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Sunday, 4 December 2016 - 7:42pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 04/12/2016 - 10:28pm in

This image is from the photoblog of a fellow called Alan who kicked the bucket in 2008. Apparently he used to wander about Sydney photographing urban curios, which is a lovely way to spend one's twilight (or any other, for that matter) years. I don't know how I ended up at his posthumously-maintained website, but this building was a blast from the past.

The photo is a stitched (and distorted) panorama of a block of flats in Annandale, in the inner west of Sydney. When I knew it, the building was a "self storage" facility to whom my then-employer — a huge multinational corporation which I cannot name, rhyming with "Baltex Oil" — outsourced its old records archiving. We basically occupied two football-pitch-sized floors of the building which was, as Alan or the curators of his legacy note, originally a piano factory.

Access to our floors was via a wire cage manual elevator. As you'll see in old films from early last century, the controls in these things were limited to a lever which took the car up or down, and much satisfaction was to be had in succeding in drawing the floor of the car to within a centimeter or two of your destination floor.

My employer had a room there dedicated to old furniture judged too ostentatious for the 1990s. I suppose they thought efficiency and frugality was a passing fad, and these items would be needed again in the future. There were desks and cabinets that for all I know were rosewood or mahogany, and I kid you not an honest-to-goodness grand piano. Colleagues of a sufficiently advanced vintage told me that it originally graced the staff cafeteria.

Another little room held tubes of blueprints and a cabinet of index cards of retail outlets held by an Australian company which was in the 1970's (I think) subsumed into the multinational. My grandfather was one of the franchisees of that company, in the 1950s I think, after returning from Korea (where he was apparently the company barber, occasionally coming under heavy dandruff). I forget now, but I knew then, which suburb his particular outlet was in. I held the little photographic slide accompanying that index card up to the light, but there was no sign of him.

The really outstanding thing was the factory washbasin. It was a circular bath, about six feet in diameter, with a fountain maybe four foot high in the middle. Around and beneath the curved basin there was a rail you would press down on with your foot (think of the rail upon which you rest your foot at a pub bar), turning on the water which would sprinkle out in all directions around the perimeter of the bath. I wish I could find a video of this setup; I've seen it documented (I think in a music video — Trashcan Sinatras maybe?) but I've had no success in formulating the right search engine query. It's basically Taylorist hygeine; terrible for washing one pair of hands, but it gets one shift washed and out as efficiently as possible, and the next lot in. I just can't work out, in this elegant piece of engineering, where they kept the soap.

Then there was the proximity to the Annandale Hotel. Superbly ordinary decor and brilliantly indifferent staff (at the time; I'm sure it's since been gentrified), and I saw a killer gig there by Bughouse, a fantastic band who were unfortunate enough to be too late to be post-punk, and too early to be post-punk revival.

Also I'm reasonably certain that at this distance I can say, without fear of legal reprisal, that I may have on occasion left the office with two Cabcharge dockets, and not redeemed the second at the end of an afternoon's hard work swinging boxes of paper about, playing with the lift, indulging in a creepy fascination with decades-old corporate ephemera, et cetera. A spare Cabcharge docket is a useful thing if you have a lifestyle which may involve missing the last train home, or falling down a flight of stairs and being unable to limp to the train station.

So if you have a unit at 45 Trafalgar Street, would you consider taking in a lodger? I am at the moment bereft of funds, but I am a living link to the property's rich history. If the original elevator's still intact, I'm more than happy to work it. I got my margin of error down to millimetres. Millimetres! You can't buy that kind of expertise, but you can aquire it in exchange for a mad old hobo sleeping on your floor.

Sunday, 4 December 2016 - 4:19pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 04/12/2016 - 4:19pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Sword of Democracy — Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weinersmith:
  • Piers Morgan, neoliberal — Chris Dillow: The goods of excellence consist in mastery of particular practices, which tend to be positive-sum: one man’s excellence can be celebrated by all. The goods of effectiveness, however, are things like wealth, fame, power and winning, and these are often zero-sum: for a winner there must be a loser.
  • Australia’s Unemployment Rate Isn’t What It Seems — Jim Stanford in New Matilda: By considering all three categories of underutilised worker (officially unemployed, working but need more hours, and non-participants), we generate a much higher measure of labour market slackness: close to 17 percent, almost three times higher than the official unemployment rate.
  • RealtyCorp is born — Leith van Onselen, MacroBusiness: Australia’s media duopoly is on its way to becoming one giant real estate fix. Hot on the heels of Fairfax becoming a glorified real estate agent […] Real estate is now tipped to drive NewsCorp’s earnings growth into the future as well.
  • Corbyn’s Plan — Ian Welsh, declining to mince words: I have little patience for all the Brits who are wringing their hands about Labour and parking their votes in the Conservative party. This is a good, non-radical plan that will work. It is a plan of a government that wants to be good to the poor and the young. Corbyn is entirely credible regarding the lot of it, as he’s stuck by these principles all through the Thatcher and Blairite years. If you’re planning to vote Conservative in the UK, when this is on offer, you’re just an asshole, an “I”ve got mine, fuck you Jack,” or someone who has bought so far into neoliberal ideology that your political actions make you indistinguishable from an asshole, whether or not you think neoliberal policies “work.”
  • Electricity retail prices too high — Public Interest Advocacy Centre: Research by energy economist Bruce Mountain, released this week, confirms that the big three electricity retailers (AGL Energy, Energy Australia and Origin Energy) are charging two to three times more to sell electricity in NSW, VIC, SA and QLD, where the market has been deregulated, than the regulated retailer is charging in the ACT.
  • Incorporating energy into production functions — Steve Keen: In my last post on my Debtwatch blog, I finished by saying that the Physiocrats were the only School of economics to properly consider the role of energy in production. They ascribed it solely to agriculture exploiting the free energy of the Sun, and specifically to land, which absorbed this free energy and stored it in agricultural products. […] But rather than following the Physiocrats’ lead on energy, Smith instead saw labour—not energy—as the font of wealth (which he described in the same terms as Cantillon: the “conveniencies of life”), and ascribed the increase in productivity over time to “the division of labour" […] Economics thus lost the Physiocrats’ focus on energy, and instead descended first into the “Labour theory of value” and then into the Neoclassical (and Post Keynesian) notions of “production functions” in which energy played no role at all.
  • #1246; In which is glimpsed an Opportunity — Wondermark, by David Malki!: It's a gunfight-themed podcast called 'Colt 45 Minutes Long'

Thursday, 1 December 2016 - 3:56pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Thu, 01/12/2016 - 3:58pm in

This week Country Rugby League announced plans to scrap the current model and replace it with an Under-23s competition.  It means the chance to represent the Northern Rivers or North Coast is effectively finished for anyone over the age of 23.

I just… I don't know how one can recover from a shock like this. So much of the North Coast culture is built around the tradition of short fat men with broken noses, cauliflower ears, and no necks groping each other in the middle of a muddy field.

From an early age I was cursed with being tall and good-looking. So I was left on the sidelines, fending off a barrage of advances from attractive women, wishing that I too could one day fully appreciate the smell of male armpits and the endless comic potential of drunken cross-dressing.

Pushing people in their prime out of ritualised violence is just a gift to the reading and thinking lobbies, who will be glad to sink their claws into these vulnerable young men. We can't let them destroy our cherished way of life. How will our health care industry survive without a steady stream of knee injuries?

Sunday, 27 November 2016 - 5:02pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 27/11/2016 - 5:02pm in

It's been a weird week of extremes of relief and despair (in that order), so I have been mostly bookmarking rather than reading:

  • Who Will Command The Robot Armies? — Maciej Cegłowski (via Tregeagle): Letting robots do more of the fighting makes it possible to engage in low-level wars for decades at a time, without creating political pressure for peace. As it becomes harder to inflict casualties on Western armies, their opponents turn to local civilian targets. These are the real victims of terrorism; people who rarely make the news but suffer immensely from the state of permanent warfare.

Sunday, 20 November 2016 - 6:03pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 20/11/2016 - 6:03pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • The Higher Education White Paper: Euphemisms for Destruction — Will Davies in the Political Economy Research Centre blog: It is easy to moan about ‘privatization’ of higher education, but this is arguably something worse. With privatization go some of the benefits of privacy. Instead, we have a technocratic dream of perfectly calibrated ‘satisfaction’ and fees, where every ‘incentive’ is ‘aligned’. It all stems from a Benthamite fantasy that (as I explore in The Happiness Industry) money and subjective experience have a simple, stable relationship to each other. Sustaining the fantasy in an area like higher education involves regulatory complexity on a scale and cost that even Blairites might have blanched at. Technical complexity of this nature benefits one ‘stakeholder’ above all others: consultants.
  • Polls Showed Sanders Had a Better Shot of Beating Trump–but Pundits Told You to Ignore Them — Adam Johnson, at Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR): There was a debate last spring, when the Sanders/Clinton race was at its most heated, as to whether Bernie Sanders’ consistently out-polling Hillary Clinton was to be taken as a serious consideration in favor of his nomination. […] Never mind, the pundits said—Clinton had been “vetted” and Sanders had not.
  • Obama said Hillary will Continue his Legacy – Indeed! — Michael Hudson. Okay, academic now, but this is a very important point I've not heard expressed from anybody else. Forget superdelegates; the Democratic primary process included essentially irrelevant states in the sample that was supposed to prove Clinton's electability: Appointed as DNC head by President Obama in 2008, [Tim Kaine] dismantled Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy, not bothering to fight Republicans in the South and other solid Republican states. His move let them elect governors who gerrymandered their voting districts after the 2010 census. The DNC designated these “neglected” states to come first in the presidential primaries. They were the ones that Hillary won. Sanders won most of the swing states and those likely to vote Democratic. That made him the party’s strongest nominee – obliging the DNC to maneuver to sideline him.
  • Time to ditch Rawls? — Branko Milanovic: Liberal democracies do not affirm the principles of liberalism, as Rawls expected, neither domestically nor internationally. It is inconceivable for Rawls, if these societies would be working well, that they would, as in the US now, generate a third or more of “malcontent” population that clearly does not believe in liberal principles nor is willing to affirm them in their daily lives. Far from it. This, plus the pervasive role of money in electoral politics, lower tax rates for capital than labor, neglect of public education etc. imply that domestically so called liberal societies are very far from Rawls’ idea of liberalism. The difference is so great that we cannot, I think, speak of the discrepancy any longer as the expected difference between an abstract idea and what exist in reality. These societies belong to an entirely different category. Moreover, in foreign policy, as became clear with the Iraq war, they act like outlaw states since they break the fundamental rules on which the international community is founded, namely absence of wars of aggression.
  • The Gig Economy — Ted Rall:
    Proponents of the so-called "Gig Economy" say that while traditional jobs are disappearing, we should be happy about the new spate of "entrepreneurial" jobs that will replace them. True, we won't have paid vacations, retirement plans or sick leave, or much pay for that matter, but we'll be independent, free as a bird to fail or succeed.
  • Building a Progressive International — Yanis Varoufakis continues his crusade of optimism in the pages of Project Syndicate: Bernie Sanders’s “political revolution” in the US, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the UK’s Labour Party, DiEM25 (the Democracy in Europe Movement) on the continent: these are the harbingers of an international progressive movement that can define the intellectual terrain upon which democratic politics must build. But we are at an early stage and face a remarkable backlash from the global troika: witness Sanders’ treatment by the Democratic National Committee, the run against Corbyn by a former pharmaceutical lobbyist, and the attempt to have me indicted for daring to oppose the EU’s plan for Greece.
  • Why Jeremy Corbyn Matters — Richard King in 3 Quarks Daily: It's this prospect of genuine grass-roots democracy that scares the bejesus out of the establishment. The Blairites like to talk about "credibility" and to lament or decry Corbyn's lack of it. But they know as well as anyone that the public's notions of what is credible are changing faster than Donald Trump's policy positions. Boris Johnson, a man who can't comb his own hair and describes African people as "piccaninnies", has just been made British Foreign Secretary: how's that for "credibility"? No, the Blairites aren't anti-Corbyn because they think he can't beat May in a general election. They are anti-Corbyn because they're worried he will.
  • Class in America and Donald Trump — Karin Kamp interviews historian Nancy Isenberg for BillMoyers.com: Donald Trump’s success is rooted in a raw, unscripted speech, outright rudeness and his ability to project anger without being constrained by the well-measured idiom of the politician. His campaign manager admits he is “projecting an image.” Who’s surprised? Our electoral politics has always countenanced con artists and has abided identity politics. An Australian observer described the phenomenon succinctly back in 1949, and it’s true today: Americans have a taste for a “democracy of manners,” he insisted, which was in fact different from real democracy. Voters accept huge disparities in wealth, he observed, while expecting their leaders to “cultivate the appearance of being no different from the rest of us.”
  • My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools — Margot Kidder vents on CounterPunch on the occasion of Hillary "We came, we saw, he died" Clinton's coronation as Democratic nominee: I am half Canadian, I was brought up there, with very different values than you Americans hold, and tonight — after the endless spit ups and boasts and rants about the greatness of American militarism, and praise for American military strength, and boasts about wiping out ISIS, and America being the strongest country on earth, and an utterly inane story from a woman whose son died in Obama’s war, about how she got to cry in gratitude on Obama’s shoulder — tonight I feel deeply Canadian. Every subtle lesson I was ever subliminally given about the bullies across the border and their rudeness and their lack of education and their self-given right to bomb whoever they wanted in the world for no reason other than that they wanted something the people in the other country had, and their greed, came oozing to the surface of my psyche.

Free software for students

Published by Matthew Davidson on Wed, 16/11/2016 - 12:53pm in

Pretty much all universities maintain a list of free-as-in-gratis software that they recommend students use. Very little of this is free-as-in-freedom software. There is no technical reason why most computer users should ever have to use proprietary software. Some users simply aren't aware of the drawbacks and dangers of proprietary software, while others are compelled to use proprietary software by institutions (their employer, etc.). It is vitally important that educational institutions do not compel, or even encourage, the use of non-free software, for many reasons.

The following list was initially based on the list of software Southern Cross University recommends their students use. I've supplemented this with other software I've found useful, and removed some items that solve problems that virtually nobody has these days (such as running Adobe Flash applications). Let me know if you've any suggestions.

Essentials

Software most students will find useful.

Audio players

  • Southern Cross University recommends iTunes, which fundamentally is spyware. However,
  • SCU also recommends VLC media player, and I would as well! According to Wikipedia, it runs on "Windows, macOS, [GNU/]Linux, BSD, Solaris, Android, iOS, Chrome OS, Windows Phone, QNX, Haiku, Syllable, Tizen, OS/2"!
  • I use Totem for playing single audio/video files, and Rhythmbox for organising my music collection. These are only available for GNU/Linux (and other Unix-like OS's).
  • gPodder is a pretty nice podcast downloader/organiser for GNU/Linux, OS X, and Windows.
  • Suggestions, please…

File archiving/compression

  • Southern Cross University recommends 7-zip, which I've used and recommended in the past. Runs on Windows, OS X, and GNU/Linux (though I use tar and gzip from the command line, or the GNOME front end to these). I don't recommend using 7-zip's own format for any important data you want to preserve for posterity. GZIP (or TAR and GZIP for multiple-file archives) is the most cross-platform and future-proof option, IMHO.

Java

  • Most of Java is free software, though some components are proprietary.
  • I use IcedTea, part of the GNU Classpath fully free software Java reimplementation, to run Blackboard Collaborate, and it works fine (that is to say, any problems can safely be attributed to Blackboard Collaborate). Only available for GNU/Linux.
  • Would like to hear from anybody better informed than I about fully free software Java options for other platforms…

Office Suite

  • By virtue of its feature-completeness, LibreOffice is pretty much the only game in town. I rarely used this kind of software before attending uni, and that's where 99% of my frustration with it lies. I've not found anything I've been required to do in three years of uni that it cannot accommodate, though I suppose Microsoft Office power users would face considerable migration strain. Runs on GNU/Linux, OS X, Windows, and even has a document viewer for Android.

PDF readers

If I had a penny for every time I'd heard PDF referred to as "Adobe Acrobat format"…

PDF writers/converters

  • Southern Cross University recommends CutePDF Writer, which has been found in the past to install adware/spyware. Don't touch it with a bargepole.
  • Many free software applications, such as LibreOffice and Mozilla Firefox, are able to export to PDF format without requiring additional software.
  • Suggestions, please…

Nice to have

More specialised or advanced software.

Audio/video editing

  • Audacity is a multi-track audio editor for GNU/Linux, OS X, Windows. A friend and I had a podcast for a while, so I used this all the time for cleaning up audio, and mixing elaborate sound effects from samples. It's brilliant.

Graphics

  • Dia is a diagram (flowcharts, etc.) creation program for GNU/Linux, OS X, Windows.
  • The GNU Image Manipulation program (GIMP) is a raster (bitmapped — photos, and so on) graphics editor for (according to Wikipedia) "[GNU/]Linux, OS X, Microsoft Windows, BSD, Solaris, AmigaOS 4". I don't do a lot of image editing, but I've depended on it for about 20 years, and have never once found myself wishing I had Adobe Photoshop.
  • Inkscape is a vector (line art, logos, diagrams, etc.) editor for GNU/Linux, OS X, Windows.
  • Dia, the GIMP, and Inkscape all export to PDF, and the latter two do a pretty good job of importing from PDF.

Reference management

  • Bibus is a reference manager for GNU/Linux and Windows. It imports metadata in all the usual formats (Bibtex, etc.), though I've found it pretty poor in automatically generating references you can copy and paste into a list without manually tweaking. I find it principally valuable as a simple searchable database of stuff I can vaguely recall reading, but can't remember where. It has some functionality for hooking into LibreOffice and Microsoft Word, but I've not tried that. It's also unusual in that it doesn't try to hook you into using some proprietary web service, as most other reference managers do, so it wins on privacy.

Scientific/statistical calculator

  • Speedcrunch is an intuitive scientific calculator for GNU/Linux, OS X, Windows.
  • Qalculate! (you can tell it's fun by the exclamation mark in the name) is a plotting calculator that also has a lot more functions (including statistical functions) than Speedcrunch, though to my mind it's rather clunky to use. Runs on GNU/Linux, and a third party has contributed an OS X port.

Help wanted

Products that I've never had a reason to find free equivalents for. Suggestions appreciated.

Adobe AIR

A web app development environment. Possible alternatives.

Qualtrics

A proprietary online survey platform. I was a web developer in a former life, so I would use (and indeed have used) my own custom-built Drupal site to conduct surveys. I realise this is not a practical option for most students. The best solution for most would probably be a third-party platform licenced under the GNU Affero General Public License.

Deprecated

If you still need any of these, I'm very very sorry.

Adobe Flash Player

There used to be a number of free software alternatives, but as Flash is a dead technology, replaced by superior native web technologies, these projects appear to have died as well. Install the HTML5 Video Everywhere plugin for your web browser of choice, and you can disable (and preferably uninstall) and forget the blasted thing.

Adobe Shockwave Player

Another superceded technology.

Microsoft Silverlight

A development/runtime platform for .NET applications. Not strictly obsolete, since .NET developers do perform the useful service of giving PHP developers somebody to look down upon.

Microsoft Security Essentials

An oxymoron in more ways than one.

QuickTime

Ah, memories.

Sunday, 13 November 2016 - 6:22pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 13/11/2016 - 6:22pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Surpluses & deficits are hotly debated – but what about the currency? — Emile Woolf, Renegade Inc: When a British importer buys German goods he must pay for them in euros. For that purpose he (or his agent) will acquire euros from a German bank, and after settling the bill the German exporter (or his bank) is now a holder of British pounds. What will he do them? He can use them to buy British goods, or even UK treasury bonds, or he can exchange them for a different currency – but if, instead, he just sits on them indefinitely he will, just like the retailer who never cashes your cheque, be handing the importer a free gift!
  • John McDonnell is right: we do disagree on macroeconomic policy — Richard Murphy: I said he should not agree to a fiscal charter promising a balanced budget which is wholly economically unnecessary and even destructive. But he did. I also argued against the fundamentally neoliberal concept of an independent central bank that takes control of key aspects of economic management out of democratic control and which was Ed Balls idea. But John bought into it. And as a result he backed off from People’s QE : he was advised that a central bank cannot create money to help ordinary people, job creation or the building of social housing. Instead John accepted that central banks can only use that power for the sake of saving bankers.
  • The macroeconomic challenge of the twenty first century — Richard Murphy: Petrodollars created the architecture of the economies of the world that are now creaking at potential massive cost to us all. Now wise management of the fiscally created dollars, euros, pounds, yen and more can provide the alternative, costless but ultimately liberating source of the lubricant for our future economies. As a result we no longer need to burn the planet to liberate the potential in all people. The fiscal dollar can instead build the foundations for prosperity and social harmony that we all crave.
  • New Paper: Demand-Side Business Dynamism — Mike Konczal and Marshall Steinbaum in Roosevelt Forward: This paper argues that the decline in mobility, dynamism, and entrepreneurship is a result of declining labor demand since 2000. When it is hard to find another job, employed workers stay at the jobs they have, impairing their ascent up the job ladder and the accompanying wage growth over careers that historically led to the middle class. Declining entrepreneurship can also be explained by workers’ reluctance to leave large, stable incumbents to start their own firm or to work at a start-up when they cannot be assured that they will have a more stable job to return to. Thus, we find that the concentration of employment in old firms and in large firms mirrors the timing of declining labor mobility due to declining demand.
  • Understanding Trump — George Lakoff: Private enterprise and private life utterly depend on public resources. Have you ever said this? Elizabeth Warren has. Almost no other public figures. And stop defending “the government.” Talk about the public, the people, Americans, the American people, public servants, and good government. And take back freedom. Public resources provide for freedom in private enterprise and private life. The conservatives are committed to privatizing just about everything and to eliminating funding for most public resources. The contribution of public resources to our freedoms cannot be overstated. Start saying it.
  • How Did We Get Such a Terrible Nominee? — Ted Rall:
    The party candidate isn't true to its basic principles, lies, is ruthless, breaks the law and has record-high disapproval ratings in the polls. How the hell did America's oldest political party wind up with such a terrible candidate? Easy: they plotted and schemed.
  • The Bank of Japan needs to introduce Overt Monetary Financing next — Bill Mitchell: When economists talk of ‘printing money’ they are referring to the process whereby the central bank adds some numbers to the treasury’s bank account to match its spending plans and in return is given treasury bonds to an equivalent value. That is where the term ‘debt monetisation’ comes from. Instead of selling debt to the private sector, the treasury simply sells it to the central bank, which then creates new funds in return. This accounting smokescreen is, of course, unnecessary. The central bank doesn’t need the offsetting asset (government debt) given that it creates the currency ‘out of thin air’. So the swapping of public debt for account credits is just an accounting convention.
  • Economic change will not happen until the left understands money — Ann Pettifor in openDemocracy: The fact is that as western economies try to recover, they are sunk again by a mountain of private debt whose repayment is made less likely by austerity policies. These are policies with the ideological aim of “shrinking the state” but which, in the process contract both public and private sector investment, employment and incomes. The consequence of weak demand built on a mountain of debt is deflation: a generalized fall in prices and wages. Most economists, especially those in thrall to the finance sector, have an obsession with, and an aversion to inflation. The reason is that inflation erodes the value of debt. Deflation does the very opposite: it inflates the value of debt. Creditors are not disturbed by deflation, as it effortlessly, and silently increases the value of their most valuable asset: debt.
  • Education, The Enlightenment, and the 21st-Century — Fred van Leeuwen for the RSA: There is an inherent conflict between blind faith and critical thinking. That is true whether it is religious fanaticism or the imposition of political ideologies or nationalistic or ethnic dogmas in schools. Although I am not confounding barbaric terrorism with the “values” of the market, it is a danger if one grants markets and management thinking unexamined reverence. Placing education in such a straightjacket is having a major impact on development because it is affecting the way in which communities are conceived, justice is understood, and democracy is practised.
  • The DNC Email Leaks: The Gift That Keeps On Feeding Distrust — John Kiriakou in Truthdig: As my friend the State Department whistleblower Peter Van Buren said recently, “People are claiming the Russian government risked something close to war to hack DNC emails to embarrass [Hillary] Clinton after her own email shenanigans and to help [Donald] Trump, who maybe would win in November and who maybe would make decisions favorable to Russia? You realize that’s what has to be true for this [Vladimir] Putin scenario to be true, right? We’re back to the 1950s, accusing politicians of being in league with the Russians.” […] The issue is that the DNC colluded and conspired to favor the Clinton campaign and deny Bernie Sanders the Democratic nomination for president. The DNC’s actions were Nixonian, and they read like an account of that shamed president’s actions from a chapter of “All the President’s Men.”
  • Overt Monetary Financing would flush out the ideological disdain for fiscal policy — Bill Mitchell: Monetary policy is really such a blunt and ineffective tool that it should be rendered redundant. The mainstream have never provided a convincing case that manipulating interest rates is somehow the preferable and effective option for stabilising the spending cycle. The GFC experience would suggest otherwise. All the monetary policy gymnastics have had very little impact. It would be much better to set the overnight rate at zero and leave it there and allow the longer term rates (which are impacted by inflation risk) settle as low as possible. Then, manage the spending cycle with fiscal initiatives that can be targetted, adjusted fairly quickly and which have direct impacts.
  • Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit — Glenn Greenwald: Put simply, Democrats knowingly chose to nominate a deeply unpopular, extremely vulnerable, scandal-plagued candidate, who — for very good reason — was widely perceived to be a protector and beneficiary of all the worst components of status quo elite corruption. It’s astonishing that those of us who tried frantically to warn Democrats that nominating Hillary Clinton was a huge and scary gamble — that all empirical evidence showed that she could lose to anyone and Bernie Sanders would be a much stronger candidate, especially in this climate — are now the ones being blamed: by the very same people who insisted on ignoring all that data and nominating her anyway.

YouTube RSS Feed URIs

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 13/11/2016 - 9:57am in

These appear to still work (for the time being), but it's clear that YouTube/Google/Alphabet want to transition to a world where URIs are just an endpoint where you present your API key, the better to surveil you and your users:

https://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?channel_id=CHANNELID
https://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?user=USERNAME
https://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?playlist_id=YOUR_YOUTUBE_PLAYLIST_NUMBER

(Source)

Sunday, 6 November 2016 - 5:54pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 06/11/2016 - 5:54pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • The Incalculable Cost of our Aversion to Government Debt — Ari Andricopoulos: Thanks to austerity there is both a non-growing pie and workers receiving a smaller share of it (due to austerity forcing interest rates down). So there is low demand because of low government spending and high supply of labour because of benefit sanctions. The inevitable result of this is a low wage economy.
  • The elites hate Momentum and the Corbynites - and I’ll tell you why — David Graeber in the Guardian: The real battle is not over the personality of one man, or even a couple of hundred politicians. If the opposition to Jeremy Corbyn for the past nine months has been so fierce, and so bitter, it is because his existence as head of a major political party is an assault on the very notion that politics should be primarily about the personal qualities of politicians. It’s an attempt to change the rules of the game, and those who object most violently to the Labour leadership are precisely those who would lose the most personal power were it to be successful: sitting politicians and political commentators.
  • Fears For Pauline Hanson’s Health After She Realises Some Asians Are Also Muslim — The Shovel:
  • A comment on Keen’s “Credit plus GDP” measure — Cameron Murray: There are two extremes I have in mind in this analysis. First, if all new credit is directed to new capital investments, we would expect a very close match between credit creation and increases in nominal GDP. Second, if all credit creation is to fund asset purchases, we might expect a much lower relationship between new credit and GDP growth. This idea fits nicely with the story that we should use the banking system to support new capital investment instead of funding asset purchases, which simply leads to asset price growth and speculative cycles. In this story it matters what new credit (money) is used for, not just the levels of new credit. And, related:
  • The Truth about Banks — Michael Kumhof and Zoltán Jakab, in the IMF's Finance & Development magazine: In modern neoclassical intermediation of loanable funds theories, banks are seen as intermediating real savings. Lending, in this narrative, starts with banks collecting deposits of previously saved real resources (perishable consumer goods, consumer durables, machines and equipment, etc.) from savers and ends with the lending of those same real resources to borrowers. But such institutions simply do not exist in the real world. There are no loanable funds of real resources that bankers can collect and then lend out. […] financing, is of course the key activity of banks. The detailed steps are as follows. Assume that a banker has approved a loan to a borrower. Disbursement consists of a bank entry of a new loan, in the name of the borrower, as an asset on its books and a simultaneous new and equal deposit, also in the name of the borrower, as a liability. This is a pure bookkeeping transaction that acquires its economic significance through the fact that bank deposits are the generally accepted medium of exchange of any modern economy, its money.
  • I’m already tired of the ‘lessons’ of Chilcot. What can we learn from a report that ignores Iraqis? — Robert Fisk, the Independent: Yes, [Blair] sure was a nasty piece of work, lying to us Brits and then lying to us again after Chilcot was published, and then waffling on about faith and “the right thing to do” when we all know that smiting vast numbers of innocent people – and even bringing about the smiting of a vaster number of the very same Muslims, Christians and Yazidis up to this very day – was a very, very bad thing to do. For these victims – anonymous and almost irrelevant in the Chilcot report – we cannot say “even unto the end”, because they are dying unto the present day. The real “end” for these victims cometh not even yet.
  • #1236; In which a Reminder is constant — Wondermark, by David Malki!: ''Can you at least make it not sound like a leaky faucet?'' ''Changing the alert tone is an in-app purchase. You want me to set it to a gong? Costs five bucks.''
  • Credentialism and Corruption: The Opioid Epidemic and “the Looting Professional Class” — Lambert Strether in Naked Capitalism: As reader Clive wrote: "Increasingly, if you want to get and hang on to a middle class job, that job will involve dishonesty or exploitation of others in some way." And you’ve got to admit that serving as a transmission vector for an epidemic falls into the category of “exploitation of others.”
  • WBC warns on NZ household debt. What about Australia’s? — Leith van Onselen at MacroBusiness compares the household debt/income levels of us and them next door:
  • Regulator Warns Commercial Real Estate Bubble Is Biggest US Bank Risk — Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism: The reason commercial real estate lending is so hazardous is banks routinely lose more than 100% of the loan when the projects go bad. Not only do all the loan proceeds go “poof,” but when they foreclose, they are typically stuck with a completed or partially completed project. If it is completely and not fundamentally unsound (say an office building in an up-and-coming area), it’s possible to get a partial recovery. But for a white elephant or a half-finished building, the bank will need to clear the property, which means throwing good money after bad, and is stuck with land plus perhaps some general previous owner improvements (if a subdivision, getting zoning and running in plumbing; in an urban setting, doing the assemblage). Moreover, commercial properties are idiosyncratic, so liquidating them is also inherently time-consuming.
  • That Far Left Entryist Takeover of the Labour Party — Craig Murray: At its height in the 1980’s, Militant claimed 8,000 members. In 2013 its descendant, the Socialist Party, claimed 2,500 members and crowed that it was now bigger than the Socialist Workers Party. The SWP replied, not by claiming to have more than 2,500 members, but by saying that the Socialist Party’s claim of 2,500 was inflated. The various manifestations of the Communist Party are smaller. […] I have therefore watched with bemusement the claims that the 120,000 new Labour members now banned from voting, and perhaps half of the remaining 400,000 Labour electorate, are entryists from organisations of the “hard left”. Anybody who believes there are over 300,000 members of “hard left” groups in the UK is frankly bonkers.
  • Robot Bombs: A One Time Thing, Right? — Ted Rall: Micah Johnson, the suspect in the Dallas shooting of 12 police officers, of whom five died, was blown up by a police department robot bomb that had previously only been used by the military in war zones. Given that police agencies around the country have been equipped with similar hardware, look for remote-control murders by police to escalate. Next up, obviously: killing enemies of the state using drones.
  • Paul Krugman’s stock market advice — Dean Baker, in the Real World Economics Review Blog: [Apple, Google, and Microsoft] are companies that depend to a large extent on government-granted monopolies in the form of patent and copyright protection. We have made these protections much stronger and longer over the last four decades through a variety of laws and trade agreements. Of course the point of these protections is to give an incentive for innovation and creative work. But in a period where we are supposedly troubled by an upward redistribution from people who work for a living to people who “own” the technology, perhaps we should not be giving those people ever stronger claims to ownership of technology.
  • The Trojan Drone: An Illegal Military Strategy Disguised as Technological Advance — Rebecca Gordon in TomDispatch: The technical advances embodied in drone technology distract us from a more fundamental change in military strategy. However it is achieved -- whether through conventional air strikes, cruise missiles fired from ships, or by drone -- the United States has now embraced extrajudicial executions on foreign soil. Successive administrations have implemented this momentous change with little public discussion. And most of the discussion we’ve had has focused more on the new instrument (drone technology) than on its purpose (assassination). It’s a case of the means justifying the end. The drones work so well that it must be all right to kill people with them.
  • Why are license "agreements" so uniformly terrible? — at Boing Boing, an excerpt from The End of Ownership: Personal Property in the Digital Economy, by Aaron Perzanowski and Jason Schultz: The current iTunes Terms and Conditions are over 19,000 words, translating into fifty-six pages of fine print, longer than Macbeth. Not to be outdone, PayPal’s terms weigh in at 36,000 words, besting Hamlet by a wide margin. The demands of these prolix legal documents are jaw-dropping. Take Adobe’s Flash, a software platform installed on millions of computers each day. Assume the average user can read the 3,500-word Flash license in ten minutes—a generous assumption given the dense legalese in which it is written. If everyone who installed Flash in a single day read the license, it would require collectively over 1,500 years of human attention. That’s true every single day, for just one software product. Imagine what would happen if you tried to read every license you encountered. […] License terms are not negotiable. So there’s little to gain from a careful reading. […] Adobe is not going to negotiate a new license with you. They won’t even entertain the idea. So your choice is simple. Either use the product—and live with the license—or don’t. Take it or leave it.
  • Sole and Despotic Dominion — Cory Doctorow in Locus Online: If the mere presence of a copyrighted work in a device means that its manufacturer never stops owning it, then it means that you can never start owning it. There’s a word for this: feudalism. In feudalism, property is the exclusive realm of a privileged few, and the rest of us are tenants on that property. In the 21st century, DMCA-enabled version of feudalism, the gentry aren’t hereditary toffs, they’re transhuman, immortal artificial life-forms that use humans as their gut-flora: limited liability corporations.
  • Gnome Ann — xkcd: Gnome Ann

Thursday, 3 November 2016 - 8:35pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Thu, 03/11/2016 - 8:38pm in

Fifteen Key Employment clients have been given the opportunity to complete a certificate II in Horticulture.

The TAFE course has been designed to help clients gain skills, increasing their chances to find work in the Woolgoolga area.

Horticulture? Surely the skills with the highest payoff are those necessary to be a Job Services provider. Add an unemployed person to your books: ka-ching! Give them some perfunctory training: ka-ching! Breach them for some trivial failure of "compliance": ka-ching! Take credit when they get themselves a job: ka-ching! Get them back on your books again when they're illegally sacked: ka-ching!

Actually, I take it back. There are no skills required in order to profit from human misery. Learning to move dirt around is probably more socially useful, or at least not actively harmful.

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