Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Proof yet again - when given the choice between a conspiracy and a stuff up ...

How wonderful to listen to that ABC News story on the filing cabinet full of Cabinet documents bought at the sale of second hand filing cabinets in Canberra.

What a nonsense it made of all that wonderful speculation over the last few days about which Coalition Minister was leaking what to damage who.
And there it was. A fair dinkum cabinet leak.
No conspiracy at all. Just another stuff up.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The political equivalent of taller men wear longer trousers

The Owl is continually bemused by people acting surprised that companies, unions and individuals give donations to political parties in the expectation that it will help them get access to MPs. In my not inconsiderable experience of the election process there is no other reason for such actions.
It has always been thus.
And for most of my years in politics the process has not worried me. The Australian political system, at least at the federal level, traditionally had the checks and balances of an independent and basically impartial public service. That limited the impact that having the ear of a minister could have.
It is only since the transfer of power from departmental officials to ministerial staffers that the excesses of buying influence have got out of hand.
A decision by Bill Shorten to return power to departments headed by permanent career heads would make his planned corruption apparatus unnecessary.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Monarchies are better economic performers then republics and links to other news and views

What’s the Cure for Ailing Nations? More Kings and Queens, Monarchists Say - New York Times
A recent study that examined the economic performance of monarchies versus republics bolsters their views. Led by Mauro F. GuillĂ©n, a management professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the study found “robust and quantitatively meaningful evidence” that monarchies outperform other forms of government.
Far from being a dying system, the study said, “monarchies are surprisingly prevalent around the world.” They provide a “stability that often translates into economic gains”; they are better at protecting property rights and checking abuses of power by elected officials; and they have higher per-capita national incomes, the study said.
German companies forced to reveal gender pay gap - Financial Times
The measure grants female employees the right to learn how their salary compares with male workers in corresponding jobs. It can also be used by men who feel they are disadvantaged compared with female workers, although in practice officials believe that scenario is unlikely. The law applies to both the private and public sectors, provided the workplace has more than 200 employees.
Trump’s Twitter Threats Put American Credibility on the Line - New York Times
Two things stand out about the foreign policy messages Mr. Trump has posted on Twitter since taking office: How far they veer from the traditional ways American presidents express themselves, let alone handle diplomacy. And how rarely Mr. Trump has followed through on his words. Indeed, nearly a year after he entered the White House, the rest of the world is trying to figure out whether Mr. Trump is more mouth than fist, more paper tiger than the real thing.
Care Suffers as More Nursing Homes Feed Money Into Corporate Webs - New York Times
For-profit nursing homes utilize related corporations more frequently than nonprofits do, and have fared worse than independent for-profit homes in fines, complaints and staffing, the analysis found. Their fines averaged $25,345, which was 10 percent higher than fines for independent for-profits, and the homes received 24 percent more substantiated complaints from residents.
The jig’s up for Coalition’s negative gearing lies – and apologists in the media - The New Daily
When the Australian people are being lied to, you’d hope that the bulk of the mainstream media would swing into action to expose the liars.
But that did not happen during the Coalition’s phoney defence of negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts before the last election.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison encountered mild push-back from journalists at best as they ran a scare campaign against making any change to two of the most unjust, and unjustified, tax lurks going.
The PM said winding back those two tax write-offs would “take a sledgehammer” to property prices because “a third of demand” would disappear from the market if reforms proposed by Labor came to pass.
Well this week the deceitfulness of those claims is being fully exposed via a freedom of information request by the ABC. 
Trump Courts Economic Mayhem - Wall Street Journal
This year we’ll find out how serious he is about protectionism. So far the signs aren’t good.
Consensus, Dissensus, and Economic Ideas: Economic Crisis and the Rise and Fall of Keynesianism - Henry Farrell, John Quiggin in International Studies Quarterly
During the recent economic crisis, Keynesian ideas about fiscal stimulus briefly seemed to form the basis of a new expert consensus about how to deal with demand shocks. However, this apparent consensus soon collapsed into a continuing dissensus, with important consequences for policy.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

The UK Government gives advice on dealing with the media and other news and views

Guidance: Handling media attention after a major Incident - UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport

Dealing with the media can sometimes be distressing and daunting. It is your decision whether or not to speak to journalists. While it may not feel like it, you are in control of this. Remember if you do not want to, you do not have to.

Why would you want to speak to the media?

Sometimes, communicating with the media in a controlled way can be a positive experience. It may also satisfy the media’s demand for information, and reduce the number of enquiries you receive. Ways to do this include issuing a statement – which could be read by you, someone else, or released in writing – and answering questions for a limited time. However you should be aware that providing information can sometimes lead to more coverage and interest. There may also be situations where you would want to exercise caution – for example, when others are at risk or if an investigation is ongoing.

Why is the media interested?

The media plays an important role in satisfying the public’s demand for information and holding public services to account. Speaking to a range of sources can help the media build up an accurate picture of events.

What happens if you don’t want to speak to the media?

You should be aware that the media might use information in the public domain, including the electoral roll and social media such as Facebook and Twitter, to find people, addresses and other personal details. They may also talk to local people, friends, family and colleagues. If you want to reduce the access the press have to this information, you can:
  • have someone you trust look after your phone and filter your calls for a while
  • check your privacy settings
  • delete content from social media
  • tell your friends, family, colleagues you do not want them to talk to the press about you (although they may still do so)

What should you consider if you do want to speak to the press?

If you do speak to the press, you should first be clear about what you want to say, and think about the questions they will ask, and the answers you want to give them. You should remember that you do not have to answer any questions, but the media could use any information that you give them – even if you tell them something in confidence or off the record. Alternatively, you could also ask a friend, family member or employer to speak to the press on your behalf. If you want to speak on a sensitive matter you might wish to consider seeking the advice of a lawyer.
There are Public Relations (PR) agencies that specialise in managing relationships with the media, although these can be expensive. While we cannot recommend a particular agency, you could seek advice from the Chartered Institute for Public Relations or the PR Consultants Association.

What can you do if you are being pressured or harassed by the media?

Most UK newspapers are members of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). Newspapers who are members must comply with the Editors’ Code of Practice, which means they must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit. If requested, they must identify themselves and whom they represent. In some cases IPSO is able to contact newspapers and magazine publishers to make them aware of concerns that the Editors’ Code may be breached via a private advisory notice.
If you feel you are being harassed by a journalist, IPSO operates a 24 hour emergency helpline. The contact details are below.

What can you do if you are unhappy with media coverage after a programme has been broadcast?

All broadcasters have procedures to make sure that complaints regarding news programmes, or from those who have appeared in programmes and their relatives, are dealt with quickly – so you may want to contact them directly in the first instance.
If you have a complaint about something you’ve seen or heard on television or on the radio you can also complain to the Office of Communications (Ofcom). Ofcom is the independent communications regulator responsible for regulating broadcast media against the Broadcast Code. Sections of the Code cover offensive and harmful material, hate speech, accuracy, and privacy.

What can you do if you are unhappy with press coverage after a publication?

If you believe something you have read in a UK newspaper has breached the newspaper’s Code of Practice, you should firstly contact the publication that published the article. If your complaint is not resolved, you may be able to contact a regulator should the publication be signed up to one.

Support in talking to the media

If you are the victim of a terrorist attack, Victim Support can provide advice on talking to the media. You can contact them on 08 08 16 89 111. If you have been bereaved by an attack, your police Family Liaison Officer can also provide support.
Democrats Should Get Higher on Weed in 2018 - New York Magazine

Bringing weed into the legitimate economy would take a major profit source away from violent drug cartels, while generating nearly $30 billion a year in new revenues for federal, state, and local governments. It would also allow American cops to spend less time disrupting the lives of soft-drug users and more time policing violent crime — in 2014, there were 700,993 marijuana arrests, roughly 90 percent of which were attributed solely to possession. Such arrests aren’t merely a waste of law enforcement’s time and resources; they also perpetuate racial bias in America’s criminal justice system. White and black Americans use marijuana at nearly identical rates — but African-Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for possessing the drug. Finally, increasing the availability of marijuana could stem the rising tide of opioid overdoses in the United States: Multiple studies have found that when states expand access to legal marijuana, declines in painkiller abuse and related overdoses follow.
All of which is to say: As a matter of policy and politics, Democrats would have to be high not run on weed in 2018.
Powerful Food Lobby Group Loses Members Amid Industry Culture Clash - NPR
Contradictory consumer demands for food labels are making some food companies re-think their alliance with the industry's traditional lobbying group.
The Afterlife of Steve Bannon - New Republic
The obituaries of Bannon are premature, though, because the man’s chief significance wasn’t as a political adviser who had the ear of the president, but as one of the Republican Party’s most creative and influential thinkers. In an age where most Republicans are still running on the fumes of Reaganism (tax cuts, a more assertive foreign policy), Bannon crafted a coherent new right-wing ideology that in 2016 excited Republican voters more than the establishment’s tired bromides. Bannon, the political operative and media executive, has a murky future, but if he does resurface, it’ll be due to the potency and resiliency of his ideas, which are likely to have a life quite apart from Bannon.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Some Donald Trump updates and links to other news and views

It's Been an Open Secret All Along - Atlantic
The scandal of Michael Wolff’s new book isn’t its salacious details—it’s that everyone in Washington has known its key themes, and refused to act.
Worst thing Steve Bannon said about Trump? “Money laundering” - Salon
Was Trump enraged because Bannon criticized his family? Or because he now understands his presidency is in danger?
What does Trump think Mueller will find? - Washington Post

Trump's Blowup With Bannon Means He's Now All-In With McConnell And GOP Establishment - NPR

Legal experts said that of the two primary issues Mr. Mueller appears to be investigating — whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice while in office and whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia — there is currently a larger body of public evidence tying the president to a possible crime of obstruction.
But the experts are divided about whether the accumulated evidence is enough for Mr. Mueller to bring an obstruction case.
MPs call for 25p ‘latte levy’ to combat UK disposable cup waste
Environmental audit committee seeks 2023 target for recycling of all paper coffee cups
An iced VoVo and a broken heart - Frank Bongiorno in Inside Story
As Kevin Rudd reminds us in the epilogue to this seemingly interminable book — at around the point he gently breaks the news that we are to have a sequel — his was not a government without achievements.
Most significantly, Australia managed to weather the global financial crisis. Just how much of the credit should go to Rudd — and how much to Wayne Swan, to Treasury, to China and to Peter Costello’s budget surpluses — is for economic historians of the future to argue over. But we can be confident Rudd will claim a large measure of the credit when volume 2 is published.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Politicians will be politicians. Memoirs are about legacies, and politicians writing memoirs will err on the side of generosity — to themselves.
But Kevin Rudd has a rather large problem in writing about his political career. He needs to explain why, in the end, it was such a disappointment.
The Bunga-Bunga Party Returns to Italy - Project Syndicate
In Italy's general election in March, the biggest winner will most likely be Silvio Berlusconi, a former prime minister whose name has long been associated with scandal. More remarkable, Berlusconi's role in forming the next government might actually represent stability in the face of a populist insurgency.
The case against GDP - Financial Times
Why it may be time to change the way we measure the wealth of nations
Trump Administration Takes Step That Could Threaten Marijuana Legalization Movement - New York Times

Germany's New Hate Speech Law: Populists Fight for Their Right to Racism - Der Spiegel
German right-wing populists are blasting a new law regulating hate postings on Twitter and Facebook, saying it destroys freedom of opinion in the country.

German study finds men from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan significantly less likely to commit a violent crime than those hailing from North Africa.

Study: Only better integration will reduce migrant crime rate - Deutsche Weller
Only better integration options will reduce the risk of increased crime rates among migrants, a study has found. The study also linked a rise in crimes Lower Saxony with an increase in migrant arrivals... Leading German criminologists say the best chance of preventing violent crime among migrants is to offer more integration options like language courses, sport, and practical apprenticeships.The study, released to news agency dpa and carried out by criminologists at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences at the behest of the German Family Ministry, researched the increase in violent crime recorded in Germany over the past two years.The study also suggested a link between an increase in reported violent crimes in Lower Saxony and a significant increase in migrant arrivals in the state. ...Another contributing factor was the age of the migrants. According to the study, men between the ages of 14 and 30 are more generally more likely to commit violent crimes than those in other age brackets.The study said the 14 to 30 age bracket formed the largest of its kind for migrants in Lower Saxony, suggesting that in turn contributed to the link between the rising rate of violent crime and the increase in migrant arrivals in the state.The authors also noted that there was a significant difference in the criminal migrants' country of origin, saying men from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan were significantly less likely to commit a violent crime than those hailing from North Africa. Another contributing factor to the rise in crime was the lack of women among the refugees - overall, the researchers found that less than a quarter of refugees were women, which was leaving many refugees left in groups of men without their wives, mothers, or sisters. The study found that this increased the danger that men were "orientating themselves towards violence-legitimating manliness-norms."
The Return of the Newspaper - Project Syndicate
Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 US presidential election did not usher in a new era of social media, or spell the demise of the traditional press. In the past year, newspapers staged a remarkable recovery by doing what they do best: reporting thoroughly and accurately on the most important stories of the day.
New study: Facebook "the most important mechanism facilitating" fake news - Media Matters for America
The authors highlighted the role of Facebook in propagating fabricated information, reporting that “heavy Facebook users were differentially likely to consume fake news, which was often immediately preceded by a visit to Facebook.” Fake news consumers were much more likely to be referred to those sites from Facebook than from Google, Twitter, or email.
China softens tone in drive for Asia influence - Financial Times
Diplomatic and economic charm offensive exploits regional doubts over US under Trump
Trump’s looming bust-up with China is bad news for 2018 - Financial Times
Competing global ambitions and a clash of egos with Xi Jinping points to a stand-off. ... For the first time since Mao Zedong, China has a living personality cult. US-China relations are now in the hands of two gargantuan egos.
Why President Trump Ended His Hunt for Fake Votes - Bloomberg

Why Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin lie... and why they are so good at it - New Statesman
Trump has learned the lesson of countless dictators and strongmen across the ages, a lesson that could be well taught by his opposite number in Russia, Vladimir Putin. Real power does not need the consent of the governed. One need not worry about changing others’ beliefs (which may be thought of as requesting their cognitive consent), when one can dominate their reality.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Some thoughts to judge Hanson, Xenophon and Bernardi by and other news and views

Can Movement Politics Renew European Democracy? - Project Syndicate
One might expect diffuse, grassroots movements that emerge from large-scale street protests to be more inclusive, deliberative, and democratic than traditional political parties. But the proliferation of personality-driven movements on both the right and the left in recent years calls that assumption into question. ... even as they have continued to tout horizontal forms of organization and participatory democracy, their charismatic leaders have concentrated ever more power in their own hands.
Donald Trump Didn’t Want to Be President - Michael Wolff in New York magazine

One year ago: the plan to lose, and the administration’s shocked first days.
Russia and Venezuela’s Plan to Sidestep Sanctions: Virtual Currencies - New York Times
... the rise of virtual currencies is pushing governments around the world to rethink the most basic elements of their own currencies and financial infrastructure.
What has seemed like a fringe concept is starting to gain some level of acceptance in global finance. Several of the largest central banks in the world, including the Bank of England and the People’s Bank of China, have said they are looking at using the technology introduced by Bitcoin to track and issue their own digital currencies.
In this explainer, we discuss what makes bitcoin different from the old-fashioned greenback and why some governments are trying to ban it. We describe how the blockchain technology behind the system could revolutionize many other industries. And we look at how a bitcoin outgrowth known as initial coin offerings (ICOs) is testing regulators.
Why Low Inflation Is No Surprise - Project Syndicate
The persistence of low inflation in developed countries in recent years has confounded central bankers and economic policymakers, because they believe that declining unemployment should drive up aggregate demand, and thus prices. But what if many of the assumptions underlying the conventional wisdom about inflation no longer apply?
Most of Britain’s electricity in 2017 is low carbon for first time - Financial Times
Renewables and nuclear reach landmark after rapid growth in wind and solar sources
Oregon appeals court upholds $135,000 fine against anti-gay bakery - Think Progress
Denver, Colorado’s Masterpiece Cakeshop has received a lot of attention as the Supreme Court weighs whether the bakery should have legally been allowed to refuse to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple, but an Oregon bakery’s case is still underway. Last week, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that Sweetcakes by Melissa did, in fact, violate state law when it refused to serve a same-sex couple and upheld a $135,000 fine against the owners, Melissa and Aaron Klein.
The year we wanted the internet to be smaller - The Verge
Why tiny, weird online communities made a comeback in 2017

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Donald Trump's hair through the years, his Pakistan tweets and other news and views

Country without a Government: Merkel's Difficult Road to a Coalition- Der Spiegel
Three months after the election, Germany is as far away from a governing coalition as ever and Social Democrats don't expect an agreement before Easter. Meanwhile, Germany's influence in the EU is on the wane.
The Far Right Is Now in Power in Austria - The Nation
The new governing coalition includes the Freedom Party, which has deep roots in the country’s Nazi past.
Murderous Majorities - New York Review of Books
The scale of this ethnic cleansing represents the most extreme triumph of majoritarian politics in South Asia. The persecution of the Rohingya has made Myanmar something of an inspiration to majoritarian parties in neighboring states. ... Majoritarianism—the claim that a nation’s political destiny should be determined by its religious or ethnic majority—is as old as the nation-state in South Asia; it was decolonization’s original sin. Postcolonial nations in South Asia began with varying degrees of commitment to the ideal of a pluralistic, broadly secular state, but after a decade or so of independence they were either taken over by military rulers or transformed into religious states by majoritarian politicians.
An Illustrated History of Donald Trump’s Hair. Warning! Don’t Read Before Lunch! - Vanity Fair

Scientists learned to predict public corruption with neural networks - Eureka Alert

President Donald Trump has caused a rift with Pakistan due to his New Year's Day tweet criticizing the South Asian country.

China acknowledges Pakistan's 'outstanding contributions' to combat international terrorism - Dawn
China on Tuesday threw its weight behind Pakistan and said that its key regional ally has "made outstanding contributions to the international anti-terrorism cause," countering the heavy criticism that Islamabad had copped a day earlier from US President Donald Trump.
In a clear disagreement with the American president's scathing assessment — that Pakistan has given Washington "nothing but lies and deceit" — Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said: "Pakistan has made tremendous efforts and sacrifices in combating terrorism and made outstanding contributions to the international anti-terrorism cause. The international community should fully acknowledge it."

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

The fractured Murdoch empire and links to other interesting news and views

With Disney Deal Looming, Murdoch’s Empire Is Fractured - New York Times
The dynamics of the Murdoch family are continuously shifting, and outsiders are kept at a distance. To Hollywood, the Disney deal looked like a family schism, with Lachlan, 46, solidly back in line to succeed his father as overseer of the family’s remaining businesses and James, 45, without a clear future at Disney. Associates of James, however, say that he encouraged the deal, in part because he had grown weary of the dysfunctional push and pull with his brother and father.
The China model is winning, at the expense of liberal values
Emboldened By A Strengthening Economy, China Flexes Its Diplomatic Muscles - NPR
Analysts in China say the proactive statesmanship is befitting the new era Xi has declared, in which China confidently wields its newly acquired wealth and influence and resumes what it considers its rightful place at the center of global affairs rather than leaving world problems to the United States and other countries to deal with.

China, the Innovation Dragon - Project Syndicate
Given its own policies, and those of the US, China is on track to become the world’s innovation leader. By the end of 2018, it will likely be apparent to all just how quickly and easily this latest chapter in the Chinese success story will be written.
‘Fake News’: Wide Reach but Little Impact, Study Suggests - New York Times
But now the first hard data on fake-news consumption has arrived. Researchers last week posted an analysis of the browsing histories of thousands of adults during the run-up to the 2016 election — a real-time picture of who viewed which fake stories, and what real news those people were seeing at the same time.
The reach of fake news was wide indeed, the study found, yet also shallow. One in four Americans saw at least one false story, but even the most eager fake-news readers — deeply conservative supporters of President Trump — consumed far more of the real kind, from newspaper and network websites and other 
 Putin’s Medieval Dreams - Project Syndicate

As much of the world makes amends for social and political injustices of the past, Russia is lionizing its despots, raising statues to the worst of them. Behind this phenomenon is an ultra-nationalist brand of conservatism that seeks to take Russian politics back to the Middle Ages.
Economists Lose Credibility When They're Too Certain - Bloomberg
They made this mistake by claiming free trade had no downsides.
In Iceland, an example of what happens if you actually elect women - Think Progress
Starting January 1, 2018, it is now illegal for employers to pay women less than men. In Iceland, both public and private employers with 25 employees or more will need obtain government certification of equal pay policies. Organizations that fail to obtain the certification will face fines.
Putin considers ‘cryptorouble’ as Moscow seeks to evade sanctions - Financial Times
Russian leader orders officials to devise framework for establishing digital currency