Friday, November 30, 2012

Gillard 1 Libs 0

Fairfax just won't give up its line that Gillard has had political damage from the AWU scandal (nothing to do with Rinehart buying a holding in Fairfax, oh no) but what I saw was the prime minister kicking Tony Abbott's arse all over parliament.

This article is typical of the nonsense commentators write here. Gillard has been honest and fairly forthright throughout, and where she hasn't answered questions, they've been of the "how long have you been beating your wife?" type.

The opposition has worked very hard to bring Gillard down. It thought it had something it could create enough sleaze and smear around to do her damage (it's juicy: she helped set up an association that was used as a slush fund for a union, and the official that ran it embezzled tons of money from it, and even better, one of the guys involved was at the time her boyfriend) but Gillard has not been, as they hoped, buried under a mountain of bullshit. She has been helped by having the truth on her side, but she's a canny, fierce politician, more than a match for Abbott and his henchwoman, Julie Bishop.

You might ask whether the opposition would have been better off creating the policies that they will put before us next year, but they are all too aware that their policies will not be any more popular than Labor's, and their plan is clearly to run on a platform of "We're not Labor".

Abbott himself horrifies the left (and much of the centre too). He's a womanhating schmuck, who aims at being a typical Aussie bloke, and sadly hits the mark all too well. He's all that's wrong with Australia, and it's a great sadness that this country is so full of hatred and fear that he actually resonates with so many people here.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Giving thanks

We don't have Thanksgiving and I don't have a god to give thanks to, but I am thankful. Mostly, I am thankful that I have people I love and who love me. That is the foundation of life. They tell you it's money that makes the world go round but money won't give you a cuddle when you're down. (Yeah okay, you could probably pay someone to do that but they cuddles are better when they come with feeling, don't you think?)

I am thankful that in the dark times that I've had, I had people who showed me love. I was lonely but I was not entirely alone. I have been loved by people who must sometimes have felt they had little in return (and some made it clear that that was true, and vanished; I can hardly blame them for that: I'm not exactly conventional in how I show love, I know).

I am thankful that A has never abandoned me. You could not wish for a better friend. When she has had more than enough of her own shit to deal with, she has still had time for mine. When I allow myself dreams, I include in them that I will one day "reward" her by releasing her from the grind, paying for her to spend her days as she would love to, painting and learning. It would not begin to repay her if I could spare her a million bucks.

I am thankful too for other distant friends, who have a regard for me I cannot think is merited, but is a source of strength to me. You could not wish to know better people than L, P and even D, even if they are Americans. Indeed, I am thankful to know that not all of America consists of crazed haters. I am thankful for the people I have not met, yet know well, thankful that we live in an age where it's possible to say that and it's only a little weird.

I am thankful for the hours P has mystified and frustrated me, and I her. She has always tried to give me something, even if I didn't want it. I don't know whether she ever got any part of what she wanted from me.

I am thankful that M nurtured me when I split up from Mrs Zen. He is a good man, who never made me feel discomfort for the imposition. How lucky I have been to know him. I am thankful too for other friends who come and go, some near, some distant, particularly for C, who when I turn up at her door, it is like I was just there the day before, so comfortable is it to know each other.

I am thankful to have known Bella and two As, because they made me feel I had not ceased to be someone a woman could want to know, even if one was a crazy fundie who didn't actually like me much, and the other two I have no idea what they wanted or want, one I think confused me for someone I am not, the other felt she had no right to ask anything, or at least it seems that way.

I am even thankful for the woman who fucked me hard one night and pretended to have a family crisis so that it would just be a one-night stand. Not because I care about my "score" but because I felt so low that what was to come was all the more uplifting. I am thankful too that R spent a night with me despite herself because I am vain enough to want to feel desirable and she made me feel desired.

I am thankful to have known S because she inspired me and sustained me when I was entirely unmoored. I doubt she sees it the way I do and I know that it makes little sense to anyone outside it that I should be so happy to have something fragrant yet untouchable. But I was.

I am thankful that I could know E again. I am even thankful that she cannot change, and will never change, because I would not change her. I have never understood why people can say they love each other, yet feel that the beloved should be someone different. We are wholes, not mere collections of pieces, and you must love the whole if you are to love at all.

I am thankful for my family, my beautiful mum and my dad, who I believe has tried to love me as best he can, and what else can you even want from someone? I am thankful for my sisters, who are the finest women I know, yet still the little girls whose room I would creep into at night and pretend to be my imaginary friend to make them smile. I forgive them for liking the imaginary friend more than they liked me. They are still my companions of the heart, as they were my companions when we played by the loch at Aultbea, when we swam in the pool in Hayle, sharing our tray of chips, when we ran on the beach and across the towans, happy children, wrapped in each other's love.

I am thankful for my children. I am thankful that they are well, that they are smart, funny people who have big hearts and can in turn show love, that being from a broken home has not broken them, that they reward me in a thousand different ways for my love for them, however incompetent it is. I am thankful to Mrs Zen, if for nothing else, for the love she has for them, and too, for having loved me in her fashion.

I am thankful for B. I am thankful when she is vibrant, funny and charming, when she has self-belief, when she is kind, and she is very kind. I am thankful for her crooked smile, for everything she gives me, and it is a lot, for her generosity of spirit, for her intelligence and forbearance. I am thankful that she needs me, that she has use for me, that she loves me. I am thankful above all to be loved, however hard being loved can be, because nothing else is worth as much, is as complex or as simple.

I am thankful that I am well, employed, never hungry, richly entertained, white, straight and male. I am thankful, believe me I am, that when I start to give thanks, I find I have a lot to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

History lessens

One of the problems of historical fiction is that there is going to be some dude who knows more than you do. There'll be some guy who knows that your pirate has the wrong pistol, the wrong bandanna, the wrong rigging, the wrong haircut; you have to know all this just to pass on the basics.

So when my hero is in the streets of some Caribbean town, it's which island? Say Jamaica. So Port Royal! But no. Port Royal was destroyed in an earthquake in 1692 and didn't become again anywhere important. So maybe Spanish Town? But it was inland, why would he be there? Why would she?

So I know I need to know more about Spanish Town.

And maybe it's Kingston, but this is a transitional period, and I'm not sure it was yet the kind of place he could meet a lieutenant's wife in.

So I need to read a history of Jamaica.

No big deal. I've done a lot of reading. Not the kind of nitpicky research some writers claim to do, which seems to me the sign of someone who has taken "that guy" too much to heart, and has decided to become his rival. Just enough to know enough, and to keep it fun to think about.

I know it seems to take forever but the actual writing will be easy, and since I've been back from the UK, the real work of writing has been going on. Ideas have been coalescing, a better plot slowly forming, the characters becoming clearer to me as I thought some things through.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

In the box

So I have been reading about the holographic principle and now I'm confused whether I am part of a fourdimensional shadow of a deeper, many-dimensioned universe or a threedimensional reflection of the twodimensional quantum flickerings at the universe's horizon.

The holographic idea (the second of those two if it's not clear) grew out of thinking about information at the horizon of a black hole, and from the Aspect experiment that showed nonlocal effects in subatomic particles (particles moved in ways that would imply communication faster than the speed of light, which is forbidden by Einstein's theory -- it's a small annoyance that the common parlance takes "theoretical limit" to imply there is no limit, whereas a theoretical limit is one that's well established). One notion is that particles that are not apparently connected in our "reality" are in fact more closely bound at the universe's horizon.

Which implies a level of interconnectedness that's axiomatic in eastern philosophy: it's an open question, I believe, why the west pursued reductionism, concentrating on understanding the world's constituents seen as individual entities, while the east pursued holism, concentrating on understanding the world as a whole thing, and things in it having no meaning in themselves but gaining it when consider in relationship with the whole.

And I get to thinking, I've always seen us as distinct, but not different. But couldn't either idea be wrong? I remember someone telling me that her belief was that there was one consciousness and we were just pieces of that -- avatars of that, I suppose you could say. And that seems to me similar to the Hindu idea, that there is a unified soul that we partake in.

For the second, sometimes I look at a person and think, what if we truly are different? It is all beetle in the box. I don't know that a person thinks like I do, feels like I do. You imagine, don't you, that other people do not have feelings you don't have, thoughts that you couldn't think. By which I mean you don't necessarily feel what someone else feels, but you know what something else like it might feel like: you might not lust for the same body as them, but you know lust; you might not want what they want, but the feeling of wanting is the same.

And one day I might say, they are just shades of being human; even those you think are evil have motivations that feel right to them. We learnt, starkly, in the Second World War that ordinary men can deal in horror, but each of them can feel he is doing the right thing. Each, were he asked to define evil, would not include any thing he himself had done. Because these were ordinary men, not psychopaths who could know evil yet still want to do it.

And another, I might think instead that I just cannot fathom why a person has done what they've done, or if I know why, I cannot understand how the reward for it motivates them. Particularly when they are prideful, because I don't imagine they can be proud in the way I am, which is more like a cry for help than a boast.

Then I think, yeahbut I cannot fathom why I've done some of the things I've done. I could explain them, but the explanations would be my best guesses.


The idea of interconnectedness has always appealed some because I have felt, for as long as I remember, as though I don't have roots, and can't help wondering whether it's because of never belonging anywhere or because of something in me's not wanting to. But I like people. Probably as much as I like dogs.

Not being able to find that thing that connects you is painful, if you like people. And feeling it dwindle to the point where you can allow disregard to reign again is more painful still.

But sometimes when a person speaks, it becomes so clear that Wittgenstein had it right: the words of our shared language do not refer to anything real; if they were coins that we traded, I would see my head when I looked at them, you would see yours. It becomes so clear that you have no idea whether what they are describing is what you would be describing if you used the same words, that in fact it is as though you spoke entirely different languages and were communicating through a third language, which neither of you spoke all that well. And you know that even for yourself, the same word can describe very different things. I say "laugh" when I mean a belly laugh, an I can't stop but I'm afraid I will literally piss myself laugh, or when I mean a snicker over some small joke, or the dry thing you do when you are laughing "socially" -- your boss told a joke that wasn't funny or a workmate is telling a humorous story about their partner. I say "love" when I talk about how I feel about my mum, my daughter, my partner, but each has a different meaning.

As an aside, Zenita told me she loved me the most of anyone in the world, and I was thinking, did I build that? (I told you you could not match me for pride.) Did I do kindness enough for her to think that (or to think it worth saying, at least)? Did I spend love and now gain it back because I did?

What does it feel like to her? I loved my dad when I was eight. Would it feel like that? (Not that I can remember, but by the same application of empathy we were discussing earlier, I can imagine what would be possible and what would not, because whatever I felt then would not feel that much different now.) Would it be something that I could not even experience? (And of course I do understand that we must in some way be constrained by what our transmitters can transmit, how we are set up chemically and physically -- but we cannot be very different because natural selection would, given time, favour one setup over the other if they diverged enough to allow it.)

I do not imagine small girls do analyse why they feel what they feel. They just feel it. When you inspect their feelings, they are often opaque. (Do you like your teacher? Yes. Why do you like her? Shrug. Is she nice? I guess. What does she do that's nice? Stuff.)

Actually, that wasn't an aside. Turns out it's what I have been thinking about. The imprecision of our terms only matters at all when understanding is truly important.

But sometimes it feels like there are five in the conversation: what you feel, the way you understand it, the third language, what they feel, the way they understand it. And maybe everything is lost in translation.


The many-dimensioned thing is not as much fun. I mean, it's deep. Try to imagine what motions can even be like in those other dimensions, if we are reflections of them. You almost feel like you need to drop a tab before you can even start to think about it. But because we exist entirely within the reflections, and have no means to delve into the deeper reality (and one imagines, never will), it is purely metaphysical and has no application to our lives, except that we're curious what it's all built of, and if there's a way it's really like, well, we really want to know that.

Blah blah debt blah blah demand blah blah

So it's interesting to read this article in Forbes:

 is completely correct. There is no debt crisis in the US and never will
 be unless politicians create one out of thin air.

But so depressing to read the comments. I suppose many people like to
think they think seriously about economics and politics, and just can't
accept that the premises they are working under are entirely incorrect.
And that includes economists! Famously Krugman was schooled by Steve
Keen on the money multiplier (its nonexistence can be proved empirically
 but poor Krugman just can't accept it because it's central to orthodox
post-Keynesianism) but he still pounds away at the same
gold-standard-based model.

This stuff is actually quite simple, and awesomely intuitive when you
"get" it. If you stop thinking of money as a commodity (which it is not
outside forex trades), and think of it instead as points that we use to
score transactions of real resources, it becomes swiftly apparent that
there is no crisis because the government cannot run out of points. Once
 you grasp that spending is income, you see that it follows that if the
government runs a surplus, the private sector must run a deficit (quick
explanation: if the government spends $100 into the economy, but taxes
back $110 so that it runs a $10 surplus, that $10 must come from
somewhere: consequently, to pay the taxes, you must destroy financial
assets); so if the private sector wishes to save -- and we believe it is
 virtuous for it to do so -- the government not only should, but must,
run a deficit (otherwise, there is nothing for us to save); furthermore,
 of course it is true that if you run a current account deficit, this is
 equivalent to the private sector saving (money is withdrawn from the
economy), so your deficit must also cover the current account deficit.

Furthermore, intuitively Keynes was correct when he said that demand
creates its own supply (which events have shown is the case), whereas it
 simply isn't true that supply creates demand, as the right claims (in
effect, the notion that if you give the rich ever more money, they will
invest it and create jobs, is equivalent to saying that we should
apportion more of our financial resources to the supply side -- it
doesn't work; you can make as many cars as you wish, but if no one wants
 to buy them, they're going to sit rusting in your showrooms). But the
notion runs deeper than that. Think. If you have money, what do you do
with it? You spend it, right? And if you had more money, you'd spend
that too. Think more though. You're aware, I'm sure, that when people
become richer, they buy "higher value" goods. Some of which, curiously,
are not higher value in any intrinsic sense, but are branded as "luxury"
 or "prestige" goods. Tastes change even. It's not that we are all
striving to buy luxury goods; it's that we start to think we want them
when we have the money that they cost. Even at a low level this happens.
 Don't lie; if you have the money, you buy JD, but when you don't, you
buy the cheap bourbon. So that's a quality difference, but are you sure
you can tell the difference between one shirt and another, one pair of
jeans and another, one car and another?

Which is to say, if you cash people up, other people will formulate ways
 to remove that money from them, one way or another. It's almost
immaterial what the goods being produced are. If there's money, people
will invent things to sell to you for it.

So we're saying that the bold entrepreneur does not create jobs. You can
 have a brilliant idea but if there's no money, you are left with trying
 to cannibalise others in the niche you want to enter (or similar
niches), so each job you create will snuff out another job, as you
entice people to buy your product and not another. What creates jobs is
increased demand: people wanting something. With enough demand,
your product can soak up some of the money swilling around, without
impinging on others' market, and jobs can genuinely be created, rather
than merely being shifted around.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why we have a crisis

A fairly simple explanation why we need to tax capital more and income less: This is real, not the fantasy talk of economics you get in the papers. We are in the shit because we allowed the wage share of national income to fall. If people do not have money to buy things, the economy cannot grow. What neoliberals pretend isn't true is that you can't sell things if people have no money to buy them. But this intuitively obvious thing is an economic fact: no demand, no growth. The outcome has been that people have taken on huge amounts of debt to compensate for their lack of growth of real income. This has allowed economies to stagger on with low growth for the past 30 years but eventually we get to the point where no one can borrow any more: in effect this is what happened in 2007 -- we had indebted everyone who could become indebted and had begun to indebt people who simply could not service any debt whatsoever. The correct solutions to our woes are not palatable because they are framed in terms of ordinary people suffering a loss on their pensions. But the truth is, we need to correct the imbalance between the profit share and the wage share, or we will simply stagger from crisis to crisis. Also, it should go without saying that what we do not need right now is austerity. Are policymakers blind? Can they just not see the outcome of the policies they propose in Europe? As Europe repeats the dose over and over, and gets the same result, how is it so difficult to see that it's the wrong medicine? What is needed, here in Australia, in the US and even more so in Europe, is not to pretend we have a debt problem, or to focus on diminishing government at a time when its spending is needed just to keep us afloat. It's to run huge deficits so that households can pay down debt and businesses can have the demand that they need. This post shows clearly what actually happens in our economy, and how government spending is needed for saving, and the dire outcome of too little government spending. Now, does that mean governments must be huge? No. Decisions about what the government does or doesn't provide are quite separate from how they are "funded". But whether they are bigger or smaller at any given point is important. Right now, we need governments to spend more until we restructure our economies. But until we put more money into the pockets of workers, we just cannot diminish the size of government without the outcome simply being more unemployment and great suffering for workers. In any case, how much the government spends is not really correlated with how intrusive the government is. You can agree that the government has too broad a scope without feeling that it should control less of the national economy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


It was raining as we walked in the park. I don't remember what we said. It seems like as you get older everything just joins the mush, and you're left with impressions, echoes of long ago felt emotions, perhaps reflections of how you did feel, perhaps only simulacra resembling how you wish you had felt. Some like to have photos to remind them how it was; I prefer the mush. So we kissed, the smell of the wet earth and our breath steam in the air. Brighton hasn't changed. I was there a few weeks ago. It's still like a pair of old, comfortable shoes: scruffy but not broken or hard. England hasn't changed. It is still beautiful where it's beautiful, and the worst place on Earth where it's bad. It strikes me that it's real, when we say that somewhere is our fatherland (or our motherland, if you like), that's real. You cannot lose it, can't shake it off. I could no sooner take another nation than I could take another dad. *** Which is a strange thing to think when you think that I am another dad. *** I remember her labia were very pink. All I can remember is seeing them. I mean, I can just about recall her face and wouldn't forget how she did her hair. But I can't recall her doing or saying anything. I think I listened to the Pixies. I remember having the record; I can see myself putting it on a turntable. But I can't recall hearing it; I can't recall a moment of loving it. Not even mush. Things I relinquished. Everything slips away but a pair of pink lips. Most everything. Today on the bus I saw a woman who looked very much like Bella, so much like her that for some time I thought it was her. Could she blank me? That is what I was vain enough to think. I was thinking, what kind of conversation would we have anyway? I have nothing to say past how are ya. How are you? How's the kids? How's your job? How's the car? Do you miss me? But I was thinking, she could. It's a contract we tacitly draw up sometimes. A person blanks you, and you know they're doing, and they know you know. You can decide. You can force it out into the open by doing a huge fake "is that you? It's been so long" smile and oh gimme a hug. Or you can sign the contract: I will pretend I didn't see you either. I couldn't tell you anything about her labia. Memory is strange that way. It was strange though because of course I knew it wasn't her as soon as I took a second look. But I still got to thinking. The way people come and go, take something they want or need and pass on, sometimes flare, sometimes just flicker, then fade away until they are dead to you; some cannot -- you will grab the last straw of memory of them and hold it firm, but most are faces one day, silhouettes the next, until they are just names, then names you think you heard once, but now, who remembers? *** I remember her name too, and the town she came from. I remember more than I remember before I start remembering. I remember a journey we took together, a serious talk we had in the library, a letter, her legs, her shoulders, what she was studying, that she thought she might become a teacher. I remember that we held hands in the park and it was that kind of rain, it's not falling so much as just there, fine and slow and deep, and cold enough for a scarf. Evening. I don't know whether there is besides us another soul in the park; it is dark enough not to know. That is all. What else could there be?