Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Beseeching Rupert Murdoch to keep letting Fox rescue the GOP and other news and views for Wednesday 30 April

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An opinion about China to frighten Australians

It is only an opinion so let's hope it's wrong:
30-04-2014 chinaopinion
But then, London's Financial Times is no tabloid scare monger.
Just another little something to think about when studying all those budget forecasts and projections out into the distant never-never on Tuesday week.
Prasenjit Basu is founder of, an independent economic research firm. His rather frightening conclusion:
In a country that already accounts for half of all capital-intensive production globally, and nearly a fifth of all US imports, the growth of manufacturing will inevitably slow. A thriving service sector could pick up some of the slack. But building more houses and railways is not the way to encourage it.
China’s economy is in an unbalanced state. It can stay that way for some time – but the longer it does, the worse the eventual outcome will be. The industrial sector is already plagued by falling prices. To avert a wider deflationary spiral, the country needs to wean itself off the false cure of perpetual policy stimulus.

The Sydney Daily Tele just confuses me further

From page one of the Sydney Daily Telegraph yesterday:
30-04-2014 tuesday
From page one of the Sydney Daily Telegraph today:
30-04-2014 wednesday
Is that clear then?
As I wrote yesterday, don’t ask me. I can’t explain it. I should have stuck to my promise and just turned over the page when I saw a mention of the forthcoming budget and kept patiently waiting for Tuesday week.

Obama acting like his mother's son in foreign policy?

29-04-2014 obamalatimes
The question posed Tuesday morning on page one of the LA Times clearly puzzles many as, no doubt,  did his response at a press conference in Manila at the end of his latest Asian tour as he answered with a couple of questions of his own:
“Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs? And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?”
Quite by accident I stumbled recently on an article published in the Asian Times online back in January 2010 that perhaps helps explain why Barack Obama is the least belligerent US President at least since Dwight Eisenhower. She had a dream is a review of a book by Obama’s mother S Ann Dunham that a  group of economic and cultural anthropologists, who worked with her for more than 30 years, published after her death from cancer.
29-04-2014 s.anndunham
Notes the reviewer Dinesh Sharma:
Caught between the Beat generation and the hippies, Dunham was a product of the radical ideals of the 1960s and raised her children with the same idealism and values, recalled Alice Dewey, professor of anthropology at the University of Hawaii, who was a mentor and friend of Dunham.
When US President Barack Obama accepted the Noble Peace Prize, he fulfilled one of the cherished dreams of his mother to be a peacemaker. “She would be so proud of him right now,” said Alice Dewey as she became tearful. “Ann Dunham was becoming well known in her own right and getting recognized for her development work before she passed away.”

It is these observations by Sharma that suggest the influence might have had on the son:
Her passion for working with the rural poor in Indonesia was founded on her belief in equality, King, and the civil rights movement; her choices in life partners were a reflection of this commitment. Barack Obama literally grew up in the field; when Dunham traveled around the islands of Indonesia and to other cultures both Barack and his sister Maya often accompanied her.
In a recent interview, Dewey bluntly told me that Barack Obama deserved the Nobel Peace Prize for putting an end to the policies that pitted America in a “stupid” death match with other cultures. She said his mother above all was a humanist before she was an anthropologist; not a little Margaret Mead, but perhaps a junior Dorothy Day.
“He learned from her that if you did the right things in the local cultures with everyday people that over time you could a make positive difference in people’s lives,” Dewey said.
Dunham would often work on a dozen or more development projects at a time, ranging from helping women’s literacy development to working with local artisans to secure micro-credits or modest loans. This was long before micro lending to the poor became the hot trend in global economics and probably shortly after Muhammad Yunus, the Noble laureate economist, began his work in Bangladesh.
An Australian art historian and curator at the University of Hawaii, Bronwen Solyom, who also worked in Indonesia with Dunham and provided most of the photographs displayed in the book, suggested that she did not have any particular theory of social and economic justice. She was really interested in people; she was a humanitarian. While she wrote a 1,000-page dissertation on economic anthropology, reformers like Gandhi and King, the archetypes of non-violent social change, inspired her.
After reviewing Dunham’s book and speaking with her circle of friends and colleagues, it dawned on me that the role of the peacemaker, with a heightened ability to deploy soft power as a political tool, is not just an abstract idea or a strategy for President Obama. It seems to be neither a clever gimmick nor a hopefully naive, idealistic and doomed-to-fail policy designed by White House analysts.
This runs deeper; it is in his DNA. Part and parcel of an inheritance that harkens back to his mother’s early socialization, the role of the peacemaker is a product of a transmuted, intergenerational dream of changing the world one village at a time. His mother’s unfinished dreams, albeit tenuously, still bind the elements of Obama’s foreign and domestic policies with his political identity.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Should the devil sell Prada? Retail rejection increases aspiring consumers' desire for the brand and other news and views for Tuesday 29 April

  • Snobby staff can boost luxury retail sales – ‘When it comes to luxury brands, the ruder the sales staff the better the sales, according to new research from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. The forthcoming Journal of Consumer Research study [Should the Devil Sell Prada? Retail Rejection Increases Aspiring Consumers' Desire for the Brand] reveals that consumers who get the brush-off at a high-end retailer can become more willing to purchase and wear pricey togs.”
29-04-2014 RUSHDIE
  • A Fundamental Fight – “When Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or death sentence, on Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses, 25 years ago, the novel became more than literature. Talking to Rushdie and those who stood beside him—Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, E. L. Doctorow, and others—Paul Elie assesses the extraordinary impact of a prophetic, provocative book, which turned its author into a hunted man, divided the cultural elite, and presaged a new era.”
  • Populism is a dangerous game for the political class – “Cynicism verging on nihilism is the closest thing modern Britain has to a national ideology. It has become common sense to assume the worst of anyone in public authority. Nigel Farage, Ukip’s leader, profits from this foul zeitgeist, not because he is a manipulative genius but because he is the nearest populist to hand. If it were not him, it would be some other jobbing demagogue with the dumb luck to be here now.”
  • Yahoo announces original TV series – “Yahoo has announced two original TV series that will be shown on its website and mobile app. It makes Yahoo the latest technology firm to join the fast-growing market for digital video content.”
  • Women CEOs ‘more likely to be fired’, says study – “A study of the 2,500 largest public companies by market value found that, over the past 10 years, fewer than three in 10 male chief executives were ousted, while almost two in five female bosses had to quit – a difference of more than 10 percentage points.”
  • Jobs vs. the Environment’: How to Counter This Divisive Big Lie - “We can, and must, create common ground between the labor and climate movements.”

Spinning out of control? Budget scene setting confusion

Reading the papers these last few days has left me utterly confused about what to expect in next week's federal budget. The inspired leaks - at least I presume the stories have some foundation with someone pretending to know telling journalists something - seem to be so contradictory. I mean, what are we to make of a budget deficit that will take many years to be rid off with the thought bubble that there will be tax cuts before the surplus is reached? And what's all this about higher taxes on the risk so that the pain is shared by all?
Don't ask me. I can't explain it. I'll just turn over the page when I come to a pre-budget piece and wait until Tuesday night.

Denmark wins the world's best restaurant title with Melbourne's Attica high up the list

Goodness knows how you can judge such a contest but for what it is worth the Danish restaurant Noma has regained its title as The S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurant. The judges declared that Noma chef-owner René Redzepi is recognised for his highly original, sometimes visceral version of new Nordic cuisine. Having been on the list for nine years Redzepi won the best restaurant award in 2010, 2011 and 2012 before Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca had its moment of glory last year.

The food of the restored champion is described as striving to reflect the Danish landscape and culture
with signature dishes such as ‘Blackcurrant Berries and Roses’.
Redzepi’s meticulous attention to detail, innovative approach to foraging and experimentation with fermentation – all driven by passion and a relentless curiosity - has once again brought his restaurant to the pinnacle. 
Attica in Melbourne takes the title of Best Restaurant in Australasia, sponsored by Acqua
Panna, for the second year running, coming in at No.32.
Led by Ben Shewry, the cuisine is unique, imaginative, innovative and nature-led in its execution. Believing a chef should express himself through his cooking, Shewry takes his own experiences and memories, often from childhood, and portrays them through several dishes on Attica’s tasting menu. The result is a playful yet humble reminder of all that Mother Nature has to offer. 

An Australian chef did finish higher up the list with The Ledbury in London's Notting Hill where chef Brett Graham presides advancing three places to finish tenth.

Sydney's Quay restaurant was ranked as the world's 60th best.

How the list is compiled 
The list is created from the votes of The Diners Club® World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, 
an influential group of over 900 international leaders in the restaurant industry. The 
Academy comprises 26 separate regions around the world, each of which has 36 members, 
including a chairperson, and each member can cast seven votes. Of those seven, at least 
three votes must recognise restaurants outside of the academy member’s own region. 

The panel in each region is made up of food writers and critics, chefs, restaurateurs and 
highly regarded ‘gastronomes’. Voters list their choices in order of preference, based on their 
best restaurant experiences of the previous 18 months. There is no pre-determined check-list 
of criteria. 

Looting and pillaging for my ticket clippers collection

I stumbled across this on my Facebook page. A kind soul found it on John Pilger’s The War you Don’t See site.
Just had to steal if for my ticket clippers selection.

Murdoch columnist Terry McCrann calls Sydney Daily Telegraph "silly and venal"

This morning's Terry McCrann column in the Daily Terror:
And today's editorial from the same paper:
2014-04-29_teleeditorialWho said there was no room tfordiverse opinion at News Corp?

Monday, 28 April 2014

The US campaign ads begin and other news and views for Monday 28 April 2014

28-04-2014 northstar28-04-2014 wehby

Leave him in the sin bin - Abbott should not reinstate Arthur Sinodinos

It's not so much what Arthur Sinodinos told ICAC that he knew. Or even that he proved to have one of the worst memories ever to speak on oath. It is just that the whole business of the New South Wales Liberal Party and its web of influences and fund raising gets worse and worse. Tony Abbott needs to take decisive action to stop the affair smearing himself.
Making the temporary ousting of assistant Treasurer Sinodinos permanent is a necessary step in doing that. If he wants to be kind to an old friend then the perfect excuse is to say that the ICAC enquiries are taking too long and that the needs of economic management mean the post must be filled. So, reluctantly, Arthur has agreed to step down. And quickly.

Whose ally is Putin in another ridiculous attack by the Oz on the ABC?

And just when you thought the attacks by The Oz on the ABC could not get more ridiculous, along comes a Sharri Markson item with the added support of a Nicholson cartoon.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

The tyranny of experts and other news and views for Sunday 27 April

  • 2014-04-27_tyrannyofexpertsAre tyrants good for your health? - “Easterly argues that when it comes to reducing poverty and advancing development, human rights, freedom, and accountable systems of justice matter far more than plans, programmes, and policies… He also reveals how a century-old unholy alliance of development experts and autocratic leaders has hidden this reality under a heap of optimistic development plans that became costly mistakes in practice. In some cases, development aid has even supported tyrannical regimes that undermined the very development goals the aid was supposed to be for. Easterly’s book is unlikely to be popular with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, Bill Clinton, or Tony Blair, all of whom have championed both the cause of poverty reduction and the policy acumen of such autocrats as China’s Deng Xiaoping and Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi.”
  • Wise Controls on E-Cigarettes
  • The battle for Lord’s cricket ground -”Lord’s got its name simply because the ground was built, 200 years ago exactly, by one Thomas Lord. Before the war the president was indeed usually a viscount at least, and it likes to retain its lordly veneer. But for the past 15 years those with a sharp ear may have been able to detect a faint rumble, like the sound of a train in a tunnel deep underground. And that is exactly what the rumble is about: the ownership of three railway tunnels.”
  • Dancing at the Abyss: What Beirut’s Debutante Ball Says about Lebanon
  • Two degrees – How the world failed on climate change
  • Japan launches first whale hunt since ICJ ban
  • Friends Can Be Dangerous – “… the reason teenagers take more chances when their peers are around is partly because of the impact of peers on the adolescent brain’s sensitivity to rewards. … Perhaps the most intriguing of our studies of peer influences on adolescent behavior is one that we published earlier this year in Developmental Science. In this paper we replicated our earlier studies, but this time using mice rather than humans. We created “peer groups” of mice by raising them in triads composed of animals from three different litters. We then tested whether, if given unfettered access to alcohol, they would drink more when they were with their peers than when they were alone. Mice tested when they were fully grown drank equally in both contexts. But adolescent mice — tested shortly after puberty — drank significantly more in the presence of their peers than when they were by themselves. The propensity for teenagers to do more risky things when they are with their peers — which understandably worries their parents, and which should concern those who supervise teenagers in groups — is not only real; it may be hard-wired.”

Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Sydney Tele and the wife of the boss

How thoughtful of the Daily Telegraph team this morning to recognise the beauty of the boss’s wife.
2014-04-26_sarahmurdochBut what happened to Lachlan on the male list?
And for a more serious comment on the media have a read of Back to the future – the return of the partisan press

Friday, 25 April 2014

Back to the future - the return of the partisan press

An interesting interview on the Quartz website with University of Chicago economics professor Matthew Gentzkow who recently won the John Bates Clark Medal which the American Economic Association bestows on the American economist under the age of 40 who “who is judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.” Quartz described Gentzkow's work as "an interesting mix of the history and micro-economics of the media world."
For instance, he’s studied the drivers of political “slant” in American newspapers. (Short version: Political slant tends to play to the views of readers, not owners.) Along with his frequent collaborator and University of Chicago colleague Jesse Shapiro, he’s investigated tendencies among consumers to read only online news sites that square with their own ideological biases. (Short version: They found no evidence that segregation among consumers of online news was becoming more pronounced.) His research has also found that television—and the television news which supplanted politics-heavy newspapers—has helped drive down US voter turnout.
The part of the interview that intrigued me most concerned the return of the partisan press. You’ve looked a lot at the history of American newspapers, he was asked, going back to their roots as ideological party organs in the 19th century, as well as the advent of television, and more recently online news. Is there some sort of grand unified theory or thread running through all that work that you were surprised at?
In some ways, the US media today looks increasingly like the US media of the 19th century. Back in the day we had fiercely competitive, partisan newspapers going after each other, wearing their ideological views on their sleeve … not pulling any punches talking about scandals and using all kinds of inflammatory language. That is very much like what we see if you turn on cable TV or you look at political blogs.
And really the exception, historically, is the period that I grew up in and the period that many people grew up in. We had three broadcast networks and everybody got their news from the same places. People would argue about the political slant of the broadcast networks, [but] they certainly presented themselves as very objective and sort of partisanship-free. That was really the unusual period. When you go back and look at partisan newspapers in the past, things look awfully similar to what we see today.

A Gordon's with a touch of elderflower and other news and views for Friday 25 April

  • Gin Craze Returns to London With Small, Domestic Batches - “Craft distillers like Sipsmith, Hendrick’s, and Sacred Spirits — produced in a north London living room — are changing all of that, inspiring even mass-market brands like Diageo Plc (DGE)’s Gordon’s gin to tweak their formulas. The domestic production revival brings the drink full circle from the 1700s, when a rash of homemade brews made it the favorite tipple of the city’s poor and earned it the nickname ‘mother’s ruin’.”
  • Europe braces for first EU-wide vote since 2008 crash – “Europe’s elections are just over a month away. Campaigns have started, but with a whimper. There are few signs, so far, that the European electorate is engaged. For the moment it is a ghost campaign – apart from the struggle for the top jobs in Brussels. Mainstream parties will argue over tax and spending and appeal to their traditional supporters, but in many countries this will be a referendum on the European project.”
  • Climate policy targets revisited – “The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report estimates lower costs of climate change and higher costs of abatement than the Stern Review. However, current UN negotiations focus on stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at even lower levels than recommended by Stern. This column argues that, given realistic estimates of the rate at which people discount the future, the UN’s target is probably too stringent. Moreover, since real-world climate policy is far from the ideal of a uniform carbon price, the costs of emission reduction are likely to be much higher than the IPCC’s estimates.”
  • With New E-Cigarette Rules, FDA Hopes To Tame A ‘Wild, Wild West’ - “The Food and Drug Administration is proposing to expand its regulatory powers to e-cigarettes and other popular products containing nicotine.”
  • Bracing For A Battle, Vermont Passes GMO Labeling Bill
  • Tweet Suits: Social Media And The Law – “Now that folks are posting and tweeting — and retweeting — complaints and grievances around the clock, is every negative experience a possible class action? If someone has a bad experience with a bank or someone gets food poisoning at a restaurant or someone has a problem with a prescribed medicine, he can immediately find others with similar outrages. Are social media making it easier for plaintiffs to band together?”
  • Russia’s tit for tat – “In reaction to the Crimean crisis, the EU imposed certain sanctions on Russia. Russia responded by blacklisting EU and US officials. This column discusses the comparative vulnerability of the EU and Russia amid this tit for tat pattern. In purely economic terms, the EU is in a much better position than Russia. However, political regimes also matter. The autocracy score for Russia dampens the impact that the economic sanctions would have politically. The democratic nature of the European governments would translate the sanctions imposed by Russia into great political pressure for the EU. This makes the Russian tit for tat threat realistic.”

Juanita Phillips and Greg Combet - the Tele sees a point but I can't

25-04-2014 juanitaLast April's gossip this April is the best I can say for this morning's offering by the Sydney Daily Telegraph. The story of a retired politician who took his partner on an approved trip when he was a Cabinet minister hardly seems news to me even if the partner was an ABC news reader. Yet the Tele's headline suggests there was something untoward about Greg Combet and Juanita Phillips doing what other ministerial couples do regularly.
It has taken News Corp attacks on the ABC to a new low point.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Summer Arctic ice coverage well below the average for recent years

The seasonal Arctic sea ice melt is well and truly underway and the early indications are that 2014 will be another one with summer ice coverage well below the average for recent years.
The latest figure from the National Snow and Ice Data Center shows the area of ocean with at least 15% sea ice is less (solid purple line) than in what turned out to be the record low year of 2012 (the dotted line).
24-04-2014 recenticecover
The pattern for the whole of the summer period (from which the graph above is taken) is shown below.
24-04-2014 arcticseaiceextent
Click on graph to increase to a readable size

Free speech, capital in the 21st century and other news and views for Thursday 24 April

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  • Video: Piketty, Krugman, Stiglitz, and Durlauf on ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ - “”The French economist Thomas Piketty discussed his new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century at the Graduate Center. In this landmark work, Piketty argues that the main driver of inequality—the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth—threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values. He calls for political action and policy intervention. Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, and Steven Durlauf participated in a panel moderated by Branko Milanovic.”
  • The Red Line and the Rat Line – Seymour M. Hersh on Obama, Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels
  • John Menadue: This is about more than a bottle of wine – “To mix my metaphors, the bottle of red wine that Barry O’Farrell received is only the tip of an iceberg – a sleezy world of lobbying, influence-peddling and corruption.”
  • Forget Silicon Valley, meet Silicon Bali – “Before I interrupted her, she was busy making tweaks to Mailbird, the 18-month-old company she co-founded, which seeks to streamline the often-clunky Microsoft Windows email system. Already, the eight-person company has attracted thousands of users and glowing attention from trade publications such as TechCrunch. And she isn’t the only tech entrepreneur writing code late into the night here – cybercafe billing firm SmartLaunch and virtual laboratory Labster are also busy working in a place most people go to disconnect.”
  • Free speech from xkcd
24-04-2014 freespeech
Click to enlarge