Archive for January, 2015

A win for the LNP but not for the Queensland Premier?

January 29th, 2015 Comments off

A victory for the LNP but defeat for Campbell Newman are being pointed to by The Owl’s election indicators.




Japanese style morning company singalong for Tony Abbott’s office

January 29th, 2015 Comments off

The Prime Minister’s chief of staff will open proceedings with an inspirational version of :

The Prime Minister will conclude the morale boosting with a few verses of:



Categories: Political snippets Tags:

The real Murdoch message – sack Abbott not Credlin

January 29th, 2015 Comments off

The Rupert Murdoch I have known (and sometimes worked for as both journalist and lobbyist) is politically astute enough to know that calling for the dismissal of Peta Credlin ensured that Tony Abbott would keep her in the job as his chief of staff. A Prime Minister would not survive being seen to cave in to the public advice of his tweets. No. The cunning old fellow actually has Tony in his sights not Peta.

As I wrote on Tuesday: Be afraid Tony Abbott, be very afraid. The News Corp empire has determined that a Coalition government led by you will put Labor back in office and that would never do.

Categories: Political indicators Tags:

The death penalty for drug smugglers – majority in favour

January 29th, 2015 Comments off


The political difficulty for politicians in campaigning to have Indonesia spare Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan from the death penalty was shown by a recent Morgan Poll.

A special snap SMS Morgan Poll today shows a small majority of Australians (52%, down 1% since August 2009) say that Australians convicted of drug trafficking in another country and sentenced to death should be executed while 48% (up 1%) don’t. Of Australians, a larger majority (62%) said the Australian Government should not do more to stop the execution of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan while 38% say the Australian Government should do more to stop the execution.


Categories: Opinion polls Tags:

His Master’s Voice – and the Murdoch underlings seem to be taking notice

January 27th, 2015 Comments off

Categories: Media Tags:

Legalised bribery – an American opinion with relevance for Queensland

January 27th, 2015 Comments off

Legalised bribery – “Corruption exists when institutions and officials charged with serving the public serve their own ends. Under current law, campaign contributions are illegal if there is an explicit quid pro quo, and legal if there isn’t. But legal campaign contributions can be as bad as bribes in creating obligations. The corruption that hides in plain sight is the real threat to our democracy. Think of campaign contributions as the gateway drug to bribes. In our private financing system, candidates are trained to respond to campaign cash and serve donors’ interests. Politicians are expected to spend half their time talking to funders and to keep them happy. Given this context, it’s not hard to see how a bribery charge can feel like a technical argument instead of a moral one.”


  • Productivity of High-Income Countries in the Long-Run – “No matter how you slice it, productivity growth is low all around.”
  • Scientists Just Found a Way to Make GMOs Much Safer – “Biotech researchers think they’ve found a way to keep modified genes from escaping into other organisms.”
  • Ending Greece’s Nightmare – “So now that Mr. Tsipras has won, and won big, European officials would be well advised to skip the lectures calling on him to act responsibly and to go along with their program. The fact is they have no credibility; the program they imposed on Greece never made sense. It had no chance of working. If anything, the problem with Syriza’s plans may be that they’re not radical enough. Debt relief and an easing of austerity would reduce the economic pain, but it’s doubtful whether they are sufficient to produce a strong recovery.”
  • Defying the Assassin’s Veto – “The massacre of Charlie Hebdo journalists in Paris on January 7 was an attempt to impose the assassin’s veto. Where the heckler’s veto says merely ‘I will shout you down,’ the assassin’s version is ‘dare to express that and we will kill you.’ Instead of the academic’s metaphorical ‘publish or perish’ we have the Kouachi brothers’ ‘publish and perish.’ In the quarter-century since the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, this has become one of the largest threats to free speech in the West, and certainly the most extreme.”

So the talk about Queensland’s election turned to sociopaths

January 27th, 2015 Comments off

Well the stop writs have stopped nothing. Alan Jones was back on air this morning repeating his stories about Campbell Newman the liar and tossing in an intriguing new one about and mining on North Stradbroke Island for good measure.

I particularly enjoyed the chat about sociopaths in politics but I won’t go into detail because I have neither the money nor the courage of an Alan Jones when it comes to such defamatory things.

What a pity that scandal takes such a long time to seep through into public consciousness. The Liberal National Party government remains favourite to win on Saturday.


Categories: Elections, Queensland election Tags:

The Abbott nightmare came on waking up

January 27th, 2015 Comments off

If the radio and television yesterday had not got the message across, the real extent of his bad judgment greeted Tony Abbott when he looked at his newspapers this morning. It was not just that Fairfax lot. The Murdoch team were putting the boot in just as vigorously.


I expect the opinion polls to show yet another decline in prime ministerial support and for Liberal backbenchers to get even more restless.

Surviving as leader until the next election will take a major effort by Tony Abbott.


Categories: Political snippets Tags:

Arsene Wenger is a great economist

January 26th, 2015 Comments off
  • Frederic Bastiat and football punditry – “In the day job I call Arsene Wenger a great economist. I’m making a serious point. … there is a close affinity between economics and sport; each can illuminate the other. I suspect you could learn more about economics from football than you could from the empty suits at Davos this week. “
  • U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit – Animal Welfare at Risk in Experiments for Meat Industry – “Pigs are having many more piglets — up to 14, instead of the usual eight — but hundreds of those newborns, too frail or crowded to move, are being crushed each year when their mothers roll over. Cows, which normally bear one calf at a time, have been retooled to have twins and triplets, which often emerge weakened or deformed, dying in such numbers that even meat producers have been repulsed. Then there are the lambs. In an effort to develop “easy care” sheep that can survive without costly shelters or shepherds, ewes are giving birth, unaided, in open fields where newborns are killed by predators, harsh weather and starvation.”
  • Still Waiting for Davos Woman – “The Alpine retreat is both absurd and worthy — but can’t achieve its goals as long as it is primarily a guy thing.”
  • A fault in our design – “We tend to think that technological progress is making us more resilient, but it might be making us more vulnerable.”
  • In Rain and Snow, It’s Clear That Patriots Are a Good Bet – “Over the past 12 seasons, the New England Patriots have played so well in wet conditions that their margin of victory in those games has exceeded the betting spread — set by a global market that tries to take all known advantages into account — 80 percent of the time, according to an analysis by Covers, a sports betting information website. The analysis suggests that the Patriots have an edge in wet weather that neither the general public nor professional bettors have taken into account. But the analysis sheds no light on what that advantage, or those advantages, might be. The Patriots exceeded the spread 56 percent of the time in their other games during that period, the analysis shows.” Note: You will find links to some other interesting pieces about betting at Punting – the Owl’s notes.
  • Let statisticians cry foul when politicians bend the truth – “… those who are responsible for government statistics should not be working for ministers. Create within each department an independent statistical and analytical unit. … the independent number crunchers would be expected to comment publicly on the interpretation placed on their material by politicians and the media; especially when that crossed the line between half truth and outright lie. The rough and tumble political debate about numbers and data would continue, vigorously and uncensored. But the playing field would be levelled. And for the first time there would be a referee empowered to blow the whistle when there is a foul.”
  • Not Seeing Luck – “I claimed the other day that those of us who are in the global 1% are apt to under-estimate our good fortune. There is, in fact, quite robust evidence from other contexts that we tend to under-rate luck and over-rate skill and causality. … This is probably because of a self-serving bias… However, other research shows that people also see skill where none in fact exists even in other people. … This sort of behaviour has been confirmed in laboratory experiments. … I suspect that this is part of an older-attested phenomenon – that people under-rate randomness and over-rate causality, which is one reason why we draw overconfident inferences from noisy data. … You might see this as an echo of David Hume’s claim, that our ideas about causality result merely from custom and habit and so are fallible. It also, I suspect, helps explain a claim made by Hume’s good friend. If we over-rate causality and under-rate luck, we will exaggerate the extent to which the wealthy deserve their fortune. As a result:

    We frequently see the respectful attentions of the world more strongly directed towards the rich and the great, than towards the wise and the virtuous. We see frequently the vices and follies of the powerful much less despised than the poverty and weakness of the innocent…The great mob of mankind are the admirers and worshippers, and, what may seem more extraordinary, most frequently the disinterested admirers and worshippers, of wealth and greatness. (Adam Smith – Theory of Moral Sentiments, I.III.29)”

Labor edges a little closer in Queensland

January 25th, 2015 Comments off

A slight movement in favour of Labor on the Ow’s Queensland election indicator but the Liberal National Party government is still the firm favourite.

qld indicator (3)But perhaps the approach of the Murdoch press suggests there are fears that things really are getting closer.

sunday mail shows the family mancourier mail

When politicians try and switch attention to their spouses you know their own popularity leaves something to be desired.


A mistimed writ by the Queensland Premier?

January 24th, 2015 Comments off

I wrote at the beginning of the week that the Queensland election would be an interesting test of the power of radio talk host Alan Jones and the initial verdict is that he is capable of turning the subject of political debate even if the impact on actual voting is less certain. Without Jones’ intervention with a daily one hour session on Brisbane station 4BC, questions of the influence of big money on government decisions would not have featured in the campaign. The local media have spent three years largely ignoring questions about the Liberal National Party method of governing but Jones has forced them to change that.

Premier Campbell Newman spent this week dodging questions from his once subservient media chooks based on allegations that Alan Jones has aired. It has thrown his planned low-key, summer campaign strategy quite off the rails. That might not matter (see Alan Jones and the Springborg farm made for titillating listening for my guess on the subject) but Premier Newman is clearly worried. How else to explain his recourse late in the week to legal action for alleged defamation?

If this was a classic stop-writ, and it appears to have been, it has not worked as planned. Rather it has given the mainstream Queensland media an opportunity to give the allegations another kick along. Perhaps the LNP strategists are finding from their research that this morning’s Newspoll in The Weekend Australian is reflective of public opinion.


Or perhaps not. Pollster Mark Textor took to Twitter last night to suggest his followers have a look at some ANU research into marginal seat polling. (Read from the third message upwards.)


Textor views on polling deserve to be taken seriously but I do wonder about the likely accuracy of this one:


So far the market has been largely unmoved by campaign developments and opinion polls. The Owl’s election indicator still has the LNP clearly as the probable election winner.


The most striking ad of the Queensland election campaign

January 22nd, 2015 Comments off

It’s back on page 17 of the Courier Mail so it will have little or no influence but I’m giving it my award as the most striking ad of the Queensland election campaign

2015-01-22_dr davis

Something that might have an impact is the tag on Labor Party radio messages – number every square and put the LNP last.

If I was running the Labor Party campaign I would be saying nothing else but that in advertisements.

See The difficulty in calculating a two party vote in Queensland. See also the archive of the Owl’s items on the Queensland election


Categories: Elections, Queensland election Tags:

The difficulty in calculating a two party vote in Queensland

January 21st, 2015 Comments off

When pollsters calculate their prediction of the two party preferred vote they take the experience of the previous election in distributing the preferences of third party candidates. That’s a sensible enough procedure in normal election circumstances but I suspect that is not what we will see in Queensland on Saturday week. The Clive Palmer and Bob Katter candidates plus some of the prominent independents are promising to do something different this time and direct preferences away from the Liberal National Party. Hence I am uncertain about how much credence to put on the latest predictions of Newspoll and Reachtel. They both have it at 52% LNP to 48% ALP but perhaps it is closer than that.

Tonight’s Reachtel findings as shown on the 7 Network:


Two party preferred

Two party preferred

Categories: Elections, Queensland election Tags:

Warmest year on record but no El Niño

January 21st, 2015 Comments off

The immediate threat of El Niño onset appears passed for the 2014–15 cycle. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology reported this week that since late 2014, most ENSO indicators have eased back from borderline El Niño levels.

As the natural seasonal cycle of ENSO is now entering the decay phase, and models indicate a low chance of an immediate return to El Niño levels, neutral conditions are considered the most likely scenario through into autumn.

Central tropical Pacific Ocean surface temperatures have fallen by around half a degree from their peak of 1.1 °C above average in late November. Likewise, the Southern Oscillation Index has weakened to values more consistent with neutral conditions, while recent cloud patterns show little El Niño signature. As all models surveyed by the Bureau favour a continuation of these neutral conditions in the coming months, the immediate threat of El Niño onset appears passed for the 2014–15 cycle. Hence the ENSO Tracker has been reset to NEUTRAL.


The Tracker will remain at NEUTRAL unless observations and model outlooks indicate a heightened risk of either La Niña or El Niño developing later this year.

The absence of an El Niño makes the record high world temperatures for 2014 quite surprising. Previous record years have coincided with them

Categories: Environment Tags:

A real health cost crisis to think about – Médecins Sans Frontières on immunisation

January 21st, 2015 Comments off

The right shot

  • Rocketing vaccine cost warning – “The price of life-saving vaccines has skyrocketed leaving some countries struggling to fully immunise children, Medecins Sans Frontieres warns. A report by the charity says there has been a 68-fold increase in prices between 2001 and 2014. It accused the pharmaceutical industry of overcharging and highlighted cases where rich western countries were getting a better rate than poor ones. Industry said its pricing reflected the cost of manufacture.”

price to immunise


  • Hating Good Government – “… most self-proclaimed conservatives are actually reactionaries. That is, they’re defenders of traditional hierarchy — the kind of hierarchy that is threatened by any expansion of government, even (or perhaps especially) when that expansion makes the lives of ordinary citizens better and more secure.”

oecd employment rate

Click to enlarge

Alan Jones and the Springborg farm made for titillating listening

January 20th, 2015 Comments off

Scandalous behaviour by politicians. and more so an accusation of it, takes a long time to seep through into public consciousness so I expect Alan Jones’ words this morning about coal mining and Lawrence Springborg will have no impact on Queensland election day. Nevertheless the story of the coal miners avoiding the Springborg family farm made for titillating listening and there is sure to be more to come – especially if Palmer United Party Senator Glenn Lazarus passes on a few of the tit-bits mentioned in The Australian yesterday:

20-01-2015 lazarus


Categories: Elections, Queensland election Tags:

China’s falling growth rate enough to drive iron ore producers to drink?

January 20th, 2015 Comments off

20-01-2015 chinagrowth

The significance of the wine barrels illustrating this Chinese government newsagency tweet on China’s falling growth rates escapes me but the story it points to might drive some iron ore producers to drink.

BEIJING, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) — China’s economy grew 7.4 percent in 2014, in line with market expectations and registering the weakest expansion in 24 years, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Tuesday.

The reading was slightly below the government target of around 7.5 percent for the year, as authorities are at pains to transform the economy onto a more sustainable track while tackling a housing slowdown, softening domestic demand and weak global recovery.

Last year, the country’s gross domestic product reached 63.65 trillion yuan (10.4 trillion U.S. dollars). Growth in the fourth quarter came in at 7.3 percent, flat with the rate seen in the third.

“The economy is maintaining steady operation under the new normal, with positive trends of stable growth, optimized structure, enhanced quality and improved social welfare,” noted Ma Jiantang, head of the NBS at a press conference.

In 2014, China’s industrial output grew 8.3 percent, down from the 9.7-percent growth seen in 2013, while growth of China’s fixed-asset investment slowed to 15.7 percent. Retail sales went up 12 percent to 26.24 trillion yuan, the NBS data showed.

Why the obsession with younger candidates?

January 20th, 2015 Comments off

A gentle aging is apparently quite alright if you want to continue as a political party power broker. Melbourne financial wheeler and dealer Michael Kroger is seeking to become president of the Victorian branch of the Liberal Party at the age of 57. Yet, as The Australian reported this morning, one of his aims if he gets his hands on the title will be a “drive for a series of new, younger candidates to contest safe state and federal seats.

2015-01-20_krogerWhy is it, I regularly wonder, that as the median age of the population gets older, these mature aged “power brokers” continue to be fascinated with attracting youthful parliamentary candidates? Why not a 30 year old party president instead or as well as?


Categories: Political snippets Tags:

A nice test of the power of Alan Jones

January 19th, 2015 Comments off

Radio talk show hosts like Alan Jones have an influence on our political life because politicians think they have an influence on public opinion. I have never seen objective evidence of such impact but politicians are not mugs when it comes to deciding what influences their voters so I don’t completely dismiss the idea. Which is why I am intrigued by the entry of the Sydney based Alan Jones in to the Queensland election campaign.

Now this intervention is no ordinary pre-election rant by a conservative commentator. Alan Jones has moved to Brisbane to broadcast for the duration of the campaign to turn his form of vitriol on to Liberal National Party Premier Campbell Newman. Consider this morning’s offering as summarised  by the ABC:

Jones told radio 4BC the Newman government had an appalling track record.

“Make no bones about it – this is as bad as anything we’ve ever seen in government in Australia anywhere,” he said.

He described Mr Newman as a bully and that he “couldn’t back the Premier to win a chook raffle”.

Jones said Mr Newman lied to him in 2012 when he promised there would be no stage three of the Acland coal mine near Toowoomba, where Jones grew up.

“What’s happened on the Darling Downs under this government is a disgrace,” Jones said.

He’s first best friends with the mining giants who are plundering this state and not improving our bottom line.

“Our debt is worse than it was when Newman came into government – and our agricultural land is being squandered and he’s done nothing about the debt he said he would address.

“This is the bloke who won’t investigate why a dozen people died in the Grantham floods.

“You can’t believe a word this bloke says.”

Jones said no-one in the LNP Government was prepared to listen.

“[Health Minister Lawrence] Springborg has had a million letters about the health concerns by the people at Tara living in a coal seam gas field and those letters are unanswered.”

Not that Alan Jones is going as far as urging a vote for Labor. He points out to his audience that there are plenty of good independents worthy of support and has gone as far as endorsing some of them with campaign material.


 (Picture from Margo Kingston’s Twitter feed – )

It is an intriguing intervention although the latest opinion polls still have the LNP government ahead as does the Owl’s political indicator.

qld indicator (2)

Another sign of an Australian economy trudging sideways

January 19th, 2015 Comments off


Trend estimates: The December 2014 trend estimate (92 618) has decreased by 0.1% when compared with November 2014. The trend estimate has now decreased by 0.1% for five consecutive months.
Seasonally adjusted estimates: The December 2014 seasonally adjusted estimate (94 903) has increased by 3.0% when compared with November 2014.

  • Cover of darkness – The cypherpunks are winning the second crypto-war against government spies. What will happen when everyone is anonymous?
  • Oasis or Mirage? Jordan’s Unlikely Stability in a Changing Middle East – “Jordan’s stability and security are not figments of the imagination, especially considering the revolutions, civil wars and endemic terrorism that seem to have afflicted most of the country’s neighbors. Yet the calm may not be sustainable, as Jordan confronts its own continuing struggles over reform and change; faces seemingly countless threats in terms of its internal and external security; and attempts to deal with its own economic crises and challenging energy needs.” (Sign in required)
  • Death rate drops when top heart surgeons are away – “Among the most severe cases of cardiac arrest, 70 per cent of those admitted when no cardiology conference was taking place died within 30 days. But among those admitted when expert cardiologists were away at meetings, the corresponding death rate was 60 per cent (JAMA Internal Medicine). The results suggest that for the most seriously ill heart patients, the risks of emergency interventions such as artery widening may outweigh the benefits …”
  • The Hemingway Law of Motion: Gradually, then Suddenly – ‘Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, which is available various places around the web like here, includes the following snippet of dialogue:

    “How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.

    “Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

    Many economists will recognize this as a version of an apercu offered a number of times over the years by the prominent macroeconomist Rudiger Dornbusch, who liked to say (for example, in this interview about Mexico’s economic crisis in the 1990s):

    “The crisis takes a much longer time coming than you think, and then it happens much faster than you would have thought.”

    What I am dubbing the Hemingway Law of Motion clearly has wide applicability.’

Something for Catholic PM Tony Abbott to think about – Pope Francis convinced global warming mostly man-made

January 18th, 2015 Comments off
  • Pope on Climate Change: Man Has ‘Slapped Nature in the Face’ – ‘Pope Francis said Thursday he is convinced that global warming is “mostly” man-made and that he hopes his upcoming encyclical on the environment will encourage negotiators at a climate change meeting in Paris to make “courageous” decisions to protect God’s creation. Francis has spoken out frequently about the “culture of waste” that has imperiled the environment and he elaborated en route to the Philippines. While there, Francis will meet with survivors of the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, which the government has said was an example of the extreme weather conditions that global warming has wrought. “I don’t know if it (human activity) is the only cause, but mostly, in great part, it is man who has slapped nature in the face,” he said. “We have in a sense taken over nature.” “I think we have exploited nature too much,” Francis said, citing deforestation and monoculture. “Thanks be to God that today there are voices, so many people who are speaking out about it.” ‘
  • Catholic groups rally against climate change amid intense church debate – ‘Catholic environmental groups from around the world on Wednesday (Jan. 14) announced a new global network to battle climate change just as many Catholic conservatives are sharply criticizing Pope Francis’ campaign to put environmental protection high on the church’s agenda. “We are certain that anthropogenic (human-made) climate change endangers God’s creation and us all, particularly the poor, whose voices have already spoken of the impacts of an altered climate,” the new Global Catholic Climate Movement says in its mission statement. “Climate change is about our responsibility as God’s children and people of faith to care for human life, especially future generations, by caring for all of God’s wondrous creation,” the statement continues.’

Waiting for Andrew Bolt’s explanation of a record hot year

January 17th, 2015 Comments off

Whatever we might think we read him. Andrew Bolt sucks readers in. That makes him influential in the peripheral game of political debate. And on no subject more so than in his claim that global warming has not increased for a decade or more.

So I’m disappointed he’s holidaying in Holland now that 2014 is announced as the warmest since records have been kept. I want to read his explanation why the figures don’t mean anything.

In the mean time I’ll just have to look at the graphs released this week by the US NOAA and do the best I can tp understand them.

annual global temperature

Click to enlarge

global temp with hottest 10 highlighted

Click to enlarge

world temp trend lines

Click to enlarge

Categories: Environment Tags:

Moslem is the barbecue stopping dirty word

January 17th, 2015 Comments off

A week and a bit away from Canberra with no newspapers and limited social media and it’s amazing the different perspective you get of political life. From inner Melbourne to the outer suburbs and then Eden on the south coast of New South Wales and barely a mention of government or opposition, Abbott or Shorten.

Normally the people I mix with, knowing my obsession with matters political, ask a few polite questions and make a comment or two about the way the country is being governed. But not this summer.

With one exception. Moslems. I found that’s the barbecue stopping dirty word for people from a variety of social spheres.

Some intolerance I expected. The vehement extent of it in conversations surprised me.

The opportunities for unscrupulous politicians from this sentiment are frightening.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

An economy sliding sideways

January 15th, 2015 Comments off

No evidence in today’s Australian Bureau of Statistics employment figures of a healthily growing economy. I’ll settle on the aggregate monthly hours worked figures to tell the story.

monthly hours worked


It has been a real sideways slide.

This May’s budget will be a difficult event for Joe Hockey to negotiate.

Premier Newman’s two leadership negatives

January 8th, 2015 Comments off

Tony Abbott and his federal government is top of the list of negatives as Campbell Newman sets out on his short-as-possible election campaign. Hoping the Prime Minister goes back to his holiday by the beach and stays there for as long as possible would be one reason for choosing 31 January polling day. For the Queensland Liberal National Party the less said about those federal colleagues the better. So let’s try and pretend we are different so we can quickly move on to other things

2015-01-08_canberra bitter The Courier Mail attempted product differentiation this morning before moving on to the separate aspect of leadership negatives: who actually will LNP voters be supporting as Premier? The fact that Premier Newman’s own seat is far more vulnerable than his government overall creates a diversion that Labor will delight in exploiting.

2015-01-08_ssshgroveOf more concern to the Brisbane daily on its editorial pages was the danger of minor parties having an unhealthy influence. The Courier’s editorial pretended that a hung parliament controlled by a riff-raff was the problem when the real LNP concern is that the Palmers and the Katters will leach away support in a state where preferential voting is optional.

But the Townsville Bulletin most accurately summed up the campaigning day:

Many a true word ...

Many a true word …

And down on the Gold Coast it was a subject the government would be happy about with just a little bit of a backhander about the need to do more rather than less.


 Full Queensland election coverage HERE 

Categories: Elections, Queensland election Tags:

Power walks the favoured photo opportunity?

January 8th, 2015 Comments off
A bit of photo shopping on day one to get things started

A bit of photo shopping on day one to get things started – Courier Mail 7 January

As candidate Kate goes walking too - Courier Mail 7 January

As candidate Kate goes walking too – Courier Mail 7 January

But none of that walking nonsense for Clive - The Australian 7 January

But none of that walking nonsense for Clive – The Australian 7 January

Townsville Bulletin 8 January

Townsville Bulletin 8 January

Premier walking with the kids - The Australian 8 January

Premier walking with the kids – The Australian 8 January

Doing a little jogging for the cameras - The Australian 8 January

Doing a little jogging for the cameras – The Australian 8 January

And now a little canoeing for the action man - The Australian 8 January

And now a little canoeing for the action man – The Australian 8 January

Full Queensland election coverage HERE

Categories: Elections, Queensland election Tags:

A new temperature record? Japan’s meteorologists think so

January 7th, 2015 Comments off

JMA world temps

crude oil price

7-01-2015 navylaser

  • The Pentagon’s newest weapons look like something out of ‘Star Wars’ – “One of the newest weapons in the Pentagon’s vast arsenal is a concentrated beam of light, a laser that zaps and burns, delivering destruction by the kilowatt, as if in “Star Wars.” Under development for years by the military and the defense industry, lasers have moved from science-fiction fantasy, to the laboratory and, just recently, to the Persian Gulf. They sizzle rather than go boom, providing pin-point accuracy that proponents say can prevent the kind of collateral damage that’s unavoidable with missiles or bombs.”
  • Europe’s Trap – Paul Krugman writes: “There are many risks in the world economy right now — a possible Chinese hard landing (local governments depend heavily on land sales for revenue? Oh, boy), a financial crisis in Russia and other oil exporters, etc.. But one thing is not a risk, because it has already happened: the euro area has entered a Japan-style deflationary trap. … So don’t think of Europe as having a tough but workable economic strategy, endangered by Greek voters and such. Europe is at a dead end; if anything, Greece is doing the rest of Europe a favor by sounding a wake-up call.”
  • End the feud between the spinners and the fourth estate – “The digital revolution will ultimately strengthen journalism, but so far public relations has managed the web far better.”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

The summer bummer headline sums up day one of Queensland election campaign

January 7th, 2015 Comments off

The sand poll. Nothing close about the Courier Mail’s  first vox pop of the campaign. Holidaymakers on Burleigh Beach went clearly in the LNP’s direction – five supporters to Labor’s two with one undecided.

The Courier Mail’s News Corp stablemate The Gold Coast Bulletin found “Waves of indifference at beach but some are looking for sharks.” It probably summed up the feeling of most Queenslanders with this front page:


Up north in Cairns the local Post daily went on page one with the result of an online question “Which party will win the next state election?” Labor 59%, LNP 41%.

At the Townsville Bulletin they had a State of the North survey of an apparently self selected 632 voters.

townsville state of the northClick to enlarge

This predicted support of 27% for the LNP, 22% for the ALP, 8% Greens, 2% PUP, 7% Kapper United Party with 34% in the undecided column.

Full Queensland election coverage HERE

 Original version – “At the Townsville Bulletin they had a go at proper polling with their State of the North survey of 632 voters.” Correction made on advice of a valued Twitter follower

Categories: Elections, Queensland election Tags:

Foreigners fighting against the Islamic State in Syria

January 6th, 2015 Comments off
  • Foreigners fighting Islamic State in Syria: who and why? – “So far an estimated few dozen Westerners have joined Kurdish fighters battling Islamic State in northern Syria, including Americans, Canadians, Germans, and Britons. The Syrian Kurdish armed faction known as the YPG has not released official numbers confirming foreign or “freedom fighters” and academics say it’s hard to assess the total.  But the number pales compared to an estimated 16,000 fighters from about 90 countries to join Islamic State since 2012, according to the U.S. Department of State figures.”
  • The Isis economy: Meet the new boss – “Signs of discontent are evident across the ‘caliphate’ as people tire of its taxes, price caps and shoddy services.”
  • Tropical Pacific waters show signs of cooling – “El Niño-like conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean weakened over the past fortnight, after being close to or exceeding El Niño thresholds for several weeks. Despite this easing, the Bureau’s ENSO tracker status remains at El Niño ALERT.”
  • Knocking on tax haven’s door: Multinational firms and transfer pricing – “Allegations of tax-avoiding transfer pricing by multinational firms are common, but economic evidence is scarce. This column discusses detailed price data for intra-firm and arm’s length transactions that reveals tax-driven transfer pricing, and suggests that it may be reduced by focusing on a small number of large firms in a small number of tax havens.”
(A) Two dogs, Molly (left) and Charlotte, playing tug-a-war. This game went on for more than five minutes and was interspersed with social and self-play. (B) Three dogs (left to right), Yekeela, Charlotte, and Molly, playing during which they rapidly changed positions and used a variety of actions including bows, biting accompanied by head shaking, and body slamming. (C) Ruby (left) performing a play bow in front of Scone. (D) Scone (right) mounting Ruby.

(A) Two dogs, Molly (left) and Charlotte, playing tug-a-war. This game went on for more than five minutes and was interspersed with social and self-play. (B) Three dogs (left to right), Yekeela, Charlotte, and Molly, playing during which they rapidly changed positions and used a variety of actions including bows, biting accompanied by head shaking, and body slamming. (C) Ruby (left) performing a play bow in front of Scone. (D) Scone (right) mounting Ruby.

  • Playful fun in dogs – “What we know of fun and play in domestic dogs – particularly its apparent role in socialization.”
  • Study: Disparities seen in immigrant application results – “Immigrants to the U.S. with job offers often apply for work authorization. But immigrants from Latin America are less likely to have those requests granted than are immigrants from other regions, according to a new study conducted by scholars at MIT and Brown University — a study that also suggests a potential remedy for this problem, by finding that this regional disparity does not exist when officials examine cases in greater detail.”
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

The Courier Mail’s foretaste of the election coverage to come: Bikies back Labor

January 5th, 2015 Comments off

It was as if they knew the campaigning whistle was about to start. And this morning’s Courier Mail left no doubt about the coverage to come.

5-01-2015 bikies back labor5-01-2015 page1detail

And in case you missed that on page one, a repeat inside.

5-01-2015 incaseyoumisseditBias does not come much more obvious than that.


Categories: Elections, Queensland election Tags:

Tony’s Iraq adventure – desperate men do desperate political things

January 5th, 2015 Comments off

Maybe our Prime Minister just gets bored when on holiday. More likely he spent a few days in the sun contemplating why he was doing so badly in every aspect of the opinion polls but foreign policy. Perhaps his thoughts turned to showing that Foreign Minister lady a thing or two. Whatever. Off to Iraq Tony Abbott flew in a totally unnecessary mission.

Then just to make matters politically unproductive the network television cameras and journalists were left behind. There is nothing more dangerous than a media spurned.

The lads and lasses of News Corporation are already on the promote-Julie-Bishop trail. I expect them to lead a new round of leadership speculation very soon.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

Twitter has lots of problems – should sell itself to Google

January 5th, 2015 Comments off

shopping malls quote

  • The Economics (and Nostalgia) of Dead Malls – “Premature obituaries for the shopping mall have been appearing since the late 1990s, but the reality today is more nuanced, reflecting broader trends remaking the American economy. With income inequality continuing to widen, high-end malls are thriving, even as stolid retail chains like Sears, Kmart and J. C. Penney falter, taking the middle- and working-class malls they anchored with them. … Almost one-fifth of the nation’s enclosed malls have vacancy rates considered troubling by real estate experts — 10 percent or greater. Over 3 percent of malls are considered to be dying — with 40 percent vacancies or higher. That is up from less than 1 percent in 2006.”
  • Brazen Attempts by Hotels to Block Wi-Fi
  • Let this be the year when we put a proper price on carbon – “The fall in oil prices and declines in other energy prices make the case for a tax overwhelming”
  • Japan plans new communities to lure seniors out of shorthanded cities – “To encourage people in their 60s to vacate big cities while they are still fit and healthy, the government is trying to establish a new type of community in which senior citizens can live comfortably while staying socially engaged.”

passenger pigeon

  • The great extermination – “On October 4th last, in referring to a WWF report on the dramatic collapse in the numbers of our fellow creatures on earth, an Irish Times editorial talked about biodiversity loss and our consumerist culture: “the human family appears intent on spending down its natural resources to the last fish and the last tree.” Plus ça change … It’s an old story and the sorry extinction of the passenger pigeon in North America is a pertinent case study. Professor John Wilson Foster’s Pilgrims of the Air is a fascinating account of this extraordinary bird and its sudden demise at the end of the nineteenth century
Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

The multi-billion dollar cost to shareholders of bad behaviour by bankers

January 4th, 2015 Comments off
The CCP Research Foundation data shows that rolling conduct costs and provisions for 12 of the most-fined banks in 2009 to 2013 were £166.63bn ($261bn), compared with £154.96bn for 2008 to 2012. Shareholders are understandably starting to complain that they are paying the price for misconduct by executives, often of banks that no longer exist but have instead been taken over. Regulators have some sympathy with this argument, and the UK began consultations in July 2014 on a new senior managers’ regime, which would require executives to certify that they had done everything possible to prevent illegal activity in their bank. Bonuses would be subject to seven-year clawback provisions in the event of misconduct or heavy losses emerging in the bank. The response from the City was very critical ...

The CCP Research Foundation data shows that rolling conduct costs and provisions for 12 of the most-fined banks in 2009 to 2013 were £166.63bn ($261bn), compared with £154.96bn for 2008 to 2012. Shareholders are understandably starting to complain that they are paying the price for misconduct by executives, often of banks that no longer exist but have instead been taken over. Regulators have some sympathy with this argument, and the UK began consultations in July 2014 on a new senior managers’ regime, which would require executives to certify that they had done everything possible to prevent illegal activity in their bank. Bonuses would be subject to seven-year clawback provisions in the event of misconduct or heavy losses emerging in the bank.
The response from the City was very critical …

  • 2014: the year of banks behaving badly – “Growing geopolitical risk and the rising toll of misconduct fines overshadowed what should have been a year of strengthening economic recovery.” (Free registration required for this review by The Banker)
  • Hillary Versus History – “When Hillary Clinton thinks about running for president, do you think she contemplates the fact that no Democrat has been elected to succeed another Democrat since James Buchanan in 1856? … What do you think this means? Actually, there weren’t all that many Republicans who were elected to succeed Republicans either. “
  • How Fox News Covered Pope Francis’ Action On Climate Change – Skepticism, Fearmongering, And Comparison To “Widespread Population Control”
  • Tensions Mount as Israel Freezes Revenue Meant for Palestinians – “Israel is withholding $127 million in tax revenue it collects for the Palestinian Authority in response to its move last week to join the International Criminal Court, further escalating tensions with a step that could have serious repercussions for both sides.”
  • Understanding the Issues in the 2015 Nigerian Presidential Election – “In the past few years, several separate, regional political parties merged into the All Progressive Congress, creating the opportunity for a credible opposition to pose a real challenge to the ruling People’s Democratic Party, which has been in power since the transition to civilian rule in 1999. Tensions in the country are high: Regional economic inequality has exacerbated the long-standing north-south, Christian-Muslim divides. Similarly, President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to run again has disrupted traditional power-sharing agreements among the regions and religions. Boko Haram continues to threaten security around the country, especially in the north. The post-election violence of 2011 also continues to cast a shadow over the country.”

The crusade by the Sydney Daily Telegraph

January 3rd, 2015 Comments off

Quite a performance by the Sydney Terror this last month. The fear creating headlines began before the Martin Place siege. And they are still going – perhaps more stridently than ever.

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Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

A new kind of labor movement the one thing that can save America

January 3rd, 2015 Comments off


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The deterministic theory of politics – people know how they will vote months in advance

January 2nd, 2015 Comments off
  • Britons know their political destiny – “Britain’s general election takes place in May, but it is already over. Most people know how they will vote. Waverers who end up making a late choice were always going to go that way. Elections are decided by fundamentals that take shape over years, not by the vicissitudes of a campaign that starts now. This is the deterministic theory of politics. It does not allow for the purchase that campaigns can have on a race as tight as this one, but it is generally right. The coming months — the posters, the manifestos, the daily media cycles “won” by one party or another — will matter less than the accretion of events since the last election. May’s result is encoded in the minds of voters already: all politicians can do is bring it out.”
  • Japan’s Population Declined In 2014 As Births Fell To A New Low
  • Happiness and satisfaction are not everything: Toward wellbeing indices based on stated preference – “There is growing interest in alternative measures of national wellbeing, such as happiness or life satisfaction. This column argues that a small number of survey questions are unlikely to capture all the aspects of wellbeing that matter to people. Using a stated-preference survey, the authors find several aspects of wellbeing to be important that are not commonly included in wellbeing surveys, such as those related to family, values, and security. This approach could be used to provide weights for wellbeing indices.”big fat surprise
  • Are some diets “mass murder”? – Richard Smith ploughed his way through five books on diet and some of the key studies to write this article for the Beitish Medical Journal – “By far the best of the books I’ve read to write this article is Nina Teicholz’s The Big Fat Surprise, whose subtitle is “Why butter, meat, and cheese belong in a healthy diet.”3 The title, the subtitle, and the cover of the book are all demeaning, but the forensic demolition of the hypothesis that saturated fat is the cause of cardiovascular disease is impressive. Indeed, the book is deeply disturbing in showing how overenthusiastic scientists, poor science, massive conflicts of interest, and politically driven policy makers can make deeply damaging mistakes. Over 40 years I’ve come to recognise what I might have known from the beginning that science is a human activity with the error, self deception, grandiosity, bias, self interest, cruelty, fraud, and theft that is inherent in all human activities (together with some saintliness), but this book shook me.”
  • Assessment of the potential for international dissemination of Ebola virus via commercial air travel during the 2014 west African outbreak – From The Lancer: “Based on epidemic conditions and international flight restrictions to and from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone as of Sept 1, 2014 (reductions in passenger seats by 51% for Liberia, 66% for Guinea, and 85% for Sierra Leone), our model projects 2·8 travellers infected with Ebola virus departing the above three countries via commercial flights, on average, every month. … Exit screening of travellers at airports in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone would be the most efficient frontier at which to assess the health status of travellers at risk of Ebola virus exposure, however, this intervention might require international support to implement effectively.”
  • Where Will All the Workers Go? – “Recent technological advances have three biases: They tend to be capital-intensive (thus favoring those who already have financial resources); skill-intensive (thus favoring those who already have a high level of technical proficiency); and labor-saving (thus reducing the total number of unskilled and semi-skilled jobs in the economy). The risk is that robotics and automation will displace workers in blue-collar manufacturing jobs before the dust of the Third Industrial Revolution settles.”

Abolish red tape and keep torturing animals

January 2nd, 2015 Comments off

When it comes to the abolition of commercial animal torture, an individual Australian state and territory government can do little more than engage in futile gestures. The ACT Environment Minister Shane Rattenbury explained why when introducing changes to the Animal Welfare (Factory Farming) Bill that became law during 2014. As he explained to the Legislative Assembly:

This is now the fifth bill introduced into this Assembly by a Greens member to ban battery hens in the ACT. The first bill was passed in 1997. However, as the bill also included provisions banning the sale of caged eggs in the ACT, under the commonwealth Mutual Recognition Act, it needed approval from all other jurisdictions in Australia before the act could commence. As this did not occur, the act has been sitting on our statute books uncommenced for 16 years. This bill removes those provisions to enable the current bill to commence.

ACT animal welfare act

So what the ACT ended up with is legislation that bans battery hens by new producers, with an existing one given an exemption until 2016, and a law preventing intensive pig production which does not exist in the Territory at all. All very noble in its intention but purely symbolic because of that dreaded Mutual Recognition Act. When it comes to animal welfare we are condemned to the law o the lowest common denominator.

How different that is to the United States where the New Year saw California’s Prop 2 come into operation.

As explained in the New York Times:

The measure, which passed by a landslide vote in 2008, requires egg and some meat producers to confine their animals in far more humane conditions than they did before. No longer will baby calves (veal) or gestational pigs be kept in crates so small they cannot turn around and, perhaps more significantly, egg-laying hens may not be held in “battery” cages that prevent them from spreading their wings.

The regulations don’t affect only hens kept in California. In 2010, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill that extended the protections of Prop 2 to out-of-state birds: You cannot sell an egg in California from a hen kept in extreme confinement anywhere. For an industry that has been able to do pretty much what it wants, this is a big deal: It bans some of the most egregious practices.

A caring Australian government would amend the Mutual Recognition Act to allow Australian states to follow the Californian example.

Categories: Animal welfare Tags:

The rewards of ticket clipping

January 1st, 2015 Comments off

The Daily Mail reports today that 121 UK staff of banker Goldman Sachs have picked up £3m packages – a total £367m pay bonanza for the London staff.

fat cats

The salary packages equate to nearly £60,000 a week – more than 120 times the average wage.

Deborah Hargreaves of the High Pay Centre said: ‘This is a classic case of trying to bury bad news. This behaviour just underlines the breathtaking arrogance of the banking industry which thinks it can get away with anything.’ John Mann, a Labour MP on the Treasury committee in the Commons, said: ‘Goldman Sachs will struggle to find a biblical justification for this greed. They obviously wanted to sneak this out when everyone was celebrating New Year’s Eve, hoping no one would notice. This just reinforces the message that the bankers that caused us so many problems are out of control and out of touch.’

The Goldman Sachs pay and bonuses, which are for 2013, were handed out just in time to beat a cap introduced by the European Union 12 months ago.


Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

Another war waiting to happen in Gaza

January 1st, 2015 Comments off
  • Gaza Is Nowhere – “There is another war waiting to happen in Gaza. The last one changed nothing. Hamas rockets are being test-fired. A Palestinian farmer has been shot dead near the border. Tensions simmer. The draft Security Council resolution at the United Nations, championed by the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, seeking a withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank by 2017, amounts to an elaborate sideshow. The real matter of diplomatic urgency going into 2015, for the Palestinian people and the world, is to end the lockdown of Gaza.”
  • Tony Blair says Labour ‘left-wing’ warning ‘misinterpreted’ – Tony Blair has insisted he is fully behind Ed Miliband despite appearing to suggest Labour risks being too left-wing to win the general election. The former prime minister told the Economist May’s poll could become one “in which a traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, with the traditional result”.Asked if this meant a Tory win, he replied: “Yes, that is what happens.”hangover
  • You’re gonna get soooo wasted tonight, and Google knows it – “Google searches for “hangover cure” spike by an insane amount on New Year’s day.”
  • A year in a word: Novorossiya – “Vladimir Putin’s use of the word led many to fear Russian expansionism, says Courtney Weaver. Novorossiya – noun — the Black Sea territory that was part of the Russian Empire from the late 18th century until the Revolution of 1917. While most of the world considers the territory part of modern-day Ukraine, a group of pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine and the Moscow leadership beg to differ.”
His first notable caper was in 1975, at Bellewstown, an Irish track more noted for its lovely setting than the quality of its racing. Mr Curley’s horse, Yellow Sam, had not finished above eighth in two years; it was carrying 10kg less than some of its rivals. Yellow Sam’s performance, however, was not Mr Curley’s only concern, or even his main one. The real worry was the odds.

His first notable caper was in 1975, at Bellewstown, an Irish track more noted for its lovely setting than the quality of its racing. Mr Curley’s horse, Yellow Sam, had not finished above eighth in two years; it was carrying 10kg less than some of its rivals. Yellow Sam’s performance, however, was not Mr Curley’s only concern, or even his main one. The real worry was the odds.

  • Only fools and horses – The Economist recounts how the perfectly legal heists of a racehorse-trainer and former seminarian made him the bane of the bookies.
  • Debt piled up – A review by Eric Rauchway of THE SHIFTS AND THE SHOCKS – What we’ve learned – and still have to learn – from the financial crisis by Martin Wolf 496pp. Allen Lane. £25. “Over the course of his new book on the current economic unpleasantness, Martin Wolf conveys a sense of increasing frustration. …  Governments, banks and international institutions did “just enough, almost too late” to prevent the worst possible result, which would have been a note-for-note replay of the 1930s including a slide into fascism and world war. But having done no more than avoid world-historic catastrophe, we find ourselves mired in a dim morass of our own making, with no sunlit uplands in sight. No wonder Wolf is exasperated.”
  • Our new pro-science pontiff: Pope Francis on climate change, evolution, and the Big Bang