26 March, 2021

It’s even worse than we thought

I really don’t want to sound like a crazy conspiracy theorist, but let’s put a few of this week’s clues together…

This week, we had the revelation that coalition staffers had a Facebook group where they posted photos of themselves masturbating and ejaculating onto the desks of female MPs. We also learned that other staffers used the parliament house prayer room for sex.

Under normal circumstances, it would be one of the most sickening things anyone working in parliament house could be accused of. But this is 2021, where a staffer has already been accused of raping another staffer in a ministerial office. Also a senior minister, later revealed to be attorney general Christian Porter, has been the subject of historical rape allegations.

It’s enough to make the idea of the former deputy prime minister, who had previously campaigned against same-sex marriage on the grounds of maintaining the sanctity of marriage, getting his media advisor pregnant and leaving his family for her seem quaint by comparison.

The story about the desk defiling and prayer room sex was broken by Peter Van Onselen. That would be the same Peter Van Onselen who is a close personal friend of Christian Porter. The same Peter Van Onselen who, having declared his conflict of interests in speaking on the Porter issue, continued to do so, long and loud, at every opportunity.

Curiously, unlike the rape allegations, the prime minister and his government were quick off the mark to denounce this latest behaviour.

Then a couple of days later, one of the Liberal party’s chief propagandists Peta Credlin used one of the Liberal party’s chief propaganda outlets Sky News to double down. She now alleges both staffers and MPs past and present hired sex workers for “gay orgies” during her time as chief of staff to the prime minister, and has only decided to talk about it now.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking, B2?

If this is the size of the dead cat they’re willing to throw on the table to distract from allegations of rape and cover-ups, things must be far worse than we think.
   
 



24 February, 2021

Trickle UP Economics

The government’s announcement that it will finally raise JobSeeker by $50 per fortnight, or $3.57 a day has been rightly criticised as being insultingly small. It continues the notion that unemployment is a personal failing which must be punished by living below the poverty line, without even the resources to find a job.

The myth of the dole-bludger has been pushed for as long as I can remember. People who are paid more in a month than you or I am in a year, keep telling us if unemployment benefits are too “generous” it removes the incentive to work.

If life was really so easy on the dole, I’m pretty sure a lot more people would be doing it. And at the front of the line would be the columnists, shock jocks and television talking heads who have been fomenting dislike and distrust of the unemployed for more than a generation. You don’t think these people do their jobs out of a heightened work ethic and sense of community service do you? No, they do it because it pays well. Bloody well!

And how hard can it be to sit on your arse in a studio talking out your armpit for a few hours a day about what you read in the papers that morning? And if you start to run out of puff, you can let the audience do the work for you by going to the call-in lines – provided your staff who do the real work have screened the callers to make sure they don’t call you out on your bullshit. Hell, I’d do that if I could. (Singo, call me!) As Robert Mitchum said of his profession, it sure beats working!

Meanwhile, the government continues to trot out the line that the best form of welfare is a job. It’s a fair point on face value, but it’s hard to believe they’re genuine about it when the best way to create jobs is to raise JobSeeker above the poverty line.

You can file the rest of this column under “I’m not an economist but I’m a real person who’s been around, seen a thing or two, and I’m not an idiot.”

Jobs are created by demand. Demand is created by spending power.

When the wealthy get a bit more money, they pocket it.
When the middle class get a bit more money, they might buy something nice or pay down debt.
When the poor get a bit more money, they spend it.

Those who hate the unemployed will follow up with the furphy that jobless people, being lesser beings not to be trusted with their own money, will spend it on The Wrong Things. This idea is not just ignorant and insulting, but also utterly irrelevant.

If you don’t believe the unemployed deserve to live dignified lives, that’s one thing, but let’s say for a moment that people on a fair JobSeeker rate don’t spend the entire difference on gaining employment.

Maybe some of them will spend it on decent cigarettes instead of black market chop-chop. That means three quarters of it will go back in tax revenue. Maybe some will buy a slab instead of a six pack. Maybe some will buy some nice clothes – they might be able to afford clothes made in Australia. Maybe some of them will shout the kids fish and chips for tea. Maybe some of them will put an extra $20 worth of petrol in the car (if they have one) and drive to the beach for a change. Maybe some will, God forbid, buy themselves a soy latte when they meet friends at a café.

Do you get it yet? The point is it’s all going straight back into the economy. They’re increasing demand and creating jobs. And it would be a steady stimulus, not the sugar hit of helping businesses to bring forward once in a decade purchases.

Poor people don’t hoard money. They can’t. That’s what poor means. When they have some extra, they spend it. Spending stimulates the economy and creates jobs. That’s before we even mention the increased dignity and self-esteem, and reduced stress and anxiety which may help people find employment

This is not a bleeding-heart argument, it’s a rational economic one. If we are serious about creating jobs, the simplest and most direct way is to increase JobSeeker above the poverty line – because the economy trickles UP.
   
 


03 January, 2021

Trump loses poker face

In poker, as they say in the classics, every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser.

You can be holding a fist full of nothing but if you behave confidently and/or aggressively enough, you can convince a player with three kings that you’ve got a full house. To minimise losses, that player then folds, forfeiting the money they have already bet and saving you from having to show your worthless hand.

There is one hand that cannot be beaten – the royal flush. A player holding a royal flush cannot be bluffed because they know there is no better hand. However, the perfect hand can still be beaten by a pair of twos if the player holding the twos has more in the bank than the player with the royal flush.

If the pair of twos makes a bet higher than the royal flush can match, and refuses to take an IOU, unless the royal flush can raise a loan, they have to fold. This means the royal flush loses everything and the pair of twos looks like the better player.

This brings us to Donald Trump.

Trump has been holding a pair of twos all his life. The very few figures which have become public confirm that he is not nearly as wealthy as he wants everyone to believe. His sheer braggadocio is enough to convince enough people enough of the time. Trump doesn’t have the typical inscrutable poker face but he does have the master bluffing tactic of actually believing his own bullshit. He doesn’t have to pretend he isn’t lying because in his alternate reality, he isn’t.

For those who call his bluff, Trump’s go-to option is legal action. The cases would be laughed out of court if it ever got that far, but it’s litigation the defendants haven’t the time, inclination or money to fight. So they settle. Trump wins, keeps the money and doesn’t have to show his hand.

Some might suggest this makes Trump very clever, both as a businessman and a poker player. However, I don’t think even the most devout of free market libertarians would argue that this is the way a capitalist meritocracy is supposed to work.

Trump’s response to his election loss is identical to his lifelong methods – first bluff, then sue. What he evidently fails to understand though, is he is now dealing with people and institutions who cannot be bluffed, intimidated or outbid. The way he is acting like a cornered wild animal shows he has no idea of how to process this.

For the first time in his life, Trump is finally being forced to show his hand. And now the best that he can hope for is to die in his sleep.


01 January, 2021

Be the anthem

Australia has updated the lyrics of its national anthem to say “we are one and free,” instead of “we are young and free.” This is intended to reflect the fact Australia has always been home to the world’s oldest continuous culture rather than just being the “young” nation the song was originally intended to represent.

Many have criticised the change as a token one-word acknowledgement of Australia’s Indigenous people, and it undoubtedly is. Some have also suggested the anthem should be changed to better reflect Australia. While happy to check my white privilege, I respectfully suggest we go the other way. Wouldn’t it be nice if Australia reflected the anthem?

Any nation’s anthem is a brochure, a slogan, a postcard. If any country’s anthem were honest it would say, “Look, we’ve done some really bad shit but we’re trying to be better about it.” At best.

Anyone who has ever had a dog will be aware of the old saying, “Be the person your dog thinks you are.” How about Australia be the country our anthem says we are?

If we HAD wealth for toil, if we SHARED our boundless plains with those who’ve come across the sea, if we CARED for nature’s gifts of beauty rich and rare, if we WERE one (but many) and free… I’d like that.

03 December, 2020

Your opinion is irrelevant

The problem with lawyers is they think all laws are open to interpretation, including the laws of mathematics. They think they can always get the answer they want if they just ask the question the right way.

They are wrong.

74 million is less than 80 million.

74 million has always been less than 80 million.

74 million will always be less than 80 million.

There are no circumstances under which 74 million could ever be more than 80 million.

This is not opinion. These are objective facts. 

When an electoral system states that the candidate with the most votes wins, then the candidate who received 80 million votes beats the candidate who received 74 million votes.

If anyone would like to lecture me about the distinction between the popular vote and the electoral college vote, then I simply invite you to go back to the top, replace the number 74 million with the number 232, and the number 80 million with the number 306.

That’s the beauty of maths. It always works. Even a Double Irish with a Dutch Sandwich (this is a real thing by the way) will not change the answer.

Your opinion is irrelevant. Your feelings are irrelevant. Whether you believe it, is irrelevant.

The problem with people disputing the result of the 2020 US presidential election is their argument boils down to nothing more than, “I don’t believe it.”

Lawyers prosecuting the case that Donald Trump won the election keep trying to change the question in such a way as to achieve an answer they are comfortable to believe. But no matter how they try to interpret the law, they will never make 232 add up to more than 306.

There have been many credible allegations of electoral fraud in US elections in the past, but not this year. Even Trump’s lapdog Bill Barr has been forced to admit the facts are not on his side. Facts don’t take sides. Facts are facts. People choose whether to side with the facts. This decision is of course irrelevant.

Many years ago, I was in an OHS course where one of the students kept wanting to argue the legislation with the trainer. At one point, when he said, “Well, I don’t agree,” for the umpteenth time, our trainer just gave up and said, “I don’t care whether you agree or not. I’m telling you how it is.”

Although the modern world has allowed many people to create their own realities, there is still such a thing as objective truth. You may agree or disagree with the second part of that statement but it doesn’t matter.

Facts are facts. Truth is truth. Your opinion is irrelevant.

  

28 November, 2020

Black Friday Bam-a-lam!

 

Dear bands, singers, musicians, and other assorted recording artistes as appropriate:

If you must go in for this Black Friday nonsense – and I get that market forces probably mean you have to – do you know what I would really like to order from your online store?

A CD.

Not a hoodie.
Not a denim jacket with a patch bearing your name sewn on the sleeve.
Not an infant’s onesie.

Not your latest album spread across ten 7” picture discs.
Not monogrammed cigarette papers.
Not a download with extra tracks. If I’m going to pay for a download, it had better be at least 48kHz, 24-bit lossless or GTFO!
Not a pair of socks.
Not Christmas tree decorations.
Not a 250g LP in 4-colour spattered vinyl because that’s the only physical medium you chose to release the album in. Hey, I love vinyl but I’m not a fetishist.
Not a scarf.
Not a pillow case.
Not a water bottle.
Not a mug.
Not a teapot.
Not a cassette. I like retro technology but cassettes sucked even when they were the best option available.
Not a dartboard.
Not a jigsaw puzzle.
Not a hip flask.
Not a pint glass/shot glass/bar set.
Not a tote bag.
Not a tea towel.
Not a lithograph of a concert poster which was never used for the original tour anyway.
Not a CD which has been bundled with a vinyl record, T-shirt/jacket/hoodie, and art print.

Just a plain old CD.

Actually, it doesn’t have to be plain.

I love beautiful packaging, so long as your idea of beautiful packaging isn’t a massive hardcover book bound in virgin ostrich leather which will take up 25% of my shelf and cost somewhere in the vicinity of a flight to Thailand.

And it doesn’t have to be old.

I’d prefer some new music to your most popular album remastered by technicians at Space-X under the supervision of the original tape-op because somehow the four previous remasters still didn’t get it right. And that slight remix to strip the original album of the production values which didn’t remain fashionable? Not really necessary. I know they didn’t have Pro Tools in 1970. That might be why the original records were so good. If you took all the gated reverb off the snares in those 80s albums, would we even recognise the songs? And in situations where the principle artist is no longer around to approve (or disapprove), it’s getting dangerously close to musical fan-fic.

Just one further request:

Could you put ALL the music on the CD please? Don’t hit me up in another 6 months to buy the version with all the tracks you forgot to include the first time around. And if you want to do a coffee-table book edition – so called because it’s roughly the size of an actual coffee table – that’s fine for those who like that kind of thing, but please don’t expect me to invest in this massive slab of furniture just to get the bonus live disc. That really isn’t fair. DVDs are cool too. Include them by all means but the same rule applies: don’t make the DVD with all the bonus features only available to those willing to shell out for the version that comes in a ¼ size replica pyramid with certified used guitar strings and a lock of the singer’s hair.

I am more than willing to pay a price which, averaged out across the print run, will compensate you for the time and resources spent writing, recording, mixing, manufacturing and distributing the product, with a reasonable profit margin.

Is that too much to ask?

 

13 November, 2020

The five levels of Trump delusion

No-one really gives a shit that Donald Trump himself is denying all reality. 

He is just being who he has always been and doing what he has always done. 

It's not as if he didn't telegraph the fact he would dispute the election result way back in the middle of 2016. When someone starts making excuses for losing well before the game has even started, that ought to tell you something, but here we are. 

Whether or not he concedes is irrelevant. Whether or not he refuses to leave is irrelevant. If Trump is still in the White House at 12:01pm on January 20th, he will be a trespasser and treated as such by the Secret Service. Their duty is not to Trump but to the duly elected president of the day. I, for one, would pay to watch that

His backers like Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and anyone remotely connected with Breitbart, who have used Trump as a front for their own crypto-facist ambitions, don't give a rat's whether the election was free and fair or not. They would probably prefer it wasn't. To them, democracy is simply an unavoidable (for now) impediment to their objectives. 

They may or may not believe their own bullshit. It hardly matters. It's all a means to an end for them.


Trump's children - who would be irrelevant if not for their high places in the administration and campaign - probably don't know any better. Their partners, who have also been given senior positions in the campaign and/or administration have less of an excuse. They joined the cult rather than being brought up in it so their denial of reality is either wilful participation or terminal naivety. 

When you've been raised with Donald Trump as your moral compass though, what hope do you have? Invanka, Don Jr and Eric can almost be forgiven... Almost.

Media shills like Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingram, et al are playing to a particular audience. They are reactionaries with no ideas of their own. All they know is if "teh left" are for it, then they're against is and if the left are against it, then they are for it. Of course, this is from a mindset where anyone who is slightly more liberal than Mussolini is a "radical leftist." 

If Joe Biden - who by any objective standards is a centre-right moderate if ever there was one - said the Earth orbits the Sun and grass is green, these people would say he's wrong and find some de-registered crackpot to come on all their shows to agree with them. They have no other thought processes. 

As for the likes of Alex Jones, he is just a big bowl of chili way from claiming it's all a plot by the alien lizards. Anyone who listens to him deserves to. 

But it's the modern-day Quislings, Mike Pence, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Mitch McConnell, and so many more, who history will judge the most harshly. Each of them is on the record either decrying Trump directly or at least the kind of behaviour he revels in. And they all threw whatever principles they had away and accepted Trump's hostile takeover of their party for the sake of short-term political advantage. 

Donald Trump, having never had to take responsibility or face consequences in his life, was always going to be a 74-year-old infant. Those who demonstrably knew better and still chose to roll over and say black is white, up is down, and Trump won the election, must be shown no mercy.