Friday, 22 May 2015

The Daily Tele sends a message

This morning's email message from Sydney's Daily Telegraph:
And the real message is - we have taken another step down the Photoshop path to becoming a comic book. As our front page this morning shows, we are in the world of make believe rather than the news business.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Bankers who aren’t cheating aren’t trying

Some words of truth remembered by London’s Financial Times this morning in a report on six banks being fined $5.6bn over rigging of foreign exchange markets.
Repeated efforts by traders to manipulate daily fixings of currencies and interest rates as outlined by the regulatory actions announced on Wednesday illustrate the dark underbelly of many of the trading operations run by global banks.
Or in the words of one Barclays trader from 2010, who was quoted in a settlement document: “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”
The thread that runs through three solid years of benchmark rigging cases is the assured way in which traders pushed around the prices of a whole series of financial products. They all seem to have believed they were immune from being rumbled for abusive behaviour.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Conservatives favoured to win most seats

The opinion polls pretty much have it 50:50. The Owl Indicator has the Conservatives favourite to win most seats and to provide the Prime Minister.
2015-05-07_mostseats2015-05-07_overallmajority2015-05-07_pmafterelection

Attempts to debunk political rumors may only reinforce their strength

  • Rumors, Truths, and Reality: A Study of Political Misinformation – Bad news, fans of rational political discourse: A study by an MIT researcher shows that attempts to debunk political rumors may only reinforce their strength. “Rumors are sticky,” says Adam Berinsky, a professor of political science at MIT, and author of a paper detailing the study. “Corrections are difficult, and in some cases can even make the problem worse.” More specifically, Berinsky found in an experiment concerning the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that rebuttals of political rumors about the supposed existence of “death panels” sometimes increased belief in the myth among the public.
  • Robert Fisk: Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It amazes me that all these warriors of the air don’t regularly crash into each other. … The sectarian and theological nature of this war seems perfectly clear to all who live in the Middle East – albeit not to our American chums. The Sunni Saudis are bombing the Shia Yemenis and the Shia Iranians are bombing the Sunni Iraqis. The Sunni Egyptians are bombing Sunni Libyans, it’s true, and the Jordanian Sunnis are bombing Iraqi Sunnis. But the Shia-supported Syrian government forces are bombing their Sunni Syrian enemies and the Lebanese Hezbollah – Shia to a man – are fighting the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Sunni enemies, along with Iranian Revolutionary Guards and an ever-larger number of Afghan Shia men in Syrian uniforms.
  • Beyond Quid Pro Quo: What Counts As Political Corruption?
  • Why No One Wants The Rohingyas  – The spectacle of thousands of desperate Rohingya Muslim “boat people” being denied landfall in Southeast Asia has laid bare the region’s religious and ethnic prejudices as well as its fears of being swamped by an influx of migrants. … The Rohingya practice a blend of Sunni and Sufi Islam. At best, the migrants have been received with resignation — at worst with contempt — even by the region’s Muslim nations.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Rumors, Truths, and Reality: A Study of Political Misinformation

  • Rumors, Truths, and Reality: A Study of Political Misinformation - Bad news, fans of rational political discourse: A study by an MIT researcher shows that attempts to debunk political rumors may only reinforce their strength. "Rumors are sticky," says Adam Berinsky, a professor of political science at MIT, and author of a paper detailing the study. "Corrections are difficult, and in some cases can even make the problem worse." More specifically, Berinsky found in an experiment concerning the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that rebuttals of political rumors about the supposed existence of "death panels" sometimes increased belief in the myth among the public.
  • Robert Fisk: Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It amazes me that all these warriors of the air don’t regularly crash into each other. ... The sectarian and theological nature of this war seems perfectly clear to all who live in the Middle East – albeit not to our American chums. The Sunni Saudis are bombing the Shia Yemenis and the Shia Iranians are bombing the Sunni Iraqis. The Sunni Egyptians are bombing Sunni Libyans, it’s true, and the Jordanian Sunnis are bombing Iraqi Sunnis. But the Shia-supported Syrian government forces are bombing their Sunni Syrian enemies and the Lebanese Hezbollah – Shia to a man – are fighting the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Sunni enemies, along with Iranian Revolutionary Guards and an ever-larger number of Afghan Shia men in Syrian uniforms.
  • Tweets analysed for clues to UK general election result - Analysis of Twitter comments could provide an accurate forecast of the UK general election result, computer scientists from Warwick university said on Tuesday. The method, which includes negative as well as positive tweets, aggregates this information with the latest estimate of the parties’ share of the vote as measured by conventional opinion polls to produce a daily prediction of voting share. Tuesday’s prediction shows the Conservatives slightly ahead of Labour with 33.48 per cent of votes compared with the opposition’s 33.06 per cent.
  • Beyond Quid Pro Quo: What Counts As Political Corruption?
  • Warren Buffett versus the hedge funds - With three years to go, Warren Buffett is comfortably winning his charity bet that a low-cost index tracker would trounce a portfolio of hedge funds over ten years. Returns from the S&P 500 index fund is beating a portfolio of funds assembled by hedge fund manager Protégé Partners by 63.5 per cent to 19.6 per cent, according to a slide Mr Buffett presented at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting this past weekend.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

A prudent Reserve Bank would wait

The monthly official interest game is upon us. And those bank economists who make a living selling their snake-oil opinions think the Reserve Bank board will cut the official rate by 0.25 percentage points to 2%.
Well the market, one those bank economists tend to make, tends to agree with them. Here's The Owl's interest rate indicator:

Some how it does not seem right to me. Perhaps an interest rate cut will be necessary but if I was a Reserve Bank board member I would wait see what the government did in its budget before moving.
I'll be having a small wager on there being no change tomorrow. See The Political speculator's diary.

Monday, 4 May 2015

The doubts about Abbott remaining Liberal leader continue

Federal parliament has not been sitting for a few weeks so the parliamentary press gallery has laid off on its obsession about Liberal leadership challenges, But out in the world where people are prepared to put their money where their opinion is the belief remains that Prime Minister Tony Abbott will not be Prime Minister when the next election comes.
The Owl’s leadership indicator, based on the betting markets, puts Abbott’s chances of remaining in charge at only just over 33%. That’s an improvement from earlier this year hardly encouraging as the House of Representatives returns for the budget session.
4-05-2015 liberalleaderindicator

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Is organic food safer and healthier?

Is organic food safer and healthier? The guy in charge of U.S. organics won’t say. - The Washington Post: "Are consumers right to think that organic food is safer and healthier? It seems like a straightforward question, especially for Miles McEvoy, the chief of the National Organic Program at USDA.
That’s the section of the federal government that champions organic farming practices and defines what food deserves the coveted organic label. But in an interview Wednesday, McEvoy wouldn't speculate about any  health benefits of organic food, saying the question wasn't "relevant" to the role of the National Organic Program.
Nor would he say whether growing consumer demand for organics reflects widening public skepticism of conventional U.S. agriculture.
Maybe McEvoy is unwilling to tout organics over conventional agriculture because, after all, conventional agriculture is the larger part of the USDA's realm. Or maybe he thinks, as some others do, that the science on organics is too tentative. Whatever the case,  the 57-year-old veteran of the movement was willing enough to talk specifics about how his group decides what foods deserve the USDA's coveted "organic" label."

'via Blog this'

Nina Simone sings Randy Newman’s Baltimore

nina simone baltimore
  • Baltimore – For this week’s Plus One Podcast we take a closer look at a song that seems to be on a lot of people’s minds this week: Nina Simone’s cover of Randy Newman’s “Baltimore.”
  • Black Culture Is Not the Problem – It is policy and politics, the very things that bind together the history of Ferguson and Baltimore and, for that matter, the rest of America. Specifically, the problem rests on the continued profitability of racism. Freddie Gray’s exposure to lead paint as a child, his suspected participation in the drug trade, and the relative confinement of black unrest to black communities during this week’s riot are all features of a city and a country that still segregate people along racial lines, to the financial enrichment of landlords, corner store merchants and other vendors selling second-rate goods. The problem originates in a political culture that has long bound black bodies to questions of property. Yes, I’m referring to slavery.jo brand labour ad
  • Jo Brand stars in new Labour Party Election Broadcast – Comedian Jo Brand stars in the Labour Party’s latest election broadcast which puts the spotlight on the Conservative Party’s record on the NHS. This is exactly what a party election broadcast should be.1. It’s single-minded.2. The language used by the talent feels vaguely authentic.3. The delivery isn’t forced.
  • An Unending Refugee Tragedy: Europe’s Path to Deadly Partition – Germany and its European Union partners want to prevent further refugee dramas in the Mediterranean Sea. But a look back at the policies adopted after the 2013 tragedy in Lampedusa shows they have made a terrible situation even deadlier.
  • Pope Francis Calls Gender Pay Gap A ‘Pure Scandal’
  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership is great for elites. Is it good for anyone else?
  • The joke was that Obama wasn’t joking
  • Norway’s sovereign oil fund earns more than government spends – The Government Pension Fund Global, which invests Norway’s oil wealth, made more money in the first three months of the year than the government spent in the same period — and then some.
  • A Better Way to Rein In Lobbying – It’s easy to get depressed about the state of American democracy. But we don’t need to be. The solutions are not overly complicated: Give government the resources it needs to think for itself and to develop policy without having to depend almost entirely on outside lobbyists. Make sure all sides have the resources to make their best case. The politics of checks and balances can do the rest.
  • Gay Marriage: Unthinkable or Inevitable? – Twenty-five years ago, same-sex marriage was for all practical purposes unthinkable. Today, it seems close to inevitable. This remarkable shift highlights the particular difficulty of the marriage equality case that came before the Supreme Court on Tuesday—but also points to the right result. On the one hand, the petitioners are asking the Court to recognize a constitutional right to something that until recently few Americans even deemed conceivable, and the Court is not the usual forum for radical change. On the other hand, once the question began to be asked, it turned out states had no good reason to deny recognition to gay and lesbian couples who seek to marry, as has become ever more clear over the past two decades. At this point, the Court has only two choices: to vindicate the demands of equality and liberty, or to validate discrimination. There is no third way.