December 17th, 2012


Apres moi, le deluge: On the Failure of the DPJ

So, yesterday Japan returned the Liberal Democrat Party to power. The newly-elected prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was not terribly effusive about his party's victory.

"Our victory this time does not mean trust in the Liberal Democratic Party has been completely restored," he told a news conference on Monday.

"Rather, it was a decision by the public that they should put an end to the political stagnation and confusion over the past three years, caused by the Democratic Party's misguided political leadership."

Remarkable -- a politician who doesn't immediately claim an overwhelming mandate, who recognizes his party's weaknesses. Maybe it's a cultural thing.

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On matters antipodean.

It seems there are more and more Aussies coming out of the woodwork 'round these parts these days, so it seems appropriate to start having a discussion about our election that will be coming up in the next 9 months or so.

Latest polling figures

The narrative is that the Coalition are a shoe in next year, perhaps in a landslide. Indeed, the Two Party Preferred numbers seem to suggest this. Added to that is the ALPs big problems in Western Sydney that mean they are going to need well over 50% of the vote to form government.

However, Australia's political landscape has become increasingly presidential. Our elections are now about the leaders, not the parties, and Abbott is getting increasingly on the nose. It seems that the attacks on Gillard may have peaked early, and the electorate is increasingly over the hatred and vitriol directed at the PM. This has been the oppositions big weapon for the term of this parliament; they have been playing the man (or woman, as it were).

In the meantime they have made no real attempt to present an alternative government, aside from saying "we are the alternative government". There is barely a single policy on the table, and that's to be expected, it's not the oppositions job to present policies until election time. But what happens when they do? No doubt they will go hard on the carbon tax; an issue that Australians went from being in support of in record numbers, to being totally opposed, to now not really caring because it turns out to have not really had an impact on our lives, and most of us want to be doing something about climate change. Whether or not that is something effective is secondary. The carbon tax lets us feel good without having to pay for it, so it will likely be at best neutral for the Libs. Ditto the mining tax, rather than being the destroyer of all things Australian, it turns out to be a bit of a nothing, so that will have little bite with the suburban "battlers".

The opposition don't seem to be interested in opposing the National Disability Insurance Scheme, because that's a vote winner for the ALP, the question is, how do they neutralise it? They will get on board, but then they have to say how they will pay for it. Which comes to the crux. When the policies do get announced they are going to be uncosted (again), because all the things they oppose will reduce the tax base; the very tax base that is paying for all the things that people want. Ultimately, they are going to have to release their industrial relations policy, which no matter what it actually says, Labor will be able to tar with the Workchoices brush.

In the end, however, I think it's going to come down to a teenage popularity contest. And this is where the Libs are in trouble. Abbott has an image problem, largely because he is an unlikeable person. Not that Gillard is a likeable person, but Abbott comes across as a vicious, self-serving narcissist. The events of the last week with James Ashby are going to hurt them deeply, after six months of arguing over the non-issue of Gillards alleged misdeeds in the 90s they have set the agenda on personal integrity. Now the ALP have the beautiful soundbite of a "conspiracy to change the government" coming from the mouth of a judge. Whether the ALP can manage to get this message of the Libs being an immoral group of gangsters hell bent on power at all costs with no actual plan for running the country is the big thing; if it's one thing that the ALP under Gillard represents is the inability to manage a message.

The polls are bad for the ALP right now, but when election season gets into full swing and the choice comes down to a scary woman with an annoying voice versus an megalomaniac with destructive tendencies "the narrowing" will be on.

ETA question: Is Turnbull crunching his numbers this week? My guess is a yes.
Sri Yantra

Last Friday I posted a rant...

...about some influential men's attitudes to, and public statements about, rape and abortion: wherein I posed this:

So, here are questions mainly for the women on this comm: do you think that things are getting better, and such opinions as these are becoming marginalised? Or is this indicative of such opinions becoming resurgent? Do folk think that religions have anything to do with these sort of views?

Now for some reason, perhaps the vitriolic nature of some of my prose, or maybe for other unspecified reasons, almost no women responded. Instead, many chaps of the male persuasion took it upon themselves to inform me and others of what various women of their acquaintance thought and felt, and how various sides in the political debate were not denigrating women in the slightest. (It must also be said, that some decent and reasonable chaps restricted themselves to commenting upon the public utterances of the misogynists involved, or questioning the categories in which I had put those who had made misogynistic remarks.)

Now this in itself is not surprising, after all, I'm a chap of the male persuasion myself, and I wrote the post. But I do wonder if it is indicative of the gulf between what men imagine women think, and what they actually think.

In modern America is it usual that men speak for women? I know such is true of places like Saudi Arabia, but for some reason or other I had thought that it was less true for the US, and very much less true for an enlightened community like ours.

Of course, to some small extent I blame myself, being a man, for raising what I perceived to be appalling misogyny by some of my fellow men, and then asking women their opinions about such misogyny: but it is nevertheless salutary to learn that male privilege is so entrenched that we are all prepared to sit and discuss exactly what women think and feel, and how they would/should/could react to some other men's idiotic statements in regard to women's bodies.

As usual, liberals are snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

We are wasting an opportunity, and handing the conservatives more base-energizing (and expanding) ammunition in one incompetent stumble, cheering all the while.

Most of us aren't getting the terms of this discussion wrong, we're getting the problem itself wrong.

Further restricting firearms ownership when the problem is actually the social darwinism at all levels of society that leaves people to become so broken and desperate that they give in to their sick urge to take lives, does nothing.

The only two things that could actually significantly reduce firearms deaths - ending the Drug War and implementing single payer healthcare with on demand mental health and addiction services - seem mostly neglected in these discussions.

Anyone that actually cares about reducing violence of all types, and gun violence in particular, should be focusing on the CAUSES, not the SYMPTOM.

We should be flogging how the ACA would improve these services, not fapping about restricting the rights of the law abiding. We should be pushing to expand it to further improve these services.

We should be having the discussion about ending the drug war that creates the black market that creates and feeds the cartels and their satellite gangs and distribution networks. The flawed laws that cage casual users with hardened criminals in prisons that are more run by gangs than wardens or guards. Ie, the cause of most violence, particularly firearms violence.

Momentum is on our side, it's up to us how to use it, how we frame the issue.

But here we are, discussing the symptom instead of addressing the actual problem.

It's as if two sides of a partisan donation machine - the NRA and the equally malevolent Brady anti-gun lobby - are cynically manipulating their respective demographics for profit. Have no doubts, each requires the other to stampede their respective constituencies in the desired direction.

Focusing on anything beyond closing the gunshow loophole and improving mental health reporting will do absolutely nothing to curb violence.

An assault weapons ban or attempts to restrict magazine size will *cause* violence in the form of right wing terrorism, as demonstrated throughout the 90s.

An all out ban will cause even liberals like myself to think twice about the reasons behind the open insurrection that would result, and the countless lives it would cost.

Assuming you could actually get any of these passed, common sense or not.
A complete waste of political capital.