Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Monday, 29 December 2008
Sunday, 28 December 2008
Friday, 26 December 2008
It has become very fashionable for Australians to look to China as the great salvation for our economic prosperity but it really is Japan that we should be worrying about. The growth in Australian exports to China might have been dramatic from a low base but it is still Japan that contributes the greatest number of dollars. And, unfortunately, it is Japan which is suffering the greater economic hardship as a result of the international financial crisis.
Monday, 22 December 2008
Sunday, 21 December 2008
It's probably unfair of me to pick on Thomas L. Friedman because there are literally thousands of articles that described
This is what Friedman wrote in May 2005
Here's something you probably didn't know:
Irelandtoday is the richest country in the European Union after . Luxembourg
Yes, the country that for hundreds of years was best known for emigration, tragic poets, famines, civil wars and leprechauns today has a per capita G.D.P. higher than that of
Germany, Franceand . How Britain Irelandwent from the sick man of Europeto the rich man in less than a generation is an amazing story. It tells you a lot about Europe today: all the innovation is happening on the periphery by those countries embracing globalization in their own ways - Ireland, Britain, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe- while those following the French-German social model are suffering high unemployment and low growth.
And as a comparison consider these words from this morning’s Irish Sunday Independent newspaper:
At an office in the IFSC in Dublin on Tuesday night the owners of commercial property were told to expect that a third of retail businesses throughout the country will close between January and Easter next year.
The shocking assessment was delivered in a week in which definitive evidence emerged that the cosseted political and banking establishment are operating in what several observers have described as a “virtual world”.
The devastating impact of the economic crisis has been evident for some time: official figures last week showed that unemployment jumped from 4.6 per cent earlier this year to 7 per cent at the end of September.
The ESRI has predicted that unemployment will hit 10 per cent next year. But many economists believe that figure has already been reached and is likely to be surpassed: some say unemployment may even exceed an astonishing 12 per cent, or close to 500,000 people.
, the economy will decline by at least 4 per cent, perhaps up to 6 per cent. As a result, at least 117,000 people will lose their jobs next year and a minimum 50,000 will be forced to emigrate. Ireland
Friday, 19 December 2008
.” Lies, Damn Lies and AFR Editorials on statistics” is what Brian Pink has called the statement on the ABS website this morning responding to an editorial in yesterday’s Financial Review. The Australian Statistician is clearly peeved the Fin has resorted “to a conspiracy theory to seek to explain my decisions over the past 12 months on changes to the statistical program of the ABS.”
Mr Pink also expresses his disappointment that “the AFR published this opinion without paying me the courtesy of contacting me to get my views on the situation.”
Clearly Mr Pink is a sensitive fellow who does not fancy with being portrayed as the villain whose changes to data collection made retail sales statistics unreliable and that is understandable enough. If there is a villain in this story of budget cutbacks it is those dreadful fellows in the Department of Finance with their love of across the board efficiency dividends. At least the Statistician can console himself with the knowledge that this little stoush will make it more likely that his budget will be dealt with more sympathetically in the round of discussions now getting under way.
It's almost a law of governments - if something you are doing doesn't work don't change it just do more of it. We see this principle regularly applied in various attempts at social engineering and now I notice it has spread to economics.
One of the necessary first steps in the global financial crisis was a slavish belief in those strange institutions called ratings agencies who charge those wanting to borrow money to obtain a credit rating. To get the fee for doing the work the ratings agency first has to be chosen by the borrower. Human nature being what it is, borrowers look for an agency that will give them the highest possible rating so the interest they have to pay is as little as possible. The temptation for the ratings agency to be generous in its assessment is considerable for if they don't get the job they don't get the fee.
So it came to pass that all those collateralised debt obligations or whatever they are called, ended up changing from sub-prime mortgages made to people buying houses they could not afford into triple A rated securities. It turned out to be a con on a major scale with ratings agencies nothing more than negligent money grabbers determined to get in for a share of the ill gotten gains.
To save financial institutions from collapse the American Treasury had to come to the rescue and take over billions of dollars worth of dud paper. But how to work out how much to pay banks to rescue them from their mistakes? Why, trot along to those very same ratings agencies of course and pay them a fee to value it for you.
The Bloomberg news agency gave US taxpayers this good news this morning. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, it said, is basing hundreds of billions in emergency lending on credit ratings from companies that gave AAA grades to toxic securities.
The Fed has purchased $308.5 billion in commercial paper and lent $631.8 billion under eight credit programs, most of which require appraisals of short-term debt and loan collateral by “major nationally recognized statistical ratings organizations.” That, in effect, means Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings.
It is foolhardy to rely on the three New York-based companies, said Keith Allman, chief executive officer of Enstruct Corp., which trains investors in financial modeling and asset valuation. The major raters issued top marks to $3.2 trillion in subprime mortgage-backed securities at the root of the financial crisis.
“They’re outsourcing the credit assessment to a group of people whose recent performance has been unbelievably bad,” said Allman, the New York-based author of three books on structured finance and a former vice president in Citigroup Inc.’s securitized markets unit. “If their goal is to not take a loss on these assets, they should be hiring independent analysts.”
Thursday, 18 December 2008
Preaching to the converted is a hard habit forThe Australian to break. From the moment Labor nearly lost the Northern Territory election, the paper's political writers -- federal and state -- have all been going on about some sagging national trend for Labor. The actual West Australian defeat was confirmation that the resurrection was underway and Labor's slide in the polls in New South Wales was portrayed as inevitable.
Then along comes the opinions of those pesky Queenslanders and Victorians. In both states, Newspoll has measured Labor on the improve. How can we fit that into our sagging national trend? Yesterday, bringing the Newspoll news about Queensland, where the two party vote is now 57% to 43% on a two-party basis, Sean Parnell made the grudging concession that "Labor has slowed the momentum of the Liberal National Party's run to the next election" but Premier Anna Bligh is struggling to keep pace with her Opposition and satisfy community expectations.
Just run that by me again: Labor's vote is going up and the LNP's is going down and Labor would bolt in if these figures were repeated on election day, but the momentum of the LNP has only been slowed? Clearly there's something that Sean knows that I have missed.
At least this morning, giving the Newspoll verdict of Victorians, Ewin Hannan did not try to hide that Labor has "performed a remarkable turnaround", regaining a commanding lead over the Coalition at the mid-point of the state's electoral cycle. The same 57 to 43 two party vote share as in Queensland is higher than the Steve Bracks-led Labor Party got at the last Victoria election. There's not much evidence of a sagging national trend there, nor is there in the Newspoll federal findings, which also has Labor further in front than at the election a year ago.
No doubt the world wide recession will get us all in the end but at least this one seems to be starting in a different way. As the London Evening Standard pointed out over nuight, it is the middle class professions such as finance, advertising and consultancy that are being hit first.
3. Oral sex blamed for throat cancer rise
4. Ponting 'must be sacked'
5. Victoria's killer weather causes chaos
6. Stolen photos from laptop tell a tawdry tale
7. 'Terrorist' gunmen massacre scores across Mumbai
8. Nine million Australians are a ticking 'fat bomb'
9. Condoms? You've stumped me: McCain
10. Court hears sordid tale of bullying, sex, buggery
11. 9/11 collapse mystery solved: scientists
12. Call for help: 'I think he may be dead'
13. Warning of new bin Laden attack
14. Party's over for Playboy king Hugh Hefner
15. New world a wonder for Austrian cellar children
16. Rudd unveils $10.4b stimulus plan
17. Why 10 is too young for your first Brazilian
18. Historic victory for Barack Obama
19. The controversial career of Bill Henson
20. McCain goes for jugular, but misses
21. How Google put Bill's grief on show
22. Malcolm Turnbull wins Liberal leadership
23. Streaker no match for Symonds
24. C--- does not have to be the dirtiest word
25. Legend, moron or just a naughty boy
26. 'Kristen' and the Emperor: how the mighty have fallen
27. I lost 26kg with stingy exchange family: teen
28. Train journey ended with blood on the floor
29. Woman tells of being 'raped' by minister
30. The frightful things 'Client 9' asks of women, including his wife
31. Hack into a Windows PC - no password needed
32. RBA stuns with massive rate cut
33. A shattering moment in America's fall from power
34. Principal 'molested schoolgirls'
35. House prices are a bubble waiting to burst
36. Tears in Melbourne as PM delivers apology
37. Party boy achieves global notoriety
38. Man 'had 7 children by daughter in cellar'
39. The porn supremacy
40. A man walks into a bar ... ouch!
41. Big Brother housemates revealed
42. Palin into insignificance?
43. Teacher 'wanted to be boy's sex slave'
44. Bi the Way, what does push women's buttons?
45. Hostel employee's shock over last known Britt photo
46. Melbourne's Mr Sushi shuts up shop
47. Commuter train kills driver in level crossing smash
48. Republicans fear historic landslide defeat
49. Men behaving badly
50. Father, sons die in wharf tragedy
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Australian elections in the second half of the 1980s and the early 1990s produced the seemingly anomalous situation where a Government presiding over difficult economic times kept winning elections. Now there are signs that the British Labour Government is benefiting from a similar phenomenon. In the midst of this giant economic crisis where banks are being bailed out and recession has struck, Labour is narrowing the gap in the opinion polls between itself and the Conservatives.
The Guardian/ICM poll out this morning shows the gap between the two main parties has dropped from 15 points to just five.
The Guardian says that voters are sceptical of the opposition's ability to handle the economy. Asked to compare Conservative Leader David Cameron and Prime Minister Gordon Brown on a series of characteristics, Brown pulls ahead by 11 points as the person most likely to get the economy back on track. He scores 35% against 24% for Cameron.
Australian politicians are beginning to get into this internet business. I received my first Christmas e-card last night and a charming effort it was too. Malcolm Turnbull has gathered together literally hundreds of illustrations from children around the country and I predict there will be lots of proud Mums and Dads forwarding the Opposition Leader's words to friends and relatives in the next few days. Clever viral marketing is what I think the experts call it.
Giving in to blackmailers is rarely a sensible thing to do. Even if the one you pay sticks to the bargain and goes away after taking the money, the payment encourages someone else to do the same.
Being a willing party to publishing the embarrassing material in the event that the blackmailer's bluff is called is not only a pretty grubby act but serves as a warning to future victims of extortion attempts that payment is preferable to publication.
Which makes this morning's case involving the Channel Seven presenter Andrew O'Keefe a particularly sordid affair that exposes yet again the appalling morality of commercial television networks.
As told in the Confidential pages of the Melbourne Herald Sun Nine spokesman David Hurley claimed Seven allegedly paid $25,000 to a bouncer hawking mobile phone footage of its star Andrew O'Keefe on a wild night out in South Yarra last month. The footage, which has been seen by Nine sources, is claimed to have been taken of O'Keefe in
The story continued:
"The vision is absolutely clear and irrefutable," Hurley said last night.
"O'Keefe's splayed in the street, profoundly inebriated. He has to be helped to his feet by a blonde woman who disappears down the street.
"I don't think you'll be seeing it anytime soon on Today Tonight."
The bouncer confirmed he had spoken to Seven and Nine about the tape.
"Do you want a story as well? You come with the folding as well," he said when asked if he had sold the tape to Seven.
The grainy footage allegedly shows O'Keefe lying on his back on the footpath outside the Revolver nightclub.
The vision allegedly shows O'Keefe crawl along the footpath. He tries to get to his feet and then heads off along the footpath with a blonde female friend.
The entire episode takes about a minute. It is believed there is more than one copy of the footage.
Now when you are a television star whose program is shown to Mum, Dad and the kids in prime time, being captured on camera legless is not exactly the look your network would want from you. That, presumably, is why Seven bought the tape with no intention of showing it. It was a way of protecting their investment in this particular piece of talent.
I am no lawyer and the particular nuances of the law of extortion or blackmail are outside my area of expertise. But I did find during my quick Google search this morning that the NSW Criminal Trial Courts Bench Book, which suggests words that their Honours might use in summing up such a case, says the following: "The offence of extortion or blackmail is committed when one person dishonestly makes a demand on another person for specified property in the possession of or under the control of that person, and that demand is accompanied by threat or force."
I did note as well that the Wise Geek drew attention to "A relatively new form of blackmail, more similar to extortion, [that] is known as commercial blackmail. In this crime, a business is the victim. The blackmailer threatens an action which would be devastating to the company's sales or reputation and typically demands a large payment."
Tuesday, 16 December 2008
"Perkins, I'm asking you to lay down your life. We need a futile gesture at this stage – it'll raise the whole tone of the war. Get up in a crate, Perkins... pop over to Bremen... take a shufti... don't come back. Goodbye, Perkins. God, I wish I was going, too."
"Goodbye, sir. Or is it... 'au revoir'?"
Monday, 15 December 2008
What they didn't report on the evening news is this: Lisa Madigan is more than just "the people's lawyer." She's a candidate for governor and Dead Meat is in her way. Her daddy is Mike Madigan, powerful boss of the machine's 13th Ward and speaker of the Illinois House who hates Dead Meat.
Her dad wants to make her governor. She wants to be governor. And the best way to get there is to whisk Dead Meat into a political straitjacket and lock him in the political version of a padded cell.
The singer, represented by solicitors Carter Ruck and, in court, by William McCormick, claimed that the article suggested that John's commitment to the charity is so insincere that he hosts the ball knowing that only a small proportion of the money raised will go to the charity, and that he uses the event "as an occasion for meeting celebrities and/or self-promotion".
It was also suggested that Hyde acted maliciously, as she was aware that the sponsors covered the costs of the ball and all the money raised - between £6.6m and £10m - went to the charity. In Hyde's "diary" she suggested that "once we've subtracted all these costs, the leftovers go to my foundation. I call this care-o-nomics." The Guardian, represented in court by Gavin Millar QC, denied John's claims and argued that the article had to be taken in context. It was also argued that no reasonable reader would have believed that the words were meant to be taken at face value. The judge agreed.
"The transparently false attribution is irony," said Tugendhat, in a 17-page judgment. "Irony is a figure of speech in which the intended meaning is the opposite of that expressed by the words used ... The attribution is literally false but no reasonable reader could be misled by it." The judge added: "Irony is not always a form of sarcasm or ridicule."
For the Guardian, Millar submitted that the words used were "obviously a form of teasing" and the judge accepted this. "The words complained of ... could not be understood by a reasonable reader of the Guardian Weekend section as containing the serious allegation [that only a small proportion of the money raised went to charity].
"If that was the allegation being made, a reasonable reader would expect so serious an allegation to be made without humour, and explicitly, in a part of the newspaper devoted to news."
The judge suggested that "if the Guardian were to expose a fraud of the kind that is alleged ... then such a reasonable reader could be sure that the exposure would be written without any attempt at humour". He added: "It is common ground that the meaning of words, in law as in life, depends upon their context."
Friday, 12 December 2008
Thursday, 11 December 2008
As evidence I product this email received yesterday. Win a Ute! it says. "The search for Australia's Hottest Tradie is on! At RSVP, we're saying goodbye to the metrosexual male and celebrating our hardworking tradesmen. One winner will be crowned Australia's Hottest Tradie and will take home a brand new Ute plus a host of fantastic prizes. So, if you're a tradie enter now and ladies... we're counting on your vote!"
The ban introduced on kava imports last year by the Coalition Government was one of the more stupid elements of the radical attempt to protect Aboriginal Australians from harming themselves. Apparently the use of the drug in the Northern Territory was not instead of alcohol as with the Pacific Islanders but as well as. Without thinking of the broader implications the import of kava other than in small quantities as luggage for personal use was outlawed.
Our Customs Service was boasting last week that it had intercepted an illegal shipment of four tonnes of kava. They should be embarrassed at having to perform such duties.