Tuesday, 9 December 2014

An editorial in "The Australian" that should be read by all political journalists

Forget you prejudices. This morning The Australian has an editorial that deserves to be read; an editorial that puts the political adventure of Clive Palmer into a proper perspective.

The conclusion from the well argued Media can’t see story for dinosaurs and twerking:
Mr Palmer is our very own Silvio Berlusconi; a cashed-up bully willing to use his lawyers, money and, apparently, his business partner’s funds to get his way, even at the expense of our country’s future. But to what end? To settle scores, sure, and, perhaps, to advance his business interests, but certainly not to assist the national fiscal challenge. In fact, he does great harm. The only eventuality more humiliating for our national political discourse than Mr Palmer’s ability to win seats and hold sway in our national parliament is the parallel willingness of the bulk of our journalists to indulge his antics, ignore his failings and refuse to report or investigate his business affairs.
I, for one, plead guilty to having, in the editorial's words, "suspended normal scepticism about Mr Palmer’s political plays and business dealings." I will endeavour to do better.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Please send Tony Abbott to the beach with a novel – he looks and sounds like a tired and troubled man

When the morning television hosts turn on you a politician knows he is in trouble. Last week for Tony Abbott it was Karl Stefanovic on Today treating him with scant respect. This morning it was Sunrise’s David Koch out to prove that a Port Adelaide man can be tougher than a friend of that rugby loving Alan Jones like Karl. Both interviews would make Liberals squirm as their leader made a botch of trying to appear like an honest man.
The Prime Minister looked and sounded tired and troubled.
Surely it is time to get him out of sight and into his Speedos for rest and recuperation and a little contemplation about what to do and say in the year ahead.

A slowing growth in China, the myth of the American dream and other news and views for Monday 8 December 2014

  • China trade data well below expectations - “Trade data from the world’s second largest economy, China, came in well below expectations on Monday, heightening fears of a sharper slowdown. China’s exports rose 4.7% in November from a year ago, compared to market forecasts of a 8.2% jump. Imports fell 6.7% in the same period against predictions of a 3.9% rise.”
  • David Murray has gone rogue – “David Murray, and panel members Craig Dunn, former CEO of AMP, and Carolyn Hewson, former director of Schroders and BT Investment management, seem to have had a late life conversion, realising that the system they’ve been part of has failed. Consumers, it says, have not been getting fair treatment and the current regulatory framework ‘is not sufficient’. This is directly contrary to what the government, and the banks and retail super funds such as AMP, have been saying.”
  • It’s Brown, It’s Barrel-Aged, It’s … Gin? – “While many know gin for its light, bright and dry characteristics — citrusy, herbal flavors that go so well with tonic water — another gin sits at the opposite end of the spectrum. Malty, lightly tannic, and with the subtle sweetness and spice of a young whiskey, dark, barrel-aged gin is pushing the frontiers of this spirit forward. Dark gins are distilled the usual way, then spend months or even years resting in oak barrels — the same ones used to age whisky, wine and sherry. That final step yields surprisingly complex results. The wood tones down the intensity of the juniper, and adds notes of vanilla, caramel and often baking spices, somewhere between a bourbonlike gin and a ginlike bourbon.
Maca root
From Wikipedia
The pupils made their games using software made available with the popular medieval fantasy game Neverwinter Nights 2 - University of Sussex
The pupils made their games using software made available with the popular medieval fantasy game Neverwinter Nights 2 – University of Sussex
  • Girls better than boys at making story-based computer games, Sussex study finds – “Researchers in the [Sussex] University’s Informatics department asked pupils at a secondary school to design and program their own computer game using a new visual programming language that shows pupils the computer programs they have written in plain English. Dr Kate Howland and Dr Judith Good found that the girls in the classroom wrote more complex programs in their games than the boys and also learnt more about coding compared to the boys. There are persistent concerns about the underrepresentation of women in computing – only 17% of the UK’s computer science graduates in 2012 were female, despite a promising reduction of the gender gap in maths-related subjects at school level.”

Force me to bet on the Australian election and I’d back the Coalition

The opinion polls showing Labor with a comfortable lead over the Coalition keep coming. At the weekend there was Galaxy putting the twp party shares at 45% for the Coalition and 55% for Labor. This morning Fairfax-Ipsos had it 48% Coalition 52% Labor.
It is an uncommon thing to have a government so consistently behind the opposition for such a lengthy period in its first year or so in office but would you really like to put your own hard earned on Labor winning? I certainly wouldn’t and if you forced me to have a wager I’d be backing the Coalition. To me the Owl’s federal election indicator considerably overstates Labor’s chances of being the majority party come polling day.
Australian federal election indicator
Now don’t get me wrong. Tony Abbott is an unpopular Prime Minister. It’s just that with almost two years to go one of two things will most likely happen. Abbott will change his ways or his party will dump him. In both cases the voting public will start to look more closely at Labor’s Bill Shorten.
To my mind Shorten is a man who will fall short under real scrutiny, bringing the Labor vote down with him.

A big story with little coverage – Nick Xenophon and his NXT

The stultifying impact of the group think that dominates the federal press gallery was never more obvious than at the weekend when the announcement of a new political party went virtually unreported. In my opinion, Nick Xenophon’s announcement that he is taking his independent  ideas national is the most significant political event of 2014. The NXT – the Nick Xenophon Team – should rock the major parties to their very foundations as it boosts the already strong movement by voters away from Liberal, Labor and National. Yet the launch by Senator Xenophon of his new Team was ignored at the weekend and again this morning by the so-called movers and shakers of political journalism. Such reports as you will find are based on an orthodox straight report from AAP with this, stuck away at the bottom of the Sydney Sunday Telegraph, being typical:
Only the Senator’s home town Sunday Mail gave the Xenophon statement the prominence it deserved:
Party time for Mr X
Not that being so stupidly ignored by most of the media will blunt for long the South Australian Senator’s plan to take his attack on the two party system. He is the supreme parliamentary publicist of my 50 years reporting from Canberra. We will be reading and hearing much about NXT in 2015 and beyond.
Here is the full text of the statement that should have been on page one everywhere”
NXT Launch
Speech by Nick Xenophon, 7 December:
The last two weeks in federal parliament are glaring proof that politics in Australia has become so toxic, so negative that its destroying our trust in our democracy, and the ability to fix nation’s problems.
Every couple of years the major political parties have expected us to walk into a polling booth and put a number one in the box of the political party we dislike the least.
Voters are sick of parties that promise one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. And they’re sick of the sort of behaviour we’ve been seeing in Parliament.
Now, there are good people in the Coalition and Labor.
But the current two-party system is so suffocating that good politicians can’t do what they believe is the right thing.
Way back in 1988, when the current Parliament House was opened in Canberra, Australians were actively encouraged to walk on the huge lawns above our nation’s capital building.
The designers of Parliament House thought that symbolically, it was incredibly important that any Australian – woman, man, or child – could casually stroll above their elected leaders.
It was a reminder that at the top of our political system are the people – not the pollies, not the donors, not the spin doctors – but the people.
And that’s the way it must always be.
That’s why today I am announcing my intention to launch a new and better national political choice for Australia.
While I’m a little uneasy about using my name for this new choice, I’ve been convinced by others that it’ll make it easier to find NXT on a ballot paper.
NXT is about politics, done differently.
It’s about creating a common sense approach to politics.
NXT will be a centrist choice.
It’s not about left or right, it’s about right or wrong.
It’s about looking at every issue on its merits and working out the best outcome for everyone.
For too long the major parties have cynically got together to block sensible reforms, because of narrow powerful interests. Pokies are a classic and tragic example where the public interest has been crushed by the vested interests of the gambling lobby.
It’s time politicians were honest with the Australian people.
Voters shouldn’t be forced to choose between the left or the right of the political spectrum, when most of us just want to be somewhere in the middle.
For the past few months I have been working with a small team planning this launch.
And in the next year I will find like-minded people to run in every state and territory who share the same common sense approach to politics.
The NXT will be committed to open and honest communication with the Australian people.
We’re not going to spin. We’re not going to rely on fear campaigns.
We’re not going to spend all our efforts trying to make our opponents look bad.
NXT will simply tell you how we see things, get your advice and then tell you straight what we intend to do about it.
If you like what we plan to do, you can vote for us. It’s that simple.
If successful, we will continue the kind of collaborative approach I’ve always employed in my dealings with my fellow Senators.
I believe that a spirit of co-operation should be the norm, not the exception.
That said, real independence will be important to NXT.
We’re not going to be for sale to the highest bidder in the way the major parties sometimes seem to be.
Put simply, you can give NXT money if you like what we do, but you can’t give us money to change what we do.
The NXT wants donors, not owners.
Hopefully the NXT will be able to sustain itself with small donations from ordinary Australians who just want democracy to work for them.
Now, I’ve been in politics for a decade and a half.
And I can’t think of a time when Australian voters have seemed more disillusioned and disengaged.
I cannot tell you how many people have stopped me around the nation, from Broome to Ballarat, from the top end to Tasmania – especially in the last two years – and asked if they will ever be offered a different, better choice in Canberra.
The answer is yes, and that’s why I am sticking my neck out.
Politicians should listen to the people instead of walking all over them.
And they should respect the fact that they are here to serve, not to rule.
That’s what NXT will stand for.
And I hope the people of Australia will support NXT.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

The future looks incredibly bleak for social democrats

  • Surfers Without Waves – Is Social Democracy Dead In The Water? - “No social democratic party anywhere in the world is on the front foot. Sure, parties may find themselves in government – as they do in Denmark, Sweden, Germany and France, in their own right or as part of a coalition – but this happens by accident and tends to be down to the failures of the right. And in office, social democrats tend to follow austerity or austerity-lite measures. No social democratic party has a strident and confident set of intellectual and organisational ideas that propel a meaningful alternative political project. The future looks incredibly bleak. Why? … The brief upturn in the electoral fortunes of social democrats in the mid 1990s around the third way, the new middle and Clintonism was won at the expense of the further erosion of an increasingly ignored electoral base. In the mistaken belief it had nowhere else to go, core support was traded for core values and reliance pinned on a dysfunctional financialised capitalism that backfired spectacularly in 2008 with social democrats caught with their fingers in the neo-liberal till. … Instead of more things we didn’t know we wanted, paid for with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t know, social democrats are going have to talk about more of other things – more time, public space, clean air, community and autonomy.
  • Antarctic seawater temperatures rising – “New research published … in the journal Science shows how shallow shelf seas of West Antarctica have warmed over the last 50 years. The international research team say that this has accelerated the melting and sliding of glaciers in the area, and that there is no indication that this trend will reverse.”
  • Racial Divide: The Tragedy of America’s First Black President – Police killings of black youth in Ferguson and Cleveland have outraged many in the US. The tragic events show how deep the societal divide remains between blacks and whites. Many have given up hope that President Obama can change anything.
  • The Last Chapter – Books and bookselling have been with us for a couple of thousand years, in which time they have progressed out of the libraries and into bookshops and homes, away from institutions and towards individuals. A great success story, but nearly all stories have an ending.
  • New Asahi Shimbun chief promises to restore public trust in daily – “The Asahi Shimbun’s new president vowed Friday to rebuild domestic and international trust in the beleaguered paper by broadening the range of views expressed in its pages, correcting erroneous information in a timely manner and being more careful with investigative stories. Masataka Watanabe, 55, formally assumed his new post as president Friday, taking over from Tadakazu Kimura, who stepped down to take responsibility for errant reporting based on the transcript of a government interview with Masao Yoshida, the late head of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.”
New Republic
  • Have You Resigned from The New Republic Yet? – “Yesterday, the magazine’s two top editors, Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier, quit before they could be fired. Gabriel Snyder, a former editor of Gawker and the Atlantic Wire, is the new editor of the magazine, which will reduce its frequency from 20 issues per year to 10. (Foer reportedly learned he was going to be replaced from reading a post on Gawker.) … The pair’s ousting has led to a mass exodus from the masthead, which began yesterday when contributing editors Jonathan Chait and Ryan Lizza cut ties via Twitter, and picked up this morning. By our count, 33 of the magazine’s editors and contributors have also resigned.
  • Can anyone be a journalist? UGA researcher examines citizen journalism – Citizen journalists are expanding the definition of journalists. And new research by a University of Georgia professor looks at how two court cases work together to uphold freedom of expression.
  • Looking at El Niño’s past to predict its future

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Some Conservative ideas for Joe Hockey’s MYEFO

If Joe Hockey really is keen on some deficit reducing action, perhaps Britain’s Conservative Government has provided some ideas.
UK autumn statement
That’s how the business section of London’s Daily Telegraph headlined the tax changes outlined by the Chancellor.
GEORGE Osborne has used his last Autumn Statement before the general election to launch an £8bn tax raid on big business, targeting banks and multinational technology companies.
The Chancellor intends to raise billions by enforcing a “Google tax” on multinationals which artificially divert their UK profits overseas, while also blocking a corporation tax rule that allows banks to use the losses they racked up during the financial crisis to offset their future profits. The moves, combined with a string of other measures to stop companies avoiding tax, will help to fund a major overhaul of stamp duty and an increase in the personal income allowance to £10,600.
A different kind of approach to raising the dosh than being taken in Australia by our Treasurer Joe Hockey.