Thursday, 30 October 2014

A hot summer coming?

The seasonal climate outlook released by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology suggests warmer than normal November to January days are more likely for Australia, except for far western areas of WA. Strongest odds are across northern and eastern parts of the country. Likewise, warmer than normal nights are more likely for most of the continent, except for far western parts of WA, and the northern Queensland coast.
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Climate influences include warmer than normal temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean and near normal tropical Indian Ocean temperatures. Maximum temperature accuracy is moderate to high over most of Australia, except for a region just south of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Minimum temperature accuracy is generally moderate to high over most of Australia.
When it comes to rainfall the Bureau suggests a drier than normal November to January is more likely over the northern and eastern Kimberley region of WA, the NT, Queensland, northeast SA, NSW, and most of Victoria. Elsewhere, the chances of a wetter or drier season are roughly equal.
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The November monthly outlook shows a drier than normal month is more likely over most of the northern half of WA, most of the NT, Queensland, northeast and central SA, and southeast NSW.
Climate influences include warmer than normal temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, near normal tropical Indian Ocean temperatures, and normal to below normal sea surface temperatures off our northern coasts. Outlook accuracy for the season is moderate to high over western and northern parts of WA, parts of the Top End of the NT, and the eastern mainland States. Elsewhere, accuracy is low.
If the seasonal outlook proves accurate then there probably be a political impact. Researchers keep finding that the weather people experience at the time has more influence on people’s attitude towards global warming than any predictions by the experts about long-term trends. A hot summer and support for action will increase only to decline again the next time the weather outside the window turns cold.

The ways of lobbyists seeking favorable deals

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  • Lobbyists, Bearing Gifts, Pursue Attorneys General – “Attorneys general have become the object of pursuit by lobbyists who use campaign contributions, personal appeals and other means to sway investigations or negotiate favorable deals, an investigation by The New York Times has found.”
  • Singapore upholds law that criminalizes gay sex – “Singapore’s highest court ruled on Wednesday that a law that criminalizes sex between men is in line with the city-state’s constitution, rejecting two separate appeals by three men that the measure infringed their human rights. The judgment comes as gay rights have become an increasingly thorny issue in Singapore’s traditionally conservative society.”
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  • Is economic growth permanently lower? – “The assumption that the mean growth rate is one of the great economic constants in advanced economies is simply wrong. … The slowdown in long run growth in the developed economies therefore seems to have become a permanent fact of life, rather than a temporary result of the financial crash that will disappear over time. But the actual path for GDP has fallen well below even the depressed long run equilibrium path since 2009.”
  • France grapples with rising tide of homegrown jihadis
  • Afghanistan: ‘A Shocking Indictment’ – A review of No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes by Anand Gopal – “His new and shocking indictment demonstrates that the failures of the intervention were worse than even the most cynical believed. … Again and again Gopal reminds us that the state, which the West was supposed to be developing, was far weaker than anyone acknowledged—and often simply didn’t exist. In truth, international statements about establishing “the rule of law, governance, and security” became simply ways of saying that Afghanistan was unjust, corrupt, and violent. “Transparent, predictable, and accountable financial practices” were not a solution to corruption; they were simply a description of what was lacking. But policymakers never realized how far from the mark they were. This is partly because most of them were unaware of even a fraction of the reality described in Gopal’s book. But it was partly also that they couldn’t absorb the truth, and didn’t want to. The jargon of state-building, “capacity-building,” “civil society,” and “sustainable livelihoods” seemed conveniently ethical, practical, and irrefutable. And because of fears about lost lives, and fears about future terrorist attacks, they had no interest in detailed descriptions of failure: something had to be done, and failure was simply “not an option.”
  • Hillary Clinton’s New Image: Cool Grandma. Can She Maintain It? – ‘When did Hillary Clinton become cool? … Whenever her ascent began, it reached a peak in March, when GQ published an interview with musician Pharrell Williams. In one of the most convoluted sentences ever recorded in the English language, he not only endorsed Clinton for president in 2016 but also predicted her win, one that would usher in purple-tinted national unity and a worldwide pro-choice matriarchy: “When we are a country and we are a species that has had a Martian Rover traveling up and down the crevices of this planet looking for water and ice, okay, and we’ve had a space station that’s been orbiting our planet for sixteen years—but we still got legislation trying to tell women what to do with their bodies? Hillary’s gonna win. Listen, I’m reaching out to her right now. She’s gonna win.” ‘
  • Do You Have To Open That Bottle Of Wine A Guest Brought To Your Home?

The Office of Forbidding Midday Alcohol Consumption

And you thought the nanny state was bad enough in Australia. Well the city of Shangqiu in Henan province has gone a step further. In 2007 it set up the Office of Forbidding Midday Alcohol Consumption to reduce alcohol consumption at government-funded lunches. No nipping out for a quiet glass at your own expense either. Officials were forbidden from consuming alcohol during the day. Staff members of the Office of Forbidding Midday Alcohol Consumption wait at the doors of restaurants, randomly inspect offices, and talk with officials to see if anyone has disobeyed the rule.
Details of this and other interesting aspects of China’s massive bureaucracy are given in the latest Tea Leaf Nation report “Foot Spas, Steamed Buns, and Midday Drinking”. Those steamed buns, it seems, are a matter of vital concern.
The proliferation of steamed bun offices has been causing trouble since at least 2001, when a local paper reported that in Zhengzhou alone, there were a total of six steamed bun offices at various levels, all of which held the power to approve (or to halt) the production of buns, a staple food for Henan residents. Jurisdictional conflicts often took place between these six offices, and the Zhengzhou city government later revoked their charters. But that hasn’t stopped other provinces from operating their own steamed bun regulatory committees. An Oct. 23 article in national outlet Beijing News showed staff from the steamed bun office in the ancient capital of Xi’an conducting a spot check on the weight of buns in a local kitchen.
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I was rather taken by The Watermelon Office.
This organization in Zhengzhou, the capital of the central province of Henan, helps suburban farmers sell their watermelons in the city by creating a “watermelon map” to connect buyers and vendors. The watermelon office isn’t short on social media savvy; the office now boasts over 50,000 followers on its verified account on Weibo, China’s Twitter.
2014-10-30_watermelonofficeChina’s state owned media are publicising efforts to streamline such “redundant” local committees out of existence following the June 2013 launch of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “mass-line campaign,” which seeks to fight corruption by bringing cadres in the ruling Communist Party closer to the people they ostensibly serve. The Xinhua newsagency reported this month on the efforts to reduce bureaucracy and red tape. But the redundancies are easier to claim than to achieve.
Tea Leaf Nation noted:
State media may be trumpeting Xi’s mass-line cleanup a bit prematurely. Some of the cited organizations continue to exist. After the publication of Xinhua’s critical article, the director of the Watermelon Office told one news outlet that the office would not be disbanded and would continue to serve farmers next year. There is no evidence showing the Pingshan government has gutted its ragweed removal outfit. And according to the website of the Xi’an Grain Bureau, its version of a steamed bun authority still persists.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Democracy is for infidels and other news and views for Wednesday 29 October

We are following Allah's word. We believe that humanity's only duty is to honor Allah and his prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. We are implementing what is written in the Koran. If we manage to do so, then of course it will be a success. ...
A Muslim is a person who follows Allah's laws without question. Sharia is our law. No interpretation is needed, nor are laws made by men. Allah is the only lawmaker. We have determined that there are plenty of people, in Germany too, who perceive the emptiness of the modern world and who yearn for values of the kind embodied by Islam. Those who are opposed to Sharia are not Muslims. We talk to the people who come to us and evaluate on the basis of dialogue how deep their faith is. ... 
Democracy is for infidels. A real Muslim is not a democrat because he doesn't care about the opinions of majorities and minorities don't interest him. He is only interested in what Islam says. Furthermore, democracy is a hegemonic tool of the West and contrary to Islam.
  • The Sectarian Apocalypse - "Despite fighting bitterly against each other in Iraq and Syria, many of the Sunni and Shi‘a militants who have been drawn to the battlefield are motivated by a common apocalyptic belief. ... One might expect that the recent entry of infidel armies into Iraq and Syria would lessen the internecine tone of the prophesying and focus attention on the Mahdi’s battle with the infidels. But it has only heightened the sectarian apocalyptic fervor as each sect vies to destroy the other for the privilege of destroying the infidels. Little wonder such a heady reenactment of the End Times drama on the original stage where it was performed is drawing an unprecedented number of Sunni and Shi‘a foreign fighters to the theater. In the sectarian apocalypse, everyone has a role to play in a script written over a thousand years ago. No one wants to miss the show."


  • Who Will Win The Senate? - According to the New York Times: "According to our statistical election-forecasting machine, the Republicans have a moderate edge, with about a 68% chance of gaining a majority."

  • Are Economists Ready for Income Redistribution? "It’s not the job of economists to tell society whether or not they should redistribute income, or if fiscal policy should be used to combat recessions. It’s to inform society of the potential consequences of policy actions, good or bad, and how to best reach particular goals. Too many economists allow their ideological beliefs to color the research they conduct, the advice they give, and the presumed goals of policy."

  • Address of the Holy Father Francis at the inauguration of a bronze bust in honor of Pope Benedict XVI at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 27/10/2014 - "Are you addressing the issue highly complex evolution of the concept of nature. I will not go at all, I understand well, the scientific complexity of this important and decisive question. I just want to point out that God and Christ walking with us, and are also found in nature, as stated by the apostle Paul in the Areopagus speech: "In God we live and move and have our being" ( Acts 17:28). When we read in the Genesis account of Creation in danger of imagining that God was a magician, complete with a magic wand that can do all things. But it does not. He created beings and let them develop in accordance with the internal laws that He has given to each one, because they develop it because it arrived to its fullest. He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time in which he assured them of his continued presence, giving being to all reality. Thus, the creation has been going on for centuries, millennia and millennia until it became what we know today, because God is not a creator or a wizard, but the Creator who gives being to all entities. The beginning of the world is not the work of the chaos that has another of its origin, but is derived directly from a supreme principle which creates love. The Big Bang , which today stands at the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine creator intervention but demands it. Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve."



Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Some new old Bob Dylan while Neil Young saves the earth along with other news and views for Tuesday 28 October

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  • First Listen: Bob Dylan, ‘The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11′ – “Recorded during a period of seclusion after Dylan’s 1966 motorcycle accident, The Basement Tapes present the already-iconic figure as he intentionally departs from the confrontational invective and tightly wound wordplay of the triumphs in his recent past — among them the single “Like A Rolling Stone” and the album Blonde On Blonde. Driven by what sounds like a desire to simplify his art, he begins by diving deeply into traditional American gospel (“My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It”) and modern offshoots (a tremendous version of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready”), folk (“Po’Lazurus”) and country (Johnny Cash’s “Big River” and “Folsom Prison Blues”). The Band’s Robbie Robertson has said that during this early phase, Dylan was “educating” his collaborators on folk and other styles they’d only recently encountered; they’d been primarily an R&B band before the Dylan tour. From there, Dylan wrote at a torrid clip, generating simple ballads, allegorical blues and story songs. These follow the general outlines of the covers; they eschew fancy language in favor of blunt declarations, and are built on the crisp, regular cadences of the blues. Though they’re not exactly heavy treatises, Dylan does at times venture into heavy topics — like the nature of goodness, salvation and the meaning of existence, themes he tackled more directly on his next album, John Wesley Harding.”
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  • A new green anthem – “Who is going to stand up and save the earth … this all starts with you and me.” A blunt-force environmentalist protest song — “End fracking now,” Neil Young demands at one point. Even Alan Jones might play this one from the Storytone album due out early next month.
  • The Pope and the Precipice – “To grasp why events this month in Rome — publicly feuding cardinals, documents floated and then disavowed — were so remarkable in the context of modern Catholic history, it helps to understand certain practical aspects of the doctrine of papal infallibility. On paper, that doctrine seems to grant extraordinary power to the pope — since he cannot err, the First Vatican Council declared in 1870, when he “defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.” In practice, though, it places profound effective limits on his power. Those limits are set, in part, by normal human modesty: “I am only infallible if I speak infallibly, but I shall never do that,” John XXIII is reported to have said. But they’re also set by the binding power of existing teaching, which a pope cannot reverse or contradict without proving his own office, well, fallible — effectively dynamiting the very claim to authority on which his decisions rest.”
  • Companies shouldn’t cave in to the demands of climate-change activists
  • It’s my belief and I’m sticking to it – “Part of the reason American voters have become more polarized in recent decades is that both sides feel better-informed. … A common response to this increasing polarization is to call for providing more unbiased facts. But in a phenomenon that psychologists and economists call “confirmation bias,” people tend to interpret additional information as additional support for their pre-existing ideas.”
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  • How the election could go into overtime – “Runoffs, quirky candidates and tight races in a number of states may mean that control of the Senate won’t be decided on Election Day.”
  • Your Creativity Might Be Stifled by Your Expertise – “It’s great to be an expert, right? Of course it is. But is it possible that your expertise is actually undermining your ability to think creatively and be open to new ideas? Recent research has revealed that this is exactly what can happen. Innovation–by definition–includes an element of newness. The more you know about a topic, though, the less likely you are to be open to truly groundbreaking advances in the same area. Put another way, the expertise that got you ahead can actually limit your creativity and willingness to consider new ideas.”
  • Who’s Going to Get Rich Fighting the Islamic State? – “Obama’s small war means big profits — and little oversight — for defense contractors and hired guns.”
  • Comcast: Broadband battleground – “The group may become the world’s largest media company. Content companies are worried. … The recent, shortlived $71bn bid for Time Warner, owner of HBO and CNN, from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox was driven in part by a need to create a company big enough to stare down Comcast in negotiations on distribution over its cable systems.”

Antony Green shows us just how much less than 50% Labor needs to win in Victoria

That wonderful one-man resource Antony Green has another of his helpful seat calculators on the Victorian state election. It helps immensely in interpreting what the opinion polls might mean in terms of seats won if repeated on polling day.
Take that Labor 52% two party share shown today by Galaxy. With that uniform swing of 3.6 percentage points Labor would end up with 50 seats to the Coalition’s 38. To get a tied result of 44 seats all, Labor only needs a vote of 48.8%.
The pollsters are going to be very off the mark if Labor does not get to that level.

Monday, 27 October 2014

The opinion polls are aligned and pointing strongly to a Victorian Labor victory

Two new opinion polls on the Victorian state election out today and they confirm the regular Newspoll in having Labor comfortably in the lead. Galaxy puts the two party vote at Labor 52% with the Coalition 48%; Morgan has Labor 52.5%, Coalition 47.5%; Newspoll is at Labor 55% and the Coalition 45%.
The new Galaxy result:
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This afternoon’s  “special” SMS Morgan Poll on State voting intention in Victoria conducted over the last few days (October 24-27, 2014) with a representative cross-section of 1,860 Victorian electors shows the ALP (52.5%, down 1.5% since September 2014) with an election-winning lead over the L-NP (47.5%, up 1.5%) on a two-party preferred basis.
On primary voting intention the L-NP (37.5%, unchanged) still leads the ALP (34%, unchanged). The ALP’s two-party preferred lead is because the high primary vote for the Greens (18.5%, up 0.5%) is boosting the ALP two-party preferred vote into the lead. Other minor parties include the Palmer United Party (PUP), 2.5% (down 0.5%), Family First (2.5%, up 0.5%), Country Alliance (0.5%, unchanged) and Independents/Others (4.5%, down 0.5%).
Gary Morgan in commenting on the results said that “the Greens vote is currently very high and unlikely to be maintained at the Victorian Election – recent polling before several National and State Elections has shown the Greens vote high in the months before an election but dropping at the election itself. The high Greens vote is caused by ‘disenchantment’ with the policies of the two major parties. ”
Newspoll is by now a touch historical but its reading for the July-August period had Labor well in front. Like Morgan, Newspoll had the Greens with support well above their level at the last state election.
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