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Archive for June, 2014

The reformed Twitterer Mark Textor denounces the social media vanity of journalists and the online chattering classes

June 30th, 2014 Comments off

Ah, with what nostalgia I remember Mark Textor on Twitter. A source of such entertaining, self-opinionated commentary. And then, alas, the day when he judged himself to have gone too far with his barbs and his retirement into a self imposed Twittering exile.

Those indelible Textor memories came flooding back this morning when, with all the zeal of a reformed smoker denouncing the evils of the evil tobacco, he took to the pages of the Australian Financial Review to denounce the new vanity set loose upon journalists and others of the political class by their devotion to social media.

The Press Gallery is showing dangerous vanity. Quite apart from the questionable practice of one them recently posting pictures of a new Porsche, the obsession with their own importance has lead to a “look-at-us, look-at-them”, Balkanised finger pointing war. The ongoing catfight that is the ABC v News Corp v Fairfax Media is so self-obsessed it now demeans the profession. It certainly demeans their audience who want news, not news about news-people. The left erroneously attacks News Corp for “delivering [Tony] Abbott to government”. But in doing so, are they just feeding the vanity of an editor that believes this fantasy? Political biographies lead to incredibly vain behaviour amongst the players. One practice I have sometimes practised is to march into a bookstore, go straight to the index and see how many times, if at all, I have been mentioned. Moreover, as Joseph Conrad wrote: “Vanity plays lurid tricks with our memory” and many significant political events I’ve witnessed first-hand have strangely disappeared from the pages of more than a few famous biographies I have read from authors involved in those same events, but which don’t fit their legend.

… I fear the vain elites and online chattering classes are the modern equivalent of the puffed-up, perfumed and wigged French aristocracy before the Parisian mob cut their throats, bewildered by reality and unable to fight.

Which bank? The CBA’s credibility is so compromised that a royal commission into these matters is warranted.

June 26th, 2014 Comments off

Australia’s Commonwealth Bank has entered the ticket clippers big league

From the report of a Senate committee released today:

In this case study, the committee examined misconduct that occurred between 2006 and 2010 by financial advisers and other staff at Commonwealth Financial Planning Limited (CFPL), part of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia Group (CBA). Advisers deliberately neglected their duties and placed their personal interests far above the interests of their clients. The assets of clients with conservative risk positions, such as retirees, were allocated into high-risk products without their knowledge to the financial benefit of the adviser, who received significant bonuses and recognition within CFPL as a ‘high performer’. There was forgery and dishonest concealment of material facts. Clients lost substantial amounts of their savings when the global financial crisis hit; thecrisis was also used to explain away the poor performance of portfolios. Meanwhile, it is alleged that within CFPL there was a
management conspiracy that, perversely, resulted in one of the most serious offenders, Mr Don Nguyen, being promoted.
Initially the committee found:

 the conduct of a number of rogue advisers working in CFPL was unethical, dishonest, well below professional standards and a grievous breach of their duties—in particular the advisers targeted vulnerable, trusting people;
 both ASIC and the CBA seemed to place reports of fraud in the ‘too hard basket’, ensuring the malfeasance escaped scrutiny and hence no one was held to account;
 the CBA’s compliance regime failed, which not only allowed unscrupulous advisers to continue operating but also saw the promotion of one adviser, thus exposing unsuspecting clients to further losses;
 there was an inordinate delay in CFPL recognising that advisers were providing bad advice or acting improperly and in CFPL acting on that knowledge and informing clients and ASIC;
 ASIC was too slow in realising the seriousness of the problems in CFPL, instead allowing itself to be lulled into complacency and placing too much trust in an institution that sought to gloss over its problems;
 ASIC did not pay sufficient attention to the whistleblowers who raised serious concerns about the conduct of Mr Nguyen and the action

As the committee gathered more and more evidence, however, lingering doubts began to grow about the robustness and fairness of the ASIC-sanctioned compensation process for CFPL clients who had suffered losses because of adviser misconduct. The committee could see major flaws in the process being implemented by CFPL, in particular:
 the manner in which information about adviser misconduct was conveyed to clients, which rather than reassure clients tended in some cases to intimidate and confuse them;
 CFPL’s obfuscation when clients sought information on their investments or adviser;
 a strong reluctance on the part of CFPL to provide files to clients who requested them;
 no allowance made for the power asymmetry between unsophisticated, and in many cases older and vulnerable clients, and CFPL;
 no client representative or advocate present during the early stages of the investigation to safeguard the clients’ interests when files were being checked and in many cases reconstructed;
 numerous allegations of missing files and key records, of fabricated documents and forged signatures that do not seem to have been investigated;
 the CFPL’s initial offer of compensation was manifestly inadequate in many instances; and
 the offer of $5,000 to clients to pay the costs of an expert to assess the compensation offer was made available only after the CFPL had determined that compensation was payable and an offer had been made.

Recent developments, whereby both ASIC and the CBA have corrected their testimony about the compensation process, have only deepened the committee’s misgivings about the integrity and fairness of the process. The committee is now of the view that the CBA deliberately played down the seriousness and extent of problems in CFPL in an attempt to avoid ASIC’s scrutiny, contain adverse publicity and minimise compensation payments.

In effect, the CBA managed, for some considerable time, to keep the committee, ASIC and its clients in the dark. The time is well overdue for full, frank and open disclosure on the CFPL matter. The committee is concerned that there are potentially many more affected clients that have not been fairly compensated. The clients that gave evidence at a public hearing were exceptional in that they were willing to voice their concerns publicly and were able to fight for compensation because of their circumstances. They were fortunate because they had a family member determined to assist them, were able to obtain independent expert advice, or were able to obtain a copy of their original file from one of the whistleblowers.

At this stage, the committee’s confidence in ASIC’s ability to monitor the CBA’s implementation of its new undertaking regarding the compensation process is severely undermined. Furthermore, the CBA’s credibility in the CFPL matter is so compromised that responsibility for the compensation process should be taken away from the bank. The committee considered five options to finally resolve the CFPL matter. But, given the seriousness of the misconduct and the need for all client files to be reviewed, the committee believes that an inquiry with sufficient investigative and discovery powers should be established by the government to undertake this work. To resolve this matter conclusively and satisfactorily, the inquiry would need the powers to compel relevant people to give evidence and to produce information or documents.

The committee is of the view that a royal commission into these matters is warranted.

Categories: Economic matters, Ticket clippers Tags:

The latest legal setback for the UK’s Barclays bank

June 26th, 2014 Comments off

Top NY securities regulator sues Barclays over ‘dark pool’ – FT.com:

“New York’s top securities regulator has sued Barclays alleging the UK bank favoured high-speed traders using its “dark pool” trading venue while misleading institutional investors. Eric Schneiderman, the state attorney-general, said Barclays had expanded its dark pool, Barclays LX, to one of the biggest off-exchange venues “by telling investors they were diving into safe waters . . . Barclays’ dark pool was full of predators – there at Barclays’ invitation”.”

 

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

Australian official job vacancy figures show some reason for optimism

June 26th, 2014 Comments off

A slight upturn in the Australian Bureau of Statistics quarterly figures for job vacancies. Total job vacancies in May 2014 were 146,100, an increase of 2.1% from February 2014. The number of job vacancies in the private sector was 135,000 in May 2014, an increase of 2.0% from February 2014. The number of job vacancies in the public sector was 11,200 in May 2014, an increase of 4.3% from February 2014.

job vacancieschart

(click to enlarge)

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An analysis by Westpac also released today of new jobs created suggests Australia’s impressive jobs growth this year is somewhat undermined by details showing the gains have been concentrated to just a few sectors. New jobs are concentrated in the services, construction and real estate sectors.

26-06-2014 westpacjobcreation1There has been a stagnation in jobs created for many years outside the mining, utilities, education, health, public and business services.

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An organised hypocrisy that made the News of the World very British indeed and other news and views for Wednesday 25 June

June 25th, 2014 Comments off

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  • Believe it or not: Karl Marx is making a comeback – “It’s true. The ‘Communist Manifesto’ co-author has gotten a second life — and he has some advice for progressives.
  • France seeks to shed reputation for rudeness to woo tourists – “The Socialist government, desperately seeking ways to inject new life into the stuttering economy, is rolling out a plan to transform the tourist industry – not least by addressing the delicate issue of treating holidaymakers with a little more grace.”
  • Devaluing the Bolivarian revolution – How much worse will Venezuela’s economy get?
  • Defend Argentina from the vultures – A creditor paid more to take on the risk of a default cannot then be surprised by it.
  • The Capitol Since the Nineteenth Century: Political Polarization and Income Inequality in the United States – “Even the most casual observer of American politics knows that today’s Republican and Democratic parties seem to disagree with one another on just about every issue under the sun. Some assume that this divide is merely an inevitable feature of a two-party system, while others reminisce about a golden era of bipartisan cooperation and hold out hope that a spirit of compromise might one day return to Washington. In this post, we present evidence that political polarization—or the trend toward more ideologically distinct and internally homogeneous parties—is not a recent development in the United States, although it has reached unprecedented levels in the last several years. We also show that polarization is strongly correlated with the extent of income inequality, but only weakly associated with the rate of economic growth.”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

In for a warmer season whether El Niño comes or not

June 25th, 2014 Comments off

Warmer days and nights are more likely than not for Australia for July to September. The Bureau of Meteorology in its latest national temperature outlook puts the chances that the July to September maximum temperature outlook will exceed the median maximum temperature at greater than 60% over Australia. Chances are greater than 80% over southwest WA, southeast Queensland, northeast NSW, southern Victoria and Tasmania. So for every ten July to September outlooks with similar odds to these, says the Bureau, about six to eight of them would be warmer than average over these areas, while about two to four would be cooler.

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The chances that the average minimum temperature for July to September 2014 will exceed the long-term median also are greater than 60% over Australia. Chances rise to greater than 80% over southern and central WA, southern Victoria, Tasmania, and the eastern seaboard of NSW (see map above).

The Bureau’s outlook says the warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean over the past several months has primed the climate system for an El Niño in 2014. However, in the absence of the necessary atmospheric response, the increase in Pacific Ocean temperatures has levelled off in recent weeks. Despite some easing in the model outlooks, international climate models surveyed by the Bureau still indicate El Niño is likely to develop by spring 2014. While POAMA, the model that produces the seasonal outlooks, does not forecast a high probability of El Niño, it retains a warmer signal across the country due to patterns in the ocean and atmosphere across the Pacific. This warmer signal is generally consistent between international models regardless of their ENSO forecast.

Models indicate the currently warm Indian Ocean is likely to remain warm. The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is expected to remain neutral for the next three months, and is therefore unlikely to have a significant influence upon this outlook.

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On the outlook for rainfall the BOM believes a drier than normal season is more likely for parts of central and eastern Australia with a wetter than normal season is more likely for eastern Tasmania

 

Categories: Environment Tags:

Renaming budget day as government wish-list day

June 25th, 2014 Comments off

In another three or four weeks it might be possible to make an intelligent assessment of the Australian federal budget for 2014-15. Until then I will continue to refrain from adding to the pointless analysis that has been occurring since Treasurer Joe Hockey released all those pages of documents outlining his wish-list.

Categories: Economic matters Tags:

Kevin 16 off and running for top UN job

June 25th, 2014 Comments off

Kevin Rudd is reportedly off and running hard in the race to succeed Ban Ki-moon as secretary-general of the United Nations. While Ban will not leave office until the end of 2016, World Politics Review reports that a lot of pretty serious politicians want to run the UN.

Two people who do seem to want to be secretary-general are both Antipodean ex-premiers: Helen Clark and Kevin Rudd. Clark, prime minister of New Zealand from 1999 to 2008, now runs the U.N. Development Program, and signaled her desire to replace Ban in an interview with the Guardian earlier this year. Her prospects would improve if Ban and she can secure a deal on future international development goals, which should be finalized at a U.N. summit in September 2015.

Meanwhile Rudd, Australian prime minister from 2007 to 2010 and again briefly last year, has a strong reputation for top-level multilateral diplomacy. He was one of the few leaders said to have impressed President Barack Obama in G-20 debates during the financial crisis. Rudd has been energetically engaging in U.N. affairs over the past six months, reportedly lobbying to be the organization’s next envoy to Syria.

Categories: International politics Tags:

My new political favourite – The Best Party shows the way

June 22nd, 2014 Comments off

The policies were unorthodox. Well, certainly the non-core ones.

Electors were promised free towels at swimming pools, a polar bear for the zoo, the import of Jews, “so that someone who understands something about economics finally comes to Iceland”, a drug-free parliament by 2020, inaction (“we’ve worked hard all our lives and want to take a well-paid four-year break now”), Disneyland with free weekly passes for the unemployed (“where they can have themselves photographed with Goofy”), greater understanding for the rural population (“every Icelandic farmer should be able to take a sheep to a hotel for free”), free bus tickets.

Then the core promise caveat.

“We can promise more than any other party because we will break every campaign promise.”

And the election result? The Best Party, described as anarcho-surrealists, were to govern Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik for four years.

Tages Anzeiger provides delightful details of the victory and its consequences.

The leading candidate, Jón Gnarr, a comedian by profession, entered the riotous hall full of drunken anarchists looking rather circumspect. Almost shyly, he raised his fist and said: “Welcome to the revolution!” And: “Hurray for all kinds of things!”

Gnarr was now the mayor of Reykjavik. After the Prime Minister, he held the second-most important office in the land. A third of all Icelanders live in the capital and another third commute to work there. The city is the country’s largest employer and its mayor the boss of some 8,000 civil servants.

No wonder the result was such a shock. Reykjavik was beset by crises: the crash of the banking system had also brought everything else to the verge of bankruptcy – the country, the city, companies and inhabitants. And the anarcho-surrealist party – the self-appointed Best Party – was composed largely of rock stars, mainly former punks. Not one of them had ever been part of any political body. Their slogan for overcoming the crisis was simple: “More punk, less hell!”

Key to the astounding victory was The Best Party’s campaign video.

And did politicians with a sense of humour actually actually work as a government? Apparently.

An assessment of four years of anarchist rule yields a rather surprising conclusion: the punks put the city’s financial house in order. They can also look back on some very successful speeches, a few dozen kilometers of bike paths, a zoning plan, a new school organization (that no one complains about any more) and a relaxed, booming city – tourism is growing by 20% a year (and some say that is the new bubble). In speeches, president Grímsson no longer praises Icelanders’ killer instinct, but their creativity. Real estate prices are again on the rise and the Range Rovers are back too. In polls last October, the Best Party hit its high-water mark of 38%. Shortly thereafter, Gnarr announced he would retire and dissolve the Best Party. His reason: “I’m a comedian, not a politician.” He added: “I was a cab driver for four years, a really good one even, and I quit doing that as well.”

“My question was always: ‹How do we fuck the system?” says [a former punk band member Einar] Örn. “And the answer was, we show that non-politicians can do the job as well. But quitting with a certain election victory within reach, that’s truly fucking the system!”

Categories: Elections, International politics Tags:

Iraqis under ISIS control say their lives have gotten better and other news and views for Sunday 22 June

June 22nd, 2014 Comments off
  • Iraqis under ISIS control say their lives have gotten better – “Perhaps the most important victory so far by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), the extremist group tearing through Iraq, was not overwhelming the much larger Iraqi military or even seizing vast areas of northwest Iraq, including the major city of Mosul. It was convincing regular Iraqis that have come under ISIS rule to trust them. … ISIS looks like it might be winning the battle for Iraqis’ hearts and minds in the Sunni areas it has seized, and this could be enormously bad for Iraq’s crisis. It could make ISIS more powerful and more resilient in the mostly-Sunni northwest. Maybe worse, it could increase the possibility of the crisis spiraling into all-out civil war.”

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  • Down Under – a New York Times review of ‘The Reef,’ by Iain McCalman – “By the end of McCalman’s transformative book, we feel the full force of this slow-motion emergency. In story after story of fascination and trepidation, in revelations and in requiems, this passionate history brings to life the Great Barrier Reef’s magnificent mutability. McCalman’s closing appeal is well earned: We have seen the splendor and now we need to act to slow the vanishing.”
  • Slavery and the Shrimp on Your Plate – Thai Seafood Is Contaminated by Human Trafficking
  • US sets up honey bee loss task force – “The White House has set up a taskforce to tackle the decline of honey bees.”
  • A Job Seeker’s Desperate Choice – “The story of Shanesha Taylor, a mother who had a job interview but was unable to find child care, shows the harsh realities of today’s economy.”
  • World Cup feels China’s strong presence despite its absence from pitch – “A bevy Chinese companies are serving as the event’s official corporate sponsors and suppliers, symbolizing the growing economic power of a country whose leader is an avid soccer fan. … Besides the World Cup, another factor behind the current soccer mania in China is Xi Jinping, the country’s president. …  Xi is scheduled to watch the World Cup final on June 13 at the stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The official purpose of Xi’s visit to Brazil is to attend the BRICS summit on July 15-16 in Fortaleza, Brazil, with the leaders of five major emerging countries, including Russia, India and South Africa as well as Brazil and China. Brazil, which hosts the conference, originally proposed to hold the summit around April, according to diplomatic sources. But the date was pushed back to immediately after the World Cup as Xi expressed his desire to watch the final. Xi’s long-cherished dream is to bring a World Cup to China and watch the Chinese national team win the title. Xi has been putting pressure on China’s soccer community to make efforts to realize this vision.

A quiet week so Miranda brings back the fat cats – the commentariat daily for Sunday 22 June

June 22nd, 2014 Comments off

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  • It’s been a slow news week with those dreaded Labor villains not providing much fodder for biting criticism. So what’s a woman to do for a Sunday column? Get stuck into fat cats. That’s what. Public servants are a tried and true, reliable piece of fair game. Hence Miranda Devine’s Time to take the scalpel to fat cats in The Sunday Telegraph. Did you know the head of Treasury earns $824,320 a year and the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet a whopping $844,000? Well if Miranda thinks they are outrageous sums for running the country I wonder what she thinks of the tens of millions paid to those who run the country’s banks? Maybe she’ll tell us on the next slow-news Sunday.
  • Nobody is laughing as clowns take over senate asserts Piers Akerman in his Tele contribution as he comes to terms with the Abbott government being every bit as much a minority one as its immediate Labor predecessor. Writes Piers: “AT the end of this week, the current moderately sane Senate will sit for the last time. When next it sits — next month — the Senate will be a circus unmatched in Australian parliamentary history. Former PM Paul Keating’s oft-quoted observation that it was “unrepresentative swill” will be more than justified. This situation has been created by the rise of minor and micro parties achieving some success through the clever manipulation of preferences. Thus we see individuals with little or negligible popular support taking senate seats on the basis of preference deals brokered between parties with no shared values. While the major parties will usher in a few new senators — some smart, some not so bright — the loud-mouthed Queensland self-promoter Clive Palmer will be welcoming his team of three Palmer United Party senators, led by former rugby league player Glenn Lazarus.”
  • News Corp’s Samantha Maiden in a column PM can win back votes by burning carbon tax passes on the interesting snippet that “preference whisperer” Glenn Druery has joined Motoring Enthusiast Party senator-elect Ricky Muir’s office as a political adviser and media wrangler.
  • Compromise could save Government from itself – In his column for the News tabloids Peter van Onselen speculates that a $7 co-payment that kicks in immediately for everyone has no chance of winning support. If the rate is dropped and pensioners and concession card holders are excluded, perhaps Health Minister Peter Dutton will get what he’s after. If that happens the Senate may save the Government from itself. We have seen this before. While the laws John Howard’s government sought to pass through the Senate were often made messy by compromises, the outcomes were more politically palatable.
  • Coalition under pressure from within. Everything old is new again. They are having three cornered contest problems again in Victoria. Farrah Tomazin explains in The Sunday Age how hostilities between Liberals and Nationals have broken out over the seat of Euroa, a newly formed electorate in Victoria’s north-east. “Both sides will now head to November’s poll at war in the bush, using resources that could otherwise be spent elsewhere battling the common enemy: Labor. … On one hand, the three-cornered contest gives voters more choice. On the other, the last thing the government needs is to appear as though it is at war with itself, particularly in country Victoria where issues such as TAFE cuts, job losses and ambulance response times continue to bite.”
Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

Higher income for the finance industry, slower economic growth and a greater number of asset bubbles

June 22nd, 2014 Comments off

Buttonwood: Counting the cost of finance | The Economist.

 

… finance was taking a heavier toll on the economy even before Lehman Brothers went under.

That is the conclusion of a new paper by Guillaume Bazot of the Paris School of Economics. …

The paper is a useful contribution to the debate about the role of the financial industry in the global economy. What justifies the high incomes earned by bankers and fund managers? One could argue that they have created a lower cost of capital for business in the form of low bond yields and high equity valuations. But that is a tricky case to make: low yields are more the consequence of central-bank policy and the low level of inflation.

An alternative view is that these higher incomes are what economists call rents: excess incomes earned by those with a privileged economic position. The financial industry is protected because governments and central banks will act to rescue it when it falters, in a way they would not do for chemicals, say. And the sector may also benefit from asymmetric information: some of the products it sells are highly complex and clients may not be aware of the full cost until well after a sale is made.

The central question that the finance industry needs to answer is this: why has its increased importance been associated with slower economic growth in the developed world and a greater number of asset bubbles?

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

Health and health care in Australia at a crossroads and other news and views for Saturday 21 June

June 21st, 2014 Comments off

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In 2008, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) signed up to a National Healthcare Agreement to improve not only health outcomes for all Australians but also health system sustainability. How are they doing? The latest report by the COAG Reform Council—Healthcare in Australia 2012—13: Five years of performance—has good and bad news. It shows that life expectancy has increased for men (79·0 years to 79·9 years) and women (83·7 years to 84·3 years), deaths from circulatory disease have fallen (from 202·0 to 159·6 deaths per 100 000 people), as have deaths in children younger than 5 years (106·9 to 82·9 per 100 000 children) and the national smoking rate (from 19·1% to 16·3%).
However, potentially preventable hospital admissions for acute conditions (1079·6 to 1198·2 per 100 000 people) and vaccine-preventable conditions (70·8 to 82·2 per 100 000 people) have increased. The report also shows worrying increases in the overweight and obesity rate (61·1% to 62·7%), which could lead to peaks in type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases in the future.
Monitoring is crucial to track health reforms and policies, and to identify health and health-care problems. However, this is not only the COAG Reform Council’s latest report but also its last. The Council will cease to exist on June 30, after being axed in the hugely unpopular 2014 budget delivered by Prime Minister Tony Abbott last month. One benefit of an accountability body such as the COAG Reform Council is its independence from federal, state, and territory governments. Concerns have also been expressed over who will now report on the Closing the Gap initiative of Australia’s governments to reduce disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Health agencies have also fallen foul of the new budget. Several, including the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the National Health Performance Authority, will be merged into a new super agency—the Health Performance and Productivity Commission. However, details are scarce on how this will happen. The future of health and health care in Australia has entered uncertain times indeed.

The COAG Reform Council report

  • 21-06-2014 baghdad
  • The Disintegration of the Iraqi State Has Its Roots in World War I – “Created by European powers, the nation of Iraq may be buckling under the pressure of trying to unite three distinct ethnic groups.”
  • Getting to the heart of Abe’s vision for Japan’s military – The hottest buzzwords in politics these days are “the right of collective self-defense,” now that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s advisory panel on security has released its much-awaited recommendations for reinterpreting the Constitution. The Japanese people have been engaged in heated debate as Abe works eagerly to achieve a historic policy shift that would allow Japan to exercise this right, which he says would strengthen the Japan-U.S. military alliance. But what is the right of collective self-defense? Why is Abe pushing so hard for the change?
  • The London meeting that could shape the future of the internet
  • What Will Thailand’s Post-Coup “Democracy” Look Like?
  • Partial Disclosure – “Glenn Greenwald is indignant, self-righteous, and self-aggrandizing—but so what? It’s a red herring, just as focusing on Edward Snowden—who is he, where is he—is a distraction. The matter at hand is not their story; as long as this is a democracy, it has to be ours.”
  • Iran Big Winner in the Iraqi Debacle – “The stunning success of the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Shams (ISIS), a Sunni terrorist group which began as al Qaeda in Iraq in 2003, in seizing control of almost a third of Iraq in less than a week came as a shock to Washington. Blame for underestimating ISIS is already becoming a major political issue, but America has been caught off guard by al Qaeda in Iraq for well over a decade because politics distorts intelligence. In the long run, Iran will be the big winner in the Iraqi debacle.”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Gerard Henderson both writes and is written about – the commentariat daily for Saturday 21 June

June 21st, 2014 Comments off

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  • The Henderson gigs – Gerard Henderson writing about other journalists, other journalists writing about Gerard Henderson, Gerard Henderson writing about other … and so on ad infinitum. Mike Seccombe knows how to play the game of sticking with the tried and true with this piece that confirms there’s nothing very innovative about The Saturday Paper.
  • Gerard himself in his weekend piece for The Australian gives an explanation of how ” ‘Occupied’ East Jerusalem stunt confuses fact and fiction” with the Lee Rhiannon’s Green-left line being the culprit because it only undermines the peace process. He notes: “Reports from the committee meeting have tended to run the line that Brandis changed Australia’s attitude to the Middle East peace process by describing some of the territories that Israel attained consequent upon the 1967 Six Day War as ‘dispute’ rather than ‘occupied’. In fact, Bishop had flagged the Coalition’s position on this matter in an interview with ABC Radio National Breakfast’s James Carleton on September 6 last year.”
  • Inaction in Iraq would be far too risky for the West Is Paul Kelly’s argument in The Oz but don’t expect to find out what the action should be. He concludes: “Obama has been trapped. His disengagement from Iraq came undone long before his watch was over. That is the reason he needs to refocus now on Iraq. This is Obama’s problem; he cannot use the excuse that it is all Bush’s fault since we have known since 2004 that Bush’s invasion was a mistake. Obama has got to find the capacity to exert real influence without fuelling the Jihadist frenzy.” Thanks for that sage advice, Paul.
  • And if Iraq does not give you enough to worry about, The Oz has more:

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  • Why the Kouk is plain wrong sees Henry Ergas give us yet another instalment of the “are we smoking more or fewer cigarettes” serial that has been The Australian’s crusade for the week. With my tobacco industry history I’m too scared to make a comment other than that all will be revealed over time as the excise duty figures are published.
  • In Lib Senators ponder disgraceful use of conscience vote Peter van Onselen takes to Coalition senators threatening to cross the floor on Abbott’s signature policy – the paid parental leave scheme.  It “represents a disgraceful misuse of the conservative right to exercise a conscience vote on issues even when party policy has been set”. – The Weekend Australian
  • An overlooked hero of reform – Laurie Oakes in the News Corp tabloids remembers the role of Bill Hayden as the Opposition Leader who did the hard yards that enabled the later reform years of Hawke and Keating. “Shorten needs to start demonstrating a similar approach to Hayden’s — and soon. … So far, Shorten is vulnerable to government claims that he sticks like glue to policies of the past. Hayden tackled party reform with the kind of courage that Labor could benefit from now, backing intervention in the Queensland branch — his home state — even though it meant falling out with good friends and facing intimidating abuse. And, often defying the factional heavies, Hayden shaped the frontbench that became the Hawke cabinet — one of the best Australia has seen.”

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  • Gadfly: Ashby pulls out – Diarist-at-large Richard Ackland flys about the nation for the Saturday thing. Should be read out of commiseration by every real and wannabe freelancer.
  • You can’t keep hiding the ugly truth – Andrew Wilkie writes in The Mercury of the “systemically cruel” live animal export trade. ” Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has given the green light to live export to Iran after a 40-year boycott. This while regulations are routinely ignored and any effective oversight of the industry is left to noble welfare organisation such as Animals Australia. This is a government content to treat animal cruelty as a growth industry even though the economics of the industry simply don’t add up.”

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  • Queensland voters deserve the truth on Labor’s big ideas – “The party’s awesome majority of 78 seats will no doubt be reduced. However those rushing to administer last rites to the Newman Government are moving in haste. … Labor still has not released anything resembling a winning manifesto, and its hapless crew of seven members in Parliament often resemble goldfish tipped out of their bowl. If Labor has any big ideas voters deserve to hear them now.”

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  • New Senate, new force or rabble?The Fairfax duo Deborah Snow and James Massola look at the new lineup. “Nick Xenophon, the independent senator from South Australia, is scrabbling for a metaphor to describe how the nation’s upper house will look from July 1. ‘If it were a painting,’ he says, ‘I don’t think it would be a landscape. I don’t think it would be a Picasso. I think the Senate will be more like Blue Poles.’ It’s an intriguing comparison. The famous painting by Jackson Pollock, which hangs in Canberra’s National Gallery a short walk from the Federal Parliament, is a sprawling, chaotic masterpiece governed by eight poles leaning at different angles across the paint-spattered canvas. … The PUP group is already picking off Abbott government measures it won’t support – paid parental leave, the fuel excise increase, the $7 GP co-payment, an increase in the pension age – though its support for the repeal of the carbon and mining taxes look more assured. In the longer term, government strategists believe the Palmer senators can be peeled away on individual pieces of legislation and privately question how long the colourful billionaire can hold his flock together. Coalition party bosses are also keenly aware that a double dissolution could well enhance, rather than decrease, the representation of micro-parties because all 12 senators from each state, not just six as in a regular election, would go to the polls.”
  • No lies in Parliament, just truth deficit disorders – Fairfax’s Tony Wright tackles the use and abuse of liar in the federal parliament.
  • Our politics needs to change. Here’s how Michael Gordon fails to live up the headline but has a good anecdote about the press gallery mid winter ball.
  • The contender. Ben Hills profiles Victorian Labor leader Daniel Andrews for Fairfax’s Good Weekend

Number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has, for the first time in the post-World War II era, exceeds 50 million people and other news and views for Friday 20 June

June 20th, 2014 Comments off

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  • World Refugee Day: Global forced displacement tops 50 million for first time in post-World War II era – The UN refugee agency reported today on World Refugee Day that the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has, for the first time in the post-World War II era, exceeded 50 million people. UNHCR’s annual Global Trends report, which is based on data compiled by governments and non-governmental partner organizations, and from the organization’s own records, shows 51.2 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of 2013, fully 6 million more than the 45.2 million reported in 2012.

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This massive increase was driven mainly by the war in Syria, which at the end of last year had forced 2.5 million people into becoming refugees and made 6.5 million internally displaced. Major new displacement was also seen in Africa – notably in Central African Republic and South Sudan.

  • Supreme Court Rules Against Patents For Abstract Ideas – “The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that using a computer to implement an abstract idea does not make that invention eligible for a patent. At issue in the case, Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International: Do software inventions get the same kind of patent protections as other inventions? The justices, in their decision, upheld a lower court ruling that invalidated Alice Corp.’s patents, which were challenged by CLS International. But, as SCOTUSblog notes: “[T]he Supreme Court leaves room for software patents, just not those that take an abstract idea and provide for a computer to implement it.”
  • Why Icelanders are wary of elves living beneath the rocks – Plans to build a new road in Iceland ran into trouble recently when campaigners warned that it would disturb elves living in its path. Construction work had to be stopped while a solution was found.

  • Wrestling With Heartache in a Birthplace of Soul – Sam Smith Gets His Chance at the Apollo -“At the encore, the R&B titan Mary J. Blige quietly came out onstage to reprise her duet with him, “Stay With Me,” a face-off in which Mr. Smith, ceding his stage to his guest, chose awe over pride, and Ms. Blige respectfully tried not to out-emote her host. Like the Apollo, Ms. Blige is a symbol for Mr. Smith, and given the opportunity to see her up close, he embraced it tentatively and with care. In return, she nourished him.”
  • Up in Arms Over ‘Soccer’ vs. ‘Football’ – With World Cup in Headlines, a Debate Continues on What to Call the Game – “The latest analysis of this issue came in a much commented-upon academic paper published recently by Stefan Szymanski, an economist who is a professor of sport management at the University of Michigan and the co-author of ‘Soccernomics.’ In his analysis, Szymanski points out that the word soccer actually began in Britain and continued to be used there happily — right alongside ‘football’ — until at least the 1970s, when a surge of bad temper and anti-Americanism made it virtually radioactive.”

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Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Christopher Pyne in starring role – the commentariat daily for Friday 20 June

June 20th, 2014 Comments off

2014-06-20_absurdusNo extra words needed, really, to get the flavour of what the Courier Mail thinks of Christopher Pyne’s plan to provide funding for the teaching of Latin.

  • Abbott learns to walk tall in the land of giants – Mark Kenny at Fairfax reckons the PM has revealed the right touch in his dealings with the superpowers.
  • The sure grip on undiluted power is slipping – Jonathan Green at The Drum writes of  “what if the accustomed rotating absolute authority of two-party politics, the blank cheque of comfortable majority, became a thing of the past? ” and suggests that if “recent polling is any indication, we might be entering a new political era of constant contest and examination, one in which governments may not be trusted as of right to simply brandish their majority and impose their undiluted will.”

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  • SA state budget 2014 – Tom offers mixed bag of missed opportunity – At The Advertiser, Jessica Irvine writes: ‘ “DON’T blame it on a decade of Labor. Don’t blame it on a moribund economy. Don’t blame it on an inefficient state bureaucracy. Blame it on Tony Abbott.” Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis whistles a good tune. But his first budget rings hollow. Clearly the temptation to embark on a massive scare campaign against the Abbott Government’s Budget belt tightening proved irresistible for the Labor Government. But South Australia needs a government focused on growth and jobs, not political point-scoring. This Budget marks a missed opportunity. There’s only so much lower interest rates can do to stimulate activity. Households and businesses need the confidence to spend and invest. There is little in this Budget that will help them to do that.’
  • Hockey gifts Treasurer smokescreen for mess – Michael Owen in The Australian: WHEN Joe Hockey handed down an unpopular federal budget last month, South Australia’s new Labor Treasurer, Tom Koutsantonis, could barely contain his glee. Koutsantonis knew he had the perfect script for the weeks leading up to his first budget, already mired in record debt and deficit and falling short of required savings targets and fiscal discipline.

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  • Radical rethink needed to achieve justice in rape cases – Gay Alcorn argues in The Age that it just might be that we’ve reached the limit of what the adversarial justice system is capable of doing. If the estimate is true that for every sexual assault committed, only one in 100 will result in a conviction, then the vast majority of women are receiving no justice at all. Alcorn points to work by Rob Hulls, former Labor attorney-general and now the director of RMIT University’s Centre for Innovative Justice, who recently released a major report on restorative justice for sexual assault cases. The report, funded by a $300,000 grant from the former federal government, proposes an alternative to run alongside the regular justice system. In some cases, when both the victim and the offender agree, and where the offender takes responsibility for his behaviour, they would meet with a trained facilitator, sometimes with family or community members present. The idea is for the victim to explain the impact of the crime on them and for the offender to gain insight into the harm they have caused. There’s an outcome, which might be an apology, a commitment to undertake treatment, to stay away from the victim, or compensation. It could be used in cases where police believe there is little chance of success in court, or for historical cases where memory has faded, or in relatively minor cases. Even when an offender has pleaded guilty, a restorative justice conference might reduce his sentence.
  • Axe the tax and save? Peter Fray in The Australian attempts the difficult task of assessing whether the average Australian household be $550 a year better off without the carbon tax. No easy answer apparently but there is this: “The real political problem is that because of rising prices few, if any, voters will see an actual cut in their power bill as a direct result of the carbon tax’s demise. The government will be selling the idea to voters that with the carbon tax they would have been even worse off. This will come as cold comfort.”
  • Labor has no chance in a double dissolution election. Graham Richardson in The Oz gives the conventional wisdom that “the government is unpopular but it would win.”
  • Don’t rule out snap poll is the advice of Steven Scott in the Courier Mail. Not an immediate one mind you. But perhaps next year depending on how Clive Palmer’s senators behave when they gain a say in the balance in power from July. Expect more of these will they, won’t they think pieces in the coming month that tell us just as little as this one.
  • Red card looming amid team Abbott’s own goals – Attorney-General George Brandis and Education Minister Christopher get a verbal slapping as David Crowe in The Australian asserts the government is dangerously close to fatalism about the effect of its policies. “The conventional wisdom is that Abbott’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin, is pulling the strings behind every move. If that’s so, the ministers certainly aren’t responding as they should. If anything, Abbott and his office seem to show remarkable restraint when ministers wander away from the government’s core business.” And the Crowe conclusion? “Perhaps the government will never win the debate over its budget. Still, the hard truth is that it keeps making a mess of its message just when it needs to be persuading voters to accept unpopular change.”
  • The vipers are poised to strike – Simon Benson in the Daily Telegraph makes a case for giiving the intelligence services greater power and worries that Attorney General Brandis has a soft underbelly on all this because as a lawyer he is sympathetic to the human rights argument pushed by not only the lawyers in his department but the right wing think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs, which has a surprisingly libertarian view when it comes to national security.
  • Untouchable truths blind – Piers Akerman covers familiar ground in his column: “The priorities of the ABC and much of the ­Fairfax media have been clarified by their response to the trade union royal commission. The most urgent is to ­protect the Left. The principal goal is to protect former prime minister Julia Gillard from any fallout, the secondary task is to protect the Labor Party and current leader Bill ­Shorten, and the third is to mount a defence (if at all possible) of the trade union movement which permitted corruption to flourish.” After dispatching with that subject Piers was odd to another favourite: “Sarah Hanson-Young cemented her role as a rolled-gold goose with her truly fulsome (offensive to good taste, especially as being excessive; overdone or gross) welcome to a parliamentary delegation from Afghanistan this week.”
  • Labor set for a new battle on the boats – Since being wedged by John Howard after the 2001 Tampa crisis, Labor has struggled to find and fix a coherent policy on asylum seekers says Ellen Whinnett in the Herald Sun. … There’s never going to be an easy resting place for Labor on this issue.
Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

OECD reports how market income inequality rose considerably and other news and views for Thursday 19 June

June 19th, 2014 Comments off

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  • Rising inequality: youth and poor fall further behind – Insights from the OECD Income Distribution Database, June 2014 – “… market income inequality rose by 1 percentage point or more in 20 OECD countries between 2007 and 2011/12 (orange bars in Figure 1). The largest increases occurred in those countries hit hardest by the crisis: Spain, Ireland, Greece, Estonia
    and Iceland but also in France and Slovenia… By contrast, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Israel and Sweden recently reversed the trend and experienced a fall in market income inequality during 2011.”
  • Argentina says next bond payment ‘impossible’, default looms
  • Post-Crash Economics – Robert Skidelsky, Professor Emeritus of Political Economy at Warwick University and author of a three-volume biography of John Maynard Keynes, writes how we may be witnessing the beginning of the end of the neoliberal capitalist consensus that has prevailed throughout the West since the 1980s. “… mainstream economics is a pitifully thin distillation of historical wisdom on the topics that it addresses. It should be applied to whatever practical problems it can solve; but its tools and assumptions should always be in creative tension with other beliefs concerning human wellbeing and flourishing. What students are taught today certainly does not deserve its imperial status in social thought.”
  • Bill Shorten seeks to censure PM over budget ‘honesty’ – The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy summarises the political day in Canberra.
  • Australia won’t describe east Jerusalem as ‘occupied’ – and is wrong to do so – “Australia’s new view is starkly at odds with the true status of east Jerusalem under international law – and to dismiss ‘historical events’ as unhelpful is astonishingly foolish.”

Which team do you think Rupert’s backing?

June 19th, 2014 Comments off

So you thought there was something unique about the way The Australian treated opinion polls. Have a look at this morning’s London Times as it decides to strengthen the anti-Labour message after the first edition:

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Categories: Media, US Election Tags:

Australia’s health system rates well on an international scale

June 18th, 2014 Comments off

Listen to our politicians and you could think Australia has a very expensive health system that does not give an effective and quality service. Look at the latest Mirror, Mirror on the Wall report of the American Commonwealth Fund comparing 11 developed nations and you would find a quite different picture.

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Australia ranks better than most – significantly on the measure of providing quality care – with per capita health spending well below that of most countries.

The UK’s National Health Service tops the rankings on almost every measure.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

Income inequality caused by decline of trade unions

June 18th, 2014 Comments off

The decline of trade unions is a major reason for growing income inequality according to a just released study by Ohio State University academics. Union Strength, Neoliberalism, and Inequality – Contingent Political Analyses of U.S. Income Differences since 1950 finds the role of union decline as larger than many of the favorite explanations offered by economists. Among their contributions to income equality: unions reduce pay differences within companies and use their influence to lobby on behalf of the working and middle classes, the researchers say.

“The effect that unions used to have on protecting the incomes of middle class and working Americans has been underestimated,” said David Jacobs, co-author of the study and professor of sociology at The Ohio State University. Jacobs conducted the study with Lindsey Myers, a doctoral student in sociology at Ohio State. Their results appear online in the journal American Sociological Review and are scheduled to appear in the August print edition.

The complete paper is behind a paywall but a press release summarising the findings explains how the researchers used a wide variety of data sources for the study, including the Gini Index, a measure of income inequality, calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau. They used statistical modeling techniques to examine changes in family income differences over 60 years in search of factors that have important independent effects on income inequality.

Although the decline in union memberships began in the early 1950s, this decline accelerated after the election of President Ronald Reagan,whose policies and appointments to the National Labor Relations Board severely weakened unions, Jacobs said.

Since then, Republican presidents and one Democratic president (Bill Clinton) have followed policies that continued to weaken unions.

According to Jacobs, the effects on inequality have been considerable.

In the 12 years before Reagan’s presidency, from 1970 to 1981, income inequality grew by 4.53 percent. But it expanded by 11.2 percent in the 12 Reagan-Bush years from 1981 to 1992, or by 2.5 times as much.

Inequality grew as much during the Clinton administration, which also implemented policies that hurt unions, Jacobs said.

Of course, a lot happened during this period that may conceivably affect income inequality. But Jacobs and Myers controlled for more than 20 other factors that economists andothers connect to growing inequality. Still, the decline in union strength remained the most important explanation for the increasing income gap.

For example, the researchers took into account changes in the percentage of manufacturing jobs, the percentage of employees in service occupations, levels of international trade, and a variety of demographic factors, including the percentage of female-headed households and the percentage of people under age 16 or over age 64. They also took into account other political factors such as the percentage of Republicans in Congress.

And they considered the factor most often blamed by economists as the main cause of growing inequality: the growing education gap between the haves and have-nots.

“We controlled for all of the major factors generally cited by researchers as contributing to inequality. Still, union decline and the presence of Republican presidents remained the most important explanations for income inequality,” Jacobs said.

“Even education wasn’t nearly as important as union decline.”

According to Jacobs, Reagan’s policies and those of Republican presidents who followed Reagan along with Clinton were a key reason for the decline of union strength and the resulting growth in inequality.

Reagan broke a strike by the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, which ended with the union being decertified. Reagan also named three conservative members to the National Labor Relations Board who held anti-union views.

The result was a sharp decline in the number of workplace union recognition elections and victories during the Reagan administration, which continued under Presidents Bush and Clinton.

The one other factor in the study that played a role in growing inequality was the “financialization” of the American economy and the growth of financial profits, particularly in firms that had not engaged in these activities before.

“Financialization meant that the incomes of the high earners grew rapidly during this period, while union decline led to stagnating incomes for the less affluent.The end result was growing inequality,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs and Myers used a variety of complex models to predict what would have happened if presidents during the 1980s and later had pursued more pro-union policies.

They concluded that unions likely would have lost members inthe 1980s even if there had been presidents supportive of their cause, but the losses would have been less severe.

“After the Reagan turning point, unions no longer had the influence to help contain the acceleration in inequality,” Jacobs said.

How did unions help control inequality?

According to Jacobs, other research has shown that firms with unionized employees have diminished differences in pay – such that the gap in the earnings of the highest-paid worker and the lowest-paid workers was reduced in firms organized by unions.

“Unions were also the most effective political advocates forthe less affluent before Congress, the president and other elected officials,”Jacobs said. “They ended up helping less prosperous families even if they weren’t union members.”

The journal abstract:

Do historically contingent political accounts help explain the growth in family income inequality in the United States? We use time-series regressions based on 60 years to detect such relationships by assessing interactive associations between the neoliberal departure coincident with Ronald Reagan’s election and the acceleration in inequality that began soon after Reagan took office. We find evidence for this and for a second contingent relationship: stronger unions could successfully resist policies that enhanced economic inequality only before Reagan’s presidency and before the neoliberal anti-union administrations from both parties that followed Reagan. Politically inspired reductions in union membership, and labor’s diminished political opportunities during and after Reagan’s presidency, meant unions no longer could slow the growth in U.S. inequality. Coefficients on these two historically contingent interactions remain significant after many additional determinants are held constant. These findings indicate that political determinants should not be neglected when researchers investigate the determinants of U.S. inequality.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

Unburnable Carbon 2013: Wasted capital and stranded assets and other news and views for Wednesday 18 June

June 18th, 2014 Comments off

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  • Unburnable Carbon 2013: Wasted capital and stranded assets – “If listed fossil fuel companies have a pro-rata allocation of the global carbon budget, this would amount to around 125 – 275GtCO2, or 20 – 40% of the 762GtCO2 currently booked as reserves. The scale of this carbon budget deficit poses a major risk for investors. They need to understand that 60 – 80% of coal, oil and gas reserves of listed firms are unburnable. … Capital spent on finding and developing more
    reserves is largely wasted To minimise the risks for investors and savers, capital needs to be redirected away from high-carbon options. However, this report estimates that the top 200 oil and gas and mining companies have allocated up to $674bn in the last year for finding and developing more reserves and new ways of extracting them. The bulk of this expenditure was derived from retained earnings – pointing to the duty of shareholders to exercise stewardship over these
    funds so that they are deployed on financially gainful opportunities consistent with climate security.”

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  • Tweeting progressive politics into oblivion – “If you want to know how the left in Australia thinks, check out Twitter. It will also explain the slow degradation of political reporting into gotcha exposés and personal slurs.”
  • Google and Facebook can be legally intercepted, says UK spy boss – “UK intelligence service GCHQ can legally snoop on British use of Google, Facebook and web-based email without specific warrants because the firms are based abroad, the government has said.”
  • A Balancing Act on Iraq – “President Obama has, so far, struck the right note on Iraq, where Sunni extremist militants are seizing territory and threatening the existence of the state. He has been cautious — emphasizing the need for political reform in Iraq and reaching out to other countries that could have an impact on its fate.”

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  • German Labor Costs – “German labor is very expensive … Yet Germany is a very successful exporter all the same. How do they do it? Not by producing the latest trendy tech product, but by maintaining a reputation for very high-quality goods, year after year.”
  • IMF in warning over Argentina ruling at US Supreme Court – “The IMF said it was concerned about ‘broader systemic implications’.”
  • Eurozone mired in recession pause – “The simplest business cycle dating algorithm declares recessions over after two consecutive quarters of positive GDP growth. By that metric, the Eurozone recession has been over since 2013Q1. This column argues that growth and improvements in the labour market have been so anaemic that it is too early to call the end of the Eurozone recession. Indeed, if this is what an expansion looks like, then the state of the Eurozone economy might be even worse than economists feared.”
  • Van Gaal may actually be as good a coach as he thinks he is – “When I wrote before Holland-Spain that the Dutch were a rubbish team who would try and fail to play boring defence, obviously what I meant was that they were going to hammer the world champions 5-1.Holland’s coach Louis van Gaal cautions: “We still have nothing.” Even a repeat performance against Australia in Porto Alegre on Wednesday would amount to nothing more than near certain qualification for the second round. Yet “the miracle of Salvador”, as the Dutch have dubbed the Spain game, does prompt a re-evaluation of Holland’s prospects. The main conclusion: Van Gaal may actually be as good a coach as he thinks he is, which is nice for Holland and his next club, Manchester United.

Sea ice – the differences between north and south

June 17th, 2014 Comments off

In the Arctic the sea ice coverage keeps going down. In the Antarctic sea ice cover is reaching record heights.

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(Click to enlarge)

A team of UK scientists are predicting that this year will see Arctic sea ice cover around the same level as last year.

The team published its ideas in a recent edition of the journal Nature Climate Change. Now, it has put out its first open forecast for this September of 5.4 million square km, give or take half a million.It compares with 5.35 million square km averaged across September last year.

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Down south the Antarctic is currently showing an alternative trend, with the winter maximum extent growing to record levels.

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Categories: Environment Tags:

My daily must read – theguardian’s Katharine Murphy and other news and views for Tuesday 17 June

June 17th, 2014 Comments off
  • Coalition grilled on budget measures – It is my daily must read – theguardian’s Katharine Murphy blog. It updates the significant – and a little bit of the minutiae – so you can follow the day’s political events in Canberra without wasting hours.
  • The effectiveness of tax rebates as countercyclical fiscal policy – “Governments around the world are searching for macro-stimulation instruments. This column discusses evidence showing that rebate-type payments policies generate substantial increases in demand for goods and services. In particular, a large portion of tax rebates are spent rapidly on arrival.”
  • Print media crunched as News and Fairfax revenues crumble
  • Vampire fiction with added Kevin – “I’m a sucker for a book by a political insider and so devoured the latest book from Troy Bramston, a former speechwriter for Kevin Rudd. Rudd, Gillard and Beyond is short — only 165 pages — but is an excellent addition to the genre of books about Labor that Bob Carr calls ‘vampire fiction’. … Another insight comes from the last day of the 2013 election campaign, when Rudd sent out an automated, pre-recorded message of thanks to the national campaign staff saying, ‘we have changed the way election campaigns are run in Australia’.’You’re damn right, Kevin,’ was the reply. ‘We will never run a fucking campaign like this again. It’s been a complete fucking shambles.’
  • Supreme Court rejects Argentina appeal in bond fight – “The U.S. Supreme Court declined on Monday to hear Argentina’s appeal over its battle with hedge funds that refused to take part in its debt restructurings, an unexpected move that risks toppling Latin America’s No 3 economy into a new default.”
  • Argentina refuses to submit to ‘extortion’ on debt – “President Cristina Fernández of Argentina has raised the prospect of a sovereign default, saying that her government could not succumb to the “extortion” of a US Supreme Court decision that orders it to repay $1.5bn to “holdout” investors before servicing its restructured debt.”
  • Fed looks at exit fees on bond funds – “Federal Reserve officials have discussed whether regulators should impose exit fees on bond funds to avert a potential run by investors, underlining concern about the vulnerability of the $10tn corporate bond market.”
  • Pathological gambling runs in families
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Pacific Ocean remains primed for an El Niño in 2014

June 17th, 2014 Comments off

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology reported today that warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean over the past several months has primed the climate system for an El Niño in 2014. However, said the BOM, in the absence of the necessary atmospheric response, warming has levelled off in recent weeks. Positive Southern Oscillation Index values and large areas of warm water in the western Pacific and off northwestern Australia are also counter to typical El Niño development.

Despite recent observations and some easing in the model outlooks, climate models surveyed by the Bureau still indicate El Niño is likely to develop by spring 2014. The Bureau’s ENSO Tracker remains at El Niño ALERT, indicating at least a 70% chance of El Niño developing in 2014.

Most international climate models surveyed by the Bureau indicate that SSTs in the equatorial Pacific Ocean are likely to warm further over the coming months. Despite some easing in the predictions of how much the equatorial Pacific will warm by, the majority of the surveyed models indicate that sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific are likely to exceed El Niño thresholds before or during the southern hemisphere spring.

Most international climate models surveyed by the Bureau indicate that SSTs in the equatorial Pacific Ocean are likely to warm further over the coming months. Despite some easing in the predictions of how much the equatorial Pacific will warm by, the majority of the surveyed models indicate that sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific are likely to exceed El Niño thresholds before or during the southern hemisphere spring.

For Australia, El Niño is often associated with below-average rainfall over southern and eastern inland areas and above-average daytime temperatures over southern parts of the continent.
The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is currently neutral. Model outlooks suggest the IOD is most likely to remain neutral through winter and spring. Positive IOD events often coincide with El Niño and are typically associated with large parts of southern and central Australia experiencing lower rainfall than usual.

Categories: Environment Tags:

Carbon pricing won’t solve climate change but innovation will and other news and views for Monday 15 June

June 16th, 2014 Comments off
  • Carbon pricing won’t solve climate change. Innovation will – “Putting a price on carbon doesn’t work because no one wants to pay the real cost of using fossil fuels. But funding R&D and demonstration projects that lower clean-energy costs will create real economic incentives to fight climate change.”
Five, a start-up, can analyze Facebook posts to determine personality types based off of select key attributes. Here's Richard Farmer's

Five, a start-up, can analyze Facebook posts to determine personality types based off of select key attributes. Here’s Richard Farmer’s

  • Your Personality Type, Defined by the Internet – “Companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter look at the queries, observations, updates and enthusiasms we write on their services, then they try to figure out what ads might have the most persuasive effect on us. On Tuesday, a Berkeley, Calif., start-up called Five posted a tool that gives a sense of what the big web companies might see when they look at us.”

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Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Evaluating the truthfulness of Harry Nowicki in the Gillard witch hunt

June 16th, 2014 Comments off

From this morning’s media section in The Australian:

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Note: The picture edited because this page looks better without Darren Davidson.

 

 

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

It’s official: theguardian australia makes the big time

June 16th, 2014 Comments off

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And now there are three. The Guardian has joined the ABC and the Fairfax press on the News Corp list of media leftists.

From this morning’s Tim Blair column in the Daily Terror:

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A lack of political voices on Twitter with little creative thinking and other news and views for Sunday 15 June

June 15th, 2014 Comments off
  • ‘Disappointed’ researchers find lack of political voices on Twitter – “Social scientists’ analysis of 290,119,348 tweets from 193,522 “politically engaged” Twitter users during the 2012 presidential campaign conventions and debates found little creative thinking, and a slavish blitz of retweeting “elites” like @billmaher and @seanhannity, according to a new study.”
  • Obama faces limited options in Iraq crisis, doubts over air strikes
  • U.S. to sue Citigroup over faulty mortgage bonds: sources – “The settlement negotiations had involved penalty numbers of $10 billion or more, another person familiar with the talks said. Bloomberg News reported earlier on Friday that the Justice Department had asked the bank to pay more than $10 billion, and that the bank had offered less than $4 billion.”
  • BNP got high-level 2006 warnings on sanctions busting: report – Since France’s biggest bank flagged the risk of a big fine in February this year, sources close to the affair have said it ignored early warnings of the risks it faced. They pointed out that the alleged offending transactions being investigated by U.S. authorities continued until 2009.”
  • Why does inequality grow? Can we do something about it? – “The income inequality has increased worldwide in recent years. This column discusses the role of technological progress, globalisation, and the liberalisation of labour-market institutions on the growing inequality. The liberalisation of labour market institutions has made labour markets more flexible and created many jobs. But beyond a certain point, the net effect of further liberalisation might be negative for society.”

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  • Thinking Deep – a review of The Rise and Fall of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger – Liberalism, Boom and Bust, by Seán Ó Riain – “An academic discipline based on idealised economic systems which permit the application of a great deal of theoretical sophistication has produced cohorts of graduates with little knowledge of history or the real world. These idiot savants can manipulate mathematical models but have little to contribute to actual business practice or economic management.”
  • Greens set to give PM double poll trigger
Chinstripe penguin - a global warming loser CREDIT: flickr/christopher michel

Chinstripe penguin – a global warming loser
CREDIT: flickr/christopher michel

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  • Here Is Your Fun New Oklahoma GOP Candidate Who Would Like To Murder The Gays With Rocks – ” “Have you guys heard about our new favorite…and by “favorite” we mean WHAT THE HELL, DUDE–state legislature candidate? Meet Scott Esk, a Republican running for office in Oklahoma. Scott would be just your run-of-the-mill semi-ginger who is hella mad about his receding hairline except for this one little standout fact: he’s pretty cool with stoning the gays. As in literally stoning the gays. As in to death. How is Scott Esk even possible? The GOP candidate responded to a post on Pope Francis saying “who am I to judge?” on homosexuality by posting numerous Old Testament quotations prescribing capital punishment for LGBT people.”
Categories: Media, News and views for the day Tags:

Learning from Canada – a warning for Tony Abbott

June 14th, 2014 Comments off

Tony Abbott tells us he is impressed by the example of politics in Canada. The country’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, according to Abbott, is a ‘‘guide’’ and a ‘‘beacon.’’ On a visit this week he declared ‘‘I have regarded Stephen Harper as an exemplar of a contemporary centre-right prime minister.’’ The Canadian Conservative Party policies of fiscal rectitude with a reduction in the size of government and the role of the state are clearly in line with the current direction of the Australian Liberal Party.

But at the time Tony Abbott was praising his host, voters in Canada’s largest state of Ontario were giving the thumbs down to Harper like policies of fiscal restraint. The people there voted to turn the Liberal state government from a minority one into one with a clear majority.

On the front page of the National Post, a Canadian equivalent of The Australian, this morning was this verdict on the vote’s significance by its commentator Andrew Coyne:

In 2011, Tim Hudak sought to minimize his differences with Dalton McGuinty, downplaying economic conservatism in favour of a clutch of populist wedge issues. He threw away a 12-point lead and handed victory to the Liberals. People like me criticized him sharply for it. If only he’d offered people a clearer choice, we counselled — had he been more forthright, more substantive, more principled — he’d be premier today. So, in 2014, Mr. Hudak ran on the kind of staunchly conservative platform we favoured, and dropped four points.
There isn’t any point in sugar-coating it. This election was very much a referendum on fiscal conservatism, and the fiscal conservatives lost. Yes, the Conservative campaign was a mess, and yes, the Liberal leader, Kathleen Wynne, proved an effective fear-monger. But the central issue in this campaign, unambiguously, was fiscal policy — the Liberals ran on their budget, and the Tories ran on theirs, the Million Jobs Plan. Everyone agreed this election presented the voters with a clear choice, perhaps the clearest in 20 years. And they made their choice, just as clearly.

Just a little something for our Prime Minister to think about.

Operation Iraqi Freedom – what were these 4804 deaths for?

June 14th, 2014 Comments off

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I am waiting for Messrs Bush, Blair, Howard and other advocates of the war in Iraq to explain again to the families of the dead what was achieved by 4804 sacrifices.

Categories: International politics Tags:

The politics of McMansions and urban enclaves and other news and views for Saturday 14 June

June 14th, 2014 Comments off

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  • Political Polarization and Personal Life – Liberals and conservatives are divided over more than just politics. Those on the opposite ends of the ideological spectrum disagree about everything from the type of community in which they prefer to live to the type of people they would welcome into their families. It is an enduring stereotype – conservatives prefer suburban McMansions while liberals like urban enclaves – but one that is grounded in reality. Given the choice, three-quarters (75%) of consistent conservatives say they would opt to live in a community where “the houses are larger and farther apart, but schools, stores and restaurants are several miles away,” and just 22% say they’d choose to live where “the houses are smaller and closer to each other, but schools, stores and restaurants are within walking distance.” The preferences of consistent liberals are almost the exact inverse, with 77% preferring the smaller house closer to amenities, and just 21% opting for more square footage farther away.
  • Tract Issued By Theologians Takes On Money In Politics
  • The World (fizzy drink) Cup 2014 – From The Lancet – “To the dismay of public health experts, it has become common to see fast-food and sugary drinks companies sponsoring major sporting events. The 2014 FIFA World Cup, which started this week in Brazil, is no exception … Supporting physical activity and healthy eating efforts should be a natural link for a sporting federation. Kicking the unhealthy sponsorship habit, FIFA, would be an excellent start.”
  • Can A Female Politician Be Insulted Without It Being Sexist? –  The talk on the streets of Brazil is the host country’s resounding victory over Croatia on the World Cup pitch. But online, debate is raging over whether or not chants directed against Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff at the stadium where she was attending yesterday’s match were sexist. After the opening ceremony, fans briefly started jeering “Hey, Dilma, go f*** yourself in the a**! Hey, FIFA, go f*** yourself in the a**!”

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The hunt for Red Julia – this morning’s views on the guilt or innocence of Julia Gillard

June 14th, 2014 Comments off

You pays your money (and you takes your choice).

Sydney Daily Telegraph:

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Matthew Benns and Pia Akerman:

FORMER Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s legal advice to her former boyfriend in the creation of a union slush fund is part of a highly sensitive police investigation, according to documents released by a court yesterday.

2014-06-14_implicatedMatthew Benns:

THE ONGOING INQUIRY INTO UNIONS HAS THROWN THE SPOTLIGHT ON A SLUSH FUND, JULIA GILLARD AND BILL SHORTEN AMONG OTHERS

The Australian

Hedley Thomas:

THERE are two theatres now busily engaged in starkly different productions about the Australian Workers Union slush fund scandal. They are on course for a spectacular clash.
The big theatre is the national royal commission into union corruption. It has hard evidence, forensic examinations, legal rules, witnesses and documents in its lead-up to eventual findings on a fraud that has followed Julia Gillard for 22 years. The noisier, smaller theatre revolves around former union boss Bruce Wilson.
It is rich with vaudeville and make-believe, heavily reliant on helpful reviews from friendly sections of the media, junk on Twitter, Mark Latham and other politically partisan silliness. It is setting up a conspiracy theory devoid of substance and evidence.
The little theatre’s purpose is to diminish the public perception of damning evidence about the allegedly corrupt Wilson.
The even more important outcome from this purpose of the little theatre is the hosing-down of troubling allegations at the royal commission from credible witnesses — such as retired builder Athol James and former AWU archivist Wayne Hem — about wads of cash handed over by Wilson for his then girlfriend, Gillard.
The slush fund she had helped establish by giving legal advice for Wilson generated a lot of cash that went in many directions. It was his only source of extra dough.
The sideshow relies on one slice of Wilson’s witness statement — his evidence-free claims that a retired lawyer, Harry Nowicki, had offered him large sums of money to confess all about the AWU slush fund, and even to make up evidence detrimental to Gillard. The problem with Wilson’s claims, even if true (Nowicki, a former Builders Labourers Federation lawyer who has been researching the AWU slush fund for two years, says they are the “lies of a con man’’ facing criminal charges), is they have zero connection to the actual slush fund fraud.

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(Click to enlarge)

An editorial:

A crucial development this week was the admission by Julia Gillard’s former boyfriend, Bruce Wilson, that he extracted large sums from Thiess construction for the secret slush fund he set up with legal assistance from Ms Gillard in 1992. On Tuesday, the counsel assisting the commission, Jeremy Stoljar SC, said Mr Wilson, a former AWU official, should face charges over sham invoices for hundreds of thousands of dollars paid into the fund. Mr Stoljar said Mr Wilson and his then AWU sidekick Ralph Blewitt committed offences that could carry up to 10 years in jail.
Ms Gillard has asserted she did nothing wrong. But whether Mr Wilson used money from the fund to pay for renovations to her home in Abbotsford and what, if anything, she knew about it are also central to the investigation.

Brad Norington:

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The most damaging allegation for the former Labor PM at the royal commission this week was evidence from a Melbourne builder, Athol James, that Gillard told him in 1993 while he was doing renovations on her house in Melbourne’s Abbotsford that Wilson was paying for the work. What’s more, James said that on two occasions he saw Wilson hand Gillard “a large amount of cash” to cover the cheques she subsequently wrote as payment for his work. James, hired by Gillard after she spotted his business in a local newspaper ad, could not know whether the alleged Wilson payments came from the “slush fund”. …

At this point, Gillard is relying on firm denials. Her position has been firmly backed by Wilson in the witness box. He went so far as to declare that James, Hem, Ivory, Blewitt and others were all liars. That’s a lot of alleged liars.
What the royal commission does in terms of following the money trail through Gillard’s old bank accounts, if that is possible, could provide some answers to lingering questions about the former PM and her old boyfriend.
In the meantime, Gillard is depending on her credibility as a former PM who, as she has stated, has “done nothing wrong”, compared with the reputation of Blewitt, a man she said in 2012 had admitted his guilt and wanted immunity.
She said Blewitt had been described by others as a complete imbecile, an idiot, a stooge, a sexist pig and a liar. Even Blewitt’s sister regarded him as “a crook and rotten to the core”.

The Age

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The Saturday Paper

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Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

Greenhouse gas emissions fell in December quarter and other news and views for Friday 13 June

June 13th, 2014 Comments off

 

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  • Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: December 2013 – Australia’s National Greenhouse Accounts – “Emissions decreased in the December quarter 2013, with trend emissions falling by 0.4% while seasonally adjusted emissions were unchanged. … Annual emissions for the year to December 2013 are estimated to be 538.4 Mt CO2-e. This represents a 0.8% decline in emissions when compared with the previous year. … Over the year to December 2013, there was a decline in emissions from electricity, reflecting lower electricity demand and changes in the generation mix. Emissions from industrial processes also declined over the year. These declines were partially offset by increases in the fugitive emissions and agriculture sectors.

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Covering a Royal Commission – ‘Sentence first — verdict afterwards.’

June 13th, 2014 Comments off

In this new world of reporting where we don’t need a Royal Commissioner to make a finding I’ve been searching for the appropriate words.

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I certainly can not do better than Chapter XII of Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

Alice’s Evidence

‘Here!’ cried Alice, quite forgetting in the flurry of the moment how large she had grown in the last few minutes, and she jumped up in such a hurry that she tipped over the jury-box with the edge of her skirt, upsetting all the jurymen on to the heads of the crowd below, and there they lay sprawling about, reminding her very much of a globe of goldfish she had accidentally upset the week before.
Giant Alice upsets the jury (literally)
‘Oh, I beg your pardon!’ she exclaimed in a tone of great dismay, and began picking them up again as quickly as she could, for the accident of the goldfish kept running in her head, and she had a vague sort of idea that they must be collected at once and put back into the jury-box, or they would die.
‘The trial cannot proceed,’ said the King in a very grave voice, ‘until all the jurymen are back in their proper places — all,’ he repeated with great emphasis, looking hard at Alice as he said do.
Alice looked at the jury-box, and saw that, in her haste, she had put the Lizard in head downwards, and the poor little thing was waving its tail about in a melancholy way, being quite unable to move. She soon got it out again, and put it right; ‘not that it signifies much,’ she said to herself; ‘I should think it would be quite as much use in the trial one way up as the other.’
As soon as the jury had a little recovered from the shock of being upset, and their slates and pencils had been found and handed back to them, they set to work very diligently to write out a history of the accident, all except the Lizard, who seemed too much overcome to do anything but sit with its mouth open, gazing up into the roof of the court.
‘What do you know about this business?’ the King said to Alice.
‘Nothing,’ said Alice.
‘Nothing whatever?’ persisted the King.
‘Nothing whatever,’ said Alice.
‘That’s very important,’ the King said, turning to the jury. They were just beginning to write this down on their slates, when the White Rabbit interrupted: ‘Unimportant, your Majesty means, of course,’ he said in a very respectful tone, but frowning and making faces at him as he spoke.
‘Unimportant, of course, I meant,’ the King hastily said, and went on to himself in an undertone, ‘important — unimportant — unimportant — important —’ as if he were trying which word sounded best.
Some of the jury wrote it down ‘important,’ and some ‘unimportant.’ Alice could see this, as she was near enough to look over their slates; ‘but it doesn’t matter a bit,’ she thought to herself.
At this moment the King, who had been for some time busily writing in his note-book, cackled out ‘Silence!’ and read out from his book, ‘Rule Forty-two. All persons more than a mile high to leave the court.’
Everybody looked at Alice.
‘I’m not a mile high,’ said Alice.
‘You are,’ said the King.
‘Nearly two miles high,’ added the Queen.
‘Well, I shan’t go, at any rate,’ said Alice: ‘besides, that’s not a regular rule: you invented it just now.’
‘It’s the oldest rule in the book,’ said the King.
‘Then it ought to be Number One,’ said Alice.
The King turned pale, and shut his note-book hastily. ‘Consider your verdict,’ he said to the jury, in a low, trembling voice.
‘There’s more evidence to come yet, please your Majesty,’ said the White Rabbit, jumping up in a great hurry; ‘this paper has just been picked up.’
‘What’s in it?’ said the Queen.
‘I haven’t opened it yet,’ said the White Rabbit, ‘but it seems to be a letter, written by the prisoner to — to somebody.’
‘It must have been that,’ said the King, ‘unless it was written to nobody, which isn’t usual, you know.’
‘Who is it directed to?’ said one of the jurymen.
‘It isn’t directed at all,’ said the White Rabbit; ‘in fact, there’s nothing written on the outside.’ He unfolded the paper as he spoke, and added ‘It isn’t a letter, after all: it’s a set of verses.’
‘Are they in the prisoner’s handwriting?’ asked another of the jurymen.
‘No, they’re not,’ said the White Rabbit, ‘and that’s the queerest thing about it.’ (The jury all looked puzzled.)
‘He must have imitated somebody else’s hand,’ said the King. (The jury all brightened up again.)
‘Please your Majesty,’ said the Knave, ‘I didn’t write it, and they can’t prove I did: there’s no name signed at the end.’
‘If you didn’t sign it,’ said the King, ‘that only makes the matter worse. You must have meant some mischief, or else you’d have signed your name like an honest man.’
There was a general clapping of hands at this: it was the first really clever thing the King had said that day.
‘That proves his guilt,’ said the Queen.
‘It proves nothing of the sort!’ said Alice. ‘Why, you don’t even know what they’re about!’
‘Read them,’ said the King.
The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. ‘Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?’ he asked.
‘Begin at the beginning,’ the King said gravely, ‘and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’
These were the verses the White Rabbit read:—

‘They told me you had been to her,
And mentioned me to him:
She gave me a good character,
But said I could not swim.
He sent them word I had not gone
(We know it to be true):
If she should push the matter on,
What would become of you?
I gave her one, they gave him two,
You gave us three or more;
They all returned from him to you,
Though they were mine before.
If I or she should chance to be
Involved in this affair,
He trusts to you to set them free,
Exactly as we were.
My notion was that you had been
(Before she had this fit)
An obstacle that came between
Him, and ourselves, and it.
Don’t let him know she liked them best,
For this must ever be
A secret, kept from all the rest,
Between yourself and me.’

‘That’s the most important piece of evidence we’ve heard yet,’ said the King, rubbing his hands; ‘so now let the jury —’
‘If any one of them can explain it,’ said Alice, (she had grown so large in the last few minutes that she wasn’t a bit afraid of interrupting him,) ‘I’ll give him sixpence. I don’t believe there’s an atom of meaning in it.’
The jury all wrote down on their slates, ‘She doesn’t believe there’s an atom of meaning in it,’ but none of them attempted to explain the paper.
‘If there’s no meaning in it,’ said the King, ‘that saves a world of trouble, you know, as we needn’t try to find any. And yet I don’t know,’ he went on, spreading out the verses on his knee, and looking at them with one eye; ‘I seem to see some meaning in them, after all. “— said I could not swim —” you can’t swim, can you?’ he added, turning to the Knave.
The Knave shook his head sadly. ‘Do I look like it?’ he said. (Which he certainly did not, being made entirely of cardboard.)
‘All right, so far,’ said the King, and he went on muttering over the verses to himself: ‘“we know it to be true —” that’s the jury, of course — “I gave her one, they gave him two —” why, that must be what he did with the tarts, you know —’
‘But, it goes on “they all returned from him to you,”’ said Alice.
‘Why, there they are!’ said the King triumphantly, pointing to the tarts on the table. ‘Nothing can be clearer than that. Then again —“before she had this fit —” you never had fits, my dear, I think?’ he said to the Queen.
‘Never!’ said the Queen furiously, throwing an inkstand at the Lizard as she spoke. (The unfortunate little Bill had left off writing on his slate with one finger, as he found it made no mark; but he now hastily began again, using the ink, that was trickling down his face, as long as it lasted.)
‘Then the words don’t fit you,’ said the King, looking round the court with a smile. There was a dead silence.
King reflecting in court
‘It’s a pun!’ the King added in an offended tone, and everybody laughed, ‘Let the jury consider their verdict,’ the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.
‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first — verdict afterwards.’
‘Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. ‘The idea of having the sentence first!’
‘Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.
‘I won’t!’ said Alice.
‘Off with her head!’ the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.
‘Who cares for you?’ said Alice, (she had grown to her full size by this time.) ‘You’re nothing but a pack of cards!’
“You’re nothing but a pack of cards!”
At this the whole pack rose up into the air, and came flying down upon her: she gave a little scream, half of fright and half of anger, and tried to beat them off, and found herself lying on the bank, with her head in the lap of her sister, who was gently brushing away some dead leaves that had fluttered down from the trees upon her face.
‘Wake up, Alice dear!’ said her sister; ‘Why, what a long sleep you’ve had!’

Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

The patterns of news consumption

June 12th, 2014 Comments off

 

This year's Reuters Institute Digital News report contains worrying signals for publishers with further compelling evidence of new disruptive patterns of news consumption - with the smartphone and social media as the most powerful agents of change.

This year’s Reuters Institute Digital News report contains worrying signals for publishers with further compelling evidence of new disruptive patterns of news consumption – with the smartphone and social media as the most powerful agents of change.

  • New threats everywhere from a second wave of news disruption – “In essence, with older groups sticking stubbornly to the patterns of the past, news organisations will have to produce editions for the over 45s AND ‘always on’ content for busy professionals and younger groups in general. That will be expensive and time-consuming.”

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That humble watercress is the pick of the crops. Researchers from William Paterson University in New Jersey have done the sums and rated it top based on the amounts of 17 critical nutrients contained in fruit and vegetables.

That humble watercress is the pick of the crops. Researchers from William Paterson University in New Jersey have done the sums and rated it top based on the amounts of 17 critical nutrients contained in fruit and vegetables.

Categories: Media, News and views for the day Tags:

A vintage day at The Australian writing about its competitors

June 12th, 2014 Comments off

Another vintage day at the Oz for journalists talking about each other. Even the cartoonist got into the act.

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And another tedious lot of reading it all was.

And I should add that even Rupert Myer, chairman of the Australia Council for the Arts, made a contribution with an op-ed containing some veiled chiding of “our national broadcaster” and a reference to an unnamed paper (it was, yes, those dreaded Fairfax tabloids again) that “in a recent clumsy attempt relying on unnamed sources to raise doubts about the fairness of federal government support towards the Australian Ballet School in Melbourne”, wrote about it as being “a creche for some rich kids”.

Employment in Australia standing still

June 12th, 2014 Comments off

At least things are not getting worse on the employment front. Today’s Australian Bureau of Statistics Labour Force report for May shows the trend rate for employment edging ever so slowly up and that for unemployment on a slight downward slope.

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The relatively stagnant nature of a labour market where full time and part time employment fluctuate considerably from month to month is perhaps best illustrated by the trend of aggregate monthly hours worked. It has ben virtually flat since late 2011.

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America at War: A Record of Unparalleled Failure and other news and views for Wednesday 11 June

June 11th, 2014 Comments off
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Making a monkey of the opinion polls

June 11th, 2014 Comments off

Every now and again we get a reminder that opinion polls are not an infallible guide to public opinion. In yesterday’s primary election to choose the Republican candidate for Virginia’s 7th congressional district the polls showed the incumbent Congressman Eric Cantor well ahead.

As The New Yorker reported: “According to Nate Silver, his internal polling showed him ahead by more than twenty points. A poll carried out on June 2nd by the Daily Caller did indicate that the race was narrowing somewhat, but even that poll showed Brat trailing Cantor by twelve points, forty per cent to fifty-two per cent.”

And the result? The challenger college professor Dave Brat ousted seven-term House Majority Leader Eric Cantor with 56 percent of the vote to Cantor’s 44 percent.

To make the result even more remarkable, the professor spent $122,000 on his campaign to his opponent’s $5 million plus.

Understanding global warming

June 11th, 2014 Comments off

xkcd’s drawing is worth a thousand words

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“The good news is that according to the latest IPCC report, if we enact aggressive emissions limits now, we could hold the warming to 2°C. That’s only HALF an ice age unit, which is probably no big deal.”

Categories: Environment Tags:

The most boring read in newspapers – News on Fairfax, Fairfax on News

June 11th, 2014 Comments off

Enough. Enough.

Both of you. Fill the space with something else.

The Australia Post nonsense

June 11th, 2014 Comments off

I get bemused reading about the so-called crisis in the letter delivery service of Australia Post.

So putting those basic letter into the letter boxes of people every day results in a loss. A sensible approach would be to say we can either put the price up so it is profitable or reduce the frequency of deliveries so the service is profitable.

Which to choose?  Business might favour slower deliveries to keep down the costs of sending out bills but the voters, I guess, like their letters getting delivered promptly.

To me it is a perfect example of a problem that we elect politicians to solve.

But then, I’m an old man who remembers when Australia Post was just half of the responsibilities of a Post Master General who did not have the help of multi-million dollar a year heads of posts and telecommunications.

Categories: Political indicators Tags:

Another Clinton v Bush election and other news and views for Tuesday 10 June

June 10th, 2014 Comments off

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  • Big sponsors pile pressure on Fifa over Qatar World Cup
  • Beautiful game, dirty business – “The mesmerising wizardry of Lionel Messi and the muscular grace of Cristiano Ronaldo are joys to behold. But for deep-dyed internationalists like this newspaper, the game’s true beauty lies in its long reach, from east to west and north to south. Football, more than any other sport, has thrived on globalisation. Nearly half of humanity will watch at least part of the World Cup, which kicks off in Brazil on June 12th. So it is sad that the tournament begins under a cloud as big as the Maracanã stadium. Documents obtained by Britain’s Sunday Times have allegedly revealed secret payments that helped Qatar win the hosting rights to the World Cup in 2022. If that competition was fixed, it has company. A report by FIFA, football’s governing body, is said to have found that several exhibition matches were rigged ahead of the World Cup in 2010. And as usual, no one has been punished.”

“When you’re in The World Cup,

And all your hopes are up,

And everybody wants your team to win.

Then they go and let you down,

And come slinking back to town,

It’s time for this daft song to begin.”

The Beverly Hills Hotel even acknowledges it has seen a “significant loss of revenue” after the boycott gained traction on May 5, when the Motion Picture and Television Fund pulled its annual pre-Oscar Night Before Party from the venue, and Jay Leno, LGBT leaders and women’s rights organizations staged a rally across the street.

The Beverly Hills Hotel even acknowledges it has seen a “significant loss of revenue” after the boycott gained traction on May 5, when the Motion Picture and Television Fund pulled its annual pre-Oscar Night Before Party from the venue, and Jay Leno, LGBT leaders and women’s rights organizations staged a rally across the street.

  • Boycott Cripples Biz at Beverly Hills Hotel – “More than six weeks after a wave of Hollywood groups and showbiz figures launched a boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air, business at the fabled Hollywood-centric properties is off dramatically. … he protest is over plans by the hotels’ owner, the sultan of Brunei, to impose Sharia law in his country, with penalties like stoning those in gay relationships, as well as those accused of adultery or extramarital affairs. Brunei’s investment agency controls the Dorchester Collection, parent company of the two hotels. … actors Russell Crowe and Rose McGowan, in support of the hotel’s workers, declared the well-publicized boycott misguided.”
  • Interests, Ideology And Climate – “There are three things we know about man-made global warming. First, the consequences will be terrible if we don’t take quick action to limit carbon emissions. Second, in pure economic terms the required action shouldn’t be hard to take: emission controls, done right, would probably slow economic growth, but not by much. Third, the politics of action are nonetheless very difficult.” – Paul Krugman in the New York Times
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A benefit from the booze

June 9th, 2014 Comments off

A good news story for the day. Researchers have found that alcohol may protect trauma patients from later complications. That’s a finding of such significance I thought I should run the press release from the University of Illinois in full.

Injured patients who have alcohol in their blood have a reduced risk for developing cardiac and renal complications, according to a study from the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. Among patients who did develop complications, those with alcohol in their blood were less likely to die. The study is published in the June issue of the journal Alcohol.

“After an injury, if you are intoxicated there seems to be a substantial protective effect,” says UIC injury epidemiologist Lee Friedman, author of the study. “But we don’t fully understand why this occurs.”

To better understand the link, Friedman looked at medical complications that are associated with dying in the hospital in relation to patient blood alcohol levels. Other studies have demonstrated that up to 64 percent of post-trauma deaths are attributable to a limited set of later complications.

Nearly 85,000 trauma patients with measured blood alcohol levels were included in the retrospective study, which analyzed 10 years of cases at level I and level II trauma units in Illinois. Children under 16 and patients with certain injuries, such as burns and superficial wounds, were excluded from the study.Patients’ blood alcohol content ranged from 0 to 0.5 percent — a life-threatening amount, more than six times the level of legal impairment in the U.S.Overall, 3.2 percent of the patients studied died. Mortality was substantially higher for those who developed complications compared to those who did not (10.3 percent versus 2.1 percent). Among those who died, 43.2 percent had at least one complication.

Blood alcohol concentration was associated with a reduced risk of developing any complication, and with fewer complications overall. In patients who had alcohol in their blood, cardiac complications were reduced by 23.5 percent. Renal complications were reduced by 30 percent.

The study raises important questions for treatment of traumatic injury.

“Even though alcohol is metabolized quickly by the body, it appears the protective benefit lasts long after there should be only trace amounts in the body,” said Friedman, who is assistant professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at UIC. It is unclear, he said, if alcohol’s protective effect comes during the initial period after injury, when alcohol is still present in the blood — or if the benefit comes from alcohol’s metabolites, in tandem with the body’s compensatory responses to both the alcohol and the injury.“

The current analysis shows there were reductions in medical complications dominating the cardiovascular system and kidneys, which provides clues to solving this interesting and potentially life-saving puzzle,” Friedman said.

Categories: Drinking Tags:

The search for a sarcasm detector and other news and views for Sunday 8 June

June 8th, 2014 Comments off

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  • Hillary Clinton’s Book ‘Hard Choices’ Portrays a Tested Policy Wonk – “The book … turns out to be a subtle, finely calibrated work that provides a portrait of the former secretary of state and former first lady as a heavy-duty policy wonk. Compared with her 2003 memoir, ‘Living History’ — which tended to lapse into glib, stump-speechlike pronouncements and reactive efforts to blame assorted enemies for her and her husband’s travails — ‘Hard Choices’ is a statesmanlike document intended to attest to Mrs. Clinton’s wide-ranging experience on national security and on foreign policy.”
  • The Fixer Offense in Soccer – “The passionate rivalries of World Cup soccer will soon be enthralling sports fans across the globe, along with throngs of fanatic gamblers placing untold millions in bets. As the opening matches in Brazil on June 12 draw near, there are rising doubts that FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, has enough security and personnel to protect the quadrennial competition from the threat of match fixing that has been bedeviling the sport.”
  • The Communist Party’s Terrorism Survival Plan – Old ‘people’s war’ tactics are being mobilized against a new threat. =”After the knife attack in Kunming, state-run China Central Television (CCTV) tweeted a survival guide in case of terrorism on Weibo, China’s popular microblogging platform. The guide, complete with an Astro Boy-like cartoon figure dressed in a Superman suit performing first-aid maneuvers, has advice like, “Try your best not to scream out of fear because it would further agitate the perpetrators” and “do not stop to take photos with your cellphone and share on social media.”

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  • The Road to the Zombie Office – “If we are what we eat—a notion that seems irrefutable in today’s food-fixated United States—then another corollary, at a time when personal identity often derives more from professional pursuits than private matters, would be that we are where we work. “
  • A Rare Look Inside the Air Force’s Drone Training Classroom – “The technology of war is changing, but the fundamental conflict is the same.”
  • US Secret Service seeks Twitter sarcasm detector – “The US Secret Service is seeking some help with its online snooping, and needs a company that can detect sarcasm online – because you need to be able to distinguish between “I love Al Qaeda” and “I love Al Qaeda”. Good luck with that, pals!”
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With minimum wages catching up with inflation is not enough and other news and views for Saturday 7 June

June 7th, 2014 Comments off
  • Seattle Leads the Way – “The new $15-an-hour minimum wage approved this week in Seattle does more than guarantee a raise to tens of thousands of workers in the city. As the highest minimum in the nation, it changes the terms of the minimum-wage debate and expands the realm of the possible in setting new minimums. In recent decades, proposals to lift the minimum — whether on the federal, state or local level — have been presented as a way to restore purchasing power lost to inflation during long stretches with no raises. Seattle lawmakers have said, clearly and correctly, that catching up with inflation is not enough. To be adequate, a minimum wage also has to reflect real economic gains as measured by average wages and productivity growth.
  • Privatisation and government debt – Simon Wren-Lewis economics professor at Oxford University: “Possibly the worst argument for privatising part of the public sector is a supposed ‘need’ to reduce public sector debt. … Privatisation is one of a number of devices that flatter the short term public finances with no impact (or worse) on the long term position. (Considerably worse if the asset is sold far too cheaply, as in the most recent UK case for example.) “

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  • Linkages Between Arctic Warming and Mid-Latitude Weather Patterns: Summary of a Workshop (2014) – “The Arctic has been undergoing significant changes in recent years. Average temperatures are rising twice as fast as they are elsewhere in the world. The extent and thickness of sea ice is rapidly declining. Such changes may have an impact on atmospheric conditions outside the region. Several hypotheses for how Arctic warming may be influencing mid-latitude weather patterns have been proposed recently. For example, Arctic warming could lead to a weakened jet stream resulting in more persistent weather patterns in the mid-latitudes. Or Arctic sea ice loss could lead to an increase of snow on high-latitude land, which in turn impacts the jet stream resulting in cold Eurasian and North American winters. These and other potential connections between a warming Arctic and mid-latitude weather are the subject of active research.”
  • Former Boxer Steps Up As Kiev Mayor, Spars With Remaining Activists – “Former world heavyweight boxing champ Vitaly Klitchko is now set to become mayor of Kiev. In his first major move, Klitchko is asking activists in Independence Square to pack up their tents and allow the square to return to normal. Some activists are resisting, warning that one presidential election doesn’t guarantee the success of their revolution — or do justice to the martyrs who were killed there.”
  • Early Exposure To Bacteria Protects Children From Asthma And Allergies -“Babies who are exposed to both bacteria and allergens in the first year of life are less likely to develop asthma and allergies, a study finds. … But what’s interesting about this study is that it gets specific; not just any old germs or allergens will do.”
  • Upset at UN climate talks as ministers go missing – “Negotiators and campaigners have reacted angrily to the failure of many environment ministers to attend UN talks in Bonn. They say governments gave an undertaking last year to come here and update plans to cut emissions. But so far, around 50 ministers have turned up, with representatives from the UK, France and Brazil notably absent. Over 130 turned up in Warsaw for the last major talks session.
  • Climate change helps seas disturb Japanese war dead – “Rising sea levels have disturbed the skeletons of soldiers killed on the Marshall Islands during World War Two. Speaking at UN climate talks in Bonn, the Island’s foreign minister said that high tides had exposed one grave with 26 dead.”
  • The Climate Domino by Paul Krugman – “Maybe it’s me, but the predictable right-wing cries of outrage over the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules on carbon seem oddly muted and unfocused. … the attacks on the new rules mainly involve the three C’s: conspiracy, cost and China. That is, right-wingers claim that there isn’t any global warming, that it’s all a hoax promulgated by thousands of scientists around the world; that taking action to limit greenhouse gas emissions would devastate the economy; and that, anyway, U.S. policy can’t accomplish anything because China will just go on spewing stuff into the atmosphere.”
  • EPA’s Proposed Greenhouse Gas Regulation: Why are Conservatives Attacking its Market-Based Options? – “Not so long ago, cap-and-trade mechanisms for environmental protection were popular in Congress. Now, such mechanisms are denigrated. What happened? Professor Richard Schmalensee (MIT) and I recently told the sordid tale of how conservatives in Congress who once supported cap and trade had come to lambast climate change legislation as “cap-and-tax.” Ironically, in doing this, conservatives have chosen to demonize their own market-based creation.”

 

Three in Four in U.S. Still See the Bible as Word of God and other news and views for Friday 6 June

June 6th, 2014 Comments off

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  • Three in Four in U.S. Still See the Bible as Word of God – “But 21%, near the 40-year high, consider it fables and history.”
  • Why budget reforms are now in intensive care – Laura Tingle in the Financial Review: “… the more tyres that are being kicked on the budget car, the less persuaded people seem to be that it is in the national interest either. That is, that the various “reforms” may produce a smarter, more productive country. You even have to wonder whether it can deliver the outcomes the government says it wants.”
  • Attempts to protect PM from Malcolm Turnbull are causing problems for Liberal party – Malcolm Farr at news.com.au : “So what has Malcolm Turnbull done to be the target for hard right sections of the media? Among his sins are being the most popular Liberal in Parliament (according to national polling), supporting same sex marriage which the right opposes, agreeing with scientists that human-assisted global warming is underway, and supporting and appearing on the ABC. And of course sharing food with Clive Palmer without getting permission from Mr Abbott. Or from Mr Jones or Mr Bolt.”
  • How One Man’s Arrest In London Shut Down Pakistan’s Megacity
  • Eschaton: He Crashed The Party And Pissed In The Punchbowl And He’s Such A Jerky Jerk: “I really have never quite understood the enmity that Greenwald inspires, mostly from the ‘Center’ to the ‘Left’. Journalists against journalism are bizarre, as are people who think revelations about the Surveillance State are somehow direct attacks on Obama. Yes, ultimately, the guy in charge is the guy in charge and I haven’t seen a lot of evidence he disapproves of much of this stuff, but it isn’t really that simple. One can think in combination that the surveillance state is out of hand, some programs might be “worth it” but not all, that Obama doesn’t sign off directly on every program, and that even if he doesn’t support all of these things it isn’t so simple to turn over the bugged applecart instantly. Even if I trusted Obama completely (I don’t), and even if I thought he knew as much about this stuff as he should (I doubt it), I can’t imagine trusting the massive unaccountable agency. Even if I trusted the nice patriotic government workers, I wouldn’t trust the massive private contractor system that has grown up around it. Snowden showed how easy it was to ‘abuse’ his access. You think he’s the only one? (We know he isn’t, of course, we just don’t know how bad it is).”

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Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Andrew Bolt and a definition of chutzpah

June 5th, 2014 Comments off

I switched off the comment section of this little blog because all I got inundated with was a barrage of links to advertisements of one kind or another and it was a pain getting rid of them. That I therefore I miss out on a pearl of wisdom or two I regret but this afternoon one did get through to me about this headline on one of my posts: That Andrew Bolt kid’s got chutzpah.

Have a quick glance at that posting and then read on.

By email:

Hi Richard,

Your use of Yiddish today was perfect with respect to Bolt!

Chutzpah – a man who murders his parents and then begs for mercy from the court on the grounds that he’s a orphan!

cheers …

 

That Andrew Bolt kid’s got chutzpah

June 5th, 2014 Comments off

From page four of today’s Daily Telegraph:

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And turning to page 13:

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Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

Tell us the truth about the children dumped in Galway’s mass graves and other news and views for Thursday 5 June

June 5th, 2014 Comments off

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  • Your Vanilla Ice Cream Is About to Get Weirder – “Synthetic biology—or “synbio” for short—is the stuff of science fiction brought to life. Whereas standard-issue biotechnology involves inserting a gene from one organism into another, synbio entails stuff like inserting computer-generated DNA sequences into living cells: i.e, creating new organisms altogether. And the technology has made a major breakthrough: A company called Evolva has managed to create a compound called vanillin—the one that gives vanilla beans their distinctive and wildly popular flavor—grown not on a vine but rather in a culture of synthetic yeast.”
  • Decision Time: Britain Must Choose Now If It Will Stay in Europe – A Der Spiegel editorial –  “For years Britain has blackmailed and made a fool out of the EU. The United Kingdom must finally make a choice: It can play by the rules or it can leave the European Union.Following last week’s elections for the European Parliament, Europe finds itself at a historical turning point. It faces two questions. The first is that of how seriously the European Union is about its promise to become more democratic. The second is whether Britain can remain a member of the EU.”
  • Interview with Marine Le Pen: ‘I Don’t Want this European Soviet Union’ – “In a SPIEGEL interview, French right-wing populist Marine Le Pen discusses the European election victory by her Front National, German dominance in the EU and her admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
  • The Guardian at the gate – By Michel Wolff – “It broke the WikiLeaks story, then the Snowden scandal, now Alan Rusbridger’s crusading newspaper is trying to break America. But with its US campaign on the brink of disaster, has the deadline passed to beat a dignified retreat?”
  • Hydroponic Tomatoes May One Day Be Tastier Than Ones Grown Outside
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

A very politically sensitive Bureau of Meteorology – record temperatures but don’t mention global warming

June 4th, 2014 Comments off

“An exceptionally prolonged autumn warm spell,” is what the Bureau of Meteorology calls it in a Special Climate Statement released today on the extended warm spell in May 2014 that affected most of Australia. These special statements are reserved for weather/climate events which are unusual in the context of the climatology of the affected region. Their purpose, says the Bureau,  is to document major events. In doing so, they serve as a historical record, inform the public on the broader historical and climatological context for events, and give easy access to data and information which is in high demand from the media and the public.

So what’s the data that made May special?

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Maximum temperature anomalies (from 1961–1990 average) for period 8 to 26 May 2014.

Maximum temperature anomalies (from 1961–1990 average) for period 8 to 26 May 2014.

And the broader historical and climatological context for these events? Nothing in this explanation, relegated to page nine just above the appendices, that should upset a global warming sceptical Prime Minister:

The warm spell has been driven by persistent blocking in the Tasman, resulting in northwesterly winds over the southeast of the continent. While all exceptional climate events are driven by antecedent and concurrent weather
conditions, long-term trends also very likely play a role when significant climatological records are broken.
Australian annually averaged temperature has warmed by 0.9 °C since 1910, and the month of May has warmed by a similar amount. The annual warming trend is consistent with that observed for the globe.
The current warm event is the latest in a sequence of prolonged or intense warm spells that have affected a large part of the continent roughly every six weeks since the end of 2012. This coincides with record-breaking or well-above-average temperatures that have persisted across Australia for the past 22 months. The 12 months ending January 2014, February 2014, March 2014, April 2014 and May 2014 have all been record-warm for Australia. The year-to-date (January to May) temperature anomaly for Australia at 31 May 2014 was +0.84 °C. This will mean that 2014 ranks in the top five warmest starts to a year on record behind 2005 (+1.17 °C), 1998 (+1.05 °C), 2013 (+1.04 °C) and 2007 (+0.96 °C).

 

 

Categories: Environment Tags:

Tempted by UKIP at Newark and lured by a NO vote in Scotland

June 3rd, 2014 Comments off

REPRINTED FROM THE POLITICAL SPECULATOR’S DIARY

Remarkably few opinion polls to give the punters a guide in this week’s Newark by-election where the Conservatives are a firm favourite to retain the seat. That rich political maverick, and former Tory party Treasurer, Lord Ashcroft did provide this guide at the weekend along with his regular nationwide survey.

With the Conservatives leading UKIP by 15 percentage points and with Labour and Liberal Democrats in the also-ran category it is no surprise that the market based Owl Election Indicator has the Conservatives strongly favoured. For my part I’m not prepared to take the short price because of as nagging suspicion that potential UKIP voters are understated in the same way as that Pauline Hansen lot once were in Australia. Haven’t got the courage to put my money where my mouth is either.

When it comes to the Scottish referendum, where the campaign is now officially underway, my leaning towards the NO vote just keeps getting stronger. The only referendum form I know is from Australia where the record shows that when any major party opposes a proposition a majority do not vote in favour.
I notice as much as $1.30 available on the NO vote. Will do me for 120 units to win a potential 40.
Categories: Betting Tags:

The problem is the product not the salesmanship

June 3rd, 2014 Comments off

If Tony Abbott can resist the temptation to say much at all while overseas during the next fortnight then my guess is that he will come home to far less doom and gloom about his government than the pollsters are showing this week. When the message you have to sell is unpopular it is better not to try and do so and this Coalition budget is full of nasty little elements. But time heals – especially when most of the things the public is objecting to are never going to happen. When the Senate has done its destructive best the voters will be left wondering what they were ever getting so upset about.

Treasurer Joe Hockey seems to have realised that silence is the best policy. He has gone conspicuously silent and the Prime Minister would be wise to follow his example.

That things are  not really as serious as much of the media comment would have us believe is shown by the way the Owl’s market based election indicator still has the Coalition comfortably favourite to be returned at the next election.

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Sure there has been a movement towards Labor but it is still pointing in a very different direction to the opinion polls that have Labor seven or eight percentage points in front.

Another Oliver Stone political movie – Edward Snowden for the screen

June 3rd, 2014 Comments off

The National Security Agency will no doubt be doing something similar soon:

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Click to enlarge

Oliver Stone has a way of irritating the US political establishment and no doubt will do it again now he has the rights to “The Snowden Files, The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man,” written by journalist Luke Harding.

Variety reports that Stone has started to write the screenplay and his long-time producing partner Moritz Borman is fast-tracking it as a European co-production to start filming before the end of the year.

Stone said: “This is one of the greatest stories of our time. A real challenge. I’m glad to have the Guardian working with us.”

Guardian editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, said: “The story of Edward Snowden is truly extraordinary, and the unprecedented revelations he brought to light have forever transformed our understanding of, and relationship with, government and technology. We’re delighted to be working with Oliver Stone and Moritz Borman on the film.”

Categories: American media, Media Tags:

Moving steadily on towards El Niño

June 3rd, 2014 Comments off

Today’s update from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology indicate the tropical Pacific Ocean is likely to continue warming over the coming months. Most models, reports the Bureau, indicate sea surface temperatures in the central tropical Pacific will be above or close to El Niño thresholds by August, with all but one exceeding the threshold by October. Four models show NINO3.4 values considerably higher than the El Niño threshold by the end of the forecast period.

The range in forecast values of NINO3.4 is quite wide when considering individual ensemble members (forecast scenarios) from each model with values ranging between 0.0 °C and +3.0 °C by October. (See the ‘Models’ tab for links to individual model output for NINO3.4).

The most recent NINO3.4 value is +0.5 °C for the week ending 11 May 2014. Sustained NINO3.4 values above +0.8 °C indicate El Niño conditions.

The following graph shows the average forecast value of NINO3.4 for each international model surveyed for the selected calendar month. If the bars on the graph are approaching or exceeding the blue dashed line, there is an increased risk of La Niña. Similarly, if the bars on the graph are approaching or exceeding the red dashed line, there is an increased chance of El Niño.

3-06-2014 ninojun3-06-2014 ninoAug3-06-2014 ninoOctThe BOM does note that several of the surveyed climate models have eased their predictions slightly since the last update but around half continue to indicate that the equatorial Pacific is likely to exceed El Niño thresholds before or during the southern hemisphere spring. An El Niño ALERT remains in place, indicating at least a 70% chance of an El Niño developing in 2014.

Categories: Environment Tags:

Making scientific discovery virtually impossible and other news and views for Tuesday 3 June

June 3rd, 2014 Comments off

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Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

When the News Corp empire reports how people are laughing at Tony Abbott …

June 2nd, 2014 Comments off

Perhaps Tony Abbott does have leadership problems and it’s nothing to do with Malcolm Turnbull. Even worse for the Prime Minister than having Andrew Bolt defending him is having Bolt’s principal employer laughing at you.

Tonight’s lead story on the nation’s most read news site:

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In a regular segment devoted to ‘Other countries’ Presidents of the USA’, the HBO satirical US news program Last Week Tonight with John Oliver today aired a segment ruthlessly collating our embattled PM’s most embarrassing moments.

News.com.au reports how the program described our current leader as “hard line right-wing Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who rose to power promising to be pro-business and religiously anti-immigration — literally, religiously anti-immigration.”

It then cut to Mr Abbott on ABC panel show Q&A, explaining to host Tony Jones that “Jesus knew there was a place for everything and it’s not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia”. Cue much laughter from the Last Week Tonight studio audience.
“Exactly. Australia is for real Australians, like Tony Abbott — who was born in London, England,” the Last Week Tonight voice over intoned.

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From there, Last Week Tonight cut to clips of former Prime Minister Paul Keating, protesters and even schoolchildren lambasting the PM. “My mummy calls him Tony Dum-Dum,” said one young boy in an undated interview.
Then followed clips of Mr Abbott’s disparaging remarks about women (“What the housewives of Australia need to understand is they do the ironing”), gay people (telling 60 Minutes’ Liz Hayes he feels “a bit threatened” by homosexuality), the Irish, and his now-infamous wink while speaking to an elderly sex-line worker.

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They finished with his silent response to a journalist who asked about his choice of words when speaking about a fallen Aussie soldier:

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“Yes, Tony Abbott knows, one panicked pant-sh**ting expression is worth a thousand words,” the voiceover said.