Banking on the Bank. Labor is clearly relying on the Reserve Bank to be its political saviour. With Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan sticking resolutely to their promise of a budget surplus for the coming financial year there will clearly be plenty of losers. And taking things away from recipients is a sure fire way of becoming unpopular — even more unpopular than now if that’s possible. The government gamble is that the Reserve Bank will mitigate the coming public anger by acting to lower interest rates. It is a politically risk course.

When and how the Bank board acts on official rates is outside the government’s control. Then there are those pesky ordinary banks now prone to putting their own profits before any wider public interest. Overarching all of that is the tendency of people to regard benefits gained from official decisions as being right and proper and not requiring reward by way of votes while benefits lost are a cause for electoral punishment.

I expect that in four or five months time this morning’s Newspoll analysis will look like a Labor highpoint.

Costs of smoking. When the experts calculate the cost of smoking, do they subtract the costs of treating for dementia the people who live longer by giving up? Just a smoker’s thought.

Obamaville. Electioneering in the United States turns really savage in this advertisement from the Republican Rick Santorum.

Quote of the day.

“Never before in political history has more attention apparently been paid to the systematic study of public preferences. The observation, analysis and deconstruction of voters’ opinions are now pseudo-science with a body of theoretical texts and methodology. The operation of focus groups and the design of opinion polling, as well as the interpretation of their results, has become the province of technical wizards who occupy positions of huge influence in every party’s hierarchy … The resources of time and energy devoted to assessing and predicting how the public will react to even the most trivial aspects of a politician’s appearance and manner are the stuff of satire … Indeed, the most common complaint about modern politicians is that they are more inclined to follow public opinion than to trust their own convictions and lead it.

So how on earth have we got here? How did all this quasi-academic analysing and objective monitoring of popular feeling manage to produce the most unloved generation of political leaders in living memory? Could it be that the question contains the answer within itself? That the very business of turning politics into a hyper-sophisticated branch of mass marketing, replete with state-of-the-art techniques for product testing and opinion sampling, has made it repugnant and alienating?”

— Janet Daley writing in The Daily Telegraph

Map of the day. Scandinavia leads the way again. When it comes to metal bands per capita around the world, Finland and Sweden are clearly dominant as this map (pointed to by Ezra Klein’s blog among others) shows:

Some news and views noted along the way.

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Peter Fray
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