Category Archives: capitalism

The art of dissembling

When a word fits you should use it

dissemble

verb: dissemble; 3rd person present: dissembles; past tense: dissembled; past participle: dissembled; gerund or present participle: dissembling

conceal or disguise one’s true feelings or beliefs.
“an honest, sincere person with no need to dissemble”
synonyms: dissimulate, pretend, deceive, feign, act, masquerade, sham, fake, bluff, counterfeit, pose, posture, hide one’s feelings, be dishonest, put on a false front, lie; More
cover up, conceal, disguise, hide, mask, veil, shroud
“she is an honest, sincere person who has no need to dissemble”
disguise or conceal (a feeling or intention).
“she smiled, dissembling her true emotion”

That’s what Google provided as a dictionary definition. This is what prompted my query

Zuckerberg says Facebook is ‘not a traditional media company

One of the richest men in the world (don’t you love how capitalism rewards the deserving) is well practiced in the art of dissembling which may well explain why the platform itself is rife with so-called “fake news”.

Clean cut, intelligent but somehow struggles with defining what Facebook is. Well blind freddy can see it’s advertising company on steroids but I’m sure you will never get such a frank disclosure from Zucks. It also happens to occupy the space formerly dominated by mainstream media companies, which means it is a defacto media outlet even if they are at pains to avoid talking about it.

So while this “chat” might appear to be a public statement that recognises what anyone with media experience already knows, that is, one of the functional roles of Facebook is similar to that of a traditional media outlet, the “chat” also serves to obscure the economic reality which is the core business for the Facebook juggernaut.

Dissembling.

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Robotopia

Ryan Avent appears to share my concerns about robots and work. Writing in the Guardian he warns “a world without work is coming – it could be utopia or it could be hell.”

It is rather telling that he lists some of the obvious problems with the upcoming robot nirvana, the biggest and most obvious being the simple fact that working for money is how most people pay the bills for the things that make life live-able. The other key point is that technology isn’t actually benefiting workers in terms of their share in the GDP. My personal experience is heavily weighted with evolving technology in the workplace and it seems relatively trivial to note that businesses employ technology to improve profit margins and not to pay staff more (which of course means less profits). Our faith in the economic mantra that technology ultimately means more work and more wages is definitely heading for a collision with a world where the first object of business is to make money.

Avent concludes “two centuries from now, I am confident, we will have worked everything out splendidly. Assuming, that is, that those of us alive now can manage the first painful steps without wrecking the world in the process” but if history is any guide, only a very optimistic person would believe those painful first steps aren’t going to involve some very extreme risks.

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Robin Hood Tax

I reckon this is such a no-brainer which is why of course it will never happen. Basically a variation on the Tobin tax idea but specifically aimed to be revenue positive for governments, the term was apparently coined by a Italian finance minister who said “it was aimed at the wealthy with revenue to be used for the benefit of poorer citizens”.

Interestingly, in Europe the map of supporting/not-supporting countries shows the UK to in the opposing camp. Perhaps it’s because it was an European who suggested it or perhaps the UK is committed to the concept of taxation of the people for the benefit of the rich. My guess is a bit of both.

But it is a very interesting question, should taxation be used as a specific mechanism to redistribute wealth to the less well off? Given the extraordinary levels of wealth inequality we are currently witnessing perhaps something like the Robin Hood Tax is what we need. I’m sure if it was put a popular vote it would be law tomorrow. Instead of talking about reducing the tax burden on business and the rich, supposedly to incentivise economy activity, lets talk about using taxation to achieve a social outcome. Oooh that sounds like socialism…

The battle lines are pretty obvious eh?

Also obvious is the utterly self serving nature of neoliberalism. All the bullshit about how less taxes and regulations would free economies would lead us to nirvana are palpably just a smokescreen to enable the .1% to garner as much wealth as they can get their greedy hands on. All the state owned assets now in private hands are busy making their owners very rich while simultaneously depriving governments of market based mechanisms that protect the interests of the common people. Instead governments have been reduced to regulatory controls which have systematically been made increasingly worthless by successive attacks on government red tape.

The problems posed by government debt (real or imagined) can be offset if governments can plug the holes in the leaking taxation system but at the heart of the matter is an argument about the purpose of taxation. If you think taxes are just to pay for essential government services, and usually this is taken to mean thinks like defense and police, then you probably end up in the camp of wanting to tax the poor just like governments or feudal monarchies have always done. On the other hand if you see the role of government as a mechanism that enables the advancement of society for the benefit of all then a form of progressive wealth distribution is part of the mix.

The alternatives are pretty stark.

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The Trump Irony

Reading a couple of stories on Quartz about jobs and Trump on the day Oz votes seems mildly indulgent but political junkies have to get their fix somewhere.

The first one about post recession jobs in the US underlines the the new class boundaries emerging in the neoliberal world order. Essentially, all the new jobs in the US have gone to people with more than a basic education. So-called blue collar jobs have apparently disappeared.

Another piece of anecdotal evidence. apparently those who voted for Brexit were from regions most affected by structural unemployment, and to boot were predominantly older and less educated. Trump’s key demographics.

Trump is very keen to exploit the new class divide, those with jobs and those without. But a deeper irony exists beyond the public political arena. Lisandro Claudio highlights the role of intellectual discourse in the rise of Trump and political nihilism. Specifically, Claudio claims the intellectual elites are indirectly to blame because they have failed to offer a viable alternative to the dominant capitalist paradigm. In turn this has allowed people like Trump to exploit the rising tide of disaffection and anger. The anger is directed towards the so-called elites, the ones who have landed all the post recession jobs. The very people who seemingly have taken to heart the modern motto of personal responsibility.

In case you have missed it, one of the cornerstones of the capitalist model is the idea that it is up to the individual to make the most of their opportunities, the system rewards hard work and values competition in markets, especially the employment market. Yet according to the new politics of Trump and co the failure of the rising tide in capitalist model to lift all boats is because of others, be they elite or foreigners. The new politics avoids the inconvenient idea that the system is not in fact some natural consequence of immutable given laws which effect all equally by giving its supporters someone else to blame. In other words, it’s not your fault you have been made redundant, it’s the fault of others. The fact the system has rewarded them and not you is because they have conspired against you, but wait, the system can be great again. Once we get rid of the those pesky elites and meddling foreigners. All those jobs will suddenly go to the people who deserve them.

If it was a play you might be tempted to savour the irony. Unfortunately, like the politicians who grandly championed the Brexit campaign are discovering, simple minded appeals to populism open the door to some ugly consequences. It’s a pity the lessons of history are easily forgotten.

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How has it come to this?

It’s a fair question and one a few workers might be asking themselves as news regarding the latest casualties in the Shoppies pay deal comes to light. Specifically, the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), has traded off “penalty rates and casual loadings of vulnerable, low paid workers in exchange, in many cases, for barely a handful of coins in extra hourly pay”.

Well why bother joining a union? So you can give them money so they can sell you out to the employers? If unionism was teetering on the edge of an abyss, one union just decided to wander a bit closer to the edge.

But hyperbole aside, the question remains how on earth did this decision by the union get up? It smacks of corruption at some level and gross dishonesty on many others. But mostly it’s more fuel for despair. Where is the outrage? Why is Bill Shorten quietly ignoring this, praying the matter will go away? Every Labor candidate should be held to account, the party supposedly representing organised labour, is politely ignoring the implications of a union deal that screws the most vulnerable workers.

Of course it won’t get much traction as “an issue”. The focus is on “black holes” and “boat people”. What a crock.

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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.

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Abbott’s Right Wing Agenda

Fairfax is doing a fair job on the subject of taxation. Today it revealed the extent of Rupert Murdoch’s tax evasion while simultaneously reporting further job cuts to the Australian Taxation Office. The two bits of news are clearly connected in the broad sense, both are about taxes, but there is something else.

The current fascist government of Tony Abbott is perhaps one of the most ideologically driven governments we’ve suffered in recent times. They have attacked almost any person or organisation with an agenda not sympathetic to their own bigoted world view, denying funding to a range of socially useful organisations and publicly denigrating public officials who question the government’s actions. On the other side of the coin, they have offered funding support for mainstream religion in the public education system. But it is on the subject of taxation that their class warfare is truly revealed.

Taxes pay for government services, such as education, health, defence and so on. A general idea is that taxation is also a form of wealth redistribution, that is, rich people pay proportional more tax than poor people and the benefits of government services, while distributed uniformly, tend to improve the living standards of poorer folk, since proportionally, they have less to spend on the sort of things government services help to provide. Such as universal health care or public infrastructure. Less taxes or less government revenue means less is available to spend on theses sorts of things, something that is currently framed in terms of government budget deficits.

The current government has a budget deficit problem. They tried to fix it by slashing expenditure on a range of government services, the sort that benefit the poor and middle class, only to find that a whole lot of people didn’t agree. Now, while busy carving up the one organisation responsible for collecting taxes, they are simultaneously proposing to reduce corporate tax rates and raise the ubiquitous goods and services tax which, as many have observed, tends to place an unfair tax burden on low income earners.

But if the Murdoch exercise in tax minimisation is indicative of what happens when corporations are responsible for their own reporting regimes (something else this government wants to do), then the future for government taxation on large corporations is pretty dim. It was the late great Kerry Packer who once declared it was his personal responsibility to avoid paying any taxes and John Howard rewarded Sir Kerry with a state funeral. It appears this government is keen to surpass Howard by not only moving the tax burden off large corporations and high income earners but also reducing the services governments provide to the less wealthy.

Actually it’s not a matter of appearances, that’s exactly what Tony Abbott is about. His government’s agenda is the most destructive in terms of undermining the social fabric of democratic government we have experienced in recent times. They are the advance guard of the new neocons who seek to destroy the capacity of governments to provide socially useful outcomes. With these people there is no hope.

From the SMH

From the SMH


http://www.canberratimes.com.au/business/rupert-murdochs-us-empire-siphons-45-billion-from-australian-business-virtually-taxfree-20150405-1meu0l.html

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/more-job-losses-as-tax-office-cuts-senior-communications-staff-20150405-1mdirx.html

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Let’s hope it gets better

There is something about the “new year” that I am constantly at odds with.

You see we get the media message, like “what are your new year’s resolutions” or whatever and how these hopes somehow conveniently wash away any doubts that last year we didn’t actually manage to tick off one of the previous resolutions but what the hell we might do it this year…

Actually there isn’t anything wrong with that idea since our eyes are always looking forward, if we want to see where we’ve been we need to stop and turn around and boom, there goes our forward momentum. Onward, upward hip hip hooray.

So I’m not surprised that my fifteen year old doesn’t want to watch this historical documentary but what can we do? I mean getting fooled once is bad enough but getting fooled repeatedly, that seems to be a recipe for something else. Maybe it’s cynical but really it seems that we don’t really want the right thing or the best, we just don’t want to have to think about it.

That’s why hope is so important in managing the human condition. Hope is the close sibling of anything’s possible, you too can be one of the 1% if you work hard and get lucky. Maybe, after all it is not IMpossible.

But why then do the really rich corporations in the world spend so much time measuring and counting and calculating? They are protecting their profits and they don’t do that by “hoping” things will get better or maybe some vague new year’s resolutions. They do it by focussing on facts, like how much does it cost to fight a war and how can they make a profit from it?

We used to think the cigarette companies were the bad guys, but really they are just the apprentices. I saw a figure of $4 trillion mentioned for the Iraq war which seems ludicrous but let’s just ask what did we get for that tidy little sum.

Oh look just yesterday January 1, New Years Day. 66 killed adding to 206,000 civilian deaths.

Or perhaps, there’s the Lancet study which puts the figure at over 500,000 or another estimate at over a million. We will never know.

What we do know is Iraq has a lot of oil and Haliburton is perhaps the biggest oil company in the world. And the connections between the Bush family and Haliburton are too much to even think about. It seems astonishing that Obama didn’t string the lot of them up, but I guess he wasn’t really change, just more of the same hope.

I think we seriously need to stop mainlining the hope junk and start using the intelligence we have been gifted with to count and to calculate, to measure and decide based on the facts. Companies do it to make money, we could give it a try too. But we will probably stick our heads in the sand and hope the tide doesn’t come in.

iraq war

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Two steps backward

Today Australia has a new government policy on carbon reduction, Direct Action.

You might think that’s a good thing, Direct Action is after all what is required to meet the greatest challenge we humans face in the foreseable future but before you get to excited the Direct Action policy legislated last night is anything but direct or action. Like most names politicians give things, it sounds good but is undoubtably far removed what you might think is meant by the terms “direct” and “action”.

The idea is this, funds will be set aside to pay individuals, groups or companies that can come with ways to reduce or capture carbon emmissions. Planting lots of trees for example, improving carbon capture by the soil, paying inefficient coal stations to modernise and presumably continue operating for another 25 years, the list of possibilities is almost endless. The government will kick in $3 billion over a few years to make this possible and expects to get a 5% reduction in carbon emmissions for the money. Paying polluters not to pollute or farmers to plant trees, yay!

Now depending on how worried you might be about global warming, this might seem quite reasonable and prudent or alternatively it might sound a little bit sus or even outrageously inadequate. Australia used to have a price on carbon, it’s now gone, presumably because it was bad for business. Now we have another plan which is presumably good for business because it removes a tax on their bottom line. Good for the planet, who cares? Let us not forget, Coal is Good for humanity.

Maybe the government listened to the scientists, oh I forgot this government doesn’t think we need a department for science. Maybe they don’t really believe the science anyway and there’s plenty of proof that denial lives large in parts of the Liberal National Party government.

Even one of their senior ministers once described Direct Action as a fig leaf. Pretty big fig leaf, one that hides the awful truth that this country is firmly in the pocket of the coal industry whose continued existence and growth is the very thing we should be working against. For our own sakes, because after the storms rage and the ice caps melt there will still be a planet but there might not be any humans.

Direct action would be to close the coal mines and the coal fired power stations, put in place a 100% commitment to renewable energy over the next decade and commit this country to getting off its lazy arse and doing something positive. I’m sure it would upset a few people like Gina and Clive but them’s the breaks folks, a few losers and lots of winners. I think most people understand that.

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Amanda, the gift that keeps giving

Bless her socks, Amanda Vanstone is a GEM! The Age must be tickled pink by their star recruit.

First, her latest article of faith inspired 677 comments, more than twice the number cheering Our Tones as he goes mano a mano with Vlad the impaler in the battle of shirtless men. But then there is some big money in Vlad’s corner so maybe Tone was wise to back down while he could. On the other hand the best the Age could do was summon up some lefty gook economist from the Oz Institute to respond to Amanda’s insightful prose.

The second observation about Mandy is she seems to be gifted with the rare talent to ignore the blindingly obvious and steadfastly maintain that black is indeed white. Such vision is rarely seen in someone so esteemed in this country although I am told it is more common over in the US and elsewhere in the World according to Rupert.

Amanda will not suffer the fools who assert sheeplike the communistic mantra that inequality is a bad thing. It is about time someone came to the defence of the poor beleaguered rich folk who want nothing more than a quiet night at home and to help their fellow man in times of trouble. People like the late great Kerry Packer who single handedly built the greatest TV empire known to mankind, dragged himself up from the gutter to become a leading light to those aspiring to the sort of social mobility Mandy so rightfully defends. The late Kerry’s philanthropic deeds are only matched by his son’s great passion for investing in such job creating wealth distributing enterprises as the Melbourne Casino. Like the poor downtrodden Gina who had to suffer such terrible deprivations under the previous Labor government, these people are only ever thinking of what they can do for AUSTRALIA! The hundreds of druggies and commies frothing at the mouth who vented there rage at Amanda for daring to call it how it is should really just take a chill pill and thank their lucky stars we have such noble spirits doing their bit to keep this great country great.

Sure, Gina might be a bit inclined to ask her hard working book keeper to make sure she gets her tax return right, but just like the late great Kerry, Gina probably thinks it’s her patriotic duty to make sure the gubberment isn’t ripping her off to pay the bleeding heart dole bludgers to skive off and smoke cones all day. It’s no wonder we acknowledge such nationalistic endeavor with state funerals, it sets the bar high for personal achievement and gives the rest of us something to look up to.

Oh poor Amanda to be so cruelly misunderstood, to think she has even be called “a political hyena who takes delight in attacking society’s most vulnerable” when all she is trying to do is stand up for those who shun the limelight and avoid the rewards they so richly deserve.

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