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Archive for September, 2014

A parliamentary speech that actually says something

September 23rd, 2014 Comments off

I am old enough to remember the times when speeches in parliament actually meant something. I even learned shorthand so I could write down and then report what MPs said back in those days because there were no transcripts issued in advance. Reporting what was said was an indication of what was meant, what a member actually believed. Alas, no more. Parliamentary speeches these days are a repetition of prepared and sanitised arguments. Why bother to report such a boring parliamentary debate?

So what a delight it was to an old fellow yesterday when the Labor MP for Fremantle, Melissa Parke, actually had the courage to break the shackles of party orthodoxy on the question of military intervention in the Middle East and combating terrorsim at home.

Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (18:24): Last week on Twitter a person called for my execution for treason because I had questioned the government’s rapid escalation of our new involvement in Iraq from a purely humanitarian mission to one where we appear to be joining the US in an open-ended fight against IS. A call for my execution may be extreme, but it demonstrates how the beating of the drums of war and the hysteria this generates inevitably prevent the kind of calm, serious and rational discussion that is called for when decisions are being made to commit Australians overseas to kill and potentially to be killed. It is natural for us to respond instinctively to confronting images. The graphic and brutal murders of Westerners David Haines, Steven Sotloff and James Foley—people who only sought to do good in the world—have offended our sense of humanity and stoked our desire for justice in a way that countless other atrocities in Iraq and Syria—as well as in Gaza, Afghanistan, Pakistan and many countries in Africa—seem not to have. But given the disastrous consequences of previous military interventions, as well as the continually evolving and incredibly complex situation in the Middle East, it has perhaps never been more important to curb that natural instinct for retaliation and the use of hard power and consider the root causes. In this it may be helpful to reflect on what an elderly woman in Northern Ireland said to one of the former heads of our national counterterrorism organisation before the peace talks: ‘If you’ve got nothing to live for, you’ve got everything to die for.’

The challenges in Iraq—some caused and others exacerbated by the ill-judged coalition of the willing in 2003 —arise from deep ethnic communal, cultural and religious issues. As the Ottoman Turks discovered, and as has become even clearer ever since, these issues are never going to be resolved by outsiders, especially not outsiders with guns and bombs, and not by approaching this as a crusade against a death cult. Fundamentally, this is an issue of human security. And does anyone believe you can ensure the security of humans by bombing humans? At the centre of any credible national security policy is human security—individual wellbeing and community harmony that allows people everywhere to go about their business without fear, without constraints on their freedoms as enshrined in law and without the constant worry that someone wants to take their possessions and enslave their children. That, of course, is the essential meaning of the term ‘security’: without worry—sine cura, for the classicists.
The authoritative and internationally respected commentator Rachel Shabi made the following observations just this week:

It should be obvious by now that if such bombing campaigns have an effect, it is to make things much worse. What western leaders portray as valiant efforts to rid the world of evil forces such as ISIL just don’t play the same way in the region. In Iraq, for instance, western military intervention is viewed as support for the authoritarian,sectarian and West-approved leadership, whose persecution and air strikes are so bad that many Sunnis are prepared to put up with ISIL, for now, as preferable. Western military intervention thus gives ISIL its recruitment fuel of choice: A war with a self-interested external enemy around which to galvanise support.

Meanwhile, arming supposed “moderates” in Syria is equally delusional: Even self-declared moderates have on the ground, allied with the currently dominant ISIL in the fight against dictator Bashar al-Assad, and even these so-called moderates have carried out beheadings and other brutalities. A cursory glance around the region shows exactly what happens when the West arms groups that somehow fit the “moderate” descriptive; as one writer  most succinctly puts it: “The terrorists fighting us now? We just finished training them.”

As with the situation between Russia and Ukraine, Australia has no strategic stake or status in Iraq and Syria, except as a compassionate and engaged member of the international community. One has to ask why on earth the UN was not our first port of call, especially at a time when we occupy a valuable seat on the UN Security Council, where we can examine with other countries who are more familiar with the situation in the region than we are the potential for political and diplomatic solutions. That means considering the use of smart rather than hard power.

It has been a matter of great surprise and disappointment to me that the government has not engaged with the UN before committing special forces and equipment to the so-called coalition of the concerned. In my view we should be endeavouring to ensure that there is a broadbased international partnership engaging moderate Islamic states such as Indonesia and Malaysia as well as neighbouring Middle Eastern states such as Jordan and Turkey, under the auspices of the UN, to address the very real humanitarian and human security issues that are at the heart of the current problem.

In my earlier speech on the Iraq conflict, on 4 September, I called for a formal debate in the Australian parliament. While this would be unlikely to change the result, it would represent an open and proper process for the Australian government in relation to its involvement in a conflict that will be costly and will inevitably have serious and uncertain geopolitical consequences. At this point it is very poorly defined, in terms of timescale, objectives, cost, rationale, international legal basis and underlying international agreement.

Such a debate would have the effect of airing the many issues and questions that remain unanswered. For instance, how does the use of armed force, in the manner that the US, Australia and other participants in the current coalition intend to apply it, actually serve the humanitarian and political objectives that should be at the centre of the international community’s response to events in Northern Iraq and Syria?

Airstrikes in Northern Iraq may deplete IS but also are likely to displace some IS members to other parts of Iraq and Syria. After the billions spent by the coalition of the willing on training and equipping the Iraqi army, it still seems as though its capacity to deal with such threats remains limited. Does this then mean a second attempt to train and equip the Iraqis? Why would this be any more successful than the first time? Does it mean a return to boots on the ground in Iraq and, if so, by which countries? What will happen in Syria where Bashar al-Assad’s forces have committed atrocities against civilians on a grander scale than IS and where various countries have provided funds and weapons, to either side, to continue that conflict by proxy?

If the proposal is to arm only moderate, Free Syrian Army fighters—as opposed to, say, an al-Qaeda linked group like al-Nusra—what would make such fighters stop fighting Assad and start fighting ISIL? Are we going to start arming Hezbollah or the Syrian army itself against ISIL? Is it possible to guarantee that weapons will not be used against civilians? How will the coalition deal with the participation of countries, such as Saudi Arabia, that have been involved in supporting Sunni jihadist groups, like IS?

Let us remember that Saudi Arabia is a country in which beheadings by the government regime are commonplace, including for the offence of sorcery. How will the coalition treat its partner Egypt, where hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been sentenced to death and where journalists, including Peter Greste, have been sentenced to long jail terms after sham trials? How will our government treat Australians citizens who have travelled abroad to fight with moderate groups against Assad and/or IS? Will they be the recipients of our weapons and assistance in Iraq or Syria, only to be prosecuted when they try to come home?

There is an enormous danger in moving so quickly that these questions are not examined and when the possible consequences are not thought through, anticipated and planned for. I am not suggesting that we should not be involved in protecting civilians from atrocities or that we should not endeavour to bring perpetrators of these crimes to justice. Our actions should be based on humanitarian objectives and in accordance with the international rule of law.

I am concerned too about the increased security risk to Australians everywhere as a result of our involvement infurther action in Iraq. I was working for the UN in the Middle East when Australia joined the so-called coalitionof the willing, in 2003. I was advised by security officers of the heightened risk I faced as a result of Australia’snvolvement in that the debacle. In some places, such as Egypt, I was even advised not to disclose the fact thatI was Australian.

We Australians like to think of ourselves as universally loved but this is not always the case, particularly as aresult of our involvement in Iraq in 2003 and the public positions taken from time to time by Australian politicalleaders in support of Israel’s actions against the Palestinians, even where these are plainly contrary to internationallaw. These issues matter to a great many people in the world and we are foolish if we fail to think through theconsequences of our words and actions. One of these consequences is the fertile ground such issues provide forthe recruitment of new members to the extremist cause.

Finally, I note that with the present focus on national security it is extraordinary that the Prime Minister is not attending the global summit on climate change. In this year’s quadrennial defence review, the US defence department describes the threat of climate change as a very serious national security vulnerability. Australia’s current national security strategy with climate change, along with the threat of the resurgence of violent political groups, has a broad global challenge with national security implications. National security is not all about jet fighters and special-action forces or even the numbers and powers of the Australian police. If the Prime Minister really wants Australians to insouciantly go about their business, he needs to re-examine his climate change policy—or lack thereof—which many Australians, as demonstrated in yesterday’s climate-action rallies, regard as regressive, ignorant, destructive and politically self-indulgent.

No-one will argue against steps to genuinely improve the security of Australians, but the core issue here is whether the steps this government is taking at home and abroad are being properly considered and calibrated to meet the reality rather than the hype, to achieve properly defined outcomes rather than draw us into yet another counter-productive military engagement. That judgement cannot be made when there is no meaningful debate in the national parliament. (Time expired)

 

 

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

Polar sea ice trends continue in different directions and other news and views for Tuesday 23 September

September 23rd, 2014 Comments off

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  • Scientists debate polar sea-ice opposites – “Arctic sea ice has passed its minimum summer extent, say polar experts meeting in London. The cover on 17 September dipped to 5.01 million sq km, and has risen slightly since then, suggesting the autumn re-freeze has now taken hold. This year’s minimum is fractionally smaller than last year (5.10 million sq km), making summer 2014 the sixth lowest in the modern satellite record. The Antarctic, in contrast, continues its winter growth. It is still a few weeks away from reaching its maximum, which will continue the record-setting trend of recent years. Ice extent surrounding the White Continent has just topped 20 million sq km. The marine cover at both poles is the subject of discussion at a major UK Royal Society conference taking place this week.
  • The fight of their lives – The White House wants the Kurds to help save Iraq from ISIS. The Kurds may be more interested in breaking away.
  • The Limits to Fighting the Islamic State – Gareth Evans writes – “… as the US-led mission is currently conceived and described, it is not clear whether its objectives are achievable at acceptable costs in terms of time, money, and lives.”

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  • The drinking habits of AFL supporters – “Considering that 14 of the 18 AFL teams are sponsored by an alcohol brand or retailer, it seems an apt time to take a look at the booze preferences of AFL fans. In the year to June 2014, supporters of most AFL teams (with the exception of Greater Western Sydney, Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide) were more likely than the average Australian adult to have drunk alcohol in an average four weeks.
  • Who’s made Australia’s most sexist comments? Check out the shortlist – “Tonight, more than 350 women will come together to judge the 22nd annual ‘Ernie Awards for Sexist Remarks. Through a technical voting system of ‘booing’ while the short-listed offenders are read out during the gala dinner, the honourable award winners will be determined.”
  • Giving Chickens Bacteria … To Keep Them Antibiotic-Free
  • Short-Term Benefits of Climate Change Policy – “If the case for reducing the use of carbon-based energy can be made right now, in terms of immediate health benefits, then that seems a useful starting point for discussion. “

The glaringly obvious guide to the next crash and other news and views for Monday 22 September

September 23rd, 2014 Comments off
  • The glaringly obvious guide to the next crash – What sell signals will future generations wonder at our ability to ignore, asks James Mackintosh
  • Fukushima cleanup going painfully slow – “Three and a half years after Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station spewed massive amounts of radioactive materials into the air and water, decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture has yet to draw to an end. The government initially hoped to complete the decontamination by the end of last March, but the process continues to lag far behind, prompting the government to push back the goal by three years to 2017.”
  • The dangerous revival of nationalism – Separatist movements have a pull for voters even in a borderless world of bits and bytes

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  • Broadway’s ‘The Lion King’ Becomes Top Grossing Title of All Time – “Disney’s “The Lion King” has claimed a new crown: Top box office title in any medium. The Associated Press did the math and discovered the 17-year-old stage musical, which on Broadwayhas undergone an extraordinary spurt of B.O. growth in recent years, has logged worldwide sales of more than $6.2 billion, taking the lead from another Broadway longrunner, “The Phantom of the Opera,” which has pulled in $6 billion. That tally makes “Lion King” more successful than any single movie in history. The top film earner of all time is “Avatar,” weighing in at $2.8 billion.”
  • Largest Climate-Change March in History Unlikely to Convince Idiots

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Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

No El Niño but getting close to a record hot year for the planet anyhow

September 22nd, 2014 Comments off

Of the world’s five warmest years on record – 2010, 2005, 1998, 2003, and 2013 – all but 2013 began during a mature El Niño event. Hence the interest always paid to this measure reflecting ocean water temperatures in the Pacific and to the speculation that 2014 might be another record high temperature one when the climate model makers earlier in the year were putting the chances of an El Niño at 80%. That probability has now retreated a little with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s latest El Niño watch being in the neutral range.

Somewhat surprisingly the warm temperatures have kept coming without an El Niño influence. According to the latest report of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

  • The combined average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces for August 2014 was record high for the month, at 0.75°C (1.35°F) above the 20th century average of 15.6°C (60.1°F), topping the previous record set in 1998.
  • The global land surface temperature was 0.99°C (1.78°F) above the 20th century average of 13.8°C (56.9°F), the second highest on record for August, behind 1998.
  • For the ocean, the August global sea surface temperature was 0.65°C (1.17°F) above the 20th century average of 16.4°C (61.4°F). This record high departure from average not only beats the previous August record set in 2005 by 0.08°C (0.14°F), but also beats the previous all-time record set just two months ago in June 2014 by 0.03°C (0.05°F).
  • The combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for the June–August period was also record high for this period, at 0.71°C (1.28°F) above the 20th century average of 16.4°C (61.5°F), beating the previous record set in 1998.
  • The June–August worldwide land surface temperature was 0.91°C (1.64°F) above the 20th century average, the fifth highest on record for this period. The global ocean surface temperature for the same period was 0.63°C (1.13°F) above the 20th century average, the highest on record for June–August. This beats the previous record set in 2009 by 0.04°C (0.07°F).
  • The combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for January–August (year-to-date) was 0.68°C (1.22°F) above the 20th century average of 14.0°C (57.3°F), the third highest for this eight-month period on record.

Now I know there is something magical about calendar year records but I have used NASA’s data to plot average monthly temperature anomalies for the 12 months to August and it too shows 2014 as the third highest on record

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The NOAA has catered for the calendar year followers with graphics comparing the year-to-date temperature anomalies for 2014 (black line) to what were ultimately the five warmest years on record: 2010, 2005, 1998, 2003, and 2013. Each month along each trace represents the year-to-date average temperature. In other words, the January value is the January average temperature, the February value is the average of both January and February, and so on.

The first graphic shows the basic year-to-date comparison. The second graphic zooms even further to what were ultimately the five warmest years on record, and shows several end-of-year results based on the following scenarios:

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The years 2013 and 2014 are the only years on this list not to begin during a mature El Niño event. The years 1998 and 2010, each of which became the warmest year on record at the time, ended the year in a strong La Niña event, as evidenced by the relative fading of global average temperature later in the year.

The anomalies themselves represent departures from the 20th century average temperature. The graph zooms into the warmest part of the entire history.

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Categories: Environment Tags:

The problems of backing rebels – the US experience

September 21st, 2014 Comments off
  • When The U.S. Backs Rebels, It Doesn’t Often Go As Planned – “As the U.S. steps up arms and training, Syria’s “moderate” rebels are joining a long line of resistance movements the Americans have backed over the decades, from Angola to Afghanistan. … U.S. support has consistently given rebels a boost in the short term, sometimes leading to outright victory. But battlefield success is never the end of the story. Unanticipated consequences often play out years later, casting the mission in a very different light.”
  • The invasion of corporate news – “The lines between journalism and PR are rapidly becoming blurred as business interests bypass traditional media to get their message across.”

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  • Dogs can be pessimists too – “Dogs generally seem to be cheerful, happy-go-lucky characters, so you might expect that most would have an optimistic outlook on life.In fact some dogs are distinctly more pessimistic than others, research from the University of Sydney shows.”
  • Hell in the Hot Zone – “As the Ebola epidemic rages, two questions have emerged: How did the deadly virus escape detection for three months? And why has a massive international effort failed to contain it? Traveling to Meliandou, a remote Guinean village and the likely home of Patient Zero, Jeffrey E. Stern tracks the virus’s path—and the psychological contagion that is still feeding the worst Ebola outbreak in history.”
  • Domestic violence likely more frequent for same-sex couples – “Domestic violence occurs at least as frequently, and likely even more so, between same-sex couples compared to opposite-sex couples, according to a review of literature by Northwestern Medicine® scientists.”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

The dangers of sacking ministerial Senators

September 21st, 2014 Comments off

The Parliament House gossip for weeks now has had Australian Minister for Defence, Senator the Honourable David Johnston, head of the short-list of Cabinet ministers ready for sacking. As someone who avoids the big house on the hill like the plague I can shed no guidance as to the inspiration for the stories but the but the campaign against the Senator certainly got a kick along this morning.

Retired Major-General Jim Molan, who was asked to act as the Minister’s adviser on next year’s Defence White Paper, after he helped devise the Government’s border protection policy,  told Channel 10 he quit because he realised it would not be feasible to continue in the role.

“The reason for this being not feasible had nothing to do with the professionalism of the Department of Defence, of the [Australian Defence Force], of the chief of the Defence Force or the secretary of the Department,” he said. When it was suggested Mr Molan was narrowing his criticism down to Mr Johnston, he said: “Well, that’s a conclusion you can come to and that’s something that I would discuss in private with others.”

That’s as close as an old soldier can go to dropping a bucket on his boss and will increase the volume of the gossip and the pressure that some people are tying to put on the Prime Minister to make a change.

Unfortunately for Tony Abbott there are dangers in making a replacement. Principal among them is that Defence Minister Johnston is a Senator in a Senate where the Abbott government has difficulties enough already in getting the numbers. The last thing the Abbott government needs is another loose cannon from his own minority team to deal with.

The Queenslander Ian Macdonald is doing enough damage already as he uses his unwanted freedom of the backbench to remind the PM of the danger that comes from sacking one of his front benchers.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

Strong measures to limit carbon emissions might actually lead to faster growth

September 20th, 2014 Comments off
  • Could Fighting Global Warming Be Cheap and Free? – Paul Krugman writes: “I’ve just been reading two new reports on the economics of fighting climate change: a big study by a blue-ribbon international group, the New Climate Economy Project, and a working paper from the International Monetary Fund. Both claim that strong measures to limit carbon emissions would have hardly any negative effect on economic growth, and might actually lead to faster growth. This may sound too good to be true, but it isn’t. These are serious, careful analyses.”
  • Forget the national debt. The new budget threat is climate change – “Shaun Donovan gave his first speech as White House budget director Friday, and he didn’t even mention that Washington obsession of recent years, the $17.8 trillion national debt.No, in the run-up to next week’s United Nations climate summit in New York, the Obama administration is focused like a laser on a different threat to federal finances and the U.S. economy: the consequences of global warming.”
  • Listen up, fellow DORCs, I have a bridge to sell you – “The whole idea of basing user charges on the imaginary current replacement cost of an asset that already exists is ideological claptrap. It says that you tell your kids that they can’t afford to drive the old Volvo in the yard because a new one would cost $ 100,000.”
  • Tax cuts can do more harm than good – “Tax cuts are the one guaranteed path to prosperity. Or so politicians have told Americans for so long that the claim has become a secular dogma. But tax cuts can do more harm than good, a new report shows. It draws on decades of empirical evidence analyzed with standard economic principles used in business, academia and government. What ultimately matters is the way a tax cut is structured and how it affects behavior.”
  • Russia is our most dangerous neighbour  – Russia is both a tragedy and a menace writes Martin Wolf. “In the Financial Times this week Sergey Karaganov offered an arresting insight into the blend of self-pity and braggadocio currently at work in Moscow. It is as depressing as it is disturbing. Western policy makers seem to believe the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (known as Isis) is the greater danger. But Russia is the nuclear-armed rump of a former superpower and, ruled by an amoral autocrat, it frightens me even more. For Europe and, I believe, the US, there is no greater foreign policy question than how to deal with today’s Russia.”
  • How To Inoculate Angry Teens Against Islamic Extremism – Maajid Nawaz used to be a recruiter for an extreme Islamist group in the United Kingdom. NPR’s Scott Simon speaks with Nawaz about how the recruiting process works, and how it can be thwarted.

Judging the political owl’s predictions – at least they are proving profitable

September 20th, 2014 Comments off

My hunch was right about the “no” vote in the Scottish referendum. The “no” vote was stronger than the polls were predicting.
Hence a handy little profit as you will see set out on my The portfolio – the record so far page.
Since I began recording my political predictions by putting my money where my mouth is there has been a profit on turnover of 17.5%.
At the very least it lets readers make a judgment on the value of my political forecasts.

Categories: Elections Tags:

Dealing with returning Islamic fighters and other news and views for Thursday 18 September

September 18th, 2014 Comments off
  • Islamic State: Germany Struggles to Deal with Returning Fighters – “Hundreds of radical Islamists from Germany have headed to Syria and Iraq to fight for Islamic State. Many have since returned home. Now the country’s court system is gearing up for the coming legal battles — and facing myriad challenges.”
  • U.S. Falling Into the Islamic State’s Trap – “There are many reasons the U.S. shouldn’t go to war with the Islamic State — and the best may be that it’s exactly what they want us to do.”
  • On the Necessary Execution of a Prince – “Was the recent arrest, trial and execution of North Korea’s number two politician just another sign of the madness of the regime? Or was it perhaps a sign to the people that things could actually change for the better and that no one – none of ‘them’ – was necessarily too powerful to evade punishment?”
  • The US Has Been the World’s Sole Superpower for the Last 13 Years—Why Hasn’t It Done Anything Good? – “Now, across a vast and growing swath of the planet, the main force at work seems not to be the concentration of power, but its fragmentation.”
  • The Economics of Violence – Bjorn Lomborg on another subject – “What is the biggest source of violence in our world? With the brutal conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere constantly in the news, many people would probably say war. But that turns out to be spectacularly wrong. … domestic violence against women and children imposes a social cost of $8 trillion each year, making it a huge – and vastly underreported – global issue. Second, there are solutions that can help to tackle some of these problems very cost-effectively. That is why reducing domestic violence belongs on the short-list for the world’s next set of development goals.”
  • The Ties that Bind: The Chinese Misunderstanding of Innovation – “The restrictions that hinder innovation lie not only in the system of higher education but permeate deeply into the Chinese economy. They are the ties that bind. They create a constrained environment for Chinese engineers, an environment that would be unacceptable to their peers in other industrialized countries. They limit innovation by favoring ideas that emphasize stability rather than transformation. You find this atmosphere in universities, of course, but it is also prevalent in laboratories, offices, and engineering professional societies.”
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Replaying the 30s in slow motion and other news and views for Wednesday 17 September

September 17th, 2014 Comments off

 

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Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

The winning chances of the Abbott government edge upward

September 17th, 2014 Comments off

Take notice of the opinion polls and you would think that the Abbott government is going backwards in public support. Look at the evaluation of the markets and you would find the opposite with a modest increase over the last few weeks in the probability of the Coalition being re-elected.

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In Victoria the market’s verdict is tending to coincide with the polls with Labor a firming favourite.

2014-09-17_victorianindicatorCheck out the Owl’s indicators on other events HERE.

 

 

Categories: Political indicators Tags:

A “No” vote in Scotland the favoured prediction

September 17th, 2014 Comments off

On the eve of the vote in Scotland, a “No” vote has shortened again as the favoured outcome.

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Categories: Elections, UK election Tags:

Germany’s move to sun and wind power and other news and views for Sunday 14 September

September 14th, 2014 Comments off
The small German island of Heligoland, a popular tourist destination, is undergoing dramatic change as the wind industry takes over. Video Credit By Erik Olsen on Publish Date September 13, 2014.

The small German island of Heligoland, a popular tourist destination, is undergoing dramatic change as the wind industry takes over. Video Credit By Erik Olsen on Publish Date September 13, 2014.

  • Sun and Wind Alter German Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind  -“Of all the developed nations, few have pushed harder than Germany to find a solution to global warming. And towering symbols of that drive are appearing in the middle of the North Sea. They are wind turbines, standing as far as 60 miles from the mainland, stretching as high as 60-story buildings and costing up to $30 million apiece. On some of these giant machines, a single blade roughly equals the wingspan of the largest airliner in the sky, the Airbus A380. By year’s end, scores of new turbines will be sending low-emission electricity to German cities hundreds of miles to the south.”
  • The journalists who never sleep – “‘Robot writers’ that can interpret data and generate stories are starting to appear in certain business and media sectors.”
  • Power from the people: what privatisation has meant for Britain – “Britain has changed beyond recognition in the past 20 years. A failed government policy must take much of the blame.”
  • Iraq: The Outlaw State – Max Rodenbeck in the New York Review surveys four recently published books on Iraq and notes how a fusion of the homicidal and messianic is not without precedent in Iraq. The use of seemingly gratuitous cruelty as a form of display—as a talisman of godlike power and an advertisement of worldly success—has old roots there. “… the country that is now Iraq—although alas not, perhaps, for much longer in its current shape—is no stranger to the ghoulish and macabre. The Mongols, famously, built pyramids of skulls when they pillaged and razed Baghdad in 1258 and again in 1401. It was in Iraq in the 1920s that Britain introduced newer, cheaper methods for keeping unruly natives under control, such as chemical weapons and aerial “terror” bombings. Saddam Hussein’s three-decade-long Republic of Fear, with its gassing of Kurdish villagers, grotesque tortures, and mass slaughter of dissidents, made the later American jailers of Abu Ghraib look downright amateur.”
  • Sweden election: Social Democrats may regain power
  • Nations Trying to Stop Their Citizens From Going to Middle East to Fight for ISIS – “France wants more power to block its citizens from leaving the country, while Britain is weighing whether to stop more of its citizens from coming home. Tunisia is debating measures to make it a criminal offense to help jihadist fighters travel to Syria and Iraq, while Russia has outlawed enlisting in armed groups that are “contradictory to Russian policy.” The rapid surge of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and its ability to draw fighters from across the globe, have set off alarm bells in capitals worldwide. Countries that rarely see eye to eye are now trying to blunt its recruitment drive.@
  • Wine As Economic Indicator: Do Sales Of $50 Pinots And Merlots Predict Our Economy’s Future?
Categories: Environment, Uncategorized Tags:

Miranda Devine finds an anti commo mum to hide her Gillard hatred behind

September 14th, 2014 Comments off

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Another gem this morning to add to my “Views of Miranda Devine” collection. This time our intrepid Sydney Sunday Terror columnist has found a granny to hide her views of Julia Gillard behind.

Emilia Pastuszka, a “stay at home mum” from Wahroonga, has a remarkably similar life story, that propelled her into the public gallery on Wednesday. Her father was part of Poland’s anti-communist Solidarity movement. “He was in prison a few times. I lived through it. You had to accept corruption or shut hut up … social socialism is supposed d to be about equality but who’s ever in power is the new bourgeoisie,” Pastuszka said.

In a moment of candour last week, Gillard lamented the lack of a time machine. “If one got to do the whole thing again you would do things differently.” She’s not the only one. “Things would have been different if this evidence had come out 20 years ago,” Emilia says. “Julia Gillard would not have come to government.”

 

Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

Hastening the death of a newspaper’s influence

September 12th, 2014 Comments off

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The blatant political partisanship of the Murdoch tabloids is spreading. The Sydney Daily Telegraph led the way with distorted coverage of the Labor Party and the Brisbane Courier Mail joined in last year. And now it’s the turn of Melbourne’s Herald Sun.

The biased prejudice that once was confined to those hysterical columnists Andrew Bolt and Terry McCrann has now reached the front page – as in this morning’s early edition.

The good news is that the combination of declining readership and the good sense of voters is confirming that tabloid hysteria now just preaches to the converted. A win by Labor in the forthcoming Victorian state election will confirm the approaching death of the political influence of newspapers.

 

Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

With employment and unemployment go with the trend and it’s not good

September 11th, 2014 Comments off

Much ado about nothing today as the pundits try to make sense of the employment and unemployment figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. I’m happy to stick with the trend figures for what is always a volatile series. And the trend indicates that economic growth is just enough to stop things getting much worse and that’s about it.

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Perhaps the ABS figures for total hours of paid work give the best indication.

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Over the last year the increase in hours worked is a meagre 0.56% and that is less than the increase in the number of people available to enter the labour force. Clearly it is not a time to be reducing government spending.

What constitutes a “real” refugee? and other news and views for Thursday 11 September

September 11th, 2014 Comments off

2014-09-11_reefugeestudies

  • What constitutes a “real” refugee? – Katy Long, Lecturer in International Development at University of Edinburgh and an editor of The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, writes: “We are increasingly skilled in crafting complacent fictions intended not so much to demonise refugees as exculpate our own consciences. In Australia, for instance, ever-more restrictive asylum policies – which have seen all those arriving by boat transferred off-shore and, even when granted refugee status, refused the right to settle in Australia – have been presented by supporters as merely intended to prevent the nefarious practice of “queue-jumping”. In this universe, the border patrols become the guardians ensuring “fair” asylum hearings, while asylum-seekers are condemned for cheating the system.”
  • The American fear-mongering machine is about to scare us back into war again – “Did you know that the US government’s counterterrorism chief Matthew Olson said last week that there’s no ‘there’s no credible information’ that the Islamic State (Isis) is planning an attack on America and that there’s ”no indication at this point of a cell of foreign fighters operating in the United States’? Or that, as the Associated Press reported, ‘The FBI and Homeland Security Department say there are no specific or credible terror threats to the US homeland from the Islamic State militant group’?”
  • All eyes on Rupert Murdoch over the Sun’s Scottish independence stance
  • Sports concussion ‘breathalyser’ proposed – “Among the new proposals is a breath test, which successfully detects key chemicals in early laboratory trials. Produced by the damaged brain, these chemicals are known to indicate a brain injury when found in the bloodstream.”
  • How Do Citizens React When Politicians Support Policies They Oppose? Field Experiments with Elite Communication – “Politicians have been depicted as, alternatively, strongly constrained by public opinion, able to shape public opinion if they persuasively appeal to citizens’ values, or relatively unconstrained by public opinion and able to shape it merely byannouncing their positions. We conduct unique field experiments in cooperation with legislators to explore how constituents react when
    legislators take positions they oppose. … These findings suggest politicians can enjoy broad latitude to shape public opinion.”
  • Climate change deniers raise the heat on the Bureau of Meteorology
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

The pendulum swings back towards a “no” vote in Scotland

September 11th, 2014 Comments off

A couple of opinion polls showing a lead for the “No” vote in the Scottish referendum and the market has moved strongly back to put the probability of defeat for independence at 77%.

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Categories: UK election Tags:

The Reasons Bankers Weren’t Busted

September 11th, 2014 Comments off

On this little blog of mine I have been featuring stories on what I describe as ticket clippers for many months now. One of the continuing themes of many of them is the way that while banks keep getting hit with huge fines, the bankers that run them have almost always avoided being charged with any offences. It really is a depressing story of how money talks when it comes to the criminal justice system. I recommend you browse through my ticket clipper archive and also read a couple of recent postings on Bloomberg View.

The Reasons Bankers Weren’t Busted – Bloomberg View.

Here Bloomberg View columnist Barry Ritholtz, who has been following the absence of legal prosecutions since 2008 and posted on that subject more than 500 times, reviews the events of the financial crisis showing that the law was broken repeatedly by bankers.

Political access and lobbying go part way toward explaining the absence of prosecutions and, therefore, the lack of convictions. To understand why there were no convictions of senior bankers, you need to understand a bit of criminal law in the U.S. The American form of jurisprudence requires a criminal indictment to bring someone to trial. No indictment, no trial, no conviction. Where bankers and their lawyers have been so successful is stopping prosecutions before they begin. You don’t get to the conviction part if prosecutors don’t bring indictments.

In The Biggest Lie of the New Century Ritholtz argues that the biggest reason so many financial felons escaped justice was because they “dumped the cost of their criminal activities on you, the shareholder (never mind the taxpayer).” He then takes his readers on a brief survey of some of the more egregious acts of wrongdoing – Foreclosure fraudMortgage underwriting: where defects were knowingly ignored; Money Laundering of staggering sums of money for drug dealers and terrorists; Market manipulation where prices were either improperly manipulated or illegally rigged, with knowledge of the bank executives and the traders they employed and supervised; Fraud, skimming and bid-rigging of the good old-fashioned kind; Accounting fraud where some executives at banks cooked their books.

And the author’s conclusion of his two-part survey?

So next time you hear the claim that “there were no crimes committed by bankers,” just remember that this may be the biggest lie of the 21st century.

 

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

Is it worth putting Christopher Pyne at risk to save $30 billion? South Australia, ships and seats

September 10th, 2014 Comments off

Doling out the taxpayer dollars to prop up industries in South Australia became something of an art form for Labor federal governments. From preferential treatment for the wine over other forms of alcohol, to subsidies for car manufacturers, to the establishment of a submarine construction industry – SA got them all in an attempt by the ALP to cling to its House of Representative seats and to control of the state government. The pork-barrelling worked pretty well with the party still holding five of the 11 Reps seats (in italics in the list below) and, with the help of some very favourable electoral boundaries, there is still an ALP state government as well.

That the Liberal Party understood the power of the electoral bribe was shown during the last campaign where Tony Abbott matched the Labor commitment to continue building submarines in the state. The seat of Hindmarsh fell to the Coalition, Boothby lost its marginal status and Sturt moved into what has traditionally been the safe category with a two party preferred vote of 60.1%.

Adelaide – Labor 54.0 Coalition 46.0
Barker – Labor 33.5 Coalition 66.5
Boothby – Labor 42.9 Coalition 57.1 after 6.5% swing to Coalition
Grey – Labor 36.5 Coalition 63.5
Hindmarsh – Labor 48.1 Coalition 51.9 after 8.0% swing to Coalition
Kingston – Labor 59.7 Coalition 40.3
Makin – Labor 55.1 Coalition 44.9
Mayo – Labor 37.5 Coalition 62.5
Port Adelaide 64.0 Coalition 36.0
Sturt – 38.9 Coalition 60.1 after 6.5% swing to Coalition
Wakefield – 53.0 Coalition 46.6

Promises about spending billions are easy to make when in opposition but harder to keep when in government with a commitment to drastically reduce a budget deficit. Hence this morning’s headline and the rash of stories preceding it about submarines being built in Japan rather than Adelaide:

 

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What the stories about abandoning Adelaide for Japan tend to glide over is the potential electoral impact on the Coalition. Hindmarsh would surely return to Labor with Boothby a likely Labor gain and Christopher Pyne’s seat of Sturt at least in the possible category. Add in the loss of at least one Coalition Senator and there will be a price to pay for the $30 billion.
The resolve of Cabinet will be tested before this decision is finally made.

 

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

The views of Miranda Devine – cycle path advocates are like Israeli settlers

September 10th, 2014 Comments off

Just another little snippet to add to a “Views of Miranda Devine” collection. From this morning’s Daily Telegraph column supposedly about Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s cycle paths and their destructive impact on the city of Sydney:

She uses cyclists as cannon fodder for the green-Left’s war on cars. They are like Israel’s settlers, ideologically driven to colonise ever more dangerous territory.

Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

Julie Bishop rates much higher with voters than Tony Abbott and other news and views for Tuesday 9 September

September 9th, 2014 Comments off

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  • Julie Bishop knocks Malcolm Turnbull off popularity high in cabinet rankings – A new poll reveals the foreign minister is the most popular minister and Joe Hockey is the least popular. – “Julie Bishop has overtaken Malcolm Turnbull as the federal government’s highest-performing minister, while the budget has dragged Joe Hockey into last place, according to a survey ranking each cabinet member.McNair Ingenuity Research polled 1,004 voters late in August, just before the first anniversary of the Abbott government’s election victory. Participants were asked to rank each minister on a scale of 100 for excellent, 75 for good, 50 for average, 25 for poor or zero for terrible.
  • As the party faithful drift away, can Bill Shorten reinvent Labor? – “Bill Shorten, who seemed so impressive as a union leader and minister, is shaping up as the least inspiring opposition leader since Alexander Downer. … Shorten’s position is safe thanks largely to the complexities of choosing a party leader. But unless he can construct a new narrative and distance himself from the apparently moribund party machine that created him, he is unlikely to replace Abbott. Labor needs a leader who can simultaneously transform the party and create a new narrative of governance. Waiting for Abbott to self-destruct is not enough.”2014-09-09_worldorder
  • Long View of History Includes Today – In ‘World Order,’ Henry Kissinger Sums Up His Philosophy – “In this book’s most compelling sections, Mr. Kissinger uses his realpolitik lens (with its emphasis on balance of power, linkage and triangular diplomacy) as a revealing prism by which to look at, say, the roots of World War I and the sources of conflict in the modern Middle East. He similarly uses his knowledge of various countries’ historical proclivities and their self-image over the centuries as a frame of reference for current developments like the Arab Spring and America’s increasingly ambivalent role on the world stage.”
  • Bold reform is the only answer to secular stagnation
  • When Yes Means Yes – California Lawmakers Redefine Campus Sexual Assault
  • Dreams on hold, Brazil’s ‘new middle class’ turns on Rousseff – “… a faltering economy and mounting frustration over poor public services are dimming the outlook for Brazil’s ‘new middle class.’ As that happens, leftist President Dilma Rousseff is watching a once-loyal base – and her chances of re-election next month – slip away. Her main rival, environmentalist Marina Silva, has surged in the polls and is favored to win a likely second-round runoff against Rousseff.”
  • Adelaide poet David Ades wins $15,000 in inaugural University of Canberra poetry prize

The Scottish mood changing with support for independence apparently growing

September 9th, 2014 Comments off

A second opinion poll for the week shows the referendum on Scottish independence has become a close run thing. Reuters reports a surge in support for those who wish to break away from the United Kingdom. A TNS survey has the  number of people saying they would vote “No” to independence dropping to 39 percent, down from 45 percent a month ago. “Yes” support was slightly behind at 38 percent but had gained ground from 32 percent a month ago.

The late rally by the “Yes” campaign led by Alex Salmond’s Scottish National Party, the ruling party in Scotland, now makes the break–up of the United Kingdom – previously thought to be a pipedream – a distinct possibility after a 300-year-old union.

British financial markets tumbled on Monday after an opinion poll showed for the first time this year that Scots may vote for independence in the referendum next week.

The YouGov poll for the Sunday Times put the “Yes” camp on 51 percent and “No” on 49 percent, excluding don’t knows.

The referendum, in which more than 4 million Scots and residents of Scotland are eligible to vote, will take place on Sept. 18.

The England based national newspapers are now taking the possibility of a breakaway from the United Kingdom seriously.

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A sharing of the front pages with a new royal baby gave a certain relevance to this tweet:

The Owl’s election indicator continues to have the “No” vote favourite.

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The Australian’s editorial fires a warning shot over Abbott’s way of ruling

September 9th, 2014 Comments off

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  • Labor’s coup was brainless and doomed two prime ministers – Similar danger signs are starting to emerge under the Coalition. – “… A year after Tony Abbott’s election victory, there are similar danger signs emerging. The May budget was riddled with policy inconsistencies. Promises have been broken and his government’s policy priorities are unclear. The Coalition’s messaging is too scripted to be effective. The Prime Minister’s Office has replaced cabinet as the fulcrum of government. Mr Abbott, so aware of the failures of the RuddGillard governments in opposition, must be careful not to repeat them. … To be a successful, long-term reforming government that maintains the trust of voters, it is essential to focus on only two or three core policy areas in a term. The danger is that governments that try to do too much too soon end up doing nothing well. A clear set of priorities leads to a disciplined message about the government’s overarching purpose. Key lines cooked-up in focus groups and compiled by the Prime Minister’s Office are not the most effective way to communicate to voters. Governments have been infiltrated by an army of political staff, devoid of substantial policy or governing experience. Their focus is pure tactics rather than long-term strategy.”
  • New Mexico nuclear waste site may be hobbled for years – “It may be years before an underground nuclear waste dump in New Mexico shuttered by a radiation leak is fully operational … An investigation into the incident at the site, where contaminated refuse from nuclear labs and weapons sites is buried in a salt mine a half-mile below ground, has centered on a container whose contents included a chemically reactive mix of nitrate salts, organic matter and lead. Preliminary findings from the probe indicate that a chemical reaction generated excessive heat and caused the waste drum from Los Alamos National Laboratory near Santa Fe to rupture, releasing high levels of radiation in the mine and low levels aboveground, where 22 workers were contaminated with amounts not expected to harm their health.
  • The death of the political interview – “… for the most part interviews with frontbenchers are an arid, ritualised affair: interviewer suggests politician’s policy or position is flawed/inconsistent/unfunded; politician denies the charge/ignores the question/suggests that real people in his or her constituency care about something different. They repeat this a few times, typically for somewhere between four and 10 minutes. The interviewee considers it a success if he or she hasn’t said something that will attract the ire of their party’s PR capos. The interviewer considers it a success if the exchange has produced “a line”, though more often than not it will be the line the politician came to deliver.”
  • Teachers Day speech: PM Modi says no climate change

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  • The Keeling Curve Gets a Much-Needed Boost from Google’s Schmidt – “The new Schmidt grant will allow the Scripps team to chip away at a years-long backlog of air samples to measure changes in the ratio of carbon isotopes, which provides information about manmade sources of CO2. Eric Schmidt is the executive chairman of Google, and the Schmidts have a history of funding environmental projects. This video, from the American Museum of Natural History, expands on the history and importance of the Keelings’ observations.

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  • How to see into the future – “So what is the secret of looking into the future? Initial results from the Good Judgment Project suggest the following approaches. First, some basic training in probabilistic reasoning helps to produce better forecasts. Second, teams of good forecasters produce better results than good forecasters working alone. Third, actively open-minded people prosper as forecasters. But the Good Judgment Project also hints at why so many experts are such terrible forecasters. It’s not so much that they lack training, teamwork and open-mindedness – although some of these qualities are in shorter supply than others. It’s that most forecasters aren’t actually seriously and single-mindedly trying to see into the future. If they were, they’d keep score and try to improve their predictions based on past errors. They don’t. This is because our predictions are about the future only in the most superficial way. They are really advertisements, conversation pieces, declarations of tribal loyalty – or … statements of profound conviction about the logical structure of the world.”

A sad and unimportant television report on Peter Slipper

September 7th, 2014 Comments off

I should have known better and can but apologise for anyone who followed my advice and watched 60 Minutes. The Peter Slipper segment was nothing more than an excruciating repetition of a sad story. No politically significant exposes. Just another insight into the grubby world of how politics is played.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

A verdict on Abbott’s first year – still a likely winner

September 7th, 2014 Comments off

I have dutifully read any number of those first year report cards on the Abbott government and find myself largely unmoved from my belief that governments invariably get a second term. Sure there is the problem of saying a promise or three must be broken, and that has upset some people, but the Senate looks like ensuring that the planned nasties like the $7 health co-payment do not actually happen. Something that could have happened but didn’t is unlikely to be worrying people by the end of year two.

To my mind the market is giving a better guide to how things really stand, and what will happen when the electorate next votes, than the opinion polls. The Owl’s election indicator puts the election probabilities as follows:

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Categories: Political indicators Tags:

Building capacity to reduce bullying and other news and views for Saturday 6 September

September 7th, 2014 Comments off

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  • Building Capacity to Reduce Bullying – “Bullying – long tolerated as just a part of growing up – finally has been recognized as a substantial and preventable health problem. Bullying is associated with anxiety, depression, poor school performance, and future delinquent behavior among its targets, and reports regularly surface of youth who have committed suicide at least in part because of intolerable bullying. Bullying also can have harmful effects on children who bully, on bystanders, on school climates, and on society at large. Bullying can occur at all ages, from before elementary school to after high school. It can take the form of physical violence, verbal attacks, social isolation, spreading rumors, or cyberbullying. Increased concern about bullying has led 49 states and the District of Columbia to enact anti-bullying legislation since 1999. In addition, research on the causes, consequences, and prevention of bullying has expanded greatly in recent decades. However, major gaps still exist in the understanding of bullying and of interventions that can prevent or mitigate the effects of bullying. Building Capacity to Reduce Bullying is the summary of a workshop convened by the Board on Children, Youth, and Families of the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council in April 2014 to identify the conceptual models and interventions that have proven effective in decreasing bullying, examine models that could increase protective factors and mitigate the negative effects of bullying, and explore the appropriate roles of different groups in preventing bullying.”
  • An asteroid will just miss Earth tomorrow. We won’t always be so lucky
  • Obama Enlists 9 Allies to Help in the Battle Against ISIS – “Mr. Obama spoke after aides had unveiled what Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called the “core coalition” to fight the ISIS militants, the outcome of a hastily organized meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit talks. Diplomats and defense officials from the United States, Britain, France, Australia, Canada, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark huddled to devise a two-pronged strategy: strengthening allies on the ground in Iraq and Syria, while bombing Sunni militants from the air. … An administration official said the reasons for assembling a coalition went beyond any political cover that such an alliance might provide with a war-weary American public. For one thing, the official said, certain countries bring expertise, like Britain and Australia in special operations, Jordan in intelligence and Saudi Arabia in financing. “
  • How Did Oil Make a Comeback? – “Just five years ago, experts were predicting an imminent peak and decline in global oil production. Instead, we’re in the middle of a historic boom. What happened?”
  • The Value of Life and the Rise in Health Spending – “Health care extends life. Over the past half century, Americans spent a rising share of total economic resources on health and enjoyed substantially longer lives as a result. Debate on health policy often focuses on limiting the growth of health spending. We investigate an issue central to this debate: Is the growth of health
    spending the rational response to changing economic conditions—notably the growth of income per person? We develop a model based on standard economic assumptions and argue that this is indeed the case. Standard preferences—of the kind used widely in economics to study consumption, asset pricing, and labor supply—imply that health spending is a superior good with an income elasticity well above one. As people getricher and consumption rises, the marginal utility of consumption falls rapidly. Spending on health to extend life allows individuals to purchase additional periods of utility. The marginal utility of life extension does not decline. As a result, the optimal composition of total spending shifts toward health, and the health share grows along with income. This effect exists despite sharp diminishing returnsin the technology of life extension. In projections based on the quantitative analysis of our model, the optimal health share of spending seems likely to exceed 30 percent by the middle of the century.”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

The ethics of bankers – just another example of intimidatory bullying

September 6th, 2014 Comments off

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The big banks sent hundreds of thousands of letters from fake debt collection firms to ‘intimidate’ customers. HSBC, Barclays, Santander and RBS/NatWest admit using the trick on families deep in the red. The letters misleadingly suggest that law firms and outside debt collectors are being called in.

The admissions, which follow a campaign by the Daily Mail to highlight the scandal, came in a series of letters released last night by MPs. In one of them, the chief executive of Barclays confessed the bank had used a number of ‘debt collection brands’. Appearing to acknowledge intimidation, Antony Jenkins said the letters were meant to indicate to customers ‘an escalation in the seriousness of the situation’. RBS chief Ross McEwan said the bogus letters ‘reflected what had become a common industry practice in a sector that had come to put its own interests above those of its customers’.

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

What it’s like to be so in your head you leave your body and other news and views for Thursday 4 September

September 5th, 2014 Comments off
  • Glenn Gould In Rapture – “In the video below, the great musician Glenn Gould, supreme interpreter of Bach, is sitting at his living room piano on a low, low chair, his nose close to the keys. He’s at his Canadian country house in his bathrobe. Through the window, you catch snatches of his back yard. It’s a windy day and he’s got a coffee cup sitting on the piano top. He’s working on a Bach partita, not just playing it, but singing along in his swinging baritone. As he plays, he gets so totally, totally lost in the music that suddenly (1:57 from the top), smack in the middle of a passage, with no warning, for no apparent reason, his left hand flips up, touches his head; he stands up, and walks in what looks like a trance to the window. There’s an eerie silence. Then, in the quiet, you hear the Bach leaking out of him. He’s still playing it, but in his head, he’s scatting the beats. Then he turns, wanders back, sits down, and his fingers pick up right where his voice left off, but now with new energy, like he’s found a switch and switched it.”

  • A Western Strategy for a Declining Russia – “It is natural to feel angry at Putin’s deceptions, but anger is not a strategy. The West needs to impose financial and energy sanctions to deter Russia in Ukraine; but it also must not lose sight of the need to work with Russia on other issues. … Despite Putin’s aggressive use of force and blustery propaganda, Russia is a country in decline. Putin’s illiberal strategy of looking East while waging unconventional war on the West will turn Russia into China’s gas station while cutting off its economy from the Western capital, technology, and contacts that it needs.”
  • The Dying Russians – “Why are Russians dying in numbers, and at ages, and of causes never seen in any other country that is not, by any standard definition, at war? In the seventeen years between 1992 and 2009, the Russian population declined by almost seven million people, or nearly 5 percent—a rate of loss unheard of in Europe since World War II. Moreover, much of this appears to be caused by rising mortality. By the mid-1990s, the average St. Petersburg man lived for seven fewer years than he did at the end of the Communist period; in Moscow, the dip was even greater, with death coming nearly eight years sooner.”
  • Perdue Says Its Hatching Chicks Are Off Antibiotics – “Perdue Farms says it has ditched the common practice of injecting antibiotics into eggs that are just about to hatch. And public health advocates are cheering. They’ve been campaigning against the widespread use of antibiotics in agriculture, arguing that it’s adding to the plague of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”
  • Ministers back Food Crime Unit recommendation – “Britain is to get a Food Crime Unit to fight the trade in fraudulent foods.The special force is a response to last year’s horsemeat scandal, which saw contaminated beef products reaching supermarket shelves across Europe.
  • Can NATO Find A Way To Contain Russia?
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Eagerly waiting for 60 Minutes and its story on Peter Slipper and the secret plot. What was PM Abbott’s involvement.

September 4th, 2014 Comments off

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It’s been a long time since I have been waiting with eager anticipation to see a political item on 60 Minutes but they have got me tonight by interrupting my footy viewing with a preview about a Peter Slipper story. I can hardly wait to get another version of this most sordid story of an political assassination. The little hint in the promo that Tony Abbott may have had an involvement just makes it all the more tantalising.

 

Categories: Media, Political snippets Tags:

Backing the No vote again in Scotland

September 4th, 2014 Comments off

A couple of recent opinion polls have the gap between No and Yes vote in the Scottish independence referendum narrowing a little but with the margin still around six points it does not look close to me. Perhaps that’s because I’m Australian and used to the No vote being the referendum winner except when all the major parties are urging people to vote Yes.
To me the $1.30 on offer about a majority for No is akin to stealing money.
I’m going in again with another $200 of my own hard earned.

Details of my bets on political events are at the portfolio page of my speculator’s diary.
The Owl’s election indicator has this assessment of the probabilities based on current market prices:
 

 

Categories: Political indicators, UK election Tags:

A clue to the Murdoch view on what to do in Iraq and other news and views for Wednesday 3 October

September 3rd, 2014 Comments off

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  • Attempt to split Commons clerk role is no ‘power grab’ – “Since he did not have Commons approval to split the post, Mr Bercow advertised the job of clerk in its traditional form and hired recruitment consultancy to conduct a national and global search. A panel of senior MPs conducted interviews and ended up nominating Carol Mills, a senior official from the Australian senate. Ms Mills is a respected administrator but a person with scant knowledge of Westminster procedure. Mr Bercow admits there was “something a tad incongruous about expecting one person to be both the procedural expert and the top-flight manager/chief executive”. The panel decided to go for someone with the latter experience.”
  • Sandhurst’s sheikhs: Why do so many Gulf royals receive military training in the UK? – “Four reigning Arab monarchs are graduates of Sandhurst and its affiliated colleges – King Abdullah of Jordan, King Hamad of Bahrain, Sheikh Tamim, Emir of Qatar, and Sultan Qaboos of Oman. Past monarchs include Sheikh Saad, Emir of Kuwait, and Sheikh Hamad, Emir of Qatar. Sandhurst’s links have continued from the time when Britain was the major colonial power in the Gulf.”
  • Labour cannot be complacent about Ukip’s advance – “Ukip is creating a divide between those with the skills, education and resources to adapt, and those who have little and feel angry.”

You had to turn to page 37 last week to get the most appropriate political comment in the Sydney Morning Herald about Tony Abbott and his coalition government.

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Chinese financiers learning the capitalist way of exploitation

September 3rd, 2014 Comments off

The Chinese financial system is developing in the normal capitalist way.

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Categories: Ticket clippers Tags: