Why Turnbull has to defend Negative Gearing

Crikey call it the ongoing war against young people (it is) and New Matilda identified the aspiring class of one years as winners in the current regime but despite these cogent ideas and well argued articles there remains one rather obvious response to Mr Turnbull’s hasty defence of the existing landed gentry.

Of course you need to realise that government is about governing the majority for the benefit of the few (the 1%). The magic is in not letting the cat out of the bag, hence the portrayal of struggling aspirants capitalists mixed with nuclear family values as virtuous examples of how well the system is working. Never mind analysis from unfriendly think tanks like the Grattan Institute which delivers a pretty bleak view for those who simply want a secure roof over their heads. No nothing to see here.

Hence armed with this realisation then the unspoken truth is that the existing massive tax breaks that favour the investing real estate barons of tomorrow who are the very people with the ear of Mr Turnbull and his bunch of crony neoliberals. How do we know this? Well if negative gearing wasn’t the biggest tax lurk under the Australian sun then Murdoch would be screaming blue murder. The lengths to which the entitled are going to convince the renter class that negative gearing is in THEIR interests is simply the only proof we need that it is in fact exactly the opposite.

But then as the late great Kerry used to say, it is the responsibility of the rich to minimise their tax burden to the full extent of the law (or words to that effect). And if successive sycophantic governments have made taxation for the rich completely optional well that’s just fine and dandy. I’m sure Kerry would agree.


Facebook will not bring you the next revolution

Who remembers the Arab Spring? Do you recall the claim that Facebook and Twitter were an enabling factor in the pro-democracy revolts? Well according to this rather telling piece in the Atlantic, at best “Facebook is what guided the protests, but the true vehicle for change was the protests themselves”.

Indeed. Guided.

Think about it for a millisecond. Ok time’s up.

Facebook is the latest in a rather dubiously long line of (Capitalist) American Success Stories. Zuckerberg at 31 is worth a cool $30 billion US. Bill Gates from the Microsoft is worth about $75 billion. Do you think either of these men want to change the orthodox political economy? The very one that rewards them whilst impoverishing the rest of the world? Or is it more likely that these men simply want to profit from a system that rewards aspiring monopolists regardless of the veneer tacked on the greed.

However, I want to make another point about the inability of Facebook to foster genuine subversion and that is the rather appalling way it facilitates spying by agencies on the unsuspecting. The term Facebook snooping is so common place it hardly seems to be problematic in polite circles, especially in a general environment where we are positively encouraged to share everything about ourselves with the internet god. Personal details, financial details, travel details, friends, political interests, sexual habits, what we look like, our cultural tastes, the list is almost endless.

The data collected by Facebook is just a part of this giant database. It can be used, as Facebook and others claim, to enhance the specificity of advertising which in turn is seen as making advertising more successful. Or it can be used by government agencies as another source of data about the population they are supposed to govern for.

There are lots of reasons Facebook and any internet media wont bring the existing world order to an abrupt halt. As the Chinese did and others are doing, it is possible (albeit technically imperfect) to have a large degree of control over the internet. There are various levels of control, from those masquerading as essential for law and order, others that claim to protect so-called intellectual property, to those not so polite which directly enable government access to internet data. These act as the formal brake on the wild west character of the internet. Then there are the less obvious forms of control built into the internal structures of companies like Facebook and Google who are by their nature financially risk adverse. Sure they want to do things but not if it is going to create a major conflict with the status quo. Critically, innovation is seen as a way to further market share, which means more eyeballs glued to their screen. And then there is the control which rests in the network infrastructure which is increasing becoming more centralised. It is also possible to strategically disable parts of a network, like cell towers or critical routers, should the need arise. And then there is the relatively stable infrastructure that supports the modern net. Major instabilities like unreliable power would certainly impact the web. In other words, Facebook, Google, Apple etc have become functional parts of the status quo.

For the status quo, incremental change is manageable. Radical change is inimical and yet there seems to be growing signs that radical change is what the world needs or is heading towards.


Adani’s Carmichael Mine

Here’s a thing about the mine which I am having some trouble with. Well there’s several, but the main one is this idea of a moral imperative to provide coal powered electricity to the masses in India.

I know that sounds a little patronising, coming from the land of plenty but bear with me for a moment.

Here’s the pro argument by Josh Frydenberg “I think there’s a strong moral case here – I’ve just been at the G20 and at the APEC energy ministers’ meeting and they pointed out that over a billion people around the world don’t have access to electricity,” and he added that such a lack leads to 4.3 million premature deaths each year.

Let’s agree. A lack of electricity is a major impediment to living in the 21st century. In short we would be pretty much screwed without it. But the obvious question is what is the best way to address the method of generating electricity? Is burning coal in a carbon constrained atmosphere facing runaway global warming really the best solution? Seriously?

Another thing. Why is it that when we talk about screwing over future generations, our standard response is, it’s about the jobs and economic prosperity? I’ve seen a claim of 10,000 jobs and billions in taxes to be collected. It sounds a bit like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow because a. no one will ever be able to verify any of the claims and b. if they do and they don’t actually materialise we will have another local environmental disaster to deal with as well as the any damage done to the globe’s rather fragile carbon footprint. Frankly no-one will ever know how many jobs are created and the tax claim is utterly unsubstantiated given the shonky tax evasion schemes employed by multinational corporations to avoid taxes. So I call bullshit.

We need to think smarter about our problems. This is just dumb.


4am a postscript

So after dozing for an hour I decided to get on with it. Get up, do stuff, you know the drill. It was Sunday for fuck’s sake.

I’ve done stuff, eaten and about to do coffee which is questionable given how my body has been reacting to the black god recently. And I’ve caught up on some net. The one about how to live a moderately successful life on The Guardian motivated me to drag out the quill and ink.

So we all know the secrets of highly successful people since there are about 12 zillion web pages devoted to emulating Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. Well maybe not.

And now we also know that having a good job, with a few highlights on the side like loving companions and respectable artistic achievements is only moderately successful. Only. Word to Emer, a lot of people would die for even some of that. I suspect an awful lot.

What a load of middle class indulgent bollicking effluence. Eat three meals a day; go tell it to someone in Eritrea or Ethiopa or any of the other 320 countries in the world where the average national GDP per capita is below the worldwide average of about $14,000 US per annun.

As for the rest, well that’s a long way down the list of life’s essentials.

Now I know Emer is writing to a largely well healed middle class living in a first world economy and within those parameters I should extend a grain or two of salt.

So I’ve given the matter about 20 seconds of reflection and decided these are the secrets to living a shitty unsuccessful life spectacularly punctuated by wild ambition and flights of fantasty but ultimately weighed down by certain facts of life.

Be born well off. Most important. Avoid being born in any of the previously mention 320 countries in the world where life is already a struggle. You aren’t helping them or yourself.

Better still be born rich. End of story. Wait for your life to be delivered.

Get educated about how the world is supposed to work but remain ignorant about how the world really works. This is also crucial for those who want to live a bitterly unsuccessful life plagued by unanswerable moral questions and situational paradoxes. Like why if capitalism is so good are there so few really lucky people and a shitload of very unlucky people? And can’t we do better?

Be marginalised. That’s easy for half the population who are born into it. But for bonus points you could also have some distinctive racial characteristics. Skin colour is another easy pathway to a less than stellar life experience.

Listen to people who tell you to work hard and always say please and thankyou. Manners may be considered old fashioned but they certainly let the ruling class know when they are dealing with a suitable polite member of the serving class. And like they always said, the devil finds work for idle hands. So keep yourself busy. Opening doors and putting out the trash. maybe in your spare time you can knit a sweater or fix a door.

Make bad decisions. I can’t stress how important this is. If you really want to die full of regret, anguish and self pity it is important that you get into the habit early and stick with it. A word of warning however. While it’s good practice to get used to making dumb decisions early, like at school when you decide to hang out with the groovy kids instead of doing actual school work what is crucial is the ability to make certain really dumb decisions at crucial point in your life. Like deciding the dropkick dickhead who got you pregnant at 16 really is the only one for you and yes you will devote the best years of your life to bringing up his child. Or maybe you’ve reached the middle years and decide that the last 15 to 20 years was so easy you can smash it all and start again.

And this readers, is the crux. Sometimes shitty things happen because we let them happen, sometimes they happen because other people make them happen and sometimes they just happen. And they happen again. Dodging them is easier for some people who can spot them coming and have the luxury of ability and the resources to avoid them hitting them dead centre but the rest of us just have to clean up as best we can and keep going. To have a really unsuccessful and shitty life, just be in the wrong places at the wrong times for the wrong reasons.

Because if life was fair, we would all be eating cake.



I wish it wasn’t 4am and I was writing another post to the universe, I wish.

I wonder should I get up and fix myself a drink? That was written 50 years ago, how awesome is that? One, because it sums up how little has really changed and two because it just is.

Some of my friends are a bit fussy about their music. The regular rhythmic of four to the barre is mostly passe, something that motivates lesser mortals to move their feet or clap their hands. Granted there is more to music, but sometimes simplicity is the best carrier of complexity. But it is still hard not to see such posturing as a form of elitist snobbery.

I digress. It’s a strange trip at 4am. You sleep for a few hours and suddenly something clicks and bam sleep flies out the window. Half the world probably suffers it, I don’t know. I’m sure it’s common enough. Except for kids. Bless them.

It’s not like I woke up with a burning desire to do something, like write on my blog. I mean that would be ok but only because of the burning desire bit. And now the freaking kookaburras are laughing at me. Or maybe just laughing, and me listening, wishing I was somewhere else.

Like asleep.


We can do it, if we try

Old advice, write something everyday. If you want to be a writer.

Now I don’t, obviously. Except I do, but mostly it’s impulse stuff like emails or facebook commentary. I started writing about life as a sound engineer but after one entry about the rather confusing suggestions from the players in that game, I feel the story is pretty much told.

There are other stories.

The one that consistently unravels at my feet involves the people you work with. I mean work in a general sense, in the way that you might work with others to achieve something, perhaps for pay or for glory or just because it is worth doing.

One thing is how language obscures the facts. I mean, people often say they are doing something for this reason but sometimes it seems like they are actually doing it for another reason but the reason they advance for acting or doing something is something that seems acceptable. For example, someone might claim to be doing a social service when in fact they are really building up a bank of social capital which they can later exploit to advance some other objective.

Or perhaps someone is ambitious but feels naked personal ambition is counter productive in a multidisciplinary team so they seek to control or own as much as they can so they can claim their success.

So the problem here is that these perceptions are easily countered with language. Someone continuously asserts that black is in fact white and eventually everyone agrees that at least in some cases black is in fact white. The dispute in language becomes elevated demanding more energy than some are prepared to put in and the argument is decided by attrition.

It’s not unlike what we know of history. Mostly it is written by the winners, most likely it is only by accident that alternative narratives survive. Possibly other languages help to maintain some diversity about historical facts, sometimes the author is able to encode a subversive message inside a seemingly conventional narrative but I’m inclined to suspect that language, so useful for short-term deceptions is incapable of revealing truths unless it is delivered with some non-linguistic component. Words by themselves lack certain clues which we need to verify the authors intent.

And so it seems odd that in a world of determinism where much is know and measurable our capacity for deception and delusion is matched only by our hubris and greed. Much is made about how everything is relative and how there are no right or wrong answers yet it seems that we are bound by certain limitations which we unwisely ignore. Because our language enables it.


Canberra’s nanny boom

If only Labor was in power! The Fairfax headline would surely read “Canberra – Capital of the Nanny State”.

Alas, we have the neofascists in charge who are deeply wedded to the idea of rewarding the rich and powerful while also engaging in some ritualistic economic cleansing of the public sector.

Still, however loudly the public sector complains about the latest round of redundancies or forced relocations, it seems Canberra continues to do ok. House prices are keeping the well heeled in a manner that they deserve while simultaneously rewarding the compliant aspirant class with a steady improvement in their balance sheet. The lure of ever increasing house prices has the local government licking it lips and bending over backwards to accommodate the real estate developers, simultaneously allowing Canberra’s urban sprawl to consume unabated while facilitating the forced relocation of the undesirable public housing riff-raff away from the highly desirable parts of town, to be replaced by more desirable private property owning types.

So are we surprised that Canberra is in the middle of a nanny boom?

Hardly, given this statement by top nanny Georgia Lily King who said “We have a lot of public service workers, defence workers and a lot of families in diplomatic corps, so there is a unique need for nannies in that environment.”

Oh pity the poor people of Canberra.



Moments are all we have

I think I owe this weird train of thought to Derrida. It’s about consciousness, self-awareness if you like. We talk about streams of consciousness and moments of clarity while we seem to think our rationality somehow defines us as humans, not animals, but thinking self aware creatures who can call ourselves something. I am.

But merely asserting identity seems like a hollow gesture in the modern world. I am here but so what? The 21st century seems to be demanding more than just humanity or so it seems. Yet, how greedily the west absorbs the modern cellulite and electronic myths. How easy is it to escape the grinding urbanity of modern city life with drugs or lifestyle choices or electronic fantasylands. Are we hoping for superheroes to save the day or is there a grim realisation that most of the time life, so full of promise in the beginning, has a inexplicable void that we seek to fill with our streams of consciousness or perpetual activity. The void never leaves us though, it waits for the moments between moments to catch us unawares. Then we ask the stupid philosophical questions.

Does anything matter? What is the meaning of life? Is there a god? Do I matter, in the grand scheme of things? And so on.

I miss Jacques. He made no sense to me at uni but still I think more about his nonsense than some of the other more analytical philosophical authority figures. Except maybe Kant.

The thing is, we are pretty clever these days. Our science is in some ways close to magic, although sufficiently distinct from not to be confused with but try telling that to some time machine refugee from say the 1st century. Still it seems most likely no matter what we end up knowing, it will never be everything since that would make us gods, omniscient. Nor will we be able to do everything for the obvious reason we are not gods. Still, if gods are just a human fiction, does it mean there isn’t anything else in the universe?

Those moments between moments might just be our access to what we don’t know. Maybe we should give them some elbow room.


Ultron as propaganda

When I was much younger I used to obsess about certain Marvel comics. In particular I was a big fan of Spidey and Dr Strange but I read and collected quite a variety. They were relatively cheap, certainly I could afford one every now and then on my pocket money and the drawing style had a certain edge. I wasn’t a diehard fan but they have a place in my pre-adolescent youth.

In those days the Marvel Universe was much smaller. Now it seems Marvel is larger than life but its transformation to the big screen is tinged with some nostalgia. The ideas so laboriously penned in four colours and speech bubbles left the readers with quite a bit of room to imagine. The latest Ultron from Marvel sort of blasts you away before overloading your intellect with soft american-industrial-military propaganda.

So there are bad guys and then there are the bad things within us. The good guys beat the bad guys because they are, well, the avengers. But beating the bad guys in a orgasm of exploding cgi is easy, just run punch shoot kill etc and bingo, you win. But the plot thickens when the dark side of Stark gets carried away with his own narcissistic messiah complex and creates the BAD robot. Oops

Anyway, the plot might be a statement about artificial intelligence or robots and the future of humanity but if it is then it fails to leave you much room to draw an opinion or imagine an alternative. Basically the film retreats into a good vs bad binary, divided over whether humanity should live or die. Again you probably shouldn’t expect anything else from Marvel/Hollywood but the plot fails to deliver any real surprises, except expect more of the same in the future.

If Stark Industries is a metaphor for the US idustrial/military complex and the Avengers are an idealised crack US military machine then what of Ultron? Is it a bad thing, unleashed by good people accidentally (ie a genie in the bottle) or, and more likely, is it the logical consequence of the industrial military machine. It’s easy to portray Ultron as some anti-Ironman on any number of levels but if so what does that really say about the ground from which such things spring? Maybe we shouldn’t be going there?

But wait, this is all done for our protection! The forces of good will prevail, humanity will be saved by teamwork (led by Captain America for fucks sake), sacrifice, determination and courage, not to mention lashings of supernatural powers, bucketloads of tame artificial intelligence and divine intervention. In other words, all the basically human characteristics need a little help to save humanity from the devil of its own creation. Another pointer that we might be in trouble.

That the industrial/military machine as a good thing is supposed to be demonstrated by the concern expressed for innocent bystanders, the collateral damage stuff of war zones. The jolly green giant does his bit to remind us of the danger posed by unrestrained anger which is neatly contrasted by the efforts of Avengers Inc to save civilian lives. And just in case you missed that bit of propaganda, good old SHIELD pops up to help save the day.

Then there’s biotech angle where new biotech helps to save Hawkeye (who has a secret and very rustic safe home) while also giving birth to a new bad guy turned good guy by the magic of the gods. You could write pages about what that says about biotech and the idea that some sort of magic is needed to create “good” life or even to sustain our existing ideal good life. But since this is hollywood we will just put it a box and call it done.

My daughter who is a big Marvel fan (the new variety) is thrilled by the story lines of this fantasy world and I guess one should just treat any Marvel offering as escapist entertainment. On one level it’s myth making in the 21st century and those myths work as they always have to create frameworks by which humans can make sense of an incoherent world. But myths also serve to hide truths that might might give us reasons to think or do things that run contrary to prevailing orthodoxy, they are simply a form of thought control.

The problem with Marvel blockbusters is not that they don’t entertain, rather it is the fact that they can only entertain by maintaining a good vs evil dichotomy. Granted it is fundamental to the genre, nonetheless it misses many opportunities to explore the territory beyond.