just focused on the team and being as tight as we can and as together as we can.”





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Phar Lap’s greatest triumph, the Melbourne Cup


Phar Lap wins 1930 Melbourne Cup.Credit:The Age

Flemington on the day of the Melbourne Cup, Australia’s greatest race, once more proved yesterday to be the Mecca of the multitude. If the drenching shower of rain which fell soon after lunch did not threaten to dampen the social spirit, it happily came too late to divert the throng from Flemington, and so the Hill, the stands and the lawns and flat were crowded with good-humored people from all part of the continent.

There is nothing like the knowledge that a hot favorite is in the field to attract men and women who like to see a great race well run, but the broader aspect of Cup day is its social appeal. For most of the year a community lives to a considerable extent in watertight compartments. Flemington on the second Tuesday of November, however, is the natural environment for the give and take, the thrust and parry of humor in social intercourse. If you tell a yarn or crack a joke at Flemington, especially after the Cup race is run, it must be a good one. The veteran racegoer, who recalls the scene when Carbine, carrying 10 st. 5 lb., in a field of 39, became a national idol, is listened to with rapt attention. The man or woman punter who can lose with a smile and win with a cheer chants the keynote in a magnificent holiday chorus.

Caution was the feminine characteristic in fashions, and the coats and furs which dominated the dressing did not seem to cover up the variety of colors that lent gaiety to the parade below the Hill. Seen from the saddling paddock, where Phar Lap and his many chestnut rivals walked before their admirers prior to the race, the course presented a stirring sight. With the members’ lawn sprinkled with humans in the foreground, the Hill, where abides the spirit of Flemington in festive mood, suggested something of what one might imagine an old Roman amphitheater looked like when the gods smiled down on mortals making carnival.

Phar Lap winner of the 1930 Melbourne Cup.

Phar Lap winner of the 1930 Melbourne Cup.

But the race is imminent. Fifteen horses file on to the track for all to admire and criticise. They go to the barrier which runs back from the track into the training ground. There is a lull in the conversation. “They’re off!” It was a good start.

Spectators crane their necks for a view of their fancies. The small field quickly forms a bunched group on the rails. Temptation leads the way, and after a short distance has been run, Phar Lap is also in the van. As the horses clatter past the main crowd there is comparatively little mud flying from the grassy turf. Over on the flat the crowd moves fitfully from place to place. It is the only portion of the ground where freedom of movement is unlimited. They run in all directions, those people, in a sort of civil riot, which has for its object a changing view of the race.

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The field gallops round. Al except the discriminating see their fancies in the lead. Into the straight heads this mass of glossy-coated, straining horseflesh, the horse of the hour prominent, preparing to make his run. Shadow King, the Comedy King bay gelding, is with him, and the big frame of Second Wind is observed among the leaders.

With powerfully measured gallop Phar Lap forges ahead. The shouts and yells of admiration are deafening. This beautiful horse has found a cherished place in the imagination of the people. Twice favorite for the Melbourne Cup – he is winning. Not a mad gallop this, but a finishing burst of speed which is unbeatable. He wins, with Second Wind and Shadow King second and third.

A great cheer rises from the throats of the multitude. For the race is over. The favorite has won. At last the horse in second place has justified his name. All there, in fact, have gloriously run their second Melbourne Cup.



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Vunivalu set for rugby after NRL triumph


Suliasi Vunivalu was so focused on Melbourne’s NRL grand final that he had forgotten when he was due to check in at the Queensland Reds.

The dual premiership winner found out from his manager on Monday that he’s required around Christmas after committing to the Reds and Rugby Australia on a two-year deal.

“I’m not sure. I’ve wanted to focus on this first,” Vunivalu told AAP after bagging a breathtaking 80-metre intercept try that took the wind out of Penrith’s sails in the Storm’s 26-20 triumph.

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy hailed the flying winger as his side’s best in the first half at ANZ Stadium and the 24-year-old’s cross-code defection looms as a major blow for the Storm.

The premiers are also almost certain to lose fellow representative winger Josh Addo-Carr.

After the entire Storm squad sang a Fijian hymn in the middle of ANZ Stadium as a touching farewell, Vunivalu admits it’ll be a wrench leaving the NRL superpower.

But his heart lies in the 15-man code following a hugely successful five-season stint at the Storm.

“Yeah, it’s going to be hard to walk away. This is a very special group we have here,” he said.

“But I’m a rugby boy. I only started playing league when I came to the Storm.”

Wallabies and Reds five-eighth James O’Connor has no doubt Vunivalu – a 2017 rugby league world player of the year nominee – is ready to make his mark in rugby.

“He’s a freak athlete.You saw that,” O’Connor said on Monday.

“He’s a tall man, can move well and he seems like he’s got a good knowledge of the game.”

The Suva-born star himself is making no secret of the fact he’s hoping to become the latest dual international, be it on the wing or in the centres for the Wallabies.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t,” he said.

“It would be a dream to wear the green and gold Wallabies jersey.”





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Penrith Panthers centre Brent Naden prepared to make ultimate sacrifice for title triumph as he fights to keep spot for decider against Melbourne Storm


“You would definitely take it,” Naden said. “You can either be sitting on the bench and still be in the 17 or sitting in the grandstand. That’s what Jack Hetherington spoke to me about [on Saturday night]. He said, ‘you’re still in the 17’.

“I had a few slip-ups against the Roosters and Tyrone has played centre before. Ivan had a plan and that plan didn’t go as expected, I just ended up sitting on the bench all game.

Penrith Panthers centre Brent Naden is fighting for his spot in the grand final squad.Credit:NRL Photos

“I’ve got one more to week to prove to Ivan that I’m capable of playing in that team. But if he wants to put me on the bench or not play me, that’s his decision. I’ll stand by it.

“You know where you stand [with Cleary]. There’s no beating around the bush and he won’t p*** on your back and tell you it’s raining.”

Naden has been a shining light on the field for the Panthers this year and maturely handled a racism storm when he alleged he was abused by a group of men in the crowd during Penrith’s win over the Warriors on the Central Coast in August.

But his spot will be under threat with the return of Viliame Kikau from suspension and the potential availability of Spencer Leniu, who missed the grand final qualifier with illness.

Kikau’s return is likely to push Kurt Capewell back to the bench. Capewell has previously filled the utility role when he was at the Sharks.

May was told more than a week before the Rabbitohs match he would be starting at centre, partnering best mate Nathan Cleary on the right edge defence which will be targeted by Cameron Munster and Justin Olam at ANZ Stadium.

“It’s not like I haven’t done it before so I was all right,” May said. “I had a whole fortnight to get my head around it. Luckily I get to defend inside someone that I live with and two boys that I grew up playing with.

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“[Earlier in the year] I was thinking ‘how am I going to get in the squad?’ for starters. I was thinking, ‘if they’re going to keep winning why would you change a winning squad?’ Injuries happen throughout the year and I was lucky enough to get thrown in and hold my spot now.”

It was a positive start to grand final week for the Panthers when James Fisher-Harris and Zane Tetevano both escaped match review committee charges for high shots which were penalised against South Sydney.

Ivan Cleary will name his 21-man grand final squad on Tuesday as the Panthers go in search of their 18th straight win to cap a remarkable season. Their record winning run started against Melbourne back in June.

“I’ve worked out [on Saturday] night I’m a nervous watcher,” Naden said. “The last 10 minutes I couldn’t really sit down. It was an odd one. I don’t know if the relief was more excitement that you get one more week. You work so hard for so long in pre-season and now you’re there.”

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Why Penrith Panthers hooker Api Koroisau discards his South Sydney Rabbitohs triumph from the 2014 grand final


“I was just taking a spot for a day. I was still proud of the day and being a part of it. Just emotionally, that just didn’t feel like it was my team. I don’t count that as a premiership that I was part of. I’d never take that away from Issac or claim that one.”

In the six years following South Sydney’s drought-breaking victory against the Canterbury Bulldogs, Koroisau has been to Penrith, Manly and back to Penrith – transforming from a bits-and-pieces player to one of the best No.9s in the NRL.

Adam Reynolds and Api Koroisau celebrate South Sydney’s 2014 grand final win against the Bulldogs.Credit:Getty

His return to Penrith this season has ignited the club’s once stuttering attack and allowed the halves the freedom to turn the Panthers into premiership contenders in the space of 12 months.

They are now 80 minutes away from the club’s first grand final in 17 years, and if they notch a 17th consecutive win of the season against Souths to reach the decider, Koroisau’s contribution will be undeniable.

“If we got the chance here at Penrith to win a grand final, having the involvement that I’ve had at the club this season, it would be incredible,” Koroisau said.

“When I was at Souths, they had Greg Inglis, Sam Burgess, Ben Te’o, John Sutton … they had proper legends in that team. I always said to myself I was just the little Fijian kid from Bankstown getting around with the big boys. Now it’s a bit different.

Api Koroisau with Panthers teammate Tyrone May after the win against the Sydney Roosters in week one of the finals.

Api Koroisau with Panthers teammate Tyrone May after the win against the Sydney Roosters in week one of the finals.Credit:Getty

“The mindset has changed. At some point in your career you have to realise your worth to a football team otherwise you’ll never get anywhere. I’m fortunate enough to be part of this team and I want to make sure I play my part to help us win a premiership.”

The only reason Koroisau played in the 2014 grand final was because Luke was rubbed out after being charged with a dangerous throw tackle against the Sydney Roosters’ Sonny Bill Williams in the preliminary final.

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Koroisau struggled all week with the guilt of replacing his idol in such an important game, but insists the support of Luke was instrumental in the lead-up to the match at ANZ Stadium.

“I felt so sorry for him,” Koroisau said. “That was my mentor growing up. When I got to the club, he included me in everything and really took me under his wing. He had a massive impact on my footy and life. For him to miss out on that I was gutted.

“I only played 12 games that year. I didn’t feel like I put in as much as everyone else. I just kept apologising to him because I shouldn’t have been playing. The first time I said it he said to me ‘shut the f— up, I don’t want to hear it’. He just wanted to get to work to help me. But, man, the guilt was crazy.”

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Why an historic Junior Wallabies triumph holds the key to Australia’s Bledisloe Cup hopes


“That’s the past. They’ve won in the past but there are so many new people here and a lot of us haven’t lost to them. Even the ones that have, Australia has been improving a lot recently.

“That’s the past now and we have new coaches here. Everyone is new here. It’s a fresh start and we look forward to it.”

Wilson, Lolesio and McReight are the three former Junior Wallabies teammates that are firming as likely debutants on October 11.

Wilson’s form for the Reds this Super Rugby season has earned plaudits from highly rated Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, among many others.

He is tipped to join Michael Hooper in the back row when Rennie names his team for the first Bledisloe in Wellington.

If that is how the next fortnight plays out, the 20-year-old will be ready.

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“I feel if I was given that opportunity I would definitely be ready,” Wilson said.

“But I guess I know there are a lot of other good loose forwards here and I know over the next three weeks I definitely have to try and prove myself and that I’m up for it. I definitely believe I could do a job.

“Over the last 20 years that’s all my memories – watching Australia against New Zealand in the Bledisloe. A lot of matches stand out.

“Last year, I guess the match in Perth, I loved watching that. Knowing a few of the boys from Reds playing it last year was definitely special, seeing Australia beat New Zealand.

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“It’s definitely something I wanted to do for a long time. Versus New Zealand, represent Australia.

“It’s such a long history there. It would be a privilege to be a part of it.”

The Wallabies are set to fly to New Zealand on Friday night, ahead of the first leg of the back-to-back Bledisloe’s across the Tasman.

They will then spend three days in quarantine before being permitted to train as a group.

Injured centre Jordan Petaia is tipped to travel with the team as the Wallabies hold out hope he can prove his fitness ahead of the first Bledisloe.

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Attention to detail key to renovation triumph in Malvern


It’s been a much loved family home for three decades, and now it’s time for another family to move in and enjoy the grand entertainer Ric Anderson and Rebecca Giles have created for themselves in a stunningly restored Malvern villa.

“It’ll be 30 years ago in January that we bought it and we were married about three or four months after purchasing it, so it was a bit of a wedding present for each other – we fell in love with the place instantly,” Mr Anderson says. “Our kids have been born and raised here, and the only reason we’re leaving is because we’ve got the harebrained scheme to do a total seachange and are now heading down south because I love to surf and that will allow us to enjoy that lifestyle in retirement.

“About 14 years ago we decided we wanted to improve the back of the house and increase the amount of accommodation upstairs for our two daughters, and the intention of the renovation and extension was to maintain the integrity of the existing home right around the entire house. So we engaged Pauline Hurren, who is very known for her heritage work, and asked her to make it a seamless transition from old to new, and she did, all the way down to her hand-picking the stone from a quarry at Basket Range.

“While she did it at a ground level, we also went up into the ceiling space and, with the use of taller windows, she created a really spacious living area, two double bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. It’s been pretty cool in the past few years, with our daughters getting older they’ve been able to have friends over and enjoy their time upstairs and we can get on with our lives downstairs.

“The guy who worked out all those angles on the upper level was here for about six months – it was a long-winded process but worth doing because we wanted to get it right and were planning on being here for 20 or 30 years.”

The home has up to four bedrooms – the master suite on the ground floor and complete with a built-in robe and access to an award-winning luxurious family bathroom with a feature bath and a fireplace. Formal dining and living rooms sit at the front of the home, while an open-plan kitchen, dining and living area sits at the rear, opening to a covered terrace. A spacious living area is set on the upper level, and the home also has a cellar and a double carport.

“I’ve been in the wine industry all my life and we’ve had plenty of dinner parties here,” Mr Anderson says. “This house is great for entertaining because that formal dining room is amazing, and we can have brunches and lunches in the back living area, and in summer we spend a lot of time on the back porch enjoying the ambience out there. We’ve spent a lot of time getting the garden up to scratch and have done that all ourselves – we’ve done this from a very personal point of view and hopefully that reflects quality from the front gardens right through the whole house.”

Mr Anderson says the home’s layout and location has been perfect for his family and he hopes it will be enjoyed by another.

“We picture the sort of people who might fall in love with this place as we did might be newly married or have a young family and want to take advantage of having a beautiful home in a great location which is so convenient to everything,” he says. “We’ll take our memories with us – and if we had our time again – all those 30 years ago when we poked our head through the fence and fell in love with the place – we’d do exactly the same thing all over again.”

117 Cambridge Tce, Malvern

Contact agent for price

Agent: Williams Real Estate, Rhys Gebethner 0408 878 835, Stephanie Williams 0413 874 888.

Land size: 673sqm.

Expressions of interest: Close Wednesday, September 23 at 5pm.

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Adelaide Crows’ AFL losing streak continues as Western Bulldogs triumph by 57 points


The Western Bulldogs have extended Adelaide’s AFL losing run to 15 matches, with a 57-point demolition on the Gold Coast.

The 10th-placed Bulldogs pulled away from the winless Crows in an eight-goal second half, turning a 23-point lead at the main break into a 16.15 (111) to 8.6 (54) win in Carrara.

After finishing their 2019 campaign with three consecutive defeats, the Crows have now lost all 12 matches this season, meaning Matthew Nicks is still to record a victory as an AFL coach.

Aaron Naughton kicked a career-high six goals for the Bulldogs, including a final-quarter effort that came after a strong pack mark.

Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli backed up his 30-disposal display against Brisbane with a best-on-ground performance, picking up 33 touches and kicking two goals.

Bontempelli’s influence was evident from the start of the match, with six first-quarter clearances, while Adelaide in comparison had five in total for the term.

The midfielder ended the match with a career-high 12 clearances, with Adelaide ending on 19 in total.

Bulldogs teammate Ben Cavarra was the other multiple goal kicker, with two majors.

Two Western Bulldogs AFL players high five each other as they celebrate a goal against the Adelaide Crows.
Lachie Hunter (left) impressed in his return for the Bulldogs.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

Former Bulldogs vice-captain Lachie Hunter marked his return after four rounds out due to personal issues in fine style, working hard with 29 disposals and kicking a third-quarter goal.

Bailey Smith led the disposals tally for the match with 37 touches, his run through midfield just too hot for the Crows to handle.

After speculation earlier in the week Hunter was a trade target for Brisbane, the 25-year-old clutched at his jersey after his goal in a seemingly public display of his commitment to the Bulldogs.

There was a highlight-reel moment for Easton Wood in the second quarter when he took a ride on the back of Adelaide’s Fischer McAsey to snare a sensational mark on the wing.

With Tom Doedee and Tom Lynch already sidelined with hamstring injuries, Andrew McPherson injured his hamstring in the second quarter and spent the second half sitting on the bench for the Crows.

The Bulldogs suffered a late injury concern with ruckman Tim English rolling his left ankle in the game’s dying minutes.

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How a ‘creator economy’ could help writers and artists triumph over Facebook and Google


In the digital world, all creators have lived in the shadow of an existential paradox.

On the one hand, the media firms that have historically supported the livelihoods of writers, journalists, and other audio- and video-storytellers are in economic decline. As a result, it is harder for the creators to make a living. On the other hand, individual creators have never before had the kind of direct reach they do today. Many podcasters have larger audiences than the radio stations of yore. Instagram fashionistas outdo most glossy fashion magazines.  And there are thousands of journalists with followerships that rival the reader-base of a mid-sized newspaper.  

The coronavirus pandemic has turned this paradox into a full-blown crisis. To many in the industry, the cause is self-evident: Big Tech platforms, especially Facebook and Google. Their dominance is painfully evident every quarter when, in lockstep, the platforms announce their ever-growing share of the advertising market while traditional media report deep declines. The demands for regulating or taxing the platforms to protect parts of the industry like the especially vulnerable news business grow louder every year. 

However, the proposed remedies fail to address the deeper issue: When it comes to the creator economy, the digital world lacks some fundamental features of a well-functioning market. Black-box algorithms drive how a creator is discovered and how many viewers she reaches. It is not so much a failure as an absence of open markets, because what the platforms have created is an ecosystem designed entirely for advertising efficiency. In this world, creators are a side story.  

The good news for creators is that there is a significant new technology shift underway that has the potential to revitalize the open market: a new era of friction-less payments. Two developments are enabling this: seamless payments on mobile phones; and the less glamorous technology of interbank micropayments. Thanks to biometrics on new smartphones—including fingerprint readers and face ID technology—all one needs is to tap one’s phone to make payments. In India, for instance, the Universal Payment Interface—a standard for bank-to-bank micropayments—permits transactions worth less than ten cents. Worldwide, more than 400 million people use Apple Pay, which has overtaken all other forms of contactless payments in the two years since its rollout.

Once it is as easy for creators or creative firms to charge users for a post as it is to simply post something on social media, the consequences will be far- reaching. It will enable what economists refer to as “vertically and horizontally differentiated” markets, of the kind already found in much traditional media. In a media category such as fiction, for example, there are a breadth of genres available, from literary fiction to pulp (vertical differentiation) and all shades in between. And within each genre, there are multiple levels of quality (horizontal axes of differentiation). The result is the incredible variety of books, cinema, TV, and radio that we take for granted today. The edifice of digital content built entirely on advertising supports no such sophistication. 

Seamless payments as a fundamental building block of the emerging web will support a creative economy that’s more diverse and less monopolistic than today’s. New services like Patreon and email subscription platform SubStack, which allow creators to collect payments from their fans, are early proofs of concept. (My own company, Scrollstack, is another.) In China, audiences have advanced the furthest in terms of relying on frictionless payments to buy content. For example, Ximalaya, a micropayments-based platform, has helped establish a multibillion-dollar market for a totally new category of audio works. 

A more sophisticated market for creative works will not automatically solve all problems. Some creative endeavors simply won’t attract the number of patrons needed to support them. Many newsrooms, for example, might need to rely on philanthropic support to fund their reporting and investigative work. What made the old creative industries both prolific and culturally significant—patience and creative risk taking—will also take time to emerge. While the technology is here now, what is still far off is the emergence of a publisher like Margaret Anderson, whose periodical The Little Review supported James Joyce for several years in the writing of Ulysses

Yet that is no cause for despair, because micropayments on the open web are establishing the preconditions for such risk-taking by creators and producers. Without the imperative of reaching millions of “active users” for ad dollars, creators can conceive of projects that are viable at much smaller scale. This has the potential to power a better Internet of creative experimentation.   

Samir Patil is the founder and CEO of ScrollStack.com a mobile-first, multi-lingual platform that enables creators to charge for their works.

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America’s troll-in-chief thrives on the triumph of destruction


Far from being a failed presidency, Donald Trump has achieved exactly what he set out to achieve: the destruction of the capacity of government to make American lives better.

Our journalism usually sits behind a paywall, but we believe this is the time to make more of our content freely available to as many readers as possible. For more free coverage, sign up to COVID-19 Watch.
Donald Trump (Image: PA/Stefani Reynolds)

Donald Trump’s presidency is finished, we’re hearing, as his tragic bungling of the COVID-19 pandemic has given way to his tragic bungling of the protests against police murders of African Americans.

Trump’s presidency is over, declared Robert Reich. Trump was the new Jimmy Carter (ouch) without the latter’s patriotism, wrote Matt Bai for the The Washington Post. Trump has a failed presidency wrote Vanity Fair, echoing a recent Brookings Institution op-ed.

Except, commentators have routinely called time on Trump — so often that it’s even been the subject of other commentary.

Measured by the normal standards of presidents, Trump is indeed a spectacular failure, one to make even James Buchanan look competent, so awful even that reliable sycophant of duds and despots Greg “George W. Bush is one of the great presidents” Sheridan has been moved to find fault with him.

But to conclude that 110,000 dead and counting, a wrecked economy, the worst civil unrest since the 1960s, a plague of white supremacist and incel terrorism, a rebuke by his own military leaders and the erosion of the international standing of the US among enemies and allies alike represents failure is to apply entirely the wrong standard.

As a project, the Trump presidency welds two disparate aims: the profound, tribal sense of loathing of many low and middle-income white males toward 21st century America, and an extreme, plutocratic form of neoliberalism devoted to serving the interests of US corporations and its wealthiest elite.

To achieve this, Trump — a wholly establishment figure, albeit more arriviste and gauche than traditional East Coast Republicans — has posed as an anti-establishment outsider determined to impose change. As it turns out, that change has not been an overturning, but a confirmation, of key elements of the US model of neoliberalism that has immiserated so many blue-collar Americans.

But Trump can successfully pull this off because he understands the intersection of these two divergent interests — their hostility to government.

It’s a longstanding trope of US politics that corporate interests have used racism to distract white working class voters from voting in their economic interests. Trump’s presidency dramatically scales this up: he doesn’t just use race, he uses the full spectrum of identity politics.

For many white American males, particularly working class white males, government has become a hated entity, one that has retreated from supporting American communities and white male jobs while — in their eyes — providing unmerited support to African-American and Hispanic communities, women, LGBTIQ people and other minorities. Government has, in their eyes, abandoned them while backing those they have traditionally regarded as their inferiors.

For corporate plutocrats, of course, government is a tax and regulatory burden that must be curbed or even removed altogether to maximise corporate profits and shareholder returns.

As m’colleague Guy Rundle has perspicaciously noted, this leads to a form of “wrecking crew” politics, in which the purpose of the incumbent is not to achieve policy goals or deliver a certain philosophy of government, but to simply destroy the capacity of government to achieve anything positive and, ultimately, even the faith of the governed in the capacity of government to effect worthwhile change.

Until this year, Trump painted with a somewhat limited palette in that task: important administration positions were left unfilled, or filled with utter incompetents; the US budget deficit was exploded with a company tax cut that funnelled tens of billions to US shareholders; officeholders who displayed a reality-based approach to their jobs, or who took oversight roles seriously, were dumped; entire functions, such as preparing for pandemics, were shuttered; blatant corruption became an acceptable standard for public office.

But COVID-19 has presented the opportunity for implementing this strategy on a far broader scale. Through a combination of denialism, partisanship, refusal to take action, incitement of armed white supremacists to break lockdown laws and promotion of deadly “cures”, Trump added the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans to his resumé of governmental incapacitation.

The eruption of protests over police murders was a kind of contorni to that rich meal; even conservatives were appalled that Trump’s instinct was to inflame the protests and divide Americans, as if anything in his presidency had suggested he might do otherwise.

With these actions, Trump has come significantly closer to the ultimate goal of disabling, if not permanently then long-term, the capacity of the US federal government to govern effectively, and the belief of Americans in its potential to govern effectively for them.

If that’s the strategy, Trump’s tactics are also noteworthy. Trump is a troll. His real political slogan isn’t “Make America Great Again”. That was only ever a reference to a kind of pre-modern America, where women, and blacks, and other minorities knew their place and never challenged the right of heterosexual white males to social, political and economic dominance. His true slogan is “U Mad Bro?”, that smirking declaration of triumph by the internet troll to anyone who takes their abuse, derision, pranking or transgressive mockery seriously.

Trump’s lies aren’t the LBJ-style self-convinced declarations of a president who, famously, was the first victim of his own whoppers, but the goadings of a troll, someone who doesn’t care about the truth or otherwise of their statements, only that they enrage opponents and amuse supporters.

Trump himself is notoriously racist, but his own personal prejudices are less relevant than his self-appointed role of premier Twitter flamebaiter. His statements are, like those of an internet bulletin board troll, intended to amuse and enrage, not be taken seriously; he would find it bemusing that even many Trump supporters have killed themselves with poison or died from COVID infection — U Dead Bro? — based on his advice, given his statements were acts of trolling, not statements of fact or even personal belief.

To accuse a troll of failing to unite is thus absurd, akin to lamenting a vampire’s pale complexion. Their very existence is dedicated to dividing, enraging, alienating, infuriating, with a gloating delight at causing offence with ever more absurd, transgressive statements.

So Trump’s presidency, far from being over, is at its zenith, even if it has come at the cost of the president having to flee in terror to the White House bunker as protesters raged outside.

Far more than George W. Bush — a former contender for worst ever president, who now looks comparatively benign and moderate — Trump deserves a “Mission Accomplished” moment. If not a fighter jet to an aircraft carrier, then perhaps a triumphant emergence from a White House bunker “inspection” to walk over the bodies of protestors, spent teargas canisters and tattered Black Lives Matter placards, and stand in front of a desecrated church to hold aloft some Trump merchandise, proudly surveying the wreckage of a failed state.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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