Archive for September, 2013

Ever Feel Like A Mechanic . . .

Reading the news this morning from the USA, “… House passes $40 billion cut to the food stamp program over the next 10 years”, and having seen the recent news from only a couple of days ago that was analysed across the business media across the political spectrum of perspectives, as represented in the following graph leads me to that position I am in occasionally with a client, where I end up saying, “See, now here’s your problem right here”


Now, when I read that graph I arrived at what I believe to be an obvious conclusion. Clearly, however, many of the supposed experts who examined the same data arrived the conclusion: “Yes, that was pretty effective. Now what we want to do is make sure that the poor fuckers who have gained nothing for their input in increased productivity over the last 40 years now can’t even have the pittance that has been provided food assistance to keep them going when we heap out largess to the farming industry every few years. That’s the way you balance a budget.”

Really, at this point I don’t see how any other objective conclusion could be reached other than that this is one big natural experiment in psychohistory with the following thesis: How far can you push a (lower) middle class before they actually do start rioting in the streets and stringing up bankers they can find when they loot lower Manhattan?

I mean fucking honestly. There is no one I could find disputing the data in the graph above as I have been reading about the update in the research that I first read a year ago. Sure the WSJ puts quite a different spin on it than does The Nation, but neither dispute the facts. The middle class has lost any gains due to productivity for 40 years so that those supplying capital and those that run the major companies in the world can enrich themselves vastly. And, unless there is some significant outcry and political movement in the near future, the US may actually be at the point in society where they will let the poor and working poor starve (and freeze) to death. Fuck em, right? They won’t riot, they’ll be too hungry and tired from working their two fast food jobs. And fuck the new indentured class too – those students that thought they would get a leg up by borrowing to go to uni and instead found their aren’t any jobs in their field or anything similar, and they aren’t allowed to go bankrupt so they can just fight for a couple of those Walmart jobs themselves for 30 years to pay off their debt.

What will it take until someone says directly to the power, “See what you got here is a problem with your minimum wage. Unless you raise your minimum wage, you aren’t going to reduce the need for food stamps. And if you don’t raise that minimum to something like a living wage, your middle class (that drives 70% of GDP growth) is going to disappear.”

You might also want to consider the motivation and interest in continuing to participate in a civil society for folks in the middle and lower end of the spectrum. What would motivate someone to work a job at Taco Bell and a job at 7-11 for a grinding ability to just stay out of poverty their whole life as opposed to something illegal, when clearly those who are too big to jail would call it foolish.

Then consider how there always seems to be this exasperated search for motive when someone brings a shotgun into the office. I wonder if a society so steeped in inequity and so desperate to maintain access to guns doesn’t realise how close it is to an MO for a mass murder on a daily basis. Sure, you could say that all these people are random crazies, but then they aren’t covered for mental health care or even institutionalisation since Reagan’s time either. You are just getting used to how bad things have gotten for the majority, how disconnected ‘leaders’ are from subjects, and only lack a spark to set a lot on fire.

The Counterfactual

Scientists can tend to be a bit dour. We mean to be, because the evidence in which we work is often based in misery as a means of defining what NOT to do rather than what TO do. So, it is interesting and encouraging to see evidence of sustainability (in this case in relation to biodiversity) does have an effect, or is at least correlated with you making more money. I am are sure their are limitations to the function that exists, and I am sure their are outliers (can’t imagine Jabba the Rinehart being interested in sustainability), but there does appear to be evidence that you can be financially well off and have a thriving environment.


The Wash Up

It would appear that the Sports Party candidate, that received 1/3 less votes than the Australian Democrats at 1900 votes, will take a seat in the Senate for Western Australia. He will take a seat along side other micro-party candidates in NSW (Liberal Democrats), VIC (Motoring Enthusiasts) and QLD (Palmer United). Travesty? Comic Opera? Conspiracy?

Hardly. And all I can say is let’s hope our Sports Party single-issue guy from WA and the motoring enthusiasts guy from VIC bring enough of the crazy to replace Barnaby in the Senate, as NSW has moved that nut job to the House. Given that there was no website available during the campaign, and the only profile of the guy Wayne Dropulich is confined to a couple of newspaper articles in June, we are only finding out about him now slowly, and you can see him only now starting to clam up and start thinking about how to craft the rest of his policies to his party’s best advantage as he is interviewed on The 730 Report.

Now, I am certainly not saying there is anything wrong with the system we have, even if it amounts to someone basically winning the lottery on occasion, and requires us to find out what a guy like Senator-elect Dropulich thinks on matters such as macroeconomics, science, tax, equity and social issues, etc. after he takes his seat. That problem should be corrected by the fourth estate doing their fucking jobs during an election and not after. But I digress. No, the real problem that needs to be addressed is not single-issue parties, which you would hope the public could look past themselves, but rather the corruption of the existing system that is going on.

In short, I wonder if I am more scared of what I do know about Clive or the Lib Dems, or what I don’t know about Wayne?

Clive is doing exactly what I moved to Australia 22 years ago to escape, the purchasing of elected positions directly with large amounts of advertising resulting in a large amount of free media by rich individuals. I am sure I need not educate you on the average cost of winning a senate seat in the USA, and you will see directly the direct corrupting influence of too much money on public politics. Beware of the Jabba the Rinehart Party next election cycle.

The other serious corruption that is likely going on which is the generation of single-issue ‘feeder’ parties that purposely then funnel their preferences by design into the main party with a broad range of positions that may not be acceptable to the people originally casting their vote for an issue such as smoking, fishing or even fluffy bunnies. The Lib Dems have been most recently exposed for this behaviour by Crikey, which I don’t think meets the spirit of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, and obviously the libertarian single-issue parties appear to tend toward less government involvement in their model to a point that risks anarchy and takeover by autocrats. But the sunlight he gets should sort out David Leyonhjelm of the Lib Dems, the same way it did Steven Fielding.

Fortunately, I suppose, we have a healthy and sound enough democracy to withstand either of these corrupting influences, or whatever Wayne brings to the senate.

The real issue, then, is that the press really aren’t doing their fucking jobs during and before an election. When a party is registered in any state, someone in the press should build a scorecard on them, and require it to be basically a full one, or stop saying their name at all in free media that they cover as news. The Australian Democrats got exactly ZERO free media in the last election cycle except (to my knowledge) one radio interview in SA. Not complaining, just a fact. However, if the press actually did its job in the lead up to an election, people would know that a party is only running on one issue, and isn’t serious (unless they decide they are) and then not cover them further. Similarly, they should cover the Australian Democrats in exactly the same way, and then not mention us again unless our message is compelling.

I understand being excluded from most coverage if our message is deemed crap and people no longer want to hear it, but I don’t accept being excluded because we won’t be part of the freak show, or spend enough money to justify coverage as news.

Now, on to a bit of analysis and a potential taste of the way forward. I have been having a look at the polling place level numbers on the primary vote here in WA to see what effect, if any, the effort expended in the campaign was effective. We did election activities (forums, distribution of materials and retail campaigning work) in Brand, Perth, Swan and Pearce electorates, and here are some graphs (c’mon you know you love graphs) below with some discussion below.

Screen shot 2013-09-13 at 10.58.35 AM
Screen shot 2013-09-13 at 10.58.55 AM
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Screen shot 2013-09-13 at 10.59.37 AM

Basically I see this:

•  Where we were able to have a person working polling places, we doubled our vote (or possibly even tripled it if you take into account the slant of the overall vote at the location.
• Where we were able to get signs and information up through the 5 week campaign we tripled out vote (basically just on name recognition.
• There are pockets of Australian Democrats support out there that we need to focus on as a critical mass to move us forward

So, all in all some encouraging findings that point to identifiable things we can do in the next three years to get us back to polling in the 3-4% range at a minimum next time round.

Campaign Wrap

Other than working the polling station tomorrow, my senate campaign wraps up today with one more video message.

My first (and probably only) attempt to win a public office has been a very educational experience, a whole lot of work, but also a lot more interesting than I thought it would be, especially the parts I thought would be the worst, like retail campaigning in the street.

From next week, I will resume my regular no holds barred critique of the new government, which is bound to be bad regardless of the outcome.

Why I’m Your Guy

Hey it’s a sunny pleasant day today in Perth, and so I moved outside campaign HQ today to shoot today’s video. It’s all about the positive message in today’s pitch, even though the grumpy old bastard the message comes from hasn’t changed.

The Cruelty Index

Well, the campaign period is winding down, and I have to work during the week, so I can’t be out doing face to face campaigning during the day, so I have decided to keep putting out videos on issues of importance to me in the campaign. Today’s video it’s about asylum seekers.

I have been interested in this subject since the Howard government started making a big issue of asylum seekers arriving by boat and attempting to emotionally affect my vote by lying about things like children being thrown from boats. Back then, I used to write long e-mails to the opposition leader to no affect. Now I put my research on film.

All data in my graph (below) are drawn from statistics available from the Department of Immigration fact sheets and annual reports. Data on costings comes from the current budget, and government records of mandatory detention offshore under the Howard government. Column #2 is the total number of visas issued in the humanitarian intake portion of the program. Column #3 is the total number of migrants to Australia, or the current quota for the last two years. Column #4 is the total number of persons held in mandatory detention at year end, and Column #5 is the percentage of migrants as a portion of the population.

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The values, when plotted, remain pretty stable and boring, except for the numbers held in mandatory detention, of which several key points must be made:

• It is not illegal to seek asylum in Australia, regardless of the manner by which you arrive
• It costs between 5 and 10 times (up to $500,000 per person) the amount to manage an asylum seeker offshore as it does onshore.
• Money wasted on treating people cruelly has exactly ZERO effect on the criminals that they pay to transport them to Australia. People smugglers are criminals, yes, but punishing their victims is not addressing the root cause.

Not Quite Twitter . . .

. . . but I am attempting to get the Australian Democrats message down to a more manageable size in today’s lastest campaign video.

Another day, another rant

Hey, I did another campaign video yesterday, and yes it is another 5 minutes of me talking, so whadya expect. I am going to try to keep them much shorter, but if I go for the short get to the point type message, it might get a bit blue.

All well, probably take the risk anyway. I can always add a disclaimer in editing.

Campaign Launch

Well, Sgt Hulka officially launched the campaign in Perth this morning with a hearty eggs on toast breakfast while answering questions from interested constituents in East Perth, followed by developing a campaign launch video and then did some one on one campaigning and distribution of policy materials. Although, I still need someone to explain to me why launch typically occurs with just one week to go in the election cycle.

Its been a hard four weeks and my feet are killing me, but plenty yet to do in the last week, including maybe a couple more of these:

Campaign video 1