From the Gallery

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Naked bodies *

Maybe I should put a picture of a naked woman on my blog, Kate says it’s just normal advertising that works…so here.

Actually I’ve done some reading on the subject and I’m with Kate, there is something wrong here. Exhibit A, put naked women into google and do an image search. Interesting eh? And strangely not very representative of all women in all walks of life. What’s the message, women are only desirable for their sex and for a woman, to be desired is the most important thing in the world? Holy shit no wonder we’re living in this capitalistic misogynous garden of eden.

I’m not sure what we do about it. Have conversations, sure. But talk is, as they say, cheap. Words are too easily hijacked and the journey from ideas to reality is littered with roadside bandits waiting to for the unwary. Still, we have to start somewhere and hope that the conversation eventually moves us to a better place. Eventually.

Anyway my other favourite story today comes from the usual suspects, the Fairfax stable. It’s a strange world where all things are told to all sorts of people, motoring stories for the car enthusiasts, lifestyle (?) stories like Kate’s, sports stories, political news, but the standout has to be the very understated article by Michael Gordon who says simply that the cards are all falling for Mr Abbott. An industrial wipe-out with creeping unemployment and growing inhumanity in our treatment of refugees seem to be mere irritants to the new conservatives as they get ready to wield the axe to public spending and state owned infrastructure. This seems quite reasonable since over at the Fin Review they reveal how the tax man will pay Rupert Murdoch almost a $1 billion dollars in a tax refund! Oh boy! I mean bend me over and whip me, what a scam.

If the left can’t make hay out of this lot, it’s seems reasonable to assume not only is light on the hill turned off but the electricians have been in and removed the cabling to the house. Or alternatively you subscribe to the idea that mainstream politics is just a theatre to amuse and distract while the real politics of getting rich continues largely unobserved and certainly not to be discussed.

We wouldn’t want to change that aspect of reality would we?

*apologies to the Fun Machine


Goodbye Toyota, GMH and Ford

Well that’s fucked the car industry eh? Dollar too high, wages too good, low production runs, competition from cheap overseas made cars – pick your favourite culprit. Whatever or whoever you blame the demise of local car making is going to quickly hollow out our manufacturing sector as component makers quickly die off and the various supporting businesses have no more business.

Should the government subsidise corporations like GM and Toyota? Probably not since it is taxes that are used to subsidise those companies to make a buck but could the government have done more? I tend to think they could have done a lot more especially given the employment implications. And I think this is where dry economic theory sucks.

Problem one, government subsidies cover a huge range of private wealth creating areas so the argument that says that it is wrong to hand over tax payer dollars over to the private sector in the form of subsidies, tax concessions or whatever is weak because, clearly and demonstrably the general rule, that is no subsidies, is selectively broken all over the place (Cadbury in Tasmania for example). It is all very well and fine for Mr Hockey and Mr Abbott to draw a line in the sand and say no government subsidies to the private sector but I think I will die waiting for them to apply that rule across the board. So that argument is a straw man.

Problem two and this is potentially far more structurally damaging then some half arsed ideology dressed up as economic theory and that is the impact these closures are going to have on the local economies in Victoria and SA. Mr Abbott, speaking of the cuff and out of his arse offered the potentially unemployed the homespun wisdom of his class, as some jobs disappear others are created or some such shit. I mean frankly does he have any idea? The structural employment created by making cars is anywhere between 50 and 100,000 jobs. Given our NATIONAL economy added only 95,000 jobs in total last year, it is pretty easy to see that Mr Abbott’s optimism is going to need a much more robust and growing economy before it becomes a reality. Of course a couple years unemployed doesn’t really mean anything to class warriors like Mr Abbott, they have money and right on their side. Besides, it’s not the government business to provide work or guarantee a living wage, “governments should do only what people cant do for themselves” isn’t that right Mr Abbott?

So far we have a spurious argument about subsidies and a callous disregard for the soon to be unemployed but strangely given the supposed nationalistic flavour of this bunch of fascists, the implications of a major decline in our local manufacturing capacity isn’t even a blip on the radar. Now this is very old school orthodoxy but the capacity to make stuff for ourselves, to be self sufficient in that regard was once a cornerstone of Australian government policy, particularly when other countries were trying to rule the world. Sure times have changed, we don’t NEED to make things when they can be bought in cheaper via a ship or plane but our capacity for independence is something we might need. Without it we become dependent on favourable exchange rates, continued relative high wages and earnings from the mining sector. Making big things, given our geographical location would seem to be pretty important and while cars have indeed become a consumer item, the industry around making cars provides the country with some capacity to make things for itself, should the need arise.

That’s at least three major strikes against this development. And what does Mr Abbott do? Announce a 100 million dollar Royal commission in the union movement. A witch hunt. And some stony bullshit about how his government can’t offer false hope. Any hope more likely.




Trove — Introducing Trove

New website/app boasting

It’s a social news app bringing you the best stories picked by people who share your interests.

I’m sure it’s not unique and I’m struck by the idea of filtering. Ok so the claim by Trove and the like is that other people share your interests who can pick and choose good stuff for you to consume read. But I like the more general news sites because while some things interest me more than others, I often find something else that catches my eye. These excursions of interest have a distinctive serendipitous flavour and I suspect its lack equates to boredom. So while it might be great to be immersed in the subjects of your choice via Trove or any other site I suspect the novelty will have a limited shelf life. However the argument is meaningless since its each to their own but for all of the web’s beadth and sophistication in content delivery it seems that maybe it hasn’t really got that much to offer.

Unless you dig for it yourself…

Trove — Introducing Trove.


I miss the good old days

Reading on the Guardian about how Chinese elites are busy tucking it away in the Caribbean while the peasants still eke out a living on a couple dollars might be a sign of how successful good old capitalism has been in the land of the Yellow River but then you look at how “equitable” the US is and it’s all really just too much. I guess everything you need to know about economic inequality can be demonstrated by the recent Oxfam report “Working for the Few” which made a splash briefly in the news as an agenda item at the World Economic Forum. I’m sure there was plenty of polite applause.

But I do remember when the elites were more contained in their avarice and governments did more than pay lip service to ideas of a social contract. It was before the wall came down. When Communism still governed in a few places. No it wasn’t good in so many ways but while it existed Capitalism seemed to have a much more human and socially responsive face. Now it’s gone the gloves are off, it’s greed on steroids. Everywhere, even in China.



Gen Y - Do it better!

Two disconnected thought lines crossed this morning after another sleepless night. A tweet from some weird Hungarian prince that posed the question

What if ‘Gen Y’ are actually just the product of disappointment at you failing to improve anything much despite how prosperous you were?

and the second was this pic also from twitter which captures the famous 1960′s delinquents demonstrating just how far they will rebel against the establishment.

The Rolling Stones circa 1962 by Philip Townsend

The Rolling Stones circa 1962 by Philip Townsend

So the western world in particular has been fabulously prosperous, at least since WW2. Manufacturing revolutions have delivered stuff to almost anyone who wants it, worldwide populations have taken off and economies have scaled to truly mind boggling sizes. I doubt anyone wants to argue with the bare facts.

What hasn’t improved? Collectively our health everywhere is improving, admittedly the result is not uniform around the globe and there is a lot of work to do there but our body of knowledge is greater than ever before even if we need a machine to access it. So we are arguably healthier and potentially more knowledgeable about the world as well as more prosperous.

At this point we might consider what Foucault talked about with the evolution of the art of government. Before we had governments we had sovereigns, kings and queens and feudal laws. Families were the fundamental building blocks of feudal society, and for those who only watch things, think about how central families are to the series Game of Thrones.

According to Foucault, this changed when the collective body of people started to transcend family. The concept is that it became possible to think of populations of people independent of their family. Populations of people required governance so as to organise them in a meaningful manner, that is, to provide them with sustainance and harness their productivity efficiently. In this sense government became an end unto itself, if government organised things well people prospered and government survived.

The point here is that in a sense humanity has prospered in very modern times. Things have been organised effectively and human productivity has been harnessed efficiently. The question we need to ask is what can we do now bearing in mind that prosperity is a consequence of the concepts of “populations” and “governing”. I would suggest that if prosperity isn’t a desirable outcome then we could reassess the relationship between populations and governing.

Alternatively we could transform the meaning of prosperity or at least its measure. I think this is a far greater challenge, certainly one that requires more than sitting in the middle of the road in front of a no parking sign.


Doing the spade work

I don’t remember who said the Abbott government got elected with no policies other than to be more inhumane towards refugees arriving by way of leaky boats but whoever offered that opinion is dead set wrong.

Almsot six months down the track the Abbott agenda seems fairly clear-cut. Besides the boat problem, which makes Howard look like a saint, the Mad Monk and his disciples appeared to have swallowed the neocon teaparty doctrine and washed it down with some jolly good stiff upper lip. Here’s a glimpse of the new territory…starting with today’s favourite, letting business do their own taxes!

I mean what could possibly go wrong with that idea? Someone suggested the professional ethics of accountants and auditors might prevent any skullduggery but I fell about laughing when I remembered how ethical Goldman Sachs turned out to be. What the highly intelligent people who write these things seem to forget is there are no rules when it comes to big money, other than don’t stand between big business and the opportunity to make more money.

Now you might think that it’s a stupid idea for any government to disable its capacity to collect taxes and to place its revenue stream in the trusting hands of big business but I reckon not even Kev would be surprised if such a scenario delivers less big company taxes receipts. So where might that lead a “fiscally responsible” caring sharing neoconservative treasurer? Oh dear less taxes means less government expenditure on those pesky things we don’t really need, like land rights for gay whales or funding for government schools…

Not that this mob are adverse to splashing the government cash around, why just ask George about his bookshelf or recently retired Mr Somlyay about keeping the missus on the books or perhaps Joyce and his excursions to watch the NRL. But this bit of snoutery in the trough is nothing compared to how they look after their mates with appointments to audit panels or cirriculum review boards. As for the rest of us, we should just work hard and mind our manners. A single well documented holiday for Tone on a domestic flight and a few nights shacked up in a dorm with the AFP makes it all ok.

No, the clear agenda for this lot is smaller government, but only in the areas that matter to most. I suspect government handouts in the form of negative gearing, tax concessions to the miners, big budget contracts and consultancies will be very much business as usual. But applying taxes in beneficial ways to improve the lives of ordinary Australians? You have to be kidding! Taxes are meant to take money of the poor, working classes and middle class and give it to the rich in the form of National Security, freedom to get richer, Law and Order and more business opportunities, like Australia Post.

Ok, it’s taken a long time to get to the heart of this rant but I still find it incredible Australia is back where we were when Little Johnny was running the show. And before the ALP get’s all high and mightly, it should be pointed out they started this caper when they decided to start flogging government assets.

As far as I can see, we have turned a few ideas well and truly on their heads. Government assets like banks, airports, docks and phone companies were undoubtedly a hindrance to the ideas of free enterprise and open economies. I actually think that is a good thing because that hindrance didn’t stop businesses from making money, it just drew some lines in the sand and said the government has some muscle in these areas, it is a player not just a legislator and tax collector. Probably gave the right wing nightmares until they discovered you could force socially progressive governments to sell off their assets if you crippled them economically or simply replaced their governments with military juntas.

Australia Post is small beer. The crown jewels are long gone but it’s an interesting little exercise that still has to be played out along economic rational lines, which is where Peter Martin gets the golden spade award. His article in the Age seems to take that mildly reasonable, let’s get real about do we need a postal service in the 21st century line but there’s is some serious stuff left out of his analysis.

First of all, why would anyone want to buy Oz Post if it’s a dead loss? The idea seems to be you could rationalise its service and trim a few corners and presto, problem fixed. Well if that’s the case why do you need to sell it to do those things? Oh we need to sell it because it’s costing the taxpayer money. But if it makes money, the government shouldn’t be doing it? Which is it?

I doubt few Australian’s have a problem with Australia Post because on the whole, it’s a very decent little service that is very handy for lots of little things that ordinary people appreciate. You can bet your arse those handy little things and efficient service are the first things that will get the chop if it gets “privatised”. See it’s sort of a social service but one we don’t mind paying a few pennies for.

And who might buy it? Again, I’ve got no empirical data to back this up but I’m going to take a stab here. See retailers might be screaming about how the internet is killing their margins but one thing the internet needs to do that is an efficient delivery service that operates nation wide. I’m sure Oz Post is doing a lion share of the business in delivering stuff off the web which is, ladies and gentlemen, the only reason why selling it is now on the public agenda.

Someone like Toll Holdings are probably licking the lips at the prospect. Toll absorbed Patrick Corp a few years back and no doubt a fair bit of Patrick’s DNA circulates in various places. Patrick, for those with short memories or those new to politics, was a serious Liberal backed protagonist in the very ugly Waterfront dispute in 1998. That Patrick lost on the face of it was incidental, the ports were flogged of anyway. Really it was about testing the industrial borders and Patrick was good for it.

So with Oz Post it would be a win win for everyone. Less workers, and certainly reduced environments conducive to trade union workers, WIN! Less evil socialist competition in the market of delivering shit from the internet, WIN! And another thing less for the goverment to manage, WIN! And save taxpayers money, WIN!

How do you like those apples? Oh you work there? Sorry about that. Really was an outdated business you know. Government services for people? What?


Libs stifle debate while touting ‘battle of ideas’

Amy’s article in the Age is refreshing for its incisive analysis. It’s a pity more of the same doesn’t emerge from the Age and its siblings.

Libs stifle debate while touting ‘battle of ideas’.


Super rich becoming the dictators of 21st century

Christian Caryl has a brief article in the Age charting the rise of the oligarchs which ends this way

But will the wealthy really give up their acquired power that easily? Though Occupy Wall Street targeted the 1 per cent with considerable passion, its political impact was arguably close to zero. It’s high time for new political movements that can aggregate the power of individuals and marshal coherent responses to the intensifying concentration of influence by a few at the top.

A reasonable analysis might conclude that Christian’s optimism in democracy prevailing over the structural inequality embedded in capitalism is delusional thinking. Even asking the question seems redundant given our modern history. Wealth may bring power closer but power in a political sense is located in violence, a capacity to enforce. Where in historical terms has anyone having fought to acquire power voluntarily given it up? It seems antithetical since the process of becoming powerful appears to run counter to any consideration to be less powerful.

The second point underlined by Christian’s closing paragraph is if peaceful protests of the “Occupy Wall Street” variety have no political impact, is that because they are rendered ineffectual by avowing the use of violence? When it comes to power, is the only effective language violence? Again historical evidence would seem to suggest an answer in the affirmative. But doesn’t that continue the tradition of co-locating violence and power, that is we can change the regime through violent insurrection or war but ultimately all regimes become products of the violence that initiated them, since it is violence that sustains them.

via Super rich becoming the dictators of 21st century.


Auto Draft

News that California is offering Tesla $35M in tax breaks to help that company expand its electric vehicle construction operations is food for thought. So to is the news that GMH is considering building 126 electric Commodores. 126!

Given the Mr Abbott’s government is still gloating about how it stood up for the taxpayer and ended Labor’s corporate welfare, albeit at the expense of several thousand Labor voting unionised workers it is hard to imagine that Mr Abbott’s government would entertain a plan to accomodate something like the Tesla deal, especially as it might involve science and research.

But what is Australia’s greatest asset? Year long solar energy, easily converted in electricity if you could be bothered which should make building electric cars a no-brainer. Unless of course you prefer to keep things the way they were and let the poor eat cake.

Tesla announcement, GMH news.