Across the political and media elite in Australia, a silence has descended on the memory of the great, reforming prime minister Gough Whitlam, who has died. His achievements are recognized, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. But a critical reason for his extraordinary political demise will, they hope, be buried with him.
Australia briefly became an independent state during the Whitlam years, 1972-75. An American commentator wrote that no country had "reversed its posture in international affairs so totally without going through a domestic revolution." Whitlam ended his nation's colonial servility. He abolished royal patronage, moved Australia toward the Non-Aligned Movement, supported "zones of peace" and opposed nuclear weapons testing.
The one story missing from the "tributes" to a Whitlam is his extraordinary political demise is one of America's dirtiest secrets.
The direct democracy of ballot initiatives - where voters get to vote yes or no, without any politicians in the way - is a treasured part of the fabric of 24 states and many more cities. But around the country, there's been a disturbing trend this year: When initiatives threaten corporate interests, lawyers run to court to prevent voters from even getting the chance to vote. More often than not, the corporations win. But it doesn't have to end this way.
At the 2014 Values Voter Summit, Minnesota Republican US Representative Michele Bachmann lambasted Barack Obama for not declaring war on Islam and said that there was no such thing as moderate Islam. I reacted as I always react to her comments, with a headshake and a chuckle. But, as the night wore on, I grew increasingly disturbed by images evoked by her words. What could a war against all of Islam look like?