Archive for April, 2014

Beseeching Rupert Murdoch to keep letting Fox rescue the GOP and other news and views for Wednesday 30 April

April 30th, 2014 Comments off

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An opinion about China to frighten Australians

April 30th, 2014 Comments off

It is only an opinion so let’s hope it’s wrong:

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But then, London’s Financial Times is no tabloid scare monger.

Just another little something to think about when studying all those budget forecasts and projections out into the distant never-never on Tuesday week.

Prasenjit Basu is founder of, an independent economic research firm. His rather frightening conclusion:

In a country that already accounts for half of all capital-intensive production globally, and nearly a fifth of all US imports, the growth of manufacturing will inevitably slow. A thriving service sector could pick up some of the slack. But building more houses and railways is not the way to encourage it.
China’s economy is in an unbalanced state. It can stay that way for some time – but the longer it does, the worse the eventual outcome will be. The industrial sector is already plagued by falling prices. To avert a wider deflationary spiral, the country needs to wean itself off the false cure of perpetual policy stimulus.

The Sydney Daily Tele just confuses me further

April 30th, 2014 Comments off

From page one of the Sydney Daily Telegraph yesterday:

30-04-2014 tuesday

From page one of the Sydney Daily Telegraph today:

30-04-2014 wednesday

Is that clear then?

As I wrote yesterday, don’t ask me. I can’t explain it. I should have stuck to my promise and just turned over the page when I saw a mention of the forthcoming budget and kept patiently waiting for Tuesday week.

Categories: Economic matters Tags:

Obama acting like his mother’s son in foreign policy?

April 30th, 2014 Comments off

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The question posed Tuesday morning on page one of the LA Times clearly puzzles many as, no doubt,  did his response at a press conference in Manila at the end of his latest Asian tour as he answered with a couple of questions of his own:

“Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs? And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?”

Quite by accident I stumbled recently on an article published in the Asian Times online back in January 2010 that perhaps helps explain why Barack Obama is the least belligerent US President at least since Dwight Eisenhower. She had a dream is a review of a book by Obama’s mother S Ann Dunham that a  group of economic and cultural anthropologists, who worked with her for more than 30 years, published after her death from cancer.

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Notes the reviewer Dinesh Sharma:

Caught between the Beat generation and the hippies, Dunham was a product of the radical ideals of the 1960s and raised her children with the same idealism and values, recalled Alice Dewey, professor of anthropology at the University of Hawaii, who was a mentor and friend of Dunham.

When US President Barack Obama accepted the Noble Peace Prize, he fulfilled one of the cherished dreams of his mother to be a peacemaker. “She would be so proud of him right now,” said Alice Dewey as she became tearful. “Ann Dunham was becoming well known in her own right and getting recognized for her development work before she passed away.”

It is these observations by Sharma that suggest the influence the mother might have had on the son:

Her passion for working with the rural poor in Indonesia was founded on her belief in equality, King, and the civil rights movement; her choices in life partners were a reflection of this commitment. Barack Obama literally grew up in the field; when Dunham traveled around the islands of Indonesia and to other cultures both Barack and his sister Maya often accompanied her.

In a recent interview, Dewey bluntly told me that Barack Obama deserved the Nobel Peace Prize for putting an end to the policies that pitted America in a “stupid” death match with other cultures. She said his mother above all was a humanist before she was an anthropologist; not a little Margaret Mead, but perhaps a junior Dorothy Day.

“He learned from her that if you did the right things in the local cultures with everyday people that over time you could a make positive difference in people’s lives,” Dewey said.

Dunham would often work on a dozen or more development projects at a time, ranging from helping women’s literacy development to working with local artisans to secure micro-credits or modest loans. This was long before micro lending to the poor became the hot trend in global economics and probably shortly after Muhammad Yunus, the Noble laureate economist, began his work in Bangladesh.

An Australian art historian and curator at the University of Hawaii, Bronwen Solyom, who also worked in Indonesia with Dunham and provided most of the photographs displayed in the book, suggested that she did not have any particular theory of social and economic justice. She was really interested in people; she was a humanitarian. While she wrote a 1,000-page dissertation on economic anthropology, reformers like Gandhi and King, the archetypes of non-violent social change, inspired her.

After reviewing Dunham’s book and speaking with her circle of friends and colleagues, it dawned on me that the role of the peacemaker, with a heightened ability to deploy soft power as a political tool, is not just an abstract idea or a strategy for President Obama. It seems to be neither a clever gimmick nor a hopefully naive, idealistic and doomed-to-fail policy designed by White House analysts.

This runs deeper; it is in his DNA. Part and parcel of an inheritance that harkens back to his mother’s early socialization, the role of the peacemaker is a product of a transmuted, intergenerational dream of changing the world one village at a time. His mother’s unfinished dreams, albeit tenuously, still bind the elements of Obama’s foreign and domestic policies with his political identity.

Categories: International politics Tags:

Should the devil sell Prada? Retail rejection increases aspiring consumers’ desire for the brand and other news and views for Tuesday 29 April

April 29th, 2014 Comments off
  • Snobby staff can boost luxury retail sales – ‘When it comes to luxury brands, the ruder the sales staff the better the sales, according to new research from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. The forthcoming Journal of Consumer Research study [Should the Devil Sell Prada? Retail Rejection Increases Aspiring Consumers’ Desire for the Brand] reveals that consumers who get the brush-off at a high-end retailer can become more willing to purchase and wear pricey togs.”

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  • A Fundamental Fight – “When Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or death sentence, on Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses, 25 years ago, the novel became more than literature. Talking to Rushdie and those who stood beside him—Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, E. L. Doctorow, and others—Paul Elie assesses the extraordinary impact of a prophetic, provocative book, which turned its author into a hunted man, divided the cultural elite, and presaged a new era.”
  • Populism is a dangerous game for the political class – “Cynicism verging on nihilism is the closest thing modern Britain has to a national ideology. It has become common sense to assume the worst of anyone in public authority. Nigel Farage, Ukip’s leader, profits from this foul zeitgeist, not because he is a manipulative genius but because he is the nearest populist to hand. If it were not him, it would be some other jobbing demagogue with the dumb luck to be here now.”
  • Yahoo announces original TV series – “Yahoo has announced two original TV series that will be shown on its website and mobile app. It makes Yahoo the latest technology firm to join the fast-growing market for digital video content.”
  • Women CEOs ‘more likely to be fired’, says study – “A study of the 2,500 largest public companies by market value found that, over the past 10 years, fewer than three in 10 male chief executives were ousted, while almost two in five female bosses had to quit – a difference of more than 10 percentage points.”
  • Jobs vs. the Environment’: How to Counter This Divisive Big Lie – “We can, and must, create common ground between the labor and climate movements.”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Spinning out of control? Budget scene setting confusion

April 29th, 2014 Comments off

Reading the papers these last few days has left me utterly confused about what to expect in next week’s federal budget. The inspired leaks – at least I presume the stories have some foundation with someone pretending to know telling journalists something – seem to be so contradictory. I mean, what are we to make of a budget deficit that will take many years to be rid off with the thought bubble that there will be tax cuts before the surplus is reached? And what’s all this about higher taxes on the risk so that the pain is shared by all?

Don’t ask me. I can’t explain it. I’ll just turn over the page when I come to a pre-budget piece and wait until Tuesday week.

Categories: Economic matters Tags:

Denmark wins the world’s best restaurant title with Melbourne’s Attica high up the list

April 29th, 2014 Comments off

Goodness knows how you can judge such a contest but for what it is worth the Danish restaurant Noma has regained its title as The S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurant. The judges declared that Noma chef-owner René Redzepi is recognised for his highly original, sometimes visceral version of new Nordic cuisine. Having been on the list for nine years Redzepi won the best restaurant award in 2010, 2011 and 2012 before Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca had its moment of glory last year.

The food of the restored champion is described as striving to reflect the Danish landscape and culture

with signature dishes such as ‘Blackcurrant Berries and Roses’.

Redzepi’s meticulous attention to detail, innovative approach to foraging and experimentation with fermentation – all driven by passion and a relentless curiosity – has once again brought his restaurant to the pinnacle.

Attica in Melbourne takes the title of Best Restaurant in Australasia, sponsored by Acqua

Panna, for the second year running, coming in at No.32.

Led by Ben Shewry, the cuisine is unique, imaginative, innovative and nature-led in its execution. Believing a chef should express himself through his cooking, Shewry takes his own experiences and memories, often from childhood, and portrays them through several dishes on Attica’s tasting menu. The result is a playful yet humble reminder of all that Mother Nature has to offer.

An Australian chef did finish higher up the list with The Ledbury in London’s Notting Hill where chef Brett Graham presides advancing three places to finish tenth.


Sydney’s Quay restaurant was ranked as the world’s 60th best.

How the list is compiled

The list is created from the votes of The Diners Club® World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy,

an influential group of over 900 international leaders in the restaurant industry. The

Academy comprises 26 separate regions around the world, each of which has 36 members,

including a chairperson, and each member can cast seven votes. Of those seven, at least

three votes must recognise restaurants outside of the academy member’s own region.

The panel in each region is made up of food writers and critics, chefs, restaurateurs and

highly regarded ‘gastronomes’. Voters list their choices in order of preference, based on their

best restaurant experiences of the previous 18 months. There is no pre-determined check-list

of criteria.

Categories: Eating Tags:

Looting and pillaging for my ticket clippers collection

April 29th, 2014 Comments off

I stumbled across this on my Facebook page. A kind soul found it on John Pilger’s The War you Don’t See site.

Just had to steal if for my ticket clippers selection.


Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

Murdoch columnist Terry McCrann calls Sydney Daily Telegraph “silly and venal”

April 29th, 2014 Comments off

This morning’s Terry McCrann column in the Daily Terror:


And today’s editorial from the same paper:

2014-04-29_teleeditorialWho said there was no room for diverse opinion at News Corp?


The US campaign ads begin and other news and views for Monday 28 April 2014

April 28th, 2014 Comments off

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Leave him in the sin bin – Abbott should not reinstate Arthur Sinodinos

April 28th, 2014 Comments off

It’s not so much what Arthur Sinodinos told ICAC that he knew. Or even that he proved to have one of the worst memories ever to speak on oath. It is just that the whole business of the New South Wales Liberal Party and its web of influences and fund raising gets worse and worse. Tony Abbott needs to take decisive action to stop the affair smearing himself.

Making the temporary ousting of assistant Treasurer Sinodinos permanent is a necessary step in doing that. If he wants to be kind to an old friend then the perfect excuse is to say that the ICAC enquiries are taking too long and that the needs of economic management mean the post must be filled. So, reluctantly, Arthur has agreed to step down. And quickly.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

Whose ally is Putin in another ridiculous attack by the Oz on the ABC?

April 28th, 2014 Comments off

And just when you thought the attacks by The Oz on the ABC could not get more ridiculous, along comes a Sharri Markson item with the added support of a Nicholson cartoon.


The tyranny of experts and other news and views for Sunday 27 April

April 27th, 2014 Comments off
  • 2014-04-27_tyrannyofexpertsAre tyrants good for your health? – “Easterly argues that when it comes to reducing poverty and advancing development, human rights, freedom, and accountable systems of justice matter far more than plans, programmes, and policies… He also reveals how a century-old unholy alliance of development experts and autocratic leaders has hidden this reality under a heap of optimistic development plans that became costly mistakes in practice. In some cases, development aid has even supported tyrannical regimes that undermined the very development goals the aid was supposed to be for. Easterly’s book is unlikely to be popular with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, Bill Clinton, or Tony Blair, all of whom have championed both the cause of poverty reduction and the policy acumen of such autocrats as China’s Deng Xiaoping and Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi.”
  • Wise Controls on E-Cigarettes


  • The battle for Lord’s cricket ground -“Lord’s got its name simply because the ground was built, 200 years ago exactly, by one Thomas Lord. Before the war the president was indeed usually a viscount at least, and it likes to retain its lordly veneer. But for the past 15 years those with a sharp ear may have been able to detect a faint rumble, like the sound of a train in a tunnel deep underground. And that is exactly what the rumble is about: the ownership of three railway tunnels.”
  • Dancing at the Abyss: What Beirut’s Debutante Ball Says about Lebanon


  • Two degrees – How the world failed on climate change
  • Japan launches first whale hunt since ICJ ban
  • Friends Can Be Dangerous – “… the reason teenagers take more chances when their peers are around is partly because of the impact of peers on the adolescent brain’s sensitivity to rewards. … Perhaps the most intriguing of our studies of peer influences on adolescent behavior is one that we published earlier this year in Developmental Science. In this paper we replicated our earlier studies, but this time using mice rather than humans. We created “peer groups” of mice by raising them in triads composed of animals from three different litters. We then tested whether, if given unfettered access to alcohol, they would drink more when they were with their peers than when they were alone. Mice tested when they were fully grown drank equally in both contexts. But adolescent mice — tested shortly after puberty — drank significantly more in the presence of their peers than when they were by themselves. The propensity for teenagers to do more risky things when they are with their peers — which understandably worries their parents, and which should concern those who supervise teenagers in groups — is not only real; it may be hard-wired.”


Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

The Sydney Tele and the wife of the boss

April 26th, 2014 Comments off

How thoughtful of the Daily Telegraph team this morning to recognise the beauty of the boss’s wife.

2014-04-26_sarahmurdochBut what happened to Lachlan on the male list?

And for a more serious comment on the media have a read of Back to the future – the return of the partisan press


Back to the future – the return of the partisan press

April 25th, 2014 Comments off

An interesting interview on the Quartz website with University of Chicago economics professor Matthew Gentzkow who recently won the John Bates Clark Medal which the American Economic Association bestows on the American economist under the age of 40 who “who is judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.” Quartz described Gentzkow’s work as “an interesting mix of the history and micro-economics of the media world.”

For instance, he’s studied the drivers of political “slant” in American newspapers. (Short version: Political slant tends to play to the views of readers, not owners.) Along with his frequent collaborator and University of Chicago colleague Jesse Shapiro, he’s investigated tendencies among consumers to read only online news sites that square with their own ideological biases. (Short version: They found no evidence that segregation among consumers of online news was becoming more pronounced.) His research has also found that television—and the television news which supplanted politics-heavy newspapers—has helped drive down US voter turnout.

The part of the interview that intrigued me most concerned the return of the partisan press. You’ve looked a lot at the history of American newspapers, he was asked, going back to their roots as ideological party organs in the 19th century, as well as the advent of television, and more recently online news. Is there some sort of grand unified theory or thread running through all that work that you were surprised at?

In some ways, the US media today looks increasingly like the US media of the 19th century. Back in the day we had fiercely competitive, partisan newspapers going after each other, wearing their ideological views on their sleeve … not pulling any punches talking about scandals and using all kinds of inflammatory language. That is very much like what we see if you turn on cable TV or you look at political blogs.

And really the exception, historically, is the period that I grew up in and the period that many people grew up in. We had three broadcast networks and everybody got their news from the same places. People would argue about the political slant of the broadcast networks, [but] they certainly presented themselves as very objective and sort of partisanship-free. That was really the unusual period. When you go back and look at partisan newspapers in the past, things look awfully similar to what we see today.
Categories: American media, Economic matters, Media Tags:

A Gordon’s with a touch of elderflower and other news and views for Friday 25 April

April 25th, 2014 Comments off


  • Gin Craze Returns to London With Small, Domestic Batches – “Craft distillers like Sipsmith, Hendrick’s, and Sacred Spirits — produced in a north London living room — are changing all of that, inspiring even mass-market brands like Diageo Plc (DGE)’s Gordon’s gin to tweak their formulas. The domestic production revival brings the drink full circle from the 1700s, when a rash of homemade brews made it the favorite tipple of the city’s poor and earned it the nickname ‘mother’s ruin’.”
  • Europe braces for first EU-wide vote since 2008 crash – “Europe’s elections are just over a month away. Campaigns have started, but with a whimper. There are few signs, so far, that the European electorate is engaged. For the moment it is a ghost campaign – apart from the struggle for the top jobs in Brussels. Mainstream parties will argue over tax and spending and appeal to their traditional supporters, but in many countries this will be a referendum on the European project.”
  • Climate policy targets revisited – “The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report estimates lower costs of climate change and higher costs of abatement than the Stern Review. However, current UN negotiations focus on stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at even lower levels than recommended by Stern. This column argues that, given realistic estimates of the rate at which people discount the future, the UN’s target is probably too stringent. Moreover, since real-world climate policy is far from the ideal of a uniform carbon price, the costs of emission reduction are likely to be much higher than the IPCC’s estimates.”
  • With New E-Cigarette Rules, FDA Hopes To Tame A ‘Wild, Wild West’ – “The Food and Drug Administration is proposing to expand its regulatory powers to e-cigarettes and other popular products containing nicotine.”
  • Bracing For A Battle, Vermont Passes GMO Labeling Bill
  • Tweet Suits: Social Media And The Law – “Now that folks are posting and tweeting — and retweeting — complaints and grievances around the clock, is every negative experience a possible class action? If someone has a bad experience with a bank or someone gets food poisoning at a restaurant or someone has a problem with a prescribed medicine, he can immediately find others with similar outrages. Are social media making it easier for plaintiffs to band together?”
  • Russia’s tit for tat – “In reaction to the Crimean crisis, the EU imposed certain sanctions on Russia. Russia responded by blacklisting EU and US officials. This column discusses the comparative vulnerability of the EU and Russia amid this tit for tat pattern. In purely economic terms, the EU is in a much better position than Russia. However, political regimes also matter. The autocracy score for Russia dampens the impact that the economic sanctions would have politically. The democratic nature of the European governments would translate the sanctions imposed by Russia into great political pressure for the EU. This makes the Russian tit for tat threat realistic.”

Juanita Phillips and Greg Combet – the Tele sees a point but I can’t

April 25th, 2014 Comments off

25-04-2014 juanitaLast April’s gossip this April is the best I can say for this morning’s offering by the Sydney Daily Telegraph. The story of a retired politician who took his partner on an approved trip when he was a Cabinet minister hardly seems news to me even if the partner was an ABC news reader. Yet the Tele’s headline suggests there was something untoward about Greg Combet and Juanita Phillips doing what other ministerial couples do regularly.

It has taken News Corp attacks on the ABC to a new low point.


Summer Arctic ice coverage well below the average for recent years

April 24th, 2014 Comments off

The seasonal Arctic sea ice melt is well and truly underway and the early indications are that 2014 will be another one with summer ice coverage well below the average for recent years.

The latest figure from the National Snow and Ice Data Center shows the area of ocean with at least 15% sea ice is less (solid purple line) than in what turned out to be the record low year of 2012 (the dotted line).

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The pattern for the whole of the summer period (from which the graph above is taken) is shown below.

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Click on graph to increase to a readable size

Categories: Environment Tags:

Free speech, capital in the 21st century and other news and views for Thursday 24 April

April 24th, 2014 Comments off

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  • Video: Piketty, Krugman, Stiglitz, and Durlauf on ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ – “”The French economist Thomas Piketty discussed his new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century at the Graduate Center. In this landmark work, Piketty argues that the main driver of inequality—the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth—threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values. He calls for political action and policy intervention. Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, and Steven Durlauf participated in a panel moderated by Branko Milanovic.”
  • The Red Line and the Rat Line – Seymour M. Hersh on Obama, Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels
  • John Menadue: This is about more than a bottle of wine – “To mix my metaphors, the bottle of red wine that Barry O’Farrell received is only the tip of an iceberg – a sleezy world of lobbying, influence-peddling and corruption.”
  • Forget Silicon Valley, meet Silicon Bali – “Before I interrupted her, she was busy making tweaks to Mailbird, the 18-month-old company she co-founded, which seeks to streamline the often-clunky Microsoft Windows email system. Already, the eight-person company has attracted thousands of users and glowing attention from trade publications such as TechCrunch. And she isn’t the only tech entrepreneur writing code late into the night here – cybercafe billing firm SmartLaunch and virtual laboratory Labster are also busy working in a place most people go to disconnect.”
  • Free speech from xkcd

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Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

It’s sushi for a President – Barack Obama at Tokyo’s most famous sushi restaurant

April 24th, 2014 Comments off

It has three Michelin stars, only 10 seats and Barack Obama was the guest there yesterday of Japanese Prime Minister Shinto Abe.
And the presidential verdict on Sukiyabashi Jiro? “That’s some good sushi right there,” he said. “It was terrific. Thank you so much.”

David Gelb, who directed a film about Jiro Ono described for US National Public Radio what it’s like to dine at such an iconic place.

For starters, the restaurant is hidden in the basement of an office building and offers only one item on its menu — the omakase course, which can cost between $300 and $400 per person. It consists of 20 pieces of sushi, prepared and served one at a time.
“There are no appetizers, no rolls of any kind,” Gelb says. “It’s purely his style of sushi, which is kind of the classic Tokyo style, which is basically just fish and rice and seasoning, maybe a soy sauce or a nikiri, which is a kind of sweetened soy sauce.”

And if you’re fortunate enough to be one of Ono’s costumers, don’t even think about ordering off the menu — even if you are the president of the United States. “The Jiro that I know would not change his sushi for anyone,” Gelb says, adding that “he just gives you what he feels is the best of the day.”

There are a few clues on the maestro’s website to help us mere mortals improve our own sushi style.

  • Get the temperature right

Sushi rice or vinegared rice (su-meshi or shari) is the first consideration for nigirizushi (literally, hand-formed sushi). And the most important point for shari is to keep its temperature around the human body temperature, otherwise the sushi will never satisfy the customer. Our practice is to cook the rice so that it is done about 30 minutes before we welcome customers, to meet their high expectationsIt takes about 60 minutes from starting to wash the rice until it is done (we only use cast iron gas rice cookers that cook the rice for sushi much better than an electric cooker). The vinegar mixture or dressing prepared for sushi is slowly poured over the cooked rice to blend with it. It is then cooled down to body temperature and placed in a covered wooden rice tub, which is in turn placed in a covered straw container to keep the temperature. The vinegar mixture is absorbed by the rice to make the hardness of each grain of rice perfect for sushi. Now the shari is done.

  •  Choose the rice vinegar carefully

Jiro’s sushi rice or shari is prepared with a slight sourness for a better taste, and we increase the sourness in the height of summer. We use natural salt from salt evaporation pools containing much bittern (or nigari for culinary use in Japanese) to prepare our vinegar mixture for sushi.
Our shari with its mild taste and slight sourness, when topped with neta or sushi toppings, produces an outstanding balance, an exquisite combination of pure flavors between shari and neta, which is very important for sushi.

  • Control the temperature of the toppings

The flavor and taste of neta or sushi toppings, which are typically raw fish, greatly depend on the temperature at which each topping is kept before use. Some toppings must be kept slightly cool; others must be kept at room temperature or around human body temperature.About 20 different toppings are offered at Sukiyabashi Jiro. We very carefully control the temperature of these toppings until immediately before serving to ensure that each topping is served at the ideal temperature.

Categories: Eating, International politics Tags:

Banking on someone else to sleep your bank to the top

April 24th, 2014 Comments off

Ah, the morality of bankers knows no bounds.

News out of China put ever so delicately by the Financial Times:

China Resources, the state-owned conglomerate whose chairman was detained last week by anti-corruption investigators, has allocated many of its investment banking deals over the past five years to institutions employing the chairman’s alleged mistress.

From 2009 until 2012, Credit Suisse was one of the most prominent advisers on acquisitions and capital market activity carried out by China Resources and its numerous subsidiaries, according to data from Dealogic financial services information. This period coincides with the employment of Yang Lijuan, who also goes by the name Helen Yang and who is alleged to have been the mistress of the disgraced China Resources chairman Song Lin.

And, surprise, surprise, when Ms Yang left Credit Suisse for UBS the business stopped for Credit Suisse while UBS became the joint bookrunner on two large bond sales and a key adviser on the two largest public acquisitions ever involving China Resources.

I suppose we could call it banking on someone else to sleep your bank to the top.

Categories: Sexual politics, Ticket clippers Tags:

Rich men and third party politics give a different twist to the Westminster system

April 23rd, 2014 Comments off

Gordon Barton gave us a taste in Australia of rich men flirting with third party politics back in the 1960s with his Liberal Reform Group and opposition to the support of conservative Liberal and National (then Country) parties for the Vietnam war. It transmuted into the Australian Reform Movement and then the Australia Party before he lost interest – or maybe it was his money – although his plaything was kind of resurrected in the the form of the Democrats. And they did use the Senate to have a considerable say in national politics before their disintegration as a party without money and thus influence.

Bob Brown. that deservedly revered founder of the national Greens, understood the importance of men with money too. It was the millions poured into campaigning by the founder of the Wotif online travel website, Graeme Wood, before the federal election of 2010 that saw the Greens emerge as such a dominant force that Labor was forced into a formal governing agreement with them. The absence of an equivalent to that largest donation in Australian political history perhaps explains much of the declining Green vote of 2013 when Queensland’s Clive Palmer was the third party man with the millions of dollars. It was the Palmer United Party that bought enough votes this time to upset the established two-party duopoly.

In Australia the success of rich men sponsoring a third force in politics has owed much to the multi-member nature of our Senate elections although now both the PUP and the Greens have a bum on the green House of Representative benches. Perhaps there are more such third forces to come. The current experience in Great Britain certainly points in that direction with UKIP – the UK Independence Party – coming from nowhere to challenge Conservatives and Labour in the opinion polls with the traditional third party Liberal Democrats languishing well behind in fourth place.

And money is surely playing a part in the UKIP ascendancy. The Financial Times reports this morning that a “reclusive multimillionaire behind the anti-Brussels UK Independence party has vowed there will be “no limit” to his spending in the run-up to next year’s general election.

Paul Sykes, a self-made businessman worth an estimated £400m, said he wanted to counter the tens of millions spent every year by Brussels on promoting the EU. “The British people need the facts,” he said. …

Having quit the Conservatives in the 1990s over Europe, Mr Sykes said he had so far spent about “£1.2m or £1.4m” on a media blitz that includes hundreds of controversial posters attacking the EU. “We haven’t stopped spending yet,” he told the Financial Times. “I’ll spend whatever it takes for the British people to make them aware that power has been transferred from Britain without permission.”

And here’s where the money is going:

23-04-2014 ukip123-04-2014 ukip223-04-2014 ukip323-04-2014 ukip4

It seems like a very powerful message to me – powerful enough to give a different twist to the Westminster two-party system.

Money might not buy you love but it seems to do alright with votes.

Europe calls and UKIP gets my first investment

April 23rd, 2014 Comments off

I have re-posted this from my little political speculator’s blog where I have actually been showing a punting profit!

With just under a month to go until the elections on 22 May for the European Parliament I’m prepared to start taking notice of the opinion polls. And there’s one thing I am getting confident about – the British Conservative Party is in for a right proper drubbing. And another – the Liberal Democrats are wasting their time even fielding candidates.
Here are the latest poll figures as tabulated on the UK Polling Report website:

It really does look like a two party race and, by-and-large, that’s how the market sees it.

At the best prices available you can back all four runners and break square. Leave out the also running Conservatives and Liberal Democrats and you can get the two chances at a glorious 90%! Surely that’s an opportunity too good to miss.
My recommendation is to wager in these proportions – $46 on Labour at the $2.2 from William Hill and $45 at Ladbrokes’ $2.25.By my calculation it’s $10 for nothing and only a month to wait.
You will find details of my outstanding bets and the betting record at The Portfolio – the record so far.

El Niño looking a little more likely

April 23rd, 2014 Comments off

A hotter and drier summer than normal in eastern Australia is looking a little more likely with the Bureau of Meteorology reporting today that the likelihood of El Niño remains high, with all climate models surveyed by the Bureau now indicating El Niño is likely to occur in 2014. Six of the seven models suggest El Niño thresholds may be exceeded as early as July.

23-04-2014 elninooutlookSays BOM:

The Pacific Ocean has been warming along the equator over recent weeks, with continued warming in the central Pacific likely in coming months. Another burst of westerly winds is presently occurring in the western Pacific, and is likely to cause further warming of the sub-surface.

El Niño has an impact across much of the world, including below average rainfall in the western Pacific and Indonesian regions, and increased rainfall in the central and eastern Pacific. For Australia, El Niño is usually associated with below average rainfall, with about two thirds of El Niño events since 1900 resulting in major drought over large areas of Australia.

In Western Australia, where the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is a major influence, the Bureau suggests, but not as strongly as for the eastern states, that lower rainfall than usual may be on the way.

Model outlooks currently suggest the IOD is likely to remain neutral through late autumn and early winter, with two of the five models surveyed suggesting a positive IOD may develop by early spring. Positive IOD events often coincide with El Niño and are typically associated with large parts of southern and central Australia experiencing lower rainfall than usual.

A couple of earlier stories by the Owl this month on El Niño:

An El Nino on the way? A hot year to come for the planet?

El Niño Could Grow Into a Monster


Categories: Environment Tags:

Baptists and bootleggers and other news and views for Wednesday 23 April

April 23rd, 2014 Comments off

23-04-2014 asteroids

  • Asteroid impact risks ‘underappreciated’
  • Earth Day: A Baptists and Bootleggers Story – “Earth Day was first celebrated on April 22, 1970. It is now observed in 192 countries, and is coordinated by the Earth Day Network. Bruce Yandle offers a hard-eyed look at how the original Earth Day affected U.S. environmental legislation in How Earth Day Triggered Environmental Rent Seeking… One of Yandle’s signature insights is the idea of a ‘Baptists-and-bootleggers’ coalition. Who favored prohibition of alcohol sales? Baptists, on moral grounds, and bootleggers, because government prohibition would limit competition and boost their profits. He makes a strong argument that Earth Day led to a similar environmentalists-and-industrialists coalition, in which environmentalists pushed for laws to reduce pollution, and industrialists pushed for anti-pollution laws that would hinder their competition.”
  • Tony Blair: ‘West should focus on radical Islam’ – “Western leaders must ‘elevate the issue of religious extremism to the top of the agenda’. And they must co-operate with other countries – ‘in particular, Russia and China’ – regardless of ‘other differences’.”
  • Human capital and income inequality: Some facts and some puzzles – “Most developing countries have made a great effort to eradicate illiteracy. As a result, the inequality in the distribution of education has been reduced by more than half from 1950 to 2010. However, inequality in the distribution of income has hardly changed. This column presents evidence from a new dataset on human capital inequality. The authors find that increasing returns to education, globalisation, and skill-biased technological change can explain why the fall in human capital inequality has not been sufficient to reduce income inequality.”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Powdered alcohol and other news and views for Tuesday 22 April

April 22nd, 2014 Comments off

News and views noted along the way.

22-04-2014 palcohol122-04-2014 palcohol2

Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Indonesia’s politics of depression

April 14th, 2014 Comments off

The impact of defeat on the mental health of election candidates is not a subject I have ever thought about but perhaps Jeff Kennett’s  Beyond Blue should put it on its ends. At least if the Indonesian experience, a country where the subject has been studied, is any kind of guide.

The Jakarta Post reported this morning that many candidates who failed to secure votes in the recent legislative election have become depressed after reportedly giving everything they had, including personal funds, in their efforts to win votes. Recent reports from across the country have shown that of 6,600 legislative candidates running for seats in the House of Representatives, a handful have fallen into depression, displayed maniacal tendencies, or even resorted to suicide due to the losses they suffered. A tragic report came from Banjar, West Java, where a young mother hanged herself after losing in the legislative election. Local residents found her body in a bamboo hut in Limusnunggal hamlet, Ciamis regency, West Java.


See an earlier story The election voting is over so get the psychiatrists ready

Categories: Elections, International politics Tags:

Court reporting with a difference – Pistorius is lying his head off

April 14th, 2014 Comments off

When there is no jury to prejudice, court reporting can be different. This morning’s South African Cape Argus well illustrates that:


Categories: Media Tags:

CBA under fire at ASIC inquiry

April 10th, 2014 Comments off

This evidence today  is almost too bad to be true but then the witnesses were bankers. From the SMH website:

CBA under fire at ASIC inquiry.

Commonwealth Bank’s top lawyer, David Cohen, was rebuked before a senate inquiry on Thursday morning for downplaying systematic fraud within the bank’s financial services arm as ”inappropriate”.

The word ”inappropriate” was suitable to describe an error of judgment in clothing choice, said Mark Bishop, chairman of the Senate inquiry into the performance of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, but not the fraud and failure within the bank’s wealth management division which culminated in clients losing millions of dollars in savings.

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

Who killed the pygmy elephants?

April 10th, 2014 Comments off

The Owl’s letter to the editor of the week is from the Malaysian Star:


(Click to enlarge)

Categories: Animal welfare Tags:

Global warming scare tactics, the story of the Jews and other news and views for Thursday 10 April

April 10th, 2014 Comments off

10-04-2014 storyofthejews

  • What a Saga! – a review of The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words, 1000 BC–1492 AD by Simon Schama “The present book is by no means a history of the Jews, despite its roughly chronological structure and distinct geographical frames. It is, as its title proclaims, a story, for which mere words barely suffice. What Schama has written demonstrates yet again his prodigious ability to write with fluency and panache, and to structure his work in surprising ways.”
  • Global Warming Scare Tactics – “there is every reason to believe that efforts to raise public concern about climate change by linking it to natural disasters will backfire. More than a decade’s worth of research suggests that fear-based appeals about climate change inspire denial, fatalism and polarization.”
  • Search for Malaysian Jet to Be Costliest in History – “Even if searchers are able to pinpoint wreckage from the plane soon, it would open another costly chapter, involving undersea exploration and possibly the recovery of parts of the plane, bodies and other evidence from depths of nearly three miles.”
  • ‘I Will Tear His Head Off’: How the Italian Mafia Is Infiltrating Germany
  • Obama in Malaysia: A Strategic Partnership? – “During his upcoming late April trip to Asia, President Obama will visit two nations in Southeast Asia, Malaysia and the Philippines, in addition to stops in Northeast Asia. The White House already has been briefing reporters on the overall messaging of the trip… In Malaysia, it appears from several news reports and from speaking with several administration officials, President Obama will add to the Malaysian government’s self-promotion that Kuala Lumpur is a successful and democratic nation, an example of other Muslim-majority countries, and a force for moderation in the world.”
  • Philosophy on Top – “… an independent report by the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute (GDI), a Swiss think tank … recently released a ranked list of the top 100 Global Thought Leaders for 2013. The ranking includes economists, psychologists, authors, political scientists, physicists, anthropologists, information scientists, biologists, entrepreneurs, theologians, physicians, and people from several other disciplines. Yet three of the top five global thinkers are philosophers…”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

The election voting is over so get the psychiatrists ready

April 9th, 2014 Comments off

The voting is over in the Indonesian parliamentary elections and the psychiatrists are preparing for the consequences. According to a recent Jakarta Globe report, hospital staff and psychologists at hospitals across the archipelago are readying themselves and preparing extra beds for a new batch of losing candidates.

“Most of the legislative candidates who will be prone [to depression] are beginners who are not ready to lose,” Fadhilah Masjaya, the director of Atma Husada Hospital in Samarinda, said in the East Kalimantan capital on Thursday. “Some of them probably have spent Rp 1 billion [$88,000] alone — then it’s wasted and they become distressed.”

Fadhilah added that most candidates would not, however, suffer from major depressive symptoms.

“We’ll treat them no different to other patients,” he said.

In Balikpapan, a booming mining city on the East Kalimantan coast, the local health agency has instructed community health clinics, known as Puskesmas, to make the necessary preparations.

“We’ve opened special posts at all Puskesmas; they’re ready to treat legislative candidates who are mildly or heavily depressed,” Balikpapan Health Agency head Dyah Muryani said. “We’ve also prepared [psychiatrists]. Doctors at Puskesmas can refer patients to hospitals or to psychiatrists.”

The newspaper report said that in the aftermath of the 2009 legislative elections, when parties began randomly recruiting legislative candidates to lure voters, the Indonesian media was packed with reports of depressed also-rans admitted to psychiatric wards, suffering public breakdowns and committing suicide. Most of the cases were attributed to losing in the elections after huge spending, which rendered many of the candidates heavily indebted.

To anticipate recurrence, Social Services Minister Salim Segaf Al-Jufri last month called on hospitals across the regions, particularly the mental health hospitals, to allocate special wards to treat such patients.

“We predict that there will be a lot of distressed legislative candidates, especially those who lose, after the elections,” Salim said, according to “Therefore we’ve coordinated with local administrations and hospitals to prepare special wards.”


Categories: Elections, International politics Tags:

El Niño Could Grow Into a Monster

April 9th, 2014 Comments off

The US websites Slate and Mother Jones have used evidence from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology to publicise, as the Owl did earlier this week, the increasing likelihood of an El Niño developing later this year. In a rather more dramatic fashion than the Owl they warn to “expect soaring global food prices, monsoons in India, drought in Indonesia, and bush fires in Australia.”

The author Eric Holthaus writes:

As I wrote last fall, the coming El Niño could be enough to make 2014 the hottest year in recorded history, and 2015 could be even warmer than that. The 1997-98 super El Niño was enough to boost global temperatures by nearly a quarter of a degree Celsius. If that scale of warming happens again, the world could approach a 1ºC departure from pre-industrial times as early as next year. As climate scientist James Hansen has warned, that’s around the highest that temperatures have ever been since human civilization began.

Indeed, even the forecast is already having an effect: An index of global food prices reached a 10-month high in March, blamed in part on shortages an El Niño may exacerbate. Here’s what else we could expect:

  • A severe drought continues to rage in and around Indonesia, which an El Niño would likely worsen.
  • Australia’s ongoing battles with bush fires may be intensified once its dry season resumes later this year.

But perhaps the strangest impact so far has been in India, where monsoon forecasting is at the heart of national politics. The meteorology department there has accused US weather forecasters of “spreading rumors” and colluding to ruin the Indian stock market by forecasting a return of El Niño.

Categories: Environment Tags:

Banks Ordered to Add Capital to Limit Risks

April 9th, 2014 Comments off

Federal regulators on Tuesday approved a simple rule that could do more to rein in Wall Street than most other parts of a sweeping overhaul that has descended on the biggest banks since the financial crisis.

The rule increases to 5 percent, from roughly 3 percent, a threshold called the leverage ratio, which measures the amount of capital that a bank holds against its assets. The requirement — more stringent than that for Wall Street’s rivals in Europe and Asia — could force the eight biggest banks in the United States to find as much as an additional $68 billion to put their operations on firmer financial footing, according to regulators’ estimates.

Faced with that potentially onerous bill, Wall Street titans are expected to pare back some of their riskiest activities, including trading in credit-default swaps, the financial instruments that destabilized the system during the financial crisis.

via Banks Ordered to Add Capital to Limit Risks –

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

An increase in Australian home renters

April 9th, 2014 Comments off

More Australians are renting the home they live in and the cost of doing so increased strongly from 2006 to 2011. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures this week show that the median weekly household rent rose to $285 from $191 in 2006, an increase of 49.2%. Overall, rental costs have increased twice as much as wages; the median weekly household income increased from $1,027 in 2006 to $1,234 in 2011, up 20.2%.

Nearly three in ten Australian households (29.6%) rented their dwelling at the time of the 2011 Census. There was a larger increase in rented homes between 2006 and 2011 compared with homes owned with a mortgage. The proportion of rented homes increased almost two percentage points (from 28.1% in 2006), whereas homes owned with a mortgage increased by less than one percentage point (from 34.1% in 2006 to 34.9% in 2011), and the proportion of households that owned their dwelling outright decreased (from 34.0% in 2006 to 32.1% in 2011).

2014-04-09_ownedbuyingrentedThe ABS figures show that rental costs increased by about ten percentage points more than mortgage repayments. The median monthly mortgage repayment in Australia rose from $1,300 in 2006 to $1,800 in 2011, an increase of 38.5 per cent, while the median weekly rent payment increased by 49.2 per cent.

In 2011, the Northern Territory recorded the highest home rental rate of all states and territories, with nearly half of all homes being rented (49.1%). Tasmania and Victoria had the lowest home rental rates of 26.4% and 26.5% respectively. Home rental rates increased in all states and territories between 2006 and 2011. Queensland had the largest increase from 31.1% in 2006 to 33.2% in 2011, followed by Western Australia from 27.2% in 2006 to 29.2% in 2011. New South Wales had the smallest increase from 29.5% in 2006 to 30.1% in 2011.




An El Nino on the way? A hot year to come for the planet?

April 8th, 2014 Comments off

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology believes it is now likely (estimated at a greater than 70% chance) that an El Niño will develop during the southern hemisphere winter. “Although the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is currently neutral, surface and sub-surface ocean temperatures have warmed considerably in recent weeks, consistent with a state of rapid transition” the Bureau reported this week. “International climate models surveyed by the Bureau indicate continued warming of the central Pacific Ocean in coming months. Most models predict sea surface temperatures will reach El Niño thresholds during the coming winter season.”

8-04-2014 elninomodels

The ENSO Wrap-Up of the current state of the Pacific and Indian Ocean says:

 El Niño is often, but not always, associated with below normal rainfall across large parts of southern and inland eastern Australia during the second half of the year. The strength of an El Niño does not always indicate how much it will influence Australian rainfall. Historically there are examples where weak events have resulted in widespread drought across large parts of Australia, while at other times strong events have resulted in relatively modest impacts. It is too early to determine the strength of this potential El Niño. Daytime temperatures tend to be above normal over southern Australia during El Niño.

8-04-2014 ninoupdate

The BOM report says the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is currently in a neutral state. Model outlooks indicate the IOD will remain neutral through late autumn and early winter. The chance of a positive IOD event occurring will increase if an El Niño develops. Positive IOD events are typically associated with lower than normal winter and spring rainfall over parts of southern and central Australia.

8-04-2014 meaniodAt a world wide level El Ninos are associated with globally warm years.

8-04-2014 tempanoma;lieswithelnino



Categories: Environment Tags:

Solving the corporate tax system – replace corporate income tax entirely and replace it with a direct tax on shareholders

April 8th, 2014 Comments off

Preventing multinationals from shifting reported income to low-tax countries is receiving attention in Australia, along with other countries, as companies like Apple and Google record high sales but low profits by placing patent ownership in a low tax country like Ireland. The OECD has been given the task by the G20 to try and fine a solution that distributes company tax more equitably than at present but it is no easy task. Getting nations to agree on a fair formula for tax would make achievement of agreement on combatting global warming seem easy.

A new paper by Eric Toder of the US Tax Policy Center and Alan Viard of the American Enterprise Institute published this week attempts to provide a way forward with what they call “major surgery” on the corporate tax system. They propose two alternatives: Either build a tax based on a broad international agreement on how to allocate corporate income among countries, or kill the corporate income tax entirely and replace it with a direct tax on shareholders. In such a system, capital gains would be taxed as they accrue rather than when they are realised upon the sale of shares.

The broad international approach, a difficult thing to achieve as noted above, would require an agreement with other countries on a uniform rule for allocating corporate income among jurisdictions. For instance, countries could apportion income by formula, or agree to tax income from intangibles (such as patents) based on the location of sales.  How to allocate profits of multinationals is easier said than done.

The second structural reform option would eliminate the corporate income tax and instead tax shareholders of publicly traded corporations at ordinary income rates on their dividends and capital gains. To make this shareholder taxation fully effective, it would be necessary to tax capital gains as they accrue, whether or not they had been realised through the sale of shares. Under this approach, tax would depend only on the residence of the shareholder, not the residence of the corporation or the source of its income. Owners of closely-held businesses would pay individual income tax on their firm’s profits,  just as partnerships and S corporations (corporations that elect to pass corporate income, losses, deductions, and credits through to their shareholders for federal tax purposes) are taxed  today in the US.

Categories: Economic matters Tags:

What a difference a fortnight and a Liberal lead means to The Australian

April 8th, 2014 Comments off

Labor hits the lead on Newspoll and you will notice it on page one if you look closely enough.


That was then and this is now, a fortnight later, with Tony Abbott’s team back in front:

2014-04-08_APRIL8POLLWith such neutrality is “the heart of the nation” revealed.



Wine drinkers genuinely prefer the taste of cheaper wines rather than exclusive expensive vintages

April 7th, 2014 Comments off

When it comes to wine Brits like to sniff out bargain and most will not pay more than £6 for a bottle, research reveals | Mail Online:

‘via Blog this’

I doubt that things are much different in Australia!

Most Britons refuse to pay more than £6 for a bottle of wine while only one in three can name a single grape variety, it is claimed.
The shift to cheap plonk has brought claims that Britain, which imports more wine than any other nation, is effectively dumbing down as a wine nation.
Some 80 per cent of all wine sold in the UK sells for less than £6, which leaves very little profit for the producers once tax – at 60 per cent – and shipping is taken out of the equation.
Today, just 7 per cent of us are prepared to part with more than £10 for a bottle of wine, according to research by drinks specialist Harpers.
The research found that a third cannot name a single grape type and only four per cent can name more than 10. Overall, women were far less knowledgeable than men.
It might be assumed that the reason most people opt for cheap wine is a result of a five year cost of living squeeze, coupled with confusion and ignorance about what tastes good.
However, there is some research to suggest that a nation raised on big brands like Jacobs Creek, Blue Nun and Piat D’Or genuinely prefer the taste of cheaper wines rather than exclusive expensive vintages.
A study found that eight in ten people in blind taste tests preferred a bottle of wine costing £4.99 over a £19.99 option which was made from the same grapes.
Six in ten thought the £4.99 version was just so delicious that it must be the more expensive of the two, according to research by the London Wine Academy.
Categories: Drinking Tags:

A coalition for the Coalition to govern Australia

April 7th, 2014 Comments off

To listen to Liberals and Nationals bemoaning the horror of a Labor, independents and Greens voting coalition, because coalition is a dirty word, was one of those humorous elements of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years. For most of the time since federation whenever Australia has had a conservative government it has involved a coalition of one kind or other. For the last sixty years Libs and Nats have even campaigned for office as THE Coalition. Together they have proved successfully enough that policy differences – sometimes even quite major ones – are no impediment to running the country.

When it comes to getting legislation through a Senate where The Coalition is outnumbered, conservative politicians have done well enough too. When a few hundred million for Tasmania here or a presidency of the chamber for a Queenslander there were insufficient there was a DLP hatred of Labor to rely on or a Democrat death wish to exploit in the name of good government. The Liberal-National coalition has always managed to stagger through.

With such a history of success perhaps too much should not be made of the new form of coalition that the Coalition will need to build via the Senate after 1 July. Clive Palmer and his PUPs might make for eccentric voting partners but they are not a collection of raving lefties. There will be some amusing horse trading at times but conservative positions should normally prevail. Generally Prime Minister Tony Abbott should be able to govern and where he cannot – the paid paternity leave scheme comes to mind – there will be many in his own proper Coalition who will be very grateful.

The beer drinking decline continues in an Australia sobering up

April 5th, 2014 Comments off

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released this week show that on a per capita basis there were 9.9 litres of pure alcohol available for consumption per person in 2012-13, 1.6% less than the amount in 2011-12 (10.0 litres) and 8.2% less than 2007-08 (10.8 litres). As a standard drink consists of 12.5 mls of pure alcohol, this is equivalent to an average of 2.2 standard drinks per day per person aged 15 years and over.

2014-04-05_percapitabyyearThe long term trend:


(a)includes rtds


The long term decline is he result of a dramatic fall in the consumption of beer. The volume of beer available for consumption decreased 1.8% between 2011-12 and 2012-13, from 1,762.4 million litres to 1,730.1 million litres. The volume of full strength beer decreased 2.4% while low strength beer decreased 9.4%. Mid strength beer recorded an increase (up 3.7%).

In terms of pure alcohol, consumption of beer has more than halved since the peak in the mid-1970s, and is now at the lowest level since 1945-46.

For wine, there has been a steady increase in people’s consumption over the long term but recently this trend appears to have plateaued, and in fact, per person consumption of wine has decreased slightly over the past three years.

Ready-to-drink beverages have also seen a drop over the past five years, while consumption of spirits has remained relatively steady,

(b) includes rtds


Categories: Drinking Tags:

Does the picture tell the story? The Age and the SMH preview Peta Credlin differently

April 5th, 2014 Comments off

If the picture tells the story then The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald seem to have a different view of Peta Credlin, chief of staff for Prime Minister Tony Abbott. The front page previews of this morning’s cover story of the Good Weekend magazine insert give decidedly different impressions:

2014-04-05_credlinThe grumpy view on the left is from The Age. And the magazine itself?



George W. Bush paints portrait of John Howard

April 5th, 2014 Comments off

The retired President of the USA George W.Bush is taking art classes and apparently wields his paintbrush very day. Now the fruits of some of his labours have gone on show at his Dallas presidential library.

Among 24 portraits of world leaders he met while President is one of former Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

2014-04-05_georgewbushhowardpaintingClick to enlarge


Categories: Political snippets Tags:

And yet another one: Crime inquiry said to open on Citigroup

April 3rd, 2014 Comments off

From the New York Times:

Just as Citigroup was putting a troubled past of taxpayer bailouts and risky investments behind it, the bank now finds itself in the government’s cross hairs again.

Federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation into a recent $400 million fraud involving Citigroup’s Mexican unit, according to people briefed on the matter, one of a handful of government inquiries looming over the giant bank.

The investigation, overseen by the F.B.I. and prosecutors from the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, is focusing in part on whether holes in the bank’s internal controls contributed to the fraud in Mexico. The question for investigators is whether Citigroup — as other banks have been accused of doing in the context of money laundering — ignored warning signs.

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

Americans finally understand that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and other news and views for Thursday 3 April

April 3rd, 2014 Comments off


  • Americans finally understand that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol – “A new Pew survey out today provides yet another illustration of the failure of America’s drug war. By a nearly five-to-one margin, Americans agree that alcohol is worse for you than marijuana… On the relative dangers of marijuana and alcohol, the public is now in line with what medical researchers have been saying for years. A 2010 study in the journal Lancet, for instance, graded common drugs on sixteen criteria relating to how harmful the drugs were to users, and how harmful they were to society overall. On both measures – harm to self and harm to users – marijuana scored significantly lower than alcohol.”
  • Indonesian presidential hopeful Jokowi leaps ahead in opinion polls – “Support for Jokowi leapt to 45 percent after his party named him as its candidate, from 35 percent before, according to a survey released Wednesday by Roy Morgan International. The survey showed support for rival Prabowo Subianto, a former general, holding at 15 percent, while tycoon Aburizal Bakrie trailed with 11 percent.”
  • Apocalyptic prophecies drive both sides to Syrian battle for end of time – “From the first outbreak of the crisis in the southern city of Deraa to apocalyptic forecasts of a Middle East soaked in blood, many combatants on both sides of the conflict say its path was set 1,400 years ago in the sayings of the Prophet Mohammad and his followers.”


  • Why Aging and Working Makes us Happy in 4 Charts – “There are remarkably consistent patterns in the determinants of subjective well-being across people within and across countries and cultures around the world. One of the most striking of these is the relationship between age and happiness (which is good news for those of us who are already on the “back-nine”). There is a U-shaped curve, with the low point in happiness being at roughly age 40 around the world, with some modest differences across countries. It seems that our veneration of (or for some of us, nostalgia, for) youth as the happiest times of our lives is overblown, the middle age years are, well, as expected, and then things get better as we age, as long as we are reasonably healthy (age-adjusted) and in a stable partnership.”
  • U2 Joshua Tree album added to US archive
  • Stop, Thief! When Colleagues Steal From The Office Fridge

A quotation for the day:

In the aftermath of the discovery of evidence for gravitational waves the theologian Giles Fraser has argued that science is becoming like religion: it argues that asking what came before the Big Bang is a non-question, just as monotheists argue the question who created God is a non-question.

– Tim Johnson at Why do we take physicists seriously?

Do you take notice of on-line restaurant reviews? Then here’s some advice

April 2nd, 2014 Comments off

When you read a restaurant review on TripAdvisor or its equivalent, look carefully at the date it was written. And if you come across a negative review try and remember what the weather was like at the time. Why? Because a study of nearly 1.1 million reviews of 840,000 restaurants over nearly a decade shows that if the weather was uncomfortable the comments were more likely to be cruel than kind.

The researchers, Saeideh Bakhshi, a doctoral student at the Georgia Institute of Technology; her husband, Partha Kanuparthy, who works for Yahoo Labs; and Eric Gilbert, an assistant professor at the university, found that the most negative reviews were written when it was colder than 4C degrees or warmer than 38C (40 and 100 degrees on the fahrenheit scale), or if it was raining or snowing.

Ms. Bakhshi will present her findings next week in Seoul, South Korea, at the International World Wide Web Conference and in an interview with the New York Times said that some regions of the United States were more prolific in their online reviewing habits than others. Restaurants in the Northeast and on the West Coast were reviewed more than those in the South or the Midwest. Predictably, urban areas with a higher level of education and income tended to participate in online review sites more often.

Among the other findings:

People who waited a long time for a table in busy cities were more forgiving than those who waited in smaller communities. And sushi restaurants were consistently rated higher than hamburger places, the researchers said, showing that ambience and a higher meal cost could produce better reviews.

“That speaks to the perception of price,” Ms. Bakhshi said. “Places that have nice ambience and are listed as romantic or trendy or more expensive, the rating is higher.”

… The team found that Seattle, as a whole, tended to offer lower reviews than many other cities. Sunny San Diego had the most five-star reviews.

To reach their conclusions the authors created analytic computer models based on data from several sites, including TripAdvisorFoursquare and Citysearch.

Categories: Eating Tags:

The Climate Apocalypse Daily under attack

April 2nd, 2014 Comments off

On a slow news day life can be tough for even “Australia’s leading business commentator.” All that space to fill and nothing to write about. So why not have a shot at the lesser business commentators on the rival daily?

And so it came to pass this morning that the Herald Sun’s Terry McCrann turned his attention to the Melbourne Age. A couple of extracts:


2014-04-02_agelackofenthusiasmWithering stuff.

And all based on a finding in a survey conducted for the Institute of Public Affairs that Australians are reluctant to see their taxes increased when the cause is taking action to curb greenhouse gas emissions. That to me was hardly a surprising finding. Ask the same people if they like paying taxes so mining companies could get tax reductions from accelerated depreciation allowances and the answer would be the same or even more so.

But still, covering the poll was legitimate enough I suppose. Just a pity that there was not enough substance in it to fill up the daily quota of words without the irrelevant excursion into The Age.


Harvest more trees to slash fossil fuel burning

April 1st, 2014 Comments off

1-04-2014 tallwoodIt is a piece of academic research that is sure to go down well with the new Tasmanian government. Yale university academics argue that using more wood and less steel and concrete in building and bridge construction would substantially reduce global carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel consumption. The scientists, from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, challenge an established forest conservation theory holding that tree harvesting should be strictly minimized to prevent the loss of biodiversity and to maintain carbon storage capacity. Their study, published March 28 in the Journal of Sustainable Forestry (behind paywall), argues that sustainable management of wood resources can achieve both goals while also reducing fossil fuel burning.

In a summary of the article “Carbon, Fossil Fuel, and Biodiversity Mitigation with Woods and Forests”, the authors calculated that the amount of wood harvested globally each year (3.4 billion cubic meters) is equivalent to only about 20 percent of annual wood growth (17 billion cubic meters), and much of that harvest is burned inefficiently for cooking. They found that increasing the wood harvest to the equivalent of 34% or more of annual wood growth would have profound and positive effects:

•    Between 14% and 31%  of global CO2 emissions could be avoided by preventing emissions related to steel and concrete; by storing CO2 in the cellulose and lignin of wood products; and other factors.

•    About 12% to 19% of annual global fossil fuel consumption would be saved including savings achieved because scrap wood and unsellable materials could be burned for energy, replacing fossil fuel consumption.

Wood-based construction consumes much less energy than concrete or steel construction. Through efficient harvesting and product use, more CO2 is saved through the avoided emissions, materials, and wood energy than is lost from the harvested forest.

A press release published on the Yale News website continues:

“This study shows still another reason to appreciate forests — and another reason to not let them be permanently cleared for agriculture,” said Chadwick Oliver, the Pinchot Professor of Forestry and Environmental Studies, director of the Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry at F&ES and lead author of the new study. “Forest harvest creates a temporary opening that is needed by forest species such as butterflies and some birds and deer before it regrows to large trees. But conversion to agriculture is a permanent loss of all forest biodiversity.”

The manufacture of steel, concrete, and brick accounts for about 16 percent of global fossil fuel consumption. When the transport and assembly of steel, concrete, and brick products is considered, its share of fossil fuel burning is closer to 20% to 30%, Oliver said.

Reductions in fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions from construction will become increasingly critical as demand for new buildings, bridges and other infrastructure is expected to surge worldwide in the coming decades with economic development in Asia, Africa, and South America, according to a previous F&ES study. And innovative construction techniques are now making wood even more effective in bridges and mid-rise apartment buildings.

According to Oliver, carefully managed harvesting also reduces the likelihood of catastrophic wildfires. 

And maintaining a mix of forest habitats and densities in non-reserved forests — in addition to keeping some global forests in reserves — would help preserve biodiversity in ecosystems worldwide, Oliver said. About 12.5% of the world’s forests are currently located in reserves.


Categories: Environment Tags:

Students from Korea and Singapore best at problem solving but Australians above average

April 1st, 2014 Comments off


Students from Singapore and Korea have performed best in the first OECD PISA assessment of creative problem-solving with students from Australia scoring above the OECD average.

85,000 students from 44 countries and economies took the computer-based test, involving real-life scenarios to measure the skills young people will use when faced with everyday problems, such as setting a thermostat or finding the quickest route to a destination.

2014-04-01_oecdproblemsolvingYou can test your own skills with sample questions (use Mozilla Firefox) at


Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Global warming funding ‘irresponsible moral exhibitionism’ and other news and views for Tuesday 1 April

April 1st, 2014 Comments off
  •  NZ global warming funding ‘irresponsible moral exhibitionism’ – “Act Party leader Jamie Whyte says New Zealand shouldn’t be footing the bill for measures to try to reduce the impact of climate change while our contribution to global carbon emissions is so small… he believes the Government shouldn’t be leading the pack in efforts to try to ease the possible consequences of global warming as part of an ’empty moral gesture’ when other countries with bigger emission footprints won’t follow.”


  • Premier slams coverage of Koutsantonis – “Premier Jay Weatherill claims News Corp’s treatment of new Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis has been racist. The Premier said headlines in a recent edition of The Advertiser demeaned Koutsantonis.
  • Checking The Claim: A Wireless Network That Streams A Thousand Times Faster? – “As wireless data networks face more congestion, will entrepreneur Steve Perlman’s latest idea be the ultimate fix?”
  • Rewriting the gloomy headlines – “The scorched earth of the journalism industry suddenly is providing fertile ground for reinvention.A series of ventures have emerged in recent months, each with different models seeking to reinvent the benighted news business – most without the legacy costs of publishing a printed newspaper.”
  • Exxon warns global warming targets ‘unlikely’ to be met – “ExxonMobil, the US oil group, said it was “highly unlikely” that the world would cut greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to keep global warming within the internationally agreed limit of 2C.”
  • Does Economics Make You a Bad Person?
  • Too Many Salmon in the Sea, Pacific Study Hints – “Burgeoning numbers of pink salmon may threaten the food supply of young seabirds.”
  • Half of China’s GDP Comes From Major Cities2014-04-01_noah
  • He who has ears to hear, let him buy a ticket to Darren Aronofsky’s extraordinary movie. – “In his flawed, fascinating and altogether extraordinary “Noah,” this ever-audacious filmmaker has given us a bold and singular vision of Old Testament times — a picture that dares to handle a sacred text not with the clunky messages and stiff pieties we’ve come to expect from so much so-called “Christian cinema,” but rather with a thrilling sense of personal investment and artistic risk. Crucially, Aronofsky approaches Scripture not with a purist’s reverence but with a provocateur’s respect, teasing out the hard, soul-searching questions that the Word of God, if you take it as such (and I do), was always meant to inspire. He has made a gravely powerful, fully committed, sometimes blisteringly angry film that will fit few Christians’ preconceptions of what a biblical epic should look, sound or feel like, and believe me when I say that this is cause not for condemnation, but for honest rejoicing.”

Banks breaking deals? Vast profits at public expense? Can you believe it?

April 1st, 2014 Comments off

Well blow me over. Who would have thought it? Banks behaving badly?


You will find other examples of banking ethics in my Ticket Clipping section HERE.

Along with one of my favourite cartoons that seems to grow more apt with every day that passes:


Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

Resurrecting journalists writing about each other to welcome Viscount Mike Carlton

April 1st, 2014 Comments off

At last a different theme for my journalists writing about each other section. I got sick of the Murdoch papers slinging off at the ABC and vice versa. The Daily Terror trying to be humorous at Mike Carlton’s expense makes a refreshing change.

2014-04-01_sirmikeI am eagerly awaiting the return of serve.