Episode 239 – It’s the economy, stupid

The Left should promote progressive social policies but to win an election it must first convince voters that conservatives have ruined the economy.

PM’s Office says Auditor General is wrong

Wake up, Australia: the government is shattering the rule of law

From Crikey

Whether Morrison and his gang are aware of the damage they are doing is unclear, but their shameless refusal to submit to the law is lethal to our democracy.

Bridget McKenzie has gone temporarily to the backbench, felled not by her facilitating the government’s $150 million cash grab but for failing to declare her membership of a gun club that was awarded grants.

Otherwise, the prime minister tells us, his departmental secretary found no evidence of wrongdoing, despite the acres of evidence that the Australian National Audit Office had already found and reported.

A misdemeanour, picked out with tweezers from the neck-deep muck.

But we can’t see the secretary’s report; it’s secret.

And, the prime minister tells us, the Attorney-General Christian Porter “disagrees” with the Australian National Audit Office’s conclusion that the sports grants program was executed without valid legal authority.

But we can’t see Porter’s advice; it’s secret.

Meanwhile, the Angus Taylor affair — in which a senior cabinet minister’s office used a fake document to try to discredit the Sydney lord mayor — ended last week when the federal police (AFP) announced that it isn’t going to even bother investigating.

Because it’s not serious enough. And Taylor had apologised already. And that’s that.

They all do it

Yes, but in the past, when they were caught, there were consequences. (think Paddington Bear and colour TV)

In the art supply world, businesses are going broke and then re-opening. No consequences.

This villager wants consequences for poor social behaviour.

David Williamson and emotion

From the John Menadue Blog

The political parties of the Left often still hold to the Enlightenment belief that we are rational creatures – that the person who has the best evidence based argument will win the debate. Sadly, as long as they do they’ll keep losing.

It’s only recently that brain imagining studies have shown how much of our actions stem not from our frontal lobes, where rational calculations take place, but from the deeper emotional centres of our brains. In a great number of cases it’s been conclusively shown that those emotional centres have already decided on a course of action before that decision is even registered in our frontal cortex.

Scott Morrison knew, deep in his marketing psyche that we aren’t rational creatures. That we’re more fearful and much more susceptible to emotional string pulling than rational creatures ever would be.

I had my first inkling that Labor was going to lose the night before the election. I was in a taxi and I asked the driver if he would be pleased, that if Labor won, the unconscionable tax lurks available to the rich, (Some of which I’ve benefitted from) would be stopped and the money saved go to those who need it. I wasn’t prepared for the vehemence of his reply. “I couldn’t give a shit,” he replied. “I’m on the breadline and all that matters to me is that I can keep my head above water. Labor will fuck the economy. All I care about is jobs and growth!”

Sure the electorate will tell surveys that their greatest concern is the environment, but for those on the margins it isn’t. In a Neo- liberal economy which has decimated the protections of unionism, and which has promoted the belief that increasing the already toxic levels of competitiveness in society will benefit us all, insecurity about the future is the dominant emotion amongst those who used to vote Labor.

Scotty from marketing had precisely the right message to go straight to my taxi driver’s emotional insecurity. “Jobs and Growth”. The careful rationality of Labor’s platform to take unjust tax concessions from the wealthy and improve the life of our less well off patently failed to strike a chord with those it was aimed at. Scotty, understanding that fear and insecurity are humanity’s default positions, got large swings from those fearing for their economic future.

Until the parties of the left can get their heads around the fact that Enlightenment assumption that rationality will win the day, and find a way to address the emotional fears of those whose interests they are supposed to represent without plumbing the depths of prejudice and fear, then even wounded and dysfunctional parties of the right will still keep winning.

As they’re doing all over the Globe

We are in trouble

The 1% are getting stronger. They have increasing financial power and they are buying political power through political donations and revolving doors. The political power is being used to further economic power with favourable tax rates and business laws.

Through media power, the 1% is now in control of community sentiment. By controlling the media the 1% can extinguish spot fires of political trouble but they can also shape general community sentiment.

Meanwhile, the average Joe is now part of the precariat. He is too busy to pay attention to political issues. Even if he tries, he can’t easily discern the truth. The easiest path is to accept being manipulated into a political tribe and conform to tribal doctrine.

Even if he works out the true facts, the average Joe has lost the capacity to analyse those facts. Since the 1980s he has been subjected to a shaping of community sentiment that prioritises GDP, unemployment, Interest rates, house prices, low taxes and the privatisation of government functions and he has been further indoctrinated into the belief that conservative governments and private enterprise are the best managers of these things.

Average Joe has been conned into forgetting about quality of life. Everything has been reduced to an individualistic pursuit of money.

From a secular point of view, a religious parasite has emerged which, by embracing the prosperity gospel, has attached itself to the Liberal Party. The 1% and the Liberal Party have found the parasite to be useful in keeping conservative governments in power but the parasite has grown so big it is in danger of disabling the host. Until then, with the host on life support, the non-religious amongst us can only look on in powerless dismay.

A slow and steady decline is particularly dangerous. Things can get really bad and we don’t notice it. It gives the 1% time to shape the narrative. To blame someone else. To cover up. To delay and to distract long enough that the worst crimes simply dissolve into the 24 hour news cycle.

We need a Bernie Sanders. We need an AOC. Instead we are offered an Albanese. Shit ….

Albanese met with stakeholders

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But not the NSL or other secular/atheist/rationalist groups.

From The Star Observer

A consultation called by Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese to discuss the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill has concluded with no clear outcome. In attendance were members of the Labor Party and key community stakeholders.

Spokesperson for Equality Tasmania, Rodney Croome, commented to Star Observer immediately after the meeting:

“The round table involved about 25 representatives from national peak bodies, including health services, human rights groups, law councils, unions, business lobbies, and women’s, LGBTIQ and disability advocacy groups,” said Croome.

It’s the economy, stupid

The ANU Australian Election study (AES) was released on Monday.  From the front page of its website you can download:

  • The 1987-2019 trends report – 117 graphs, with data points, of people’s changing attitudes to political issues and perceptions of politicians;
  • The 2019 election report – an analytical focus on the May election, with interpretation and some of the more salient findings from the 1987-2019 trends;
  • The latest data – a set of data files in various formats (CSV, SAS etc), with enough to keep an analytical nerd occupied until writs are called for the next election.

 

This report presents findings from the 2019 Australian Election Study (AES). The AES surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,179 voters after the 2019 Australian federal election to find out what shaped their choices in the election.

A general impression from the trends document is that over the last 32 years Australians’ political attitudes have been shifting to the “left”, particularly on social issues, and that we are attracted to Labor’s policies on most issues, but what seems to push voters to the Coalition is a belief that it is more competent in managing the economy. In spite of accumulating evidence of the Coalition’s incompetence in economic management, belief in its competence is strengthening.

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The Coalition had a strong advantage in management of the economy, taxation and leadership. Labor had a strong advantage on environmental issues.   Voters swung to the Coalition based on the economy, tax and leadership. Voters swung to Labor on the environment and health. On balance, there were a greater number of voters that switched from Labor to the Coalition based on economic issues, than from the Coalition to Labor based on environmental issues.

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The AES asked voters for the same ten issues, “whose policies – the Labor Party’s or the Liberal-National Coalition’s –would you say come closer to your own views on each of these issues?”

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The Tories Won

Here is a lesson for Labor.

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Trump

They had to impeach.

I keep hearing from Right Wing friends that as much as you may hate Trump, the American economy is booming.

BS

A booming share market does not equal a booming economy. What about debt and wages?

From the New Yorker

The core of Donald Trump’s platform is that his policies have produced what he touts as “The Greatest Economy in American History!” The truth is very different. By enacting a huge tax cut, in late 2017, that was heavily slanted toward corporations and the rich, Trump and the Republicans gave the economy a temporary boost—in 2018, it grew at an annual rate of 2.9 per cent—that has now faded.

In the fourth quarter of last year, G.D.P.—the broadest measure of activity in the economy—expanded at an annual rate of 2.1 per cent, the new report from the Commerce Department showed. Taking 2019 as a whole, G.D.P. grew at 2.3 per cent. These growth rates are nowhere near the four-per-cent growth that Trump promised in 2016. Instead, they are in line with the average growth rate since 2000, which is 2.2 per cent. And this ho-hum outcome has only been achieved at a tremendous cost. The federal government is now running an enormous budget deficit and accumulating vast amounts of new debt, which will burden taxpayers for decades to come. After three years of Trump’s Presidency, in fact, the United States is starting to look like one of his highly indebted business ventures.

This year, the new report from the C.B.O. says, the deficit will be about a trillion dollars. Ten years from now, it will be roughly $1.3 trillion. Numbers like these are so big that they are hard to take in. The way economists make sense of them is by comparing the dollar amount to the level of G.D.P., much like a family might compare its mortgage to its income. If you do this, you can see just how out of whack with history the Trump Presidency really is.

According to the C.B.O.’s projections, the budget deficit will be 4.6 per cent of G.D.P. this year, and by 2030 it will have risen to 5.4 per cent of G.D.P. Before Trump took office, the United States had never run sustained deficits of this magnitude except during wars, when spending on armaments and other items increased sharply, or during economic slumps, when tax receipts plummeted. “Other than a six-year period during and immediately after World War II, the deficit over the past century has not exceeded 4.0 percent for more than five consecutive years,” the C.B.O. report notes. “And during the past 50 years, deficits have averaged 1.5 percent of GDP when the economy was relatively strong (as it is now).”

What about the level of government debt? “Because of the large deficits, federal debt held by the public is projected to grow, from 81 percent of GDP in 2020 to 98 percent in 2030 (its highest percentage since 1946),” the C.B.O. report says. “By 2050, debt would be 180 percent of GDP—far higher than it has ever been.”

A Primer on Primaries and Caucuses

From Robert Reich

The rules are decided in each state for each party.

Presidential nominees depend on caucuses (open debates) and primaries (secret ballots)

Democratic primaries award delegates proportionally. Get 40% of the vote then get 40% of the delegates for that state. Some republican primaries allow winner take all.

Democrats allow super delegates to play a role in a contested situation where no candidate has a majority (a contested convention).

Primaries are closed (must be pre-registered to that party), semi-closed (both registered and independents can vote) or open primaries (any registered voter can vote in any primary they choose).

Wanna be a Chappy?

Here is the selection criteria from the Qld Scripture Union website:

  • Demonstrated Christian character and commitment
  • A broad understanding of the issues important to consider when working in interchurch ministries.
  • A demonstrated ability to both apply the teachings of the Bible to real-life situations and communicate its message relevantly to others.
  • An ability to express faith openly whilst remaining sensitive to the religious and cultural beliefs of others.
  • A demonstrated understanding of the boundaries and practicalities involved in providing pastoral care to the school community.
  • A proven ability to work effectively with youth/children (whichever is relevant) and a broad understanding of youth/children and issues affecting them.
  • Proven effective involvement in and a demonstrated understanding of the operation of State schools.
  • Proven experience in the development and delivery of learning experiences for young people.
  • A demonstrated ability to communicate effectively with a range of people in a range of settings.
  • A demonstrated ability to work both as a member of a team and independently.

 

Patreons

Thank you

Speakpipe

Anyone can leave a message.

Fylfots or Nazi Swastikas

Standing in the historic marble entrance of (Sydney’s) Customs House you’ll see what looks like Nazi swastikas scattered across the floor.

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These motifs are fylfots – ancient decorative motifs symbolising good luck. A fylfot is an even cross with vertical extensions. All 4 ‘arms’ run in the same direction either clockwise (as in the symbol of the Third Reich) or anti-clockwise.

‘Swastika’ comes from the Sanskrit word svastika. While the German Nazi Party didn’t invent the swastika, they gave it a bad name. Today ‘fylfot’ is widely used to describe the symbol’s decorative use.

One of the oldest symbols of mankind, the fylfot is found in Neolithic cultures in Iran and Europe. It’s also a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. You can find the motif in Swedish cave paintings, on archaic Greek pottery and even in a third century synagogue in Israel.

Before World War II, the decorative fylfot featured in many Australian classical revival interiors. They were added to Customs House as part of a neoclassical upgrade in 1916 as ‘splashes of Hellenic Art’ to create a fitting entrance.

During recent renovations there was debate about whether the fylfot should be removed. The City’s architects and historians felt it had a place in the narrative of the building.

It was originally intended as a symbolic welcome for those entering the ‘front door’ of Sydney. We recognise these symbols may offend some visitors, but hope they will be read in the context of their original intention.

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Hardbottom gives me a middle name

Thanks Landon.

Political Donations

By Michael West

Monday, February 3 was “donations day” in Australia when all the campaign finance figures from 2018-19 were dropped by the Australian Electoral Commission at 9am. There was no press release, nothing either from the major political parties, although each had ample scope to attack the other on pokies money or foreign influencers such as Adani.

And while the data was both late and incomplete, it still contained a stack of fascinating revelations.

Each year, the mainstream media struggles with the detail and complexity of the disclosures giving it a once over lightly treatment when the appalling governance, corruption and transparency issues should be thoroughly debated.

Australia has one of the world’s weakest disclosure systems where an estimated 20% to 40% of all private donations are never disclosed because they slide below the $13,800 disclosure threshold or are laundered through cash-for-access events organisations such as Labor’s Progressive Business outfit in Victoria.

We can thank Mark Latham in part for this because his woeful 2004 campaign delivered John Howard a senate majority and Family First’s Steve Fielding supported an increase in the disclosure threshold from $1500 at the time.

This 2018-19 return filed by the Federal National Party declared total revenue of $3.1 million in 2018-19 but only discloses who provided $1.04 million of this. While it was good to be told Adani’s Carmichael Rail Network provided $100,000, who provided the missing $2 million, which will remain undisclosed forever?

Some Labor divisions were even worse, particularly in Tasmania where only 6% of its revenue was disclosed. However, at least Federal Labor voluntarily disclosed all donations above $1000 meaning there was transparency over $48.16 million of its $50 million in revenue in 2018-19. If only that was the law followed by everyone.

By way of comparison, the Federal Liberals only itemised $43.98 million of their $48.2 million of total revenue in 2018-19, the biggest chunk of which was $26.6 million in taxpayer funding. So that’s $4.18 million of dark donor money. For all we know, Clubs NSW could have organised for 30 NSW pokies clubs to each pump in $10,000 and that would be another $3 million of undisclosed gambling money propping up the Liberal Federal election campaign.

Should public companies make political donations?

Australian public companies have been easing back on their political donations in recent years, but nothing like the collapse in donations in the UK after the law was changed to require shareholder approval for any contributions. Shareholders normally vote against, but few UK companies are even asking permission, preferring to just not donate.

The UK also have strict party spending limits which reduces the pressure on unions and corporates to keep funding ever bigger campaign budgets.

As the BBC explains here, UK political parties can’t spend more than £30,000 for each constituency that it contests in a general election, so the maximum spend is £19.5m assuming a party contested all 650 seats.

It is no coincidence that the sectors which are most reliant on government support tend to be the biggest donors. Think property development, mining, financial services and gambling.

Ask

Given that every single donor above the $13,800 threshold has to disclose an email, postal address and phone number on their donation return, journalists can easily track them down, ask why they did it, how it happened and whether they were happy with the result.

For instance, if you want to know why foreign-owned gambling giant Beteasy gave $55,000 to each of Liberal and Labor in 2018-19, check out this return lodged with the AEC and then email corporate affairs boss Daniel Bevan on daniel.bevan@beteasy.com and ask him.

It’s not hard. I’ve already emailed more than 10 major donors firing in a range of questions, although most of them are running for cover as political influencing through donations is a grubby and dark art which no-one wants to talk about.

 

What’s wrong with America

Topless step-mum

Hot and dusty from installing drywall in their garage, Tilli Buchanan and her husband stripped down to their underwear. She also took off her bra.

When Ms. Buchanan’s three young stepchildren saw her and asked her why she was topless she said if their father could bare his chest, then so could she.

Ms. Buchanan now stands accused in a Utah court of three counts of lewdness involving a child, charges that could carry a sentence of up to one year in jail and 10 years on the sex offender registry.

On Tuesday, a Salt Lake City judge rejected a challenge to the charges by Ms. Buchanan’s lawyers, who had argued that the law, which forbids exposure of “the female breast below the top of the areola,” was unconstitutional.

The police in West Valley City, a suburb of Salt Lake City, learned of the episode in November 2018, about a year later.

Detectives were investigating unrelated allegations of sexual abuse when the biological mother of the children, who were about 13, 10 and 9 at the time, told them about the disrobing, according to court documents.

“If a man can go topless and it is accepted in society, that same privilege should be given to a woman,” Mr. Richards said.

Prosecutors have said that lewdness can occur even in a private dwelling if a person knows that his or her nakedness will “cause affront or alarm.”

Judge Pettit said she agreed with prosecutors’ argument that the law’s description of female breasts, but not male, as lewd “reflects contemporary community standards as to what constitutes nudity.”

Utah sends employees to Mexico for cheap drugs

SALT LAKE CITY — Ann Lovell had never owned a passport before last year. Now, the 62-year-old teacher is a frequent flier, traveling every few months to Tijuana, Mexico, to buy medication for rheumatoid arthritis — with tickets paid for by the state of Utah’s public insurer.

Lovell is one of about 10 state workers participating in a year-old program to lower prescription drug costs by having public employees buy their medication in Mexico at a steep discount compared to U.S. prices. The program appears to be the first of its kind, and is a dramatic example of steps states are taking to alleviate the high cost of prescription drugs.

In one long, exhausting day, Lovell flies from Salt Lake City to San Diego. There, an escort picks her up and takes her across the border to a Tijuana hospital, where she gets a refill on her prescription. After that, she’s shuttled back to the airport and heads home.

Lovell had been paying $450 in co-pays every few months for her medication, though she said it would have increased to some $2,400 if she had not started traveling to Mexico. Without the program, she would not be able to afford the medicine she needs.

Florida Principal Fired After Refusing To Admit Holocaust Was ‘Factual’ Event

A Florida high school principal has been fired after claiming he could not confirm that the Holocaust was “a factual, historical event.”

A former high school principal in Boca Raton, Florida, was fired on Wednesday as a result of emails he sent to a student’s parent in April 2018 that appeared to cast doubt on the historical truth of the Holocaust.

According to the district, there’s “just cause” for firing the former principal, based on ethical misconduct and failure to carry out job responsibilities.


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