Archive for May, 2014

Piketty’s Capital: An Economist’s Inequality Ideas Are All the Rage and other news and views for Friday 30 Mau

May 30th, 2014 Comments off


  • Piketty’s Capital: An Economist’s Inequality Ideas Are All the Rage
  • Dads who do chores bolster daughters’ aspirations – “Fathers who help with household chores are more likely to raise daughters who aspire to less traditional, and potentially higher paying, careers. So finds a new study that suggests how parents share dishes, laundry and other domestic duties plays a key role in shaping the gender attitudes and aspirations of their children, especially daughters.”
  • The Ghosts of Tiananmen Square
  • How Millennials Could Upend Wall Street and Corporate America – “By 2020, Millennials will comprise more than one of three adult Americans. It is estimated that by 2025 they will make up as much as 75 percent of the workforce. …  Morley Winograd and Michael Hais outline the cultural force of the Millennial generation on the economy as Millennials increasingly dominate the nation’s workplaces and permeate its corporate culture. Winograd and Hais argue that the current culture on Wall Street is becoming increasingly isolated from the beliefs and values of America’s largest adult generation.”
  • Investing for a China Crisis – “China’s growing list of problems, including a slowing economy, rising militarism, messy corruption crackdown and increasingly troubled shadow banking sector, could provoke a major financial crisis. In the “never waste a crisis” spirit, a number of investment opportunities present themselves.”
  • The people’s army – “Can UKIP keep on coming? The answer could decide the next election.”
  • The Shattered Dome – “The story of the Gandhis’ biggest mistake, and how it still haunts Punjab.”
  • Free-market think-tanks waged war on entitlement, conscripted an Australian Joe – “The neoliberal thought collective is a well-organised, politically connected movement of like-minded individuals who have dedicated their lives to spreading the ideas they believe in. That they have managed to influence governments, including the Abbott government, may be dismaying to those who disagree with their ideas, but it shouldn’t be surprising.”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Another 15 banks investigated for fraud? Well fancy that

May 30th, 2014 Comments off

Well fancy that:

(Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors have opened criminal and civil probes into at least 15 banks and payment processors as part of a wide-ranging consumer fraud investigation, according to documents released on Thursday by a congressional committee.

The Justice Department’s investigation, known as “Operation Choke Point,” is more than a year old and aims to crack down on fraud by going after firms that handle and move money for various suspect businesses.

Just for good measure let me add this one that Reuters also reports today:

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan is investigating at least five banks over whether they overcharged the government for expenses incurred during foreclosures on federally backed home loans, filings and interviews show.

And don’t forget my earlier report today: What’s $10 billion? Just another bank fine

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

What’s $10 billion? Just another bank fine

May 30th, 2014 Comments off

It gets a bit monotonous. Another major bank facing a major fine for improper behaviour.


Today it is BNP Paribas that is reportedly facing a $10 billion fine for evading US sanctions against Iran and other countries.

Once again there is no talk of any bank official going to jail for what is a criminal offence.

You will find details of other examples of the ethical standards of banks in the Owl’s Ticket clippers section. It is a depressing collection.


Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

Julia Gillard leaves the list of the world’s powerful women but Gina remains and other news and views for Thursday 29 May

May 29th, 2014 Comments off
Julia Gillard leaves the Forbes magazine list but these two remain.

Julia Gillard leaves the Forbes magazine list but these two remain.



  • Australia: The 2014 World Cup: A tough gig – “… the sun has all but set on the ‘Golden Generation’ who underpinned Australia’s success over the past decade. Of the 14 players fielded in Australia’s last World Cup game, realistically only team talisman Tim Cahill and Marco Bresciano are likely ‘starters’ in Brazil. … The passing of the ‘Golden Generation’ and the enormity of Australia’s challenge in Brazil have clear parallels in the domestic economy as, following an unprecedented 22 years of uninterrupted expansion, major risks are now intensifying. Most importantly, the dual booms in commodity prices and mining construction that delivered Australia through the global financial crisis relatively unscathed are now swinging sharply into reverse. And against this backdrop, the stubbornly high AUD and switch to contractionary fiscal policy are acting as handbrakes to a nascent economic recovery.
    Ultimately, for Australia to successfully navigate the current period of elevated economic risk would truly be some achievement – unprecedented in the country’s long history of commodity booms followed by painful busts. The burden on local policy makers is therefore a heavy one, and the government is taking a significant risk by seeking to underpin Australia’s AAA credit rating via a combination of the largest cuts to public expenditure in almost two decades and the introduction of unpopular tax increases. As kick-off in Brazil approaches, the current Prime Minister may reflect with unease that Australia’s last appearance in the World Cup on June 23, 2010 coincided with the then Prime Minister being unexpectedly usurped by his Deputy – in large part in response to the government’s mishandling of taxation issues.
magine a mama wren hovering above her nest. The chick below is crying out for food. The mama listens. She keeps listening. The chick is obviously hungry; the mama has a mash of berries ready, but ... she doesn't land. Instead, after a few more beats, she turns and — suddenly — vanishes. She doesn't come back. Ever. The baby starves. What just happened? The mother has just made a horrible discovery. A few days earlier she had a couple of eggs (not yet hatched) in that nest. While she was out foraging, a sneaky neighbor snuck over and dropped an extra egg of her own into the nest. This new egg wasn't invited. It wasn't even a wren egg. It belonged to a Horsfield's bronze-cuckoo, an animal that biologists call a "brood parasite" — meaning the cuckoo tricks other birds into raising her kids.

Imagine a mama wren hovering above her nest. The chick below is crying out for food. The mama listens. She keeps listening. The chick is obviously hungry; the mama has a mash of berries ready, but … she doesn’t land. Instead, after a few more beats, she turns and — suddenly — vanishes. She doesn’t come back. Ever. The baby starves. What just happened? The mother has just made a horrible discovery. A few days earlier she had a couple of eggs (not yet hatched) in that nest. While she was out foraging, a sneaky neighbor snuck over and dropped an extra egg of her own into the nest. This new egg wasn’t invited. It wasn’t even a wren egg. It belonged to a Horsfield’s bronze-cuckoo, an animal that biologists call a “brood parasite” — meaning the cuckoo tricks other birds into raising her kids.

Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Malcolm Turnbull ruins his leadership chances

May 29th, 2014 Comments off

Dining with a Treasury secretary is acceptable. Being seen with Clive is no hanging matter. But a New South Welshman skipping a State of Origin. An irreparable mistake

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

The frustrating inadequacy of numbers about violence against women and other news and views for Wednesday 28 May

May 28th, 2014 Comments off
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Some differing views on the European election and other news and views for Tuesday 27 May

May 27th, 2014 Comments off


  • “Charlie’s Country” – “The great Australian Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil co-wrote and stars as a dispossessed tribal man in this haunting drama from director Rolf de Heer. Though there is a story, the movie draws much of its power from poetic closeups of its star’s magnificently weathered face, as expressive as that of the great silent screen stars.”
  • Heads roll across Europe in wake of polls – The aftershocks of EU elections that saw a surge in support for anti-establishment parties rippled across Europe on Monday with mainstream party leaders losing their posts and a battle building over the bloc’s top job. The struggle over the EU’s future is due to be joined on Tuesday, when EU leaders gather for dinner in Brussels to weigh the region’s new leadership. At least two prime ministers, Britain’s David Cameron and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, were working to block the candidacy of veteran Brussels fixer Jean-Claude Juncker, frontrunner for the EU’s most high-profile post.
  • The National Front’s victory: France in shock
  • A Victory for European Democracy – “Although voter turnout was down in many places and right-wing populists scored significant gains, this weekend’s European Parliament election was historically important. It has shifted the balance of power in Europe in favor of voters.”
  • Amazon: malignant monopoly, or just plain evil?


  • A Simple, Elegant Invention That Draws Water From Air – “When Italian designer Arturo Vittori and Swiss architect Andreas Vogler first visited Ethiopia in 2012, they were shocked to see women and children forced to walk miles for water. … Their firm, Architecture and Vision, has since come up with WarkaWater, a majestic palm-like structure that may look like something you’d see in a modern art museum but it’s been designed to harvest water from the air.”

Public interest in climate change declining and other news and views for Sunday 25 May

May 25th, 2014 Comments off
Princeton University and University of Oxford researchers found that negative media reports seem to have only a passing effect on public opinion, but that positive stories don't appear to possess much staying power, either. Measured by how often people worldwide scour the Internet for information related to climate change, overall public interest in the topic has steadily waned since 2007. To gauge public interest, the researchers used Google Trends to document the Internet search-engine activity for "global warming" (blue line) and "climate change" (red line) from 2004 to 2013. They examined activity both globally (top) and in the United States (bottom). The numbers on the left indicate how often people looked up each term based on its percentage of the maximum search volume at any given point in time. Credit: William Anderegg Read more at:

Princeton University and University of Oxford researchers found that negative media reports seem to have only a passing effect on public opinion, but that positive stories don’t appear to possess much staying power, either. Measured by how often people worldwide scour the Internet for information related to climate change, overall public interest in the topic has steadily waned since 2007. To gauge public interest, the researchers used Google Trends to document the Internet search-engine activity for “global warming” (blue line) and “climate change” (red line) from 2004 to 2013. They examined activity both globally (top) and in the United States (bottom). The numbers on the left indicate how often people looked up each term based on its percentage of the maximum search volume at any given point in time. Credit: William Anderegg

Animals, such as pet hamsters, really do enjoy exercise wheels, suggests a new study that found most small wild creatures voluntarily use the wheels when they encounter them. The study, published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is the first to look at wheel running in the wild.

Animals, such as pet hamsters, really do enjoy exercise wheels, suggests a new study that found most small wild creatures voluntarily use the wheels when they encounter them. The study, published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is the first to look at wheel running in the wild.

Another day, another major bank, another scandal, another fine

May 25th, 2014 Comments off

From The Financial Times comes the news that a shadow has been cast over another key global financial benchmark after UK regulators found that a Barclays trader had manipulated the London gold fix that is used to value billions of dollars of derivatives contracts annually. The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority fined the British bank £26m on Friday and reprimanded it for nine years of lax controls for its failure to rein in an options trader who in 2012 drove the gold price lower to avoid paying £2.3m to one of the lender’s clients.

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

How Nigel Farage gave British democracy back to the voters and other news and views for Saturday 24 May

May 25th, 2014 Comments off
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Eating advice for campaigning politicians

May 24th, 2014 Comments off

British Labour did not do as well in local government elections this week as it had hoped to and the search for explanations has begun

Labour MPs expressed despair at a series of media gaffes by Mr Miliband during the campaign – including  an unfortunate photocall at which he struggled to eat a bacon sandwich.

Labour MPs expressed despair at a series of media gaffes by Mr Miliband during the campaign – including an unfortunate photocall at which he struggled to eat a bacon sandwich.

Labour grandee Tessa Jowell said the basic presentational errors of the campaign were unforgivable. ‘If you are a politician . . . don’t eat a bacon butty when the world’s cameras are on you.’

Categories: Elections Tags:

A politician quitting on a matter of conscience? Put it on page 10

May 24th, 2014 Comments off

Members quitting parliament on matters of principle are a rare event – so rare that I cannot think of one happening in my 50 plus years covering politics in Canberra. As for state parliaments I am less knowledgeable but a quick googling did not help me find one apart from this week’s resignation by Dr Chris Davis as the member for Stafford in Queensland.

It was, said Dr Davis, “with sadness that I have advised the Speaker of my resignation.”

The passage of recent government legislation affecting critical aspects of our democracy goes contrary to my value system and that of the majority of my electorate. I would never have stood for Parliament on such a platform, nor do I believe I would have been elected. My most recent speech to Parliament offers additional insights.

My sacking has been a catalyst. It is sadly no longer possible for me to effectively represent my electorate in such an environment, despite my best endeavours.

A significant parliamentary event surely.

Well not to Queensland’s biggest selling daily paper. The Courier Mail relegated the story to page 10. The Townsville Bulletin had its four page version on the same page.

Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

A modest improvement in UKIP’s chances in the European parliamentary election

May 23rd, 2014 Comments off

The strong showing by UKIP in the UK’s local government elections has resulted in the markets making a five percentage point improvement in the assessed probability of that party gaining most votes in the elections of members to the European Parliament. Those votes for MEPs were caste on the same day as those for local governments but will not be counted until Sunday when elections in all European countries are concluded.

At this point of proceedings I am happy with my recommendations:
  • $460 on Labour at $2.20 to win most votes in the UK at the European parliamentary election
  • $450 on UKIP at $2.25 to win most votes in the UK at the European parliamentary election.

UKIP and Labour are both winners.

Full details of my political betting are at my political speculator’s diary blog.

Categories: Betting, Political indicators Tags:

And now for something completely different

May 23rd, 2014 Comments off

So that budget business is not going down so well with the punters.

Well how about this:



Or this:


(click to enlarge)

Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

Miranda Devine has forgotten Julia Gillard already

May 23rd, 2014 Comments off

Mmm. So Australian voters rush to embrace what the extreme and malevolent hate. Tell that to Julia Gillard.



Reporting a military coup – this morning’s Bangkok papers

May 23rd, 2014 Comments off


The military seized power, dissolving the caretaker government, suspending the constitution and ordering protesters to return home in a bloodless coup yesterday.
The power seizure took place after talks between the pro- and anti-government camps failed for a second day yesterday.
The army brought them together for talks to settle the country’s protracted political conflict, without success.
Military sources said the negotiations were brought to an end after the government insisted on holding on to power.
Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, who chaired the talks, left the Army Auditorium, the venue of the talks, as soldiers moved in to detain all negotiators and whisked them away in passenger vans.
Representatives of the Senate and the Election Commission were later allowed to go free.
Radio and television stations were ordered to suspend their normal broadcasts. A curfew between 10pm-5am was imposed and gatherings of more than five people banned.
All schools nationwide were ordered closed from today until Sunday.
In its first coup statement, the military cited the eruption of violence in Bangkok and other provinces which resulted in many deaths and injuries in the past months as the reasons behind the power seizure.
Appearing on all television channels along with other armed forces leaders and the national police chief about 4.30pm, Gen Prayuth read the statement.
He said the violence in the country had been escalating to such an extent that it stood to undermine national security and public safety.
The coup would help restore normalcy and national unity, ensure reform of political, economic and social institutions, and ensure legitimacy to all sides, he added.


How Australia’s winking Tony Abbott became one of the world’s most unpopular prime ministers

May 22nd, 2014 Comments off

In politics it is often the simple things that have the most influence on voters. And so we are seeing this week as university students contemplate paying higher fees while knowing the PM’s daughter avoided the millstone of a HELP* debt because one of her daddy’s Liberal Party friends helped her get a scholarship. The politics of this part of the Coalition budget could hardly be worse. There the story was again tonight at the top of the list of most talked about items on 9 News, just like yesterday.

22-05-2014 ninenews Still near the top of the list as well – tonight just behind the bull – is what the Washington Post on its website has called, surprise, surprise, Winkgate, under the headline How Australia’s winking Tony Abbott became one of the world’s most unpopular prime ministers


Finally, the madness has taken its name: Winkgate. The gate opened when Australia’s prime minister, who has recently bungled his way from one scandal to the next, took a call from a listener on a radio show that was filmed.
The caller was worried about money. She was a grandmother. And a sex hotline worker. “I am a 67-year-old pensioner, three chronic incurable medical conditions — two life-threatening,” the caller, named Gloria, said. “I just survive on about $400 a fortnight after I pay my rent. And I work on an adult sex line to make ends meet.”

Abbott, who took office last September, then smirked for the briefest of moments and winked — unleashing a tidal wave of criticism, tweets and headlines.

This, of course, is nothing new for Tony Abbott, who’s quickly becoming one of the world’s most hated prime ministers. He just unveiled a draconian austerity budget that analysts call the most extreme and least popular of the past four decades in Australia. His approval rating has plunged to 30 percent. And then there’s the irreverent hashtag #MorePopularThanAbbott, which suggests that both toilet paper and flat tires are more popular than the prime minister.

Back on the home front, 7 News also had the winking as its top of the pops.

22-05-2014 7news

Over at the ABC, Sex line grandmother labels Abbott’s wink ‘sleazy’ and ‘slimy’ (video)was the most popular item for the last 24 hours.

And to think that yesterday I wrote that it would be Hard to think of a worse day for Abbott and Hockey as political salesmen. Just mark that down as another one of my mistakes.

*Who is it that came up with the name HELP to describe the cruel debt that is being inflicted on tertiary students?

Carbon loss from tropical forests ‘underestimated’ and other news and views for Thursday 22 May

May 22nd, 2014 Comments off


  • Carbon loss from tropical forests ‘underestimated’ – “The amount of carbon lost from tropical forests is being significantly underestimated, a new study reports. In addition to loss of trees, the degradation of tropical forests by selective logging and fires causes large amounts of “hidden” emissions. The slow moving process has remained almost invisible to satellite observations in the Amazon. Researchers say degradation in Brazil causes additional emissions equivalent to 40% of those from deforestation. The research is due to be published in the journal Global Change Biology.”
  • The party’s over – A review by Jan-Werner Müller of Ruling the Void: The Hollowing of Western Democracy by Peter Mair – “Mair’s most original argument is that the decline of parties, of party government, and hence of party democracy as a whole can’t be blamed on either the people or the politicians. It’s been a matter of mutual withdrawal, with politicians and citizens sharing equally what Mair calls an ‘anti-political sentiment’.”
  • Pakistan: Worse Than We Knew – “For forty years Pakistan has been backing Islamic extremist groups as part of its expansionist foreign policy in Afghanistan and Central Asia and its efforts to maintain equilibrium with India, its much larger enemy. Now Pakistan is undergoing the worst terrorist backlash in the entire region. Some 50,000 people have died in three separate and continuing insurgencies: one by the Taliban in the northwest, the other in Balochistan by Baloch separatists, and the third in Karachi by several ethnic groups. That sectarian war, involving suicide bombers, massacres, and kidnappings, has gripped the country for a decade.”
  • Why pet food isn’t people food – “The Food and Drug Administration released an update Friday on those jerky treats imported from China that appear to be killing and sickening pets, and the news is disturbing in more ways than one. The total number of illnesses now includes “5,600 dogs, 24 cats and three people“ (emphasis mine), according to an FDA bulletin issued late Friday afternoon.”


  • Healthy Vegetables Undermined by the Company They Keep – “Instead of eating vegetables in their simple, unadorned state, Americans often eat vegetables prepared in ways that add calories and sodium. They also tend to eat vegetables in forms that remove dietary fiber.”
  • The 1,000-Year-Old Schism That Pope Francis Seeks To Heal – “Pope Francis travels this weekend to the Middle East, the cradle of the three monotheistic religions, and will meet with Catholic, Jewish and Muslim leaders. But the official purpose of the visit is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic rapprochement between Catholics and Orthodox and to try to restore Christian unity after nearly 1,000 years of estrangement.”

The politics of building roads – an example

May 22nd, 2014 Comments off

I have no comment to make on this research other than noting Australia is now in a road building phase.

Nazi pork and popularity: How Hitler’s roads won German hearts and minds

The Hitler government built the world’s first nationwide motorway network. We examine the impact of road-building on the popularity of the Nazi regime. Using shifts in electoral support between 1933 and 1934, we conclude that ‘pork barrel’ spending worked in reducing opposition to the regime – wherever the new roads ran, fewer Germans voted against the government in elections and plebiscites. At least part of the regime’s popularity after 1934 can be explained by the popularity of the Autobahn.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

The Green Lantern theory of political leadership

May 22nd, 2014 Comments off

Make the obvious changes from the US to Australia and Ezra Klein in his The Green Lantern Theory of the Presidency, explained could well be writing about Tony Abbott and his government that does not have the numbers to actually govern.

Presidents consistently overpromise and underdeliver. What they need to say to get elected far outpaces what they can actually do in office. President Obama is a perfect example. His 2008 campaign didn’t just promise health-care reform, a stimulus bill, and financial regulation. It also promised a cap-and-trade bill to limit carbon emissions, comprehensive immigration reform, gun control, and much more. His presidency, he said, would be change American could believe in. But it’s clear now that much of the change he promised isn’t going to happen — in large part because he doesn’t have the power to make it happen.

You would think voters in general and professional media pundits in particular would, by now, be wise to this pattern. But they’re not. Each disappointment wounds anew. Each unchecked item on the to-do list is a surprise. Belief in the presidency seems to be entirely robust to the inability of any particular president to make good on their promises. And so the criticism is always the same: why can’t the president be more like the Green Lantern?

If you, like me, are not up on your comic book heroes, here’s the explanation:

Wait, how did the Green Lantern get involved in all this?

The Green Lantern Corps is a fictional, intergalactic peacekeeping entity that exists in DC comics. Members of the Corps get a power ring that capable of creating green energy projections of almost unlimited power. The only constraint is the willpower and imagination of the ring’s wearer. There was a long period of time when the ring was ineffective against the color yellow but in more recent comics that’s just “the Parallax fear anomaly” at work and with enough courage and willpower, the ring works just fine against the color yellow.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

Hard to think of a worse day for Abbott and Hockey as political salesmen

May 21st, 2014 Comments off

Here is the National Nine News take on the day:


In the Coalition they will be thankful for that small – or perhaps that should be large – mercy of the dancing woman to break up the succession of horrid stories. And there was nothing unique about Nine either. The headlines on the other television websites were just as bad.

The newspaper websites were even worse. Here’s the collection of political stories as per and the Sydney Morning Herald:


From earlier today, have a look at Laurie Oakes in advertising breakthrough – stars in Labor Party ad.


Taking Away Unemployment Benefits Doesn’t Make People Get Jobs and other news and views for Wednesday 21 May

May 21st, 2014 Comments off

Happy, McDonald's new mascot has not proved a big hit. Photograph: McDonalds

  • The terrifying new McDonald’s mascot – and other creepy corporate monsters – “The fast-food container with human teeth has not been well received – but he’s not the first beast to scare people off a brand.
  • Queensland corruption fighter Doug Drummond says CMC changes ‘very dangerous, very worrying’ – “Changes to Queensland’s Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) are designed to spare the Newman Government political embarrassment, a top Queensland corruption fighter says. Doug Drummond QC, the special prosecutor who helped convict former police chief Terry Lewis and dozens of others in the wake of the 1989 Fitzgerald Inquiry and later served as a CMC commissioner, told the ABC the reforms would leave the door open to the kind of corruption uncovered by the ICAC inquiry in New South Wales. He claimed the amendments to the Crime and Misconduct Act were designed to allow the ruling Liberal National Party (LNP) to raise campaign funds unimpeded by the attentions of an anti-corruption body.
  • Napoleon I seated backwards on a donkey on the road "to Elba" from Fontainebleau.  Text on saddle: Materials for the history of my life and exploits // A budget of mathematical books for my study at ELBA Text top left: A throne is only made of wood and cover'd in velvet. Text behind the donkey: The greatest events in human life is turn'd to a puff.

    Napoleon I seated backwards on a donkey on the road “to Elba” from Fontainebleau.
    Text on saddle: Materials for the history of my life and exploits // A budget of mathematical books for my study at ELBA
    Text top left: A throne is only made of wood and cover’d in velvet.
    Text behind the donkey: The greatest events in human life is turn’d to a puff. – “Napoleonic anniversaries are neither officially marked nor celebrated in France. Two hundred years after his exile to Elba, Bonaparte’s latter-day countrymen still can’t decide if he is a hero or a villain.”

    • Defeated and inglorious? – “Napoleonic anniversaries are neither officially marked nor celebrated in France. Two hundred years after his exile to Elba, Bonaparte’s latter-day countrymen still can’t decide if he is a hero or a villain.”


An apology to the Treasurer

In this news and views section yesterday I included this item:

Hockey’s Free Lunch, No Questions Asked – “Hockey is the keynote speaker at an Australian Council of Social Services luncheon in Sydney, at Parliament House. But his appearance is on the basis that he not only gets a free lunch, but a free kick as well — organisers have been told Hockey will only appear if no questions are permitted from attendees.”

The item linked to the New Matilda site from which it was taken. Well tonight I note from an AAP report of the lunch:

Guests at the ACOSS event, many of whom represent the underprivileged, took the opportunity to grill Mr Hockey for one hour and 10 minutes. He gave combative replies, interrupting or debating questioners if he thought the proposition of their question was wrong.

Hence an apology is in order. Presumably New Matilda will eventually make a correction itself.

A new Canberra star is born

May 21st, 2014 Comments off

She has not arrived in the national capital yet but the media delight is already showing through. Tasmanian Senator elect Jacqui Lambie gave a headline grabbing performance on 7.30 last night. From 1 July she will provide the Palmer United Party with a wonderful second string to Clive.

Goodness knows what she will end up saying but what a spectacular debut:

SARAH FERGUSON: You said that the Federal Budget proves that Liberals are – and I’ll quote you – gutless sycophants led by uncaring psychopaths. On reflection, did you go too far calling them psychopaths?

JACQUI LAMBIE: No, I don’t think so, I don’t think so at all. I think when it comes to Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott that – I mean, the truth be said, they’re nothing less than a pair of deceitful, lying, political politicians and that’s exactly what they’ve done: they’ve been deceitful and they’ve lied to the public and they’ve lied to the nation.

SARAH FERGUSON: Psychopath is a pretty strong term though.

JACQUI LAMBIE: Well, I’m just saying that politically they’re like they’re psychopathic. It’s like they’re running round like chooks with their heads cut off. And I just do not think that brings in a good budget. They’re like they’re hitting the panic buttons, but we don’t need to hit the panic buttons. We have a triple A rating, for goodness sake. It’s like, “Calm down there, cowboy Joe, calm down. You’re coming out with all guns blazing and you are hitting welfare like there’s no tomorrow,” and that is not the answer.

And then a little touch up the bracket for the banks:

SARAH FERGUSON: The Treasurer made it clear today that if you and your other minor party colleagues resist all of these changes in the Budget, you’re going to be talking about billions of dollars that you will need to make up in revenue. Do you accept that that revenue – the revenue equation in the Australian budget must be changed?

JACQUI LAMBIE: Well, I accept that the four banks are making, you know, $30 billion worth of profit on a yearly basis, and if you spread that through the 23 million people give or take here in Australia, that ends up being a $1,300 every man, woman and child that is living in Australia, so why aren’t we hitting people like the big banks? You know, when $12 billion of this budget’s been handed down and it’s hilting welfare, once again, that’s not the answers and that’s not making for a smart economic future for our nation.

SARAH FERGUSON: Senator-elect, can you just explain what you mean by taking more money from the banks? Are you talking about higher taxes on the banks?

JACQUI LAMBIE: Well, you know, for somebody that makes $30 billion between those four banks annually, then maybe it’s about time we looked at over avenues and that would certainly be one I’d be prepared to look at.

SARAH FERGUSON: And would you just be precise about what you mean about those other avenues? How would you collect that extra revenue from the banks?

JACQUI LAMBIE: Well, you’d put extra taxes on the banks, but you would make sure that that’s not passed down to the consumer. You would put in legislation so it was that tight it wasn’t passed down to the consumer and the big banks that are making all these profits will be paying more into the country.

Politics surely is going to be fun.



Laurie Oakes in advertising breakthrough – stars in Labor Party ad

May 21st, 2014 Comments off

I doubt that the old fellow will be amused at being used in this way but I’m sure it will be damaging to the government. Laurie is, after-all, far more credible a figure on television than any politician.

Laurie Oakes looking gloriously serious as he turns his attention to the dancing Treasurer

Laurie Oakes looking gloriously serious as he turns his attention to the dancing Treasurer

Now the pundits are betting on Abbott being replaced

May 21st, 2014 Comments off
From the Twitter feed this morning:

But Scotty Morrison to replace Tony Abbott? Now that would get Twitter twittering.

Categories: Betting, Political snippets Tags:

No inflation problem on the Australian wages front

May 21st, 2014 Comments off

No signs in this morning’s Australian Bureau of Statistics wage price index figures that wage rises are going to create any inflationary problem. The trend index and the seasonally adjusted index for Australia rose 2.6% through the year to the March quarter 2014.



In the March quarter 2014, the Northern Territory recorded the largest quarterly rise of 0.9% and the Australian Capital Territory the smallest rise of 0.2%.


Quarterly rises in South Australia (0.6%), Western Australia (0.6%) and the Australian Capital Territory (0.2%) were smaller in the current quarter than in the March quarter 2013. All other states and territories recorded larger rises compared to the quarterly changes the year before.


Rises through the year ranged from 2.3% for Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory to 3.2% for South Australia.


Rises in the original indexes through the year to the March quarter 2014 at the industry level ranged from 1.9% for Professional, scientific and technical services to 3.3% for both Electricity, gas, water and waste services and Arts and recreation services.


Edging further toward El Niño

May 20th, 2014 Comments off

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology reports today that the tropical Pacific Ocean continues a general trend toward El Niño. Just over half of the climate models surveyed by the Bureau suggest El Niño thresholds will be exceeded by August. An El Niño ALERT remains in place, indicating at least a 70% chance of an El Niño developing in 2014.

20-05-2014 alert

The tropical Pacific Ocean surface has warmed steadily since February, with sea surface temperature anomalies increasing by 0.5 to 1.0 °C. For El Niño to be established and maintained, the sea surface needs to warm further, and be accompanied by a persistent weakening of the trade winds and a consistent increase in cloudiness near the Date Line. In the past fortnight, trade winds have generally been near normal, though have weakened once again in recent days.

Categories: Environment Tags:

Poverty Is Not a State of Mind and other news and views for Tuesday 20 May

May 20th, 2014 Comments off

19-05-2014 richorpoor

  • Poverty Is Not a State of Mind – “There is a poisonous view among some conservatives that the poor are deficient in character, not cash.”
  • Europe’s Migration Emergency – “Italy says that as many as 800,000 migrants, mainly from Africa, South Asia and Syria, are massing in Libya now with the intent of reaching Italy. Libya’s interim interior minister, Salah Mazek, recently warned the European Union that Libya had had enough of being a way station for migrants heading to Europe, and that it was ‘Europe’s turn to pay.’ Libya and Italy are merely points along a larger migration route. They cannot — and should not have to — cope alone.”


What you ought to know about Crikey readers

May 20th, 2014 Comments off

From today’s Crikey email comes this disclosure about its readership:

That Mirabella jostle. Yesterday we pointed you to a fresh video showing erstwhile Coalition warrior Sophie Mirabella being jostled by protesting students during a uni lecture. We proposed that protesters should not physically intimidate/manhandle MPs of any persuasion, and asked what our readers thought. You were split; quite a few agreed, saying the jostle was “counterproductive” and “fair-minded people should certainly limit their physical outbursts”. “It’s just not the way we want our society to be,” one reader said. But some thought the jostle was fair enough, given how strong community anger is at the budget. “Some would call it karma I guess,” one reader mused. Check out the conversation and add your opinion here.

Nice to know that Crikey “proposed” that protesters should not physically intimidate/manhandle MPs of any persuasion. What a fair minded lot they are at Crikey. Even prepared to admit, without criticism, that it has a split readership on the issue of jostling a woman. Karma indeed.

Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

The Arctic ice heading towards a low and other news and views for Monday 19 May

May 19th, 2014 Comments off


  • Charctic Interactive Sea Ice Graph – It is heading towards another low one if the early months are anything to go by.
  • Democracy causes economic development? – “Many analysts view democracy as a neutral or negative factor for growth. This column discusses new evidence showing that democracy has a robust and sizable pro-growth effect. The central estimates suggest that a country that switches from non-democracy to democracy achieves about 20% higher GDP per capita over the subsequent three decades.”
  • The Right Way to Control the Banks
  • Food should be regulated like tobacco, say campaigners – “The food industry should be regulated like the tobacco industry as obesity poses a greater global health risk than cigarettes, say international groups. Consumers International and the World Obesity Federation are calling for the adoption of more stringent rules. These could include pictures on food packaging of damage caused by obesity, similar to those on cigarette packets.


Liberal leadership speculation – a definite early sighting

May 19th, 2014 Comments off

A first for the season.

Maybe not a full view but a definite sighting. Laura Tingle in the Australian Financial Review this morning under the headline Budget quake puts PM on shaky ground:

The magnitude and violence of the reaction to the budget shown in the Fairfax-Nielsen poll shatters that dominance. It will force the government to rethink its confused sales messages on the budget at the very least, but also prompt Abbott’s party room to demand change, and stir the embers of leadership talk.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

The market unmoved by criticism of Coalition budget

May 18th, 2014 Comments off

The Coalition government remains the firm favourite to be returned at the next Australian election whenever it might be held. Last Tuesday’s budget left the market assessment as measured by the Owl’s election indicator largely unchanged.

Chances of winning:



Categories: Federal elections Tags:

The Two-Santa theory – politics as a battle between two forms of munificence and other news and views for Sunday 18 May

May 18th, 2014 Comments off

18-05-2014 deadmenruling

  • How “Dead Men” Fiscal Policy Is Paralyzing Government – “In his new book, Dead Men Ruling, … Gene Steuerle … argues that for short-term political gain, lawmakers have abdicated the future. They have made it almost impossible for government to adjust policy to reflect changing circumstances. … The future is being written by lawmakers who will be long dead when our grandchildren come of age.“We are left with a budget for a declining nation,” Gene writes, “that invests ever-less in our future…and a broken government that presides over archaic, inefficient, and inequitable spending and tax programs.”All this has happened due to a confluence of two unhappy trends: The first is what the late conservative writer Jude Wanniski memorably described almost four decades ago as the “Two-Santa Theory.”Wanniski’s insight was that Democrats had monopolized the role of Santa Claus by identifying themselves as the party of new government programs while budget-balancing Republicans played the unpopular role of Scrooge. Now, it was now time for Republicans to rebrand themselves as the second Santa, only instead of distributing generosity through spending, they’d do it through the tax code.

    No longer would the party of largess be pitted against the party of austerity. Now, American politics could be defined as a battle between two forms of munificence.”

  • No sign of major central banks tightening the reins – “Government bond yields have tumbled on the basis that the world’s major central banks will continue to keep monetary policy easy and in some cases loosen further.”
  • Street by street, Assad extends grip in central Syria – “From his base in Damascus, Bashar al-Assad can contemplate a broad sweep of Syria clawed back from rebels who once threatened to drive him out.”
  • Climate change to hit credit ratings of countries, especially poor ones, warns S&P
  • Lebanon on the brink – “Political gridlock, economic torpor and the machinations of pro-Syrian Hizbollah – the non-state regional superpower – have once more pushed the crossroads of the Middle East to the edge of collapse.
  • The media, the market and truth – “If people are only told the facts that they are comfortable with, they will never change their minds. And as Paul Krugman observes … , if it is only the media read by your political opponents who will cry foul, politicians who just want to ‘play to the base’ are tempted to also distort or manufacture evidence, perhaps leading to descent into a world of fantasy. Does this selection of facts actually influence people? Fewer people in the US think climate change is a major threat to their country than almost anywhere else … The figure for the UK is also unusually low. This is particularly ironic as a good deal of the science telling us it is a major threat is done in these two countries. A major reason … why people in the US and UK think this way is that they are allowed the freedom to not to be told about the science, or to be given the opinions of skeptics as if they carried equal or more weight than the vast majority of scientists.”
Categories: Media, News and views for the day Tags:

Sticking with UKIP

May 18th, 2014 Comments off

A couple of new polls this morning with predictions on what will happen on Thursday when they vote in the UK to elect members to the European Parliament.

The  ComRes poll in the Independent on Sunday had UKIP clearly doing best and gave an explanation as to why its UKIP figure was higher than that of some other pollsters.

One of those other was a YouGov/Sun poll that had topline figures of CON 22%, LAB 28%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 25%, GRN 10%. Labour are just ahead of UKIP in first place but the Polling Report website commented:

A lot of this apparent difference is down to how they approach turnout – YouGov’s topline figures are based on all respondents, if they took only those certain to vote UKIP would be ahead. ComRes’s figures include only those 10/10 certain to vote, if they included those who say they are 5/10 or more likely to vote UKIP’s lead over Labour would be a far more modest 2 points.

The betting markets are pointing towards UKIP polling the most votes with the politicalowl’s indicator assessing the chances this way:

You will find my investments on the event at my political speculator’s site:

An index of anti-semitism and other news and views for Friday 16 May

May 16th, 2014 Comments off

14-05-2014 adlsterepotypes14-05-2014 adl114-05-2014 holocaust14-05-2014 oceania

  • Climate Change Debate: A Famous Scientist Becomes a Skeptic – “I have full respect for the scientific work behind the IPCC reports but I do not appreciate the need for consensus. It is important, and I will say essential, that society and the political community is also made aware of areas where consensus does not exist. To aim for a simplistic course of action in an area that is as complex and as incompletely understood as the climate system does not make sense at all in my opinion.”
  • Inflation Targets Reconsidered by Paul Krugman – Over the course of the 1990s many of the world’s central banks converged on an inflation target of 2 percent. Why 2 percent, rather than 1 or 3? The target wasn’t arrived at via a particularly scientific process, but for a time 2 percent seemed to make both economic and political sense. On one side, it seemed high enough to render concerns about hitting the zero lower bound mostly moot; on the other, it was low enough to satisfy most of those worried about the distortionary effects of inflation. It was also low enough that those who wanted true price stability — zero inflation — could be deflected with the argument that official price statistics understated quality change, and that true inflation was in fact close to zero. And as it was widely adopted, the 2 percent target also, of course, acquired the great advantage of conventionality: central bankers couldn’t easily be accused of acting irresponsibly when they had the same inflation target as everyone else. More recently, however, the 2 percent target has come under much more scrutiny. The main reason is the experience of the global financial crisis and its aftermath, which strongly suggests that advanced economies are far more likely to hit the zero lower bound than previously believed, and that the economic costs of that constraint on conventional monetary policy are much larger than the pre-crisis conventional wisdom. In response, a number of respected macroeconomists, notably Blanchard (2010) and, much more forcefully, Ball (2013), have argued for a sharply higher target, say 4 percent. But do even these critics go far enough? In this paper I will argue that they don’t — that the case for a higher inflation target is in fact even stronger than the critics have argued.”
  • Hockey’s ‘Honest John’ budget routine – “In the past week, Treasurer Joe Hockey has been fondly quoting Howard’s first budget as treasurer in 1978 as a precedent for governments abandoning election promises and increasing taxes in the national interest. … If he had a closer look, he might be a little more reluctant to quote it as a precedent.”
  • Absurdities of Copyright Protection – “As a starting point, the fundamental purpose of copyright is not to help authors gain a reward in the market. The fundamental purpose is to advance science and the arts, which means encouraging others to build on pre-existing work. For this purpose, copyright protection must strike a balance between protecting the ability of authors to earn a reward, on one side, but also assuring that what they have created enters into the public domain so that it can be used by others, on the other side.”

Australian housing prices close to the trend

May 13th, 2014 Comments off

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures out today show capital city housing prices continue rising back on trend. Things have certainly recovered since the dips of recent years.


The science of apologies with experimental evidence and other news and views for Tuesday 13 May

May 13th, 2014 Comments off
  •  The science of apologies with experimental evidence – “Following the recent wave of apologies by politicians, celebrities, and in particular by firms, there have been numerous commentaries about the nature of apology – in particular how it is pointless and overused. Recent research in the social science of apologies can help us understand their logic, and shed light on the purpose of the rituals of repairing social transgression. …

What does this research say about what makes for a good apology? Essentially, anything that makes the apology costly or difficult. Here are some types of apologies to consider:

“I’m sorry about your grandmother’s illness”. Recognition of the pain is a start. Demonstrating that you at least have the empathy to recognise the damage caused and an acknowledgment that the rules that were violated.
“I’m sorry – I will never do it again”. Often people will offer forgiveness for the first transgression, if the transgressor accedes to being held to a higher standard in the future. As the saying goes: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”
“I’m sorry – I am an idiot”. Admitting your own incompetence means you give up some of your reputation in exchange for forgiveness. Tiedens (2001) find that voters liked Bill Clinton more after seeing a video of him apologise about the Lewinsky scandal, but then they became less likely to want to vote for him because they think he is less competent.
“I’m sorry – here are some flowers”. The more expensive the better. Offering reparation for the harm done is a way to a pay a tangible cost to make up for the mistake.
“I’m sorry – it wasn’t my fault”. This is perhaps the least effective as it is the least costly to say. But it could work if you can prove it wasn’t your fault in a way that is costly to fake.

Carol Browner (middle) speaking at a press conference with U.S. President-elect Barack Obama (right) and Vice President-elect Joe Biden (left).

Carol Browner (middle) speaking at a press conference with U.S. President-elect Barack Obama (right) and Vice President-elect Joe Biden (left).

  • If You’re Concerned About Climate Change, You Should Support Nuclear Power – By Carol Browner—Ms. Browner served as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Clinton, and as Director of the Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy under President Obama. She is a member of the Leadership Council of Nuclear Matters, an organization that is funded by nuclear-energy concerns such as Exelon Corp. “I used to be anti-nuclear. But, several years ago I had to reevaluate my thinking because if you agree with the world’s leading climate scientists that global warming is real and must be addressed immediately then you cannot simply oppose clean, low-carbon energy sources.”
  • Melting glaciers threaten global sea levels
  • The best and worst things about journalists
  • An innovative and sustainable growth path for China: a critical decade by Fergus Green and Nicholas Stern – “The actions China takes in the next decade will be critical for the future of China and the world. Whether China moves onto an innovative, sustainable and low-carbon growth path this decade will more or less determine both (i) China’s longer-term economic prospects in a natural resource-constrained world that places a premium on capital efficiency, technological
    innovation, knowledge and services, and in which labour and capital are highly mobile, and (ii) the world’s prospects of cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions sufficiently to manage the grave risks of climate change.”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Just when I thought there was a real pre-budget story …

May 13th, 2014 Comments off

Wishful thinking?


Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

Just another bank under a corruption investigation

May 12th, 2014 Comments off

You wonder if it will ever end. New investigations into improper conduct by bankers just keep on coming. I referred to a couple in my news and views item posted earlier today. Now I can add this one from London’s Financial Times:

UK fraud office steps up probe into Barclays’ dealings with Qatar – “Bob Diamond, John Varley and other senior members of Barclays’ former management are set to be questioned under caution by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office, in an acceleration of its probe into alleged corrupt arrangements in Qatar as part of the bank’s emergency cash call in 2008.”

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

How hedge fund titans are testing the quality of US democracy and other news and views for Monday 12 May

May 12th, 2014 Comments off
  • 2 Banking Giants Implore U.S. Authorities to Go Easy – “Two of the world’s biggest banks, facing the threat of criminal charges, are mounting final bids for leniency. To avoid the fallout from pleading guilty — no giant bank has done so in more than two decades — BNP Paribas and Credit Suisse made last-ditch appeals to prosecutors and regulators in recent weeks, according to people briefed on the talks.”
  • Hedge fund titans are testing the quality of US democracy – “John Paulson made his fortune by taking a massive short position against the US housing bubble. Today the hedge fund billionaire is betting that the US political system will fail. This time he has company. Other billionaires have launched a lawsuit to force the US Treasury to pay shareholders vast sums from the government-sponsored housing enterprises that it bailed out in 2008. Betting on Washington’s largesse has become a routine investment strategy. Whether this one works, aspiring billionaires should take note: if you want to strike it lucky, try shorting American democracy. The risk is small and the rewards are spectacular.”
  • ‘Democrats argue. Republicans contend. We have no idea.’ A he said, she said at the Times – “Look, we have no idea who’s right. How would we? Figure it out for yourselves! Don’t be asking us to sort out what’s real from what’s fiction. We’re just New York Times journalists. We don’t do ‘there’s no basis for that.’ We do ‘Republicans contend…’ “
  • How Google money is helping turn the political right against strong copyrights
  • Crazy Climate Economics – “How environmentalism became a Marxist plot.”
  • Revealed: Mossad’s most wanted – “The Mossad is searching Facebook to find its latest recruits. Should we worry?”

Pass the bong, tune up the Berlioz and other news and views for Sunday 11 May

May 12th, 2014 Comments off

11-05-2014 berlioz

Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Shorter men live longer and other news and views for Saturday 10 May

May 10th, 2014 Comments off
Randy Newman ar rgw piano

Short people have the last laugh

  • Honolulu-based study reveals shorter men live longer – “We split people into two groups – those that were 5-foot-2 and shorter, and 5-4 and taller,” said Dr. Bradley Willcox, one of the investigators for the study and a Professor in the University of Hawai`i (UH) John A. Burns School of Medicine’s Department of Geriatric Medicine. “The folks that were 5-2 and shorter lived the longest. The range was seen all the way across from being 5-foot tall to 6-foot tall. The taller you got, the shorter you lived.”
  • The Projected Improvement in Life Expectancy – “An amazing statistic: for those born in 1900, about 13 out of 100,000 made it to 100. For those born in 1950, 199 are projected to make to 100 – an significant increase. Now the CDC is projecting that 2,056 out of 100,000 born in 2009 will make it to 100. Stunning!”
  • Russia’s Independent Media All But Silenced
  • Expanding Influence: EU Parliament Has More Power Than You Think – “European voters generally pay little attention to European Parliament, but over the years, the body has become increasingly powerful. Already, a representative in Brussels wields more influence than one in Berlin. And the gap is growing.”
  • Where Is the Inequality Problem? – “Though Thomas Piketty is right that returns to capital in rich countries have increased in the last few decades, he is too dismissive of the wide-ranging debate among economists concerning the causes. More important, when it comes to reducing inequality between rich and poor countries, capitalism has had an impressive three decades.”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

The odds of a coming El Niño keep increasing

May 10th, 2014 Comments off

Further evidence that there will be an El Niño weather even later this year comes from the latest joint report from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and the International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society. These US bodies have joined Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology in moving their prediction to an Alert with the chance that El Niño increases during the remainder of the year now exceeding 65%. Their summary says:

The model predictions of ENSO for this summer and beyond are indicating an increased likelihood of El Niño compared with those from last month. Most of the models indicate that ENSO-neutral (Niño-3.4 index between -0.5oC and 0.5oC) will persist through part of the remainder of the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014, most likely transitioning to El Niño during the summer. There remains uncertainty as to exactly when El Niño will develop and an even greater uncertainty as to how strong it may become. This uncertainty is related to the inherently lower forecast skill of the models for forecasts made in the spring. While ENSO-neutral is favored for Northern Hemisphere spring, the chance of El Niño increases during the remainder of the year, exceeding 65% during the summer

10-05-2014 consensusenso110-05-2014 consensusenso2See earlier stores by the Owl on this subject at The El Niño danger that the politicians and the media are ignoring and Finding a new excuse for English soccer failure – blame it on El Niño


Categories: Environment Tags:

Finding a new excuse for English soccer failure – blame it on El Niño

May 10th, 2014 Comments off

The teams aren’t even in Brazil yet but in England they are already coming up with new reasons for their team’s failure. The latest is from researchers at the University of Reading who are blaming the coming El Niño.

Saying there is a 60% chance of an El Nino event hitting Brazil, the Reading scientists say the complicated meteorological system is likely to cause extremely dry and sunny weather in June and July. Teams from the British Isles, they say, have traditionally struggled to cope with these types of conditions.

“If it does occur, it would increase the risk of uncomfortably hot and dry conditions in Brazil during June and July,” Dr Nick Klingaman told the BBC.

Especially in the southern and eastern parts of the country, where England are playing their second and third group games…

“If players and coaching staff were hoping for milder and more favourable conditions for their remaining matches, it looks more likely that they could be disappointed,” said Dr Klingaman.

He estimates that temperatures around Rio could increase by around one degree C.

“While a one degree increase may seem insignificant, not all days will be affected equally,” Dr Klingaman said.

“Extreme temperatures often change by much more than the monthly average. A one degree increase in the monthly average is equivalent to half of all days warming by two degrees, or one-third of all days warming by three degrees.”

See also: The El Niño danger that the politicians and the media are ignoring

Categories: Environment Tags:

The El Niño danger that the politicians and the media are ignoring

May 9th, 2014 Comments off

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology this week gave us a warning about the immediate future that could severely affect us all. And the politicians and the mainstream media don’t seem to take the slightest notice,

The BOM forecast:

Tropical Pacific continues to warm; El Niño likely in 2014

Issued on Tuesday 6 May 2014

The tropical Pacific Ocean has warmed steadily in recent months, with large warm anomalies in the ocean sub-surface (5-day values up to +6 °C) and increasingly warm sea surface temperatures. Climate models surveyed by the Bureau suggest El Niño development is possible as early as July. These factors indicate that while El Niño in 2014 cannot be guaranteed, the likelihood of an event developing remains at least 70% and we are at El Niño ALERT level.

ALERT level?

9-05-2014 elninoalert

And what the heck does that mean?

El Niño likely in 2014

The El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Tracker status is at El Niño ALERT level, meaning that there is at least a 70% chance of an El Niño occurring in 2014. Current observations and model guidance indicate an El Niño is likely to develop by spring, with some models indicating a transition to El Niño as early as July.

El Niño conditions generally result in below average winter/spring rainfall over southern and inland eastern Australia, while southern Australia typically experiences warmer days.

So what? Well the editorial in the latest edition of Scientific American puts it this way:

It now seems that the world will have a chance to rehearse for the future as early as the end of this year. A major El Niño is massing in the Pacific Ocean and is likely to cause cyclones, tornadoes, droughts, floods and sea level changes across the world.

Many leading scientists say the approaching El Niño looks similar in magnitude to the huge one that started in 1997 and went on to kill tens of thousands of people and cause tens of billions of dollars of damage. But you won’t hear that sort of warning from official forecasters. They agree that an El Niño is likely, but are saying little about its potential strength.

Why is that? One of the key reasons for the devastation of 1997 was excess caution among forecasters. A major UN study published in 2000 revealed that for forecasters, an incorrect prediction is more embarrassing than no prediction at all. We may be seeing the same failings today.

One factor that leads to skepticism about forecasts (and, therefore, to inaction following the release of an El Niño forecast) is related to contradictory signals. For example, it is difficult for most decision makers to believe forecasters that a drought will be coming, if the country is in the midst of a rainy period, or vice versa.

As another example, in the midst of a good commercial fishing season, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to convince fishermen and fishmeal processing plant owners that fish catches will drop drastically some months in the future because an El Niño episode might be emerging.

Making such projections in the absence of visible signs of change is as risky for the forecasters as it is for users to take such projections seriously enough to act on them.

In many countries forecasters fear that they will have to bear considerable personal responsibility for incorrect actions that decision makers might take if the forecasts are off the mark and disaster ensues. From the perspective of a forecaster, it may be safer in many instances to avoid making assertive forecasts that might prove to be controversial later. This brings to mind the adage, “take a position, take a risk,” and most forecasters try to avoid taking such risks with their jobs.

Perhaps it is that fear of being wrong that explains the low-key way in which the BOM has released its latest forecast. We do have, after-all, a government that takes little notice of its predictions about global warming.

So what is the past record?

9-05-2014 ensolegend

9-05-2014 ensorecordetracker

Categories: Environment Tags:

Why Eastern Cultures Are More Cooperative and other news and views for Friday 9 May

May 9th, 2014 Comments off

9-05-2014 annesummers

Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

On marijuana Australia lags behind but for how long?

May 8th, 2014 Comments off
The LA Times front page

The LA Times front page

Where the USA leads Australia normally follows. So how long will it be before one of our governments follows the lead of the 21 US states ans the District of Columbia that now allow the sale of some form of pot?

Perhaps this is another of those areas where the government of the ACT will show there was some point to self government after all.

And for an update of how  rapidly changing in America have a read of  Toasted cheese sandwich? Like dope with that? on my wine and food blog.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

The clamour against Clive should worry Tony Abbott

May 8th, 2014 Comments off

The verbal onslaught against Clive Palmer by members of the Liberal National Party government in Queensland just keeps getting stronger. Today the state’s Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney used this report in The Australian to declare Mr Palmer “a crook”:

CLIVE Palmer’s private company Mineralogy has been accused of wrongfully siphoning more than $12 million from his Chinese business partners, with some of the funds allegedly used to cover political expenses for the costly federal election campaign by his Palmer United Party.

CLIVE Palmer’s private company Mineralogy has been accused of wrongfully siphoning more than $12 million from his Chinese business partners, with some of the funds allegedly used to cover political expenses for the costly federal election campaign by his Palmer United Party.

Under parliamentary privilege Mr Seeney described the Palmer United Party as “the best party that Chinese money can buy.”

“The best party that fraudulently obtained money can buy.

“The best party that a crook using other people’s money can buy.”

Strong words indeed and surely an indication of just how concerned the LNP is about its new competitor,

I wonder, though, about the political wisdom. The judgment voters eventually make of PUP will have more to do with what actually happens at law rather than statements made in the parliamentary coward’s castle.

And this is not just a state issue. Mr Palmer would not be human if he didn’t see the state LNP and the federal Liberal-National coalition as being two sides of the same thing. After every attack like today’s, Tony Abbott will be finding PUP a more and more difficult party to rely on.

From earlier this week: If Clive is defamed presumably the Queensland taxpayer will do the paying. Other PUP stories are in the Owl’s archives HERE.

How Putin is reinventing warfare and other news and views for Thursday 8 May

May 8th, 2014 Comments off


    • Explaining the Emergence of Boko Haram – “Boko Haram’s activities in Nigeria, and those of its splinter group Ansaru, are hardly new. Under a radical Islamic agenda, these militants have perpetuated violence across northern Nigeria since roughly 2009, aiming to rid the country of any ‘Western influence’.”
    • What If Everyone in the World Became a Vegetarian? – The effects of a meatless population on climate and economy.
    • How Putin Is Reinventing Warfare – “Though some deride Russia for backward thinking, Putin’s strategy in Ukraine betrays a nuanced understanding of 21st century geopolitics.”
    • The China-Vietnam standoff: Three key factors
    • A Clear and Present Danger – “Barack Obama’s administration says that climate change poses a clear and present danger to the United States that will only grow worse over time as droughts, floods, and storms become part of everyday life throughout the country. Unfortunately for the White House, the politics of tackling climate change are dismal: Republicans have grown even more hostile to the issue in recent years, it barely registers in public opinion polls, and this year’s midterm elections make dramatic action a virtual impossibility. But there is one group of very serious people that could start to shift the terms of the political debate: the Pentagon. Climate change is creating fresh headaches and nightmare security scenarios for defense planners who don’t have the luxury of denying the appearance of new oceans and new responsibilities.”
    • Toasted cheese sandwich? Like dope with that? Welcome to weed on wheels
    • This Is What Kids Dream About

Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

How the majority does not rule and other news and views for Wednesday 7 May

May 7th, 2014 Comments off
Yawning helps cool the brain

Yawning helps cool the brain

Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

After 10 years Monica breaks her silence – My Life Sucks!

May 7th, 2014 Comments off

7-05-2014 nypost

The newspaper headline of the year?

Categories: American media, Media Tags:

If Clive is defamed presumably the Queensland taxpayer will do the paying.

May 7th, 2014 Comments off

It makes it sound very serious indeed when someone sues someone else for $1.1 million for saying nasty things about them. Clive Palmer certainly knows how to use such a figure to get a headline or two. And fair minded fellow that the founder of the Palmer United Party is, he promises to pay the money he expects to get from Queensland Premier Campbell Newman for defaming him straight to Mission Australia “to assist the charity with its work to help sacked Queensland public servants”.

What kind Clive has not explained to the good voters of Queensland is that they are the ones who will be paying for the largesse should he win. Politicians are skilled at having their Cabinet colleagues agree that anything said out of order that results in damages being awarded was just part and parcel of their official work. Hence the government pays both the damages and any legal costs.

No wonder that Campbell Newman does not seem to be in a hurry to retract any statement he made.

The ABC has a good coverage of what the Palmer-Newman dispute is all about.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

Still waiting for the first leadership challenge sighting of autumn

May 7th, 2014 Comments off

I thought I had it. The first one arriving just as autumn seems to be turning to winter. “Government MPs are bracing to ‘cop the political flak’ from next week’s budget containing tax rises and welfare cuts,” was the promising intro by Mark Kenny, Chief Political Correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald. But then the disappointing “but”… “but ministers say the unpopular moves will not weaken Tony Abbott’s leadership.” The challenge had flown away.

Perhaps not for long because chief correspondents are experienced leadership watchers with skills finely honed from watching Labor. And the signs were there this morning:

A series of political opinion polls have charted a sharp downturn in support for the Coalition and a fall in Mr Abbott’s personal standing, but senior figures have rallied around him, praising his determination to take hard decisions.

In political journalism that’s like a footy team president saying “the coach has my full support.” And from Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce:

In a strong declaration of support for Mr Abbott, Mr Joyce said there was a ‘‘nobility’’ in doing what was right in public office, describing Mr Abbott as a man with ‘‘a good sense of kindness and strength’’.

That has a Yes, Prime Minister “courageous decision” ring to it, a clue that the first proper sighting is not far away.


Australia back on the Indonesian front page

May 7th, 2014 Comments off
Migrant issue puts end to Indonesia-Australia thaw

Migrant issue puts end to Indonesia-Australia thaw

(Click to enlarge)

After many weeks of very little coverage in the Indonesian media that country’s relations with Australia are back on the front page.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s attempt to repair strained bilateral ties with Jakarta is being stymied by a recent incident in which Australian navy ships towed back a boatload of undocumented migrants to Indonesian waters and added three extra passengers — including an Indonesian — to the boat.
The incident was brought to light a few hours before Abbott phoned President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono while the latter was attending the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Asia-Pacific Regional Conference in Bali on Tuesday.

… Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said he had been informed of an incident where several undocumented migrants were added by the Australian authorities to a boat and towed back to Indonesia.
“If confirmed, it is a very serious development,” he said.
Presidential spokesman for foreign affairs Teuku Faizasyah said Jakarta was taking the incident seriously and despite Abbott’s conciliatory gesture, an assessment would be made to decide whether the incident would hamper the process of improving relations.

… The two Albanians were heading to Australia from Rote Islands, NTT, on a separate boat. After entering Australian waters, the Australian navy ordered the two and the Indonesian crew member to move onto the boat occupied by the Nepalese and Indians, a police preliminary investigation has found.

Categories: International politics Tags:

40 maps that explain the Middle East and other news and views for Tuesday 6 May

May 6th, 2014 Comments off

6-05-2014 sunnisandshia

  • 40 maps that explain the Middle East – “Maps can be a powerful tool for understanding the world, particularly the Middle East, a place in many ways shaped by changing political borders and demographics. Here are 40 maps crucial for understanding the Middle East — its history, its present, and some of the most important stories in the region today.”
  • Ten Economic Facts about Crime and Incarceration in the United States – “Crime rates in the United States have been on a steady decline since the 1990s. Despite this improvement, particular demographic groups still exhibit high rates of criminal activity while others remain especially likely to be victims of crime. … The incarceration rate in the United States is now at a historically unprecedented level and is far above the typical rate in other developed countries. As a result, imprisonment has become an inevitable reality for subsets of the American population.”

6-05-2014 tableforomne

Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

So Australia has an economic crisis – then heaven help the rest of the world

May 6th, 2014 Comments off

The madness being spoken by Joe Hockey about the state of the Australian economy is well and truly exposed tonight by the OECD in its May Economic outlook, analysis and forecasts. Here’s the summary of what the Organisation expects to come:

Output is projected to increase by 2½ per cent in 2014 and by nearly 3% in 2015, with a general pick-up in demand offsetting declining investment in the resource sector. Some economic slack will remain and the unemployment rate will not begin to edge down until the second half of 2015. As a result, there will be little inflation pressure, although rapid growth in house prices and mortgage lending requires continued close attention.

Given near-term uncertainties in the rebalancing of the economy away from investment in the natural resource sector, heavy front loading of fiscal consolidation should be avoided. Against the backdrop of the projected recovery, monetary stimulus should start to be withdrawn in the first half of 2015.

So how does Australia compare with the rest of the developed world?

6-05-2014 comparisonsbyOECD

Categories: Economic matters Tags:

Time for Abbott to stop prevaricating and sack Sinodinos

May 6th, 2014 Comments off

The indication that it will be near December before the NSW independent Commission Against Corruption delivers a finding on the behaviour of Arthur Sinodinos surely makes it imperative for Tony Abbott to make his suspension as assistant treasurer permanent. Having a key player in the economic debate on the sidelines for three quarters of a year is just a nonsense. And that is without factoring in the damage being done to the Liberal Party by the involvement of Sinodinos, a former Treasurer of the NSW state branch, in the unfolding fund raising scandal being imposed by ICAC.

Let me repeat what I wrote at the end of last month:

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:

A rare exception to taking little notice of opinion polls

May 6th, 2014 Comments off

What opinion pollsters say two and a half years out from an election is normally of no interest at all to me. Just ignore them is invariably my advice. Today, though, I am breaking those habits of a political lifetime. The unanimous verdict of all the major pollsters suggesting that Tony Abbott and his government are on the nose does strike me as relevant.

Not because the figures suggest the Liberal-National coalition will lose the next election. Far from it. I’ll stick with the predictive power of the Owl’s federal election indicator which puts Labor well behind. The importance of the polls is the influence they will have on that maverick collection of Senators who will become the real power brokers of politics after 1 July and on the Labor and Greens majority from now until then.

A strong suggestion that voters do not like a government – and the polls are giving just that now – encourages an opposition to stick the boot in because of a belief that will help their own prospects of re-election. Ultimately it might do no such thing but in the meantime it sure does make governing harder.


Getting oil men to finance the campaign for oil industry regulator

May 6th, 2014 Comments off

The oil explorers in Texas do some things in the same way as coal developers in New South Wales. They manage to find a dollar for “worthy” candidates. Take the case of George Prescott Bush, the 38-year-old son of Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida. He is the latest generation of the the Bush family dynasty to seek a job in politics and has won the Republican primary election to stand for the post of Texas Land Commissioner come November.


Now that might not be the grandest elected office in the USA but it is the kind of first step that political aspirants for higher things usually take. And it does provide a means of making contact with the rich and powerful of the State, especially those in the oil business, whose dollars go a long way towards success. For the Texas Land Commissioner has the twin responsibilities of both promoting oil and gas development on state lands and waters and ensuring oil and gas companies are paying the correct amount in royalties. On his campaign website, George P. Bush says he aims to increase energy production and fight excessive federal regulation.

As land commissioner I will support the responsible stewardship of our resources and the reasonable drilling of oil and natural gas on our public lands. We can and we should do both. The days of false choices between protecting the environment on one side and promoting job creation is over. Here in Texas we are going to take care of our resources and take care of our people at the same time.

Second, we’re going to fight excessive federal regulation. Too often too many regulations from Washington D.C. have been passed that make little to no sense at all. So we’re going to fight back, and we’re going to fight back hard here in the state of Texas. So my goal for our state is that we once again become the energy leader of the world. Nothing more, and nothing less.

They are the kind of aims oil men seem find attractive. AlJazeera America noted this month a distinguishing feature of George P. Bush’s quest for public office: a campaign war chest totaling $2.2 million — a significant portion of that money furnished by the same industry he will go on to regulate if he wins.

A glance at the names populating his campaign’s list of top-level donors reveals a who’s who of the state’s wealthiest oil and gas executives.

Anne Marion, heiress to the fortune of Fort Worth–based Burnett Oil Co., gave $50,000, according to reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission and compiled by The Texas Tribune. Jan Rees Jones, wife of Trevor Jones, president and CEO of Dallas-based Chief Oil & Gas provided another $50,000. James Henry, a longtime veteran of the oil industry and chair of Henry Resources LLC, another oil and gas exploration firm, lent $40,000 to the effort. Syed Javaid Anwar, president of Midland Energy, kicked in $40,000.

In all, Al Jazeera tabulated that individuals tied to energy companies contributed at least $450,000 to Bush’s first political effort.

A note: One thing that certainly differs between Texas and NSW is the detailed returns that the Bush campaign furnishes on money raised and spent – right down to the level of disclosing $6 paid for parking at Sundance Square, Forth Worth.

Are the consequences of the biffo by the barons getting serious?

May 6th, 2014 Comments off

Just an update: Maybe someone has realised that this could be serious. Australian casino controllers might turn the  blind eye but in other countries they might not be so obliging

See the earlier story here


Categories: Media Tags:

A case of one law for the rich? That certainly seems to be the case for casino owners in Queensland

May 6th, 2014 Comments off

Well, a bit of biff in a main street is alright then. The police are steering clear of the matter, the Sydney Morning Herald tells us, at least for now. “A police spokeswoman said on Monday that no one had come forward to report the matter so it was not currently the subject of a police investigation.”

This, apparently, is not a report:


As for the NSW casino licensing authorities they had no comment yesterday on whether anything that happened in the Bondi punch-up was relevant to this section of their Act:

Casino Control Act 1992 No 15

12 Suitability of applicant and close associates of applicant

(1) The Authority must not grant an application for a casino licence unless satisfied that the applicant, and each close associate of the applicant, is a suitable person to be concerned in or associated with the management and operation of a casino.
(2) For that purpose the Authority is to consider whether:
(a) each of those persons is of good repute, having regard to character, honesty and integrity, and
(b) each of those persons is of sound and stable financial background, and
(c) in the case of an applicant that is not a natural person, it has or has arranged a satisfactory ownership, trust or corporate structure, and
(d) the applicant has or is able to obtain financial resources that are both suitable and adequate for ensuring the financial viability of the proposed casino, and
(e) the applicant has or is able to obtain the services of persons who have sufficient experience in the management and operation of a casino, and
(f) the applicant has sufficient business ability to establish and maintain a successful casino, and
(g) any of those persons has any business association with any person, body or association who, in the opinion of the Authority, is not of good repute having regard to character, honesty and integrity or has undesirable or unsatisfactory financial sources, and
(h) each director, partner, trustee, executive officer and secretary and any other officer or person determined by the Authority to be associated or connected with the ownership, administration or management of the operations or business of the applicant or a close associate of the applicant is a suitable person to act in that capacity.

Down in Victoria it will apparently take criminal charges for the casino regulators to become interested and up in Queensland it appears they could not care less about a little bit of assaulting.

From the SMH again:


Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

Are racehorses getting faster? and other news and views for Monday 5 May

May 5th, 2014 Comments off

5-05-2014 derbytimesClick to enlarge

Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

The United States and those evil budget deficits

May 5th, 2014 Comments off

Do you think the USA is sliding towards economic oblivion?

Just a little table to think about as you listen to all that talk about the destructive nature of Australian budget deficits.

5-05-2014 usbudgetdeficits

Categories: Economic matters Tags:

Fit and proper people – James Packer and David Gyngell

May 5th, 2014 Comments off

The two of them –  James Packer and David Gyngell – run businesses that require them to meet a government definition of being fit and proper people.

What a great country it is that allows street brawlers to be in charge of casinos and television stations.

Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

More and more young people see politicians motivated by selfish reasons

May 5th, 2014 Comments off

The level of trust that young Americans between 18- and 29- years old have in most American institutions continues to fall at an alarming rate.

The latest Youth Poll of the Harvard Public Opinion Project finds that in the last 12 months, trust in the President has decreased from 39 percent to 32 percent, the U.S. military has decreased from 54 percent to 47 percent (the first time below a majority) and the Supreme Court from 40 to 36 percent.


The growing lack of trust in the President comes from Democrats (64% trusted the President to do the right thing all or most of the time in 2013, today the number is 53%) and Independents (31% in 2013, 23% today) — and not from Republicans whose opinion has not changed in the last year. Thirteen percent (13%) of Republicans trust the President to do the right thing all or most of the time. These findings stand in contrast to the U.S. Military; over the last year, the military has lost trust across all parties (Democrats are down 6 points to 44%, Republicans 5 points to 63% and Independents down 8 points to 40%).

There are somewhat depressing attitudes among the young to many aspects of the political process too. For example,since 2010, there has been a consistent six-point increase in those who agree with the statement that“elected officials seem to be motivated by selfish reasons,” more than three-in-five (62%) now agree with this; and a similar six-point increase with agreement that “political involvement rarely has any tangible results” (23% in 2010, 29% in 2014).We also have tracked a seven-point increase in the number who agree with the statement, “elected officials don’t seem to have the same priorities I have” (51% in 2010, 58% in 2014).



There is perhaps a clue to where the young are being influenced in their attitudes by the Harvard Study’s findings about the growing use of most social networking platforms and communications tools. 

Since a previous poll was taken in the fall of 2013, the percentage of 18- to 29- year olds who have a:


  • Facebook account grew from 79 percent to 84 percent;
  • Google+ account growth expanded from 37 percent to 44 percent;
  • Twitter growth increased from 35 percent to 40 percent;
  • Instagram from 30 percent to 36 percent;
  • Pinterest from 25 percent to 33 percent;
  • Snapchat from 16 percent to 23 percent; and
  • Tumblr from 10 percent to 14 percent.
With slightly more than three-in-five (61%) students in graduate school having a Google+ account, use among this cohort is significantly higher than students in high school (40%), college (41%), or those who are not in college and never attended (41%). Google+ is also more popular among young Blacks(54%) than young Whites under 30 years old.Facebook (87%), Twitter (47%), Instagram (45%), Pinterest (37%), Snapchat (34%) and Tumblr (19%) areall more popular among college students than among young Americans who are not in, or never haveattended, college.
When we asked the open-ended question, “What is the one website, social network, or app that youcould not live without?” we found that while Facebook was the overall winner by a significant margin (24% compared to 7% for the second most mentioned site, Google), there were significant differences based on what level of education one was enrolled in.










Categories: Opinion polls, US polls Tags:

Labor silence on Treasurer for sale story would be wise

May 5th, 2014 Comments off

5-05-2014 smh

No one who has been even peripherally involved in a federal election campaign will be at all surprised by the stories in this mornings Fairfax papers about Joe Hockey’s involvement in campaign fund raising. Getting in the dollars to pay for getting in the votes has long been an expected part of a Treasurer’s role whatever party is in office.

After the Prime Minister, the Treasurer is the office holder people with a cause to push most want to influence so party officials naturally take advantage of it. The only major difference I can see in the Jovial Joe case is that he localised the collection point via his own electorate organisation rather than letting the state or federal branch get their hands on the dosh. No doubt that will cause a bit of muttering within the Liberal Party now that the sums involved have been publicised.

Labor will be wise not to do too much tut-tutting on this issue. Companies and rich people paying for access to their own high and mighty has been every bit as prevalent as on the Coalition side.

Categories: Lobbying and PR, Political snippets Tags:

Scientists race to develop farm animals to survive climate change and other news and views for Sunday 4 May

May 4th, 2014 Comments off
  • Scientists race to develop farm animals to survive climate change – “When a team of researchers from the University of Delaware traveled to Africa two years ago to search for exemplary chickens, they weren’t looking for plump thighs or delicious eggs. They were seeking out birds that could survive a hotter planet. The researchers were in the vanguard of food scientists, backed by millions of dollars from the federal government, racing to develop new breeds of farm animals that can stand up to the hazards of global warming.”
  • Trailer Parks Lure Wall Street Investors Looking for Double-Wide Returns – “With more of the U.S. middle class sliding into poverty and many towns banning new trailer parks, enterprising owners are getting rich renting the concrete pads and surrounding dirt on which residents park their homes.2014-05-04_who
  • Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. … Very high rates of resistance have been observed in
    bacteria that cause common health-care associated and community-acquired infections (e.g. urinary tract infection, pneumonia) in all WHO regions.
  • Putin’s Not Post-Communist, He’s Post-Fascist – “Some like to idealize Vladimir Putin as the ideological successor to the left-wing Soviet leaders, but that’s sheer nonsense. His speeches offer clear evidence that his points of reference originate in fascism.”
  • Organic Farming Factions Spat Over Synthetic Substances – “… organic purists like Mark Kastel, co-founder of the Cornucopia Institute … fear that the organic label is being taken over by large companies that care more about profits than organic ideals and are willing to blur the line between organic and conventional agriculture. The critics accused the USDA of ‘capitulating to corporate interests’.”

Paul Kelly’s strange logic on forecasts

May 3rd, 2014 Comments off

Just choose your forecast to fit your prejudice. That seems to be the view of Paul Kelly writing in The Australian this morning:

The value of the audit commission is proved by the firestorm it has generated. It is not written by politicians. Freed from such political constraints it can launch the national debate Australia needs to conduct.
Anybody who doubts this should consider the business-as usual projections showing the budget stays in deficit for a decade and beyond. This may be based on conservative forecasts but conservative forecasts are necessary after years of forecasting failure on the optimistic side.

Conservative forecasts are necessary? Really? Surely if we are going to be in the forecasting business at all we should be making our best guess? Otherwise it is just a nonsense.

The caution we show should be the realisation that our best guess most probably will turn out to be wrong – sometimes too pessimistic and sometimes to optimistic. Then when we are wrong we change.

A thought about trade unions – bring them back

May 3rd, 2014 Comments off

This cartoon caught my eye.

3-05-2014 unions

As being relevant when you have front pages like this:


Categories: Political snippets Tags:

Former politicians as door-openers: a classic case study from Britain

May 2nd, 2014 Comments off

Australia has its tawdry tales of former politicians peddling influence for property developers and others told daily before the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption. And we have had the slightly unedifying sight of former Prime Ministers Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd acting as door openers for companies in China and elsewhere. Departed Treasurer Peter Costello used his influence with the regime in Cambodia to introduce some business colleagues and remains in the consultancy business. Alexander Downer traded on the contacts made as our foreign minister to attract a client or two. It’s all a little sad perhaps but the activities of our retired leaders pale into insignificance compared with Britain’s Tony Blair.

London’s Financial Times this week brought its readers the story of this Prime Minister who turned lobbyist on a truly grand scale.

2-05-2014 manicmission

What a depressing read it is as it outlines how the man who not so long ago was a proselytiser for democracy, now, along with the monarchs of the Gulf, courts Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev.

His excuse says he is promoting political reform; the reality is that he is paid handsomely in lending a cloak of respectability to a central Asian tyrant.
Add in the paid-for speeches, dealmaking with the US investment banker Michael Klein and a lucrative door-opening role at JPMorgan, and it all adds up to a tidy sum. Guesses of Mr Blair’s wealth put it at about £100m. Friends suggest this is a serious underestimate.
I suspect he does not want the money for its own sake. More likely, the private jet is a way to keep score, a salve for a bruised ego. The craving is for public approbation.

Put the story in your “must read” category. The FT has a paywall but limited free access.

Categories: Lobbying and PR, Political snippets Tags:

The case for nicotine and other news and views for Thursday 1 May

May 1st, 2014 Comments off
  • Financial investment success: How much luck is needed? – “How much luck do you need to be a successful investor? More than you might think, according to one senior US strategist.
  • The case for nicotine – “Nicotine is good for some people. It improves attention, memory and cognitive function, the latter even in some Alzheimer’s patients. It counteracts that “zoned out” feeling that schizophrenics and others treated with strong anti-psychotic medications complain about (that’s why about 90 percent of them smoke, usually heavily.)”
  • The Right’s Piketty Problem – “Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century has quickly won widespread praise in the US. And, rather than offering substantive criticism of the work, many conservative reviewers have engaged in puerile, ad hominem attacks on its author.”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

That audit commission – much ado about nothing

May 1st, 2014 Comments off

I have scanned the major news website headlines and stories, listened to the radio current affairs programs and watched the television news. I am working my way through all those pages of the Audit Commission report. And I am still wondering what all the fuss about this budget deficit is all about.

My conclusion is that governments for the next few years should stop having new spending and tax reduction proposals. Then a few years of growth and a dash of inflation will solve any problem. And if the growth does not come there’s little that any Australian government can do about it. Most of what will happen is outside the control of a government of any political persuasion.

Thankfully we have a Senate where the numbers ensure that the austerian flavour of the Audit Commission will be ignored.

I’m an optimist and remain far from panic mode.

See also my comment written before the release of the Audit Commission report: Look at the Audit Commission through the prism of minority government

Rupert Murdoch’s world – a Twitter update

May 1st, 2014 Comments off

The great man speaks:

Categories: American media, Media Tags:

Look at the Audit Commission through the prism of minority government

May 1st, 2014 Comments off

Barnaby Joyce brought a tinge of commonsense to political debate this week when he stated the obvious about Tony Abbott’s then un-amended plans for maternity leave payments. The proposal would not get through the Senate so why waste time and effort criticising it?

The same approach will be the sensible one when considering the thoughts of the Audit Commission when they are released today. Most of what will be recommended will never happen because the Government does not have the numbers in the Senate to govern.

The big adjustment the Prime Minister will have to make in the coming months is that he is every bit as captive to minority rule as were his Labor predecessors. The lack of a majority has not changed; only the chamber in which the minority exists.

Categories: Political snippets Tags: