The wonders of the Internet

From my hotel room in London, I read this SMH report, headlined “NBN benefits ‘grossly overstated'” which in turn refers to a report by “British telecommunications consultant Robert Kenny and Charles Kenny from the US Centre for Global Development” released (in London, as it happens) a couple of days ago.

Five minutes with Google is enough to determine that

* the Centre for Global Development is a genuine and reputable thinktank, with no particular axe to grind

* Charles Kenny is not what you might call an Internet enthusiast, having written, in 2002, a piece entitled Should we Try to Bridge the Global Digital Divide.
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Austerity in the UK* — Crooked Timber

Visiting London briefly, I’m struck by both the drastic nature of the cuts being proposed by the Coalition government, and the bitterness of the response. By comparison, the austerity measures being proposed by most eurozone governments seem both less regressive and more sustainable in the long run, and the demonstrations in response to be much more in the nature of normal politics, with an element of street theatre.

I haven’t had time for a detailed analysis, but a quick comparison of the eurozone cuts listed here, and the measures proposed by the Coalition seems to me to bear this impression out. Maybe it’s just lack of detail in the eurozone list, but (except maybe in Ireland) there seems to be nothing like the mass withdrawal of public services and the focus on punishing the poor for the crimes of the rich that is the hallmark of the Cameron-Clegg regime.

This, again, seems to me to cast doubt on analyses that focus on the role of the EU and the euro. As far as I can see, UK policy is essentially unconstrained by the EU and is driven by the demands of ratings agencies and the financial sector generally. On the plus side, the Bank of England has been more expansionary in monetary policy than the ECB, but it’s been equally supportive of fiscal austerity which is the main problem.

  • My intended allusion doesn’t jump off the page as I’d hoped, but UK political and social discussion has, to this visitor at least, a distinct late-70s air at present.

Murdoch backs Bligh

Michael Stutchbury’s piece a while back supporting the QR asset sale (my critique, his response) turns out to have been the first of many as the Murdoch press tries desperately to talk this flop up. But the punters aren’t buying, and even some of the subeditors appear not to have got the memo. This (unsigned) piece in the Courier-Mail says that, rather than repaying the debt that was the pretext for the sale, Bligh and Fraser plan to spray much of the proceeds on electoral bribes of one kind or another. The text gives the most positive spin possible, but the headline referring to a “desperate push for votes” gives the game away.

And if Bligh and Fraser weren’t feeling desperate, the comments on the story ought to make them so. In 127 comments, I didn’t find one that actively supported the government, although there were a fair few that were also critical of the hopeless LNP. My personal favorite from “Skeptic”

Hands up those who reckon they can be bribed by this behaviour. If so, I have a bridge to sell you. Oh, wait, they’ve sold that too…

Bligh and Fraser are doubtless on the way to well-paid sinecures in the financial sector. But those members of the Labor Caucus who don’t have anything lined up post-politics must soon realise that their only chance of keeping any seats at all next time round is to sack them both.