state

NSW Government To Demolish Luna Park To Build World’s Largest Pokies Machine

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/07/2018 - 8:29am in

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The NSW Government has announced today that Luna Park situated on the harbour at Milsons point will be bulldozed and replaced with the World’s largest Pokies machine.

“We’ve listened to the people of Sydney and realised that this city doesn’t need a theme park with it’s rides and fun it needs something the whole family can do together and that’s gamble,” said NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. “The giant Pokies machine will accommodate a 1,000 gamblers at a time and have a multi-story car park for the kids to relax in.”

“Also the Pokies machine will be themed with a silent disco so as to not to upset the local residents. All gamblers will be given a free headset and they can chose to listen to such popular tones as ‘Queen of The Nile’ or ‘Bonus Free 25 games.'”

When asked whether the State has an issue with problem gambling the Premier replied: “The only problem we have is if people stop gambling. I tell you gambling revenue and stamp duty is what makes this State great.”

Mark Williamson 

www.twitter.com/MWChatShow

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Planners Decide On “Siberian Mining City” Look For Sydney

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 23/05/2018 - 8:38am in

Planning NSW and Australia’s biggest property developers have announced their new plan for Sydney, with a motif based upon the thriving mining metropolises of the Siberian tundra.

“The look we’re going for is one we call Novosibirsk with ibises,” said Kyle Woodstain, the Minister For Packing People In Like Pringles Chips In A Can. “I don’t normally have much time for the godless communists but you’ve got to hand it to them when it came to creating joyless windswept communities filled with juvenile delinquents and roving gangs of feral cats.”

“We’ve deliberately designed Sydney in a way that will create thousands of jobs,” said the planning consultant Philippa Corinthian. “Admittedly most of these jobs will involve scraping red smears off the sides of buildings that used to be pedestrians before random gusts of wind picked them up and slammed them into the walls.”

Fresh from a fact finding tour of Omsk, Krasnoyarsk and Norilsk, the town planners raved about the possibilities of bulldozing all residences that contain a grain of charm and replacing them with barren courtyards, cheerless roundabouts and gardens full of spiky leaved shrubbery.

“Sydney has a space problem and one way to solve that is to deprive children of sunlight so they grow up smaller,” said property developer Hamish Espieff. “Look, have you ever seen an unhappy sardine? No, me either.”

Peter Green
http://www.twitter.com/Greeny_Peter

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter or like us on facebook.

Gramsci on the State, the Proprietorial Class, and the Sovereign Laws of Capitalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 22/05/2018 - 9:07pm in

“In the sphere of general capitalist activity, even the worker operates on the plane of free competition, is a citizen-individual. But the starting conditions of the struggle are not equal for all, at the same time: the existence of private … Continue reading →

Victorian Police Brought In To Deal With Sydney Harbour Bridge Climber

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 04/04/2018 - 9:41am in

Wednesday morning traffic was ground to a halt in Sydney as a man climbed onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge, closing multiple lanes of traffic.

As the NSW Police cordoned off lanes, they struggled to manage the situation, deciding to bring in their Victorian counterparts to help aid the situation.

Within a matter of moments, the Victorian Police had brutally and relentlessly beaten the man to an inch of his life and removed him from the Sydney landmark. Attending officers even managed to get a quick selfie to add to their collection.

“Yep, we just haven’t got the same level of training as those Melbourne blokes”, commented a NSW Police spokesperson, “I mean, we would have tried using out-dated tactics like talking to the poor sod”.

The Victorian Police managed to bring the situation to a close quickly and efficiently, only requiring four and a half cans of pepper spray and eight batons to subdue the man.

“To be honest, we were up here in NSW for a Police Inter-State Baseball tournament anyways”, stated Brendon Asher of Vic Police, “I guess we got a bit of practice in regardless”.

The police activity signifies the closer workings of state law enforcement, with Victorian police offering to help “put the brutality back into Police Brutality”.

GK Kidd

www.twitter.com/GKTweetsHard

You can check out our new show Decennium Horribilius at this year’s Sydney Comedy Festival. Hosted by The (un)Australian, the quiz show features teams of some of Sydney’s best comics trying to answer questions about the decade of the 1990s — with prizes for the audience.

Saturday May 5, 5.30pm. The Factory Theatre. Book tickets here.

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter or like us on facebook.

Marketcraft as the New Statecraft

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/03/2018 - 7:38am in

by Steven K. Vogel* What if we thought of marketcraft (market governance) as a core government function comparable to statecraft? And what if we sought to optimize market governance rather than to minimize government intervention? I submit that this simple … Continue reading →

A Critique of the Critique of Finance: Critics of neoliberal capitalism rarely recognize the productive power of speculation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 24/02/2018 - 12:46am in

by Martijn Konings*  If there is one theme that unites the various critiques of contemporary finance, it is the emphasis on its speculative character. Financial growth is said to be driven not by the logic of efficient markets, but rather … Continue reading →

Trump, Bannon & ‘deconstructing the administrative state’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 26/02/2017 - 7:45pm in

Trump Bannon

Donald Trump with Steve Bannon

When Donald Trump’s top two White House officials, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, appeared together at the American Conservative Union’s CPAC conference the other day, Bannon (the big ideas member of the duo) outlined the top three priorities or “lines of work” of the administration:

The first is kind of national security and sovereignty and that’s your intelligence, the Defense Department, Homeland Security. The second line of work is what I refer to as economic nationalism and that is Wilbur Ross at Commerce, Steven Mnuchin at Treasury, Lighthizer at — at Trade, Peter Navarro, Stephen Miller, these people that are rethinking how we’re gonna reconstruct the — our trade arrangements around the world. The third, broadly, line of work is what is deconstruction of the administrative state. [Emphases added]

On the third line of work, which is the subject of this post, Bannon clarified that he meant regulations created by government agencies on behalf of a “progressive Left” that is unable to pass legislation. Bannon referred primarily to business regulations, but Trump’s latest Executive Order initiates a review of regulation across all the functions of government.

What does such radical-sounding language mean? Is it simply a repackaging of exhausted conservative demands for a “small state”? Is it just a partisan attack on left-wing regulation while keeping right-wing state activity safe? Or does it mean something more profound about how the state works? These explanations seem unlikely as Trump has repeatedly promised to defend social security and ensure universal access to healthcare, alongside expanding the military and injecting massive sums into infrastructure.

The concept of the administrative state is one that some conservative thinkers are promulgating as a critique of modern US “progressivism”, of which Barack Obama is a key exponent. Indeed, Obama introduced more regulations than either of his two predecessors (see graph below). Perhaps most feted among conservative thinkers on this question has been Michael Anton, now part of Trump’s senior national security staff. Before November he wrote a series of widely-discussed articles under the pseudonym Publius Decius Mus, at the Claremont Review of Books, to make the case that conservatives should support Trump despite the celebrity billionaire’s obvious flaws. See here for the original article and here, here and here for his responses to critics. At the heart of Decius’s line of argument was that Trump (consciously or unconsciously) was laying out a course of action that would save Constitutional government from its subordination to the unelected and unaccountable administrative state. Hillary Clinton’s election, meanwhile, would signal a point of no return in this process.

Regulations

In broad outline, this conservative critique of the administrative state targets progressivism, which is usually seen as originating with President Woodrow Wilson, and which is defined as a political movement that sees the US Constitution as having reached the limits of its effectiveness so that social progress must now be implemented by technical experts (usually government bureaucrats under the direction of a progressive administration) unencumbered by legislative politics. Thus, under Obama a gridlocked Congress was repeatedly circumvented through court decisions and federal agency policies, regulations and guidelines to extend, redefine and even override existing legislation. In a sense, these conservative thinkers have developed a critique of the modern technocratic turn in politics — of which Obama was unquestionably a practitioner. While they locate it in an ideologically-driven “progressivist” politics, this blog would see technocracy as one way that the political class has dealt with its own declining authority (in the US most spectacularly reflected in declining trust in government, and especially the legislative branch; see Pew and Gallup opinion poll data below).

Pew Trust in government 1958-2015

20140619-gallup-congress

Trump laid out a similar argument regarding the Supreme Court, although in much less ideological terms, in his book Crippled America:

Candidates for political office always say they’re running on their record. Unfortunately, their records are made up of them talking about what they’re going to do, rather than them getting things done. Our nation’s capital has become the center of gridlock. It seems like these days most of the energy in Washington is being spent deciding whether we’re going to keep the government operating or not. No surprise there: Washington’s been running a going-out-of-business sale for a long time. It’s no wonder that our president and Congress have such low ratings in the polls. No wonder that we’ve lost our influence and the basic respect of both our allies and enemies throughout the world. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has decided in their infinite wisdom to fill the breach by making social policy rather than defending our most precious historic assets, the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We have three branches of government, but the trunk of that tree is rotting away.

A controversial case of administrative state action that Trump has rescinded (at least temporarily) is Obama’s 2016 guidance to schools on non-discrimination against transgender kids (including how to manage restroom and locker room access). The guidance claims to rest on a series of court decisions and consequent federal policy statements that interpret anti-discrimination laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964) and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act (1972); see endnote 5 of the document for a list of the relevant cases and policies. These laws explicitly oppose discrimination on the basis of sex, but were later reinterpreted by the Supreme Court and federal agencies as opposing discrimination on the basis of gender stereotypes and, later still, gender identity. Thus, over time but with no change in the wording of the law, sex discrimination (i.e. based on biological sex) has morphed into gender identity discrimination (i.e. based on subjective identity).

It is an astounding administrative state solution to a real problem — discrimination against transgender people — that effectively undermines the sex-discrimination laws it rests on. Perhaps more astounding has been the almost complete silence of US feminists on how legal protection against sexism has been undercut by this dramatic reinterpretation of clearly-worded legislation based on well-understood definitions. My point in raising this is not to dismiss the pressing need to address discrimination against trans people, but to outline the problems with the route through which this happened, and the potentially damaging consequences for the interpretation of laws that were won because of mass social struggles for equal rights.

Despite liberal claims that Trump is trying to attack the courts and other parts of the state because he is an authoritarian and/or setting up a pathway to dictatorship, it is more plausible that something else is going on here. On school bathrooms, and other issues, he frequently says these must be dealt with by democratically-elected state legislatures. Similarly, while he publicly excoriated the 9th Circuit District Court for blocking his hard-line seven-country travel ban, he has not rushed to the Supreme Court (as Obama often did) to get that ruling overturned, and instead has gone back to drafting a new Executive Order that will account for the Court’s objections.

In addition, he has nominated Neil Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. While Gorsuch — like Scalia — is a conservative “originalist” (i.e. someone who interprets the Constitution based on what its authors would have intended at the time they originally wrote it), he is considerably more averse to administrative state meddling in civil matters than Scalia was. That is, he tends to uphold the Constitution and laws but is less favourable to regulatory impositions made outside the legislative process, as this perceptive article by CNBC’s Jake Novak points out.

This seems to be how Trump’s anti-political positioning is playing out in the context of now running the executive branch: implementing the program he was elected on is taking precedence and the administrative state is being pared back. I’d argue the two things go together because being seen to deliver on his platform is vital to maintaining enough leverage against his political opponents to avoid being gridlocked himself. It seems clear that this path will set him on a collision course with his own side first, as their preoccupations are decidedly unlike his program, and because the Democrats are in meltdown over the election result which also put them in the minority in both houses of Congress.

Interesting in all this will be whether the more radical sections of the Left can see in Trump’s attack on the administrative state an opportunity to develop some clarity about the problem of the state more generally. Much Marxist thinking these days breaks from Marx’s insistence on replacing the state with an organisation of “freely associated producers” (or a “Commune”), and looks to retaining sections of the capitalist state, although under the control of workers or a “radical Left government”. The growing regulatory reach of state bodies such as the Environmental Protection Agency is often celebrated without questioning the growth of technocratic rule.

At a lower level of state action, the Left has fallen in with many administrative state actions without being critical of the way these reflect a retreat from more democratic channels for winning policy change. The reaction to Trump’s action on the bathroom guidance is one example, seen by the Left as unquestionably regressive when in fact things are much more complicated. Similarly, while it is great that same-sex marriage is now legal across the US, there are convincing arguments that the Supreme Court had little legal basis on which to rest its power to institute such a change. The primary problem, of course, was the utter failure of US politicians to legislate for this even though it was patently clear that US society was ahead of them on the matter. Instead, they deferred to the unelected administrative state to do the job for them. The radical Left didn’t seem to pick up on the problem with decisions moving from parts of the state accountable to democratic processes (however limited) to those further from popular influence. Indeed, some improbably saw the decision as a victory for social movements that on any honest account are much weaker and less radical than those which, in the 1960s and 70s, found it much harder to win such rights.

As I alluded to in my last post, devaluation of even minimal direct popular influence over government has been widely accepted by progressives who lack the social base needed to enforce policies on the state. They have often been uncritical of actions by unelected state officials because they happen to align with left-wing policy preferences. Isolated within the Washington establishment, Trump will find it hard to avoid confrontations with the administrative state. If the Left misreads all his moves as merely reactionary and looks to the administrative state as a shortcut to defending progressive causes, it may well find itself supporting further devaluation of democracy in the name of anti-Trumpism.

***

You can catch me in a panel discussion on Trump, psychopathology and the resistance to his administration, on The Third Rail. Thanks to the host, Sera Mirzabegian, and fellow panellist Steven Glass for such a stimulating discussion.

The post Trump, Bannon & ‘deconstructing the administrative state’ appeared first on Left Flank.

Why better politics can’t make anti-politics go away

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/02/2017 - 9:44am in

trump-takes-on-the-political-establishment

A recent think piece by Spiked!’s theoretical guru, Frank Furedi, is an attack on the idea that anti-politics is any kind of solution to the current breakdown in authority of the political system. It’s worth examining Furedi’s case because it aligns with anti-anti-politics arguments currently found on the Left in its softer and more radical variants. It is also worth dissecting to clarify what this blog means by anti-politics, and why attempts to renovate politics are likely to fail.

Furedi correctly notes that for increasing numbers of people the ways of looking at politics that dominated the 20th Century, tied up with party affiliations and traditional social group loyalties, no longer make any sense. Further, while this has been a long-run process, it is not until recently that responses utilised by political elites to manage this decline — for example the technocratic turn of the 1990s — have given way to a more serious popular response rather than the passivity of “TINA” (Margaret Thatcher’s infamous pronouncement that “there is no alternative”).

What is missing is any sense of why politics may have exhausted itself and failed to come up with sustainable new ideas for a revival. Given Furedi’s Marxist roots what is striking is the lack of a social explanation for the decline of the old political order, which was organised around rigid notions of class and nation and divided along a Left/Right continuum.

This comes through in Furedi’s critique of identity politics and the Left’s “cultural turn”. He agrees with how the social movements of the 1960s and 70s rejected some “Western” traditions; i.e. “worship of hierarchy, and patriarchal and paternalistic practices”. But he argues they threw the baby out with the bathwater by also attacking “values of loyalty, sovereignty, tolerance and liberty”. It is hard to know from his argument how one would choose which bits of these traditions to keep or eject, except for Furedi’s arbitrary lumping of the second list with the Enlightenment (itself somewhat arbitrary, given the mixed inheritance the Enlightenment bequeathed). Why are these values inherently better than the cultural or identity politics Left’s (alleged) dismissal of them?

While it is certainly true that cultural and identity politics were ways of dealing with the apparent loss of the political system as a place where one would engage to drive social change, it is not clear why an assertion of certain values is any kind of alternative to that loss.

Absent from Furedi is any sense about an anchor that might hook what is progressive and reactionary to something based in social reality.

Indeed, the values Furedi describes hark back to an illusion, the notion that in the past politics itself could drive fundamental social change in a positive sense. Such ideas were acutely criticised by Marx when the Enlightenment was still something of a going concern. Furedi’s “loyalty, sovereignty, tolerance and liberty” correspond closely with what the French revolutionaries called “the rights of man”, or what more recently are recognised as “civil rights”, at least on paper, in liberal democracies. Marx made a searing critique of the limits of such rights in his famous essay “On The Jewish Question”. In setting out the difference between merely “political emancipation” (emancipation in relation to the modern state) and “human emancipation” (genuine human freedom), Marx argued that the very basis for such rights was a society of competing self-interested individuals, which rested on the social basis of (bourgeois) private property, and which necessitated an alienation of individuals’ private lives from their lives as citizens (i.e. part of the political community):

None of the so-called rights of man, therefore, go beyond egoistic man, beyond man as a member of civil society, that is, an individual withdrawn into himself, into the confines of his private interests and private caprice, and separated from the community. In the rights of man, he is far from being conceived as a species-being; on the contrary, species-life itself, society, appears as a framework external to the individuals, as a restriction of their original independence. The sole bond holding them together is natural necessity, need and private interest, the preservation of their property and their egoistic selves. (MECW 3: 164)

In effect Furedi is harking back to a world where Enlightenment values only got as far as the limits set by the antagonism between civil society and the state, itself underpinned by the antagonistic “war of all against all” in civil society.

It is this uncritical approach to the opposition between the social and political spheres in modern capitalist society that leads Furedi to attack anti-politics:

It is tempting to think that anti-politics offers a positive alternative to an exhausted, self-serving political establishment. In fact, it merely offers a negative critique of the status quo. Anti-politics is not directed at a particular party or interest but at the very idea of politics. Its premise is that politics as such is futile. It is sceptical of the capacity of citizens to achieve positive results through political mobilisation. It doesn’t only criticise politicians — it indirectly attacks representative democracy and the citizens who operate within it.

For Furedi it is not that there is a fundamental problem with politics but that “political clarity is lagging behind the demands of the [populist] moment” reflected in the UK vote for Brexit and the election of Trump. The problem with Trump is not so much that he is using anti-politics to leverage political power (an understandable product of the moment) but that he is too steeped in the failed politics of recent decades to renovate politics properly. Further, when Furedi contends that anti-politics “indirectly attacks representative democracy and the citizens who operate within it”, he is arguing that social change can only be properly carried out in one approved location — the very circumscribed sphere around the political state.

Furedi’s argument thus connects with two positions increasingly present in left-wing discussion of the crisis of politics. The first, put by some left-wing social democrats and most of the Marxist Left, is that we need a politics that is sufficiently populist and mass-based to have wide appeal and provide the basis for taking state power. It is this view that leads to the interminable squabbles on the Left over exactly which points of unity and which lines of division are need to carve out the correct Left project — whether it be Owen Jones’s calls for a new Left populism to challenge the populism of the Right, or arguments by US Marxists about what kind of socialist organisation is needed in the era of Sanders and Trump. One might think that Greece’s disastrous Syriza experiment (see here, here and here for an obituary) would have chastened them, but one can always argue — as Furedi does in defence of his own version — that the lines of political recomposition were not the correct ones.

The second position, more common on the soft Left, is the demand that politics is properly limited to a narrow field of activity, that of “representative politics”. It could be seen in the Australian Left’s successful campaign to prevent a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, in part justified by the claim that civil rights should be the exclusive preserve of elected representatives and not the voting public. It can also be seen in critiques of the “new populism” (for example the widely-read arguments of Jan-Werner Mueller) which identify liberal democracy as needing to be narrowed down to electing representatives and having unelected sections of the state exert “checks and balances” to restrain the will of the majority, allegedly to protect minority interests.  While Furedi would reject such a narrow a conception of politics, it seems clear this would only be because he wants to revive representative politics with mass participation whereas critics of the new populism are resigned to a lack of mass participation and so want to better insulate representative structures from the public. Furedi’s fellow Spiked! contributor Brendan O’Neill has fleshed out this aspect of argument in a more recent criticism of Trump, written in the form of an open letter to the US leader:

Your pose as the anti-politician, the man who hates the political class, is getting wearisome. It has crossed the line from criticism of the establishment, which is good, into a trashing of politics itself, of the very business of people getting together and talking and voting in order to make things happen. When will your anti-politics shift into a conviction that you alone should decide how things should be run? That’s the logical conclusion to anti-politics, whether it takes the form of demagoguery (you) or technocracy (Hillary).

As spiked argued in May last year, everyone who believes in the potential of politics to change society for the better should be worried about you being president. What we need now is not cynicism or a ‘saviour’: we need a real, democratic political culture that engages as many people as possible in a debate about the future. Stop sneering at politics; be a proper politician.

For all of Spiked!’s claims to stand for human freedom, this represents a warning against letting the political order break down too much; a defence of the political order against popular sentiments that go too far.

This blog has long maintained that today’s anti-political moment is the product of a breakdown in the social bases of the political order — its parties, institutions, associated organisations and practices. The era of mass politics that started to unravel in the last few decades of the 20th Century had provided the material basis for ideas that people’s social interests could be won within the political sphere (even if, for the most part, they couldn’t). With the decline of civil society organisations (e.g. trade unions, mass parties, civic associations) that provided a social weight to the activities of the political class, that appearance has increasingly broken down, making more obvious the detachment and antagonism between the public and its political representatives.

Three separate but related phenomena become more obvious in such a period. First, the general stance of detachment from and hostility to politics in civil society becomes more widespread and intense, affecting not just those with least to gain from the system but infecting the socially privileged also, who no longer see the system as functional or responsive. Second, politicians emerge who seek to leverage anti-political sentiment for their own political projects. Such players can come from various points along the ideological spectrum (from a right-wing Trump to a centrist Beppe Grillo in Italy to the left-wing Podemos in Spain) but, in the end, they can no more drive serious social change than could the old parties whose decline they take advantage of. Both the first and second phenomena are inescapable features of modern life because of the separation between civil society and state is a permanent feature of capitalism, even if modified during a past era of mass politics. But there is no question they are more prominent now in the wealthy liberal democracies than at any time in living memory.

Third, there is the possibility of social struggles that directly challenge politics itself, by challenging the state’s rule “over against” society. While these have been at best embryonic in recent times (Spain’s 15M movement the clearest example, for all its limitations), they might be considered the beginnings of “the real movement which abolishes the present state of things” that Marx and Engels described social revolution as being; that is, a “revolution against the state”.

Only the third phenomenon can be considered to point in a progressive direction, precisely because it is about society asserting itself against the existence of a separate political sphere. To fulfil their promise such struggles would also have to overcome the capitalist social relations that pit individuals in civil society against each other, but that is a discussion for another post.

Furedi argues: “The radical supporters of anti-politics overlook that the flipside of anti-politics is TINA — an acceptance of the world as it is. For without politics people are reduced to passive objects, shaped by fate.” He gives no sense that social forces are needed to profoundly change society, and that political activity underpinned by social passivity simply reproduces the current malaise. Hence he collapses into a tired and unconvincing call for a “battle of ideas” for the values he prefers. More bizarrely he claims that the dead weight of institutions like “schools, universities, popular culture, the media” is more powerful than the countercultural populist surge. Perhaps that argument would’ve rung true 30 years ago, but if the Brexit and Trump votes showed anything it was a lack of deference to the expertise and cultural authority of “schools, universities, popular culture, the media” that was in operation — a fact Furedi acknowledges but quickly forgets.

The problem is not the need for a battle of ideas to shape a better political culture all the better to involve the mass of people, but the need for social forces to move in their own interests — not to reinject the political sphere with some socially-relevant justification, but to end the existence of an alien political sphere altogether. When Furedi argues that people should once more feel that “being a citizen matters”, he is effectively enforcing what Marx called “the narrow horizon of bourgeois right”, where human freedom is reduced to merely political emancipation. This is a formula pitched at the development of a new political class, more sensitive and culturally attuned to the banal capitalist values of the masses it rules over.

It would be a tragedy if future social struggles ended up accepting such profoundly self-limiting strictures.

The post Why better politics can’t make anti-politics go away appeared first on Left Flank.

Vic Govt Urged to Increase NDIS Funding

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/02/2015 - 9:27am in