Having spent a couple of weeks following long Metafilter discussions of the U.S. federal government shutdown, it’s slightly staggering how little attention the British media are paying it now that the novelty has passed. That’ll change sharpish if the debt ceiling is breached. For those who haven’t been following along, here are a few links that caught my attention in those threads.

A U.S. default would be a catastrophe dwarfing Lehman’s fall.

What happens if the debt ceiling is breached?

Absolutely everything you need to know about the debt ceiling.

Why are we talking about the debt ceiling crisis as if it’s normal politics?

A federal budget crisis months in the planning.

The little rule change that guaranteed a shutdown.

Even if the debt ceiling crisis is resolved, the shutdown has already managed to derail a whole summer’s worth of Antarctic science at a time the world can ill-afford it.

12 October 2013


So the Australian Labor Party has managed the most prolonged own-goal in its history, turning a record of presiding over the healthiest Western economy of the past five years into a liability, and handing the keys to the Lodge to someone who regards the UK’s current government as a model of sound policy.

This would be worse if I believed that repealing the carbon tax at this point was any more than rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic, or if Kevin Rudd hadn’t managed to make the ALP’s policy towards refugees equally as appalling as the coalition’s. As it is, Australia is set for another three years of debating climate change (if it gets a look-in at all) as a matter of belief in whether or not it’s happening, while here in the Northern hemisphere we’re about at the stage of William Hill placing odds on when the last bit of summer ice in the Arctic will melt.

What gets me are the short memories of the Australian electorate, but I suppose it’s just the gradual influx of new voters who can’t remember the past performance of these “new” leaders. In 1996 I was old enough to remember Howard’s time as treasurer and his unedifying rivalry with Andrew Peacock in the 1980s, enough to see through all the shiny spin around his 1996 campaign, so his subsequent years as PM held no great surprises. Now I’m old enough to remember the mad monk’s past performance as minister for shafting working-class Australians in the late 1990s, and have a pretty good idea of what’s in store.

But people can change, I suppose. After all, I’ve changed from an open and optimistic twenty-something in the 1990s to a bitter and cynical 45-year-old today.

8 September 2013

Boundless Pains to Share

Australia disgraced itself a fortnight ago, or rather Kevin Rudd’s new government did, although as his move to outsource asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea seems a surefire vote-winner there’s plenty of blame to go round. I railed impotently in a Metafilter thread about the move, and figure I may as well reproduce that impotence here. What follows are my (edited) comments from the thread. Although I started out writing about the country in the third person, I switched to “we” and “our”, even though I’m not living there now, because using “over there” language in this context felt wrong.

Read More · 31 July 2013

Politics in 2012