Archive for November, 2014

Jar Jar Binks and political popularity

November 30th, 2014 Comments off


People who think they’re entitled to standing—because they are brainy, rich, or famous—almost always lose. They forget you earn your standing, you are not entitled to it. That’s the best thing about democracy, the single reason why we’re not yet entirely governed by wealthy oligarchs.

I may have come into politics with an unacknowledged condescension toward the game and the people who played it, but I left with more respect for politicians than when I went in. The worst of them—the careerists and predators—you find in all professions. The best of them were a credit to democracy. They knew the difference between an adversary and an enemy, knew when to take half a loaf and when to insist on the whole bakery, knew when to trust their own judgment and when to listen to the people.

As I learned while watching wiser colleagues than I in a democratic legislature, it is really something in life to be utterly disabused about human motive, venality, capacity for double-crossing, and yet still come to work every day, trying to get something done.

Liberalism will become an enclave conviction of a shrinking minority unless those who call themselves liberal reconnect their faith in tolerance, equality, opportunity for all with the more difficult faith in the dirty, loud-mouthed, false, lying business of politics itself. This disdain is cynicism, masking as high principle. The ultimate allegiance of a democratic politician is not to party, not even to principle, but to the venal process called politics. So my final advice is this: Politics is not a vulgar means to a goal, it’s a noble life unto itself, and unless you love it, you can’t do it well. I didn’t get there, but I hope you will.

Trade unions really can be a positive for Labor and other lessons from Victoria

November 30th, 2014 Comments off

A few thoughts in the aftermath of the Victorian state election.

  1. Trade unions don’t have to be a negative for Labor; they really can be a positive. Fire fighters, nurses and teachers all played an important part in Saturday’s victory. Their grass-roots campaigning efforts appear to have had far more influence than the linking of Denial Andrews with the supposedly criminal CFMEU. I salute whoever devised this strategy.
  2. Voters don’t seem to attach much weight to AAA credit ratings. The Coalition thought it was a big plus for them but balancing the budget was well down the list of things Victorians thought important.
  3. Supporting wage rises that are less than the inflation rate is a sure-fire way to lose support.
  4. Unemployment is the important economic indicator even if it is unfair to blame the state government for Victoria’s high figure. Something for the Abbott team to think about as it slashes public service numbers
  5. The influence of distortion of news by newspapers on voting is not as important as newspaper proprietors would like us to believe.
  6. Labor should learn to live with the reality that the Greens are not going away. Follow the Julia Gillard example of having sensible arrangements with them rather than worry about losing an inner city seat or too. Sorry Albo.
Categories: Elections, Victorian election Tags:

Maybe we should spare a thought for the dead cricket umpire

November 30th, 2014 Comments off

It was in Israel where cricket is not a major sport but still. This sporting death was relegated to page 10.


Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

The civilised Swiss – roast Christmas cat with dog sausage

November 30th, 2014 Comments off

Switzerland: Ban Urged on Eating Cats and Dogs –

An animal rights group has petitioned the Swiss government to ban a traditional, if rare, practice of eating cats for Christmas dinner and turning dogs into sausages. Tomi Tomek, president of the animal rights group SOS CHATS Noiraigue, said 3 percent of the population still eats cat and dog. “You can’t report it to the police because there’s no law against it,” he said

Categories: Animal welfare Tags:

The barnacles really are dragging the Abbott coalition down

November 28th, 2014 Comments off

The opinion polls have been showing it for some time and now the markets are catching up. The current Owl’s election indicator shows the Coalition’s chances of re-election have dropped considerably in recent weeks. The probability of a Coalition victory is now just 53.6%.


Labor still favoured to win election in Victoria

November 28th, 2014 Comments off

The Owl’s market based election indicator still has Labor quite a firm favourite to win tomorrow’s Victorian state election but its chances have not improved any over the last week.


To me this suggests there are believers in the underdog theory of elections alive and well. One chance in six of a Coalition victory is enough to make election night worth following for at least a few hours.


China To Cap Coal Use By 2020

November 23rd, 2014 Comments off
  • China To Cap Coal Use By 2020 To Meet Game-Changing Climate, Air Pollution Targets – “The Chinese government announced Wednesday it would cap coal use by 2020. The Chinese State Council, or cabinet, said the peak would be 4.2 billion tonnes, a one-sixth increase over current consumption. This is a staggering reversal of Chinese energy policy, which for two decades has been centered around building a coal plant or more a week. Now they’ll be building the equivalent in carbon-free power every week for decades, while the construction rate of new coal plants decelerates like a crash-test dummy.”
  • octobernoaaClick to enlarge
  • State of the Climate: Global Analysis – The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for October 2014 was the highest on record for October, at 0.74°C (1.33°F) above the 20th century average of 14.0°C (57.1°F). The global land surface temperature was 1.05°C (1.89°F) above the 20th century average of 9.3°C (48.7°F)—the fifth highest for October on record. For the ocean, the October global sea surface temperature was 0.62°C (1.12°F) above the 20th century average of 15.9°C (60.6°F) and the highest for October on record. The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the January–October period (year-to-date) was 0.68°C (1.22°F) above the 20th century average of 14.1°C (57.4°F). The first ten months of 2014 were the warmest such period on record.
  • Study shows the media has a clear bias — in favor of dogs
  • The writer who foresaw the rise of the totalitarian state – “The 19th Century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote about characters who justified murder in the name of their ideological beliefs. For this reason, John Gray argues, he’s remained relevant ever since, through the rise of the totalitarian states of the 20th Century, to the ‘war against terror’.”
  • Poverty is a hard sell for newspapers flogging braised endives – “Leftwing papers have to strike an uneasy balance between the lure of aspirational advertising and their mission to report.”

And even the banking regulators were in on the act

November 22nd, 2014 Comments off

Bank of England to probe whether staff helped rig money auctions –

The Bank of England has opened a formal investigation into whether its officials knew of – and even facilitated – the possible manipulation of auctions designed to inject money into the credit markets to alleviate the financial crisis.

The probe, which started in the summer, has been revealed just a week after the UK central bank published a report that criticised its own response to the foreign exchange rigging scandal.

Lord Grabiner QC, a senior British advocate who led the separate forex inquiry, has been asked by the BoE to head the new investigation. He is to probe whether a series of money-market auctions held by the central bank in late 2007 and early 2008 were rigged, and whether officials were party to any manipulation, according to people familiar with the issue.

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

Abbott’s own team are getting uneasy about him as leader

November 22nd, 2014 Comments off

The supporters are getting restless. Tony Abbott is disappointing them.

The number one cheer leader this morning:

Abbott doomed

These extracts give the flavour:

It’s a simple lesson that Mr Abbott has failed to grasp: talking points and three-word slogans can never suffice. “Australia is open for business” does not constitute a narrative or provide inspiration. “Team Australia” has hokey appeal, but it, too, does not work as an explanation for complex national security issues.

Limply, the Prime Minister is losing the battle to define core issues and to explain to voters what he is doing and why. At stake is his political credibility, no less. Mr Abbott risks becoming a “oncer” if he allows his opponents to constantly control the agenda.

… Other than in some formal set pieces, he has lost his authoritative voice. Of course, it is no use blaming ill-equipped, tyro advisers. The Prime Minister’s Office is too dominated by Peta Credlin, his chief of staff, including on media strategy.

… Where is the intelligent Rhodes scholar who has an easy rapport with Australians in any setting?

This communications malady is endemic. The Coalition’s failing media strategy is damaging its electoral standing and making it difficult to bed down policy responses to problems it was elected to address. The economy is where this ineptitude is most marked; the selling of the Abbott government’s fiscal repair job has been a debacle.

… In opposition, the Coalition had overegged the crisis alarmism. In truth, the debt overhang is a medium-term issue …

Certainly, Mr Abbott was right to recognise that the electorate had lost patience with the extravagant verbiage of the RuddGillard era. But there is a sweet spot between overblown rhetoric and the dot-point banalities pumped out by the PMO and the Coalition’s advisers.

… Without a clear narrative, the task will be beyond him; his communications strategy is in disarray. The Coalition needs skilful media personnel and new roles for its best ministerial performers; it must communicate like a team that knows what it is doing. Short-term tactical wins may offer a mood hit in the executive wing, but they are not the key to sustained governing. Mr Abbott must regroup, trust himself and speak with purpose. Right now, his insipid default setting is losing the people.

Interesting that the criticism is all about the poor salesmanship. There’s still a long way to go before the disappointed ones start realising that it is the product not the sales pitch that people increasingly don’t like.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

How the Democratic Party Lost Its Soul

November 21st, 2014 Comments off
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

In Victoria is the election all over bar the voting? Maybe, but the Greens are providing plenty of interest

November 21st, 2014 Comments off

Two opinion polls today on the Victorian state election with one showing Labor on course for a comfortable win and the other suggesting a crushing defeat is in store for the Coalition government.

This morning Galaxy:

Untitled imageThis afternoon Roy Morgan:

roy morgan

Both pollsters are showing the Greens doing well – Galaxy has them with a primary vote of 13% while Morgan puts their support at a staggeringly high 19.5%.

Gary Morgan comments:

Gary Morgan says:

“Opposition Leader Dan Andrews has grabbed a significant lead with a week to go before the Victorian Election with the ALP (55%) well ahead of the L-NP (45%) on a two-party preferred basis. A victory for the Labor Party will mean the Liberal Government of Ted Baillieu and Denis Napthine will be the first one-term Government in Victoria since John Cain Snr. in 1952-1955.

“Although the two major parties are almost level on primary vote: ALP (35.5%) cf. L-NP (35%), the high expected Greens vote (19.5%) would ensure a strong flow of preferences to the ALP. If the high expected Greens vote is maintained over the final week of the campaign a strong Greens vote gives the Greens a good chance of winning their first lower house seat at a Victorian Election in one of the Inner Melbourne seats of Brunswick, Melbourne, Northcote or Richmond.

“The Liberal Party’s negative advertising against Labor Leader Dan Andrews has provided Andrews with ‘free’ publicity and not given electors any positive reasons to vote for the Coalition.”



Cartoonist captures Tony Abbott’s election losing mistake

November 21st, 2014 Comments off

Tony Abbott transformed into Julia Gillard the liar. This morning’s cartoon in the Melbourne Herald Sun says it all .

2014-11-21_cartoonAnd my guess is that the result will be the same.

Ms Gillard did not recover from breaking breaking her no carbon tax in a government I lead promise. The same fate awaits Tony Abbott over the spending cuts for the ABC and SBS.


Categories: Political snippets Tags:

When they put on a banker’s hat otherwise honest people become dishonest

November 20th, 2014 Comments off

Readers of my Ticket Clippers postings will not be surprised by this latest piece of academic research. A new study by Alain Cohn, Ernst Fehr, and Michel Maréchal from the Department of Economics at the University of Zurich shows that bank employees are in principle not more dishonest than their colleagues in other industries. The findings indicate, however, that the business culture in the banking sector implicitly favors dishonest behavior.

The scientists recruited approximately 200 bank employees, 128 from a large international bank and 80 from other banks. Each person was then randomly assigned to one of two experimental conditions. In the experimental group, the participants were reminded of their occupational role and the associated behavioral norms with appropriate questions. In contrast, the subjects in the control group were reminded of their non-occupational role in their leisure time and the associated norms. Subsequently, all participants completed a task that would allow them to increase their income by up to two hundred US dollars if they behaved dishonestly. The result was that bank employees in the experimental group, where their occupational role in the banking sector was made salient, behaved significantly more dishonestly.

A very similar study was then conducted with employees from various other industries. In this case as well, either the employees’ occupational roles or those associated with leisure time were activated. Unlike the bankers, however, the employees in these other industries were not more dishonest when reminded of their occupational role. “Our results suggest that the social norms in the banking sector tend to be more lenient towards dishonest behavior and thus contribute to the reputational loss in the industry,” says Michel Maréchal, Professor for Experimental Economic Research at the University of Zurich.

Social norms that are implicitly more lenient towards dishonesty are problematic, because the people’s trust in bank employees’ behavior is of great importance for the long-term stability of the financial services industry. Alain Cohn, who recently joined the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago as a postdoctoral scholar, suggests concrete measures that could counteract the problem: “The banks could encourage honest behavior by changing the industry’s implicit social norms. Several experts and supervisory authorities suggest, for example, that bank employees should take a professional oath, similar to the Hippocratic Oath for physicians.” If an oath like this were supported with a corresponding training program in ethics and appropriate financial incentives, this could lead bank employees to focus more strongly on the long-term, social effects of their behavior instead of concentrating on their own, short-term gains.

The full article Business culture and dishonesty in the banking industry is published in the journal Nature behind a paywall but here is the abstract:

Trust in others’ honesty is a key component of the long-term performance of firms, industries, and even whole countries1. However, in recent years, numerous scandals involving fraud have undermined confidence in the financial industry. Contemporary commentators have attributed these scandals to the financial sector’s business culture but no scientific evidence supports this claim. Here we show that employees of a large, international bank behave, on average, honestly in a control condition. However, when their professional identity as bank employees is rendered salient, a significant proportion of them become dishonest. This effect is specific to bank employees because control experiments with employees from other industries and with students show that they do not become more dishonest when their professional identity or bank-related items are rendered salient. Our results thus suggest that the prevailing business culture in the banking industry weakens and undermines the honesty norm, implying that measures to re-establish an honest culture are very important.

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags: ,

Hobart Mercury urges independence on Jacqui Lambie

November 20th, 2014 Comments off

Quite an endorsement this morning for Senator Jacqui Lambie from Tasmania’s leading daily The Mercury.

2014-11-20_lambieIt is advice she would be wise to follow. Tasmanians have a liking for maverick independents but don’t much like mainland big-noters like Clive Palmer.


Are terrorists winning the war on terror?

November 20th, 2014 Comments off


  • Global Terrorism Index Report – “17,958 people were killed in terrorist attacks last year, that’s 61% more than the previous year.17,958 people were killed in terrorist attacks last year, that’s 61% more than the previous year.
    . 82% of all deaths from terrorist attacks occur in just 5 countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria.
    . Last year terrorism was dominated by four groups: the Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIL, and al Qa’ida.
    . More than 90% of all terrorist attacks occur in countries that have gross human rights violations.
    . 40 times more people are killed by homicides than terrorist attacks.
  • Once Tolerated, Westerners Are Now Targeted By Radical Islamists – “For more than a decade now, extremist groups scattered across the Muslim world have been targeting Westerners to such an extent that large swaths of territory are no-go zones, including many parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen.”
  • With Cash And Cachet, The Islamic State Expands Its Empire – “Islamist militant groups from the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt to the coast of eastern Libya are pledging allegiance to the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS. The Sunni extremist group primarily operates in the chaos of Iraq and Syria but is using chameleon-like branding and the draw of cash to get militants who focused on local issues to join their brutal empire.”
  • Indonesia: ‘Virginity Tests’ for Female Police – ‘Testing’ Applicants Is Discriminatory, Cruel, Degrading
  • Bob Marley family launches “first world cannabis brand”
  • White House Putting Up ‘Fierce’ Fight to Conceal Torture Report – “The White House is fiercely resisting the release of a 6,300-page Senate report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, Senate aides tellForeign Policy, raising fears that the public will never receive a full accounting of the Bush administration’s post-9/11 torture practices. At issue is the report’s identification of individual CIA officers by pseudonyms. The CIA and the White House want the pseudonyms and references to other agency activities completely stricken to further protect the identities of CIA spies. Senate aides say many of those redactions are unnecessary and render the report unreadable. Now even after Senate Democrats agreed to remove some pseudonyms at the White House’s request, the Oval Office is still haggling for more redactions.”
  • Fat places $2tn burden on world economy, says McKinsey report
  • High heels may enhance a man’s instinct to be helpful – French study is the first to investigate the effect of a woman’s shoe heels on men’s behavior

Labor becomes an even shorter favourite in Victoria

November 19th, 2014 Comments off

The odds about a Labor victory in Victoria keep increasing. The Owl’s election indicator, based on market prices, now gives Labor an 82.9 % chance of winning.

victorian indicator

Just another bank and another fine

November 19th, 2014 Comments off

And they only lied while they were confessing!

Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi to pay $315 million over whitewashed report | Reuters.

Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ has agreed to pay $315 million to New York’s banking regulator for submitting a whitewashed report about its improper handling of transactions involving countries subject to U.S. sanctions, the regulator said on Tuesday.

The report formed the basis for a $250 million settlement the bank reached last year with New York’s Department of Financial Services (DFS) for stripping information from wires that would have helped authorities police transactions involving Iran, Burma and Myanmar from 2002 to 2007.

And let’s not forget that minor set of ticket clippers – the international audit firms. The Reuters story noted:

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which produced the 2008 report for the bank, agreed in August to pay $25 million and refrain from certain work in New York for two years after the regulator accused the consulting firm of altering its findings under pressure from bank lawyers and executives.

A Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi statement on Tuesday said the bank settled “to resolve issues relating to instructions” given to PwC and “disclosures made” to the New York regulator in connection with its voluntary investigation.

And if you believe this statement from a banker you would believe anything:

The bank said it was committed to doing business with “the highest levels of integrity and regulatory compliance.”

Check out the Owl’s Ticket Clippers archive.

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ABC boss explains the Murdoch method

November 19th, 2014 Comments off

So where was ABC managing director Mark Scott referring us? To “The pervasive power of Rupert Murdoch: an extract from Hack Attack by Nick Davies” where you will find:

… they say that his primary interest in politicians is not political; it’s commercial. He may be a highly political animal, they say – obsessed with the details of life in the corridors of power and personally possessed of some extremely right-wing opinions – but what he most wants from politicians is favours for his business. He’ll betray his own principles, he’ll embrace politicians for whom he has very little respect, just as long as they have the power to help the company get bigger.
… The man’s character, in turn, is at the heart of his approach to business. Rupert Murdoch is a man who will crush an opponent like a beetle beneath his boot, and he will do it for one simple reason – for News Corp. One of the guests who is closest to him says: “Rupert does not discriminate – he does not care about anybody more than he cares about the business. That includes himself, his kids, his political allies. The business comes first. His plan is “kill or be killed”. Every single corporate battle that he’s fought over the last 50 years, he’s gone head-to-head to win. You have to win. You don’t acknowledge that politics is a higher power. You don’t yield to the law of the land. You don’t submit to any higher code than your own.”

And does it work? Nick Davies gives some interesting examples and I am amused by the current campaign of the Sydney Daily Telegraph to get the state government of New South Wales to continue the system that has newspaper sales by newsagents subsidised by a government imposed monopoly on selling lottery tickets. If you missed it have a read of the Owl’s piece yesterday When free market principle and self interest collide – which will the Murdoch team back?


And this morning’s headline is one you can believe in. There will certainly be more of the same until Premier Mike Baird joins the Labor Opposition Leader John Robertson in running up the white flag with words similar to Robertson’s as the Tele story recorded:

He said the government needed to “ensure they act to protect the thousands of newsagencies across the state who currently rely on acting as lottery agents to maintain a viable business”.

Categories: Australian media, Lobbying and PR, Media Tags:

Stories about dishonest banks just keep on coming

November 19th, 2014 Comments off

BBC News – HSBC’s private banking arm accused of tax fraud by Belgium.

Authorities in Brussels have charged HSBC’s private banking arm, which is based in Switzerland, with helping wealthy Belgians to avoid taxes.
Prosecutors allege that hundreds of clients – including diamond dealers in Antwerp – moved money to offshore tax havens with the help of the bank. …
Prosecutor Michel Claise accused HSBC of “fraud, money laundering, criminal association and illegal exercise of the profession of financial intermediary”.

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Moving closer to El Niño and a record high world temperature for 2014

November 18th, 2014 Comments off

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has upgraded its assessment of the likelihood of an El Niño to 70% and warmer than normal temperatures are increasingly likely to make this current calendar year the warmest in recent history.

In its ENSO Wrap-Up of the Current state of the Pacific and Indian Oceans released on Wednesday the BOM said the Pacific Ocean has shown some renewed signs of El Niño development in recent weeks.

Above-average temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean have warmed further in the past fortnight, while the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) has generally been in excess of El Niño thresholds for the past three months. Climate models suggest current conditions will either persist or strengthen. These factors mean the Bureau’s ENSO Tracker Status has been upgraded from WATCH to ALERT level, indicating at least a 70% chance of El Niño occurring.

Not all indicators have shifted towards El Niño. Tropical cloudiness near the Date Line and trade wind strength are close to average, suggesting the atmosphere is still not firmly linked with the warmer ocean below. However, trade winds have weakened several times over the past few months and SOI values have remained generally negative, suggesting at least some atmospheric response to the underlying ocean conditions.


International climate models expect the warm tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures to persist, with most models predicting values will remain near or beyond El Niño thresholds for the next two to three months. Regardless of whether or not El Niño fully develops, warmer-than-average tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures, combined with cooler waters currently to the north of Australia increase the chance of some El Niño-like impacts. For many parts of Australia, this suggests below average rainfall and above average temperatures in the months ahead (as shown by the November–January Climate Outlook).

That 2014 as a whole will be an extremely warm year is shown by the latest  GLOBAL Land-Ocean Temperature figures from NASA. For the 10 months ended October the average temperature is only just behind that recorded in 2010.


Unless the forecasters are very wrong about the influence on world temperatures of a warm Pacific, then 2014 should surpass the record highs of 2005 and 2010.


Categories: Environment Tags:

Lobbyists spending billions to help earn trillions and other news and views for the day

November 18th, 2014 Comments off
  • Top Spenders On Capitol Hill Pay Billions, Receive Trillions – ‘How much power should corporations wield in Washington? It’s an enduring question — and now the Sunlight Foundation has devised a new way to gauge that power. The foundation took the 200 corporations most active in Washington, analyzed the years 2007-2012 and applied several metrics: what the companies got in federal contracts and other federal support, what they spent on lobbying, how much their executives and political action committees gave in campaign contributions. Bill Allison, the Sunlight Foundation’s editorial director, says there aren’t permanent majorities governing in Congress and the executive branch — “but there really are permanent interests in Washington,” he says. With some companies, a policy of giving big to political campaigns might seem pretty obvious; at other companies, it’s less obvious. “But federal spending is a big part of their business model,” Allison says. He says the top 200 corporations accounted for nearly $6 billion in lobbying and campaign contributions. Those same corporations benefited from more than $4 trillion in federal contracts and assistance.’


  • A Reserve So Deep, You Could Drown – Hugh Jackman Stars in ‘The River’ on Broadway – “In Jez Butterworth’s “The River,” the poetic tease of a drama that opened Sunday night at the Circle in the Square Theater, Mr. Jackman conveys an impression of mightily self-contained silence, even when he’s talking like Wordsworth on a bender. And in banking his fires so compellingly, he ascends with assurance to a new level as a stage actor.”
  • Japan Through the Looking Glass – Paul Krugman writes: “Long ago I argued that what Japan needed was a credible promise to be irresponsible. And deficits that must be monetized are one way to make that happen … As I and other people like Paul McCulley have tried to explain many times, the liquidity trap puts you on the other side of the looking glass; virtue is vice, prudence is folly, central bank independence is a bad thing and the threat of monetized deficits is to be welcomed, not feared.”
  • Why Keynes is important today – “The current debate on the efficacy of Keynesian stimulus mirrors the resistance Keynes met with when initially advocating his theory.”
  • The Netherlands Is Set To Open The World’s First Solar Bike Lane
  • Why are the Conservatives so incompetent at running the economy? – “If that question seems odd to you, you are one of the majority in the UK who think the Conservatives are better at managing the economy than Labour. Why do people think this? My guess is that it is very simple. The financial crisis happened while Labour was in power. This led to the largest recession since the Great Depression. But surely everyone knows that the financial crisis was a global phenomenon that started in the US? Surely everyone knows that if the Conservatives had been in power there would have been just as little financial regulation, so the impact of the crisis on UK banks would have been much the same? The problem is that most people do not know this.
  • The career prospects of overeducated Americans

When free market principle and self interest collide – which will the Murdoch team back?

November 18th, 2014 Comments off

“We’re for Sydney” the page one banner declares. To which, if today’s Daily Telegraph is any guide, we could add “But self interest comes first.”

Hence the Tele’s big issue of the day. Newsagents might lose their monopoly right to sell lottery tickets, it told us on page one.



And what a terrible thing that would be for these brave and battling small business people.

NEWSAGENTS in NSW have warned they face annihilation if lottery ticket sales are opened up to big players such as Coles and Woolworths.

As a condition of privatising NSW Lotteries in 2010, the then Labor government agreed to a five-year moratorium with new owners Tatts that prevented supermarkets and other big retailers from selling lotto tickets and scratchies. But the arrangement is due to end on March 31 — the week after the state election. …

Lottery sales provide between 25 and 90 per cent of newsagent income and the Newsagents Association of NSW and ACT (NANA) said allowing big retailers into the market would devastate hundreds of retailers.

To make matters worse, Tatts wants outlets to shell out up to $25,000 on mandatory shop refits and fresh branding once the moratorium ends.

They will also demand payments from lottery agents twice a week, rather than the existing weekly arrangement, which NANA says will put fragile cashflows at risk.



Not a mention there of what the closure of newsagents might mean to newspaper sales. But plenty of room on the opinion page for the newsagents’ lobbyist to make his special pleading for “all sides of politics to enshrine in legislation the current network of small businesses.”



And so to the editorial verdict from this stout media defender of competition and the merits of more and more deregulation. It started off being true to these fine principles: “The sought-after outcome in any deregulated economic sphere is an increased number of participants.” But by the end? Well, what do you know.

… some 1500 newsagents now face the possibility of losing lotto sales revenue to the two largest supermarket operators. That loss would be considerable. Such sales provide between 25 and 90 per cent of newsagents’ income. You can see why a dramatic decrease could very likely see them be forced to close.

There is a reasonable argument for the maintenance of current limitation of lottery products to newsagents.


And still not even a mention of the impact of all this on newspaper proprietors.


Categories: Australian media, Betting, Media Tags:

No joy from Roy for Tony

November 17th, 2014 Comments off

Well the first verdict on Tony Abbott the international statesman is in and the verdict of the Roy Morgan poll won’t be encouraging for the Prime Minister.

“A week of international Summits, starting with the APEC Summit in Beijing and culminating with the Brisbane G20 Summit over the weekend failed to provide a boost to either Prime Minister Tony Abbott or the Liberal Party with the ALP (55.5%, up 1%) increasing its lead over the L-NP (44.5%, down 1%) on a two-party preferred basis,” pollster Gary Morgan commented this afternoon. “Abbott was widely criticised at the G20 Summit over the weekend for referring to domestic legislative difficulties in his opening remarks to foreign leaders which seemed to detract from the stated goal of the G20 Summit to provide a boost to world growth. There was also significant media coverage in the last few days about last week’s climate change deal between the United States and China which put the spotlight on the Abbott Government’s different approach to dealing with the issue.”

Nor will Clive Palmer and his now depleted PUPs have much to bark about. Their week of internal turmoil has seen their share of the vote drop to 2.5% (down 0.5%) – the lowest recorded since prior to the Federal Election last year. Primary support for the L-NP was down 0.5% to 38% while ALP support rose 1% to 38.5%. Support for the other parties shows The Greens at 12% (down 0.5%) with independents and others (excluding PUP) up0.5 points to 9%. Distributing preferences on the basis of how electors say they would vote resulted in the 45.5% Coalition 55.5% ALP split. Using the method of Newspoll with distribution on the basis of how people voted at the last election would see the Coalition on 46.5% to the ALP’s 53.5%

According to Morgan the ALP maintains a two-party preferred lead in all Australian States. Tasmania: ALP 59.5% cf. L-NP 40.5%; Victoria: ALP 58.5% cf. L-NP 41.5%; New South Wales: ALP 55% cf. L-NP 45%; South Australia: ALP 53.5% cf. L-NP 46.5%; Queensland: ALP 53% cf. L-NP 47% and Western Australia: ALP 51% cf. L-NP 49%.

Categories: Federal opinion polls Tags:

Ever seen an angry economics editor?

November 17th, 2014 Comments off

Paul Mason, economics editor for Britain’s Channel Four, explains why he’s sick of standing outside RBS’s headquarters talking about banks doing something wrong.

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

Putin’s information war – disinformation on a mass scale and other news and views for Sunday 16 November

November 16th, 2014 Comments off
  • Putin waging information war in Ukraine worthy of George Orwell – “… the Kremlin’s latest weapon: disinformation on a mass scale and in multiple languages. … The purpose of the media offensive isn’t so much to present an alternative point of view as to create a parallel reality where crackpots become experts and conspiracy theories offer explanations for the injustices of the world. The target audience is Western citizens skeptical of their own system of government. The goal is obfuscation. Lying – blatantly and repeatedly – is considered a legitimate weapon in the arsenal of hybrid warfare that Putin has unleashed in the struggle for Ukraine. Words may seem harmless in comparison to bullets and bombs, but their effect has been no less deadly.”
a) NOAA Sea Surface Temperature anomaly (with respect to period 1854-2013) averaged over global oceans (red) and over North Pacific (0-60oN, 110oE-100oW) (cyan). September 2014 temperatures broke the record for both global and North Pacific Sea Surface Temperatures. b) Sea Surface Temperature anomaly of September 2014 from NOAA's ERSST dataset.

a) NOAA Sea Surface Temperature anomaly (with respect to period 1854-2013) averaged over global oceans (red) and over North Pacific (0-60oN, 110oE-100oW) (cyan). September 2014 temperatures broke the record for both global and North Pacific Sea Surface Temperatures. b) Sea Surface Temperature anomaly of September 2014 from NOAA’s ERSST dataset.

  • Warmest oceans ever recorded – “This summer has seen the highest global mean sea surface temperatures ever recorded since their systematic measuring started. Temperatures even exceed those of the record-breaking 1998 El Niño year,” says Axel Timmermann, climate scientist and professor, studying variability of the global climate system at the International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa.

    From 2000-2013 the global ocean surface temperature rise paused, in spite of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. This period, referred to as the Global Warming Hiatus, raised a lot of public and scientific interest. However, as of April 2014 ocean warming has picked up speed again, according to Timmermann’s analysis of ocean temperature datasets.
    “The 2014 global ocean warming is mostly due to the North Pacific, which has warmed far beyond any recorded value (Figure 1a) and has shifted hurricane tracks, weakened trade winds, and produced coral bleaching in the Hawaiian Islands,” explains Timmermann.
    He describes the events leading up to this upswing as follows: Sea-surface temperatures started to rise unusually quickly in the extratropical North Pacific already in January 2014. A few months later, in April and May, westerly winds pushed a huge amount of very warm water usually stored in the western Pacific along the equator to the eastern Pacific. This warm water has spread along the North American Pacific coast, releasing into the atmosphere enormous amounts of heat–heat that had been locked up in the Western tropical Pacific for nearly a decade.
    “Record-breaking greenhouse gas concentrations and anomalously weak North Pacific summer trade winds, which usually cool the ocean surface, have contributed further to the rise in sea surface temperatures. The warm temperatures now extend in a wide swath from just north of Papua New Guinea to the Gulf of Alaska (Figure 1b),” says Timmermann.
    The current record-breaking temperatures indicate that the 14-year-long pause in ocean warming has come to an end.

  • Europe Takes Aim at Deals Created to Escape Taxes – The Tax Attraction Between Starbucks and the Netherlands
  • Conservatives: Let’s Prove We Can Govern by Shutting Down the Government and Impeaching Obama 

No evidence that economic growth is anything but moderate

November 6th, 2014 Comments off

You can quibble abut the accuracy of the estimates of employment and unemployment by the Australian Bureau of Statistics if you want to but it is hard to fine any evidence that economic growth is anything but moderate.



And if you don’t like the ABS figures, then take a look at the lterntive measures provided by the Morgan Poll.


Big beneficiaries of Victorian money raising stories are the Greens

November 6th, 2014 Comments off

A little bit of excitement for Victorian Labor Party campaigners this morning when they saw that The Australian had decided that some kind of investigation into some kind of fund raising by a couple of insignificant Liberal Party candidates was worthy of front page treatment.


Quite strange news sense for a national daily because no one outside of Melbourne’s Spring Street would actually give a hoot but perhaps it’s indicative of the News Corp head honchos wanting to give a sign that during this campaign they will not be venting their anti-Labor spleen. Whatever. On the ordinary voter it will have no influence whatsoever. Scandals, even real ones, rarely do and if they do it’ only after months and months of repetition. The best (or the worst, depending on your political prejudice) that can be said about this story is that it took the Victorian government off whatever their planned strategy was for the day.

Actually, the party most likely to be suffering from stories about political fund raising in Victoria is Labor. The pictures of Labor leader Daniel Andrews mixing with Melbourne’s rich and famous surely will be turning the minds of inner-city lefties even further towards the Greens.


Getting an assurance from Lloyd Williams that James Packer was doing everything in his power to help the state Labor cause was not really a good look for anyone interested in matters of government governance.

And if support from that quarter was not enough to suggest that fund raising has made something rotten in the state of Labor then perhaps the sight of Victoria’s richest family lending a helping hand might do the trick.


Categories: Elections, Victorian election Tags:

Using football to combat cocaine addiction and winning on and off the field

November 6th, 2014 Comments off
Scotland has the highest rate, per capita, of cocaine use in the world, according to the United Nations’ World Drug Report 2014. Hamilton Academicals hosts regular meetings for recovering addicts, giving away hundreds of tickets for the families of those affected, advertises Cocaine Anonymous  as well as providing meals for the homeless.

Scotland has the highest rate, per capita, of cocaine use in the world, according to the United Nations’ World Drug Report 2014. Hamilton Academicals hosts regular meetings for recovering addicts, giving away hundreds of tickets for the families of those affected, advertises Cocaine Anonymous as well as providing meals for the homeless.

While Celtic, the giant of Scottish soccer attracts 50,000 spectators to a game and has sponsors paying millions, the Academicals average 1000 fans and promote a driving instructor

While Celtic, the giant of Scottish soccer attracts 50,000 spectators to a game and has sponsors paying millions, the Academicals average 1000 fans and promote a driving instructor

  • Scottish Club Hamilton Academical Combines Soccer and Sobriety – “… this season, after an unlikely ascent to the Scottish Premier League, Hamilton Academical, or the Accies as it is known, had risen as high as first place. The club moved up to the top of the league with a surprise 1-0 victory over nearby Celtic … About 10 years ago a group of local businessmen bought the club for £1 (about $1.60) and committed to building a team with young players that was intimately connected to the community. McGowan vowed to use the club to help overcome what he saw as the biggest problem facing Hamilton — and, more broadly, the country. “I’m a co-owner of the football club, but I’m also an alcoholic and a drug addict,” he said. “I’ve been in recovery for 31 years. I don’t forget the pain and suffering I caused others. I’m putting a wee bit back in.” … Hundreds of addicts have come through the club, he added. Not every case is a success. “Some relapse, some die, some take their own lives,” he said. “There’s always going to be casualties. But it’s the ones that make it.”

5-11-2014 yamazaki

The El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Tracker status remains at El Niño WATCH level. The current observations and model outlooks indicate the chance of a weak to moderate El Niño remains at least 50%, meaning there is double the average likelihood of an event occurring by early 2015.

The El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Tracker status remains at El Niño WATCH level. The current observations and model outlooks indicate the chance of a weak to moderate El Niño remains at least 50%, meaning there is double the average likelihood of an event occurring by early 2015.

  • Warm tropical Pacific Ocean, but ENSO remains neutral – The Australian Bureau of Meteorology reports: “The existence of warmer-than-average water in the tropical Pacific sub-surface supports a continuation of the current near-El Niño conditions. International climate models surveyed by the Bureau suggest that warmer-than-average tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures are likely to persist. Three of eight models reach El Niño thresholds in January 2015, and two remain just shy of thresholds. Australian rainfall and temperature patterns show some El Niño-like impacts, with the country generally warmer and drier than usual over recent months. Warmer central tropical Pacific waters late in the year typically result in warmer and drier weather for parts of eastern Australia, an increase in bushfire risk in the south, and average to below-average numbers of tropical cyclones in the Australian region.”
  • Why Your Brain Wants To Help One Child In Need — But Not Millions
  • Apple borrowing billions to pay shareholders is everything wrong with capitalism today

Morgan Poll also has Labor pulling ahead – just like Newspoll

November 4th, 2014 Comments off


A starling, one of the common European bird species found to be in decline in a new study. Credit: Tomas Belka,

A starling, one of the common European bird species found to be in decline in a new study. Credit: Tomas Belka,

  • A staggering 400 million birds have vanished from Europe since 1980
  • How marijuana will fare on election day – “Voters in four states will decide how the next chapter of marijuana reform will be written. If several of the measures pass, it will likely build momentum for a growing public consensus on legalization. On the other hand, if all or most of the measures fail, legalization proponents may need to take a step back and reassess their strategies for legalization efforts already planned for a number of states in 2016.”
  • The outlook: Prolonged low growth or another crisis – Contrary to widely held beliefs, the world has not yet begun to ‘delever’ and the global debt-to-GDP is still growing. Growth and inflation are also dangerously low. This Vox Talk discusses the findings and policy recommendations of the 16th Geneva Report. It argues that much more can and should be done to improve resilience to debt shocks and discourage excessive debt accumulation.
  • What Have Economists Ever Done for Us?

The Australian decides not to frighten the readers – relegate a bad poll to an inside page

November 4th, 2014 Comments off

The tale of some recent Tuesday front pages:


Big and bold as "Coalition closing gap"

26 August – Big and bold as “Coalition closing gap”

9 September - Down a point so make it smaller but accentuate the positive

9 September – Down a point so make it smaller but accentuate the positive

23 September  - A slight improvement so make it bigger

23 September – A slight improvement so make it bigger

7 October - Behind in every state but WA but Tony's doing better!

7 October – Behind in every state but WA but Tony’s doing better!

21 October - Hmm. Dropped again so back to the single column and at least they like one thing about tough man Tony

21 October – Hmm. Dropped again so back to the single column and at least they like one thing about tough man Tony

4 November - This is getting a bit depressing. Page 2'll do for it.

4 November – This is getting a bit depressing. Page 2’ll do for it.

Always gamble on an empty stomach and other news and views for Monday 3 November

November 3rd, 2014 Comments off
  • Always Gamble on an Empty Stomach: Hunger Is Associated with Advantageous Decision Making – “Three experimental studies examined the counterintuitive hypothesis that hunger improves strategic decision making, arguing that people in a hot state are better able to make favorable decisions involving uncertain outcomes. Studies 1 and 2 demonstrated that participants with more hunger or greater appetite made more advantageous choices in the Iowa Gambling Task compared to sated participants or participants with a smaller appetite. Study 3 revealed that hungry participants were better able to appreciate future big rewards in a delay discounting task; and that, in spite of their perception of increased rewarding value of both food and monetary objects, hungry participants were not more inclined to take risks to get the object of their desire. Together, these studies for the first time provide evidence that hot states improve decision making under uncertain conditions, challenging the conventional conception of the detrimental role of impulsivity in decision making.”
  • New battery aims to transform electric cars – “A new battery that promises to solve two of the biggest grumbles about electric cars – high prices and low driving ranges – is headed for shop floors in just over a year. The lithium battery, which experts say could be a game-changing “killer app” for the global car market, can triple the driving range of an electric vehicle and significantly lower its costs, say the US scientists who developed it.”
  • Brands of nonsense – John Quiggin writes: “Key branding efforts focus on intangibles. In this respect, university branding has been an embarrassing failure both by the industrial standards of the advertising sector and by the intellectual standards that universities are supposed to uphold. For example, virtually every Australian university has adopted (replacing the Latinate motto that used to adorn its crest) a branding slogan: “Know more. Do more.” “Where brilliant begins”. Good luck trying to match a particular slogan with its respective university. (Disclosure: I am, perhaps, bitter that my own proposed branding slogan—”UQ, a university not a brand”—did not find favor with my institution’s marketing department.) … The idea of universities as corporate owners of brands is directly at odds with what John Henry Newman called “the Idea of a University.” To be sure, that idea is the subject of contestation and debate, but in all its forms it embodies the ideal of advancing knowledge through free discussion rather than burnishing the image of a corporation. In the end, brands and universities belong to different worlds.”
  • Amid Record Waves of Refugees, Italy Finding Limits to Its Compassion – “Tattered migrants arriving from Africa bring harrowing tales of escape, and new challenges for Europe.”


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

Going for the Democrat outsider in the US Senate race

November 2nd, 2014 Comments off

I am normally a favourite backer when it comes to elections. My experience suggests that the market on elections tends not to get the favoured party in short enough quickly enough.

So what am I doing on the US Congressional elections? Breaking my habits of a life time and going for the outsider in the Senate race.

The reason for my modest risk taking on the Democrats surviving as the majority party in the Senate comes from a couple of recent articles by Sam Wang on The Princeton Election Consortium website.

Midterm National Senate Polling Error Is Five Times Larger Than In Presidential Years and Races I’ll be Watching on Election Night  outline what Wang calls “the mid-term polling curse” whereby historically, in any given year, midterm polls have been off in the same direction by a median of 2 or 3 percentage points.

Depending on the year, either Democrats or Republicans end up outperforming polls. In current poll medians, six races are within less than 2 percentage points: Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, and North Carolina. Therefore all six of these races could be won by Republicans…or all six could be won by Democrats.
The other races total 48 Republicans and 46 Democrats/Independents. Republicans are slightly favored to take control, since an even split of the six close races would give them the 51 seats they need. However, the likely possibilities range anywhere from a Republican majority of 54-46 to a Democratic majority of 52-48. As of today, cranking through the math and the uncertainties gives a probability of 55% for a Republican takeover.

That seems a good enough reason to me to recommend an interest on the event.

Some of the British bookies are offering $8.50 about the Democrats (plus independents who decide to caucus with them) being in the majority and that would suit me just fine. In Australia Betfair offers the three options of Democrat, Republican and neither (where caucusing independents are not counted with one of the major parties). So, $20 at the $8.50 to make election watching more fun.

Details of my political punting recommendations at The political speculator’s diary

Categories: Betting, Elections, US Election Tags:

Labor price gets shorter about winning in Victoria

November 2nd, 2014 Comments off

So far so good with the “back Victorian Labor” recommendation on my The political speculator’s diary website. The $1.40 has gone with $1.28 now being the VicTab offering.
With further opinion polls over the last week showing Labor comfortably in front I do not expect that price to remain for long.
Details of present and past betting suggestions at The Portfolio – the record so far.

Categories: Betting, Elections, Victorian election Tags:

Republican control predicted for US Congress

November 2nd, 2014 Comments off

The Owl’s election indicator is pointing to the Republicans ending up with control of both houses of Congress after Tuesday’s mid-term US elections.

The probability of the House of Representatives remaining with a Republican majority is put at 99%.


For the Senate the indicator has Republican control as a 76% chance with the Democrats at 9% and no party having control at 16%.


Details of all the Owl’s indicators present and past will be found at The Owl’s Indicators page.


Backyard windmills, locally owned solar panels and other news and views for Sunday 2 November

November 2nd, 2014 Comments off


  • A 19th Century Novel Explains Quantitative Easing – “The Way We Live Now, Trollope’s longest and greatest novel, is … a novel about a society corrupted by finance, one in which money holds sway and everyone is fantasizing about getting rich quick. … It’s a novel about a bubble, which is especially relevant today, with the economic news dominated by the Federal Reserve’s announcement that quantitative easing, the post-credit-crunch experiment in loose monetary policy, is now over. The American economy is recovering, and normal service can now be resumed. The money people are hoping that QE hasn’t accidentally created a giant bubble in asset prices. As chance would have it, the speculative bubble in The Way We Live Now is also based on American assets — a railway between Salt Lake City and Veracruz. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t end well.”
  • The Grapes of Wrath: France’s Great Wines Are Feeling the Heat – “In France, climate change is no longer just an abstract problem. The culinary country’s grand wine culture is threatened by rising global temperatures. Vintners are fighting to save a part of our world culture heritage that spans the last two millennia.”
  • Violence against children in Cambodia: breaking the silence – “Findings from the first-of-its-kind Cambodia’s Violence Against Children Survey, coordinated by UNICEF Cambodia, reveal that many children are subjected to violence at the hands of people they know and should trust in places that should feel safe.”
  • The Secret Life of an ISIS Warlord – “Abu Omar al-Shishani has a fierce, gorgeous Chechen bride. He learned intelligence operations from the U.S. And his older brother may be the real genius of ISIS.”
  • If the Republicans Win Big on Tuesday, So Will the CIA – “The intel community has spent years being bashed by Senate Democrats. Things will be very different if Richard Burr is in charge.”


  • Opera is dead, in one chart – “Opera is officially dead. Or maybe not completely dead, but at best ekeing out a zombie-like existence in a state of undeath. As proof, I submit this fascinating chart of Metropolitan Opera performances, which shows that for decades the Met has rarely performed any operas composed in the preceding 50 years. … Opera, as a genre, is essentially frozen in amber – Raman found that the median year of composition of pieces performed at the Met has always been right around 1870. In other words, the Met is essentially performing the exact same pieces now that it was 100 years ago.”
  • Alcohol calorie content: Labels needed, say doctors
  • Why the Chess Computer Deep Blue Played Like a Human – “When IBM’s Deep Blue beat chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 1997 in a six-game chess match, Kasparov came to believe he was facing a machine that could experience human intuition. “The machine refused to move to a position that had a decisive short-term advantage,” Kasparov wrote after the match. It was “showing a very human sense of danger.” To Kasparov, Deep Blue seemed to be experiencing the game rather than just crunching numbers. … Deep Blue programmer Feng-Hsiung Hsu writes in his book Behind Deep Blue that during the match, outside analysts were divided over a mysterious move made by the program, thinking it either weak or obliquely strategic. Eventually, the programmers discovered that the move was simply the result of a bug that had caused the computer not to choose what it had actually calculated to be the best move—something that could have appeared as random play. The bug wasn’t fixed until after game four, long after Kasparov’s spirit had been broken.”
  • Peter Cullen gave lobbying a good name, writes Laurie Oakes


  • How often is ‘antifreeze’ added to food and drink? – “Fireball Cinnamon Whisky “tastes like heaven… burns like hell”, its manufacturer, Sazerac Company, claims in marketing materials. According to market research firm Nielsen, the whisky is one of the top 10 bestselling drinks in the US, beating popular brands such as Jose Cuervo tequila. The drink has been removed from shelves in Norway, Sweden and Finland after batches of the whisky made to a recipe acceptable in North America – where 50g of propylene glycol per kilogram of food or drink is acceptable – made their way to Europe, where the limit on the substance is lower, at 3g per kilogram.”