Monthly Archives: May 2012

News That’s Fit To Punt – 30/May/2012

Julian Assange Loses Appeal

Here it is, fresh off the press. Julian Assange is going to be extradited to Sweden.

But his lawyer Dinah Rose, QC, asked the UK Supreme Court court for two weeks in which to consider the judgement and possibly to request that proceedings be re-opened as she believed part of the judgement was based on a legal question that had not been raised during the hearing and which she had not had a chance to argue on. She said this related to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

The court gave Mr Assange a stay of 14 days on the extradition order so that Ms Rose could make the application. Mr Assange did not appear in court.
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n a majority decision of five to two, the judges decided that the European Arrest Warrant issued by Sweden asking for Mr Assange’s extradition was legal and should be enforced.

If the court does not allow its proceedings to be re-opened, Mr Assange’s only other legal avenue would be the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. If that court should agree to take his case, he would be allowed to remain in the UK until the hearing.

The scarier thing for Julian Assange of course is the likelihood that he is then swept to the USA where a Grand Jury indictment awaits him.

Mr Assange’s legal advisers are believed to fear that if he goes to Sweden he could then be extradited to the United States, where authorities are considering a range of charges against him over Wikileaks including espionage and conspiracy.

American authorities link him to the case of US Army Private Bradley Manning, who faces court martial over 22 alleged offences, including “aiding the enemy” by leaking classified government documents to Wikileaks.

UA prosecutors reportedly believe that Private Manning dealt directly with Mr Assange and “data-mined” secret databases “guided by Wikileaks list of ‘Most Wanted’ leaks.

Nothing there we don’t already know. Anyway, we should mark the moment where Julian Assange lost his appeal to be extradited to Sweden.

The End Of The SMH As We Know It?

Who’d a thunk the Kiwis were scabs?

Fairfax staff walked out at 5.30pm.

The move came as hundreds of journalists from publishers Fairfax and News Limited met with union officials at stopwork meetings today over ongoing concerns about jobs in the industry.

Fairfax plans to move the mostly sub-editing jobs from newspapers in Newcastle and Wollongong to Fairfax Editorial Services in New Zealand.

At 7pm, the company issued a statement saying it would continue to publish as usual and was disappointed at the decision to strike.

Well, that’s dramatic. Of course it kind of makes sense in the way that all jobs can be out-sourced on some level. If I may, I would  submit that this is a bad decision. The moment you out-source a part of your business, it’s a commitment towards a shorter corporate memory and opening the door to a potential nightmare in prcocess failure. A simple example might be Foxconn who, at arms length from Apple managed to do considerable harm to the Apple brand.

On the other hand, it is entirely reasonable to think that Kiwis can provide the same service as sub-editors in Australia with a much lower cost. If Fairfax thinks these are totally fungible processes, then you can understand how this is happening. Perhaps we as the public should be grateful they didn’t send it to India or the Phillippines like the Telcos do it.

Hypocrisy Truly Knows No Bounds

…or rather, Hypocrisy they name is Abbott.

The government moved to gag the debate and Mr Thomson, who has always voted with Labor since being exiled a month ago, instead joined the other crossbenchers who, on principle, never support a gag motion.

The Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, and the manager of opposition business, Christopher Pyne, made for the doors but Mr Abbott was ordered back by the Speaker, Anna Burke, because it was too late to leave. His vote was counted.

Which is totally motivated by this little bit here:

The opposition does not want to ever accept Mr Thomson’s vote, fearing it could create a precedent in which it may have to grant him a pair in case he takes extended leave from the Parliament, thus negating any numerical advantage it would achieve from his absence.

Mr Abbott has also been demanding the government never accept Mr Thomson’s vote, claiming it is tainted.
Sitting in his office while the numbers were being counted,

Mr Abbott told the National Times Labor should refuse to accept Mr Thomson’s vote just as John Howard used to refuse the turncoat senator Mal Colston’s vote by having a Coalition senator abstain.

He said the Coalition would never be trapped into having to grant Mr Thomson a pair.

Kind of self explanatory.

This Craig Thompson affair has been pretty awful for the last 2years. it won’t go away because the Coalition – in their retarded bully minds – think that if they can get Craig Thompson to quit, then there would be a by-election and hey presto, they get that seat and with it the government. What they don’t seem to get is that the destruction of Craig Thompson’s life through trial by media, as engineered by the Coalition, is going so far into questionable territory that it would taint an in-coming Coalition government for a long time. If Tony Abbott is  willing to do all this to an individual to get his way, then how safe can any citizen feel in this country?

It is true that the allegations against Mr. Thompson are pretty vulgar and scandalous (if you have that turn of mind) but so far charges have not been laid. Yet it is also true that Mr. Abbott is trying to turn Parliament into a kangaroo court and the execution room where death by public opinion is the sought means. His position goes from total disapproval of Fair Work Australia because it favours the unions, but a 100% acceptance of its findings against Thompson after a four year inquiry, during which while it was going on, he used the ongoing investigation as an example for how bad Fair Work Australia was.

You can’t make this stuff up.

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‘Young Adult’

Spectacle Of Disorder

There is a weird strain in American culture where popularity is somehow a validation of personal worth. If you stop to think about it rationally, it is clear that there should be no correlation between a persona’s popularity and talent, unless popularity itself is a talent. But being the world’s oldest continuing democracy, we might be missing the point in such analysis because clearly the most popular becomes President.

Nonetheless for those of us who reside outside of America, it strikes us as incredibly strange how so many movies about the rites of passage of youth portray the struggle to disentangle the nexus of popularity and personal worth.

Then, along comes this film.

What’s Good About it

As movies about journeys back to the old neighborhood go, this one has a fresh angle to it. It is told from the point of view of somebody who was the bitchy prom queen who has become somewhat successful in life. The usual trope of this story runs in a way that the protagonist goes back to confront the Prom Queen, but not this time. It’s the disastrous homecoming for the Prom Queen, complete with self-narration disguised as a work in progress of a novel within the story.

Charlize Theron puts in a fearless performance; it’s a performance that is as every bit as fearless as her Oscar-winning effort in ‘Monster’, but in this one she adds an incredible amount of nuance to her character through delicate dissection of her minutiae. It is like a vicious character assassination of somebody but we don’t know who the model is for this splendid character. You won’t forget Charlize Theron’s Mavis Gary any time soon; and in this instance Theron’s penchant for playing miserable people pays off big.

The directing is concise, and the script is mercifully direct and uncomplicated. Theron’s character Mavis is the train wreck, and we watch as she and her stupid plan come apart. We squirm through so many scenes in this film as we witness the horror of this character study. It’s a tour de force.

What’s Bad About It

As comedies go it is nice and black, but sometimes it loses its tone and harks to a more boozy and broad style. They’re not the good moments. The film is much better when it deals with the excruciating minutiae of Mavis’ narcissistic personality disorder.

What’s Interesting About It

This one is one of those rare films where everything about the character in question is deeply fascinating. As a study of narcissistic personality disorder, there might not be a better film. In Mavis, we have a character who has been told how important it is to be beautiful and popular, slowly discover that the complexity of life and the task of finding happiness have nothing to do with these things.

Towards the end of the film, she comes close to having insight about her unhappiness, and her condition, but ultimately she brushes it aside when she gets a re-boot from the community that produced her. The irony is so rich.


The interesting thing about Mavis and her popularity back at school is that even in adulthood, she returns this popularity with contempt. Where this contempt comes from is a bit of a mystery because when we meet Mavis’ parents, it is clear they are well meaning ordinary people. Somewhere along the way, this character learned that what popularity requires in return is contempt. It’s an interesting study of stardom in America, because in this film it is axiomatic that contempt is actually the first weapon of the popular against the populous.

Theron’s Mavis is never gracious, never apologises for her transgressions, and dismisses everybody she encounters with this withering contempt. There is hardly any self reflection as she plows whatever shred of human interaction she finds in the street, back into the cheesy fiction she is ghostwriting. It is a surprise she finds time for Matt, the crippled guy she once worked hard not to notice back at school, but this is perhaps through her character fault of alcoholism.

Of course, the question is why the populace accept this contempt? Or do they simply ignore it? It’s actually one of the stranger things about American society.

Is Beauty Meaningful?

Frank Zappa famously observed: Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. He also observed, rather ironically and wryly, that Beauty is a pair of shoes that makes you wanna die. Mavis spends a lot of time on a weird arc of waking up looking terrible, to dressing up for the occasion to achieve maximum beauty she can muster. The point of the beauty routine of course is to bag her man, but it is abundantly clear that this beauty regimen is way in excess of context.

The whole routine of doing makeup, dating, drinking and then having a one-night-stand encounter does not take her to the place of happiness which validates her. So this prompts her to go on a mission to get back to where she was once happy. Except, the film pretty much spells out that this beauty she works up to does not lead to love nor truth nor wisdom nor happiness.

What good is it then? The answer according to the film seems to be that beauty of in of itself is its own reward, just as truth is truth, love is love, wisdom is wisdom; all independent of one another with no linkages. If Plato were around to watch movies, he’d probably be offended by this one, because the anti-idealism runs pretty hard in this film.

Materialism Is A Salve

Like an ointment we put on a wound, the film makes a case that the only thing we have to go on in this material universe is materialism, but it offers no answers about how that could lead to any kind of emotional fulfillment. The endless array of beauty goods forms a metaphor for the gaping emptiness in the heart of the American Dream. Even success can’t validate Mavis because she wants her success to make her happy. Yet, it gets pointed out to her that she has more things to make her happy. The film is great because it doesn’t back into a maudlin sentimental position; it sticks to its ironic guns and gallows humour with the ridiculous counsel at the end.

Still, the film is totally cognizant of the emptiness at the centre of this maelstrom of materialism. Mavis wants happiness to be something she can hold and handle, like her dog. She wants happiness at her beck and call, even though she cannot even begin to describe what actually makes her happy. She never stops to consider that it is state of mind, and therefore cannot be captured with the seduction of her old boyfriend.

Gen-X, Goes Back

When Mavis goes back to Mercury Minnesota, she is attempting to regress to a previous point in her life where she felt vindicated. There is something deeply disturbing in the way Mavis characterises her mission as a rescue mission to save her beau from a longtime ago, from the confines of a town she despises. Her contempt is not shared by other human beings, and when she discovers this, she is most perturbed. The resulting self-loathing is actually endearing in a strange way.

The film has echoes of other films where the past is traced over with unsure footsteps – half of John Cusack’s film catalogue seems to echo this impulse, but this film is actually an antithesis to such excursions. In many ways it has more in common with the bile of ‘Greenberg’ starring Ben Stiller than say, the slanted irony of ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ or ‘High Fidelity’. This film wants to go beyond the wry irony of remembering the Gen X coming of age. It wants to tear it down and set it alight. It’s brazen, fresh and liberating that way.

I guess we’re getting to the point in history where Gen-X nostalgia is becoming a kind of new stomping ground. What’s interesting is the degree to which self-loathing seems to be a part of the Gen-X Goes Home movies. Compared to the Baby Boomer classics like ‘The Big Chill’ or ‘Peggy Sue Got Married’, the Gen-X movies about going back seem to be about self-loathing at the centre of our being. The past is couched as an impractical hindrance in this film; an obstacle for the soul. it’s a very long way from the affirmation found in ‘The Big Chill’.

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HAP-less In Australia

Household Assistance Package

A few weeks ago I went to a focus group and it turns out it really was the government trying to suss out how to gauge their ads for the Household Assistance Package. I tell you, it was Hilary Hilaroid and the Hilarities; they asked what they thought of various words. When they said ‘packages’, I told them it reminded me of male genitals. After that, they stopped noting my input. I see that somehow they ended up using the word, in spite of my good advice. 🙂

At least they say “Millions of Australians… instead of “Six million Australians…” – That was sensible of them.

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Let’s Re-Live The Nightmare

Shanghai on the eve of World War II has been done in quite a number of films. It’s the big setting in ‘Empire of the Sun‘; the opening sequence in ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’; as well as a more serious and sombre ‘Shanghai Triad‘. As between-the-wars romanticism goes, there’s something very dark and depressing about the whole setup. Gong Li has of course been in both films. Unlike Paris or Berlin between the wars, Shanghai between the wars was decidedly the product of European colonialism, and so the Chinese people get to play parts where they are the oppressed. One imagines it must be a masochistic joy because most instances show how evil the Japanese are in their concession.

I’m not disputing they weren’t – It just seems odd that they don’t want to talk about what else happened in the other concessions, and why there were concessions. In any case, I might be the worst person to be watching this film.

What’s Good About It

Chow Yun-Fat’s long past it, but he’s in it; and I’m a fan. John Cusack looks really past it in this film but he’s in it. Ken Watanabe’s in it and he’s always interesting. Gong Li is long past it too, but she’s in it. The cinematography is moody and noir.The production design is quite good.

Ken Watanabe plays a guy called Captain Tanaka. Pay that.

What’s Bad About It

Nothing that happens in the film is of any real consequence. About halfway into the film, you think John Cusack’s character is potentially uncovering the planned attack on Pearl Harbour, but he’s not. He’s tracking down the opium addicted wife of a Japanese officer. It’s a pretty pissy little pay off for all the elaborate running around of all that shooting, punching, and stabbing.

The film is a bit of a chore to sit through for such small stakes. It doesn’t offer enough fun to be a movie-movie and it doesn’t offer enough to chew upon for it to be an interesting film.

The action is boring, the special effects are dodgy, the dialogue is a bit arch, the characters are a little dull, and all too much like stock characters bumbling around. Nothing fresh, nothing new, nothing interesting.

Plus I’m sick of seeing idiotic Japanese soliders. The soldiers weren’t the dumb ones. It was the staff officers attached to line officers who were the particularly dumb ones.

What’s Interesting About It

How can they make such a bad movie out of all these good ingredients going in?

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‘The Descendants’

Mother Is Gone

Only last week I finished watching ‘I Am Mita, Your Housekeeper’ and the identical theme pops up on screen in the guise of this movie. In this film, mother suffers a great head injury off screen and ends up in a coma, and awaits death. The rest of it is how the family deals with the aftermath amidst some complications that may be unique to Hawaii.

Anyway, spoiler alert on this one, more than usual. The story is so internal, it’s hard to discuss it without talking about the plotting.

What’s Good About It

The characters are really strong in this script and so there’ a feeling that the actors just have to lean on the words in the script. As American as it is, there is a strange exotica thanks to the story being set in Hawaii, which is oddly evocative in a way that many films about less filmed locations of other parts of America might not be. What it evokes is the constant whiff of other people having a whale of a good time on holidays while the locals toil away with their daily lives in their shadow.

With the constant threat (if you will) of leisure and entertainment lurking everywhere, there is a sense in these characters that they have to fight this vibe all the time.

What’s Bad About It

Some of the settlements in the film are a little too pat. You expect there to be even more fracas but the film closes rather gently. There were more conflicts that could have been brought to bear given the setup. It’s a shame because it seemed really fertile, and in some ways it pales in comparison to what goes on in ‘I Am Mita, Your Housekeeper’.

What’s Interesting About It

The most interesting aspect of the film might be how it grasps at how ephemeral things are. Youth, beauty, love, yearning, all these things get shown as grasping at the ephemeral nature of existence. If a film like ‘Greenberg’ struggles against it, this film actually embraces this grasping as a part of life. It’s not entirely clear why this family is falling apart except it is the mother who let the family drift from her – She let go.

As the film progresses we find that the outwardly expressed angst reflects a deep sense of loyalty and heartfelt pain of betrayal. The elder daughter who starts off looking like the teenager from hell  turns out to be the most loyal family member who stands tall by her father. Her friend Sid, who looks like a casual dufus turns out to have insight into the pain of loss and grieving, and even he brings meaning to a family that is left fractured by the mother’s affair.

The process of picking up the pieces leads to a confrontation of sorts, but there is no deeper meaning to be gleaned.

Evil Father-In-Laws

Robert Forster plays a hard-ass father-in-law who scolds and berates George Clooney’s Matt. He blames the accident in a roundabout non-logic way, on Matt which is not only totally unfair, but misses the essential point that his daughter lacked the important virtue of loyalty in her marriage. This echoes greatly with the ranting father-in-law from ‘I Am Mita, Your Housekeeper’. It seems an inevitable plot-point from the plot device of a mother passing away leaving a family in the lurch, but both these father-in-laws go hard at accusing their sons in laws.

Where this film differs greatly from the Japanese TV drama series is that Matt is dedicated to his family and extended family, to a superhuman degree. We see him holding responsibility not only for his immediate family but for an extended tribe of people who want to sell a large parcel of land. Everybody wants input into the decision, and everybody wants to know what he’s going to do. It turns out he wants to do what is best for the land, because he alone can see that the land and the extended family are part of the same loop. One cannot be without the other. If he sells the land and everybody cashes out, the extended family will disappear as well.

In that light, the irony is deeper when the father-in-law tells Matt what a bad son-in-law he has been. It’s anything but the truth.

The Absent Mother

The other curious mirror is of course how the oedipal story plays out in the absence of mother. As sure as day light, Matt fixates upon the man with whom his wife had an affair. He cannot tear himself away from the mission, because he is moved to find this man and metaphorically kill him. As a result of this adventure, he ends up being closer to his daughters, who are able to be closer to him without the mother.

It’s all very Freudian, but the film makes sense. One of the best scenes in the film is when Matt confronts his friends to get information out of them about his wife’s lover. Matt is rightfully angry, and he will not be deterred by politically correct discourse – he demands the truth. But the truth only comes to him from the man because the man understand the Freudian mission.

I suspect the film is emotionally satisfying because it plays beautifully to such mechanisms in our psyche.

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News That’s Fit To Punt – 10/May/2012

The Greek Situation

The elections held last weekend in France and Greece tell us a lot where things are going. Where they’re going is not to a better place but to more chaos and turmoil. The French have kicled Nicolas Sarkozy out of office, and installed a Socialist President who will wind back on the austerity and aim for growth. The Greeks have not only hung their parliament, they have sent in extremist parties who promise to junk the deal made by the previous government.

What nobody is saying is how magically this growth is going to manifest for France and at the same time cut back on France’s deficits, let alone how the Greeks are even going to be able to form any kind of government to deal with the impending drying up of funds.

One sympathises with the ordinary Greek voter – sold down the river by their politicians years ago, they now have nobody to turn to but the extreme fringe. This is kind of how the Nazis got a foothold in the Weimar Republic back in 1933, 4 years out from the crash of 1929. Not that the Greeks are about to re-arm and invade the rest of Europe, but we can see the rise of the extreme parties in Greece as a kind of history repeating. This is how it goes.

In the short term, this is leading to talk of Greece leaving the Euro. The laughable thing is that polls in Greece reveal they don’t want to leave the Euro. So if we’re to get this straight, they don’t want to pay back money they owe, but they want to keep all the benefits from being part of the EU. I can really see that one working….not.

The Budget & The Libs

Wayne Swan brought down a predictably beige budget, claiming a $1.5b surplus. The basic gist of this year’s budget is that a lot of high income earners are going to have their perks cancelled. Tony Abbot predictably jumped up and called it ‘class war‘, which is inflammatory rhetoric, but I don’t know if Tony Abbott knows of any other kind. I don’t normally talk about the budget every year, but I thought it was worth mentioning that along with Joe Hockey’s notion of entitlement, it’s a bit rich of Tony Abbott to call this budget ‘class war’.

There’s a deeper problem with the conservatives even reaching for the term – as their American brethren do – because if there really is a class war, then it means there is a class system operating in our society. Forget the myth of an egalitarian Australia, if Tony Abbott is saying there is class war being waged by the ALP, then that sure as hell means there is a class system in Australia, and that the Liberal Party approves of this class system and would like it to continue undisturbed.

So, without being as inflammatory as Tony Abbott, is this really what he wants us to understand when he uses the term ‘class war’? That Tony Abbott thinks there is a class system in Australia and that it is a good thing and by logical corollary, egalitarianism is not something the Liberal Party support? I tell you, Occam’s razor says the simpler explanation is no, he’s just an idiot.




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‘The Iron Lady’

Through The Eyes Of Lost Marbles

I don’t get the people who hero-worship Margaret Thatcher, I’m afraid. Okay, yes, I’m a leftie but I’m also decidedly not British. It shouldn’t matter to me; nonetheless there is this deep detestation for the Baroness Thatcher, for she is simply alienating. And I don’t blame the people who still want to spit on her name and are waiting for her to die so they can go desecrate her grave. Such deep resentments and hatreds and grudges tell me that with her, the cons far outweighed the pros.

So… what to make of a film about her time in politics?

What’s Good About It

Meryl Streep. It begins and ends with Meryl Streep.

What’s Bad About It

The whole darn film is built around the reminiscence of a Margaret Thatcher who has lost her marbles. The bits where we watch her dawdling about and being an Alzheimer patient are actually pretty boring. her hallucinations of Denis who is dead, are pretty boring and offer very little in terms of information. If you like to know what the world of a alzheimer patient looks like, this film may or may not be your cup of tea.  However, as biopics go, it’s light on information. As a film that’s about a state of a mind in decay, you wonder if it had to be about Margaret Thatcher.

Also, the blending of the historic footage and the drama is badly done. They just don’t match. As a result, all those scenes of bombs and riots are even more tragic today than then.

The tone is pompous, the pace is all over the place, you never feel settled in to the story, and we all know what the story was so there’s really nothing new or exciting in this film. It offers very little insight into Thatcher or her marriage to Denis Thatcher. Oddly enough, we’re not that curious about it, so it doesn’t register as too big a problem; but it is. We don’t exactly know more of her after the film – it is more that we’re reminded of her and her place in history.

I felt very sorry for the Gen-Xers in the UK who grew up with her as their Prime Minister. The 1980s were a major drag.

What’s Interesting About It

People on the right probably think this film is a character assassination of sorts, but as a centre-left kind of guy this film strikes me as Right-ist Hagiography. Even in her best moments, you can’t but think of Margaret Thatcher as this eternal ideological warrior, and it sickens you to the pit of your stomach. She’s not even nice to her family in this film which is neither here nor there – her daughter has denounced the film, but I would too if I were portrayed by Sophie from the Peep Show. Nothing against the actress, but hey, have you watched the Peep Show?

Anyway. It’s probably not a film that’s going to tick too many people’s ideological boxes.

Thatcher As Narcissist

It goes without saying that many of the people who attain great success and high station in life have a very different view of themselves to what we might consider ordinary people. One of the things I’ve grown a distaste for is meeting successful people and getting a whiff of their positive self-regard. In most instances, it comes across as this awful kind of vanity. It’s easy to imagine this positive self-regard is comically out of kilter with Margaret Thatcher, but the problem with the Streep portrayal is that it makes this seem like a virtue.

What gets her to the top, in this movie and in real life was her total rejection of any compromise. And for some reason this allowed her to be the successful Conservative politician that she became – but! and here’s the thing – she’s basically an inflexible, uncompromising extremist. the whole persona as well as career was built on “good enough for me is good enough for you.” She carves out a rhetorical position that feigns empathy, but she just wants it all her way, or it’s the highway.

In some ways, she’s progressive, making a case for a place for women in politics against these conservative men. Yet she didn’t extend this charity to women on the other side of the House – which underscores her own sense of exceptionalism. the progressive idea of women having a place in politics applies to her more than it applies to other women.

Her highest tone rhetoric sounds fine and dandy, but wasn’t she just a big bully and apologist for the ancien regime of the UK? So regardless of her personal story of overcoming sexism in the conservatives to rise to the top, isn’t it futile for Meryl Streep to be sugarcoating one of history’s big bullies?

Austerity, Riots, Smashing Unions

As I was watching the historic footage, it occurred to me that those riots were a result of Thatcher running her own ‘austerity’ program as soon as she came to power. It reminded me an awful lot of Greece, which is undergoing some immense financial difficulties. Still, Thatcher came to power when inflation was running at 18%. If we are to be fair we have to give her her due.

It makes you think you need a kind of Thatcher to smash through one set of vested interests. It’s not as if Tony Blair or Gordon Brown ever turned the tables on the vested interests for the rich end of town. If anything, it reminds us of John Howard and his Work Choices legislation aimed at breaking union power in Australia; which presumably was modeled on Thatcher’s time as Prime Minster because he certainly jumped to it quickly as soon as he got majority in the Senate.

In the context of the post GFC churn of bailouts and austerity measures that constantly seem to need more remedies, Thatcher might have thundered no to the bail outs even if it hurt her own party with her own constituents. It’s hard to imagine her not reaching for the heaviest austerity measures. She would have been far more divisive than David Cameron or Gordon Brown.

North Sea Oil, Not Policy

The big myth of Thatcher and Thatcherism might be that all that cutting and confrontation and shutting down of mines and breaking unions and fighting for a Poll Tax made the UK better through the 1980s, but it’s not really the full story. The greater contributor was the discovery of oil in the North Sea – which was taxed at 90% – that contributed to the coffers of the state, and allowed the UK to come out of its epoch of ‘Stag-flation’. Now there’s a lesson for Julia Gillard right there: Gillard shouldn’t be scared of taxing the miners as hard as she can.

In any case, Margaret Thatcher was the beneficiary of good luck more than most Prime Minsters of the Twentieth century in the UK; but it’s also true that it’s better to be lucky than good sometimes.

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