Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Check the microphone is off

New Year’s eve took on a special flavour for watchers of CNN when comedian Kathy Griffin kept talking while the network went to an ad break.

You can catch it on You Tube here. 

Banging the deficit drum.

Peter Costello, I notice, is banging on the evil deficits drum as if this Labor Government is going to undo all his good work by acting to try and stop the country going down a depressionary gurgler. The former Treasurer took a moment while speaking at the annual KPMG Couta Boat classic yacht race in Sorrento to say the Rudd Government was set for a "challenging year". "I think the Government will find it's much harder to build financial strength than it is to spend it," he told the assembled corporate yachties. Meanwhile in the United States the recent recipient of the Nobel prize for economics, was publishing something of a nightmare scenario in the New York Times  where it takes Congress months to pass a stimulus plan, and the legislation that actually emerges is too cautious. “As a result,” wrote Krugman, “the economy plunges for most of 2009, and when the plan finally starts to kick in, it’s only enough to slow the descent, not stop it. Meanwhile, deflation is setting in, while businesses and consumers start to base their spending plans on the expectation of a permanently depressed economy — well, you can see where this is going. So this is our moment of truth. Will we in fact do what’s necessary to prevent Great Depression II?”

If politicians listen to the likes of Peter Costello and Malcolm Turnbull with their continued desire to portray deficits as inherently evil things then I guess the horror scenario might actually come to pass.

Another hot one

The annual temperature figures for Australia show we had another hot year in 2008. Data collected by the Bureau of Meteorology indicate that, overall, Australia’s annual mean temperature for 2008 was 0.41°C above the standard 1961-90 average, making it the nation’s 14th warmest year since comparable records began in 1910.

Readers of The Australian, or course, will be able to ignore all that having been told by an adjunct professor of virology (see An award winning example) that all the historical figures are nonsense. But back to the Bureau: Most regions recorded a warm year overall, apart from Queensland, northeast New South Wales and the Kimberley. Particularly high temperatures were recorded across inland Western Australia and the Northern Territory in January, as well as western Victoria and southern South Australia in March, with a record-breaking heatwave during the first half of the month. Conversely, cool temperatures were recorded in southeast Australia during February and again in April, across most of the country in August, and across the southwest during November.

When it came to rain the overall Australian mean rainfall total for 2008 was 466 mm, close to the long-term average of 472 mm.

An award winning example.

Any doubters who wondered whether The Australian really deserved to beat the London Daily Telegraph and the Wall Street Journal for the Real Climate title of "the most consistently wrong media outlet" should have a quick read of  this morning’s op ed piece The warmaholics' fantasy

The Minister proves he has become a politician … and a good one.

Never put off until tomorrow what can be let till the day after is good lesson for a politician that Environment Minister Peter Garrett seems to have learned well. This Minister with perhaps the most difficult job in government is handling the issue of the northern Tasmanian pulp mill with consummate skill. Putting off a decision was the best way of reconciling the irreconcilable pressures to be both green and pro-development. With any luck Minister Garrett will not have to deliver a final verdict until after the next election and he might even avoid the need to do so altogether. The financial pundits seem to think there is every chance that Gunns Limited will not be able to arrange finance for the project. Certainly it would be a brave financier who committed the necessary multi-millions while uncertainty remains about the impact of emissions from a mill in to Bass Strait.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Don't move from the centre of the beach

Another example of how electorally successful politicians put up their ice cream stall right slap, bang in the centre of the beach. President elect Barack Obama has invited evangelical pastorRick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration even though Warren supported California's Proposition 8 prohibiting the gay marriages that had been created by the state's supreme court. The gay lobby are outraged that their man has deserted their cause while the political operatives interested in winning elections see it as a master stroke by a President determined to continue holding the middle ground

Hoping for the comedienne

Republican hopes for political humour continue to rest with the Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin. These bumper stickers are being given away free as the grand old party prepares for the Barack Obama inauguration.

Lies and the lying liars

Any man who writes a book called “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right” has got to be an entertaining addition to the United States Senate but the news that Democrat Al Franken has ended the Minnesota count 225 votes in front will not be pleasing the folk at Fox News. The Franken book included a cover photo of Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly and a chapter accusing O'Reilly of lying and resulted in the Fox News Network launching defamation proceedings against the candidate. The case was thrown out of court and Franken commented that "the irony upon irony of this lawsuit was great. First, Fox having the trademark 'fair and balanced' -- a network which is anything but fair and balanced. Then there's the irony of a news organization trying to suppress free speech."

The Australian named media outlet of the year

 Another prestigious award to The Australian - the national daily has been named "the most consistently wrong media outlet" by the website Real Climate

My continuing survey of news by survey

The amount of news in our news media that is based on surveys continues to fascinate me. Without a doubt, if an astute PR wants to get an issue into the public debate then the release of a public opinion poll is the way to do it. This morning's example, which I first noticed in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, reports on a “myth-busting poll” finding that women who wear size-16 clothes are the most content group when it comes to overall well-being. The British survey asked 3000 women to rate their happiness when it came to careers, love lives and friendships. Size-14s were the second happiest group. Size 26, 22 and 24 women were found to be the least happy. And the origins of this important information? Kellogg's Special K, marketed as a slimming cereal, which the British consumer magazine Which? recently reported had the same amount of calories at 171 per 30g as Kellogg's Cornflakes and even more than Kellogg's Branflakes, 

Friday, 2 January 2009

What are we fighting in Afghanistan for?

You just have to wonder what the hell we are fighting for in Afghanistan. The New York Times this morning has a most distressing story about the extent of the corruption that is leading to a narco state financed and defended by the United States and its allies like Australia. The reality reported by these Times journalists is a long way removed from the rhetoric of western politicians about the need to stamp out the scourge of Muslim terrorism. Depress yourself and read it: Bribes Corrode Afghans' Trust in Government
What a pity that President elect Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd both thought it necessary to support this Afghan war in order to get elected. See my recent piece on the electoral logic behind that support.