The politics of giving and taking away. The losers from the weekend’s announcement by Craig Emerson (with his Tertiary Education ministerial hat on) of cuts in university spending will very quickly identify themselves. People you take money away from always do, and the tendency of losers is to punish governments for their actions. Beneficiaries of increased government spending on the other hand, as announced on Sunday by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, are not inclined to reward, especially when they are unaware of the benefits being bestowed.

Which gives real point to the comments that senior Labor backbencher Simon Crean was quoted as making in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald.

Now, I’m a voracious consumer of political media without being a student of all the details of political reports and announcements. And I am definitely in the Crean category of not knowing exactly what the “Gonski reforms” actually mean.

So when it comes to the politics of the weekend’s education announcements I will not be at all surprised if the result is a loss in support for Labor rather than an increase. The losers know. The winners don’t.

An eye to history. I am not privy to  Simon Crean’s motives for his recent actions to undermine Julia Gillard. I can but assume this very honourable Labor man is completely despondent about his party’s chances of winning the next election. As an act of desperation he is trying to get his colleagues to do something — anything — rather than continue down the route to electoral disaster. At the very least, interviews like the one he gave to Fairfax’s Peter Harcher published on Saturday have put on the record that at least he tried.

Another very marginal improvement. A week in China for the Prime Minister but no significant improvement in Labor’s standing.

Freedom of song. To play or not to play? That was the question for BBC Radio One’s weekly chart show based on the week’s best-selling songs. Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead was rocketing up the charts as a cult purchase for Britons less than enamoured with the heritage of the recently departed former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

The great leader’s supporters thought that rigging the downloads to promote the theme song of the antis was in bad taste and the BBC should break its habits of a lifetime and refuse to play the offensive track. The BBC, not wishing of offend either side of the argument, decided to play just five seconds of Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead.

Crikey, a firm believer in freedom of  singing, offers the full original version from the 1939 musical starring Judy Garland with the warning that it contains material that may be offensive to some viewers.

Dog hugging. Paunch, my guest expert for this item, is not at all surprised at the public opinion poll finding that many UK pet owners prefer to hug their animals rather than a close relative when feeling low. Paunch’s only surprise was that only half of the 1124 people quizzed for My Social Petwork said they acted in such a way.

News and views noted along the way.

  • Wagner’s dark shadow: can we separate the man from his works? — “Born 200 years ago, Germany’s most controversial composer’s music is cherished around the world, though it will always be clouded by his anti-Semitism and posthumous association with Adolf Hitler. Richard Wagner’s legacy prompts the question: Can Germans enjoy any part of their history in a carefree way?”
  • Put your shirts back on, ladies: the case against Femen — “Of course regressive ideas need confronting. But change is a long, drawn-out process, and progress takes many steps back before it moves perceptibly forward. Femen, with its crude use of nudity, isn’t helping. The assumption that conversations about Muslim women can only come about if Muslim men look at enough breasts is as stupid as it sounds. Basically, ladies, keep your tits out of my fight. And put your shirts back on.”
  • News is bad for you — and giving up reading it will make you happier — “News is bad for your health. It leads to fear and aggression, and hinders your creativity and ability to think deeply. The solution? Stop consuming it altogether.”
  • How The Economist got it wrong — “A recent news article suggested that climate change may not be as bad as feared. But the report was based on one flawed study and missed a lot of important points.”
  • My time at Lehman — “What I discovered, quite starkly, is that the part of Wall Street that I worked in was simply transferring wealth from the less sophisticated investors, often teachers’ pension funds and factory workers’ retirement accounts, to the more sophisticated investors that call themselves proprietary trading desks and hedge funds.”
  • Annals of the obvious: women way more tired than men
  • Stradivarius trees: Searching for perfect musical wood
  • Letter from Ecuador: toxic legacies in the land of black and yellow gold — “In theory, both the oil and banana industries were supposed to have brought, if not wealth, at least a more stable economy to Ecuador. In truth, what they wrought for the average ecuatoriano was a toxic brew of destitution, disease, and environmental degradation tangled up in hundreds of decades-long lawsuits against the multinational corporate powers that be.”
  • Bottling Oceanic art: A review of Art in Oceania — a new history — “Less portentous general questions as to distinctions between arts and crafts, high and low art, products and performances tend to be laid aside with a courtesy not always to be observed in the real world.”