The dog that didn’t bark

My election commentary in Inside Story is about

The dog that didn’t bark … the (assumed) majority of “decent Republicans” to whom Clinton sought to appeal. Although most observers (including me) assumed that many of them would turn against Trump, hardly any did so

91 thoughts on “The dog that didn’t bark

  1. I agree that I don’t think this was an “anti-establishment” election.
    Those I knew who wanted anti-establishment meant racist and conservative when you listen to them and they were republicans to begin with

    the media is trying to put a positive spin on this saying “we are in a bubble and didn’t recognize the economic anxiety out there”. Ironically if they stepped out of their bubble they would find it harder not easier to put a positive spin on Trumpism.

    Don’t get me wrong, one can definitely put a positive spin on the people who voted trump as well as a negative spin on many who voted hillary. But not the motives for the vote sadly

  2. Good summary. But as our opinions as Australians are even less relevant than 50%, or is it 99.9999%, of Americans this following comment seems the most interesting and in need of further scoping:

    The same tendencies are equally evident in Australia. The consummate neoliberal, Malcolm Turnbull, is little more than a marionette, with his strings being pulled by rightwing Liberals and Nationals inside the government, and extremists like Pauline Hanson and David Leyonhjelm outside it.

    What does this mean for the left? In the short run, the prospects are not good. The willingness of the parties of the right, and their voters, to embrace overt racists, has shielded them from the political costs of the failure of neoliberalism. Add in a little bad luck, and results like that of the recent US election are inevitable.

    When you start analysing things so much even here in Oz depends on Trump. But his agenda is still unclear once you get past searching the election obituaries for anything novel. For armchair socialists one go-to is the sainted Noam. But he has finally spoken http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/38360-trump-in-the-white-house-an-interview-with-noam-chomsky and is also none the wiser.

    Some developments like Trump’s provisional head advisors and the total domination by the Republicans of all 4 arms of US government make the future look blacker than we can imagine. Yet all it would take is a rebel Republican senator or two to spike Trumps’s guns for a couple of years and vote against every piece of rubbish legislation he puts up (McCain?). Meanwhile there is the question of whether Trump can develop a regime which is coherent enough to write his desired legislation in a way that is legally consistent and doesnt trigger massive backlash. The weight of existing law is not trivial. Elsewhere and confusing things further for Oz we also have the prospect of a reemergent British Commonwealth? – or something like this out of Abbot’s imagination. And for good measure we have on the horizon our old friends year by year accelerating climate change and the threat of economic bursting bubbles ready to change the rules yet again.

    So it seems, returning to Australia things the future is very muddy. But it may be possible to at least start listing interesting topics like the following:

    – Whither the international trade deals and their spruikers – and what is to become of Andrew Robb
    – Whither the South China Sea and Australia’s allegiances
    – Whither North Korean bellicosity
    – Whither all those overseas US bases and conflicts Australia is involved in.
    – Whither creationist teaching in Oz school science programs.
    – Whither our own climate change research and renewable energy in face of a dying GBR.
    – Whither our coal exports…..aligned/opposed to the rejuvenation of the US coal industry
    – Whither our leaders in dealing with the monster Trump with a staight faced and grovelling toady language which will not impress local Oz voters.
    – Whither the refugee swap
    – Whither aggressive pushes from Trump to open Oz to US firms while shutting the doors on Oz access to the US
    – Whither Oz gun culture.
    – Whither mass US migrant/refugee from Trump influx (mainstream, Hollywood types and of course climate scientists).
    – Whither Labor’s neoliberalism

    Ayman al-Zawahiri must be gazing in wondering at what he thinks he set in motion 2001. But in reality we maybe should also ‘thank’ Hayek and Friedmann and the neoliberal economics fraternity for the current mess as they are probably a lot more responsible for this history juggernaut.

    (One final area for exploration – identifying the Oz commentariat who took this particular piece of nonsense seriously https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/End_of_history ).

  3. In case the allusion to Fukuyama’s End of history makes you curious here are some very recent thoughts of his on the matter of Trump. Nothing exceptionable really, indeed he is quite sensible. He like Chomsky is in the dark.

    https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2016-11-09/trump-and-american-political-decay
    http://www.vox.com/2016/10/26/13352946/francis-fukuyama-ezra-klein

    Amusingly he thinks Oz is a model for a reformed US (in fact its first on the list)??!!!

  4. Republicans represent the white majority who also happen to be conservative, they don’t need to pander to minority groups.

  5. I guess this tends to indicate that possibility that there are few Republicans with any decency, despite the large numbers that apparently attend church.

    It would be my reading.

    But where were the useless, gormless Democrats, including the candidate, who made even Bill Shorten look heroic by comparison? Same old Blairite bulldust and everyone knew this was no social reform candidate.

    The election was the culmination of a generation of frustration, as with GB and in Australia where the public has turned on Labor pretending to be reformist when they were neo liberal.

    At least Trumps doesn’t lie about wanting to screw you over, would be the rationale… people hate being lied to; treated like fools.

    No sign that mulish Blairite formations have understood, let alone accepted that the public is fed up with Wall St /City of London neoliberalism either.

  6. Just watching a quick clip with Bernie Sanders at the Guardian on the ivory tower “Democrat Elite”. I won’t link it because the intrusive advertising, sufficient to say he nails the problem, imho.

  7. @paul walter

    At least Trumps doesn’t lie about wanting to screw you over, would be the rationale… people hate being lied to; treated like fools.

    On the contrary, Trump lies regularly.

  8. @paul walter
    The irony is that Trump served up a steaming pile of #^&!!@?! as election promises, some outlandish, and yet people voted for him anyway. Perhaps they don’t mind being lied to, so long as it is *their* candidate who is doing the lying. Which segues nicely into Prof Quiggin’s point that they voted according to tribal association and not on the basis of the policies up for offer.

    It would be interesting to see a) how much it cost for each presidential candidate to run their campaign; b) where that funding came from. I’m sure that it could tell some stories about what the presidential elect is *really* going to do in office, as opposed to just what he said he would do.

  9. I can’t post a link apparently.

    Search for “Economic Update: Trump explained” – Professor Richard D. Wolff

  10. I’m no macro economist but I have never fully understood why Keynesian pump priming got such a bad name from about the 1970s. I think it must have been the practice of Keynesian economics that was at fault because the general idea is just so sensible, certainly if one values social justice. Perhaps Julia Gillard had learned the lesson when she said Labor’s policy was “a surplus over the cycle”. The only quibble I have with this is that the aim should be a balanced budget over the cycle because otherwise the government is always targeting collecting more tax than it needs — a useful thing for politicians and bureaucrats because it makes their budgeting and lives easier.

    Note that I am excluding from the balancing issue the option for governments to borrow for investments in the various forms of infrastructure. And I do not see passing on deficits to our kids as necessarily a bad thing. After all the kids will benefit from long-lived investments so there is no reason I can see that they should not expect to pay something for the benefits.

    But onto neoliberalism, the real reason for this comment. I’m very happy with your criticisms of this philosophy but what exactly to replace it? It is so easy to trot out “the markets will deal with it” but how can we summarise the alternative(s) other than to argue that things should be more often based on social BCAs and a better understanding of how things work?

  11. Two comments on Trump.

    1. So many people are now welcoming Trump’s backsliding on his various and many noxious comments and promises on the grounds “Thank God it won’t be as bad as it sounded”. But that just endorses outright lying by politicians. I can never forgive our own John Howard for his distinction between “core” and other promises. I know it’s naive to expect more but where is the ethics and why do voters put up with it?

    2. I’m sure everyone reading this will have seen the picture of Malcolm Turnbull talking on the phone to Trump after the latter’s election. Am I the only one who thinks it looks as if Turnbull is standing to attention as he makes the call?

  12. For what it’s worth, 23 per cent of Republicans who are Latino voted for Clinton, and 75 per cent voted for Trump.

    Click to access National_2016__Xtabs.pdf

    This is certainly a more substantial rebuke for Trump than that provided by Republicans as a whole, but still most dogs did not bark.

    I suppose that once you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that you support a political party that uses racist dog-whistles to obtain power and implement otherwise unpopular policies, the adoption of overt racism doesn’t seem like that much of a big deal.

    Clinton got the support of 97 per cent of Latino Democrats, and Trump two per cent.

  13. Yep, in the end people will think of Howard, total liar and anyone who was fooled got all they deserved. People knew, or know, or ought to know, what people like Howard and Trump are and that they defend the status quo in their own interest, whereas reformists have to convince people that it is worthwhile risking change, particularly when it benefits poorer people, say, without offering much beyond risk itself from those in front under the current regime. The motives of conservative populists are different from those of the reformers, so the populists imitate the reformers as to high minded language and some times complex blocking arguments and since they have nothing to offer, their success in their minds owes itself to their ability to convince the public by any means fair or foul that change is a risk.

    With the Blairites over the last generation, a solution that proposed to limit the risk of change for conservatives while still achieving it for the less well off, on the basis of a blending of conservative economics applied more selectively than the Thatcherites, given of course that Thatcherism was operative under a darker philosophy of selfish individualism than reformism, was offered up but failed because reformers themselves seemed captured by the allure of capitalism, the allure of wealth as a solution for life’s problems against the hard toil of achieving idealistic abstract aims, including the aim of actual efficiency.

    People in the end preferred”honest “liars to people like Blair and the Clintons who moved neo liberalism into dominance on the basis that compromises was the only way to achieve change, with the conservatives and neolibs cherry picking what suited them hobbling the opportunity now lost of real social reform against short term gain-ism.

    The lies, if you like, of the centrists failed because they had promised something better not forthcoming, certainly this time around, against the claims of the conservatives that things would get worse, because those assumptions could not be verified through maintenance of the status quo against changes instigated by reformers, eg conservatives could always claim it would have been even worse if reforms had been tried. People thought they were being tricked into assent of repeal of more Glass Steagall type stuff, for example, that this was an actual betrayal given it hadnt worked before. It had to be rank stupidity at best, even a sellout rather than just the negative nay-saying of Trump, who worked on that aspect involving suspicion, rather than the arguing against the necessity of reform itself against he situation in the nineties when people felt that Centrist reform was worth a try first time round.

    With Keynesianism, I think the problem turned out to be was that Keynesianism worked at least when people gave it a chance to work.

    That was most inconvenient for the burghers and burglars who wanted an excuse to get at the commonwealth.

    A fairy story about waste and laziness was cooked up and people were convinced they were hard done by under Keynesian social democracy, in order to justify privatising the common wealth, cracking down on low incomes, welfare for the unworthy for tax cuts etc and once this new regime was in place it was impossible to roll back because a new type of mentality was in control of the political levers. That is, even if most people found/find themselves worse off and “had” by the criminal classes now in control.

  14. It would be interesting to see a) how much it cost for each presidential candidate to run their campaign; b) where that funding came from. I’m sure that it could tell some stories about what the presidential elect is *really* going to do in office, as opposed to just what he said he would do.

    a) Clinton = $1.3Bn; Trump = $795Mn.

    b) Clinton = Wall Street; Military Industry; Biggest US Law Firms Representing both as well as tax-dodging Corporate America; Donald Sussman ($21.8Mn); JR Pritzker ($17.5Mn); Haim Saban ($12.5Mn); George Soros ($11.8Mn); Fred Eychaner ($10.9Mn); Big Unions (such as the lowest paid food workers’ SEIU which gave tens of millions of their workers’ dollars); “small” donors of less than $200 – 16%.

    Trump = Largest single donor was Trump ($56Mn); Sheldon Adelson ($10.5Mn); “small” donors – 27%.

    NB: Sanders got 70% from “small” donors.

    Yet another “first” for this campaign was that the candidate who spent the most lost for a change.

  15. @Donald Oats

    Since D’s comment was about bashing the Democrats rather than giving you the information you were after, here’s a useful link listing the top ten Republican and Democratic campaign donors.

    http://www.ibtimes.com/who-donates-trump-clinton-list-richest-campaign-contributors-includes-hedge-fund-2440008

    For the Republicans, they are, in order:
    1. Casino magnate
    2. Hedge fund CEO
    3. Hedge fund manager
    4. Shipping company magnates
    5. Former CEO of online brokerage
    6. Hedge fund manager
    7. Investment banker
    8. CEO of poultry company
    9. Owner of a roofing supply company
    10. Founder of home improvement superstore chain

    Donors three and six are anti-Trump, but their donations have funded anti-Clinton campaigns.

    Draw your own conclusions about what he’ll do.

  16. @D
    Presumably the other 65% or so of Trump’s campaign spend also came from “Wall Street, Military Industry, Biggest US Law Firms, tax-dodging Corporate America” etc. No?

  17. Luke,

    Cant’ see the “Democrat bashing” in that list of information.

    The differences between two lumps of information we both provided show how murky political funding is. For example, your source doesn’t mention Trump’s $56Mn at all.

    In any case, adding up all the amounts listed still leaves about $1Bn for Clinton and about $0.5Bn for Trump.

    Donald’s question suggested that a) the amount mattered, and b) the source mattered, when it comes to questioning the candidate’s true intentions when elected. It seems churlish to ignore the answers to those questions when it comes to Clinton – especially when the answer to “a)” is ‘about twice as much as Trump’.

  18. “But in the longer term, then as now, there is hope for a brighter future.” These are hardly hopeful words. The thirties ended in the start of a devastating world war. The future after that was very bright but what a price.

  19. In the longer term, Keynesianly, we’re all dead; and the longer term is the best-case scenario.
    If we want an explanation of the Trump vote, we need to look at the fact that white US death rates are rising; if we want an explanation of why white death rates are rising, we need to look back at the collapse of the Soviet empire. When a world-historical project collapses, the people who identified with it crumble; the Russian life expectancy dropped ten years in five years. The takeaway is that the American century is over, and the whites feel that, and are lashing out; if indeed it’s the American century that’s ending, and not something larger and harder to see while we’re standing inside it.

  20. @D

    “For example, your source doesn’t mention Trump’s $56Mn at all.”

    Good point. His refusal to appropriately deal with his assets by liquidating them and placing the proceeds in a blind trust makes it pretty clear that his main concern will be the financial interests of his number one donor, himself.

  21. It’s hard to see that Trump will be successful. I don’t see that he can end the economic malaise of his vocal support base, and he’s likely to upset a lot of others if he actually does what he claimed he’d do. For example, China has announced it would close its markets tit-for-tat if the US does. Buy shares in lobbyists.

    If this marks the end of neoliberalism, then it is great opportunity for the left if they can come up with an agreed pragmatic vision that extends beyond a tragic obsession with issues like gay marriage setting the world right. Whether that can happen remains to be seen. The horror of Trump’s personal qualities rather than his actual policies does not augur well to me.

    As regard the vote, it’s worth remembering that Trump was elected by 25% of US (potential) voters. A groundswell on a rather restricted domain, we might conclude. Maybe a group of traditional Republicans did stay home, but a different bunch of Republicans suddenly felt enfranchised and decided to vote.

  22. @D
    Donald’s question suggested that a) the amount mattered, and b) the source mattered, when it comes to questioning the candidate’s true intentions when elected. It seems churlish to ignore the answers to those questions when it comes to Clinton – especially when the answer to “a)” is ‘about twice as much as Trump’.

    D, I think the problem with your answer, and the reason why Luke (and I) read your answer as anti-Democrat, is because you gave a rather comprehensive list of sources for Clinton’s campaign funding, and only listed sources for a minority fraction of Trump’s. So where did the majority of Trump’s funding come from? My guess is the same place as the majority of Clinton’s – corporate America.

  23. @ChrisB
    I think the statistics are a bit more subtle than that – white middle aged death rates are growing (i.e. across the age range form around 40-55). The overall white death rates is still declining, but the rate of decline is much shallower due to the jump in the middle-aged death rate. But I agree to the extent that the middle-aged death rate appears to be growing in sections of American society that perceive themselves to be in decline, particularly in white-dominated rural areas. That suggests a socio-cultural explanation of the type you’re putting forward.

  24. Part of the problem is opaque campaign finance.

    The answer to “a)” is relatively straightforward, but not very illuminating:

    Clinton – $556Mn ‘Hillary Clinton Campaign’ + $544.4Mn ‘Party and joint fundraising committees’ + $188Mn ‘Super PACs’ = $1.3Bn

    Trump – $243.8Mn ‘Donald Trump campaign’ + $486.7Mn ‘Party and joint fundraising committees’ + $60.1Mn ‘Super PACs’ = $795Mn

    The answer to “b)” is much harder to determine as shown by the different figures mentioned above. There are lots of different sources with differing figures. The “FEC” website has a lot of diffuse data but is a jungle to sort through. The ability to obscure information just makes it harder.

  25. Hi Tim and ChrisB, I haven’t read through this in detail, but it looks to be of interest:

    http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/09/16/ije.dyw095.full

    Having identified changing age composition as creating a risk of bias, Gelman then corrected for it, estimating that the bias was responsible for around half of the reported increase in all-cause mortality rates. As well as quantitatively reducing the reported mortality rate increase, which had captured so much media attention, the correction also qualitatively changed the findings in two ways: first, male and female trends were no longer similar enough to be meaningfully grouped together, with still-worsening mortality trends for women over that period but a reversal in these adverse trends for men; second, if males and females are to be combined, the reported continuously worsening trend in death rates from 1999 onwards would need to be amended to describe a stabilization from around 2005, which may now even be reversing.

  26. Its fun watching Conservatives desperately interpret this as a revolt against (political) correctness and a suffocating Leftist elite .I think Trumps malignant narcissist personality will have a big bearing on how things pan out. He is used to being a dictator ,surrounded by grovelling servants, he practices extreme selfishness with no regard for the less fortunate (and brags about it !). Not a good type for politics .Can they keep him under control ? So far he seems compliant . I would not be surprised if he has some kind of mental breakdown. Asked on national tv if some of his divisive rhetoric may have gone a bit too far he said ‘No ,I won’ .

    The Saturday Paper had a good stat. Americas top 25 hedge fund managers last year earned more than the nations 150,000 pre school teachers but paid less tax . Oh well ,I guess the market said it was ok.

    I saw lots of polling that was putting a % probability on the outcome so its not correct to say they got it wrong just because the likely outcome didnt happen. Also ,I understand it does matter that he actually did win -but if he had lost by a few 1000 instead ,all those people would still have been there but it would have been back to business as usual under Hillary instead of the revolution now said to be underway. We would have resumed sleepwalking toward the cliff ,now we are running maybe a few more people will wake up.

  27. It was once said that the problem with socialism is that it brings us all down to the lowest common denominator and that individual aspirations were suppressed for the common good.

    Now with Trump, Brexit, Hanson and other surprises we have the right side of politics bringing us down to their level, a very low denominator in any money.

    In a way this is good; in victory the right has lost one of its major arguments.

  28. @rog

    It was once said that the problem with socialism is that it brings us all down to the lowest common denominator

    This is yankee propaganda.

    Socialism brings everyone to the highest common denominator.

  29. It is the decline of the US empire we are seeing. And the ‘death throes’ of an empire can be very dangerous and unpredictable times. The establishment lost control with the election of Trump, and although they may get most of what they want anyway, it is an unstable situation for them. So there may be a significant movement of capital out of the US.

    What organisational arrangements replace the US empire is the trillion dollar question, and my crystal ball is very murky on that one.
    PS Death throes is in italics because that is poetic language. It is relative decline we are seeing not death, though decline can feel like dying if you are used to being on top.

  30. Why Trump’s failure to deliver on any of his promises won’t matter:
    Just 16% of Republicans said the economy was getting better in the week before the election, while 81% said it was getting worse. Since the election, 49% say it is getting better and 44% worse.
    It’s a miracle! He’s not even in office and it’s already getting better! 33% better!

  31. So where did all of Gary Johnson’s votes come from?

    Why is Trump having so much difficulty is filling sub-cabinet positions especially in the National Security area.

    Incoming administrations of both parties have a party have thousands of party cardre to call upon for the blue book appointments of several thousand positions including the thousand requiring Senate confirmation.

  32. @ChrisB

    In addition to this freebie, since Trump has spent the campaign making up ridiculous lies about the state of the economy, he will only need to tell his credulous followers the truth for there to be the appearance of a miraculous turnaround.

    As I said before, many Trump supporters are detached from reality—they happily consume and share obviously bogus news stories from bogus websites that pander to their prejudices.

    https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/viral-fake-election-news-outperformed-real-news-on-facebook?utm_term=.onlWXQA66#.juwBejVvv

    “In the final three months of the US presidential campaign, the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC News, and others, a BuzzFeed News analysis has found.

    “…Of the 20 top-performing false election stories identified in the analysis, all but three were overtly pro-Donald Trump or anti-Hillary Clinton. Two of the biggest false hits were a story claiming Clinton sold weapons to ISIS and a hoax claiming the pope endorsed Trump.”

  33. @John Goss

    You have written very wise and perspicacious words there. (Is that almost a tautology on my part?)

    However, you are correct. It is the decline of the US empire we are witnessing and it is a decline from a very high base. As Paul Kennedy pointed out, movements in relative power matter more than movements in absolute power, when it comes the great power competition. The USA’s relative power is rapidly declining and China’s is rapidly rising. China will seek to assert itself more and more.

    You are also correct that a power transition of this type is usually a very dangerous and unstable time. My crystal ball is also on the blink so I don’t know what will happen either. The situation is complicated by a number of globally applicable factors.

    1. Possession of nuclear weapons by all the great powers means open war between great powers should still be inconceivable to all but lunatics. Mutually assured destruction (MAD) is still the only possible outcome of a full nuclear exchange.

    2. The limits to growth will prevent much more growth by any great power.

    3. China might play new strategic factors better than the USA but the USA’s resource position might still be better than China’s. The USA’s cultural, political and economic decline looks almost long term terminal though.

    This is all very complicated. I might post on this again sometime.

  34. A view from the centre

    Hi all, I haven’t commented here for a few years – but I popped back in to see what Quiggin thought about Trump election result. I respect his views – even though I don’t often agree.

    We continue to be surprised and astounded by the rebound in popularity of politicians like Pauline Hanson in Australia and Trump in the US. Why are largely moderate and progressive societies like the US, Australia and the UK shifting to the right?

    Actually, I don’t think they are – I think what is really happening is that vocal minorities on either side of the political spectrum are becoming louder and trying to out-shout each other. The silent majority is watching on with bemusement and is becoming more and more detached from the debates.

    In Australia – we’re sick of mealy-mouthed and self-interested politicians like Rudd and Abbott, and ineffectuals like Gillard, Shorten and Turnbull. The middle-ground majority is pining for the days when we had strong middle-ground leaders like Keating and Howard.

    Middle Australia is progressively conservative, and deeply aspirational. If I had to summarise some of the views of middle Australia on politics, society and current hot-button issues it would be;

    • Western style capitalism is a pretty good system and definitely far better than any of the alternatives in other parts of the world – we want our politicians to shout that out and make us feel proud of who we are (what is with all the self-loathing?).
    • We know that capitalism and economic growth is the best way to drag people out of poverty. The best societies create opportunities for individuals to shine.
    • We are aspirational – we want the freedom to strive, achieve and prosper. We understand and support the need for welfare safety nets, but we reject the swing to redistributive policies which reallocate wealth to those who haven’t earned it.
    • We think that multiculturalism is a good thing. We understand the huge economic benefit that skilled migration brings and we welcome immigrants from all over the world – we are tired of being told that Australia is a racist society when that’s just not true.
    • We welcome Muslims into the country and understand that the vast majority of Muslims are people just like us – trying to make their way in the world and build something for their kids. But we recognise that radical Islam is a problem that must be addressed – that doesn’t make us racist.
    • We support gay marriage and believe that what goes on behind closed doors between two consenting adults is no-one’s business but theirs. However we are deeply suspicious of programs like ‘Safe Schools’ and activists like Roz Ward and their gender fluidity politics.
    • We believe that climate change is a major global concern that needs to be addressed. We need to phase out fossil fuels – but the phasing out needs to be done in a way that doesn’t impact jobs and the economy. We are suspicious of environmental activists using climate change as a Trojan horse to engineer social changes.
    • The plight of our aboriginal communities is appalling and needs to be fixed. It is disgrace that aboriginals make up just 3% of the overall population but 28% of the jail population. However we are astounded that when a satirical cartoon points out that part of the problem is the breakdown of families in aboriginal communities then the cartoonist is labelled racist and eagerly charged by Triggs and her ilk under section 18C.
    • We sympathise with the plight of refugees in offshore processing centres but think that shutting down the people smugglers has saved 100s of lives and we understand the awful compromises that need to be made to address an intractable problem. We are tired and suspicious of propaganda from both sides which is not telling the truth about the refugee issues – banning media from the centres is wrong, but so are ridiculous and insulting statements from Amnesty international claiming Australia is torturing people.

    The problem is – with all the shouting going on, the middle ground has abandoned the debate. We can’t declare our support for gay marriage or we get labelled subversive by the right and we can’t debate the plights of aboriginals without being called racist by the left. As a society we have forgotten that the best way to solve any problem is for truthful, open and honest debate about the issues. We’ve forgotten how to listen to opposing points of view without being ‘offended’.

  35. @Andrew

    “we can’t debate the plights of aboriginals without being called racist by the left.”

    This is nonsense. The ‘plight’ of our first people cannot be discussed without first taking responsibility for the situation and acknowledging that white civilization invaded their country and destroyed their wealth and their culture.

    The next step is to accept that their culture was not one built by people lacking in intelligence and that their way of life has a lot to offer and was functional and admirable.

    And I can tell you that there never was a time when leftist views did not offend the middle class.

    I have been offending middle class people middle of the road people all my life. Been told you can’t say that. Don’t talk about politics religion class or money. Bite your tongue when in the company of well off people for your own good, girl.

    It is the political correctness of middle class rules that are violated and offended by truthful open and honest debate.

  36. @Ikonoclast
    Your #40

    You have written very wise and perspicacious words there. (Is that almost a tautology on my part?)

    No.

    However, you are correct. It is the decline of the US empire we are witnessing and it is a decline from a very high base.

    Beware the Seneca Cliff.

    The USA’s cultural, political and economic decline looks almost long term terminal though.

    Isn’t everything ? How long do you expect the human race to continue to survive ?

  37. @GrueBleen

    “How long do you expect the human race to continue to survive ?”

    My crystal ball still isn’t working but my guess is there’s about a 50% probability of human extinction within 100 years.

  38. Julie – I get it – many on the left want to ‘shock’ the middle class out if its apathy, complacency and comfortable middle-class surburban life-style.

    “And I can tell you that there never was a time when leftist views did not offend the middle class”

    But the middle-class is actually pretty hard to offend…. middle-Australia just tends to ignore any silliness, from the left or the right. They’ve got more important things to worry about like why the Australian cricket team is doing so badly….

  39. @Andrew

    “As a society we have forgotten that the best way to solve any problem is for truthful, open and honest debate about the issues. We’ve forgotten how to listen to opposing points of view without being ‘offended’.”

    The people who began to regard themselves as exceptional individuals have never known what it is to be truthful open and honest or to debate the issues rather than force their own preferences as the only answer to the issues.

    People who agreed with Thatcher that there is no society – but now want to say they were the best society – rejected the idea that there was any opposing point of view and as you have just done manage only to be offensive in reply to any opposing point of view.

  40. @Ikonoclast
    Your #44

    So unlike the fail and fall of the not-quite-so Great British Empire (and how quick was that !), the fail and fall of the once-very Great American Empire will be a real Samson in the Temple act bringing the entire species down with it. In short, rampant MAD.

    Or maybe an escaped ultra-virus, or Ebola spreads around the world, or a stray meteorite or comet or something like that. Much too short a time frame for climate.

    Or did you have something else in mind ?

    BTW, do you perchance read the ‘Stumbling and Mumbling’ blog ? If not, you should eyeball it from time to time, I think you might enjoy it at least occasionally.

  41. @GrueBleen

    The biggest risks are ecological collapse, climate change, limits to growth, nuclear war and disease in any order and possibly interacting together. We can see that if any one reaches tipping point it tips all the others off as well.

  42. @Andrew
    Your #41

    we’re sick of mealy-mouthed and self-interested politicians like Rudd … and ineffectuals like Gillard,

    Both the Rudd and Gillard governments also emphasised the need to develop a diverse Australian economy that would prosper beyond the mining boom. Indeed, the mining tax was partly meant to redistribute profits from the miners to those sections of the economy that were more vulnerable.

    Despite public perceptions that both governments were dysfunctional, the legislative and policy record of the Labor governments is in fact extensive. The minority Gillard government alone successfully passed over 500 pieces of legislation. Great credit needs to be given to Gillard’s negotiating skills.

    The Conversation “Labor’s legacy: six years of … what exactly?” September 8, 2013

    I took all of the Commonwealth of Australia Numbered Acts and assigned them to a prime minister, political party, and parliament based on the date of assent of the act. This isn’t entirely exact, as some legislation may be introduced under one PM and passed under another, though I believe it is a good proxy.

    From this dataset, I counted the total acts for each PM, party, and parliament. Then, I determined the number of days in office for each PM, and the number of days each parliament and party governed. Using these figures you can calculate a rate of acts per day, which accounts for different lengths of prime ministers’ or governments’ terms.

    The results?
    Julia Gillard had the highest rate of passing legislation with a rate of 0.495, followed by Bob Hawke at 0.491:

    The Guardian “Was Julia Gillard the most productive prime minister in Australia’s history? ” Friday 28 June 2013

    Wake up and take a look at the real world, Andy.

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