Sunday, October 18, 2015

Turnbull in a phonebox

Two moments of non-elite partisans communicating to party elites of the right have seemed most meaningful to me since I last blogged.

First, the moment in the second US Republican debate where Jeb Bush claimed that his brother George W. "kept us safe", to which the wingnut audience at the Reagan Library burst out into unanimous applause. The idiocy of this assertion in the context of 9/11 and dozens of Benghazi-level embassy and consulate attacks is lost on these ideologues in their media bubble of epistemic closure, and the message to GOP elites is to ramp up the crazy because that's what gets the base excited. Thus we will probably get another government shutdown this year, with Congress in chaos and no competent candidate willing to grasp the poisoned gavel of the Speakership to replace the failed John Boehner.

Second, the moment in the most recent Australian Liberal Party conference when Malcolm Turnbull rolled out a canned line that every Liberal leader runs with at such times, to the effect that the Liberal Party is superior to the other side because it doesn't have factions. The attending LNP hoi polloi - some of whom were the factional elites who installed him as Prime Minister in the party room, but most of whom were rank-and-file members aligned with one of the factions - laughed him down with a scornful tone. This gut reaction not only put a lie to Turnbull's bald statement, but signalled that we don't go for that sort of bullshit in this country, not even in right-wing politics.

The upshot of this is that the Republican Party is descending into the murky territory of actually being unfit to govern and an electoral majority of the public realising this truth, whereas the Liberal Party still has a hope of running the public sector without completely buggering it up. We tried the Third Way of Rudd-ism and it was found wanting in terms of implementation, allowing the Utopia-style APS bureaucracy to rise to the level of its incompetence in the absence of firm hands being on the departmental levers. Now we will give Turnbull the wheel and see if his brand of cheerful waffle managerialism masquerading as techno-wonkery can do any better.

Prior to the decisive spill, I had been building a case over the previous year or so about how Scott Morrison would be the next Liberal leader. The Libs decided to go with Turnbull, with Morrison's faction delivering the key swing votes in the party room, which led to the heated Ray Hadley 2GB interview in the days afterwards. It is blindingly obvious that Morrison could have put his hand up to be the champion of the Abetz/Andrews religious nudge faction but demurred, trusting that he will be the next Liberal leader to win an election when Turnbull fails. I won't go so far as to guarantee it, Andrew Elder style, but I agree with Morrison's calculations.

Meanwhile, the Turnbull government is now ensconced, albeit he has been mostly busy launching policies put in place by Abbott and hasn't had time to do much off his own bat. Honeymoon polls have been mostly underwhelming, going as low as 50:50 already without the leader having actually made a contentious decision yet.

I am not sure how Sinclair Davidson at Catallaxy figures that Turnbull will shift the party to the right. Colour me skeptical about Turnbull delivering on the promises Abbott abandoned. Turnbull has promised a more consultative PMship with participation from Cabinet - but he stacked Cabinet with younger wets and purged it of Abetz and Andrews. Turnbull may not have a mandate to shift the party to the left either, though, given promises he has made to Morrison's faction and the Nats to uphold key Abbott policies.

I have not seen anything to dissuade me from the notion that Turnbull is as hamstrung on policy as Abbott was. This government has been a lameduck administration from the start, we've just exchanged caretakers. Turnbull doesn't even have any culture wars to wage to distract the Liberal luvvies. If and when he actually starts making any decisions, one of two things will happen. If he moves to the right, watch his polls plummet immediately. If he moves to the left, watch the party room destabilise (and then the polls plummet later).

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Turnbull's onion-flavoured bowls of shit

Newly sworn in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull now faces an even bigger bowl of shit for him to eat than that given to Tony Abbott. His reaction so far does not give one confidence that he has the wherewithal to grab the spoon firmly and tuck in, as a strong leader must.

His first mistake was to agree to the demands of the Liberal right to maintain most of the Abbott policy agenda. This is what brought down Abbott, in that he made a bargain with the electorate in the last days before the last election to carry Julia Gillard's policies through, with the exception of the carbon tax (and yes, that includes Gillard's asylum seeker policy). Arguably, this is also what brought down Gillard in that she carried on the Kevin Rudd agenda. Rudd, for all his faults with implementation and governance, is the only politician in the post-Howard era to develop an original policy platform, and one which was so wildly popular that all other politicians of both sides have had no choice but to complete their introduction (albeit the Coalition deliberately sabotaged the NBN and NDIS).

Turnbull now has to trudge on defending the legacy of a deeply unpopular ex-PM and his deeply unpopular policy slate, with everyone knowing he strongly disagrees with much of it. There has been some talk about Turnbull as a different kind of a politician, but this will prove that he's just as capable of anyone else of lying and being unfaithful to his own views to serve the interests of factional power.

His other glaring mistake so far has been giving in to demands from the Nationals, principally to cede Barnaby Joyce the water portfolio, but also to lock in Abbott timeframes for the same sex marriage plebiscite (post-election) and tackling climate change (never). This is not a good start to his negotiations with the Senate, as Joyce will be a constant irritation to the Greens. If he can't even avoid selling his arse to Warren Truss, how can he expect to gain respect from the cross-benches?

Turnbull's major problem leading up to the next scheduled election in late 2016 is the state of the economy, which is teetering on recession at a most recent quarterly rate of 0.2% growth. I am sure that those 54 Liberal members did not think they were voting for an early election when they cast their ballots the other day. Nevertheless, an early election to capitalise on his honeymoon and avoid the seemingly inevitable economic slide over the next year might also give Turnbull a fresh mandate to stand up to the LNP factions. The longer he waits, the more shit he has to eat.

UPDATE: Lenore Taylor pours cold water on aspects of the Nationals bowl of shit. Which means it's diluted, I suppose, but still tastes nasty. The lock-in of the SSM and AGW policies is of most importance electorally.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The ultimate demise of Tony Abbott

After getting knocked off 54-44 by Malcolm Turnbull in a spill this evening, Tony Abbott ends his career as the shortest serving Prime Minister since Harold Holt. Andrew Elder leads the celebration.

As a Prime Minister, he was a victim of the malaise affecting both parties: that neither right nor left can claim any connection with their respective bases any more. Labor can't claim it's the voice of workers since the Hawke/Keating era of neoliberalism which put a lock on real wage increases; the Liberals can't claim they're the voice of business because their anti-Keynesian stewardship implements anti-economic policies which are ultimately poor results for demand which underpins growth for business.

Coming mere days after the election of Jeremy Corbyn as the new leader of Labour in Britain, it is tempting to draw the conclusion when considering the concurrent rise of Syriza and Podemos - not to mention Bernie Sanders who is tipping Hillary Clinton to the left in the US Democratic primaries - that there is a resurgence of populist anti-inequality thinking among centre-left elites. This would most likely be too pollyannaish, as there's still a lot of power residing in the Blairite, Ruddeqsue, Clintonian centrist elites.

There is an argument that America was the first Western electorate to show the polarisation of the electorate with the centre unoccupied by anyone electable, which Europe has followed and the UK is only the last example. There are very few Blue Dog Democrats left, or centrist Republicans. Similarly, Blairites hold very little power in the current Labour Party.

From an domestic Australian perspective, nevertheless, I still have the capability to be cynical about this "victory" on behalf of the left. I still think the most likely scenario in the medium term is that Turnbull loses the next election, hopefully to Albanese or Plibersek. I shudder to think that NSW Right machine man Shorten will lead the ALP to the next meaningful clash. As an example, consider my old mate Paul J who has finally left the ALP after many years of service as a branch member, due ostensibly to asylum seeker policy but more broadly due to machine-based lack of democratic accountability.

Both sides of politics in Western countries should be facing their ultimate mortality because they have lost touch with their bases. When one or the other side is forced through electoral reality to face that weakness, democracy is the winner. I hope Labor is similarly shocked out of its ennui before the next election.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The coming Australian recession...?

I buried my prediction of the first Australian recession in decades in a post back in May, because I wasn't quite sure it would come to pass. Today, in the light of the most recent quarter having growth of a measly 0.2%, Fairfax runs an Ian Porter piece laying out the reasons for believing that the recession will come in the next year or two, which boils down to the delayed effect of the Abbott decision to cut off assistance for the car industry and its subsequent withdrawal from the Australian economy.

The timing is interesting electorally, because the process of up to 200,000 automotive workers losing their jobs is due to be completed in 2016/17, with a full Abbott term due to finish in November 2016. We are already in some hinky territory with the Chinese slowdown, albeit currency devaluation has solved a lot of problems for our exporters and there's probably more room to drop below the current ~70c.

The last budget was a cash splash so large that it caused many pundits to think it was priming the Keynesian pumps for an early election, yet the economy is barely escaping contraction as it is. Far from a budget emergency, now we have a growth emergency, which will be followed by an employment emergency. Hockey hasn't really got any more gears to shift up fiscally, so when the automotive fecal matter hits the Centrelink air circulation equipment, the job of stimulating the economy is going to fall to the RBA, which has only 200 base points to play with and would only be forced to burn them under great duress given the housing market is already hubba-bubba-double-trouble. Then we hit the zero lower bound, and we're cactus in a Mad Max Fury Road scenario.

This is playing out a bit like George W. Bush's last days, where all of his dud decisions culminated in a massive economic and political collapse. Just as Dubbya is now seen as a contender for the worst US President in history, Tony Abbott is shaping up to be the worst Australian Prime Minister in history if these doomsday detentes come to pass. All we could do was sit back and enjoy the hot licks from the Doof Warrior.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Reform, and other lies told by rent seekers

An excellent if highly cynical piece on yesterday's Reform Summit by Liam Hogan in the Guardian:
The one thing I would not have expected out of our democratic, parliamentary, capitalist system in 2015 is how much a lot of its managerial politics would resemble 1970s Soviet “actually existing” socialism.
As a hearkening back to the glory days of the Hawke summits which led to the Accord, it was history repeated as farce: special interest groups and other rent seekers reciting their laundry lists of demands, talking past each other and agreeing only to a meaningless and non-binding communique which was rightly pilloried by Catallaxy Files as being largely pre-arranged. Hogan's cynicism doesn't go far enough.

The appearance of many of the usual suspects from the stable of right-wingers employed by The Australian at an event organised by Labor's Craig Emerson was not all that surprising in view of Nick Cater's summary of the day's festivities, which consisted of listing all the wonderful ways that the Summit would enable Labor to give in to the Right's policy agenda of lowering Australian worker living standards to match those of Asia in the name of "productivity", "flexibility" and "competitiveness" - i.e. to line the pockets of the capitalists in ye olde Reaganite fashion.

If there is to be an actual bipartisan reform platform in this country, it has to be built with a view to the effects of the 1980s reform and how its effects have played out in the intervening decades. Primary among these is how workers were stiffed by the decision of Labor to put a dampener on real wages, because workers have not enjoyed the benefits of their own productivity gains since the 1980s. Meanwhile, capital productivity has lagged considerably even as executive pay has skyrocketed and share dividends have fattened. Multifactor productivity has been dropping over the past decade, by almost a full percentage point, despite labour productivity rising by 1.5% p.a., because capital investment has proved to be wasteful, particularly in mining.

Hogan makes some compelling arguments for the Soviet metaphor, but I also detected some Chinese influence in what is these days an outpost of the Chinese mixed economy. Kevin Rudd may not have been present to speak Mandarin to the assembled mandarins, but there were parallels to the five-year plans by faceless man in the central committees of those other modern faces of the jerry-rigged communist/capitalist hybrid experiment. There was no Xi, or Che for that matter, but one hopes the feng shui of the room was tickety-boo.

Now that the AUD is back within more regular historic parameters, the bleating about international competitiveness should stop. We should not lower our wages and workplace standards to match those of Asian countries, as that is short-term thinking. The next major growth source for Australia is the burgeoning Chinese middle class - and that of India to a lesser extent - and if we are to ride that wave for another boost to prevent recession post the mining boom, we have to work towards an economy which can sell to it.

"Reform" in this country is too often conceived as a zero-sum game where workers and employers fight over the scraps of the world economy in a race to the bottom to serve the lowest common denominator. That is not Australia's natural role in the Asian century. We can't be the Singapore or Hong Kong of the region because those trade hub positions are already filled, and we can't be Taiwan or Bangladesh either with their focus on manufacturing. We can supply the Chinese bourgeoisie with small amounts of high-quality shipped goods and large amounts of low-cost digitally-delivered services. Whatever policies are attuned towards building that scenario are the ones that will underpin our future growth. I doubt anything will come out of the Reform Summit that would come anywhere near towards that.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A deleted comment from Club Troppo

I don't want to make a habit of antagonising the Troppodillians, but the following comment was just deleted from a Club Troppo post by statistics academic Chris Lloyd on gay marriage (quoted text from one of Lloyd's comments in italics).
On the contrary, showing an argument may be flawed by showing it leads to untenable positions is quite mainstream.
You did not show this at all, Chris. No one has showed how gay marriage leads inevitably to polygamy or bestiality. There is no logical argument that can show this. It is like saying allowing marriage between two people will lead inevitably to polygamy because once you allow two people to become one, there's nothing preventing three people becoming one. It's just silliness, literally 1 + 1 = 3.
Anyway, I am open to arguments that marriage contracts are more substantial than I realised, and some commenters have claimed that it is (though I have not had time to check the claims). 
"Time to check the claims"? Do you not realise what marriage means beyond the bare contract? Have you been living in a hole? Well, I guess MBS is a bit of a hole. I hope you are not one of those ivory tower intellectuals like Peter Singer who could argue themselves into foolish positions because they don't keep touch with the real world.
If de facto’s are at a disadvantage then there is another discussion to have about whether this is acceptable. 
Not really, Chris. It is discrimination, plain and simple. You're trying to bargain to preserve your privilege. It is unbecoming of an educated man such as yourself to cling to such antiquated thinking.
Finally Paul, I do not accept that my tone is any more arrogant or condescending than yours. And linking it to gender is not OK so I will ask you to not use the word mansplaining again.
Playing the victim is also beneath you, Chris. If you jump into such a fraught issue with weak arguments like these, expect to get pushback.
Not exactly sure what the problem with that comment was; most likely the admittedly gratuitous crack at Lloyd's employer. His post is another in an increasingly frequent series of High Broderist scolding from the right on that blog, which continues to cause me dismay.

Identity politics and Adam Goodes

The Piping Shrike, who posts about as infrequently as I do these days (must be a father also), has pronounced on the Adam Goodes situation. It's a long, meandering essay, as all of his are, with a number of juicy nuggets of wisdom, but is typically hard to sum up. I would take issue with a couple of his points, nonetheless.

Primary among these is the repeated phrase of "the anti-racism campaign against the public", his criticism of which forms the main part of his screed. I suspect the Shrike does not live among or talk to a lot of football-immersed people, thus he would not understand how much racism there was around this issue among the public, and how lonely it was fighting the good fight against people convinced that their racist attitudes weren't racist. The Shrike calls the loose collection of individuals battling white privilege in bars, backyards, dining rooms and social media across the nation a "campaign", as if it was conducted against a united public solely by an elite. No, there are people out here in the public who argued at the grass roots along with the anti-racists in the media.

Anti-racism campaigns are not meaningless, as the Shrike asserts. You only have to look at the wins that anti-racism campaigners are having in the US over removing state support for the Confederate flag and are now starting to have over state-authorised statues of Confederate heroes. In itself, those things won't change living standards for African-Americans but it is an early and vital manifestation of anti-racist strength that will eventually get other things achieved, most notably through the #BlackLivesMatter movement which will shift the Democratic policy platform and thus affect policy of the forthcoming Clinton administration. Symbols matter, culture matters, otherwise we wouldn't be having culture wars over it.

The Shrike asks why the inevitably non-zero cadre of racist Swan fans didn't boo Goodes. In this, he shows he doesn't understand sporting tribalism. If you're among a bunch of supporters of your own team and you start booing one of your own because he's black, you will swiftly discover the rest of the supporter base will turn on you and eject you from the tribe. Fans who go to the game are primarily there as part of their sporting team tribe, not their racial tribe, and the former trumps the latter when there is a clash at a home game filled with team members. Racist Swan fans simply shut up while opposition fans booed Goodes, in solidarity with their dominant tribe.

Much is made by the Shrike of the lack of convictions under anti-racism legislation, but again, that ignores the very real effects that such legislation has in discouraging anyone from engaging in conduct that would come close to meriting a conviction. The threat of incarceration can change attitudes almost as much as incarceration itself. Of course, this effect is hard to quantify, but I don't think anyone who denies it exists has much of a leg to stand on.

Finally, the Shrike asks why the media has moved on, asking if the crowd has stopped booing, why there hasn't been an outpouring of joy at Australia suddenly finding a solution to a seemingly intractable problem. The crowd has stopped booing, but unfortunately there were no miracles to be verified by the Vatican. AFL industry elites effectively made a bargain with the public: let's agree not to keep calling you racists if you agree to stop booing. It was a ceasefire, not a victory. Goodes' withdrawal for a week took the heat out of it, with the home Sydney crowd's voluble support for him in absentia that weekend further turning the tide.

Overall, I was disappointed with the tone of the Shrike's piece, but then that's nothing new on this issue because it seems to cut across political boundaries and many of those on the left or centre have been on what I consider the wrong side of this one. It's the sort of identity politics that we could do without in this country. I'd like it if we didn't turn into America, thanks.

Friday, July 31, 2015

#Gamergate, #cuckservative and racism against Adam Goodes

There is a line that can be drawn, a lineage that can be traced, between a number of recent primal screams emanating originally from shadowy ranks of white male recidivism.
  • The #gamergate movement, which is a reaction by openly misogynist males against what they see as attacks against the identity of white male gamers, started by a cadre of hardcore drongos on sites like Reddit, gaining momentum as it gathers up tenuously related non-sexist criticisms of game industry and media elites, gradually building into a mob where the majority are not sexist, but the masses give credence to the movement started by a vocal and unrepresentative minority.
  • The #cuckservative movement, which is a reaction by openly white supremacist males against what they see as attacks against the identity of white male American conservatives, started by a cadre of hardcore drongos on sites like 8chan, gaining momentum as it gathers up tenuously related non-racist criticisms of conservative political and media elites, gradually building into a mob where the majority are not racist, but the masses give credence to the movement started by a vocal and unrepresentative minority.
  • The mass booing of Adam Goodes, which is a reaction by openly racist males against what they see as attacks against the identity of white male Australians, started by a cadre of hardcore drongos at AFL games, gaining momentum as it gathers up tenuously related non-racist criticisms of sporting and media elites, gradually building into a mob where the majority are not racist, but the masses give credence to the movement started by a vocal and unrepresentative minority.
In all three cases, there is a core of horrible people who perform anti-social acts with stated justifications that any reasonable person would find abhorrent, but the majority of participants in this anti-social behaviour use the argument that they don't share the horrible beliefs of the fringe members of the group, thus they shouldn't be tarred with the same brush.

In any large political grouping, there are going to be fringe elements inside the "big tent". Nationalist skinheads vote Liberal, feral communists vote Labor, and these actions are perfectly acceptable and do not invalidate the party's platform as long as the minority doesn't dictate policy. In the case of these extra-institutional movements, however, the actions that the majority take are the same as the hardcore. How are we to tell the difference between those with criminally anti-social motivations and those who have "normal" reasons for acting like morons?

Unfortunately, this dilemma doesn't seem to worry many of those in the majority who are acting as useful idiots providing cover for the extremists. I have been involved in some very heated discussions trying to argue such people around in the case of the Goodes crisis, and I am sure the same kinds of conversations have been happening all over, both on and off the Internet, in the past week. It's a smorgasbord of bad arguments defending the indefensible, as Russell Jackson only skimmed the surface of the other day.

One of the many ways we are lucky to have been born in the Lucky Country is that despite all the talk of multiculturalism, we are largely still a very monoculturally Anglo-Celtic society, and aren't forced very often to confront our own prejudices like this. You only have to look at America where hatred towards Hispanic immigrants and black urban youth is dominating mainstream political discussion, or in England where UKIP only grows in popularity, or Europe where a member country like Hungary can fall under the grip of an openly fascist regime and barely an eyelid is blinked. In comparison, we lost our minds for weeks on end when a man asked a question on a TV program. Our privilege as Australians, let alone white Australians, is almost too massive to comprehend.

The glue binding all these movements together is identity politics. The extremists are white, male and western, and the people they are trying to recruit to their thinly veiled anti-social reactionary causes share much of their identity - this demographic has been labelled in various countries as "frat", "bro", "lad", "chav" and "bogan". While the majority may not profess to share the extremists' politics, the functional differences between them and the fringe are blurred if they take part of the same activities.

In this context, it is supremely difficult to educate a certain type of young white man about the nature of his privilege, because so much of his self image is bound up in believing he is right about everything, even those things he actually knows very little about. Hopefully it's not going to take a tragedy for these otherwise intelligent, empathetic and compassionate citizens to see the light.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The zero lower bound government

Another budget has been and gone. Instead of the steaming turd that was the last budget, which was largely blocked by the Senate, this time we have zero. The Abbott government has spent the intervening period announcing bad policies, extracting the maximum amount of negative reaction as the public gradually and painfully rejects them, and then quietly dropping them. What they are proceeding with are much the same settings as were left by Swan, but adding a bunch of conservative nudge items which blow the deficit out. Hockey is deliberately doing nothing in the hope that revenues will rebound naturally from historic lows under Swan.

For me, the most astounding stat from this year's budget is that despite a projected deficit of over $35B, it will actually create an annual lag on the economy of as much as 0.5% of GDP (read it somewhere yesterday, now can't find the link, grr), and will do nothing to help slowly creeping unemployment. From a Keynesian macro perspective, it is the worst outcome possible. Most worryingly, it is based on assumptions that are rosy at best.

I have been feeling for a while that it is only a matter of time before Australia joins the rest of the Western world in hitting the zero lower bound of interest rates. All it is going to take with the current budget settings is one big assumption to be wrong - China hiccuping, the iron price plummeting below $35 as Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton squeeze out competitors, opportunistic currency markets persisting in inflating the $A - for the RBA to be faced with the prospect, given that fiscal policy is so pissweak, of having to further cut rates down close to zero where it is in America, Japan and Europe. And once you reach the zero lower bound and bring on all of the weirdness that happens in an economy as a consequence, it's very hard to raise them again, as Japan showed us from the 1990s on.

Australia under zeroed interest rates would be a scary place, given how our economy is structured so strongly around housing as a speculatory tax haven. If, as some pundits are saying, this budget is a precursor to an early election, that may be the last chance to avoid the unhappy fate of the ZLB. The Liberals don't have any ideas.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Barmy Harmy and the long walk

Katherine Murphy runs with a nice little analogy:
We can see right now that the Abbott government is doing that long walk that fast bowlers do before rounding on their heel and coming back full tilt at the crease.
Only problem is, this was Tony Abbott's first ball:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Club Troppo, Parishioners and High Broderism

When I first started taking interest in Australian poliblogs a few years ago, my first thought was that the Club Troppo web site sounded interesting, based as it was on the self-professed "political centrism" of Ken Parish and Nicholas Gruen. Back then, you had Larvatus Prodeo on the left (now deceased) and Catallaxy Files on the right, and Troppo nominally in the centre as the major group blogs in the Australian political scene. To me, group blogs are the most interesting variation of the form as they encourage dissemination of a range of ideas and viewpoints, producing a variegated editorial line instead of a blaring one-note foghorn. I wish I was part of one of these collectives, and indeed I did contribute a piece on the NBN to Club Troppo in my early time as a poliblog watcher.

As you may glean if you read the comments to that piece, my encounter with the resident Troppodillians was less than successful. Nicholas ended up calling me a mercantilist, which in the modern context is an implacable insult by a liberal Western wonk - never mind that Chinese mercantilism has been kicking the West's butt in the 21st century (that's for another post).

Anyway, one of the Troppo's latest is by Parish, and he engages in some classic "both sides do it" high Broderism to attempt to lay blame for mindless federal obstructionism at the feet of Labor:
... the cycle of retaliatory fiscal mischief goes back decades. I would date the phenomenon back at least to Paul Keating’s cynical and unprincipled demolition of John Hewson’s Fightback policy in the lead-up to the 1993 election, a tactic that Keating pursued relentlessly notwithstanding that he himself had advocated a GST only a few years previously and that John Howard by contrast had had the guts and integrity (not words that most on the Left would associate with him) to support most of the Hawke/Keating government’s necessary deregulatory, market-based reforms over the previous decade.  The gloves were off on fiscal policy from that moment on.
There were many valid and principled reasons for a centre-left leader to oppose Fightback!: slashing of welfare, abandonment of awards, cutting Medicare to ribbons, tax cuts for the rich and widespread privatisations. Yes, the GST was the issue on which the election was won and lost, but it would be disingenuous to concentrate solely on the media frenzy over it and ignore all the other Reaganomics elements which should be anathema to a centrist wonk, as Ken is. Wonks look at the whole policy picture, not just the media sideshow. Fightback! would have kickstarted the pure Reagan/Thatcher model of gutting the social safety net and widening the inequality gap between rich and poor, which Hawke and Keating had implemented while preserving many elements of the Australian social contract that were hardfought over many decades by unions and the rest of the left.

The rest of the article attacks Labor for insufficient adherence to its own ideals, especially around privatisation in the context of Paul Keating's defence of privatisation in the lead up to the NSW election, and then puts the hard word on Labor to establish a Troppodillian idée fixe, the Independent Fiscal Authority. Little to no mention is made of the Liberals in all of this. There is no responsibility for reform laid at the feet of Tony Abbott or any other Coalition leader. The implicit assumption is that the right's position is not even worth discussing.

High Broderism is a term related to Washington Post columnist David Broder, who is the premier exponent of the Beltway village theorem of a controlling group in the centre defining what is and is not acceptable policy according to the conventional wisdom set by an elite of influencers and policy professionals, with anything outside this window labelled as "extremism" and denounced across the press and "respectable" broadcast media. In America, this elite is an unelected and unaccountable set of media commentators and political operatives effectively working as a team, with tenured columnists at the WaPo, NYT and WSJ spruiking for those insiders whose policies they agree with and shunning those with other ideas, with little reference to their popularity with the actual public.

In Australia, we don't really have a "Beltway" as such. Power is more concentrated around Collins St and Sussex St, and Capital Circle just doesn't have a ring to it. Nevertheless, we do have an unelected "controlling group in the centre" in this country which traditionally has sat above political cycles, but it's not made up of pundits and apparatchiks: it's the public service. As befits a country more built along Westminster lines, public servants are the rocks around which the political tides rise and fall, guiding the country with Appleby-esque aplomb past this or that faddish though bubble. As academic advisers to and occasional employees of various governments over the years, Gruen and Parish are part of the wider cadre of public sector policy wonks, which gives their position in the Australian poliblogosphere some quantum of extra weight.

There is a good reason why the likes of Parish address their criticisms solely to Labor: it would be useless to ask the right to pay him any attention, because the local yokels are following the trend in the rest of the West of abandoning all pretence of scientific method in favour of hokum, humbug and junk economic theory. More to the point, Parish and his wonkmates are not only not going to get a gig advising any Coalition mob, the Liberal razor gang has been conducting a quiet pogrom to purge the public service of those not deemed sufficiently discipular to wingnut orthodoxy, from the head of the Treasury on down. His natural role, and that of the reality-based community within the public service - the Parishioners? - is to advise Labor because advising the Liberals on policies backed by traditional Keynesian theory is a fool's errand. This leads to a tendency for he and his posse to lecture Labor and let the Coalition off the hook.

That is not to say Parish et al do not criticise the Liberals. High Broderism denotes opprobrium directed at all sides. The responsibility for fixing the mess thus described, however, is left to the Left to get right to the right-thinking job of giving in to the Right.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Short Kicks: Whoa-oh, onion skin

Still snowed under with work, so no time for longer pieces.

- I presume no domain expertise on Aboriginal matters so I can only sit back in my chair while reading pieces like this from the Oz or this from Piping Shrike, One aside from the Shrike stood out for me, though:
By the Martin Place siege, Abbott was toning down the cultural warrior rhetoric, which he could while his main threat was Turnbull. Now in attempting to cling on to right support against a more serious rising threat from Morrison, he has speeded up again.
Yep, that appears to me to be a pretty cutting summation of Federal politics at the moment, as the Christian/Tory wing of Eric Abetz and Kevin Andrews is suddenly the only constituency that Tony Abbott cares about, as it's the factional key to a Scott Morrison succession.

- The Clive 4 Eva bandwagon has its wheels on fire, rolling down the road. He only has himself to blame. If I was an American lefist blogger here I might start railing about the double standard in the media, in that Abetz and Hockey don't get nearly enough scrutiny for their near complete lack of negotiating skills to get the 2014 budget through the Senate. Journos seem to be giving them somewhat of a pass as an indirect commentary on the quality of the independents. How Abbott must yearn for the prudent competence of Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott.

- Abbott ate a raw onion in front of TV cameras, brown skin and all. Who does that? Has that ever been a thing? Is he actually clinically insane by this point? What is the procedure for having the Prime Minister taken away by the men in white coats?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Elitism and bullshit

Jeff Sparrow gets on the elitism bandwagon - by which I mean treating elitism as a subject of political discussion all of its own - in examining recent literary ejaculations by David Flint and Nick Cater.
We’re now in a position to understand the relationship between elitist anti-elitism and the more recent anti-democratic turn. Almost by definition, elitist anti-elitism depends on external commentators like Cater or Flint to mystically interpret and convey the sentiment of the masses. If the man in the pub were to argue for himself – or, worse still, to agitate or organise – he’d immediately lose his authenticity. If he starts to talk, he’s half way to becoming one of those hated intellectuals.
Abbott saw no problem with knighting Prince Phillip, since he and Flint know in their bones that only elitists could hate the monarchy. The unpopularity of the knighthood doesn't change anything – it merely shows that the elitists have somehow corrupted the natural instincts of honest folk.
My initial reaction to the nonsense put out by Cater and Flint is to conclude that "elitist anti-elitism" is, not to put too fine a point on it, complete bullshit. Sparrow calls it "mythology", but my gut feeling is that it is just bullshit, plain and simple.

Lest you think I'm merely being scatological for its own sake, bullshit has become a subject for serious intellectual study in recent times. As a rhetorical technique, it has been defined as subtly different from lying and humbug. The difference between lying and bullshit has been summarised thusly:
The liar believes that A is the case, but he wants to convince you both that Z is the case, and that he believes Z is the case. The bullshitter, by contrast, wants to convince you that Z is the case and that he believes Z is the case, but he is indifferent as to whether Z is the case or not[.]
As for a delineation between these two and the concept of humbug, to me it seems committing humbug incorporates some level of pretence, insincerity and/or trickery on behalf of the humbug, but apparently it stops short of outright lying. In the above formulation, the humbug wants to convince you that Z is the case and that he believes Z is the case, but he is ambivalent about whether Z is the case or not. (Ambivalence and indifference can be contrasted by saying that indifference means you don't care, whereas ambivalence means you don't know).

So do Flint and Cater really believe their bullshit, or are they just humbugging it up with straight out lies? Which faith are they arguing in badly? This matters in the sense that it important that the right maintains some semblance of attention towards the truth, because Harry Frankfurt's message with his 1986 essay was that too much bullshit was toxic for the soul. At least if they are merely lying, they can eventually be proven wrong. If they have caught the Baudrillardian disease of forgetting to care about reality in the first place and immersing themselves in their abstracted truthiness, then we're in trouble.

I think, on reflection, that Cater and Flint are engaging in humbug. They have come up with a quasi-intellectual framework of post hoc justification for their identity politics, but they have done no academic work to put this in context of the rest of scientific thought on the issues. They just don't care about the reality of the situation, as long as they keep getting attention and/or cheques. The lies suit their purposes. Don't look behind the curtain, because there's nothing there except an old white man running a scam.

They are not as bad as the George W. Bush era's self-appointed creators of reality, though perhaps that's only because they are so relatively powerless. Thankfully.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

39/100: fractional factional friction

So, the first #libspill came and went, largely as I predicted with Abbott keeping his job but none of his credibility. The only thing I didn't expect was chief whip Philip Ruddock deciding to make the pre-spill vote a secret ballot - but Cabinet solidarity extended to all but six members anyway (according to the Tele). If that last snippet is true and assuming 35 members in Cabinet went 29-6 against the spill, then the numbers from the backbench were 33-32 for the spill.

Several things should be said that I don't think I've heard much of elsewhere. The first was hinted at by Piping Shrike.
That was true of the entire process, actually. This is the nature of spills in parties in the Westminster tradition, where the party is focused almost exclusively on what Abbott calls "internals". The PM talked about being more "collegiate", but you have to be a member of the right college for that to matter. When he did remember to mumble platitudes about listening more to voters, it was always as an afterthought behind the real targets of his rhetoric, the elected members of his own party. The changes to the ALP's process after the Rudd debacle means that Labor won't make that same mistake, though they will probably discover all new ones.

Speaking of the Shrike, he reckons this could have been Turnbull's best shot.
So what next? It would be tempting to wonder if the right, having instigated this instability, then suddenly going quiet, with those like Howard and Bernardi appearing only at the last minute, had shifted its priority from replacing Abbott to just stopping Turnbull in his tracks. The talk was that Morrison, probably their preferred choice, was not yet experienced enough in senior portfolios to take over. This sounds phoney, probably the numbers weren’t there yet. If so, it would suggest that Turnbull might have just missed the best chance he had to regain the leadership.
That may be true, but it may also be true that 39 votes was the best he was ever going to get from the current party room, populated as it is by so many of the right wing of the party. I haven't seen much analysis of where those 39 votes came from in terms of factional groupings. The narrative of this being a peasant revolt by backbenchers without reference to ideology is too cute, too convenient.

One would assume the Christian/Tory wing of Kevin Andrews and Eric Abetz would be right behind Abbott, whereas the smaller Julie Bishop faction would be mostly for the spill as Bishop has been highly cheeky in the indirectness of her public support for it. The Hockey club (cigar club?) would surely be in a bind at the moment; their leader has been smashed from pillar to post for attacking the Age of Entitlement, to no effect. Would a new Treasurer under a new leader be from the same club, and thus it doesn't matter who is given the poisoned chalice, even though that means the nominal factional leader gets the lemon sars? I suspect the clubbers think Turnbull wouldn't be good for their prospects for advancement, but there are a lot of younger members who have been champing at the bit for the dead wood to be cleaned out of Treasury so factional solidarity wouldn't be all that great. Then we come to the more regional alliances: Pyne's South Australian mob who must be staring at electoral oblivion given how poorly Abbott has treated them; and Greg Hunt whose Victorian cadre stand to lose 6 of their 16 seats if current polls hold up and must feel unloved given the dominance of NSW in the modern Liberal Party.

Finally, there's the Scott Morrison faction, which has been called Right with a capital R, even though Morrison is quoted as having some wet economic positions, and his ascension to Parliament was over the body of a candidate of the Right. Would the members of his faction have been voting for a spill? I suspect not. They would have been some of the first names on the list of 70 pledges that Abbott's numbers men drummed up on the weekend, as loyalty to the leader suits Morrison right now. Some of them may have lied, but not all that many did.

The long game is for Morrison to capture enough votes from enough of these groupings to win a spill, and the obvious first target is the Andrews/Abetz faction because that seems to be the dominant one in this Parliament. Changing their vote en masse in favour of a spill would be a fait accompli for Morrison. Being a committed Christian doesn't hurt his chances of capturing this faction, albeit his religion is of the Pentecostal evangelical variety - but the American Right managed to accept Mitt Romney and his Mormonism, so political factions tend to override religious denominations as long as God is in the House. Morrison has been promoted by both Turnbull and Abbott in his brief career, and he is talked about as a unity candidate. He should be the favourite when the decisive spill in this inexorable process is held.

In closing, it would be remiss of me not to note Sinclair Davidson going all in for Malcolm Turnbull prior to the vote. He misses the obvious solution to his own dithering dilemma: Morrison as PM and a man who can "drive the process"at military speed and efficiency, with Turnbull as Treasurer doing the sales job for hated "reform" that Hockey can't.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Tony Abbott: see you next Tuesday

The #libspill is on. Only problem is: nobody is standing against Tony Abbott yet. Julie Bishop has ruled herself out, as has Scott Morrison. Malcolm Turnbull is the only viable alternative candidate, and he's working the numbers.

I have not had the greatest of luck in predicting these things - I thought Rudd wouldn't run against Gillard and said so on the fateful day that he won back the leadership - but I reckon the most likely scenario is that Turnbull realises he doesn't have the numbers, and doesn't stand. He may run and lose, but that won't solve anything, just as it didn't solve anything when Rudd ran and lost a couple of times before winning. There will be plenty of opprobrium to share around in any case. Abbott's leadership will still be terminal, he still won't have a mandate, and his position will be even worse because he'll have to bone Turnbull from the front bench and appoint someone less qualified.

This all plays into Scott Morrison's hands. Abbott and Turnbull can bash each other up across multiple failed spills, and he can wait for the right moment to come around the outside like Kiwi in 1983. (Note to self: must update sporting analogies to 21st century.) As he rolls out social security policies, Morrison will look like the only one who is still accomplishing anything at a level of competency befitting a leader.

I feel like Steve M. over at No More Mister Nice Blog who is similarly wailing abut Scott Walker being the quiet favourite for the 2016 GOP primary. I think it's important to know the real enemy, and why he is the dark horse based on his attractiveness to right wing extremists. Walker puts the wind up Steve the way that Morrison puts the wind up me: they could cause the most destruction to the apparatus of social democracy if they ever fluke their way into office. Leftists hate Walker and Morrison, but they get results in implementing their hated policies. It's the quiet ones who are most dangerous at times like this.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

To engage or diss engagement

Every night as I'm going to bed I grab my tablet and go through a supper list of American poliblogs, in what has now become a firm order. First comes Booman Tribune and No More Mr Nice Blog for a bit of leftist ranting, followed by Hullabaloo as the (relative) voice of reason by main blogger Heather "digby" Parton, then Balloon Juice and Lawyers, Guns and Money for the policy/law wonk substance. Afterwards for dessert, I read Paul Krugman and then maybe Brad Delong, then if I'm still awake a bit of Daily Kos. Of these, I probably enjoy LGM the most as it's got the meatiest material, and Hullabaloo can seem a bit like the vegetables you have to endure for your own fibrous good. Nevertheless, digby comes up with some crackers now and then that remind me of why I read her, and this one on the journey of Joe Klein is one such.

Are there any Australian journos who have embarked on the Joe Klein experience, where through the needs of the new digital age they have been forced to engage with online agitants and been browbeaten into changing their own tune as a consequence? People like Andrew Elder are crying out to be listened to by such people, and he has much the same sort of message to be delivered to the closed workshop of the mainstream media. His entreaties seem to go on deaf ears, unfortunately. Whoever it is behind the Dorothy Parker pseudonym at Loon Pond comes at the same problem from the angle of lampoonery, which can have a similar effect if anyone was reading him, which it appears few are. But it only takes one.

If there are two mainstream journos who I think may have already had the humility and intelligence to see where the wind is blowing and take on the concerns of the online community, they are Katherine Murphy and Lenore Taylor. They weren't ever really part of The Machine like Klein was, though, as they were not really spruikers for the political class and its increasingly bipartisan neoliberal hegemony. The equivalent here would be someone like Peter Hartcher or Barry Cassidy, veteran "insiders" who sorely need a dose of non-Canberra reality to jolt them out of the cosiness of their relationships with the elite apparatchiks.

I'm not necessarily blaming the journos themselves for being so unapproachable. It's a long way from Davos to Damascus, especially if you're stuck in Canberra stuffing the constantly ravenous political news hole with "content". Someone like Murphy is flat out trying to produce enough to satisfy her employer, let alone waste time feeding the social media maw.

The smallness of the Australian market, and its lack of competition, mean that many journos don't have to pay all that much direct attention to the "punters", never mind the online left, such as it is. It's not only the ABC which lacks a commercial imperative, but also News Ltd which is allowed to lose money hand over fist if it stays true to its proprietors' ideology. For the Joe Klein scenario to happen in Australia, it would probably take a cataclysmic collapse of Fairfax and/or News for their journos to be forced into much less well paid jobs at new media startups where contact with the hoi polloi was much more a function of the business model. I'm not holding my breath for that eventuality.

Millennials' response to this situation has been to turn off from the mainstream media almost completely, and it's hard not to agree with their conclusion. The media don't talk to them or speak their truth to power, so why should they donate their precious eyeballs? This is where I have immense respect for Elder and Parker, but I couldn't do what they do in fisking entire MSM articles line by line. To me, it seems better not to play their game, because it's rigged and you always lose.

UPDATE: Taylor and Murphy respond, like the professionals they are.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Arise Scott Morrison, the cromulent Cromwell

I have long thought that Scott Morrison would be the next leader of the Liberal Party, but I wasn't quite sure he would be the next Prime Minister of Australia until the events of this week.

Not only is it now inevitable that the Libs bone Tony Abbott - there is no coming back from here, as the Prince Phillip disaster was followed by a Press Club speech basically telling the party room that he was never going to change so you can take the keys to Kirribilly out of his cold, dead fingers - there will be a spill presently which will be the first of several, so the process is drawn out as painfully as possible. There are only 30 or so of the 102-strong caucus who would vote against Abbott, so he will most likely win if Warren Entsch goes ahead with his plan to cause a spill.

Morrison knows what's coming, mainly because he saw it with his own eyes when Labor went through it not that long ago. He knows the Abbott coalition-within-the-coalition is still the largest voting base in the party room, which is why he is on Abbott's side working the numbers and acting as Team Tony's front man for the media. He will be able to point to his superior loyalty after he eventually wins the one that matters, drawing a sharp distinction between himself and those tarred with the Tone Def brush.

Scott Morrison is the answer for which many on the right yearn. The question being asked by the faceless men is, "who will satisfy the Liberal party room and its base, without bringing unworkable baggage?" Everyone else conceivably in the running has too many faults. Bishop is a lightweight, Turnbull is not ideologically acceptable, Hockey is a beaten man.

Liberal voters love an authoritarian who dominates on their behalf. Morrison will frighten some horses with his cromulent Cromwell impression, but as long as they are mostly millennials and/or leftists, that's perfectly fine from the perspective of the blue rinse set.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Abbott and elitism

There have been various justifications made for why Tony Abbott knighting Prince Phillip on Australia Day has been so universally condemned by everyone except David Flint and Kevin Andrews. It's a broken promise, it's a bad look, it's tone deaf, and it's poor process. However, many other such decisions by the Abbott government have been made without the instant cacophony of vitriol from every quarter. The underlying problem, to me, goes back to the old saw I have been banging on about for a while now: elitism.

The monarchy is the ultimate elite in Westminster democracies: unelected, unaccountable except in the most ethereal of manners, and unapproachable except in carefully controlled glimpses. Buckingham Palace is the apotheosis of the gated community for the rich. Giving the consort of the monarch Australia's highest honour makes Abbott look like the Queen's suckhole. Worse, the only people whom he consulted were Angus Houston, whom he also gave a knighthood, and the Governor-General who is bound not to give harsh advice in pretty much any matter to the Prime Minister.

Abbott's one-man conga line has been contrasted with a similar bauble handed out by Bob Hawke in the 1980s, but that was the 1980s. These days, leaders have to be careful not to seem as if they are only concerned with elites, and this is perhaps the most elitist thing that a PM of a Commonwealth nation could do.

There have been  points made about Richie Benaud, who like the Prince is elderly and infirm, asking why Abbott didn't extend his honours to the legendary and much beloved sportsman. This point is valid, and perhaps even more important is that Abbott only gave out two knighthoods, thus reinforcing how exclusive is the club that he and the knights belong to. That's the basic message out of this mess: Abbott is part of an elite, and you're not invited, and he doesn't care what you think about it. In a democracy, this is the worst kind of message to send.

At this point, Abbott is Labor's best friend. He got rid of Napthine, he was the difference maker in the weekend's election in Queensland to oust Campbell Newman, and he will likely cause major heartburn for NSW Liberals on March 28 when they try their luck. The Libs are up by eight points at the moment in NSW, although Newman was supposed to be up by four points in Queensland so the pollsters will be scrambling to reallocate preferences on new parameters.

Can Abbott last until April to make it a hat trick of Liberal premier scalps in the last six months? Scott Morrison is still my favourite to take over at some point, and he's making all the right noises about unity and moves in support of Abbott today to ensure he can't be accused of disloyalty. Things are going to get a lot more ragged in the next two months. It will be rough.... Mal Brough. Should be another interesting day today, for example, with Abbott standing up in front of the Press Club. Can he even make it through the day? Popcorn time.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Base motivation

We are at the point now where political pundits have to make up reasons why Tony Abbott does things. Andrew Elder has a lash:
As I've said before, when Tony Abbott gets into trouble he will reach out to his base on the far right, and that's why he offered Prince Phillip the knighthood. 
The only problem with this analysis is that the far right now hates his guts so much that this has only made things worse with them. The relevant Catallaxy Files thread is almost wall to wall with exasperation, you can hear the heavy sighs from here. There is a lot of talk about the base in that thread, which is an American phrase that nonetheless describes something locally real. By the way, I am not holding up that site as "the base", only "a base". There are others:
Tony's lost Rupert, as well as Miranda, Tim Blair, Chris Kenny, and probably Andrew Bolt when he returns from holidays. That's the News Ltd faction offside, good job there. Then there's the 3AW demographic:
Mr Abbott responded: "What is the specific problem, is there a policy thing you don't agree with?"
"Prime Minister, it's the way you do things, like the Medicare thing, with the education, you've done so many backflips, people don't know where you are going and business is saying there are roadblocks because there is no direction and no leadership … as a Liberal voter, I don't particularly like you," Andrew replied.
Ouch. That's not relaxed or comfortable, it's aggravation and rage. Many pundits can't resist the temptation to frame the market for the seemingly inevitable #libspill, including John Quiggin. The motivation for doing so in some quarters is hoping that the resultant chaos will lead magically to the enactment of the pundit's pet policies; in Quiggin's case, this means Julie Bishop somehow singlehandedly reversing the global movement by the right over the last decade to climate change denialism.

Don't worry though, I've had such thoughts too. I mean, if he's going to lose anyway and he has no other options, why shouldn't Abbott dive bum first into the too-hard-basket and wrestle generational problems like negative gearing and superannuation? He's going to be punished by the electorate and the media no matter what he does at this point, so he might as well build a legacy of policy that will be respected in ages to come.

Of course, that's not what Abbott is about. He is an old fashioned Tory who doesn't particularly like economics, and now has the misfortune of short term economic forecasts not liking him. His only chance is to hang on and play his negative sum game until some externality comes along. Now that OPSOB has meant that all the SIEVs from I through X and beyond means there won't be another Tampa situation, it would have to be something else more serious. A lovely little war? Who knows. That's why we're just pundits and not billionaires.

UPDATE: Yep, lost BoltA too.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Short Kicks: The furniture is revolting

Still working hard on business stuff so no time for anything more than Short Kicks.

- As Piping Shrike rightly points out, the current leadership tension over Tony Abbott's increasingly woeful performance on so many issues is not going to have a happy ending for the Liberal Party. Backbenchers are leaking, journos are hyperventilating, it's #ruddmentum all over again. But as with the disappointing Rudd return, there is no thought that replacing Abbott with any of the clowns in the current front or back bench would lead to any different policy agenda. Perhaps getting rid of PPL and Abbott's other pet projects would be enough in itself. I doubt it. The only logic that works for the Libs at the moment is the same logic that they relentlessly mocked Labor for, in that they could write off the next election result but with a short term honeymoon poll bounce they could "save the furniture" by minimising the losses with a view to jagging the next one.

- As such, Abbott may look like a galah on the national stage on a daily basis but he is showing a some rat cunning regarding internal Liberal Party politics. His cabinet reshuffle seems to be focused mostly on making everyone else look bad in comparison to him, even though that is a negative-sum game. Sussan Ley has already been thrown to the wolves through the public humiliation of announcing the backflip on GP co-payments. Shifting Scott Morrison to Social Services is very shrewd, I think, because it means Morrison can wear all the blame for terrible decisions that Abbott makes as he tries to shaft his gray power voting base with tax hikes and welfare cuts in a vain attempt to balance the budget. Abbott has left Hockey as a shag on a rock for the most part during the failed budget negotiations, even though there have been leaks to try to pin blame for Abbott's dud policies on the PM. Turnbull is busy being shoulder-deep inside the Telstra cow, planting fiscal timebombs. Abbott has also allowed the media to scrutinise Julie Bishop without coming to her aid particularly, and since there's never been much substance there, that's a bad thing for Bishop's aspirations. Morrison is still the only hope for the Libs, but only if he makes a move before he gets too much of the Abbott stink on him.

- Meanwhile, though I got excited about Palmer populism last year, the cat of reality was quickly belled by Lenore Taylor and the public has reacted by abandoning PUP in the polls. Palmer has now stiffened up somewhat on other budget measures, but it's too late for his electoral fortunes as I suspect he has lost his chance to be the new face of people power. My analysis was not wrong as such, because the opportunity for Clive was real at the time - I merely overestimated him. Oh well, what can you expect from a billionaire. If only we had an Elizabeth Warren type in the Australian parliament.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Short Kicks: Je suis occupé

Not much time for blogging as work has me flat out like a lizard drinking, having launched CricketFan as the first addition to the FanSports Network (which had previously only consisted of FanFooty) and shortly to officially add FanLeague. Time for some short kicks!

- The Charlie Hebdo story has been done to death elsewhere. I had a blog post brewing in my mind which would have mentioned the word "arsehole" about 250 times, because my opinion is that the fact that some Islamist arseholes blew some French arseholes away for being arseholes has drawn a predictable response from libertarian arseholes in their seemingly unstoppable campaign to Let Arseholes Be Arseholes should not mean that non-arseholes should give in to any of the arsehole-aligned factions. I was also going to draw some allusions between the childishness of Charlie Hebdo and the English tradition of Private Eye and Viz of publishing obscenity as a kind of white privilege - back in the 1960s they might have been fighting a real battle against power and privilege, but by now that sort of thing is just kicking down. That post will never be written now, as I haven't the time. I'm sure you're all sad about that.

- What is Henry Ergas doing writing about Islamism? He's an economist of some renown (or some previous renown). His competency is not acting like every other hack political commentator. I know Krugman freelances a lot in his columns, but at least he maintains some semblance of aloofness from the culture wars.

- Saw the third Hobbit movie. Was disappointed that the film rather squibbed on the fate of the gold. There was an opportunity for a Pikettyesque narrative about the 99% rising up against the elite to bust open the trove of hoarded wealth and kickstart a new era of prosperity with some good old-fashioned redistribution. Instead, we were treated to a string of sequences of the mayor's sidekick Alfrid acting all craven and covetous, over and over, as an impossibly crude parody of the bourgeoisie. It was a middling attempt at lowbrow humour, a classless dig at the middle classes of Middle Earth.