The politics of the global economic slowdown:

Joe Boswell writes: Re. “How can centre-left governments fix Main Street?” (Yesterday, item 24). Business Spectator’s Andrew Crook asks a very good question, and sounds realistically gloomy about the centre-left’s ability. The neo-liberal right has crashed and burned, and we are watching the pieces collapse around us. The centre left has lost all credibility because it surrendered unconditionally in the 1990s. It just offers the same thing in a different wrapper.

Crook says the challenge “is to imagine a radically-different regulatory framework with actual meaning for alienated individuals struggling, in a world of tumult, to carve out a viable identity and a cohesive personal narrative. This won’t come from centre-left policy elites — it requires a new breed of social movements to organise around these faultlines and assert their right to economic and cultural autonomy.”

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Well, yes. Already in the UK and US, where not voting is legal, the disillusioned block of non-voters is comparable in size to the voters for any major party. For most people in these countries on ordinary or low salaries, the last 20 years or so have provided little except a plethora of dead-end jobs on minimum wages, while the rich became extremely rich and then richer again. Wealth trickles up, not down. The response of the centre left is to celebrate greed and declare its love for the filthy rich.

If the global economy is now as wrecked as it appears, rather then just hanging on, many ordinary people are going to lose even the little they have: jobs, homes, savings, pensions. The new lumpenproletariat will indeed be drawn to “a new breed of social movement,” just as their grandparents were in Europe in the 1930s.

Ronan Lee and switching teams:

Jim Hart writes: Re.”Ronan Lee: my wallet doesn’t contain photos of a foetus” (yesterday, item 13) & Bernard Keane (yesterday, comments). I really don’t give a toss about Ronan Lee’s personal life, and how many wives, lovers and daughters he may have. Nor what somebody thinks somebody else said about what he might carry in his wallet. On the other hand if I were a Queensland voter I would be interested in his stand on relevant political and social issues, and I would expect Crikey to stick to the stuff.

Dave Kimble writes: So far I haven’t read of anyone in Queensland Greens being uncomfortable with the fact that the leading voice of QG is suddenly someone who only last week was working for the Government! Pardon me for being a shade suspicious, and I could be wrong, but just last week Anna Bligh said the ALP would need Green preferences at the next election. Then suddenly we have one of her people being our lead spokesman. Why wouldn’t he be a Trojan horse, parachuted into the top spot without having to work his way up through his branch and getting their endorsement for his elevation to state-level committees? I wonder which party he would recommend get QG preferences, the LNP perhaps? Hardly. Now don’t tell me that the ALP wouldn’t come up with such a trick just to stay in power.

David Hand writes: Patrick Blackall’s view (yesterday, comments) that Parties reign supreme because our vote is a vote for a Party, shows his lack of understanding one of the strengths of the Westminster System. In this system, the candidate is as important as the party. Just as members can change allegiance mid-term, so can parties — popularly referred to as “broken promises”. Party supremacy is a parade of representatives appointed by the anonymous power brokers in the shadows of party organisations. NSW Labor is a good example of this. This underlines the requirement of voters to look not only at Party policy at election time but also the person on the ballot paper.

Bruce Graham writes: Patrick Blackall thinks “despicable (the) practice of politicians being elected to represent one party only to decide halfway through their term that they will switch camps and represent another view of politics.” The bourgeois individualist delusion must be defeated by progressive collectivism. Support The Party, and The Party will protect you. The Party is the acme of integrity in Australia today. Come to think, I do not understand why we even need more than one political party.

Newspapers are the new vinyl:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Kohler: Newspapers are the new vinyl” (yesterday, item 16). Alan Kohler can only think of two advantages of papers over the Web: portability and ease on the eye. Paradoxically, I think their limited size is another. In contrast to the multitudinous internet, you get a précis of news and views. In contrast to the niche information a website offers, you are confronted by the front-pages and the headlines that someone else thinks are important. You may well disagree with this someone else, but even your reaction is informative and instructive.

The internet on the other hand offers a fool’s paradise, a parallel universe where Janet Albrechtsen (or her avatar) doesn’t exist if you don’t want her to, an electronic Bantustan where you will never learn about the situation of Nepal or the opinions of Alan Kohler. In addition, newspapers largely provide the groundwork of stories for other media: radio, TV, or web-based — even Crikey.

Of course, neither of these points relates to the physicality of papers: a précis could be delivered electronically, like the Crikey email, and a website could employ as much journalists, editors, librarians etc as a newspaper. Except these are exceptions. Any such news service has to compete with inferior sources which vast and — what is economically fatal — free. There are many technologies, like vinyl, that are obsolete. There are many more that are simply fads.

Mark Freeman writes: Alan Kohler’s simile with newspapers and vinyl records doesn’t really stand up. Vinyl is still the medium of choice for most electronic music DJ’s and there is still a substantial industry making these records. Second and more important, the price gouging by music companies when CD’s were introduced delayed their widespread consumer acceptance.

And when CD burners became readily and cheaply available for PC’s, annoyed consumers took to them with a vengeance — in much the same way that cheap high quality blank cassettes and home cassette recorders became the answer to expensive poor quality pre-recorded cassettes in the 70’s. Then came mp3 players and the further ramping up of copyright infringement persecution.

The record companies in all these cases had only their greed, poor quality and contempt for their consumers (and artists) to blame. Mmm — perhaps Alan is onto something after all.

James Tate writes: As a specialist high fidelity retailer of more than twenty five years we have never stopped selling quality turntables and manufacturers of these venerable products all of which originate out of the UK are currently selling their products globally in consistent numbers. Indeed, in my honest opinion, we will see the LP outlive CD if only because they are unable to be replicated unlike their digital counterparts.

This is just one reason (apart from sound quality) that CD will be replaced. Companies such as Linn Products and Rega Research are representative of manufacturers selling product that have been in continual production for well over three decades, in particular Linn’s Sondek LP-12 which when launched in 1972 was and still is regarded as the reference turntable globally.

Bill Henson:

Paul Gilchrist writes: Re. “Bill Henson, the unlikely poster boy for liberalism” (yesterday, item 17). So Bill Henson has been taking photos of young children for more than 20 years. Is he just a slow learner, when will he get it right? I get that the photos are about the uncertainty of puberty, but isn’t it time to move on after 20 years? Andy Warhol painted Campbell soup tins, but he knew when it was time to go on to another subject.


Nigel Brunel writes: Re. “Keen: Rate cut both courageous and a failure” (yesterday, item 5). Inflation isn’t rising — it’s diminishing. What inflation ridden cave are you hiding in?

Barry Goldwater:

Paul Taylor writes: In response to John Taylor (yesterday, comments). Barry Goldwater actually lost 44(+DC) to 6. not 49-1.

That’s my picture!:

SkiMun writes: Re. “QF 72 plunge: Wild ride but nobody died” (yesterday, item 7). There is a picture in Ben Sandilands article which I made and posted here. It would be nice to have been at least asked if not acknowledged for it.

Stones and glass houses:

Chris Pearce writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 9). Crikey notes that Malcolm Turnbull hasn’t been correctly describing himself as leader of the opposition and in the same issue publishes this (yesterday, item 20):

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