Weekly salon 4/11

1. Has Australian politics jumped the shark?

“Jumped the shark” is not a usual phrase for me, but Urban Dictionary says:

    The beginning of the end. Something is said to have “jumped the shark” when it has reached its peak and begun a downhill slide to mediocrity or oblivion.

Here’s Mark David’s take on Scott Morrison post the Wentworth by-election:

Laura Tingle wrote a piece A week later, it’s nearly like the Wentworth by-election trouncing never happened, and then went on leave. Will she bother coming back?

In the end she asks whether it is possible for our new PM to change policy on anything. Seems not:

    it turns out he is just as trapped by the destructive forces tearing conservative politics apart as Malcolm Turnbull ever was.

Michelle Grattan says Now Malcolm Turnbull is the sniper at the window.

I think she got that wrong. Malcolm is now free and can tell the truth, rather than make up stories to fit an untenable position. This could get interesting. On Thursday 8 November at 8pm there will be a special of Malcolm, by himself, on Q&A.

I think if people ask questions he may be inclined to give straight answers, which could be fun. The ‘real’ Malcolm may be back, minus the ambition to be PM.

Why Morrison and his like go on Alan Jones show I’ll never figure. Seems there is a prerequisite that if you don’t agree with Jones there’s trouble. Also you can’t expect to get into the sewer and come up smelling roses.

Turnbull has found a new gig with the Greater Talent Network (GTN) in New York, where he gives speeches for an expected $US75,000 a time plus air fares and accommodation. Seems, like Julia Gillard, he has credibility on the international scene he lacked at home.

Newspoll came out last Monday with Labor ahead 54-46 TPP. The real interest was in ScoMo’s personal rating which went negative in about 8 weeks, a tad longer than Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd Mk II. For Malcolm Turnbull it took 6 months Julia Gillard took 8 months, John Howard took 1 year 2 months, and Rudd Mk I took 2 years 4 months.

PJ Keating took no time at all, because he never had a positive rating.

Adrian Beaumont notes:

    Since Morrison became PM, his net approvals have been +2, +5, +7 and now -3. Turnbull’s first four net approvals were +18, +25, +35 and +32.

A sputter or two before the candle went out, or “a downhill slide to mediocrity” without reaching a peak.

Meanwhile Bill Shorten just isn’t newsworthy in the MSM, but Paula Mathewson says he has actually been very busy on social media, where he can communicate directly without the distortion of the MSM.

2. US mid-term elections

Trump on TV is hard to watch as he becomes more rabid before the US mid-term elections on Tuesday. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight looks at the House in The Battleground In The House Is Really Big — And That Makes Life Hard For Republicans.

There are about 100 seats in play in the election for the House of Representatives, the Democrats only need 23 more to take charge.

Silver says that if things go roughly to form nationwide, the Democrats almost certainly will get there but it would be hard to circle more than about 12 or 15 of these districts that can safely be predicted to wind up in Democrats’ hands.

On the Senate, Google tells me:

    The U.S. Senate has 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats (including two independents). The 2018 Senate election takes place on November 6, 2018. There are 35 seats up in 2018*, of which 26 are held by Democrats. That party will need to gain 2 seats to take control.

Silver says the Democrats Need A Systematic Polling Error To Win The Senate and even that might not be enough. He says Trump on their models had a 3 out of 10 chance of winning in 2016. The democrats have even less chance of taking the Senate.

We’ll be keeping an eye out for Stacey Abrams: The Deep South woman vying to make history. If she wins in Georgia she will be the country’s first black female governor.

For anyone who thinks voting is fair in the USA, have a look at Wikipedia’s extensive article Voter suppression in the United States.

After the mid-terms, expect to hear more about what Robert Mueller is up to. One way or another we will probably find out what Mueller thinks Trump and his crew did in 2016, but will Trump be forced to testify where he’s bound to perjure himself, will Trump fire Mueller, will it end in the Supreme Court where Trump might find what black letter law means, or…?

3. The Google truth serum

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, author of What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are specialises in analysing Google searches. He says that in surveys, people exaggerate, try to say what their better self thinks they should say, or treat it as a joke. In any case, the opinions and information from surveys is unreliable.

On social media people lie shamelessly, trying to make a good impression.

When they search Google, they are being honest with themselves. It’s like a secret confessional as to what is on their mind.

I gather all Seth has to go on is the time, place and the exact wording of a search. So after Obama makes a speech you will find searches like ‘Obama + n***er + jokes’. There is no ID or demographic information directly. Seth discerns patterns in the searches and relates them to real-world events and media statements.

Here I’ll just mention that while he thinks the contributions to Trump’s election success were multifactorial, he needed a lot of ducks in a row to win, the standout was his appeal to racism. Seth says racism is east rather than west in the US, but then it is north as well as south, not just south.

4. Manufacturing job surge

From the AFR on Thursday:

    Manufacturing jobs are experiencing a resurgence, defying doom and gloom forecasts following the demise of the automotive assembly sector.

    Analysis of recent ABS job figures shows that more than 85,000 jobs have been added to the sector in the past year, returning to levels not seen since 2010.

    Experts say the growth has been fuelled by the low Australian dollar, which has increased export demand for high quality food and beverages as well as component car parts.

    Employment in manufacturing has declined steadily for the past 40 years, falling from 1.38 million jobs in 1973 to 870,000 at the end of 2017.

    However, strong growth in the year to August 2018 has seen that figure jump past 956,000, rising from 7.1 per cent of total employment last year to 7.6 per cent.

Don’t break out the champagne, lest it turn out to be a sampling error. However, it seems we hit the bottom in 2016, 2017 was level, now it’s on the up.

Food and beverage accounts for 26.5 per cent or 246,000, fuelled by strong export growth to Asia. Other examples include:

    Geelong wheel maker Carbon Revolution announced a $100 million expansion of its manufacturing facility and the promise of 500 new jobs after signing export contracts with global car makers.

    Queensland company Northern Light Technologies, which manufactures unique communication products for underground mines and tunnels, has experienced 20 per cent growth over the past year and expects the same or more over the next.

55 thoughts on “Weekly salon 4/11”

  1. Life is throwing up some strange challenges for me these days.

    The latest is that yesterday I was going out to help my oldest client, who relies on me to maintain a semblance of order on their 10-acre property. Over half way there alarms went crazy on the dashboard of my ute. Pulled over, about 100 metres before you lose mobile phone coverage.

    The motor seemed hot, checked the oil and this milky stuff appeared on the dipstick.

    No, it wasn’t a new synthetic oil, it was radiator fluid mixed with the oil – a blown head gasket.

    When my auto repair man shows up to work on Monday, he’ll find an extra vehicle in his yard. He usually has a full book of work so no idea how long this enforced holiday is going to be.

    However, there is masses of stuff to do here, starting with the desk in front of me.

  2. Jacob Greber, who seems to be the AFR’s new correspondent in Washington, says America feels like a country on the brink, which is exactly where Donald Trump wants it.

    You sense it in the drawn faces of neighbours of the Washington area suburb we live in where the kids go to schools with large proportions of jewish students.

    You hear it in the gloom-filled musings of American co-workers in the city’s centre, and from long-time political lobbyists who see this as the new normal.

    And you see it in the constant stream of rancour and division on television and social media, the effect of which – if you stare at it for too long – is oppressive. It casts a pall over everything.

    Some feel America is going off the rails, but Trump is not the steady hand, and is the first president to relinquish the role of ‘chief consoler’ when bad stuff happens.

    He’s using fear to get people out to vote, and using it directly with 55.5 million followers on Twitter.

  3. With the benefit of hindsight it seems to me that since some time around Newt Gingrich’s ascendancy the US has been in a civil war – the Republican Party versus Democracy. For a long time it was a cold war but it has been slowly heating up and the election of Trump has brought it to boiling point.
    Glad I’m not a Yank.

  4. yes zoot.

    Two places I’ve felt that kind of animosity:
    England in 1985; howls of anguish about Mrs T, but not much sign of arguments against her policies, or ideas for alternatives.
    It was an unusual period: Labour leaders had been duds (e.g. Michael Foot, a good author but looked like a bookish bumbler); a Trotskyite assault on northern England Labour slowly ebbing; admiration for the ‘victory’ in the Falklands; bitterness left over from the defeated Miners’ Strike, including bitterness that Mr Scargill hadn’t had the guts to put strike resolutions to secret ballots of miners’ union members.

    US in 1992 before Slick Willie Mr William Jefferson Clinton was elected President. I had read that the US during the Vietnam War protest years was like a state having a national nervous breakdown, but I had also swallowed the story that President Carter’s term and President Reagan’s ‘winning of the Cold War’ had brought peaceful times, prosperity and calmness. But to me in mid-1992 it seemed a very divided and troubled nation.

    And under Presidents
    Bush I,
    Bush II,
    Obama and now
    Hillary – what’s that you say? really?
    if anything the US polity never (during about 30 years) really recovered a semblance of civility, compromise, truth-telling or mutual respect – at least at the national level.

    Glad I live in Australia now.

    Oh, there was one other place similarly riven by factional, partisan discord: Australia, from around the time the “Loans Affair” was revealed by the Opposition and the Press (early 1975?) to about the time Sir John Kerr resigned as GG then decided not to take up a post in Paris.

  5. It wouldn’t matter if Trump was a nice person, he’d be relentlessly attacked anyway.
    Just like Mitt Romney, probably the nicest least combative nominee the Republicans have ever put forward.
    Didn’t stop Joe Biden sayin he would “ put y’all back in chains “.

    No, Politics has always been this grubby and lashed with fearmongering over there, Obama just had others do it for him.

  6. Wikipedia has an article Terrorism in the United States.

    Activity picked up in the 1960s and the entry January 1, 1969 to April 15, 1970 simply says:

    8200 Bombings, attempted bombings and bomb threats attributed to “campus disturbances and student unrest”

    Currently when I get a bit of time I’m reading Nancy Isenberg’s White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, the story of how the Brits exported their intrinsically worthless trash people.

    It made for a distinctly nasty beginning of the place, unless you had position and/or property.

  7. Thank heavens they sent all the worst humans solely to North America and never set up any penal colonies in NZ.

  8. We were “The Indian/Pacific Solution” of that era.

    Gaols, naval colony, cricket, Aussie Rules and sharks: what’s not to like?

  9. I remember going to an Abscol conference in the sixties where the NSW director of Ab affairs started off by describing this group that sounded all the world as if he was talking about some group of NSW Aborigines. When we had been sucked in he admitted that he was talking about poor, white share farmers in the South of the US.
    The sort of people who have been conned by the upper class into believing that their status depended on keeping them darn n….s in their place. Suspect not much has changed apart from the party they vote for.

  10. David Brooks, a conservative opinion writer for the NYT, has done piece syndicated in the AFR and elsewhere, saying that a political canyon runs between, he says, urban and rural America.

    He’s saying there is no longer any meeting point or conduit between the two. Their worlds are entirely separate.

    And each thinks that America is unravelling:

    The one word that the two electorates have in common is “unraveling.” Both groups have a sense that America is unraveling. If you ask them what “issues” matter most, they’ll say health care or immigration.

    But that’s not the right question to ask, because it doesn’t get at the sense of existential anger and angst that is really driving things.

    Of course, the two electorates tell entirely different unraveling stories. In rural America, the sources of unraveling are the immigrants (symbolized by the caravan) and the radicalized mobs of educated elites (symbolized by the media). In rural America, basic values like hard work, clear gender roles and the social fabric are dissolving before people’s eyes.

    Timothy Carney had a very fine piece in the Times on Thursday that captured the sense of social despair. “I got a loaded .22 right by my door,” one man in rural Pennsylvania told Carney, “I don’t trust nobody in my apartment complex.”

    Urban Americans see the unraveling coming from the rising tide of nativism, the way Trump eviscerates social norms, the underground army of alt-right extremists with guns. If anything, the blue sense of unraveling is more comprehensive.

  11. Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

    A nation built on migration now perceives migrants as invaders.
    How peculiar.

  12. It’s hardly surprising that Americans are pessimistic when all the multimillionaires on tv are telling them they’re either a victim or an oppressor and their World as they know it is going to end in 100 different ways.

    It’s quite understandable and Australia is following them down the same path.

  13. Good poem, zoot.
    They had opened their door to persecuted Jews from Europe, and the poor and oppressed.

    Indeed, many of the migrants came from what a wise man has described as “shithole countries”.

    Ellis Island was a transit point, not a detention centre.

  14. Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

    That poem was just tacked on the base for some reason, the Statue of Liberty itself has nothing to do with immigration.

  15. Emma Lazarus wrote The New Colossus.

    I believe it refers to the ancient Colossus of Rhodes in its first lines.

    When you read the poem, the reason for inscribing it on the statue’s base is clear enough. The French nation gave the statue. They are fans of Liberte.

    As were the students in Beijing with their own huge papier mache tribute in 1989. The statue has become a universal symbol “for some reason”.

    Humans, eh?
    Mysterious animals.

  16. Beijing 1989
    Goddess of Democracy.

    Wikipedia gives the creators’ (very strong and moving) statement.

    These statues exist both in the real world and in zootworld.

  17. “The Statue of Liberty itself has nothing to do with immigration”, said Jumpy.

    But immigration occasionally has something to do with freedom.

    See: asylum seekers, Refugee Convention, pogroms, discrimination, persecution, The Rights of Man, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

  18. I hear lots of our “ asylum seekers “ knocked back resettlement in the US when they were told no welfare would be forthcoming.

    I also hear there’s a big mob of illegal immigrants in Mexico head toward where a big American wall should be too.

    Mysterious animals we humans…

  19. According to my sources the difference between the behaviour of Australian politicians and US politicians used to bethat Australian political parties were disciplined and MP’s almost always voted on party lines.
    By contrast, the politicians in the US system used to behave more like independents who could change their minds and do tit for tack bargaining.
    Relatively recently, the US changed and there is a lot more party discipline. Which made it hard for Obama to get things through when the Republicans had majorities. Things also became more hardball with the government almost running out of money when budgets were blocked.
    The growth of Tea Party influence combined with the US primary system may have been partly responsible. (The Tea party could throw out responsible politicians who didn’t do what they wanted.)
    The potential weaknesses of the US system have become real weaknesses and the result is not pretty.

  20. … lots of our “ asylum seekers “ knocked back resettlement in the US when they were told no welfare would be forthcoming.

    I call bullshit.
    Of course, if you have a credible source (e.g. not Peter Dutton or someone at the pub) I would have to retract.

  21. Brilliant Stiglitz article, zoot.

    increasing inequality is a matter of choice: a consequence of our policies, laws and regulations.

    In the U.S., the market power of large corporations, which was greater than in most other advanced countries to begin with, has increased even more than elsewhere. On the other hand, the market power of workers, which started out less than in most other advanced countries, has fallen further than elsewhere. This is not only because of the shift to a service-sector economy—it is because of the rigged rules of the game, rules set in a political system that is itself rigged through gerrymandering, voter suppression and the influence of money. A vicious spiral has formed: economic inequality translates into political inequality, which leads to rules that favor the wealthy, which in turn reinforces economic inequality.

    The anti-trust legislation on the books is not working, because no-one in the system has the balls to implement it.

    The situation has been reached where just three Americans have as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent.

    Any way ScoMo and Angus Taylor are having a lend of us when they say their “big stick” policies have worked well in the US and the UK.

  22. Someone said that the end of the Cold War in 1989, was also the end of WW2.

    The past may be an unknown country, but one thing it is not: it is not past.

    On an anecdotal level, our solar panels are giving only 4% of their maximum, because it is fair hissing down with welcome Spring rain in Gippsland.

    A horse race up in the Big Smoke, you say?
    Que sera, sera.

  23. We were in America for the Obama election. What struck us is that, unlike Australia, the US system is more about discouraging people to vote than encouraging people to vote. In too many cases it is also about rorting the system in favour of one party and, with its first past the post systems, gives supporters the hard choice of voting for the party they really want vs voting for their preferred major party. For details see: America loves to export democracy. So why does it make it so hard for its own citizens to vote? In some ways it sounds like the good old Joh days on steroids. Qld managed to fix their electoral system without simply biasing the system in favour of Joh’s enemies.

  24. Ummm, just for the record, Obama is not my favourite POTUS.

    But, pray tell, what bearing do the perceived failings of a previous POTUS have on the morally bankrupt actions of the incumbent?

  25. Zoot
    Please simplify you question so that a dunce like me can grasp it, it’s mostly incoherent to me as it is.

    Then I’ll answer that if you answer mine first.

    Fair’s fair.

  26. It was just *wicked* how Scargill led the miners to defeat, yeah. If he’d agreed to secret ballots, the courts wouldn’t have seized the NUM’s assets and funds and declared the strike illegal. He also would have preserved his democratic credentials, crucial to gain public sympathy against Maggie T.. Instead, he got the miners stuck with “the Enemy Within” label

  27. Brian (Re: NOVEMBER 8, 2018 AT 10:16 PM)

    Malcolm was a fizzer. Boring as all getout.

    What were you expecting, Brian? I expected him to protect his PM “legacy”, and that’s what I think he was trying to do last night, aided and abetted by the ABC.

    Mike Cannon-Brookes challenged Turnbull: What’s your advice to get politicians on board with our vision [for 100% renewables], and will you join us? In my opinion, Turnbull expertly avoided the question. I think he was a far less enthusiastic advocate for renewables last night, compared with his address at the BZE launch of its Stationary Energy Plan in 2010.

    IMHO, Turnbull as PM has failed dismally on energy (i.e. electricity, gas and liquid fuel security and prices) and climate policy – there weren’t any coherent policies on these critical issues on his watch, and there still isn’t now with ScoMo as PM.

  28. Meanwhile, in that other World which perhaps is called “Identity politics”, Emile Ratelband, a 69 year old “who identifies as 45” is taking legal action to lower his age.

    After all, you can change your name if you don’t like it.

    Before anyone says, “It could only happen in the Netherlands”, don’t speak too soon……

    You just cannot make this stuff up!!

  29. Brian and Geoff

    I thought Malcolm looked drawn, tense and thin at the start. Later he warmed up a bit. Tipped several buckets on expected targets. Repeated the slogans he was wont to repeat as PM.

    I agree that his Govt did a lousy job on energy policies and emission reductions, but I didn’t dislike his response to Mike C-B. He was being asked to become a community activist, heavily critical of the PM, the Liberal Party, the Coalition.

    Not surprising that he didn’t take up the offer.

    Instead, he said that as an investor he would be keen on new technology projects, including in the energy sector (and had earlier praised advances in renewable technologies).

    In my view, we’re all in this together: energy users and producers, engineers and scientists, financiers and shareholders, investors and inventors. We have to cooperate; the interplanetary emigration option won’t wash.

    Only one planet.
    Be careful with it.
    Action can be better than words.

  30. Ambigulous (Re: NOVEMBER 9, 2018 AT 4:29 PM)

    You just cannot make this stuff up!!

    It seems to me that Emile Ratelband seems to think his physical age (and his date of birth) can be changed. It seems to be all about “how you feel”, not the reality of what has actually happened.

    The ABC news report says:

    The 69-year-old Dutch TV personality and self-styled positivity guru has asked a court in the Netherlands to approve his request for a new birthday that officially would make him 49.

    Living in an alternate reality, perhaps?

  31. If Bruce Jenner can be woman of the year than I identify as 40 thousand years old Aboriginal.
    Someone contact the Guinness Book people, they’ll want to hear about me.

    Oh, and get off my land !

  32. Don’t know much about the Islamic calendar but perhaps he just got all stabby like because it was 9/11 in Australia and got confused with US 9/11.
    It was after Friday prayers so it’s anyones guess as to his mindset.
    Must be tricky for authorities to establish a motive.
    Perhaps knife regulations would have saved us taxpayers and hospital cost.

  33. Perhaps knife regulations would have saved us taxpayers and hospital cost.

    If we had listened to you and relaxed the gun control laws he could have cost us a lot more.

  34. Or been stopped earlier, how would you know zoot?
    Is your hypothetical crystal ball able to back you up ?

    I’ll “ do better than that and answer my Questions “ ( as you do )
    Q1 – you don’t.
    Q2 – No

  35. If we had listened to you and relaxed the gun control laws he could have cost us a lot more.

    And who is “ us “ ?
    You still haven’t clarified who are your monkeys and what circus you identify as being a part of.

  36. OK

    I’m a Victorian taxpayer.
    Direct costs: policing, hospital costs, bollards, siren warning system.
    Indirect: fear, fraying of social cohesion; advocacy of “solutions” such as
    * death penalty
    * deportation on suspicion
    * closure of mosques

    John, my view is that anti-Islam rhetoric and attitudes are not a prime cause.

    ISIS explicitly requested its supporters to attach wherever they could, using knives if they had no other weapon(s).

    Generally, not replying particularly to John.

    If we say a poor person becomes a thief mainly because of his poverty, that’s a slur on the overwhelming numbers of poor people who don’t take up crime.

    I cannot excuse a murderous rampage because some Australians hate Muslims.

    (Many Melbourne residents loathe Collingwood supporters. There is no history, as far as I recall, of people arguing that a murderer murdered because he (a Collingwood fan) was driven to it by social hatred.)

    I reckon Islamist terrorism exists.

    It isn’t an invention of intelligence agencies.
    Its methods range from crude to sophisticated.
    It kills rather than taking prisoners.
    Some of its adherents incite murder in far off nations.

    If Methodist or Shinto terrorism ever arises, the nation will have to confront those, too.

    Islamist is one of our current problems. Of course we have many others.

    I reject the assertions that we should “look over there”, at
    # domestic violence
    # the road toll
    # suicide
    instead of taking measures to try to minimise the casualties of Islamist aggression.
    Our society is capable of dealing with many problems simultaneously and of course does so.

    I happen to agree with zoot about maintaining Australian restrictions on gun ownership.

    I applaud the restraint shown by the two police officers confronting the attacker, and the bravery of “shopping trolley man”. Also very glad the gas bottles didn’t explode.

  37. Ambi, I agree with rejecting assertions that we should “look over there”. However, there is a question about priorities and resources deployed.

    I think, however, people were too ready to go to the terrorism narrative on this one. I’ve made a short statement on new Saturday salon 11/11.

    Not sure that is the last word, or whether there will be a last word now that the perpetrator is dead, but the notion that he might be seriously unhinged appeared early in proceedings.

  38. If we say a poor person becomes a thief mainly because of his poverty, that’s a slur on the overwhelming numbers of poor people who don’t take up crime.

    If we say a Muslim becomes a terrorist mainly because of his religious belief, that’s a slur on the overwhelming numbers of Muslims who don’t take up terrorism.

  39. Proofreading error.

    When I wrote

    Islamist is one of our current problems
    earlier, I meant: Islamist terrorism is one of our current problems.

    I agree with zoot that not all Muslims are terrorists.

    To be:
    seriously deranged
    or to be:
    a conscious and deliberate terrorist attacker

    are, sadly, not mutually exclusive.

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