Russell Brand’s take on politics

Russell Brand – yes, he of the long hair and comedy – writes surprisingly vehemently and eloquently about politics in an editorial for the New Statesman:

There’s little point bemoaning this apathy. Apathy is a rational reaction to a system that no longer represents, hears or addresses the vast majority of people. A system that is apathetic, in fact, to the needs of the people it was designed to serve. To me a potent and triumphant leftist movement, aside from the glorious Occupy rumble, is a faint, idealistic whisper from sepia rebels. The formation of the NHS, holiday pay, sick pay, the weekend – achievements of peaceful trade union action were not achieved in the lifetime of the directionless London rioters. They are uninformed of the left’s great legacy as it is dismantled around them.

Of the two possible reactions to the mechanised indifference and inefficiency of their alleged servants, not leaders – apathy or rage – apathy is the more accessible and is certainly preferable to those who govern.

Brand of course has made political statements before, and on Morning Joe earlier this year pointed out the absurdity of the media right to their faces, but I’ll definitely accept that I never expected quite the strength of opinion and intelligence backing it that shines through in this editorial. It’s fascinating for the contrast against Brand’s character as much as the content of the polemic against the political landscape of the day.

Gruber’s selective memory on Disney

John Gruber, arguing for Nintendo to just develop for iOS, states his admiration for Disney:

One thing that has long fascinated me about Walt Disney was that he was always looking for the next big thing, and never worried about protecting the last big thing.

This really doesn’t square with Disney’s long-term support for the Copyright Term Extension Act where Disney is constantly trying to protect their last big things. Nintendo, currently, is utterly dependent on reinventing the wheel of their existing franchises, and I suspect that is what needs to change more than any deep seated lack of progress on the hardware front.

Obama: America is not yet a post-racial society

Barack Obama, showing the eloquence he’s famous for, makes the point in the light of the Trayvon Martin/Zimmerman case that America is not (yet) a post-racial society:

There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.

And there are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me, at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.

This is something that many who haven’t experienced that side of society’s treatments perhaps don’t realise – those viewed this way notice. People might thing they’re being careful or subtle, but it’s noticeable. I’m not a black man in America, but I’ve seen shades of the same thing, and while 9 times out of 10 it’s easy to dismiss, there’s always the odd moment when you think to yourself that you’re paying for the original sin of appearance, something you can’t control at all.

And let me just leave you with a final thought: that as difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race.

It doesn’t mean that we’re in a post-racial society. It doesn’t mean that racism is eliminated. But you know, when I talk to Malia and Sasha and I listen to their friends and I see them interact, they’re better than we are. They’re better than we were on these issues. And that’s true in every community that I’ve visited all across the country.

The underlying point here is: electing me – even twice – hasn’t resolved the race issue in America, and it’d be worthwhile to recognise this as a factor.

Mining Tax SNAFU

Wayne Swan is pitching it as “…a way in which all Australians share in the bounty of the mining boom,” but Alan Kohler destroys any illusion of that:

There was, and is, a fundamental disconnect between the terms of trade boom that was killing manufacturing and tourism and the tax revenue governments were getting from it because royalties are levied on volume not price.

The Henry proposal involved a 40 per cent extra resources rent tax and a reduction in company tax to 25 per cent, plus a series of depreciation and capital allowance benefits for manufacturers and other small businesses.

Now, that particular reform wasn’t ever posed by Rudd, but something very much like it existed, however briefly, before the miners took a hatchet to the government. It’s only now that the majority of people are starting to see the two-speed economy for what it is.

.Julia Gillard negotiated a lower tax on iron ore and coal with BHP, Rio Tinto and Xstrata so that only the smaller companies with smaller advertising budgets would complain. As part of that, she was forced to allow existing mineral royalties to be deducted from the tax, which totally negated the idea of replacing ad valorem royalties from a tax on profits.
And then, to make the whole exercise completely pointless, she tied it to an increase in the superannuation guarantee levy from 9 per cent to 12 per cent.

That increases manufacturing costs instead of reducing them, and vastly increases the cost of the exercise to the federal budget.

According to Brian Toohey in this morning’s Financial Review, the cost to the budget of the extra superannuation tax deductions will be $4.2 billion in 2019-20. The total cost of the concessions connected to the MRRT will be $9.4 billion in that year – less than a third of which is paid for by the revenue to be collected from the MRRT.

The latest concessions negotiated by Andrew Wilkie undermine any credibility he had – his electorate in Hobart doesn’t have any mining interests, so his conditions on improving things for small miners is clearly the result of targeted lobbying. Oakeshott and Windsor did well for their electorates, raising the issue of Coal Seam Gas – but Wilkie betrayed the idea of the independent representative.