Archive for August, 2014

El Niño development remains possible and other news and views for Wednesday 27 August

August 27th, 2014 Comments off

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  • Little change in the tropical Pacific Ocean – “Despite tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures remaining at neutral levels, models suggest El Niño development remains possible during the coming months.”
  • Regulation gets real for virtual currencies – “Both the EU and New York are looking to bring digital currencies under a full regulatory regime, but their approaches are rather different.” (The Banker – registration required)
  • France and the shadow of the euro – “The fear stalking the eurozone is of a jobless recovery; years of stagnation which will test social cohesion. What the French crisis has underlined is that the eurozone, despite all the claims of recovery, still has the potential to trouble governments, banks and the wider European economy.”
  • A New Reason to Question the Official Unemployment Rate – “Americans are less willing to respond to surveys than they used to be. A new academic paper suggests that the unemployment rate appears to have become less accurate over the last two decades, in part because of this rise in nonresponse.”
  • Could The U.S. Fix Taxation of Multinational Corporations With A Sales-Based Formula?
  • News on social media suffers a ‘spiral of silence’: Pew study – “If social media users think their followers don’t share their opinion on the news, they are less likely to post those views on Facebook and Twitter, according to a new Pew Research Center report. … The authors connect these findings to the ‘spiral of silence,’ a phenomenon where people who think they hold a minority opinion don’t speak up for fear of social exclusion. “One of the possible theories [for this study] is that when people see diversity in opinion, they don’t want to challenge other people, or upset them, or risk losing a friendship,” said Keith Hampton of Rutgers University, one of the study’s authors, in a telephone interview. For the authors, the study implies that the long-documented suppression of minority opinion exists online just as in real life.”
  • We’re Living in a Golden Age of Investigative Journalism – “Newspapers in America may be closing up shop, but muckrakers around the world are holding corrupt officials and corporate cronies accountable like never before.”

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  • Couples who smoke marijuana are less likely to engage in domestic violence – “A new study by researchers at the University of Buffalo finds a significantly lower incidence of domestic violence among married couples who smoke pot. “Couples in which both spouses used marijuana frequently reported the least frequent IPV [intimate partner violence] perpetration,” the study concludes.”

Superannuation ticket clippers

August 27th, 2014 Comments off

Instead of all that boring stuff about will the Senate or won’t it, this is the story that should be on page one this morning:


Australian Super chief executive Ian Silk raises an issue of importance to all Australians forced to contribute to compulsory superannuation schemes. Too many people working in financial services, Mr Silk points out, are using the compulsory retirement savings system to enrich themselves rather than look after members’ money.


This is an issue that Labor should be making central to its re-election policies.

NOTE: Find an assortment of other ticket clipping stories about the finance industry HERE.

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

Rave on to get a vote

August 26th, 2014 Comments off

Well, when you are lagging along with less thsn 3% in the opinion polls I suppose you have to try something different. So why not a a rave party to disguise a policy speech? That’s the campaign technique of the Manu Internet Party in New Zealand as the 30 September election day approaches.


Now under the New Zealand electoral system the Internet Mana have to get to 5% of the national vote to gain seats unless they can win one of the single member electorates so there is some way to go from the 2.5% that the latest Morgan Poll gave them. But the Mana part of their organisation currently has a seat that could be retained which would put them in the race for a few more and, who knows, even the kingmaker position.


The Sydney Morning Herald reports this morning (behind a paywall) that the Internet Party’s flagship policy is to deliver ultrafast, cheaper web connections with greater freedom and privacy.

The combination has the potential to mobilise young people who wouldn’t normally vote, said former Labour Party president Mike Williams. ‘‘ It could change the outcome of the election.’’

Mr Dotcom* has named Laila Harre, a cabinet minister in a former Labour- led government, to head the Internet Party and is holding dance raves across the nation to capture the youth vote.

Internet Mana doubled its support to 4 per cent in a recent poll. Labour was on 26 per cent, the Greens 11 per cent and Mr Key’s National had 50 per cent. No party has won an outright majority since New Zealand introduced proportional representation in 1996.

Mr Dotcom is exploiting a quirk in the system to better his chances. Parties need 5 per cent of the vote to get into Parliament unless they win an electorate. In that scenario, their slice of the national vote determines how many seats they get.

*Wikipedia describes Mr Dotcom thus:

Kim Dotcom (born Kim Schmitz; 21 January 1974), also known as Kimble and Kim Tim Jim Vestor, is a German-Finnish Internet entrepreneur, businessman, singer, and political party founder currently residing in New Zealand. He is the founder of file hosting service Mega as well as its now defunct predecessor Megaupload. In politics he is the founder, main funder, and “party visionary” of New Zealand’s Internet Party.

He rose to fame in Germany in the 1990s as an alleged hacker and internet entrepreneur. He was convicted of several crimes, and received a suspended prison sentence in 1994 for computer fraud and data espionage, and another suspended prison sentence in 2003 for insider trading and embezzlement.

In January 2012, the New Zealand Police placed him in custody in response to US charges of criminal copyright infringement in relation to his Megaupload website. Dotcom was accused of costing the entertainment industry $500 million through pirated content uploaded to his file-sharing site, which had 150 million registered users. Dotcom has vigorously denied the charges, and is fighting the attempt to extradite him to the United States. Despite legal action still pending over Megaupload, Mega launched in January 2013, opening to the public exactly one year after Megaupload was shut down. It is a cloud storageservice that uses encryption to prevent government or third-party “spies” from invading users’ privacy.


Categories: Elections, NZ election Tags:

Come on Tony, going bald is not that bad

August 26th, 2014 Comments off


Categories: Political snippets Tags:

A debate ends and the voting in Scotland begins

August 26th, 2014 Comments off

The media consensus and the instant finding of the pollsters was that the Yes case for Scottish independence had the best of the debate last night which preceded the beginning of pre-poll voting for the referendum. But will it actually mean anything?

26-08-2014 scottishpapersondebateNot if the Owl’s election indicator is any guide. The No vote is a firmer favourite today than it was a week ago.


Voting day proper for the referendum is Thursday 18 September.

Note: The Owl backed the No vote at $1.23 and then again at $1.30. You will find details of all his political bets at the political speculator’s diary.


Mixed messages to welcome the August budget

August 26th, 2014 Comments off

Everything old is new again. It has taken 20 years but federal Parliament is back for an August budget session. It’s as if Ralph Willis had never started that funny May business. And this time we don’t need one of those ridiculous budget lockups to keep us in suspense about what’s in-store. This time the negotiations about what’s in and what’s out are being played out in public and we are still none the wiser about the economic outcome.

What fun it is to have a proper minority government. Not like that last one where Labor, the Greens and a couple of independents stitched things up in private before hand. This Liberal-National coalition is letting us see the legislative sausage machine at work with all the crude ingredients that a Palmer United Party can throw in. Parliament, or at least the Senate half of it, is really relevant again.

The government is doing its best to spice things up as well. We go from a looming budget crisis to being relaxed and comfortable about the inevitable outcome. The Education Minister Christopher Pyne threatens one day to cut research funding for universities so the Prime Minister can assure us the next about the vital importance of university based research to the nation’s future.

And as if that mixed message was  not enough for the start of  a budget session, the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann this morning was still preaching his fears of having to raise taxes while Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed that his government would be reducing taxes not putting them up.

You wouldn’t miss this budget for quids.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

The political disappearance of the garden gnomes and other news and views for Monday 25 August

August 25th, 2014 Comments off
  • Soon, Europe Might Not Need Any Power Plants –  “Within a few decades, large-scale, centralized electricity generation from fossil fuels could be a thing of the past in Europe. That’s the word from investment bank UBS, which just released a new report anticipating a three pronged assault from solar power, battery technology, and electric vehicles that will render obsolete traditional power generation by large utilities that rely on coal or natural gas.”
  • TV Habits? Medical History? Tests for Jury Duty Get Personal – “Jury questionnaires have become a familiar presence in courtrooms across the United States, with some lawyers routinely requesting them in major cases — transforming the standard voir dire procedure into a written test.”
  • Inside Clive Palmer’s inner circle – “Palmer does have a string of close associates who he uses as sounding boards for his ­political and business strategies. Of course, whether he takes their advice on board is an entirely ­different matter.”
  • The Irish Redhead Convention takes place in County Cork


  • Austrian party rues disappearance of 400 garden gnomes – “Four hundred garden gnomes have gone missing in Vorarlberg in west Austria. The gnomes, known as “Coolmen”, are the property of the left wing Social Democrat Party. They were being used as political campaign advertisements in the run up to provincial elections in Vorarlberg on 21 September.”
  • Andrew Forrest, the founder of Fortescue Metals Group – The Financial Times’ Monday interview – “No one can accuse Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest of lacking big ideas or being slow to bring them to fruition.”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Animal welfare groups making political progress

August 25th, 2014 Comments off

The cause of animal welfare is certainly making political progress. Around the world governments are moving to restrict testing of cosmetics on animals and now the major food producer Nestlé is promising to enforce new animal welfare standards on its suppliers which could affect “hundreds of thousands of farms around the world”.

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The Swiss headquartered company has entered into an agreement with the NGO World Animal Protection (previously known as WSPA – World Society for the Protection of Animals) to ensure that supply Nestlé of its dairy, meat, poultry and eggs complies with tighter animal welfare standards.

Nestlé says it has some 7,300 suppliers from whom it buys animal-derived products directly – everything from milk for its range of yoghurts and ice-creams, to meat for its chilled foods and eggs for its fresh pastry and pasta. Each of these suppliers, in turn, buys from others, meaning that Nestlé’s Responsible Sourcing Guidelines apply to literally hundreds of thousands of farms around the world.The company has nine factories in Australia, including Tongala, Broadford and Wahgunyah in regional Victoria.

Under its new standards, Nestlé will not buy products derived from pigs raised in gestation stalls, chickens in barren battery cages, cattle that have been dehorned or had their tails docked without anesthesia and animals whose health has been damaged by drugs that promote growth.

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In a statement announcing the new policy the company said it has commissioned an independent auditor, SGS, to carry out checks to ensure the new standards of animal welfare are met on its supplying farms. In 2014, several hundred farm assessments have already been carried out worldwide. Some of these checks are also attended, unannounced, by World Animal Protection representatives whose role is to verify the auditors.
When a violation is identified, Nestlé will work with the supplier to improve the treatment of farm animals to ensure they meet the required standards. If, despite engagement and guidance from Nestlé, the company is unable or unwilling to show improvement, it will no longer supply Nestlé.


Categories: Animal welfare, Eating Tags:

How Murdoch News Corp could shift 11% of the votes and other news and views for Sunday 24 August

August 24th, 2014 Comments off

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  • How can we measure media power? – “The potential for political influence is what most people think of when they talk about the power of the media. A new media power index, proposed in this column, aggregates power across all platforms and focuses not on markets but on voters. It measures not actual media influence but rather its potential. Using the index, the author finds that the four most powerful media companies in the US are television-based and the absolute value of the index is high. This indicates that most American voters receive their news from a small number of news sources, which creates the potential for large political influence.”

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Sri Lanka’s intransigence and other news and views for Saturday 23 August

August 23rd, 2014 Comments off
From the front page of Tuesday's Sri Lankan Daily Mirror

From the front page of Tuesday’s Sri Lankan Daily Mirror

  • Sri Lanka’s Intransigence –  New York Times editorial: “Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, said Tuesday that his government would not cooperate with the United Nations investigation begun last month into suspected human rights abuses, including possible war crimes, committed during Sri Lanka’s civil war. Mr. Rajapaksa’s intransigence puts Sri Lanka in the company of North Korea and Syria, two countries that also barred access to United Nations human rights investigators. Mr. Rajapaksa claims Sri Lanka can handle the inquiry on its own. This is doubtful. … The safety of witnesses is a major concern. People demanding accountability for those who disappeared have faced threats and arrest. Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act is being used to detain people without trial.”
  • Nestle Nudges Its Suppliers To Improve Animal Welfare – “On Thursday, Nestle, the world’s largest food company, announced that it’s requiring all of its suppliers to eliminate tail docking as part of a new commitment to improving the welfare of the farm animals in its supply chain. It will also mandate that its 7,300 suppliers of dairy, meat, poultry and egg products end all kinds of other common farming practices — like cage systems for chickens, gestation crates for pigs and dehorning cows.”
  • Theresa May pledges new measures to tackle British jihadis – “New powers to tackle extremist groups are being looked at by the government, the home secretary has said. … ‘I am looking again at the case for new banning orders for extremist groups that fall short of the legal threshold for terrorist proscription, as well as for new civil powers to target extremists who seek to radicalise others.’
  • Solomons town first in Pacific to relocate due to climate change – “Under threat from rising sea levels and tsunamis, the authorities of a provincial capital in the Solomon Islands have decided to relocate from a small island in the first such case in the Pacific islands. Choiseul, a township of around 1,000 people on Taro Island, a coral atoll in Choiseul Bay, is less than two meters (6.6 feet) above sea level. Its vulnerability to storm surges and tsunamis caused by earthquakes is expected to be compounded in the future by rising seas. Aware of these risks, communities in Choiseul Bay consulted a team of engineers, scientists and planners, funded by the Australian government, on how best to adapt to the impact of climate change.”
  • Oceans and the climate – Davy Jones’s heat locker – “The mystery of the pause in global warming may have been solved. The answer seems to lie at the bottom of the sea.”
  • Bank Of America Settles With Feds And States For Record Amount
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Rote learning gets an educational tick

August 23rd, 2014 Comments off

School days, school days

Dear old Golden Rule days

Reading and ‘riting and ‘rithmetic

Taught to the tune of the hick’ry stick

The argument among educationalists about the best way to teach children mathematics will be enlivened by a recent paper by American and South Korean scientists in the journal Nature Neuroscience. Hippocampal-neocortical functional reorganization underlies children’s cognitive development looks at the transition from procedure-based to memory-based problem-solving strategies.
In their scientific language the researchers write that “longitudinal functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 7–9-year-old children revealed that the transition from use of counting to memory-based retrieval parallels increased hippocampal and decreased prefrontal-parietal engagement during arithmetic problem solving.” This is being interpreted by some educators as showing the crucial role played by rote memorization in the growing brains of young math students.
Reports Canada’s National Post (behind a paywall):
The progression from counting on fingers to simply remembering that, for example, six plus three equals nine, parallels physical changes in a child’s brain, in which the hippocampus, a key brain structure for memory, gradually takes over from the pre-frontal parietal cortex, an area of higher order reasoning.
In effect, as young math students memorize the basics, their brains reorganize to accommodate the greater demands of more complex math. It is a gradual process, like “overlapping waves,” the researchers write, but it clearly shows that, for the growing child’s brain, rote memorization is a key step along the way to efficient mathematical reasoning.
By tracking a group of young students over the course of a year, the authors show “that children learn to associate individual problems with the correct answers. Repeated problem solving during the early stages of arithmetic skill development also contributes to memory re-encoding and consolidation, thus resulting in enhanced hippocampal activity and ability to recall basic arithmetic facts… The maturation of problem-solving skills is characterized by a gradual decrease in the use of inefficient procedures such as counting and an increase in the use of memory-based strategies.”
As a scientific justification of rote learning, the study seems likely to further polarize the controversy over math teaching styles, in which arithmetical fundamentalists are squared off against the popular and progressive forces of “discovery-based” learning, in which students are encouraged to find their own ways to the right answer.
Categories: Education Tags:

Understanding Julian Assange – does Sweden’s forthcoming election hold the key?

August 22nd, 2014 Comments off

Perhaps the Swedish opinion polls hold the key to the rather cryptic prediction by Julian Assange that he will soon be leaving the protection of the Embassy of Ecuador in London. The centre-right Alliance for Sweden coalition government (comprising the Moderate Party, Liberal People’s Party, Centre Party, and Christian Democrats) is trailing well behind the probable left of centre left coalition led by the Social Democrats. An Ipsos poll this week had the three parties of the left holding a comfortable lead over the four party governing coalition by 50 per cent to 36 per cent. That surely raises the prospect that the Wikileaks founder is banking on a leftist Sweden being far less likely than the current administration of extraditing him to the United States after his criminal investigation is dealt with.

The general election will be held on 14 September.

The trend of the Swedish opinion polls - from Wikileaks

The trend of the Swedish opinion polls – from Wikileaks

Equality, Opportunity, and the American Dream and other news and views for Friday 22 August

August 22nd, 2014 Comments off

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  • Saving Horatio Alger: Equality, Opportunity, and the American Dream – “Lack of upward mobility is souring the national mood. As horizons shrink, anger rises. The political right has done a better job, so far, of converting frustration into political gain, by successfully—if implausibly—laying the blame for many of America’s woes at the door of ‘Big Government’.”
The idea of equal opportunity is central to the idea of America. From the very founding of the nation, the promise that talent and hard work will count for more than the lottery of birth has underpinned American self-identity.  In the latest Brookings Essay, Richard Reeves examines an issue so threatening to the American ethos—economic mobility—that President Obama has called it “the defining issue of our time.”

The idea of equal opportunity is central to the idea of America. From the very founding of the nation, the promise that talent and hard work will count for more than the lottery of birth has underpinned American self-identity. In the latest Brookings Essay, Richard Reeves examines an issue so threatening to the American ethos—economic mobility—that President Obama has called it “the defining issue of our time.”

  •  Caught out – Markets have defied expectations in 2014, leaving investors with few options – “Like a snake swallowing its own tail, the corporate sector is absorbing its own equity. How long this can continue is anyone’s guess. The peak year for share buy-backs was 2007, just before the debt crisis. That is not a great omen.”
  • China’s Fire Next Time – “Earlier this year, rumors of China’s impending financial doom – triggered by either a housing-market crash or local-government debt defaults – were rampant. But, in recent months, the economy has stabilized, leaving few doubts about China’s ability to grow by more than 7% this year. Given that the Chinese government had ample scope for policy intervention, this turnaround should come as no surprise. But the moment of financial reckoning has merely been postponed, not averted.”


  • Rescuing Brecht – A review by Michael Hofmann of Stephen Parker’s ‘BERTOLT BRECHT – A literary life’
A bottle goes in and the food comes out: A special Turkish box allows people to nourish stray dogs by donating their recyclable bottles.

A bottle goes in and the food comes out: A special Turkish box allows people to nourish stray dogs by donating their recyclable bottles.

Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

The challenge for journalists in finding new ways of reaching the young and other news and views for Thursday 21 August

August 21st, 2014 Comments off


  • A sense of destiny inspires China’s maritime claims – “China’s creeping occupation of the South China Sea is not primarily motivated by oil, let alone by its diminishing stock of fish. It is about two things: strategic position, and what the nationalists running the country today view as its ‘manifest destiny’, to borrow a phrase from American history.The sense that China is entitled to possession of this sea lies deep in the nation’s history of viewing its neighbours, especially those untouched by Chinese culture, as inferiors.
  • Teenagers and the news game – “Let’s not be too depressed about teenagers and news because they are getting plenty of it, just via different means than their parents. But the challenge for journalists is to find new ways of reaching them while building a reputation as trusted guides to what is happening in the world. And, as we know, ‘trust’ and ‘journalist’ is not an obvious piece of word association for many people these days.”
  • I watched the media turn away from explaining the world – Anjan Sundaram, the author of String Stringer: A Reporter’s Journey in the Congo – “The western news media are in crisis and turning their backs on the world, but we hardly ever notice. Where correspondents were once assigned to a place for months or years, reporters now handle often 20 countries. Bureaux are in hub cities, far from many of the countries they cover. And journalists are often lodged in expensive houses or five-star hotels. As the news has receded, so have our minds.”


  • Worse than the 1930s: Europe’s recession is really a depression – “Eurozone GDP still hasn’t gotten back to its 2007 level, and doesn’t look like it will anytime soon. Indeed, it already wasn’t clear if its last recession was even over before we found out the eurozone had stopped growing again in the second quarter. And not even Germany has been immune: its GDP just fell 0.2 percent from the previous quarter. It’s a policy-induced disaster. Too much fiscal austerity and too little monetary stimulus have crippled growth like almost never before.
  • Would you pay more to live next to a park? – “Ministers look for ways to fund the upkeep of green spaces that benefit neighbourhoods. Analysis suggests a link between green space quality and house prices, aiding the case for a park tax.”
  • The Advantages of Dyslexia – “With reading difficulties can come other cognitive strengths.”
  • Europe’s Latest Grass-Roots Movement: Cannabis Social Clubs
Categories: Media, News and views for the day Tags:

Budget crisis – what budget crisis? The difference a day makes

August 20th, 2014 Comments off

Tuesday’s paper:


But where has that sovereign risk gone? Today’s front page:


Categories: Australian media, Economic matters Tags:

Wombats being buried alive and other news and views for Thursday 14 August

August 14th, 2014 Comments off
Goongerah Wombat Orphanage: Nigel showing off his new tartan pouches made by the amazing Allison Sudholz.

Goongerah Wombat Orphanage:
Nigel showing off his new tartan pouches made by the amazing Allison Sudholz.


  • Animal rights activists have drained $1.7 billion from SeaWorld’s market value since last July – “SeaWorld Entertainment has mimicked its beloved performing whale, Shamu, taking a deep dive: its stock plunged as much as 35% after the company posted ugly second-quarter results (pdf) and lowered revenue forecasts for the full year.”
  • Print Is Down, and Now Out – “Media Companies Spin Off Newspapers, to Uncertain Futures”
  • On Macroeconomic Forecasting – “Macroeconomic forecasts produced with macroeconomic models tend to be little better than intelligent guesswork. That is not an opinion – it is a fact. … The rather boring truth is that it is entirely predictable that forecasters will miss major recessions, just as it is equally predictable that each time this happens we get hundreds of articles written asking what has gone wrong with macro forecasting. The answer is always the same – nothing. Macroeconomic model based forecasts are always bad, but probably no worse than intelligent guesses.”

Arrival of the libertarian moment or libertarian fantasies? and other news and views for Sunday 10 August

August 10th, 2014 Comments off
  • Has the ‘Libertarian Moment’ Finally Arrived? – “Libertarians, who long have relished their role as acerbic sideline critics of American political theater, now find themselves and their movement thrust into the middle of it. … the age group most responsible for delivering Obama his two terms may well become a political wild card over time, in large part because of its libertarian leanings. Raised on the ad hoc communalism of the Internet, disenchanted by the Iraq War, reflexively tolerant of other lifestyles, appalled by government intrusion into their private affairs and increasingly convinced that the Obama economy is rigged against them, the millennials can no longer be regarded as faithful Democrats — and a recent poll confirmed that fully half of voters between ages 18 and 29 are unwedded to either party.”
  • Libertarian Fantasies – “… libertarianism is a crusade against problems we don’t have, or at least not to the extent the libertarians want to imagine.”
  • ‘Abbott Lies’ trick backfires on Liberals – Samantha Maiden in the Sunday Telegraph: “The Liberal Party has embraced the unusual political strategy of registering the domain name “Abbott Lies’’ as a web address and redirecting all that traffic to its website promoting this year’s Budget. … All web traffic is immediately diverted to”

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  • Grade Inflation: Evidence from Two Policies – “Grade inflation in U.S. higher education is a disturbing phenomenon.”
  • Classy Dames in Desperate Straits – Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert in ‘The Maids’ at City Center – “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. That’s largely because of Ms. Blanchett … Once again, she proves herself to be the ruling mutation master among contemporary actresses.”
  • Isis consolidates – “As the attention of the world focused on Ukraine and Gaza, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) captured a third of Syria in addition to the quarter of Iraq it had seized in June. The frontiers of the new Caliphate declared by Isis on 29 June are expanding by the day and now cover an area larger than Great Britain and inhabited by at least six million people, a population larger than that of Denmark, Finland or Ireland. … A new and terrifying state has been born.”

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Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

A flight too far for Tony Abbott?

August 9th, 2014 Comments off

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is clearly more worried about his standing with the Australian public, and that of his government, than I thought he would be. Flying off to the Netherlands to say a few thank-yous has all the signs of a gesture motivated by panic.

The government is clearly stunned at how unpopular it has become since introducing its budget but encouraged by the response to the Prime Minister’s reaction to the deaths of Australians on the Malaysian aircraft shot down over Ukraine. Let’s keep milking that favourable sentiment appears to be the motivation for the hurried decision to fly away.

My guess is that the mob will see it as the shallow gesture it undoubtedly is and that there will be no further revival in approval for the way the Prime Minister is performing his job.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

The Daily Tele welcoming a new columnist to the SMH

August 9th, 2014 Comments off

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The columnist is dead so long live the columnist. John Birmingham filled the Mike Carlton space in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning and the opposition tabloid gave him a welcome. Noted the Daily Telegraph on its editorial page:

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Veteran Sydney Morning Herald columnist Mike Carlton resigned this week rather than face suspension for his abusive and obscene online comments. The SMH is reportedly considering replacing Carlton with John Birmingham (pictured), who lives in the remote northern Sydney suburb of Brisbane, Queensland. But is Birmingham any less abusive or obscene? Let’s see how Carlton’s possible replacement conducts himself online:

“F… off.” “(The Prime Minister) is such a c….”

“ASIO arse softc..ks.”

“Poor fellow my f…… country indeed.”

“I’d wager a blowjob from a toothless crackwhore hurts more.”

“F… the CIA.” “F… you is more than a policy.”

“Australia’s most f…witted sportscasters.”

“Soft ricotta cheese c..k.”

“F… that old prize stealing wrinkly.”

“Like enduring an aggressive blowjob from a toothless crackwhore.”

“F… them in the nekbeard.”

“(The Prime Minister) f…ed a generation of students.”

“C..kheads. All of them.”

“It’s not really a very conservative government, is it? More like a mob of bugshit crazy f…… radicals.”

Thursday had seen the Tele giving Mike Carlton a farewell with a double page spread no less.

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PROUD hater Mike Carlton has resigned from The Sydney Morning Herald but the controversial columnist is certainly no stranger to the unemployment queue.

Sackings, orchestrated “agreements with management” and inglorious resignations are as customary in Carlton’s colourful career as his aggressive, hate-filled attacks on those who disagree with him.

Carlton’s decision to leave Fairfax Media on Tuesday night is the third time he has been shafted — this time by his own hand. The others were by sacking (Herald, 2008) and happy divorce (2UE, 2009).

Latecomers to the columnist’s modus operandi may be stunned at the expletiveridden abuse towards his Twitter antagonists and appalled Herald readers after his July 26 column lambasted Israel.

But those who knew his ways barely batted an eyelid.

In 2007 on 2UE, on the morning of f late colleague Stan Zemanek’s funeral, Carlton said he would attend only to “check if he was actually dead’’.

Goodness knows what the readers are actually thinking of it all. Not much I would suspect.

Repetition: Eric Abetz a sure fire vote loser

August 8th, 2014 Comments off

Insult all young people in the morning when the unemployment figures come out. Then in the evening upset the vast majority of Australians with frightening nonsense about the consequences of abortion. I can but repeat what I wrote about Eric Abetz earlier this month:

I must have spent too much time behind that one way glass. I can’t help thinking when I see a politician on television how those ordinary swinging voters will be reacting. Not to the words coming out of the mouth. They don’t really count. But to the look and the sound of the person uttering them.

And if there is one thing this old political adviser is certain of it is that Eric Abetz is doing his team great harm every time he appears on the screen or is heard on the radio. The Minister for Employment is a Liberal disability of the highest order. He just looks and sounds frightening whether or not you agree with his work for the dole message. A guaranteed vote loser who Labor must be hoping is kept in his role as government leader in the Senate where he will be guaranteed frequent appearances as the Abbott team struggles with being a minority administration.


Categories: Political snippets Tags:

Bank of America Offers U.S. Biggest Settlement in History and other news and views for Thursday 7 August

August 7th, 2014 Comments off
  • Bank of America Offers U.S. Biggest Settlement in History – “The tentative deal — which people briefed on the matter said would cost Bank of America more than $16 billion to settle investigations into its sale of toxic mortgage securities — started to take shape last week after the Justice Department rejected yet another settlement offer from the bank. Then, a wild card entered the fray. Judge Jed S. Rakoff, a longtime thorn in the side of Wall Street and Washington, issued an unexpected ruling in another Bank of America case that eroded what was left of the bank’s negotiating leverage.”
  • How Deeply Flawed Studies on Abortion and Breast Cancer Become Anti-Choice Fodder
  • In New Calculus on Smoking, It’s Health Gained vs. Pleasure Lost –  “Rarely has the concept of happiness caused so much consternation in public health circles. Buried deep in the federal government’s voluminous new tobacco regulations is a little-known cost-benefit calculation that public health experts see as potentially poisonous: the happiness quotient. It assumes that the benefits from reducing smoking — fewer early deaths and diseases of the lungs and heart — have to be discounted by 70 percent to offset the loss in pleasure that smokers suffer when they give up their habit.”


  • Why Do So Many Female Characters Succeed at Work But Fail at Home? – “Barbara Hall, the seasoned showrunner and novelist, raised an intriguing question last month while talking up her new CBS drama, ‘Madam Secretary.’ Why are so many female characters depicted as successful in their professional lives but ‘broken’ in every other way? ‘Madam Secretary’ is Hall’s effort to bust out of what has become a TV cliche.

Strong economic case for coal divestment

Why are Palestinian war deaths publicised more than Syrian ones?

August 7th, 2014 Comments off

With a cease fire between Israelis and Palestinians it’s an opportune time to think again about Syria where a real slaughter is taking place that does not dominate the newspapers and the airwaves.

From the Syrian Network for Human Rights:

Death Toll since the Beginning of the Revolution until the End of June/2014
First: The Syrian Regime
The Syrian regime forces killed no less than 133586 people; including 109347 civilian
(88% of the total) among them 15149 children and 13695 women. In addition, 4892
person were killed under torture.
This suggests that the Syrian regime kills four civilians every hour and 100 civilians
every day as a daily average
A child is killed every two hours
A woman is killed per three hours.
Second: The Armed Factions Affiliated to Al-Qaeda
They killed about two thousand people as we’ve documented no less than 1607 people
including 588 civilian among them 67 children and 53 women.
Third: Other Armed Groups
They killed 438 civilians, among them 29 children and 36 women.

Note: The figures do not include the death toll in the government forces or the IS.

The SNHCR death toll for July was 2549.

Categories: International politics, Media Tags:

Remember when public servants were impartial? and other news and views for Tuesday 5 August

August 5th, 2014 Comments off
  •  Remember when public servants were impartial? – “Too many government officials are seemingly ignoring their legal obligation to be apolitical.”
  • Has paper money outlived its purpose? – “Serious people have been suggesting that we think hard about eliminating paper currency. Paper money facilitates criminality and creates the zero lower bound (ZLB) for nominal interest rates. So, why not just get rid of it and replace it with electronic money?”
  • Trickling down– John Quiggin writes: ‘Even those who believe, or are paid to say, that favored treatment for the rich will benefit the poor mostly avoid the term “trickle down”, preferring bromides like “a rising tide lift all boats”. But that didn’t deter Ian Young, Vice-Chancellor of ANU and head of the Group of 8 Universities (basically, those established first, which have, as elsewhere in the world, gained a permanent high-status position as a result). As I predicted not long ago, he wants to raise fees and reduce the number of students at elite universities, including ANU, allowing them to offer a more personalised education.’


Gaza and Australian newspaper circulations

August 5th, 2014 Comments off

The Sydney based duo of Murdoch dailies are having a great time highlighting reports of readers cancelling subscriptions to The Sydney Morning Herald. Believe this morning’s editorial and you might think that old granny has hardly a reader left.


Now I am very much in the camp of those who found the Glen le Lievre cartoon offensive and made that clear soon after it was published.


And I was surprised that my old colleague Mike Carlton (he once was a star on a Mike Willesee current affairs program where I was an abject failure) did not add a note to his last column expressing his regret at the illustration accompanying his words the previous week rather than leaving it to the Herald’ editor to do it yesterday.

But be that as it may, I have no doubt that if people buy newspapers on the basis of the views they contain that the Herald will be winning the circulation battle over the Tele. Public opinion, as I see and hear it in, and on, the media, is very much anti-Israel when it comes to the bloodshed in Gaza. Mike Carlton will have more supporters than opponents for the views he expressed.

Albert Camus And The Search For Meaning In The Midst Of Ebola and other news and views for Sunday 3 August

August 3rd, 2014 Comments off


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Torturing folks is how the US President puts it and other news and views for Saturday 2 August

August 2nd, 2014 Comments off
President Barack Obama meets with National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice and Tony Blinken, Deputy National Security Advisor, in the Oval Office, Aug. 1, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama meets with National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice and Tony Blinken, Deputy National Security Advisor, in the Oval Office, Aug. 1, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Barack Obama: ‘We Tortured Some Folks’ – “Folks is many a politicians’ favored term for people. It’s class-neutral and gender-neutral. In a country that uses y’all, you guys, youse, and yinz, it is confidently American, but neighborhood-neutral. It is informal. It is cuddly. A politician represents his constituents. He thinks about the people. But he cares for folks — all you folks, including you there in the back. But Barack Obama uses the term so often he sometimes uses it indiscriminately. Take today, when during a press conference he casually mentioned that ‘we tortured some folks”’after the September 11 attacks.”
  • Assets or liabilities? – “Regulators worry that the asset-management industry may spawn the next financial crisis.”
  • Macquarie advisers cheated on competency test and exposed clients
  • What Does It Mean to Be Iraqi Anymore? “Amid ever-bloodier rifts, Iraqis blame the U.S. for a political system based on sectarian and ethnic identity.”
  • Abe hopes to tap women in September reshuffle of Cabinet, LDP leadership – “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday that he plans to reshuffle his Cabinet and Liberal Democratic Party leadership in the first week of September.”
  • Yum, Yum, Yum: Another Food Safety Scandal Rocks Multinationals in China – “It was a bad week for the crown jewels of the U.S. fast food industry. At the end of July, Louisiana-based Yum! Brands, which owns Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut, discovered (along with McDonalds, Subway, and Starbucks, among others) that one of their suppliers in China, Shanghai Husi Food Co., a subsidiary of the Chicago-based OSI Group, was supplying them with products using expired or rotten meat. Unfortunately, this was only the latest in a number of food safety scandals that have plagued U.S. fast food companies in China over the past few years.”
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A humorous side to a plot to bring down an Abbott

August 2nd, 2014 Comments off

It is one of those stories that you feel guilty about giggling at as you read it. But righteous indignation from a Murdoch paper about journalists hacking computers to get information really does have a humorous aspect.

And there it is on page one of The Australian this morning:


NSW police are close to completing a criminal investigation into computer hacking that led to confidential student records about a $60,000 scholarship granted to Tony Abbott’s daughter being leaked to the left-leaning, online magazine New Matilda.

Wendy Bacon, the prominent journalism teacher and contributing editor of New Matilda, has claimed the leaked information — which also involved a hacker allegedly gaining illegal access to the files of more than 500 other students — was justified in the public interest.

Leaving aside the pot-calling-the-kettle-black aspect, it is an interesting examination by the Oz of the way journalists may gain information and the legal and ethical implications of some of them; another example worth putting on the journalism school curriculum along with the Murdoch press exploits from the United Kingdom.

But what was lacking from this effort by the author Brad Norington is an examination of the merits or otherwise of the New Matilda assertion that the documents it had obtained showed a scholarship awarded to Frances Abbott by the Sydney-based Whitehouse Institute of Design was not based on merit and, being awarded to Ms Abbott only because her father was a “mate” of the institute’s chairman, thus should have been recorded on the Prime Minister’s register of interests.

This matter of substance was covered with “Mr Abbott has dismissed the suggestion he was required to declare a scholarship for his daughter, and the Whitehouse Institute claims it was awarded on merit.”

Big brewers pretending to be small

August 1st, 2014 Comments off

We had a classic proof earlier this year that Australian brewers don’t mind engaging in a little bit of deception. And the practice, it seems, is international among the big brewers.

In April the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission accepted a court enforceable undertaking from Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) in relation to ACCC concerns that it represented that Byron Bay Pale Lager was brewed by a small brewer in Byron Bay when this was not the case. CUB paid two Infringement Notices to the value of $20,400 in relation to this conduct.

Now media reports from the United States give details of how declining sales of mainstream brews sees roll out phony craft beers—brands like ShockTop and Blue Moon—and buy up legit craft brewers like Chicago’s Goose Island. Writes Mother Jones:

Other ersatz “craft” beers include Leinenkugel, Killian’s, Batch 19, and Third Shift. The strategy has been successful, to a point. Bloomberg reports that InBev has seen its Goose Island and Shock Top sales surge.

But there’s a catch: These stealth Big Beer brands aren’t “putting the microbrewers who started the movement out of business,” Bloomberg reports. Rather, “the new labels are taking sales from already-troubled mass-market brands owned by the industry giants peddling these crafty brews.” In other words, consumers aren’t dropping Sierra Nevada or Dogfish Head and reaching for the Shocktop. Rather, ShockTop sales are being propped up by refugees from Bud Light and the like.

Misleading Byron Bay beer label

Description on the back label
The Byron Bay Brewing Co is located on Skinner’s Shoot Road in Byron Bay. We’re housed in a historic location, a birthplace of much of the fame and spirit of Byron Bay which has attracted local and international musicians, artists and alternative thinkers since the ‘70s. Next time you’re in town, drop in and have a beer.
Brewed in NSW by the Byron Bay Brewing Company and its Licensees

The Australia experience, as explained by the ACCC, was that in 2013, CUB began supplying Byron Bay Pale Lager with labelling that incorporated the name Byron Bay Pale Lager, a pictorial representation of a lighthouse, text regarding Byron Bay and a map of the Byron Bay region showing the location of the Byron Bay Brewing Company. In fact, the beer was brewed by CUB at its brewery in Warnervale, some 630km away from Byron Bay.

The Byron Bay Brewing Company is a small brewery that, via its parent, licensed to CUB the right to supply Byron Bay Pale Lager Australia wide. The Byron Bay Brewing Company only brews Byron Bay Pale Lager for sale on tap at its site in Byron Bay.

“Many small brewers cater to consumers who prefer to support small, niche businesses. When large companies portray themselves as small businesses, it undermines the unique selling point that such small businesses depend upon, and it misleads consumers,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“The ACCC will be writing to other participants putting them on notice of this matter in order to ensure that marketing and labelling in the beer market appropriately reflects where and by whom beer is brewed.”

In providing the enforceable undertaking, CUB acknowledged that the labelling may have misled consumers. CUB has agreed to cease distribution of product with the misleading labelling. More generally, CUB has undertaken that it will not make false or misleading representations concerning the scale of the brewery in which its products are brewed or the place of origin of its products.

CUB will place corrective notices on its website and in trade publications, and it will also provide a corrective notice for retailers to display at point-of-sale.

“This is an outcome that protects the interests of both beer buyers and small brewers.” Mr Sims said.

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Legal marijuana plans succeeding in Colorado and other news and views for Friday 1 August

August 1st, 2014 Comments off



  • “Confused Cats Against Feminism” Is the Purrfect Response to “Women Against Feminism” – ‘The Tumblr Women Against Feminism has inspired scores of think pieces decrying its misuse of the term “feminist.” Yet when David Futrelle saw the collection of photos of women holding handwritten signs like “I don’t need feminism because I am not a victim,” it reminded him of his cats. “It just seems like cats never know what’s going on,” Futrelle says. “If anyone would get really confused about feminism and announce their opposition to it, it would be cats. They have the right combination of myopicness and solipsism.” So last Thursday, Futrelle posed his felines next to Women Against Feminism-style signs, snapped a picture, and launched his own Tumblr: Confused Cats Against Feminism.
  • Winning the battle, losing the war – For all its military might, Israel faces a grim future unless it can secure peace
  • The Social Laboratory – Singapore is testing whether mass surveillance and big data can not only protect national security, but actually engineer a more harmonious society.
  • Whistle-blower treatment is often ‘shocking’ say MPs – “The Commons Public Accounts Committee said whistle-blowers had often been subjected to bullying and harassment. Its report called for whistle-blowers to be offered legal and counselling services and for “swift sanctions” to be imposed on staff who victimise them.”
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