Time to resurrect witchcraft


Back in 1971 I wrote my honours thesis for social anthropology at Sydney University. Its theme was a link between witchcraft/sorcery beliefs and egalitarianism in native and peasant communities around the world. Given discussion earlier this year about inequality, I believe it has a relevance.

Its principle argument went something like this:

The basic concept of egalitarianism is that everyone is equal and has an equal share of abilities and resources. Of course, in reality, this is never quite true. And in those native and peasant communities, witchcraft was a common approach to explain the differences.

It worked in a number of ways. Those who rose above the norm and those who fell below it were prone to witchcraft, either being attacked by it or accused of it. (Please note that when I say witchcraft, I include sorcery — there was a difference in the anthropological literature of the time that wasn’t relevant to my thesis nor to this discussion. Also, I use the term ‘witch’ to include both males and females.)

Those who rose above the norm could include those who were ‘conspicuously fortunate’, those who had outstanding innate talent (such as a Bradman or a Mozart), and even the ‘big men’ of the village.

For those with talent, it helped explain why they were so good but it also helped keep them within the bounds of the community. While it may only be thought that their talent was a result of witchcraft, if they did not use that talent in acceptable ways, or if they boasted of their talent, it could become a public accusation, leading to public sanction.

Similarly ‘big men’ were recognised as being important for the community, particularly in its dealings with other communities, but they had to maintain the welfare and best interests of their own community or they would also be publicly accused of being witches.

Being ‘conspicuously fortunate’ is clearly an egalitarian crime. The threat of being accused of being a witch helped ensure that those people spread their wealth in socially acceptable ways — catering for large ceremonies, for example.

Those at the bottom (below the social norm) were rarely attacked by witchcraft but prone to being identified as witches, the ones paid to provide the potions or spells. This often related to an illness occurring after an argument between two people (and the argument most often related to one person having more than the other). Both sides of the issue would then have to be addressed, the argument (and which party paid the witch), and the role of the witch.

Some of this demonisation of those at the bottom, those falling below the social norms, can be seen in the European and North American witch trials. Elderly widows struggling to survive on their own and young women perceived as promiscuous were among those more commonly accused.

I saw this operating like three concentric circles reflecting the values of the community. The majority of people fell within the central circle. Then those who were different, the probable witches, operated within the second circle. As long as they remained within that second circle they could be tolerated in a somewhat ambivalent way, but if they moved beyond that second circle they had moved too far beyond the bounds of egalitarianism and would face sanction, exile, or even execution.

I read a simple example of this in a story by Camara Laye about an African childhood. A boy was with his uncle, the village headman, and as they worked their way along a field they were moving ahead of the other men. Then the uncle slowed down and the boy pointed out that the others were catching up. His uncle told him it was not good to get too far ahead. In my terms, he was reaching a boundary where greater success (his speed working the field) would be seen as extreme and probably the result of witchcraft.

Witchcraft in this way acts as a sanction to acceptable behaviour. One tries to stay within the egalitarian norms, even if those norms are somewhat extended within the second circle, so as to avoid witchcraft.

So there you have it in a nutshell. What does this mean for our society?

We no longer believe in witchcraft but perhaps we should.

The majority of us sit comfortably in the middle (within the central circle), follow social norms, at least within acceptable bounds, and are free from accusations of witchcraft. We understand disease much better and no longer need witchcraft or other supernatural sources to explain it. Although it is interesting that arguments or disagreements and the associated stress can lead to illness — perhaps we still need witchcraft to explain that and should focus more on the argument as the root cause of the illness so that the argument is dealt with before a cure is found.

We are much better off in terms of our material possessions but still find blatant displays of wealth unacceptable. When someone builds a house twice as big as those around it, or suddenly appears in a Porsche when everyone else has a Holden or a Toyota, we no longer accuse them of witchcraft but we may think they are crooks, or dealing drugs, or something similar.

We elevate and praise our successful artists and sports people but only so long as they don’t abuse their position or become ‘big heads’. When that happens they become dangerous to our social stability and an element of witchcraft comes back into play. They are seen not to have played by the rules and need to be brought down or cast out.

We accept that we need leaders and powerful people to protect us but are equivocal about their power. We have a democracy which is supposed to control that power but sometimes we wonder whether it does. Of course, we are outraged when we find the powerful misusing their power to increase their own wealth but, after a brief time, nothing really changes and we await the next occurrence.

Our society has its share of people who drop below the norm and they are often perceived as a threat. I think sometimes it is because it is a reminder that there but for a bit of luck goes any one of us. We are not always comfortable knowing they are there but generally we wish to help them back within the inner circle. Many, however, in their day-to-day activities, will avoid them if they can.

The poor and outcast may no longer be witches but they are demonised by the rich, the LNP government and the economic rationalists: they are too lazy to be helped. We are told they use the services and taxes of the core circle and reduce the services available for the rest of us within that circle. They are told by the rich and powerful that they can never get back into that inner circle except by their own efforts, that they are undeserving of help, but that approach is not fully in accord with the egalitarian values of the central circle, so the rich and powerful are treading dangerous ground.

And we have ‘the one per cent’ sitting at the top with all their wealth. How did they get there? Where I grew up, the common view was that almost all who were fabulously rich must have done something wrong, not necessarily illegal but certainly breaching the norms — a few deals that sailed close to the edge of legality, or a few mates abandoned or ‘knifed’ along the way, a bit of insider knowledge, tax avoidance (or should I say tax minimisation so as not to be sued) and so on. Of course, only the rich have this special knowledge and the resources to implement it.

As a society we seem to struggle to find good explanations for these situations, and perhaps find some of them puzzling, even troubling, but witchcraft explains them all.

The conspicuous displays of wealth are obviously the result of witchcraft. An ordinary person in the inner circle cannot get their Porsche any other way. They don’t need to be crooks, just witches. When they know that such conspicuous displays can lead to accusations of witchcraft, they will be less likely to step so far out of line.

The same goes for our successful artists and sports people. They will behave in more acceptable ways if they know that they are always on the verge of a witchcraft accusation because of their ‘unnatural’ talent.

Our leaders may need their witchcraft to counter the witchcraft of other leaders but if they know that we know they are witches then they may be more careful how they use that power. They will know they need to support the central circle or face public accusation and the sanctions that follow.

If those who drop below the norm are thought more likely to be witches, perhaps we will work harder to bring them back into the central circle and so tame their witchcraft. And we will work to keep them in the inner circle because if they drop back again, anything could happen — we might all be turned into sheep (if the rich and powerful have not already turned us into sheep).

Alternately, we may draw on their magic to bring the rich and the powerful into line. While they are there, they are also a threat to those at the top — a reminder that the second circle belongs not just to the rich and powerful but the poor and outcast, that they are in reality in the same situation, operating outside the core values of the society. The poor and outcast have their own spells to attack the rich and powerful and it is a potential battleground for witchcraft.

Finally, how did the super-rich gain all that wealth? Bugger economics! — it was witchcraft pure and simple. They have the secret knowledge that they share only within their cabal.

It follows that they demonise and accuse those at the bottom, the others occupying those outer circles, of witchcraft because they are so conscious of it and fear being accused themselves. The rich and powerful (and the LNP) persecute these other witches to divert attention from their own witchcraft.

I say it is time to bring back witchcraft. It will support our egalitarianism and help us explain so much. We would not need economic arguments to explain inequality, just witchcraft.

We can bring back the witch trials and place ‘the one percent’ before the Witchfinder General. Then let them try to explain that they did not achieve their wealth by witchcraft. We can ask the banks and global corporations to show that, in making their super profits, they have not beguiled us with witchcraft. We can demand that the current prime minister justify his accusations of witchcraft against a certain red-haired former prime minister and, if he can’t, it follows that he, himself, was using witchcraft.

There may be many executions to follow. I think, however, that I could be tempted to become a tricoteuse at the bonfires.

What do you think?



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TPS Team

14/12/2014We have something a little different for our conversation starter from Ken Wolff today. Witchcraft - can we use it to explain whatever we don't understand? Economics? Politics? Tony Abbott's "policies"? Let us know what you think in comments below.

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14/12/2014Ken What a fascinating piece you have written. By using witchcraft as a metaphor for those who have managed to gain advantage over the rest of society - the middle-of-the-road majority - you have highlighted their uniqueness, and the attributes that have given them that advantage. You rightly highlight the suspicion that so often falls on them, suspicion that they have done something unfair, shifty, or even illegal to gain their advantage. We know that is not always so, but those who separate themselves from those in the inner circle do evoke those thoughts and emotions. The findings of the ICAC inquiry in NSW illustrate your point. Official after official, politician after politician, even minister after minister, have been exposed as taking unfair advantage of their positions for personal gain. We see in the child abuse inquiries how those in power have exploited the weak to gain sexual advantages and control over them. Bullying, wherever it occurs, be it in the schoolyard, in the workplace, or in public life, is another example of the powerful taking advantage of the vulnerable. It might seem fanciful to postulate that witchcraft is the defining attribute, but it strikingly highlights the extent of the deviation from the norm of those who take advantage of others, of those who rise unfairly into powerful positions, whether by way of their position or their wealth or their perceived extraordinary and unreasonable powers, to gain advantage or perpetrate unfairness or evil. Those who perpetuate the neoliberal belief that the powerful and the wealthy must be enabled to become even more so, and that all will profit from their ‘patronage’ as the benefits trickle down, are peddling witchcraft. We see conservative governments doing this day after day as they remove regulatory restrictions that might curtail the witchcraft of the powerful and wealthy, as they leave in place the unfair advantages they enjoy, instead placing the burden more heavily on those who can least afford it. Latter day ‘witchcraft’, as you describe it, is the antithesis of egalitarianism, of our cherished ‘fair go’. We need to see it where it is occurring, call it out, and counter it vigorously. More and more, the voice of the people is being heard. We must shout even louder from the hilltops. Thank you Ken, for offering us a refreshingly alternative way of thinking about the issues of power, vulnerability and helplessness.

Ken

14/12/2014Ad Thank you for your comment. I see witchcraft in this context mostly as you. The underlying principle is about the values that drive a society and how we maintain (or enforce) them. In the native and peasant societies I spoke about, witchcraft was not just an explanation for difference but a very powerful sanction to maintain the social rules and to set the reasonable boundaries within which people could operate. While witchcraft disappeared long ago, here in Australia we did maintain our social norms quite well but that began changing in the 1970s. The neo-liberals, the neo-cons, the economic rationalists, etc introduced new values that they insisted should be the values of our society. But we no longer have a sanction as powerful as witchcraft to control them. That is the point of my plea to 'bring back witchcraft'. We need some more powerful social sanctions (than those we have left) to maintain our core values. I think one other important point arising from the piece, is the 'boundaries' that operate. Years ago no-one really complained about the money earned by company managers and CEOs but as that amount grew, outstripping normal workers' wages by ever greater margins, we have begun to question the fairness. They have moved beyond what the rest of the community see as a reasonable difference.

DMW

15/12/2014The problem is - [i]Nobody's nose knows which witch is which[/i]

Casablanca

15/12/2014[b] 1. Budget damage has a sniff of permanency[/b] Phillip Coorey. 14 Dec 2014. Without trawling once more over the entrails of the budget, there were three key findings from that initial burst of research which, it can be safely assured, would have shown up in the same research the Coalition and Labor conducted in the immediate aftermath. Two of the outcomes were in Labor’s favour: The first, Mitchelmore summed up as “lies, broken promises and Tony Abbott”. http://www.afr.com/p/opinion/budget_damage_has_sniff_of_permanency_By9g8i2lxfsrxogolx1eCO [b]2. Post 2013 Budget Address, National Press Club: Joe Hockey [/b] The Federal Budget is more than a set of statistics. It is more than a forest of forecasts. It is a statement about much more than the fiscal and the financial. It is a window into: - A Government’s honesty and honour; - A Government’s competence and capacity; and - A Government’s substance and sustainability. This Budget fails on each of these counts. Australia is an ambitious nation with great and bountiful opportunity. We do not need a government that divides us as a people. We want a government that provides all Australians with hope for the future, reward for hard work and innovation, and opportunity for a better life. http://www.liberal.org.au/latest-news/2012/05/16/post-budget-address-national-press-club-joe-hockey [b]3. Low pay and zero-hours contracts rise dramatically, UK figures show [/b] Yvonne Roberts. 14 December 2014 TUC report shows one in 12 in labour force now in ‘precarious employment’, huge rise since 2008 http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/dec/13/zero-hours-contracts-low-pay-figures-rise [b]4. New monthly allowance for families with two and more children in Belarus[/b] President. 05 December 2014 New child benefit has been recently introduced in Belarus by Minister for Labor and Social Protection. http://eng.belta.by/all_news/president/New-monthly-allowance-for-families-with-two-and-more-children-in-Belarus_i_77872.html?_utl_t=tw … [b] 5. The end of Peta Credlin [/b] Andrew Elder. 14 December 2014 Peta Credlin was one of the few Coalition staffers willing or able to stick around after the downfall of the Howard government. She hadn't landed a top-flight lobbying job or a seat in Parliament or simply buggered off to that old shack in the hills/sand dunes. Nor had she embarrassed herself like some did who couldn't really believe that, after 11 years, it really was all over. http://andrewelder.blogspot.com.au/2014/12/the-end-of-peta-credlin.html#comment-form [b]6. The Peta factor is a real test for Abbott [/b] Laurie Oakes. December 12, 2014 ONE of prime minister John Gorton’s first acts after surviving a leadership challenge in 1969 was to dump Dudley Erwin as air minister. That night I phoned Erwin to ask why he had been sacked. “It wiggles, it’s shapely, it’s cold-blooded and its name is Ainslie Gotto,” Erwin said. Sub-editors at my newspaper, wary of defamation, cut out the phrase “it’s cold-blooded”, but what remained of the quote made headlines around the country. http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/laurie-oakes-the-peta-factor-is-a-real-test-for-abbott/story-e6frea6u-1227154449868?nk=76267b7724cba995bfdb82ae26629a64 [b] 7. Trouble ahead as push to move Peta Credlin grows [/b] Samantha Maiden. December 14, 2014 Entsch’s intervention is significant for two reasons. First, he is a living link back to the Howard government with corporate knowledge of how backbenchers were treated. Second, he is the first MP to publicly and aggressively put his name to the whispering campaign. Entsch complains there is a conflict of interest in having the married couple as the Prime Minister’s chief of staff and the federal Liberal Party director. He is not alone but he is one of the few to state so publicly. Peta Credlin has been coming under close scrutiny in the world of politics. “I raised concerns years ago. I think it is a complete conflict of interest having federal ¬Liberal Party director (Brian Loughnane) and the chief of staff. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/samantha-maiden-trouble-ahead-as-push-to-move-peta-credlin-grows/story-fni0cwl5-1227155025289?nk=173a6b0078d5216c6726114ea4a890e4 [b]8. Julie Bishop blocks her Twitter account and #blockedbybishop trends [/b] December 15, 2014 HAS the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia Julie Bishop gone rogue? Or maybe she’s taking her role as Australia’s Foreign Minister very seriously by going undercover? Either way, you’ve probably been #blockedbybishop on Twitter. And that hurts. Where else will we be able to see Ms Bishop’s late night emoji blitzes? (NB: As we’re blocked, all the awesome emojis have disappeared) http://www.news.com.au/technology/online/julie-bishop-blocks-her-twitter-account-and-blockedbybishop-trends/story-fnjwnhzf-1227155971883 [b]9. Bishop's lawyer work a source of shame [/b] AAP. November 27, 2012 Senator Sterle said Ms Bishop played a key role in CSR moves to deny compensation to dying victims, forcing them to go to trial. "She and CSR caused extra suffering for people already dying with painful diseases, causing extra trauma for families of victims as well," she said. Senator Sterle said in subsequent years Ms Bishop had pleaded that she was simply acting on her client's instructions and the advice of barristers when she sought to delay justice to dying men. "She can't shift the blame to her clients," he said. http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/bishops-lawyer-work-a-source-of-shame/story-e6frf7kf-1226525303554?nk=173a6b0078d5216c6726114ea4a890e4 [b] 10. A year in the life of the Abbott Government tough guys [/b] Ross Jones. For a bunch of tough guys – Tony, Mathias, Smokin Joe et al – it hasn't be a very manly year...Lots of puffy chests, but not of the Arnie variety — more your drooping man-boob... https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/a-year-in-the-life-of-the-abbott-tough-guys,7158#.VI1NyhNjeAg.twitter … [b]11. Tony Abbott's Warringah Club doesn't add up [/b] Ross Jones. 14 December 2014 In 2013, the AEC conducted a compliance review of Tony Abbott fundraising body, The Warringah Club, and found the figures didn't add up. https://t.co/4dMFOStnZs [b]12. Tony Abbott Asks Housewives Of Australia To Help Him Iron Out Sexism Issues Within Government[/b] “What I’m asking the ladies of Australia to do, is to devote just a few minutes over the weekend – in between cooking the nightly meal and doing the dishes – to help me straighten these sexism problems out”. http://www.theshovel.com.au/2014/12/12/tony-abbott-asks-housewives-to-iron-out-sexism-issues/ … [b]13. For Peta Credlin, the gender card has been dealt again Anne Summers. December 13, 2014 [/b] It is hard for Liberals to admit to this sort of thing given how they excoriated Julia Gillard for supposedly "playing the gender card" whenever she pointed out the sexism or misogyny that was directed at her. Yet this past week has shown that Liberal women, like women everywhere, are subject to gender stereotyping. Credlin and Julie Bishop disagreeing has to be a catfight, described by an unnamed government minister as like "two Siamese fighting fish stuck in the same tank". Abbott himself was relentless in mocking Gillard yet he is now singing a different tune. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/for-peta-credlin-the-gender-card-has-been-dealt-again-20141212-125bsc.html [b]14. Julie Bishop rebukes Coalition MPs for Peta Credlin complaints [/b] Shalailah Medhora. 14 December 2014 Foreign minister downplays ructions within the government as Liberal MP Warren Entsch lodges an official complaint against Tony Abbott over sexism comments...Launching an extraordinary attack on the PM and Peta Credlin, Warren Entsch accuses Abbott of undermining cabinet ministers and warns him to ‘be very careful’ http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/dec/14/liberal-mp-lodges-complaint-against-tony-abbott-over-sexism-comments?CMP=share_btn_tw [b]15. Some barnacles can’t be removed in time for Christmas [/b] Michelle Grattan. 15 December 2014. As the political year grinds to its end, the Prime Minister’s Office is under almost as much attack as that of Kevin Rudd in 2010, and the Treasurer has a budget update heading in the wrong direction. http://theconversation.com/some-barnacles-cant-be-removed-in-time-for-christmas-35475 16. That was then...this is now Kaye Lee 13 December, 2014 In 2011 Joe Hockey said “No qualifications, all the excuses that Wayne Swan talks about – falling commodity prices, a high Australian dollar, nominal growth not being up to standard. Somehow the GFC is ongoing all the time. So yes, we are upset about this … they think the Australian people over summer will forget the solemn promises.” http://theaimn.com/now/ 17. 2015, Abbott’s ‘Annus Horribilus’ John Kelly If Labor had 'lost its way' under Kevin Rudd, as Julia Gillard stated in parliament the day she became prime minister, then what can we say of the Liberals under Tony Abbott, today? http://theaimn.com/2015-abbotts-annus-horribilus/ [b]18. Toasting John Faulkner[/b] Bob Ellis 166 12 Dec Long serving ALP stalwart Senator John Faulkner has announced his retirement... He was a fine Party historian. He was right about Party reform. But he was wrong when it really counted, supporting duds and undermining heroes. He cost us a Beazley prime ministership, his vote alone. https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/bob-ellis-toasting-john-faulkner,7183

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15/12/2014Casablanca I've just now finished reading your informative links. Thank you again for distilling this list for us. Among the articles it's hard to discern any rays of joy for Abbott and his government. After continually berating the Rudd/Gillard governments as the most incompetent in Australian political history, Abbott has managed to surpass both of them by a large margin (he always likes winning!). Not only has he shown gross incompetence in the management of government business, the legislature, and the Australian economy, he has managed to have a PMO more dysfunctional than Rudd ever had, and a backbench more vocal in criticism of it than Labor had. His 'annus horribilis' is set to spill over into 2015.

Ad astra

15/12/2014Folks If in his MYEFO statement today Hockey had intended to persuade the electorate that the Coalition had has a good year and that 2015 would be even better, his body language and his facial expressions said the opposite. He will convince nobody, not just because his words were facile and fictional, but because his nonverbal signals were so powerful that they overwhelmed his words. He and the Abbott government are lost. Nobody will believe Hockey even if they do listen, which is improbable. This 'adult' government, which still loudly boasts expertise in economic management, has been shown to be both incompetent and hollow, and full of blather.

Ken

15/12/2014The collapse in government revenue (mainly from taxes) is amazing. For 2014-15 the prediction in the last Swan budget was $401 billion: that was reduced to $390 billion in the PEFO before the election; to $386 billion in Hockey's budget; and now it is down to $379 billion. And in the details of the MYEFO today it explains that company tax has slumped and even personal income tax is down $2.3 billion for 2014-15 ($8.6 billion over the forward estimates) owing to increasing unemployment but also [u]slower wages growth[/u]. Anyone for middle-out economics. Why don't conservative governments realise that higher wages actually add to government revenue through higher taxes. Instead they insist that wages shold be lower!!

2353

15/12/2014DMW - or . . . Which witch has the right switch for Ipswich? Ken - There is a decent argument here demonstrating that there is indeed something 'magical' about the wealth and power enjoyed by some. Well done.

2353`

16/12/2014In this mornings Fairfax Media. The public knew how to react to the siege in Sydney yesterday - pity the media and politicians didn't. http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/martin-place-cafe-siege-overreaction-from-fear-is-a-measure-of-a-terrorists-success-20141215-127rih.html Effectively these people are just criminals in a similar fashion to Martin Bryant et al - don't give them the publicity. The NSW Agencies managed the situation well from what I have seen.

Patriciawa

16/12/2014Ad astra, your comments are always appreciated, but I particularly second your latest compliments to Casablanca. I didn't think I'd manage my daily web intake without Lyn and her Links - to whom, Seasons Greetings, by the way, wherever you are! But Casablanca is doing a splendid job now, isn't she? Many thanks, especially for yesterday's list.

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16/12/2014Hi Patriciawa How good to see you again on [i]TPS[/i]. You are right. Casablanca is a essential part of this website. She enriches our life day after day.

Casablanca

17/12/2014 [b]1. Voters don't expect Abbott to make the distance[/b] Peter Lewis and Jackie Woods Australian politics has come to be defined by volatility and cynicism. Case in point: half of Australian voters think it's unlikely that Tony Abbott will still be Prime Minister at the next election http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-16/lewis-and-woods-voters-dont-expect-abbott-to-make-the-distance/5971048 [b]2. Hockey backflips on tax laws to target multinational profit shifters[/b] Heath Aston. December 17, 2014 - 12:15AM John Passant, an outspoken tax expert from the Australian National University, recently wrote about the government's decision not to abolish section 25-90 deductions. "It is unfortunate in the extreme that the Treasurer and Treasury have listened to a group of rent seekers being unjustly rewarded by not repealing section 25-90. But since this is a government of the 1% that is not surprising and we can conclude in fact that Hockey's bluster about addressing tax avoidance by his rich mates is just that – complete and utter bluster," he wrote. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/hockey-backflips-on-tax-laws-to-target-multinational-profit-shifters-20141216-128ebg.html [b]3. OECD slams Australian budget measures, 'close monitoring' required[/b] Peter Martin, Nassim Khadem. December 17, 2014 - 7:16AM The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has taken aim at a raft of Australian budget measures, describing one as potentially unsustainable and another as requiring close monitoring. It has also urged Australia to shake up superannuation tax concessions and to lift sharply the goods and services tax to cut income tax. The Paris-based organisation's biennial review of Australia found the balance of risks facing the Australian economy contained more substantial downside than upside. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/business/the-economy/oecd-slams-australian-budget-measures-close-monitoring-required-20141216-1285ip.html [b]4. What Treasury thinks, the OECD often says[/b] Peter Martin. December 17, 2014 - 4:01AM Does the OECD know what it's talking about? You bet. It might be a committee of Paris-based outsiders, but it works out what to say by talking to Australian bureaucrats. Officials from the Treasury, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Reserve Bank allow it to say in public what they are only allowed to whisper in private. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/what-treasury-thinks-the-oecd-often-says-20141216-128es0.html [b]5. Hockey and Cormann Blindsided [/b] John Kelly. December 16, 2014 In May 2013, Wayne Swan estimated revenues for the 2014-15 financial year of $401 billion; this was two years in advance. In May 2014, Joe Hockey projected revenues of $385 billion for the same period one year in advance. Just six months later, in December 2014, Hockey downgraded his original estimate to $374 billion. On this revised figure, Wayne Swan’s projection was out by about 7%, while Hockey’s was out by 3%. While both men were taking advice from the same people within the Treasury department, each had their own input and their own ideological preferences. So whose projection was the more accurate? Taking the time factor and more recent information available to Hockey into account, Wayne Swan was more accurate. http://theaimn.com/hockey-cormann-blindsided/ [b]6. What else happened yesterday? [/b] Michael Taylor December 16, 2014 While we were all mesmerised by the tragic and horrific events unfolding in yesterdays siege at the Lindt cafe, Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann quietly slipped in to deliver the midyear budget update. It was also horrific, but in a different sense. Horrific in that 16,500 people will lose their jobs due to the government’s savage cuts (in their vain attempt to deliver a surplus that they never will), and for the raft of essential services that will be scrapped. http://theaimn.com/else-happened-yesterday/ [b]7. Tony Abbott: Faking it but not making it[/b] Lyn Bender. 16 December 2014, 5:00pm Through tragedy incompetence and political disaster, fake it till you make it is the Abbott Government’s signature mode — they are just not doing the [...] https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/tony-abbott-faking-it-but-not-making-it,7197 [b]8. MYEFO ... and Tony and Joe's favourite lie[/b] Rodney E. Lever. 16 December 2014, 12:30pm Like a mantra, Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey keep telling their favorite lie: that the Labor Party left a dirty big black hole in Australia's finances, writes [...] https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/myefo-and-tony-and-joes-favourite-lie,7196 [b]9. Why the federal budget is not like a household budget[/b] Warwick Smith, University of Melbourne 17 December 2014 Treasurer Joe Hockey is experiencing difficult times. Deteriorating terms of trade and an uncooperative senate mean that he cannot deliver the surplus when he said he would and he cannot continue to cut government expenditure without risking a recession. I have some comforting news for Joe Hockey: the importance of the whole deficit/surplus thing has been greatly exaggerated – with a lot of help from Joe himself of course. The focus on deficits and surpluses distracts us from what’s really important in the macro economy. http://theconversation.com/why-the-federal-budget-is-not-like-a-household-budget-35498

2353`

17/12/2014Ross Gittens nails it. There is more to do than have ever repeating conversations about budget balancing and new taxes. http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/has-the-lucky-country-lost-its-ardour-and-ambition-20141216-12828s.html

TalkTurkey

17/12/2014Greetings Faithful Comrades, I feel really guilty contributing so rarely to this site lately, especially since Ad astra himself, my personal sage since first I found TPS, has never wavered in his own contributions. And Casablanca too - What a trouper you are. It isn't that I haven't things to say. I seethe from moment to moment with issues that threaten my old heart, I really mean that. So many outrages this maniacal Government is perpetrating on a daily basis! TOO many for me to write about! Ones I've never even written about. Abborrrtt's cosying up to Ukraine, whose Government is profoundly crooked it seems. Abborrrtt's siding with Canada's crooked Government. Abborrrtt's & Julie Bishop's disingenuous opposition to Maggot Rudd's & *J*U*L*I*A*s successful efforts to secure our now-expired UN seat, and the G20 here - followed by their peacockish strutting on the world stage when they inherited it as loot, to make Australia reviled and ridiculed as international buffoons and bigots. Abborrrttians killing manufacturing industry, bye-bye vehicle building, Tata SA Submarines contract. Killing FTTH Broadband plan. Killing Gonski. Emasculating the ABC! Abborrrtt prepared to pay more for school religious morons than he saves by cutting CSIRO! "Saving?" What sort of saving is it when he is destroying the very kind of Australia MOST of us want - even most of those fools who were fooled by Traitor Murdoch into betraying us all into the hands of these creeps. See I could go right on. But my Black Dog has me by the ear a good bit, it's true, because, damn, I can't DO anything about them. Our next "shot in the locker" is still 2 years away - and we are still on a lamentably low majority vote, we should be in the SIXTY % range AT LEAST given Abborrrrtt's legion offences against our way of life. I feel paralysed by that multitude of outrages, as Abborrrtt is plainly acutely aware, and indeed counting on for his successful putsch against Progressives. This state of mind is not conducive to meditative posts, it's easier for me to screech nasty comments on Twitter as things stand. I preen myself a little on my abusing ability, I've had lots of practice honing that skill in the last few years, thanks to Murdoch's evil empire, Abborrrtt's reign of terror, and Big Business Bigotry. As for witches Ken, I'm not quite sure ... I studied Anthropology for a year myself once and wrote a skin-deep paper on Magic in primitive societies. I wouldn't want anyone to read it today because I knew even less about those societies then than I do now, and even that is still shamefully little. I do know though that we have a real live Wicked Witch who sits above her subjects on her exalted throne, with the power to banish to outer darkness anyone who offends her in any way (or her pet Poodle ftm.) And that particular Witch I badly want dethroned.

TalkTurkey

18/12/2014Comrades This is a weird sort of post with little to do with politics exactly. You don't got to read it. Most of it I wrote on 23/11/14 or just after, some of it is me making excuses for not writing and bellyaching generally. (I did a lot of that yesterday at Post 14 too.) But since then Dan Andrews has wiped Napthaline all over Victoria, and most gleefully for Crowies, here in SA Nat Cook has taken Fisher -[By NINE(9)votes!]- when Labor was supposed to be THIRD runner, with either the Lib or the Indy winning on OUR prefs. HA! Well Done Nat. All that in the last 3 weeks. And Abborrrrtt looking rooted and Hockey looking snottier than ever and the lovely standoff between Ogre-Face Credlin v Death-Stare Bishop, and the result looking a bit good in The Polls, all help to raise a little beam of hope that general sanity born of Abborrrt-hate-fired new awareness may yet be forged from the madness that prevails at the moment. So what I wrote 3 weeks ago but never sent is a bit like Thousand Year Eggs! So much happens in such a short time these days, though it is painfully true that the more things change the more they stay the same. Anyway the bellyaching bit's in the first part of this big post. Read it if it appeals to you. The middle part, about my LOST friend Seth, and my other friend Kelly (female), both separately in Hawaii, still pertains. The story is a serious part of why I've been so down lately ... It's worth reading as a Real Life Mystery,almost like a far-fetched Soapie theme. Anyway it all starts here. Greetings Comrades! (23/11/14) This is the longest I've been without writing anything on TPS for over 4 years*. [i]*Since [u]exceeded![/u] - Shame job.[/i] A combo of excuses: One, I've been on Dial-up for nearly a fortnight until today, (mobile Broadband I get 8 gigs/month, run out most months.)Sucks the enthusiasm out of me!* [i]* BACK on Dial-up again 17/12/14 URGH![/i] Two, the 'flu that J**** & I had in July has left us both feeling chronically lassitudinous: we run out of energy like the non-Duracell Bunny but worse! We will make sure to get jabs in future. Three, the political landscape has been so dreary, and I'm so weary of the incessant sycophancy of the MSM suckholing the LNP, that it feels like headbashing against a brick wall. For the moment at least. Abborrrrtt is hellbent on destruction of everything that was decent about our society, and encouraging everything indecent, including Australia's reputation, so skyhigh after Labor's handling of the GFS. I spend hours on Twitter yelling abuse at the LNP the ABC the AFP the IPA the MSM and many many more ... But Napthine's very hopeful that he will be rolled,* Abborrrtt is at last thoroughly toxic, and the Senate is getting to be a bit more fun due to JaLa, so my Black Dog is letting up a bit on me. * He succeeded! :~) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ But the strangest aspect of my life atm, and one that is taking a lot of my attention, is that my friend Seth Bareiss in Hawaii has gone MISSING! Seth is a skilled artist who in particular creates Escher-type animalesque tessellations - as do I, which is how we come to be in frequent communication (usually). He owns the most-visited tessellation website in the world, www.tessellations.org ,* an educational site on which he has graciously featured some of my own designs. Some he has co-operated with me in turning them from flat 2D designs into 3D ones. We've communicated very frequently for over a decade. [i]*Since then his website has lapsed through non-payment, and we his friends have paid to get it up again ... [/i] He's done lots of things: born in mainland USA, he's in his early 50s. He's travelled widely, scuba-dived over 2000 dives including extensively on our Great Barrier Reef, and has written guides on the subject. He speaks fluent German Thai and Japanese, and he lived for many years in Asia too. He's pretty computer-savvy too, especially around graphics programs. But he's chronically very unwell. He has serious spinal injuries from several motorbike accidents, the last three years ago in Thailand being the worst: already injured, he fell off the back of a motorbike ridden by a friend. He has a seriously enlarged heart which is a big worry. He's not paraplegic but his legs are too weak to walk so he is wheelchair-bound. He was sort of marooned in Thailand for years: I offered to pay his fare anywhere in the world if he had a job to go to, which was his aim, but he hoped for Japan because he thought the health and social systems are better there than in the USA. In the end, I didn't need to: he was somehow able to get funding for a trip back to the States - not the mainland, but the Hawaiian island of Oahu (on which is Honolulu.) And we thought he'd landed on his wheels at last. As did he think too. But he has been in Hawaii for around 18 months, and things didn't get better for him after all. His health has deteriorated further, and to cap it off he was recently diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. He's been unable to find suitable accommodation, and has had to move several times. He's been quite desperate about that, and it was all still unresolved last time I heard anything from him, more than 2 months ago. Poor Seth. Since then I've written to Seth several times, and tried to Skype him and to ring him. No result. I began to get concerned so I started contacting the people who know him. He has no kids, but he has a half sister in Florida who's a Social Worker and a brother somewhere who's an accountant. The brother we can't find at all, and the half-sister's phone rings but only ever gives recorded messages which steadfastly never get responded to. She has no email address on own her site either. Last heard from, in mid-September, he was collaborating with a man named Ben in mainland USA to do some art work. It remains unfinished. None of his associates has heard from him since. He has not touched his website, which usually he is on every day. Two other close friends (well close, I mean they are in the USA but they're both academics into tessellations too, and we all write to each other) have not heard from him in this time either. By now we're all very concerned. Now here's a kicker in this story. More than forty years ago, I befriended an Alaskan family who had come to set up a family commune near Angaston, in the Barossa Valley. A couple with four daughters, aged 18 down to 11. I became firm friends with the family, they had a lovely huge kitchen garden to feed many (the bloke was both capable and very savvy, he ran the local hardware store during working hours & knew just what to do. I used to drive up there on weekends, to help.) But something happened and it all went to pot. Some of the family returned to the States. But the third daughter, then 16, Kelly, (whom I really liked best of all the family), chose to stay in Western Australia for a few years, then left Oz and I lost track of her. ...Until 5 years ago! - I received an email Are you my Bruce? The Bruce that taught me the magic of Gum Trees, and introduced me to mangoes? That knocked me out I must admit. And it makes me proud of my friendship with her that after a very rough and unfair patch in Australia, Kelly is now Head Nurse at the main hospital in Hilo, the main populat ion centre on the Big Island (which [i]is[/i] Hawaii, as opposed to the other islands - Capital Honolulu is on the much smaller island of Oahu, where Seth was last heard of. Funny, the population of the "Big Island" is only about 100,000, while tiny Oahu has over a million. Anyway, since then we have stayed in touch, and you may see how our destinies now have taken a weird entwinement ... because there's Kelly - an insider wrt the medical profession in Hawaii - who, since Seth went to Oahu, I always thought might likely run across each other, given Seth's condition and the small size of (the overall) population of Hawaii.* *That's where I left it unfinished 3 weeks ago. It's still unfinished. We have tried every way we can think of to find Seth but nobody we can access knows anything. And the Authorities are tighter closed than you-know-what. Seth remains missing, and it's nearly making me cry. Thinking by now he is probably dead, and that nobody even knows about it. We got one possiblelead this moring (18/12/14) - The brother might yet be found but we don't know yet. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ And I wrote then - did I send it at the time? Anyway it stands. Casablanca Yes You are have a fine sense of the relevant and your posts point to the nub of each new subject. It's still a strange land, the 24-hour cycle, and you are helping us to navigate, us of the Fightin' 5th Estate. But by the Living Dog it's worth the battle to save SM's independence, even if there's blood. Even if there's blood! Rather than be forever bummed by PiG~THiNG Abborrrrtt, yes. I genuinely fear this *man*. And Comrade Casablanca, if it comes to that, I want such as you in my trench. Whatever form that might take. And Ken said, [i]It is ironic that in Australia, with its egalitarian and 'fair go' traditions, the selfish view has predominated among the wealthiest.[/i] That is the sad story of humanity. I was going to wax philosophical but I'm now being talked to by Jason Obelix. So that's that. Sunday a week ago I bet him a pint (Coopers Sparkly Ale) that within a week Jacqui Lambie would resign from the PUP. I knew I might miss in timing, but I was about certain that she'd do it sooner or later. So I made a further bet with hi, that she would resign from PUP before the next election - which for Senators, failing a double dissolution, won't be for five-and-a-half years! (So I could have had Jason in a beer-lather of anxiety for all that time you see. Devilish!) As it was I lost the 1-week-bet but only by about 10 hours, ha ha ha, Jason Obelix is shattered I'm sure. :) He owes me one too now. Somebody talking about Palmer's "STACK OF CASH" Maybe shonky and shaky... Stack of cash..?.. Spoonerises nicely ... [i]Stash of Kack! [/i] 1 Twitter Verse: Nothin cd b sweeter than to see Jules fight with Peta in the morning Watchin all the bedlam as JBishop fights with Credlin " " " >2 Watch'em fighting to the death like 2 Fighting Fish Hoping that they both succeed is my Xmas wish Nothin' could be sweeter than to see each other beat her in the mor-or-or-ningg! Respect, Comrades. ~~~~~~~ So my block isn't terminal. And be sure, TPS is forever my ideological home. Those who have gravitated here have done so because in all the Wide Brown land there is no place more sane more thoughtful and more comradely. Ad astra's influence has so permeated the site that it quietly radiates civilization. Master Web Monkey, you sure don't get much attention these days but you are there unseen as always but Thank You so much. And Casabalanca's Cache, I don't always read it all atm I admit, but wait till the approach of the election and that stuff will get smokin'! As long as I can wield a Political Sword myself, I am true to this site. And VENCEREMOS!

Ad astra

18/12/2014TT I was sad to read that your good friend Seth is still missing, and empathise with your sorrow. The uncertainty is unnerving and debilitating. All the while you witness the most incompetent performance in government that we have seen in our lifetime. It is almost as if some warped mind has written a comedy satirising our 'adult' government, one that knows how to manage money, one that knows how to manage our economy, yet wallowing in uncertainty, propelled by ideology, motivated by hostility, submerged in an economic whirlpool that sucks them deeper and deeper into the black vortex, unable to persuade the people that they know what they are doing. They have chosen their course, they have selected their weapons, they being scattered to the four winds, they are lost, beyond hope.

TalkTurkey

20/12/2014Ad astra Thanks for the comment. Still no news of Seth, except that I was able to ring the Coroner's Office in Honolulu a couple of days ago: they have no record of him, so no news from that particular office is at least no bad news. His site, www.tessellations.org, lapsed a few days ago for non-payment, but one of our friends paid the outstanding and has got the site up, but without his username and password we can't update or operate on it. That is as it should be in usual circs of course but these circs aren't usual. Our concern is [i]nearly[/i] all for Seth, but he has worked up some of my own designs to fit on geometrical solids, a big compliment from him, and I don't want to lose that. And we want to maintain its popularity, it has been the most-visited tessellation site in the world hitherto. Now, to the tragicomedy of Australia's Government: (deep shuddering involuntary intake of breath!) ... - because what can one say? Words don't get to the revulsion I feel for these nasty, petty, contemptible creeps. They are everything I have always despised: puffed-up self-serving spawn of privilege, besotted by religion, turd-polished by their toadies who see only their own immediate interests, with no thought at all for the welfare of the vast majority of Australians and the world. You have met these people all your life: at high school, in daily life, in organisations you care about. They are the great spoilers. As a youngster I used to enjoy hunting rabbits with a .22. We would always go to landowners where there were rabbits, and politely ask their permission to hunt there. And by-and-large they were perfectly OK with that, asking permission was all they wanted. But everywhere there were shot-up roadside signs of Kangaroos or Koalas etc, and guess who's responsible, not anyone with decency.(And usually the guns involved were high-powered, .303s or .223s, - .22s hardly mark those yellow signs, don't ask me how I know!) And then some Dead-Eye Dick distinguished himself by shooting the tits off a number of dairy cows on Yorke Peninsula... ... and that about put paid to landowners' being at all tolerant of shooters, even polite ones. So I have always known of the existence - indeed, commonness - of these spoilers. These wanton, nasty, self-interested, irresponsible, sadistic, greedy, thuggish wreckers. And it wasn't as though we weren't warned. As I tweeted a couple of days ago: PJKeating warned us! He said [i]Dog help us all! If ever Abborrrtt comes to power He'll be a wrecking ball![/i] But I never expected - even after Bjelke-Petersen and Howard - to see the very meanest that is in bent-human nature in full charge of this nation. The whole lot of them, supported by the most unbelievable scurry of media cockroaches the world has ever seen. And Australians' gullibility, and our own pettiness and greed too, lets them have their way in perpetuity it seems. AAARGGHH what's the use of talking about it, everybody here knows what I mean anyway. Well at least they aren't having much of a Christmas. Snotty Joe Hockey will never sing Best Day of My Life again. And Abborrrtt is on the skids. Cold comfort but better than none. We'll do these bastards next chance we get. I want people to start DEMANDING the Double Dissolution Abborrrtt promised if he couldn't get key measures through the Senate. The Budget is THE key measure. DOUBLE DISSOLUTION NOW!

Ad astra

20/12/2014Folks I had the great pleasure today of having Julia Gillard personally sign my copy of her book: [i]My Story[/i], and shake my hand. It was well worth the wait in a very long queue. She is charming and friendly. What a pity we don't have her still governing our nation.

Patriciawa

20/12/2014Agreed, Ad Astra! Our Julia is also photogenic! Did you get a picture, as I did, to treasure for all time? http://polliepomes.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/julia-gillard-is-still-standing/ Photo is at the very bottom of post!

Ad astra

21/12/2014Patriciawa No, I didn't get a photo; I felt too reticent! I enjoyed yours, and your pome.
How many oranges do I have if I have 3 oranges and take ONE away?