Sunday, 15 October 2017 - 3:01pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 15/10/2017 - 3:01pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

Tuesday, 10 October 2017 - 7:58pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Tue, 10/10/2017 - 7:58pm in

Coffs Harbour is defined by the NSW Government's 2036 North Coast Regional Plan as a regional city and it does home a Southern Cross University campus.

But would you consider Coffs a university city?

I would love Coffs Harbour to become a university city. The trouble is that SCU is a vocational college that happens to have the word "university" in it's brand name. Last year the incoming Vice Chancellor, who in a stunning departure from the norm for bottom-tier uni VCs is not an out-and-proud philistine, nonetheless wrote to students "I want to assure you that your employability and your future career success are top priorities for all of us."

Obviously somebody who has the ability and inclination to pursue an academic education will inevitably also be employable, but SCU does not offer an academic education. All the work a student does is assessed against predetermined "marking criteria", which refer to desired "learning outcomes", which are in turn linked to "graduate attributes", which ultimately answer to the needs of employers. It's a TAFE with airs and graces. It's three additional years of high school with a much narrower range of subjects and virtually no permanent full-time teaching staff. And under the "demand driven system" it has a commercial imperative to take all comers, and ensure as many as possible complete courses which are consequently so dumbed-down as to be meaningless.

The post-1988 expansion of alleged higher education is a scam built on the hoax of "human capital". By flogging a false promise of employability instead of contributing to the intellectual life of its host community, SCU Coffs is merely the largest leech in the swamp in which it sits.

Sunday, 8 October 2017 - 6:16pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 08/10/2017 - 6:16pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

Saturday, 7 October 2017 - 6:42pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 07/10/2017 - 6:42pm in

I should never reboot my computer.

I am so out of touch that I didn't realise that a new version of Debian came out in June. "Splendid!", I thought. So:

# apt-get update
# apt-get dist-upgrade

… then off for a walk while two gigabytes downloaded (really must get rid of all those first-person shooters that are anyway far too violent for a gentleman of my advanced years).

Get through the upgrade, reboot the computer, and my USB WiFi dongle doesn't work. Here's how to diagnose/fix:

# lsusb
Bus 002 Device 002: ID 8087:8000 Intel Corp. 
[…]
Bus 003 Device 003: ID 045e:00cb Microsoft Corp. Basic Optical Mouse v2.0
Bus 003 Device 002: ID 413c:2003 Dell Computer Corp. Keyboard
Bus 003 Device 007: ID 0bda:8178 Realtek Semiconductor Corp. RTL8192CU 802.11n WLAN Adapter
[…]

Yes, I use a Microsoft mouse. Microsoft branded peripherals have generally been pretty darn good. I think this mouse is at least ten years old, and it's as good as the day I bought it. So now I know the WiFi chipset. I go to the Debian Wiki WiFi page, and find that I need the rtl8192cu driver, which is in the (non-free) firmware-realtek package, which is of course already installed because the blasted thing used to work. So now it's just a matter of:

# modprobe rtl8192cu

…and we're back in business. For good measure, I added rtl8192cu to the /etc/modules file, so that maybe I'll survive the next reboot unscathed. Not that I will be rebooting any time soon.

Monday, 2 October 2017 - 7:55pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Mon, 02/10/2017 - 7:55pm in

THE Coffs Coast already boasts quality fishing but this could be improved.

Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser is encouraging application for the next round of the NSW Government's Recreational Fishing Trust Grants.

Popular projects funded by this grant include fish aggregating devices and artificial reefs.

I had no idea that there were such things as "fish aggregating devices". What an age we live in!

What worries me is the potential for such a device to run amok and go critical. Are there proper procedures in place to keep our community safe in the event of a catastrophic fish meltdown? I expect the half-life of fish is rather short, but that will be of little comfort to those living within the radius of contamination in the immediate aftermath, as they go through the painstaking and rather smelly recovery process of picking tiny bones out of everything.

I suggest that it's only sensible to have emergency response crews stationed by each and every fish aggregation site, equipped with enough lemon juice and tartare sauce to tamp down any impending piscatorial blowout.

Sunday, 1 October 2017 - 7:13pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 01/10/2017 - 7:13pm in

This week, I have been procrastinating and not writing an essay:

  • Editorial market — Flea Snobbery by Andrés Diplotti:
  • What is the Minimum Wage that Will Employ Everyone? — Carlos Maciel at the Minskys: To find the best wage rate for JG jobs, a few parameters should be considered. First, the JG framework is to create jobs that provide at least a minimum “subsistence” rate, so that workers can live a decent life. As such, it is clear that the JG wage should at least be the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Second, the goal of the JG is not, and should never be, to replace the private sector. So, the JG wage should not exceed the average wage paid in the private sector ($25.31 in 2016). This creates an upper limit. With these lower and upper limits in place we can raise the floor or lower the ceiling, ultimately arriving at the proper wage rate paid by this full employment policy.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017 - 9:41pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Tue, 26/09/2017 - 9:41pm in

"This begs the question - is the Coffs Coast ready for more decorating/furnishing stores? And if so, which ones?

It seems every time a warehouse or industrial space becomes vacant there are whispers around town of either Myer or Ikea setting up shop.

Matt Blatt, Pottery Barn, Oz Design or King Living? David Jones or Myer? Which business would you welcome on the Coffs Coast"

By Jove, I'm glad there's one media outlet willing to tackle controversial topics like this. I've seen careers ruined and families broken up over less. You, my friend, have opened up a huge can of worms, and absolutely nobody likes worms. Except some fish. And birds. And other worms, I suppose.

The one thing I really miss since moving to Reejnall Australia - apart from civilisation, of course - is Big Jim McSplinter's Family Lifestyle Outlet. We used to love that place, when we were kids. As Pete Smith used to say on the TV ads "If it's made from old fence palings and rusty nails, you'll find it at McSplinter's".

It may seem quaint now, but that was really the dawn of aspirational Australia. To be greeted at the door by a man dressed up in a giant Big Jim costume (usually Big Jim himself in those days), then to stroll through the store, first left, then right, then left, then right, and so on, running a hand over ever more fashionably rustic home furnishings…

Then, while waiting for the staff to securely strap our purchases to the roof of the Toyota Tarago, we'd enjoy an ice cold milkshake in the Antiseptic Lounge, and set to work with our complimentary tweezers. "A McSplinter's family is a family that's up to date on their tetanus jabs," as they used to say, and although it's become much more gentrified and sophisticated in recent years, I still think that this is the sort of business that would attract much-needed multi-story car parks to the region.

Sunday, 24 September 2017 - 6:12pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 24/09/2017 - 6:12pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • No, the “grown-ups” won’t save us: A favorite Beltway fantasy bites the dust again — Heather Digby Parton in Salon: One would have thought Americans had learned their lesson after having lived through the disaster of the George W. Bush years. But 16 years later the Republican Party served up another unqualified, ill-equipped nominee, and he, too, became president without winning the most votes. Once again the establishment tried to reassure the public that he would be held in check by the vice president and the respectable appointees: Gen. Jim Mattis at the Pentagon, Gen. John Kelly at Homeland Security and — after the first choice was fired — Gen. H.R. McMaster as national security adviser. Since the military is the only institution left in America that maintains even the slightest respect among the public, this seemed like a good idea. These men had commanded legions; surely they could control the likes of President Donald Trump.
  • Intellectual Property Is Real Money — Dean Baker in Jacobin: The idea of imposing a 20 percent tariff on imported shoes or steel would send any mainstream economist into a frenzy. They all know how tariffs distort the market, leading to waste and corruption. But when it comes to patents and copyrights, the difference we are talking about — between the protected price and the “free market price” — is ten or even a hundred times higher than it would be otherwise.
  • Are Students a Class? — Michael Hudson: In view of the fact that a college education is a precondition for joining the working class (except for billionaire dropouts), the middle class is a debtor class – so deep in debt that once they manage to get a job, they have no leeway to go on strike, much less to protest against bad working conditions. This is what Alan Greenspan described as the “traumatized worker effect” of debt. Do students think about their future in these terms? How do they think of their place in the world?
  • Monopoly has a Magic Money Tree, just like the real world — Richard Murphy on a point previously made by Stephanie Kelton: Monopoly reflects real life perfectly: the central bank can never run out of money. If it does, it can just create some more.
  • #1317; In which an Adult has Fantasies — Wondermark, by David Malki !:
  • Slow Crash — Andrew Cockburn interviews Michael Hudson in Harper's: Wall Street’s investment banks and bondholders were rescued, not the economy. The debts were left in place, and continue to grow not only by compound interest but by arrears and penalties compounding. The proportion of national income paid as interest, insurance fees and economic rent is rising faster than the economy is growing. Banks lend mainly to other financial institutions. They don’t lend to factories that are creating jobs. They don’t lend out for goods and services. They lend to other financial institutions. The whole economy has turned into trying to make money on speculation and arbitrage, not on producing goods and services, not on hiring people to actually do work. The economy therefore is very fragile.

Sunday, 17 September 2017 - 7:11pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 17/09/2017 - 7:11pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • My “Nonviolent” Stance Was Met With Heavily Armed Men — Logan Rimel of Radical Discipleship: I never felt safer than when I was near antifa. They came to defend people, to put their bodies between these armed white supremacists and those of us who could not or would not fight. They protected a lot of people that day, including groups of clergy. My safety (and safety is relative in these situations) was dependent upon their willingness to commit violence. In effect, I outsourced the sin of my violence to them. I asked them to get their hands dirty so I could keep mine clean. Do you understand? They took that up for me, for the clergy they shielded, for those of us in danger. We cannot claim to be pacifists or nonviolent when our safety requires another to commit violence, and we ask for that safety.
  • The First White President — Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic: Trump is the first president to have served in no public capacity before ascending to his perch. But more telling, Trump is also the first president to have publicly affirmed that his daughter is a “piece of ass.” The mind seizes trying to imagine a black man extolling the virtues of sexual assault on tape (“When you’re a star, they let you do it”), fending off multiple accusations of such assaults, immersed in multiple lawsuits for allegedly fraudulent business dealings, exhorting his followers to violence, and then strolling into the White House. But that is the point of white supremacy—to ensure that that which all others achieve with maximal effort, white people (particularly white men) achieve with minimal qualification. Barack Obama delivered to black people the hoary message that if they work twice as hard as white people, anything is possible. But Trump’s counter is persuasive: Work half as hard as black people, and even more is possible.
  • Humans are intrinsically anti neo-liberal — Bill Mitchell: One of the great casualties of this neo-liberal dark age that we are living through at present and which began in the 1980s (if not a little earlier) is that society has been subjugated to economy. In the 1980s, we began to live in economies rather than societies or communities.
  • Why Economists Have to Embrace Complexity to Avoid Disaster — Evonomics publishes an awe-inspiring excerpt from Steve Keen's new book: The reason that aggregating individual downward sloping demand curve[s] results in a market demand curve that can have any shape at all is simple to understand, but—for those raised in the mainstream tradition—very difficult to accept. The individual demand curve is derived by assuming that relative prices can change without affecting the consumer’s income. This assumption can’t be made when you consider all of society—which you must do when aggregating individual demand to derive a market demand curve—because changing relative prices will change relative incomes as well.
  • Capital is failing Australia not labour — Leith van Onselen at MacroBusiness: In 1974, the share of TFI taken by wages was 62%, whereas as at December 2016 it had fallen to just 53% – a 9% decline. By contrast, the share of TFI taken by profits was 17% in 1974, whereas as at December 2016 it had risen to 26% – a 9% increase. Moreover, the fall in workers’ share of TFI has nothing to do with productivity. […] Australian labour productivity (real GDP per hour worked) has risen by just under 80% since 1978, whereas real average compensation per employee has risen by just 28% over the same period.
  • An Open Letter to My Online Student — Peyton Burgess at McSweeny's Internet Tendency: Did you get my email regarding the Extra Credit assignment? You could benefit from the Extra Credit assignment. Many of you could benefit from it. Nobody has emailed me yet to say how generous it was of me to offer the Extra Credit assignment. Online Student, you have never responded, and I fear you never will.
  • Donald Trump has just met with the new leader of the secular world – Pope Francis — Robert Fisk, the Independent: For more and more, the Good Old Pope is coming to represent what the Trumps and Mays will not say: that the West has a moral duty to end its wars in the Middle East, to stop selling weapons to the killers of the Middle East and to treat the people of the Middle East with justice and dignity.
  • Meet the CamperForce, Amazon's Nomadic Retiree Army — Jessica Bruder in Wired: Many of the workers who joined Camper­Force were around traditional retirement age, in their sixties or even seventies. They were glad to have a job, even if it involved walking as many as 15 miles a day on the concrete floor of a warehouse. From a hiring perspective, the RVers were a dream labor force. They showed up on demand and dispersed just before Christmas in what the company cheerfully called a “taillight parade.” They asked for little in the way of benefits or protections. And though warehouse jobs were physically taxing—not an obvious fit for older bodies—recruiters came to see Camper­Force workers’ maturity as an asset. These were diligent, responsible employees. Their attendance rates were excellent.
  • The Dystopia We Signed Up For — Chelsea Manning in the New York TImes: The real power of mass data collection lies in the hand-tailored algorithms capable of sifting, sorting and identifying patterns within the data itself. When enough information is collected over time, governments and corporations can use or abuse those patterns to predict future human behavior. Our data establishes a “pattern of life” from seemingly harmless digital residue like cellphone tower pings, credit card transactions and web browsing histories.

Thursday, 14 September 2017 - 11:50pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Thu, 14/09/2017 - 11:50pm in

More silliness:

FEDERAL Member for Page Kevin Hogan took to social media to explain why he voted in favour of banning full facial coverings at the Nationals conference in Canberra last Sunday.

"It was to ban full facial coverings in certain public places. Many countries have already done this, including Germany, France and Belgium, to name a few,” Mr Hogan wrote on Facebook.

He wrote the ban would have included full face helmets, bandanas and burkas in certain public spaces.

"Given the importance of facial recognition technology in criminal investigations, this is a public safety issue. For banks, service stations and other such places, it is an important safety issue,” he wrote.

This is a tremendously brave stance from a forward-thinking public servant. Given also the extraordinary advances in genital recognition technology, it follows that nothing less than mandatory full public nudity is required for the purposes of potential criminal investigations.

A cynic may say that such a policy is only designed to increase the standing of northern MPs relative to those in colder climes, but who can honestly say they don't want to see their elected members fully exposed in certain public places?

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