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Bits and Pieces… March 2, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in The Left, US Politics.

I love the Romney campaign. Never has it been harder, or so it would seem, for a plutocrat to rein in his propensity to spill the beans on his actual lifestyle rather than the ‘one of us’ line that his advisers would so like him to present…So as the Irish Times noted…

Mitt Romney at times played into voter perceptions that he is out of touch with the concerns of ordinary voters in a state that has been hit especially hard by recession and foreclosure.
He told Michigan voters that his wife drove two Cadillacs…

Pesumably not simultaneously, but the next quote is almost beyond brilliant…

…and mentioned that while he did not follow stock-car racing closely he was friends with several team owners.

Hey? Hey??? What’s the problem?

George W. Bush, the most recent, came in for no end of stick over his patrician background, but there’s no question he was extremely adept at finessing, indeed concealing, that background. Romney? Not so much.

Slate had an article on Ron Paul financial supporter, Pay Pal founder and billionaire Peter Thiel. He’s a libertarian, and while I’m not immune to certain currents in libertarian thinking I’ve seen the following line appear as well.

“I’m sort of skeptical of how much voting actually works in the first place,” says Thiel. “I used to think that it was really important to directly change the political system, to convince people of things. I still think it’s intellectually very important. Occasionally, you get some converts that way. But it’s really an inefficient way of doing things. One of the things I like about technology is that when technology’s un-regulated you can change the world without getting approval from other people. At its best, it’s not subject to democratic control, and not subject to the majority, which I think is often hostile to change.”

“Yeah: You never compromise, except in every specific instance. So, when you look at PayPal or Amazon, or Vis, or all these people, the question you have is: Were they doing this because it was a deeply felt ideological thing, that they had to do this? Or was it because the government had its screws on them? There’s sort of this liberal/libertarian argument: Companies are bad, and not to be trusted. I tend to think we need to put it against the background of insane regulation.” How insane? “The average American commits three felonies a day.”

I liked the following comment on Slate in response to the above…

I wonder if Theil would choose regulated or unregulated pharmaceuticals and medical devices for his own care and that of his family? I also wonder if he would use an unregulated airline flying aircraft that were produced without any regulatory oversight? Would he build his home next to an unregulated coal fired power plant?

I also like this:

“The weakness in their position lies in that they are merely business men. They are not philosophers. They are not biologists nor sociologists. If they were, of course all would be well. A business man who was also a biologist and a sociologist would know, approximately, the right thing to do for humanity. But, outside the realm of business, these men are stupid. They know only business.” From “The Iron Heel” by Jack London. http://london.thefreelibrary.com/The-Iron-Heel/4-1  


That said there’s an interesting New Yorker piece on him here where he says some intriguing stuff… and an entertaining pen portrait of a dinner he holds with a variety of individuals…

Meanwhile, if you can try to get hold of Little Atoms podcast with Matthew Sweet who has written a book on ‘The West End Front’, the history of hotels in London during the Second World War. There’s a great – and telling – anecdote how Communists marched on the Savoy because it was regarded as a bomb proof building due to its construction whereas most people living in the area around it had to depend upon much less safe shelters [for more on this see here].

As to the events in the Australian Labor Party, the infighting between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and recently resigned foreign minister and former Labor leader Kevin Rudd may have seemed inexplicable to many given the lack of distinction between their policies. But it was Gillard who supplanted Rudd a couple of years back and Rudd apparently has never come to terms with that. As the Guardian noted Rudd was given the opportunity by Gillard to contest the leadership. And… well… it didn’t work out so well for him.

The Labor party room voted 71 to 31 to retain Gillard as its leader and therefore as prime minister. It ends a week of vicious bloodletting by Labor parliamentarians, brought to a head with Kevin Rudd’s resignation as foreign minister so he could mount a challenge.
”I can assure you that this political drama is over,” Gillard told a news conference. 
She said the Labor party would now unite and focus on winning the next general election, due in 2013.

But why did this happen now? Well, as the Guardian reported last week…

Speculation about a leadership challenge has been going on for months. At its heart is Gillard’s dismal showing in opinion polls. On current trends, Labor faces being wiped out at the next election due in 2013, with just 30% support.Gillard blamed Rudd for what she described as a long destabilization campaign against her government and leadership and said the debate over the leadership was a distraction “obscuring our ability to talk about reform.”

And this outline of party polling here suggests just what’s at stake with the opposition on 53%.

The national poll of 1,400 respondents, taken from Thursday to Saturday (2-4 February 2012), shows the Coalition with 53% of the two-party vote (down four points since December) ahead of the ALP on 47% (up 4).
On primaries Labor is on 33% (up 4) and the Coalition is down four points to 45%. The Greens lead the minor parties with 13% of the vote (up 2). Family First is on 1% (down 1), and independents are on 5% (steady). Other parties are on 3% (down 1).
This is the highest primary vote for Labor since March 2011 and its best two-party preferred vote since November 2010. Despite this improvement, Labor’s primary vote is still down 5 points on the August 2010 election. The Liberal and National parties would win an election held now with a two-party preferred swing of around 3%.

But it’s not just the party polling. Rudd can comfort himself with the following:

Kevin Rudd is the nation’s preferred Labor Leader according to the latest Nielsen Poll.

The national poll of 1,400 respondents, taken from 2-4 February, found that 57% of voters (down 4 points since October) prefer Mr Rudd as ALP leader, while 35% (up 5) prefer Julia Gillard.

Interesting, isn’t it, how few were swayed by those sort of figures. For….”Gillard’s leadership vote was the best result of any Labor leader in a challenge in 30 years.”

And lastly, for now, here’s a great site for anyone interested in polling data. It’s from Gallup, the polling company, and it’s well worth a look.

And here’s an intriguing view of US politics. Why it’s the Catholic vote. Tellingly Catholics have been generally more supportive than most US citizens of Obama – one wonders what digging into various demographic aspects of that vote would reveal. But they slipped a little behind over the contraception issue of recent weeks.

But note how Obama’s job approval rating is now up 47 per cent, a significant increase on his 41 per cent rating in October of last year and 40 per cent August. Those extra percentage points are crucial for him to win.


1. Dr. X - March 2, 2012

Feck’s sake, WbS. That Noo Yawker piece about the Thiel arsehole. I’d feel sorry for him if he wasn’t such a total &%#t.

For these people, liberty is for those who have the money to pay for it, and for everyone else, the ultimate fate will be a boot stamping on the human face forever and ever. They are the direct descendants of Nassau Senior (“This Irish famine will only kill one million people, and that is not enough to do any good”). May hell mend them.


CMK - March 2, 2012

Do you have a source for that Nassua quote?


Dr. X - March 2, 2012

My source is the inside of my head. I’m pretty sure I read it in Cecil Woodham-Smith’s history of the famine. Someone on another part of the internet said that it was apocryphal, that Thomas Carlisle (I think it was) reported Nassau Sr. as saying it at a dinner party.

Even if Nassau Sr. didn’t say it, though, it’s still implied in classical liberalism, and in this so-called “libertarianism” – and the history of Ireland from 1845 to 1850 proves it.


CMK - March 2, 2012

Cheers, I don’t doubt he said it, or something like it. And I doubt he was the only one at the time who thought like that. No doubt there are Eurocrats thinking similar thoughts, if not killing people outright but driving them to poverty (“Zis Irish austerity programme vil only put one million people below the poverty line, und zat is no enough to do any gut”).


LeftAtTheCross - March 2, 2012

CMK, I know you’re taking the piss there with the German accent but just in the spirit of international solidarity of the working class and all of that I’d just like to pull you up on the chauvanistic aspect of the humour. It’s not the Germans who are inflicting austerity on the people of Europe, it’s international capitalism and the collaborating class of national politicians, incl. those in Germany of course, but not exclusively so.


CMK - March 2, 2012

LATC, point taken and you’re right to pull me up on that.


CL - March 2, 2012

Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol College Oxford, is said to have lost his respect for economists when he heard Nassau Senior say that the Irish Famine ‘would not kill more than one million people, and that would scarcely be enough to do any good’. (The Great Hunger, Woodham-Smith)

This may be hearsay, but Nassau Senior did write:

‘When such a calamity (a famine) does befall an uncivilised community things take their course; it produces great misery, great mortality, and in a year or two the wound is closed, and scarcely a scar remains’. -N.Senior, ‘Conversations and Essays relating to Ireland, Vol 1


‘The sooner it is over-the sooner Ireland becomes a grazing country, with the comparatively thin population which a grazing country requires-the better for all classes (vol 2)


WorldbyStorm - March 2, 2012

Dr. X, it’s brilliant isn’t it? A lot of right libertarianism thinking, not all though, strikes me as something akin to the old line about fascism being the socialism for fools.

I find the dinner scene telling. These people are asocial.


2. CL - March 3, 2012

The farcical Republican contest is making the Eisenhower Republican in the White House look good.
Romney just can’t seem to fake authenticity.
The Republican stock-in-trade for years has been to pander to all sorts of atavistic, irrational impulses. The Republican id has now been released. Its not pretty, but its amusing.
‘With one phone call, President Obama has forced the Republican candidates for president into a Sophie’s Choice with potentially far-reaching implications: Do they stand up to Rush Limbaugh, who made divisive comments about a law student this week, or do they stand up for a highly influential conservative leader who’s embarrassed the Republicans who’ve crossed him in the past?’


3. Doloras LaPicho - March 3, 2012

I remember Splintered Sunrise getting all hot under the collar about Obama refusing to let Catholic-owned businesses opt out of providing birth control in their health insurance, but it had precisely the right effect, politically. The theocratic nutbar Santorum picked up the ball and ran with it, and started yelling about the evils of contraception and third-level education, shot to the top of the Republican polls and caused all Democrats a huge sigh of relief and belly laugh.


CL - March 3, 2012

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