July 31, 2013

Wednesday Wisdom

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.  A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better. 

George Orwell

July 30, 2013

There is payback coming for Kevin: really?

''Win or lose the election, there is payback coming for Kevin. He is getting his way now because we need to win some seats. But the party won't be tolerating his antics for too long.''

After getting his way in changing the rules so that it will take a 75 per cent vote to change the federal ALP leader? 

And these anonymous quotes no doubt come from the dolts who agreed to that shocking change - one that was reported last week, but if you'd blinked you would have missed it.

If there is only one reason not to vote Labor this time, it's the unforgivable and indefensible change to their own rules. 


It is a ridiculous notion to accept that the current Australian Labor Party is anywhere close to being a bunch of happy campers who have put their internal differences, petty squabbles and deep hatreds behind them.

As one very senior Labor MP told this column: ''Oh yes, we still hate Rudd and he is still a vindictive and crazy person, but he will save some furniture. The people out there seem to like him.''

Another put it a little more bluntly: ''Win or lose the election, there is payback coming for Kevin. He is getting his way now because we need to win some seats. But the party won't be tolerating his antics for too long.''

In the meantime Australia has got a prime minister who thinks he's a rock star and an election about to be fought purely on populist issues.

''I don't think any one of us was silly enough to think Rudd wouldn't be bringing his massive ego back to the Lodge with him,'' one Labor MP said.

''All the talk of being more consultative and having learnt his lessons is just hollow talk. But we do need him if we are to have any chance in the election.

''That's just the sad state of affairs for the party right now.''

''In the dying days of his leadership last time we all saw some very erratic behaviour from Kevin,'' one Labor MP said.

''It's just the beginning of his leadership this time but we are already seeing similar behaviour from him.''

Rudd's appalling lurch to the right over asylum seekers provides a good example.

It will win him and the party votes, which, in the end, is all that matters at this point in the electoral cycle.

But it didn't take long for things to get messy. As one part of Rudd's plan after another started coming unstuck, he had no answers.

''Get used to it,'' a senior Labor operative said.

''This will be what we'll be in for during the entire election campaign. Rudd will make an announcement and then move on to the next thing, leaving behind the details for others to come up with and try to explain. That's just his style.

Devil's still in the detail for Rudd

c/o Kath

July 29, 2013

$190 billion squandered, plus $87 billion in stimulus

Australia has squandered nearly all of the $190 billion windfall from the resources boom over the past decade through a raft of unsustainable government spending programs and tax cuts. 
With cabinet today expected to discuss savings and tax measures for Chris Bowen's planned economic statement to combat a predicted $8bn slump in revenues, a report from the Melbourne-based Grattan Institute think tank warns of a significant, long-term budget deficit.
Soaring commodity prices have brought a combined benefit to the commonwealth budget of $190bn over the past decade. Of this, $182bn has been either spent or devoted to tax cuts by the Howard, Rudd and Gillard governments. This does not include the combined $87bn of stimulus spending by Kevin Rudd and then-treasurer Wayne Swan following the financial crisis.
While most of the reduction in revenue occurred during the Howard era because of personal income tax cuts and more generous superannuation concessions, most of the spending increase has occurred under Labor.
Dr Minifie said that while Australia had not saved as much as it should have, "it is not too late for a burst of prudence".
At the same time, spending, excluding the stimulus outlays, rose from 20.5 per cent to 23.5 per cent of GDP.
Dr Minifie said that if the increased spending had been devoted to capital investment, such as improved infrastructure, it could be justified as a form of saving. Similarly, it could be argued that increased spending on health and education would boost the future productive capacity of the economy.
The ALP and the Liberals have pissed it away.   Neither party has any plan or policy to change their imbecilic economic ways.

Boom's $190bn windfall 'wasted'

July 28, 2013

That town

“Suddenly,” Leibovich writes, “anyone without facial warts could call themselves a ‘strategist’ and get on TV. Or start an e-mail newsletter, Web site or, later, blog, Facebook page or Twitter following — in other words, become Famous for Washington.”

It has also enabled journalists to turn themselves into pundits, with all the glittery and greasy emoluments of that lower trade. “Punditry,” he writes, “has replaced reporting as journalism’s highest calling, accompanied by a mad dash of ‘self-branding,’ to borrow a term that had now fully infested the city: everyone now hellbent on branding themselves in the marketplace, like Cheetos (Russert was the local Coca-Cola). They gather, all the brands, at . . . self-­reverential festivals, like the April White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, whose buffet of ‘pre-parties’ and ‘after-parties’ now numbers more than two dozen — because a single banquet, it is clear, cannot properly celebrate the full achievements of the People Who Run Your Country.”
No reason to feel smug.

Washington sounds just like Canberra, but with more parties and better food.

Book review:  This Town - Mark Leibovich 

July 26, 2013

Summoning something from nothing

First there was the 2020 summit, which cost lots and produced nothing.
In his second twirl as PM, Kev Rudd has written to 100 CEOs asking for ideas for improving productivity.

He ''would welcome any suggestions that you have for improving competitiveness and achieving strategic productivity growth''. Mr Murphy offered himself as a contact point ''in the first instance'', said he was available to meet and listed his phone numbers.
Rudd & co would argue that this is ‘consultative’.  I’d argue that this is a man and a party with no ideas – still.

As with the sad and sorry Gillard government, what’s the point of aspiring to the highest office in the land if you don’t know what to do when you get there? 

Rudd woos CEOs 

The new ALP: just like the old one, only crunchy

Labor party described as ‘cereal offender’ in a press release from the office of Liberal MP Sussan Ley, Shadow Minister for Employment Participation, Shadow Minister for Childcare and Early Childhood Learning.

Labor a cereal offender on childcare rebate freeze

Duck Friday

July 24, 2013

Wednesday Wisdom

A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money. 

Everett Dirksen (late US senator)

July 20, 2013

Go hard, go right, go Abbott

Now we're beginning to understand what Kev Kardashian was doing during the three year interruption to his primeministership.

Yes, yes - we already knew he was kept busy with good deeds, along with moments spent undermining Gillard and the ALP: a little leak here, a bigger leak there.

What we didn't know was that Rudd was hatching a basket of policies. 

Anyone who believes that Rudd is making things up as he goes along - the 'policy on the run' mantra - could not be more mistaken.

Rudd doesn't have it in him to make policy on the fly.  No, he has had three long years to dream up his own policies, which he is now unleashing on behalf of a grateful ALP. 

Much like Ken Henry's response to the GFC:  go hard, go early, go households; Rudd's response to resuming his position as PM seems to be:  go hard, go right, go Abbott.

It's stunning, it's disturbing, and almost nauseating.

Land of the free and mean

Hunger Games, U.S.A. - Paul Krugma, New York Times 

The occasion for these observations is, as you may have guessed, the monstrous farm bill the House passed last week
For decades, farm bills have had two major pieces. One piece offers subsidies to farmers; the other offers nutritional aid to Americans in distress, mainly in the form of food stamps (these days officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP).
So House Republicans voted to maintain farm subsidies — at a higher level than either the Senate or the White House proposed — while completely eliminating food stamps from the bill.
To fully appreciate what just went down, listen to the rhetoric conservatives often use to justify eliminating safety-net programs. It goes something like this: “You’re personally free to help the poor. But the government has no right to take people’s money” — frequently, at this point, they add the words “at the point of a gun” — “and force them to give it to the poor.”
It is, however, apparently perfectly O.K. to take people’s money at the point of a gun and force them to give it to agribusinesses and the wealthy.
Now, some enemies of food stamps don’t quote libertarian philosophy; they quote the Bible instead. Representative Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, for example, cited the New Testament: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” Sure enough, it turns out that Mr. Fincher has personally received millions in farm subsidies.
Given this awesome double standard — I don’t think the word “hypocrisy” does it justice — it seems almost anti-climactic to talk about facts and figures. But I guess we must.
So: Food stamp usage has indeed soared in recent years, with the percentage of the population receiving stamps rising from 8.7 in 2007 to 15.2 in the most recent data. There is, however, no mystery here. SNAP is supposed to help families in distress, and lately a lot of families have been in distress.
In fact, SNAP usage tends to track broad measures of unemployment, like U6, which includes the underemployed and workers who have temporarily given up active job search. And U6 more than doubled in the crisis, from about 8 percent before the Great Recession to 17 percent in early 2010. It’s true that broad unemployment has since declined slightly, while food stamp numbers have continued to rise — but there’s normally some lag in the relationship, and it’s probably also true that some families have been forced to take food stamps by sharp cuts in unemployment benefits.
What about the theory, common on the right, that it’s the other way around — that we have so much unemployment thanks to government programs that, in effect, pay people not to work? (Soup kitchens caused the Great Depression!) The basic answer is, you have to be kidding. Do you really believe that Americans are living lives of leisure on $134 a month, the average SNAP benefit?
Still, let’s pretend to take this seriously. If employment is down because government aid is inducing people to stay home, reducing the labor force, then the law of supply and demand should apply: withdrawing all those workers should be causing labor shortages and rising wages, especially among the low-paid workers most likely to receive aid. In reality, of course, wages are stagnant or declining — and that’s especially true for the groups that benefit most from food stamps.
So what’s going on here? Is it just racism? No doubt the old racist canards — like Ronald Reagan’s image of the “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy a T-bone steak — still have some traction. But these days almost half of food stamp recipients are non-Hispanic whites; in Tennessee, home of the Bible-quoting Mr. Fincher, the number is 63 percent. So it’s not all about race.
What is it about, then? Somehow, one of our nation’s two great parties has become infected by an almost pathological meanspiritedness, a contempt for what CNBC’s Rick Santelli, in the famous rant that launched the Tea Party, called “losers.” If you’re an American, and you’re down on your luck, these people don’t want to help; they want to give you an extra kick. I don’t fully understand it, but it’s a terrible thing to behold.
It can be a harsh, nasty, small minded place in first world countries, not least in America, which continues to carry the burden of much to admire and much to despise.

Down under, we are no better though.  No food stamps, but we sure as shyte come up mean, petty and accusing when it comes to the unemployed, the unable, the sole parent and any poor bugger who is beyond helping themselves. 

July 19, 2013

July 17, 2013

Wednesday Wisdom

I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it's the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It's probably the most important thing in a person.

Audrey Hepburn

July 14, 2013

There goes the shock and awe

Turnbull has put the kibosh on the fantasy of the Liberals tackling the revived Kev Rudd with a shock an awe move:  installing Malcolm Turnbull as leader, at the last minute.

The fantasy election, which many people wished for in 2007, will still not come to pass in 2013.


Malcolm Turnbull says he knows many people would prefer he lead the Liberal Party rather than Tony Abbott, but that they should vote for the party anyway.

He ruled out having a tilt at the leadership, despite polls showing he was far more popular than the current opposition leader as the federal Labor government under Kevin Rudd closes the gap between the parties.
Malcolm Turnbull says many prefer him to Tony Abbott ... states the obvious

Schemes and dreams

From Godwin Grech to wind farms, it all cost the happy little tax payer in recent times.

Godwin, he of the vivid imagination and overwhelming urge to help the Liberals (Malcolm Turnbull, in particular), was awarded an undisclosed sum from the federal workplace insurer.

And federally funded green schemes continue to shovel money into inefficient and ineffective private sector wind follies. 

Utegate official Godwin Grech wins payout 

Carbon folly comes at a price 

July 12, 2013

July 10, 2013

Wednesday Wisdom

I believe in manicures. I believe in overdressing. I believe in primping at leisure and wearing lipstick. I believe in pink. I believe happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day, and... I believe in miracles.

Audrey Hepburn

July 6, 2013

Plan B working a treat so far

The contradiction was jarring, but not nearly as much as the new Kevin appealing for a kinder, gentler polity after stabbing Gillard in the front, in the back, in the feet, hands, face, any part of her that was exposed, day after day for three years until he regained that which she took from him, and then with lips determinedly pursed declaring he would not abide any criticism of her.
Almost as bad as Rudd promising to elevate the tone of the national debate only to raise the spectre of war with Indonesia under Abbott, followed swiftly by recession, famine and the plague.
Almost as incongruous as Rudd deploring gender politics while going on endlessly about appointing six women to cabinet and spending his life surrounded by good, strong women including his mother, wife, daughter and granddaughter. So oblivious is the new Kevin to gender, he neglected to ring Kate Lundy to tell her she had lost sport, letting her read it in a press release and leaving the phone call to his deputy.
Almost as incongruous as Labor luminaries lining up to testify that the Rudd species of leopard can and has changed his spots while the Abbott species cannot.
Amid the contradictions and incongruities, everybody's Plan B is working a treat so far.
Kev can't change his spots  

It wasn't fiction

I told Gillard two basic truths which needed to guide her parliamentary career. One was that she should never deal with Kevin Rudd, a non-Labor man addicted to media attention and leadership destabilisation. As the product of a Queensland Country Party family, his instincts were more about self-promotion than social justice. 
In the greatest mistake of her career, Gillard offered Rudd her caucus numbers to make him leader in 2006.
My other advice was to face up to the cancer inside Labor’s culture, the problem of sub-factional warlords.
I wrote about this extensively in The Latham Diaries, but instead of accepting the need for organisational reform, the party depicted me as a madman. 
So wrote Mark Latham. 

July 5, 2013

July 4, 2013

The man that political correctness forgot

Japan's banks emerged from the 2008 global credit crisis largely unscathed because senior employees did not speak English well enough to have got them into trouble, the country's finance minister said.

Taro Aso, who also serves as deputy prime minister, said bankers in Japan had not been able to understand the complex financial instruments that were the undoing of major global players, so had not bought them.

"Many people fell prey to the dubious products, or so-called subprime loans. Japanese banks were not so much attracted to these products, compared with European banks," Mr Aso told a seminar in Tokyo on Friday.

"There was an American who said Japanese banks are healthy, but that's not true at all. Managers of Japanese banks hardly understood English, that's why they didn't buy."

Mr Aso's comments are the latest in a line of pronouncements that have raised eyebrows.

The one-time prime minister said in January the elderly should be allowed to "hurry up and die" instead of costing the government money with expensive end-of-life medical care.
And btw:  Australia wasn't the only country to be spared the GFC.  As with other countries, it was dumb luck, not good economic or political management.  Oh, and the highly regulated financial system - set up long, long ago.

Poor English saved Japan from the GFC

Imagine there's no heaven ...

Imagine the Australian Labor Party wins the 2013 federal election, whenever it is held, and forms government again. 

This scenario might make your stomach churn or fill you with glee but try to picture it if you can.
Federal Labor celebrates the bittersweetest victory of all—bitter because they’re stuck with Kevin for longer than was intended. 

The other side slumps into despair and the “I told you sos” fly around, as usually follows an unexpectedly bad result. 

The army of Coalition lobbyists who’ve descended on Canberra over the last year have to break the leases on their shiny offices. The old Labor hangers-on can move in instead. 


And what stories will journalists and others in the political class tell us about the result? 

They’ll say things like: never-underestimate Kevin Rudd, he’s brilliant, best with his back against the wall, a scrapper and so on. A sublime politician. 

They’ll huff that if the Liberals couldn’t win this one it’s hard to see how they ever can again. They’ve moved too far to the right. 

Won’t be back in power until they address their structural problems. No one joins the Liberals anymore and the federal party contains too much dead wood. 

They need to get out into the real world more and spend less time at wacky libertarian think tank functions.
Whatever happened to the party of John Howard who understood the middle ground, who knew the country? 

And leader Tony Abbott? Let’s not go there.
What if Labor wins? 

July 3, 2013

Wednesday Wisdom

Go out as far as you can go and start from there.

Albert Einstein