Saturday, 28 February 2015

Tony Abbott’s personal intervention with Indonesian President fails?


This morning’s Jakarta Post holds out lit

Farewelling Mr Spock today and Tony Abbott on Tuesday?

That’s how 7News saw things this morning. It pretty much sums up the attitude of most of the media. Notable exceptions were the two biggest selling Murdoch tabloids and the ABC.
The socialist leaning ABC? Yes the ABC website preferred Mr Spock and a Russian murder. For the PM it was a straight report on meetings in New Zealand.
The Melbourne Herald Sunalso  was very low key on page seven while the Sydney Tele relegated its coverage to page nine with:
Up in Brisbane The Courier Mail brought out the egg eater to whip the leadership speculation along.
courier mail (1)Laurie Oakes had his column elevated to page one, where soe people might actually notice it, rather than being hidden in the boring opinion pages as in the other tabloids. Laurie’s message?
Uncertainty about whether a leadership coup would help or hurt the NSW Coalition could be a key factor if Abbott earns another reprieve.
That is all it would be. The last couple of weeks have provided strong evidence for those believing Abbott cannot change his style. The constant flow of damaging leaks and leadership gossip have left no doubt that efforts to undermine him will continue and promises of time to turn things around were hollow.
The Fairfax tabloids went searching desperately for a different leadership angle.
the age (1)smh
Not much in the story that I could see.
The main story in the Oz was a balanced attempt to look forward.
TONY Abbott will seek backbench approval for a recovery plan for his government, including a likely move within days to dump the Medicare co-payment, as he stares down attempts to panic Liberal MPs into another leadership showdown.
The Prime Minister’s fightback strategy will be to refocus the budget, cement his national security credentials and show he is listening to the concerns of the Liberal partyroom.
Conscious of consulting his colleagues, Mr Abbott wants to discuss options with MPs before any decisions are finalised, but he is considering making a health policy statement to quell concerns about the future of Medicare. He also plans to take announcements on a further troop commitment in Iraq to the partyroom.
Paul Kelly was looking forward in another direction.
THE terrible risk for the Liberals is that they destroy Tony Abbott as PM yet undermine Malcolm Turnbull as the next PM. The media frenzy of the past 36 hours, based on aggressive briefings, shows this danger.
At The Guardian they could barely contain their excitement.
guardianAnd The Saturday Paper was not going to be out done in the sacking stakes.
saturday paper

Thursday, 26 February 2015

The political speculator's diary: Backing Malcolm Turnbull

The political speculator's diary: Backing Malcolm Turnbull: For Tony Abbott it's just going from bad to worse. I cannot see how he will keep his Liberal Party leadership. I'm suggesting what ...

The new besties – Malcolm Turnbull and Paul Keating

If you thought Malcolm Turnbull sounded a lot like Paul Keating when he appeared on Q&A recently then you may well be right. I’m told by what I’ll call “a normally reliable and well informed Sydney friend” that the pair have developed a close friendship. They are regularly, I am told, in each others company as the Liberal leadership pretender gets a tip or two on playing politics from the former Labor prime minister.
That someone astute is helping Malcolm Turnbull steer through the difficulties of building his credentials without openly challenging Tony Abbott is apparent. And wasn’t this comment on Q&A pure Keating?
“I think firstly you have to set out a vision… describe where you want to go. What’s this all about? What is your goal? You’ve got to explain that. Then you’ve got to explain honestly, not dumbing it down… the problems that we face. What is the problem with the budget? What is the problem with the NBN… Explain it and lay it out factually and then lay out what the options are,” he said.
“I think the government and opposition should be prepared to put their cards on the table and actually have a debate… You never know, out of that debate you might come up with a third solution that is better than either of those.”

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The Twee Tribe and other news and views

the twee tribe
  • From The Times Literary Supplement -Consider the following phenomena: owl-shaped cushions, bird-print textiles and kitten ephemera. French horns, ukuleles and accordions. Grown women with wispy fringes who dress like little girls, grannies or Jean Seberg, and young men who sport excessively neat haircuts, horn-rimmed glasses and waistcoats. Cotton candy, gluten-free acai berry cupcakes and quinoa fritters with probiotic goat yoghurt. Anything that is locally sourced, vintage or artisanal. Cream-coloured retro bikes with wicker baskets and 1950s sun dresses in ice-cream shades. Polka dots and cocktails in jam glasses. The comic strip Peanuts, J. D. Salinger and Maurice Sendak. The Smiths and Belle and Sebastian. Taxidermy, stamp collecting and home baking. The films of Wes Anderson. What do they all share? According to Marc Spitz, they are emblems of “Twee” – “the most powerful youth movement since Punk and Hip-Hop”.
  • Basic personality changes linked to unemployment, study finds – Unemployment can change peoples’ core personalities, making some less conscientious, agreeable and open, which may make it difficult for them to find new jobs.
  • Knowledge Isn’t Power by Paul Krugman – … while the education/inequality story may once have seemed plausible, it hasn’t tracked reality for a long time. “The wages of the highest-skilled and highest-paid individuals have continued to increase steadily,” the Hamilton Project says. Actually, the inflation-adjusted earnings of highly educated Americans have gone nowhere since the late 1990s. So what is really going on? Corporate profits have soared as a share of national income, but there is no sign of a rise in the rate of return on investment. How is that possible? Well, it’s what you would expect if rising profits reflect monopoly power rather than returns to capital. As for wages and salaries, never mind college degrees — all the big gains are going to a tiny group of individuals holding strategic positions in corporate suites or astride the crossroads of finance. Rising inequality isn’t about who has the knowledge; it’s about who has the power.
  • Marijuana Is Now Legal In Alaska, The 3rd U.S. State With Legal Pot
  • A Threat to Europe: The Islamic State’s Dangerous Gains in Libya
  • Australia’s Champagne Cambodia Deal To Dump Refugees Is Turning Sour - Scott Morrison sealed a deal to dump refugees in Cambodia with a glass of champagne. But the deal is in trouble, writes Carla Silbert. … With Australia agreeing to bear the cost of resettling refugees from Nauru at the same time as Cambodia is publicly asserting it has no intention of respecting refugee rights, Australia must move to terminate the resettlement agreement.
  • Predictive Intelligence – Think Hillary Clinton is likely to win? Think again.
  • On the origins of dishonesty: From parents to children – Dishonesty is a pervasive and costly phenomenon. This column reports the results of a lab experiment in which parents had an opportunity to behave dishonestly. Parents cheated the most when the prize was for their child and their child was not present. Parents cheated little when their child was present, but were more likely to cheat in front of sons than in front of daughters. The latter finding may help to explain why women attach greater importance to moral norms and are more honest.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Clipping the hidden fees of the ticket clippers

Reuters reports that President Barack Obama is proposing new rules to protect Americans from being steered into costly retirement investments that produce high commissions for brokers but low returns for investors preparing for retirement.
The proposed rules, which the Department of Labor is expected to submit formally in the coming months, will inject political pressure into an already intense debate over brokers’ obligations.
They would have an impact on thousands of brokerages, from large players such as Fidelity, Wells Fargo , Charles Schwab  and Raymond James, to smaller, independent shops.
Brokers would be held to a higher “fiduciary standard,” requiring them to put their clients’ financial interests ahead of their own.
The White House said the proposals target fees and payments that on average lead to a full percentage point lower annual return on retirement savings at a cost to Americans of $17 billion a year.
In particular, Obama called for new rules preventing retirement brokers from steering clients’ savings into funds with higher fees and lower returns, or advising clients to roll their funds over into higher-cost plans.

Indonesia’s President: Fan Of Megadeth, Defender Of Death Penalty

joko widodo
  • Indonesia’s President: Fan Of Megadeth, Defender Of Death Penalty – Indonesian President Joko Widodo took office a little more than 100 days ago, buoyed by sky-high expectations for political change. He’s seen as very different from the strongmen and power brokers who have dominated the country for decades. And he’s certainly unconventional. He’s an avid fan of heavy metal groups like Metallica and Megadeth. He’s been photographed wearing black Napalm Death T-shirts and flashing the “devil’s horns” hand sign. But some of his supporters are dismayed by the unexpectedly strong stance he has taken in favor of the death penalty. Last month, Indonesia executed six convicted drug traffickers — five of them foreigners — by firing squad. Two Australians and a British grandmother are among the foreigners still on Indonesia’s death row. So far, Jokowi, as he’s known in Indonesia, has refused all appeals for clemency.
  • NSW Labor has to go Green or go home
  • Oscars Get Political, As Acceptance Speeches Wade Into Social Issues
  • If Your Teacher Likes You, You Might Get A Better Grade – A newly published paper suggests that personality similarity affects teachers’ estimation of student achievement. That is, how much you are like your teacher contributes to his or her feelings about you — and your abilities.
  • Why Some States Want To Legalize Raw Milk Sales – The federal government banned the sale of raw milk across state lines nearly three decades ago because it poses a threat to public health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association all strongly advise people not to drink it.But individual states still control raw milk sales within their borders. And despite the health warnings, some Midwestern states have recently proposed legalizing raw milk sales to impose strict regulations on the risky — and growing — market. Raw milk has become popular in recent years as part of the local food movement: An estimated 3 percent of the population drinks at least one glass a week. Many of its fans are fiercely passionate about what they see as its benefits. They say they buy raw milk because it doesn’t contain the growth hormone rGBH, they like the taste, and they enjoy having a direct connection to the food they eat.
  • Hillary Clinton’s grandmother gambit – “Grandmothers know best.” Hillary Clinton attached that line as a hashtag to a tweet about the importance of measles vaccinations earlier this month. Given that Mrs Clinton’s tweets are read like messages from the Delphic oracle, it hasrekindled speculation that the former secretary of state will be leaning on her new grandmatronly status in her all-but-announced upcoming presidential campaign.
  • WHO urges shift to single-use smart syringes – Smart syringes that break after one use should be used for injections by 2020, the World Health Organization has announced. Reusing syringes leads to more than two million people being infected with diseases including HIV and hepatitis each year. The new needles are more expensive, but the WHO says the switch would be cheaper than treating the diseases. More than 16 billion injections are administered annually. Normal syringes can be used again and again. But the smart ones prevent the plunger being pulled back after an injection or retract the needle so it cannot be used again.

Tony Abbott signs the execution papers?

Perhaps in diplomacy words can be bullets. This morning’s Jakarta Post commentary:
[Note – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has also said that execution would have negative repercussions.]
The risk of Tony Abbott carrying the can if Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran do face the firing squad increases.

Monday, 23 February 2015

A Liberal betraying the standards of the party and the conservative conventions of those that voted for him

A kind reader – it was nice to find I had one – sent me an interesting paper that gives a bit of context to that “kind of love” reference in my piece earlier this week Jim and Junie’s kind of love and a lasting relevance for Tom Uren’s words? The paper ‘A KIND OF LOVE’: Supergirls, Scapegoatsand Sexual Liberation, written in 2011 by Kate Laing, referred to an interview Jim Cairns gave to a journalist from the late and great Sydney Sun about his relationship with Junie Morosi:
We know we’re being watched all the time. I don’t give a damn what people say. I have stuck by Junie all the way and I intend to keep doing this… I have not changed my opinion about Junie since the day a few months ago when somebody asked me if I was in love with her. I said then it had nothing to do with the love he was talking about. Love is a word that has many meanings. I said- but I was incorrectly quoted- that love ranged from the kind of thing I might have for the Vietnamese people to the kind of thing his boss had for money. I would like to add though, that in her capacity as my private secretary, Junie must command my respect and trust. Surely you can’t trust somebody in this world unless you feel something akin to a kind of love for them. [Emphasis added]*
*As a historical footnote I should add that in those days in the long ago 1970s politicians did not have chiefs of staff, with the private secretary being the key gate keeper in a minister’s office.
But of more interesting to me in the Laing paper than the main event of Cairns and Morosi were the references to an earlier example of controversy about a senior politician having a key female adviser.
Prior to this scandal, there had been another example that indicated the interest and intrigue in women in the political landscape: Ainsley Gotto was a young girl hired to be the private secretary to Prime Minister John Gorton.
Gotto was used as a scapegoat for an unpopular Prime Minister and the outrage was centred on his lack of judgment in employing her and listening to her advice. The headlines read, ‘PM listened to girl more than to his cabinet’ and ‘Ainsley Gotto (‘it’s shapely… it wiggles’) tells her own story’. They focused on her youth and beauty, implying the reason for her appointment was her sexual attraction rather than her professional experience. When Gotto flew with the Prime Minister to the US on Air Force One for meetings with the President of the US, the reporting seemed almost spiteful, as though she was simply a girl sitting ‘close to the policy makers, the architects of world power, the men whose figures loom larger than life, who with the stroke of a pen can change a nations history’. The reports despised her for thinking she was worthy to be in their presence because of her age and inexperience. …
These two cases have often been compared when talking about the media treatment of women in the workplace and in government employment because of their proximity to each other, the Gotto affair occurring in 1969 and the Morosi affair happening in 1974. Similarly, journalist Alan Reid was highly critical of PM John Gorton and used the Gotto situation as a way of turning public opinion against him, outlining that Gotto was only 22 years old and unmarried, therefore could never be taken seriously, nor could a Prime Minister relying on her advice. …
To compare this scandal once again to the scandal of John Gorton and his secretary Ainsley Gotto which occurred in 1969, this point identifies a fundamental difference. John Gorton and Ainsley Gotto were conservatives of the Liberal party, a party known to be fierce advocates for the nuclear family and the role of the woman as bearer of children and domestic ruler of the home.135 The 1969 scandal was a sensation because by employing the young woman on his staff and listening to advice from the ‘girl’ rather than from his ministers, Gorton was betraying the standards of the party and the conservative conventions of those that voted for him.

A real Sydney Telegraph exclusive – political correspondent abolishes Tasmania’s upper house

Reporting on an opinion poll giving the public view of the New South Wales upper house:clennell1clennell2
From the website of the Tasmanian Parliament:
The Legislative Council of Tasmania
A Message from the President of the Legislative Council,
The Honourable James Scott Wilkinson, MLC.
The Legislative Council, which is the Upper House in the Tasmanian Parliament, is a unique parliamentary institution.
Established in 1825 as the original legislative body in Tasmania (then Van Diemen’s Land) it is the only House of Parliament in the Commonwealth, and probably in the world, that has never been controlled by any government or any political party. It has always had a majority of independent members making it a truly genuine House of Review.
The Legislative Council has extensive constitutional powers, but Members are conscious of their powers and responsibilities and make their decisions accordingly.
The independent nature of the House makes for meaningful debate of the issues without the rivalry and regimentation which is involved in the process in Houses of Parliament dominated by political parties.

Blaming Tony Abbott – Indonesia plays the game

If Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran finally are executed, expect Tony Abbott to be cast in the role of villain.
The reaction in Indonesia to our Prime Minister’s argument in favour of having the two drug dealers spared is getting stronger. From page one of the Jakarta Post this morning:
coin for abbott
People in Aceh are collecting spare change for Tony Abbot following the Australian prime minister’s recent comments about a lack of Indonesian gratitude as it readies to execute two Australian drug traffickers.
Organizers said that the money collected would be given to the Australian government to “repay” an estimated A$1 billion worth of aid given to Indonesia after the 2004 Aceh tsunami.
Among initiators of the coin drive are the I Love Aceh community and the Association of Indonesian Muslim University Students (KAMMI), which has set up special posts for people to participate in the drive.
“We are ready to collect coins to be handed over to the Australian government,” chairman of KAMMI’s Banda Aceh post, Martunus, said.
“We call on the Indonesian government to not be afraid of threats or other forms of intervention in connection to the upcoming executions,” he said, calling Abbot’s statement hurtful.
Stories like that are sure to influence the blame game in Australia should the executions take place. Tony Abbott will be accused of sabotaging the diplomatic amnesty attempts.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Punting on the Oscars - it's Birdman for me

I'm reverting to my normal practice of assuming that the punters don't get the favourite in short enough when betting on elections. Hence 100 on Birdman at $1.70 to be best picture at the Oscars.
At least it makes watching more interesting.
My record on election betting isn't bad either. See The Political Speculator' Diary

Jim and Junie’s kind of love and a lasting relevance for Tom Uren’s words?

I am thankful to Gerard Henderson for including this item in his always entertainingly readableMedia Watch Dog.
22-02-2015 nancy archive
(You can read the rest of the item HERE)
It brought back such marvellous memories of the Whitlam era and what was described at the time as “a kind of love”. There were pictures like this one:
22-02-2015 junieandjim
And this one.
22-02-2015 barechestedjim
And somehow, when I see a picture like this one, I can’t stop thinking about those words of Tom.
22-02-2015 abbottandcredlin

Pernicious inflation and an imploding Europe – a few things for Joe to think about

22-02-2015 consumerprices
  • Feeling down – Deflation can be a good thing. But today’s version is pernicious – “Deflation poses several risks, some well-understood, one not. … The least-understood danger is also the most serious, because it is already here. Deflation makes it harder to loosen monetary policy. … Policymakers should be more worried than they appear to be, and their actions to avert deflation should be bolder. Governments need to boost demand by spending more on infrastructure; central banks should err on the side of looseness.”
  • An orderly Greek exit is the only option for Europe – “The euro will eventually break up. But, before it does, we’ll see a lot more democratic transgressions as big countries, aided by the Brussels machine, impose their will on smaller neighbours.’If we aim deliberately at impoverishment, vengeance, I dare predict … will not limp,’ Keynes wrote in 1919. ‘But who can say how much is endurable, or in what direction men will seek at last to escape from their misfortunes?’ I’m not predicting war in Western Europe. But I am saying the eurozone will generate ever-rising tensions and spiralling financial instability until it finally implodes or is deliberately dismantled.
  • The hideous dialectic of Isis savagery - “The methods of the jihadi blackshirts are chillingly savage. But Isis is chillingly smart too.”
  • Facing Up to the Democratic Recession  – Democracy has been in a global recession for most of the last decade, and there is a growing danger that the recession could deepen and tip over into something much worse. Many more democracies could fail, not only in poor countries of marginal strategic significance, but also in big swing states such as Indonesia and Ukraine (again). There is little external recognition yet of the grim state of democracy in Turkey, and there is no guarantee that democracy will return any time soon to Thailand or Bangladesh. Apathy and inertia in Europe and the United States could significantly lower the barriers to new democratic reversals and to authoritarian entrenchments in many more states.”
  • Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science? “We live in an age when all manner of scientific knowledge—from climate change to vaccinations—faces furious opposition. “Some even have doubts about the moon landing.”
  • The Great Jewish Exodus – “Israel is indeed the home of every Jew, and that is important, a guarantee of sorts. It is equally important, however, that not every Jew choose this home. That is another kind of guarantee, of Europe’s liberal order, of the liberal idea itself.”
22-02-2015 shape

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Jakarta Post reports: TNI to safeguard prison island as Jokowi firm on execution policy

There’s no sign in this morning’s report by the Jakarta Post that the Indonesian president intends to change his mind on the death penalty for convicted drug criminals.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo made it clear on Friday that the postponed executions of 11 death row convicts, including two Australians, was simply the result of technical problems in the field and it had no relation at all to Australia’s pressure on Indonesia to drop the decision.
“No, there were no such issues. It is within our legal sovereignty [to execute the convicts],” Jokowi said at the Bogor Palace. “I believe the delay is due to technical issues; just ask the attorney general [about the details].”
The President then asked Vice President Jusuf Kalla to brief reporters about his telephone conversation with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Thursday, in which the Australian diplomat clarified the statement from Prime Minister Tony Abbott that was perceived as offensive to Indonesia. The Prime Minister said Australia would feel “grievously let down” if the executions proceeded despite the A$1 billion that was given in aid after the 2004 tsunami devastated Aceh and Nias in North Sumatra.
Kalla, who previously denied speculations that the postponement of the executions was based on pressure from Abbott, said Bishop phoned him on Thursday to clarify Abbott’s statement.
“Yesterday [Thursday], Foreign Minister Bishop explained, and certainly regretted, the misunderstanding,” Kalla said.
According to the Vice President, Bishop also said that Abbott merely tried to emphasize the long history of good relations between the two countries, including the period in which Aceh was devastated by a tsunami.
Quoting the Australian diplomat, Kalla said Australia wanted to continue cooperating with Indonesia in a variety of areas, including the fight against drug abuse and trafficking.
Attorney General M. Prasetyo, whose office is responsible for carrying out the execution, reiterated that the government decided to delay the executions from the original date earlier this month simply for technical reasons.
He also warned Australia not to intervene in Indonesia’s domestic affairs. “We never put pressure on others; we hope they also do not put pressure on us,” said the attorney general.
Meanwhile, Indonesian Military (TNI) Chief Gen. Moeldoko supported the President’s decision saying that he was ready to deploy military personnel to secure the execution site from any threats.
Moeldoko said that he would provide any support that the government needed to complete the executions of the 11 convicts, including the two Australians that the current controversy is centered around, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.
“The TNI will never be influenced by anything or by anybody. On the death penalty issue, we have a clear stance; right or wrong this is my country,” Moeldoko said.
Moeldoko said military leaders would hold a meeting with the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and the Law and Human Rights Ministry to discuss possible threats that might emerge before and during the executions.
“We will make a detailed emergency plan to prepare for any disruptions that may interfere with the executions,” Moeldoko said.
Although Moeldoko declined to give further information on what kind of security threats might emerge as a result of the executions, he insisted that he had sufficient information from TNI intelligence reports.
“Of course we don’t want to clearly state the threats that may come from certain countries. But the TNI understands that there are possible threats. This is why we asked the head of military intelligence to attend the meeting,” he said, adding that he was ready to deploy military personnel whenever the government needed it.
For instance, the military will allocate its personnel to secure several areas in Nusakambangan prison island, Central Java, where the executions are set to take place.
“There are several empty roads on the island that need to be secured from outsiders,” the four-star general said.
death spot or tourist destination
The newspaper also carried a picture of people trying to get a boat to the scheduled location for the execution. The caption reads:
Death spot or tourist destination? Several people wait for a boat at the Wijayapura Port, Cilacap regency, Central Java, on Friday to go to the notorious Nusakambangan Island. Ever since the news that there would be a second round of executions of drug convicts was publicized, more and more people started flocking to the island every day as if it had become a tourist destination.

Friday, 20 February 2015

The leadership speculation that just won’t go away

The prime ministerial way with words has struck again. Tony Abbott’s linking of Australian generosity with aid to Indonesia with the scheduled execution of drug traffickers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran has placed him in dangerous political territory. If the view expressed in the media his morning that he has hindered diplomatic efforts to have the death penalty revoked catches on with the public it may well be the final straw for his leadership.
Already the media dogs are barking about another challenge. Mark Kenny was the loudest this morning with his “Leadership chatter has not stopped. It may all come to a head sooner than you think.”
But for Hockey, the primary question now must be whether he lasts long enough to deliver a second budget. He is as welded to Abbott as Abbott is to him. Liberals say they’ll go down together.
Chatter in the government shows no signs of abating and could yet manifest itself in a sudden move to replace Abbott with Malcolm Turnbull as early as the first full sitting week beginning March 2.
If that happens, the IGR [Intergenerational Report] will still be an important document because the long-term problems aren’t going away. But don’t expect to hear much about university deregulation or the toxic GP payment, no matter what Orwellian name it has acquired by then.*
[*Kenny notes in his story how the GP co-payment is now called, “somewhat comically, ‘a value signal in health’.”]
Graham Richardson in The Australian was delivering a similar warning:
For a party with a long tradition of sticking with elected prime ministers, that vote should have been the wake-up call of a lifetime for an embattled leader fast running out of friends. Whether his loss of sensory perception is in his eyes or his ears doesn’t really matter. Either way it will prove fatal.
The money is pointing in the same direction. The Owl’s market based Liberal Leadership Indicator has the probability of Malcolm Turnbull being PM at the next election increasing.
liberal leader indicator (1)

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Group decision-making exacerbates men’s tendency to lie

  • Honesty in groups: Gender matters – “Many nations and corporations strive to raise female membership in decision-making bodies. This column discusses new experimental evidence suggesting that there is more lying (and more extreme lying) in male groups and mixed-gender groups than in female groups. Moreover, group decision-making exacerbates men’s tendency to lie while the opposite is true for women. This suggests that the gender composition of decision-making bodies is important when the goal is to limit the scope of unethical behaviour.”
cancer drug price
  • The Rising Price of Anti-Cancer Drugs – “As the best-fit line shows, back in 1995 the new drugs were costing about $54,000 to save a year of life. By 2014, the new drugs were costing about $170,000 to save a year of life. This is an increase of roughly 10% per year.”
  • The Drug That Is Bankrupting America – “In December 2013, the Food and Drug Administration approved Sovaldi, and another formulation, Harvoni, which is sofosbuvir used in combination with another drug. Gilead set the price for a 12-week treatment course of Sovaldi at $84,000, amounting to $1,000 per pill. Gilead set the price of Harvoni at $94,000.According to researchers at Liverpool University, the actual production costs of Sovaldi for the 12-week course is in the range $68-$136. Indeed, generic sofosbuvir is currently being marketed in India at $300 per treatment course, after India refused to grant Gilead a patent for the Indian market. In other words, the U.S. price-cost markup is roughly 1,000-to-1!”
  • With Quakes Spiking, Oil Industry Is Under The Microscope In Oklahoma – “Austin Holland, the state seismologist … says that Oklahoma used to have, on average, one or two perceptible earthquakes a year. Now the state is averaging two or three a day. There were more magnitude 3 or greater tremors here last year than anywhere else in the continental United States, and the unprecedented spike in earthquakes has intensified. Holland suspects that modern oil production techniques are triggering the jump in quakes.”
  • Can de-industrialisation be reversed? – “A new study from the Brookings Institution argues that American prosperity is being driven by advanced industries. It raises the question as to whether de-industrialisation can be reversed.”
  • Tropical Pacific Ocean remains ENSO-neutral - “… all international models surveyed by the Bureau indicate tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures are likely to remain warm, but within the neutral range, until at least May. Beyond that time, outlooks favour warm-neutral or El NiƱo-like ocean temperatures.”
  • A Dynamic Theory of Romantic Choice – In the tradition of “The Theory of Interstellar Trade” – “I propose an answer to the question “why are all the good guys taken” through a dynamic model of romantic search. Search and matching modelsare workhorses in labor economics. I apply this framework to romance and explain why there are lots of single “boring Bernards and psycho Suzies”, as well as discuss the model’s welfare implications. The key mechanism in the model is that good couples stay together for longer. As such, even if there is a large share of good romantic partners, most single people are crazy.”

Part timing Australia – the declining full-time jobs

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures suggest that Australia is becoming a part-time economy. The trend Labour Force figures for January show that a record high of 30.73% of jobs were part time. Back in February 1978 when the ABS series began the proportion was only 15.17%

Monday, 16 February 2015

The great cricket sham and other news and views

Untitled image (16)
  • Bitter Cup – Cricket’s marquee tournament is a sham – “Over time, the one-day international has gradually shed any pretense of contest—in cricketing terms, a duel between batsmen and bowlers—and recast itself as a glorified showcase of the bat-manufacturer’s craft, where second-rung players routinely found lacking in Test conditions can get away with edges and mishits. Any ball a batsman—even at his most arthritic—cannot hit with ease has been systematically outlawed (one bouncer per over by strict ration; nothing pitching outside leg stump; nothing wider than a foot of off stump, and so on).”
  • Negative rates to shake up financial system, say experts – “It has a huge impact on a lot of simple things like pension funds and insurance companies, and how their whole model works,” said Henry Cooke, executive director at Gryphon Capital Investments. “It is putting them under a lot of pressure . . . and when people are put under a lot of pressure, they take a lot more risk.”
  • Corporate bonds: Emerging bubble – Signs of distress are appearing in companies’ debt
london review of books
  • The Austerity Con by Simon Wren-Lewis – “Of course it is also the case that large sections of the print media have a political agenda. Unfortunately the remaining part, too, often seeks expertise among City economists who have a set of views and interests that do not reflect the profession as a whole. This can lead to a disconnect between macroeconomics as portrayed in the media and the macroeconomics taught in universities. In the case of UK austerity, it has allowed the media to portray the reduction of the government’s budget deficit as the overriding macroeconomic priority, when in reality that policy has done and may continue to do considerable harm.”
  • The War Next Door: Can Merkel’s Diplomacy Save Europe?
  • The World of Our Grandchildren – Noam Chomsky discusses ISIS, Israel, climate change, and the kind of world future generations may inherit.
  • Jailing People Has Little Effect on Crime Levels – At some point, the data indicates, more people in prison doesn’t translate to fewer crimes

Sunday, 15 February 2015

The risks of an apocalypse and other news and views for cheerful Sunday reading

  • Twelve ways the world could end – “What are the chances of all human life being destroyed by a supervolcano? Or taken over by robots? A new report from Oxford university assesses the risks of apocalypse.”
  • Corruption: doing the dirt – “The annual yearbook of equity returns, compiled by the London Business School, shows that the more corrupt a country is, the better the returns its equity markets offer.
inflation rates
swedish font
  • Not Too Much, Not Too Little: Sweden, In A Font – “Sweden recently commissioned a team of designers to come up with a font to represent the country on its websites, press releases, tourism brochures and more. The offices of Soderhavet look exactly the way you would expect a Scandinavian design firm to look: clean, sleek and warm, with tasteful bursts of color sprinkled among the minimalistic furniture. And the typeface that these designers created looks pretty much the way you would expect a Scandinavian typeface to look, too.”
  • Obese could lose benefits if they refuse treatment – PM – “People who cannot work because they are obese or have alcohol or drug problems could have their sickness benefits cut if they refuse treatment, the PM says. David Cameron has launched a review of the current system, which he says fails to encourage people with long-term, treatable issues to get medical help. Some 100,000 people with such conditions claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), the government says. Labour said the policy would do nothing to help people to get off benefits.
  • Tracing the rise of EU anti-establishment politics, By Professor Archie Brown, University of Oxford – “A darkening cloud looms over mainstream European politicians in the early months of 2015. It is the rise of parties and movements seen by them as either extreme or nationalist, sometimes both. That these relative newcomers have become major players in national politics is viewed not only as a dangerous departure from the natural political order but also a serious threat to the territorial integrity of the state.”

Jeremy Paxman is my new favourite columnist

Staring nightly at the giggle box in Canberra not London, Jeremy Paxman’s Newsnightmeant nothing to me. Now things are different. Among other things he has turned columnist for London’s Financial Times where he almost justifies on his own making that paper one of the only two I actually pay to read on the internet. Most assuredly his Saturday musings are worthy of being on everyone’s short-list of monthly freebies that apply before the FT’s $ sign goes up.
After a plug like that I hope the journal I used to write for in the days of the first iron ore boom so many years ago will forgive me for ignoring its plea not to copy its words because good journalism is expensive to give this sample from this week’s Paxman’s Diary:

salmon fishing

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Time to change those blue ties

My award for the most revealing story of 2014 about Tony Abbott would go to Mark Di Stefano with his The Definitive Ranking Of Every Blue Tie Tony Abbott Wore In 2014. “Tony Abbott”, wrote Di Stefano, “has stuck to a rigid routine throughout 2014: wake up, put on a suit and saddle up with one of his many blue ties. That’s right, if you haven’t noticed Mr Abbott nearly always wears BLUE ties.”
blue ties
The insistence can be traced back to June last year when then Prime Minister Julia Gillard gave a speech about what would happen if Mr Abbott won the upcoming election:
“I invite you to imagine it, a prime minister, a man with a blue tie, who goes on holidays to be replaced by a man in a blue tie, a treasurer who delivers a budget wearing a blue tie, to be supported by a finance minister, another man in a blue tie, women once again banished from the centre of Australia’s political life.”
Since that speech, Mr Abbott has worn a blue tie virtually every single day, in what some consider epic shade being thrown to the Labor Party and Ms Gillard.
The blue tie became a symbol of the Abbott style. Blame Labor. Blame Labor. Blame Labor.
And it worked well when he was Opposition Leader but something different is called for now that Tony Abbott has become as unpopular a Prime Minister as Australia has had in recent memory.
Symbolism being an important component in image making it must be time to change tie colour to accompany a change in rhetoric from opposing to governing.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Case against Abbott Government builds at The Hague

  • Case against Abbott Government builds at The Hague – “The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, and human rights advocate and lawyer Greg Barns have taken the next step in their formal request for the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate crimes against asylum seekers by members of the Abbott Government.”
  • How Tony Abbott came within 11 votes of oblivion – “This is the story of a leadership spill missing brilliant strategy, cunning organisation or sophisticated internal machinations that brought a Prime Minister within 11 votes of oblivion.”
  • This time the random walk loses – “Notwithstanding the progress made in the field of exchange rate economics, we still know very little of what drives major currencies. This column argues that the best that one can do is to assume that currencies move to gradually restore (relative) purchasing power parity. Contrary to widely held beliefs, this is in general a much better strategy than to just assume that the exchange rate behaves like a random walk. “
  • Do derivatives make the world safer?
cleaner air
  • Stopping at red lights could be slowly killing you – “The average UK commuter spends about 1.5 hours a day at the wheel. While not great for stress levels in general, there are other ways that the daily churn through traffic can negatively affect health. Research by my team at the University of Surrey has shown how drivers and pedestrians are being exposed to very high levels of air pollutants at traffic lights.”
  • Justice Deferred Is Justice Denied – Review of Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations by Brandon L. Garrett – “At bottom, corporate fraud amounts to little more than executives lying for business purposes, and prosecution depends on proving that the lies were intentional. Are the changes forced upon companies by deferred prosecution agreements likely to materially change the decision of these individuals to lie when it suits their goals?”
  • Author Sono calls for racial segregation in op-ed piece – “A prominent Japanese author and columnist who advised the government has called for Japan to adopt a system to force immigrant workers to live in separate zones based on race. In a regular column published in the Feb. 11 edition of the conservative daily Sankei Shimbun, Ayako Sono said immigrants, especially those providing elderly care, would ease the difficulties in Japan’s nursing sector. She also said that, while it was fine for people of all races to work, do research, and socialize with each other, they should also live apart from each other. “Since learning about the situation in South Africa 20 or 30 years ago, I’ve come to think that whites, Asians, and blacks should live separately,” Sono wrote. Sono, who was appointed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to an education reform panel in 2013, cited an unspecified whites-only apartment complex in Johannesburg that black South Africans moved into after apartheid ended. She said there was a problem because black people tended to bring large families into small apartments.”
  • Labor’s first test: putting integrity before politics in Queensland