Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Base motivation

We are at the point now where political pundits have to make up reasons why Tony Abbott does things. Andrew Elder has a lash:
As I've said before, when Tony Abbott gets into trouble he will reach out to his base on the far right, and that's why he offered Prince Phillip the knighthood. 
The only problem with this analysis is that the far right now hates his guts so much that this has only made things worse with them. The relevant Catallaxy Files thread is almost wall to wall with exasperation, you can hear the heavy sighs from here. There is a lot of talk about the base in that thread, which is an American phrase that nonetheless describes something locally real. By the way, I am not holding up that site as "the base", only "a base". There are others:
Tony's lost Rupert, as well as Miranda, Tim Blair, Chris Kenny, and probably Andrew Bolt when he returns from holidays. That's the News Ltd faction offside, good job there. Then there's the 3AW demographic:
Mr Abbott responded: "What is the specific problem, is there a policy thing you don't agree with?"
"Prime Minister, it's the way you do things, like the Medicare thing, with the education, you've done so many backflips, people don't know where you are going and business is saying there are roadblocks because there is no direction and no leadership … as a Liberal voter, I don't particularly like you," Andrew replied.
Ouch. That's not relaxed or comfortable, it's aggravation and rage. Many pundits can't resist the temptation to frame the market for the seemingly inevitable #libspill, including John Quiggin. The motivation for doing so in some quarters is hoping that the resultant chaos will lead magically to the enactment of the pundit's pet policies; in Quiggin's case, this means Julie Bishop somehow singlehandedly reversing the global movement by the right over the last decade to climate change denialism.

Don't worry though, I've had such thoughts too. I mean, if he's going to lose anyway and he has no other options, why shouldn't Abbott dive bum first into the too-hard-basket and wrestle generational problems like negative gearing and superannuation? He's going to be punished by the electorate and the media no matter what he does at this point, so he might as well build a legacy of policy that will be respected in ages to come.

Of course, that's not what Abbott is about. He is an old fashioned Tory who doesn't particularly like economics, and now has the misfortune of short term economic forecasts not liking him. His only chance is to hang on and play his negative sum game until some externality comes along. Now that OPSOB has meant that all the SIEVs from I through X and beyond means there won't be another Tampa situation, it would have to be something else more serious. A lovely little war? Who knows. That's why we're just pundits and not billionaires.

UPDATE: Yep, lost BoltA too.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Short Kicks: The furniture is revolting

Still working hard on business stuff so no time for anything more than Short Kicks.

- As Piping Shrike rightly points out, the current leadership tension over Tony Abbott's increasingly woeful performance on so many issues is not going to have a happy ending for the Liberal Party. Backbenchers are leaking, journos are hyperventilating, it's #ruddmentum all over again. But as with the disappointing Rudd return, there is no thought that replacing Abbott with any of the clowns in the current front or back bench would lead to any different policy agenda. Perhaps getting rid of PPL and Abbott's other pet projects would be enough in itself. I doubt it. The only logic that works for the Libs at the moment is the same logic that they relentlessly mocked Labor for, in that they could write off the next election result but with a short term honeymoon poll bounce they could "save the furniture" by minimising the losses with a view to jagging the next one.

- As such, Abbott may look like a galah on the national stage on a daily basis but he is showing a some rat cunning regarding internal Liberal Party politics. His cabinet reshuffle seems to be focused mostly on making everyone else look bad in comparison to him, even though that is a negative-sum game. Sussan Ley has already been thrown to the wolves through the public humiliation of announcing the backflip on GP co-payments. Shifting Scott Morrison to Social Services is very shrewd, I think, because it means Morrison can wear all the blame for terrible decisions that Abbott makes as he tries to shaft his gray power voting base with tax hikes and welfare cuts in a vain attempt to balance the budget. Abbott has left Hockey as a shag on a rock for the most part during the failed budget negotiations, even though there have been leaks to try to pin blame for Abbott's dud policies on the PM. Turnbull is busy being shoulder-deep inside the Telstra cow, planting fiscal timebombs. Abbott has also allowed the media to scrutinise Julie Bishop without coming to her aid particularly, and since there's never been much substance there, that's a bad thing for Bishop's aspirations. Morrison is still the only hope for the Libs, but only if he makes a move before he gets too much of the Abbott stink on him.

- Meanwhile, though I got excited about Palmer populism last year, the cat of reality was quickly belled by Lenore Taylor and the public has reacted by abandoning PUP in the polls. Palmer has now stiffened up somewhat on other budget measures, but it's too late for his electoral fortunes as I suspect he has lost his chance to be the new face of people power. My analysis was not wrong as such, because the opportunity for Clive was real at the time - I merely overestimated him. Oh well, what can you expect from a billionaire. If only we had an Elizabeth Warren type in the Australian parliament.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Short Kicks: Je suis occupé

Not much time for blogging as work has me flat out like a lizard drinking, having launched CricketFan as the first addition to the FanSports Network (which had previously only consisted of FanFooty) and shortly to officially add FanLeague. Time for some short kicks!

- The Charlie Hebdo story has been done to death elsewhere. I had a blog post brewing in my mind which would have mentioned the word "arsehole" about 250 times, because my opinion is that the fact that some Islamist arseholes blew some French arseholes away for being arseholes has drawn a predictable response from libertarian arseholes in their seemingly unstoppable campaign to Let Arseholes Be Arseholes should not mean that non-arseholes should give in to any of the arsehole-aligned factions. I was also going to draw some allusions between the childishness of Charlie Hebdo and the English tradition of Private Eye and Viz of publishing obscenity as a kind of white privilege - back in the 1960s they might have been fighting a real battle against power and privilege, but by now that sort of thing is just kicking down. That post will never be written now, as I haven't the time. I'm sure you're all sad about that.

- What is Henry Ergas doing writing about Islamism? He's an economist of some renown (or some previous renown). His competency is not acting like every other hack political commentator. I know Krugman freelances a lot in his columns, but at least he maintains some semblance of aloofness from the culture wars.

- Saw the third Hobbit movie. Was disappointed that the film rather squibbed on the fate of the gold. There was an opportunity for a Pikettyesque narrative about the 99% rising up against the elite to bust open the trove of hoarded wealth and kickstart a new era of prosperity with some good old-fashioned redistribution. Instead, we were treated to a string of sequences of the mayor's sidekick Alfrid acting all craven and covetous, over and over, as an impossibly crude parody of the bourgeoisie. It was a middling attempt at lowbrow humour, a classless dig at the middle classes of Middle Earth.