Friday, June 30, 2006

Montana to Mullumbimby

Reading Jared Diamond's Collapse struck by his description of Montana changing with the rise of tourism replacing mining and agriculture and hence a consequent political shift to the left. Sounds very much like the north coast of NSW. Interesting article by Stuart Rothenberg here on the Senate contest. The Democrat candidate is John Testor, state senator and organic farmer whose primary campaign included a Pearl Jam concert (nice to see them described as 90s band!), and was a progressive blogsphere darling. Rothenberg says:
Tester is a large, burly man with a flattop haircut and a big, engaging personality. In other words, he has the same down-to-earth quality as Burns, and the same knowledge of and background in agriculture...If Tester has momentum from his primary win, he also has a problem. The Democrat is far more liberal than [Republican Senator] Burns. Unlike the incumbent, Tester supports abortion rights, would have opposed the Supreme Court nomination of now-Justice Samuel Alito and generally agrees with Democratic Rep. John Murtha’s (Pa.) Iraq withdrawal proposal. Stylistically, Tester is a good fit for the state. The question is whether Montana voters will see the election as a referendum on Burns and President Bush, or whether Burns can make the election a test of the Democrat’s record and agenda.
Testor seems to be leading whereas another other blogsphere darling James Webb, anti-Bush anti-war ex-Republican is trailing in Virginia by 20%. Virginia is more conservative than Montana but it looks like a test of different progressive strategies.

Aspirational voters?

Writing a paper on self-employment and politics and have been through the Australian Election Studies 1966-2004 (accessed from ASSDA), and broken the left vote (= Labor, Greens & Democrats in the Representatives) down by employment type: self-employed, private sector, government and farm/family business.






25 (n=287)


57 (n=351)

22 (n=72)



49 (n=759)

55 (n=403)

34 (n=47)


36 (n=296)

48 (n=856)

58 (n=394)

33 (n=73)


29 (n=261)

46 (n=742)

60 (n=440)

30 (n=50)

By occupation:






44 (n=640)

44 (n=207)


55 (n=206)


40 (n=618)

55 (n=177)

51 (n=436)

53 (n=234)


45 (n=702)

48 (n=158)

46 (n=448)

58 (n=249)


45 (n=738)

49 (n=118)

48 (n=409)

50 (n=191)

Cross-classifications have small sample sizes, but interesting to see that the left shift among professionals since 1996 has been entirely among government (and perhaps self-employed) professionals, private sector professionals have moved to the right. The number of self-employed tradespeople is small but since 1996 Labor has made up ground. Labor's 2004 problem was less with aspirationals than its heartland.

NSW redistribution & NSW state election

The Australian Electoral Commission has released draft NSW boundaries. In the country we see a return in one aspect to the pre-1977 formula. Macquarie takes Lithgow and Bathurst out of Calare which would probably make it a Labor seat in most years (like Hunter today) as it was before 1977 (Labor only narrowly lost it in 1975) . The new Calare however including Orange and parts to the west becomes once again a conservative electorate, although Labor held Calare 1983-96 this was when it included Bathurst and Lithgow, prior to that 1943 was the last time they won. The problem for Peter Andreen, the sitting Calare independent, is whether to go for Macquarie and hold it against Labor or to fight the Nationals in the new Calare. On first glance I think he would do best in Macquarie. The Nationals lose Gwydir. In Sydney it is perhaps disappointing for Labor, Greenway sheds its Labor end around Blacktown into Parramatta, looks like Parramatta becomes safe Labor, but Greenway becomes a safe Liberal seat (as it will include the Macquarie towns containing buildings designed by Francis Greenway perhaps this makes sense). However Lindsay is pushed into St Marys which would assist Labor. The fact that the Parramatta CBD is in Reid will cause confusion. It would make more sense to rename Reid 'Parramatta' and perhaps save the name Reid by giving it to the electorate including Blacktown and North Parramatta, alternately this seat could be Greenway and a new name found for the Windsor-Richmond-Mcmansion belt seat.

The SMH reports a list of 15 'watch seats' identified by NSW Labor as vulnerable for the state election next year. Unfortunately there is no complete list. The first is Murray-Darling. This is on paper a National seat after the redistribution, true the sitting MP has resisted unfavourable redistributions in the past, and it is a pattern that the Labor vote in areas removed from National seats can usually be improved by a campaigning MP, but Labor did very poorly in Broken Hill (its vote falling below 60%) at the 2004 federal election, due to problems with the state government particularly the abolition of the Far West health service, which sparked a protest of 2000. Another example of Labor’s problem with its heartland rather than the margins. The watch list also includes Ryde, as I have thought the 14.8% margin here is rather misleading.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

American migration

Interesting article in the New York Times on a suburb in New York where enterprising home owners rent basements to illegal migrants.Of one unhappy local it says:

There is the gas station a dozen blocks away where more than 100 immigrant day laborers gather, leaving garbage and distress along a residential side street [pic] — and undercutting wages for miles, contends Mr. Nicolosi, 49, a third-generation union man and former Wonder Bread truck driver who retired after a back injury. There are the schools and hospitals filled with children from illegal apartments like the basement dwelling, which Mr. Nicolosi calls "a little dungeon, windowless."...It is the economics of class, not the politics of culture or race, that fires Mr. Nicolosi's resentment about what he sees in Elmont, which is probably as diverse a suburb as exists in the United States. Like many working-class Americans who live close to illegal immigrants, he worries that they are yet another force undermining the way of life and the social contract that generations of workers strived so hard to achieve..."It's either a country of law and order and what my parents fought for, or we just turn it over to big business," he went on, working himself into a speech that connected many dots.
But the 'illegals' say:
From the basement, what struck the Mexican couple, however, was that Mr. Nicolosi did not work. "The man has nothing to do except look," the wife said in Spanish as her husband cooked dinner. Recalling the Latino workers she saw renovating his house, she added, "If we weren't here, who would do the work?" In Guanajuato, Mexico, Mr. O.'s best option was a job at General Motors that at the time paid $10 a day, he said. Like everyone, he added, "we came for a better life for our children." What of the union battles of Mr. Nicolosi's grandparents? "That's what we're doing now," Ms. O. said. Taxes? "We all consume," Mr. O. argued, with a gesture that took in the dining table, the television and a picture of the Last Supper. "I'm paying the rent, so I'm paying the homeowner's taxes."

Friday, June 23, 2006

Labor's blue-collar opportunity

The proposed federal redistribution for Queensland (see map) creates a new electorate of Wright including much of the central Queensland coalfields. The miners here are politically interesting, as I discuss in my paper on Labor support in Western Queensland they initially tended to support the National Party but have since moved fairly firmly into the Labor camp. Rodney Cavalier in his sour contribution to Mortgage Nation: The 2004 Australian Election complains (or notes?) that 'never again will a coal miner or an engine driver represent Labor in Parliament'. Wright is a good opportunity to prove him wrong, could Labor implement class affirmative action and endorse a miner? The sitting Labor MP for the state electorate of Fitzroy in the same region is a former miner. I think (but would have to check) that the only manual worker at the 2001 Labor national conference was a central Queensland coal miner.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Cate Molloy

What are the prospects of current Queensland Noosa Labor MP Cate Molloy who ahs been denied Labor preselection for the next state election over her opposition to the construction of a controversial dam near her electorate holding her seat as an Independent? Scott Prasser thinks not much. However she did get a notable swing to her at the 2004 election. One possibility that has not been mentioned is whether Labor will endorse a candidate against her, presumably she remains a member of the ALP until she actually nominates against an endorsed Labor candidate. In the 1950 NSW election Labor disendorsed several MPs on the suspicion they were not following the Labor ticker in voting for the indirectly elected Legislative Council. One MP won re-election as an Independent Labor candidate in North Sydney (back then it was inner-urban working class) but in Monaro where sitting MP John Seiffert was disendorsed, no member of the local ALP sought official endorsement as the Labor candidate and Seiffert won the seat. He remained a member of the ALP and was endorsed as the official candidate in 1953. Seiffert had a strong personal following and like Molloy increased his vote strongly at his second attempt. The saga is described in Don Rawson's Politics in Eden-Monaro. Might Queensland Labor find this a desirable outcome? They have no prospect of winning Noosa. Cate's husband Ivan Molloy had a rough time at the 2004 election.

X control of X affairs

Over at Troppo Ken Parish suggests that:
Board or committee members of Aboriginal councils and associations frequently (maybe even usually) lack a clear understanding of their role, and in particular the fact that a board generally does not interfere in the day-to-day management of the enterprise.
Gaynor Macdonald said in 2004:
In the 20-plus years I have worked with Wiradjuri people in central NSW, I have seen as much cultural destruction under the policy of self-management as they experienced in the whole century before it. Actual Aboriginal cultural practice has become harder and harder to sustain. The policy of self-management has been destructive of community-based authority structures, beliefs, kin-based relationships, internal political and economic values. This in turn has promoted social problems on an unprecedented scale, including substance abuse, violence and corruption...Self-management has not meant Aboriginal people could get together, empowered by structures through which valued and needed resources could flow, working out their own agendas, priorities and programs. Rather, governments have created "relations of management" between Aboriginal people ("land councils") to encourage outcomes governments see as desirable. Under the rubric that self-management is an enlightened approach that frees Aboriginal people from bureaucratic control, they are required to become the bureaucrats, expected not only to manage their communities but also to monitor and police them. The "softly-softly" approach taken in the past by law enforcement agencies towards malpractice in land councils, often to the despair of those trying to do the right thing, has been unhelpful. If people who had deliberately misappropriated funds in the early days had been charged and dealt with according to the law, others who followed later might have been discouraged from taking the system for a ride.
Interesting parallels could be drawn with student organisations that justify their existence under the banner of ‘student control of student affairs’. Concern is often expressed about the possibility of student association office-bearers and council members intervening in daily administration, but there is also a danger that student association office-bearers will be disempowered by professional managers and advisors (of which I was once one) that they become merely an expensive fifth wheel to governance. Ironically it is right-wing students who have done more damage to student associations because they believe that they can at being entrepreneurs (as at Melbourne University), whilst the left leaves the association management alone whilst they arrange the demos and storm the offices. Student association election turnout is usually low and candidates usually appeal as individuals rather than as represenatives of a party with a clear program, democracy fails to provide accountability. In the rare high turnout elections however polarisation is intense and a winner takes all culture can legitimate abuse of power (Melbourne the classic example). Perhaps this is an example of the general principle that organisations with grand aspirations and missions but little real resources or power are not likely to work well: consider the Palestinian Authority.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Handwringing or rotten?

In The Weekly Standard William Kristol complains about pro-war liberals’ response to the Haditha massacre thus:
As for the pro-American left, they write more in sorrow than in anger. Here's The New Republic's Peter Beinart:

Americans can be as barbaric as anyone. What makes us an exceptional nation with the capacity to lead and inspire the world is our very recognition of that fact. We are capable of Hadithas and My Lais, so is everyone. But few societies are capable of acknowledging what happened, bringing the killers to justice, and instituting changes that make it less likely to happen again. That's how we show we are different from the jihadists. We don't just assert it. We prove it. That's the liberal version of American exceptionalism, and it's what we need right now in response to this horror. [Krisol responds:]

No, it isn't. The last thing we need in response to Haditha is hand-wringing liberalism. The war against the jihadists, a war Beinart supports, is not a metaphorical one. What makes us exceptional is that we stand for liberty, and that we are willing to fight for liberty. We don't need to "prove" we are different from the jihadists by bringing our own soldiers, if they have done something wrong, to justice. Of course we must and will do this. But our doing this "proves" nothing. Even if there were ten Hadithas, we would still not have to "prove" that we are "different from the jihadists." The idea would be offensive if it were not ludicrous.

Is ‘hand wringing liberalism’, the doctrine of effete men of inaction, the same as what Stalin called ‘rotten liberalism’? Of which he complained in 1931:

rotten liberalism, which has spread to some extent among a section of the Bolsheviks.

Fortunately the Ukrainian famine provided a de-rottening test. Perhaps rather than handwringing liberalism we could have squeezing and tugging conservatism?

Activist conservatives?

In a complaint about the ABC John Roskam complains that:
The real culture wars are not ones that can be placed on a pithy bumper sticker. The culture wars are about the values that exist in our education system, our universities, our courts and our public institutions. Increasingly, conservatives are being marginalised in debates on these values. For example, in Victoria, the Bracks Government's proposed charter of rights would allow unelected judges, not the parliament as the representative of the people, to make decisions about our laws. This is a major challenge to our democratic heritage and yet it has hardly been discussed.
I'm not sure who is to blame for this; the ABC has reported the debate on the Charter of Rights. But in the United States (whose conservative movement is Roskam's ideal) it is conservative judges who have been most active in the invalidation of laws passed by Congress. An NY Times article in July 2005 noted:
We found that justices vary widely in their inclination to strike down Congressional laws. Justice Clarence Thomas, appointed by President George H. W. Bush, was the most inclined, voting to invalidate 65.63 percent of those laws; Justice Stephen Breyer, appointed by President Bill Clinton, was the least, voting to invalidate 28.13 percent.
How do conservatives justify this? Stephen Pomper citing Thomas Keck's The Most Activist Supreme Court in History explains:
How can conservatives possibly square the Rehnquist Court's activist legacy with their own anti-activist rhetoric? Well, it turns out there's a trick: There are actually two different kinds of activism—conservative and liberal—and conservatives don't count decisions within their own tradition as, well, activism. …As to how conservatives have developed a guilt-free approach to their own brand of activism, the key to understanding this is the doctrine of originalism. The idea behind originalism is that the Court can tear a mighty swathe through acts of Congress without really engaging in activism if it is channeling the original intent of the Framers. This sounds like a wonderfully hoary and straight-shooting concept but Keck shows that it's something short of that. In fact, the seeds of modern orginalism were planted by Justice Black in the 1940s for liberal activist purposes; he was trying to develop a basis for expanding the Court's enforcement of the Bill of Rights against state governments. Black sparred with Felix Frankfurter (a champion of judicial restraint) in an effort to make originalism respectable, but this goal was not fully achieved—at least during Black's tenure. It did not help Black's case that his historical work concerning the incorporation of the Bill of Rights against the states was shot full of holes in the academic press. This helped support the critical impression that originalism is a highly corruptible doctrine prone to what constitutional scholar Alfred H. Kelly has referred to as “law office history”—that is, reverse-engineered speculation about the past generated by bright young law clerks who know what their bosses want to hear. You can argue the merits and demerits of originalism until you are blue in the face, but on the question of whether originalism somehow transforms conservative activism into something else, Keck is very persuasive: The doctrine does not have a privileged claim on interpreting the Constitution, and when the Court invalidates a congressional statute it is in activist mode—even if the Justices are certain that the Framers themselves (whether through the Federalist Papers or by means of Vulcan mindmeld) are commanding them to throw Congress' work on the compost pile.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Independent contractors

I am currently writing a paper for the Australasian Political Studies Association conference on the political implications of the (overstated but notable) growth in self-employment and small business. There is a strange right-wing anti-capitalism associated with the Institute of Public Affairs according to which self-employment is replacing wage labour so unions are obsolete. This argument underpins proposed legislation that seeks to prevent independent contracts from being 'deemed' to be employees although the government promises that 'sham' arrangements that serve to evade industrial entitlements will continue to be outlawed, obviously there definition of sham arrangements will however be narrower than that under current legislation. The government has promised that owner-drivers will retain their existing protections under NSW and Victorian legislation. But this has evoked opposition on the Coalition backbench workplace relations committee:
A committee member, Wilson Tuckey, yesterday said that Mr Andrews was surprised at the level of backbench angst at the plan to allow the Transport Workers Union to represent NSW and Victorian owner-drivers. "But it hasn't shifted him," Mr Tuckey said. "It's going to be a case of whether the minister can stare down his committee. "… it's not a small matter if trade unions are to be allowed to stick [their] noses in small businesses," Mr Tuckey said....[the Minister] said these drivers had "particular vulnerabilities" and needed "special protections". Their exemption averted major protests by truck drivers, which was likely to reflect badly on the Government. The union's role was to continue, NSW could adjudicate pay and conditions, and a Victorian tribunal would set rates there.
Obviously this is about big business not small business, the later seems to want industrial protection, I see that the so-called Independent Contractors Association has opposed the continuation of protection for owner-drivers, how independent is this organisation, when its executive director Ken Philips is also with the IPA. I suspect these are the 'independent contractors' that have supposedly been lobbying the government against protection for owner-drivers. Strangely Crikey (23 May 2006) had a long attack on the government's legislation echoing the backbench complaints and blaming of all people my former local MP Christian conservative Alan Cadman for assisting the TWU.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

California again and Democrat prospects

Angelidis has won the primary; will he have the appeal to independent voters to win? They broke strongly for Schwarzenegger as I discussed earlier here and recent polls have shown him leading both potential Democrat candidates with Angelidis doing worse than Westley. Democrats haven't won the Congressional by-election near San Diego (which resulted from the jailing of the former Republican congressman on corruption charges) but seem to have secured a swing of around 9-10%. More details here. This doesn't look like the tidal wave that the Democrats would need to win the Senate. Kos notes:
Democrats are not motivated to turn out. Sure, Busby [the Democrat] exceeded Kerry's 43 percent he got in the district in 2004, but not by much. She got 45.46%. If the "culture of corruption" message was enough to bring people out to vote Democratic, this would be the place to do it.
This suggests about 4% points of the 2004 Republican margin was due to incumbency. For Kos the response to the defeat is a stronger progressive appeal to mobilise the base. However how big is the base, what if the Republican base is bigger? David Corn highlights immigration:
Without reading too much into the results of one race, there is good reason for Democrats to worry: illegal immigration. Bilbray [the Republican] hyped his support for tough border enforcement, siding with the House Republicans' keep-'em-out/toss-'em-out approach and attacking the Bush-favored Senate compromise position that blends a (convoluted) path-to-citizenship with steps to beef up the border. And that might have won him the race. During the campaign, Bilbray called for building a fence "from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico." Celebrating his victory, Bilbray said, "The president proposing amnesty was absolutely a big problem. In fact, it wasn't until I was able to highlight the fact that I did not agree with my friends in the Senate or my friend in the White House on amnesty that you really saw the polls start supporting me strongly."
We can anticipate a revival of the argument as to whether the Democrats can rely on disaffection with the Republicans or whether they should develop a comprehensive program mirroring the 1994 Republican's 'Contract with America'. Whether the Contract accounted for the 1994 Republican sweep is being debated, for an argument it did not see here. Among the Republicans it will bolster the more traditional conservatives as distinct from the 'neos': immigration seems to be one of the few issues they diverge on. Ironically Bilbray was viwed with suspicion as being too socially liberal by some conservatives.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Peru and Czech republic elections

So Alan Garcia won the Peru election. The talk about a shift to the left in Latin America is overstated, voters reject the policies of previous governments because they are discontented with their policy record and think that the opposition can do better. This has mostly favoured the left in Latin America recently, the more so as traditional party ties have weakened but it could equally favour the right if the left does not deliver. In my thesis in passing I said:
Impoverished rural migrants in third world cities, the great hope of the revolutionary left, were neither inherently radical nor pessimistic but shifted their vote to who could promise immediate benefits.
My reference was Carol Graham's Peru’s APRA,
The Czech Communists lost ground in the elections of 2-3 June, perhaps losing votes to the Greens? It is the only ex-Communist party in
Eastern Europe to continue to style itself Communist. Their unwillingness to explicitly condemn Stalinism is one of the factors that led to them being excluded from the European Left . A Czech Communist leader said this during the negotiations with the European left in 2004:
There are some barriers in the statute of the European Left Party. For example, in the preamble there is criticism regarding Stalinist practices. Bad practices in former socialist countries existed not only because they were Stalinist practices. They were negative practices because they were not democratic. If we only mention the word Stalinist, it will mean, that we recognize the practices of Mao, Pol Pot, Ceausescu etc. So I think, a general formulation would be better, if we could substitute the word “non-democratic” for the word “Stalinist”.
The chair of the European Left responded:
This party is based on common political inspirations. I want to remind you all the way we have behind us. The rejection of Stalinism belongs to our political identity. Without this rejection, many of us would not be in this party. In any case, the rejection of Stalinism has been conceded by any party participating in the founding of the EL and is one of its founding elements. The rejection of Stalinism has nothing to do with our past, but with our future. When referring to our past, when we reject Stalinism, we reject of course all the bad practices, including practices worse than Stalinism. What we radically refuse is the very concept of power which we associate with Stalinism. From there we start to imagine and to have an idea of our future society. Without that refusal, we would not be able to imagine our idea of socialism. That is why this is a very firm point.

In light of the debate about the quality of Labor candidates, this Czech Communist comment is interesting:
I can tell you frankly that our preparation for the election campaign was not very favorable. We started too late and we underestimated the financial coverage of our election campaign. Also, the performance of our regional leaders was not acceptable for the public. We should offer new visions accompanied also by new faces. I regret that the top of our candidate list in regions didn't correspond to this challenge. We have a lot of good talents for political life in the Czech Republic. Unfortunately, only a few had the possibility to be on top of our candidate lists.