Sunday, 5 February 2017 - 7:20pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 05/02/2017 - 7:20pm in

This week, I have been feeling guilty about skipping a month, and mostly reading:

  • Why Do Anything? A Meditation on Procrastination — Costica Bradatan in the New York Times: The drama of procrastination comes from its split nature. Just like the architect from Shiraz, the procrastinator is smitten by the perfect picture of that which is yet to be born; he falls under the spell of all that purity and splendor. What he is beholding is something whole, uncorrupted by time, untainted by the workings of a messed-up world. At the same time, though, the procrastinator is fully aware that all that has to go. No sooner does he get a glimpse of the perfection that precedes actualization than he is doomed to become part of the actualization process himself, to be the one who defaces the ideal and brings into the world a precarious copy, unlike the architect who saves it by burning the plans.
  • China’s Army of Global Homebuyers Is Suddenly Short on Cash — Bloomberg News: Less than a month after China announced fresh curbs on overseas payments, anecdotal reports from realtors, homeowners and developers suggest the restrictions are already weighing on the world’s biggest real estate buying spree. […] “If it’s too difficult, I’m out,’’ said Mr. Zheng, 66, a retired civil servant in Shanghai who declined to give his first name to avoid attracting regulatory scrutiny. He may abandon a 2.4 million yuan ($348,903) home purchase in western Melbourne, even after shelling out a 300,000 yuan deposit last August. He’s due to make another big payment next month. [Tick… tick… tick…]
  • Why Trump's Staff Is Lying — Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg View: By requiring subordinates to speak untruths, a leader can undercut their independent standing, including their standing with the public, with the media and with other members of the administration. That makes those individuals grow more dependent on the leader and less likely to mount independent rebellions against the structure of command. Promoting such chains of lies is a classic tactic when a leader distrusts his subordinates and expects to continue to distrust them in the future. Another reason for promoting lying is what economists sometimes call loyalty filters. If you want to ascertain if someone is truly loyal to you, ask them to do something outrageous or stupid. If they balk, then you know right away they aren’t fully with you.
  • The Private Debt Crisis — Richard Vague: When too high, private debt becomes a drag on economic growth. It chips away at the margin of growth trends. Though different researchers cite different levels, a growing body of research suggests that when private debt enters the range of 100 to 150 percent of GDP, it impedes economic growth. When private debt is high, consumers and businesses have to divert an increased portion of their income to paying interest and principal on that debt—and they spend and invest less as a result. That’s a very real part of what’s weighing on economic growth. After private debt reaches these high levels, it suppresses demand.

Thursday, 2 February 2017 - 6:07pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Thu, 02/02/2017 - 6:10pm in

THE Real Estate Property Guide team stepped into a suburban oasis this week at Boambee East.

Unrealestate principal and selling agent Kerry Hines said the home is a true escape from the everyday grind.

"It has a central location, close to everything, yet it's almost a private oasis," she said.

"Close to everything"? I've lived in Boambee East and the isolation almost drove me mad. You are close to nothing except mile after mile of Colorbond fencing and hopeless despair. It's the country's largest open-air prison.

Walk the streets of an evening and I guarantee that before long you'll see a miserable middle aged man sitting alone on an upturned milk crate in his garage, listening to his Cold Chisel and Meatloaf records, over and over, and reaching into the carton on the floor beside him for another joyless can of rum and coke.

You'll also see the occasional old man or woman grimly pushing a walking frame down the middle of the road, because there are no footpaths, and in any case the grass verge is full of cars; the tiny prefab half-block houses necessitate using the garage as living space, and four or five car households are the average, because walking or public transport are out of the question, despite being so wonderfully "close to everything".

Kick the juice bottle bongs, empty opioid packs, and petrol cans out of your way, make sure the guy unconscious in a pool of urine is still breathing, and within an hour or two you'll get to the nearest pub. Recent renovations can't hide the fact that it's basically a livestock shed, optimised for slopping out rather than ambiance. In any case by the time you get there, they'll be stacking chairs and locking up.

So yes, a social, cultural, and intellectual desert is the perfect spot for a suburban oasis. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 1 February 2017 - 8:11pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Wed, 01/02/2017 - 8:14pm in

Friday, 27 January 2017 - 9:56pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Fri, 27/01/2017 - 10:17pm in

My heart has been rent in twain by the gross injustice of a hard-working entrepreneur defamed over nothing more than a good old-fashioned lockout. The poor man has written to our local MP:

You have helped the workers by helping the company obtain a supervised repayment plan for the superannuation and taxes due to the ATO. Your assistance gave the company a chance to recover and for the workers to keep their jobs.

These two gentlemen tirelessly give, and give, and give, by… erm… not giving. But honestly, what employee would be so churlish as to refuse an extension of their Christmas holiday to February? Especially if about half of it might have been paid for.

The company has paid all wages through to 18 January 2017. This has been allocated and is being processed. The Australia day public holiday has delayed these payments being processed.

I am dismayed that a tiny contingent of Trotskyite entryists (they're everywhere, I tell you!) and chardonnay-sipping elitists in the press have dragged the reputation of this thriving concern through the mud - after everything that Mr Van Vliet and Mr Hartsukyer MP have done for the workers and their community.

Picture the day a delegation of grimy but loyal workers visited Mr Van Vliet's office in Malaysia, wringing their flat caps and begging "We just can't in all good conscience accept any more superannuation payment after all what you done for us. It's a crime that a gent like y'self should have to pay tax, an' all. Please go see Mr Hartsuyker, for we hear he's a kind man with a heart open to the struggles of the multinational CEO. There's no shame in that, sir!"

What nobody seems to realise is that it's not only Mr Van Vliet; there's a whole parent company with (according to Bloomberg) a whopping eight employees, ranging from himself all the way down to the lowliest Vice President. Just imagine them, weeping into their hotel pillows, and explaining to their professional companion for the evening how powerless they are in the face of the Australia Day public holiday!

I suggest the workers, duly chastened, should have a whip round and post a money order to Renewable Fuel Corp's Las Vegas mailing address. Include a note instructing Mr Van Vliet to go down the road and put it all on black. The first rule of the entrepreneur is never gamble with your own money.

Update 30/1/2017: Voluntary liquidation. You could have knocked me down with a feather.

Sunday, 8 January 2017 - 3:03pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 08/01/2017 - 3:03pm in

This week, I have been plagued by self-doubt and mostly reading:

  • Overt Monetary Financing – again — Bill Mitchell: From the perspective of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), a helicopter drop is equivalent to an increase in the fiscal deficit in the sense that new financial assets are created and the net worth of the non-government sector increases. It occurs when the government uses its currency-issuing capacity (linking treasury spending to central bank operations) without matching its deficit spending with debt-issues to the non-government sector. So the central bank adds some numbers to the treasury’s bank account to match its spending plans and in return may be given treasury bonds to an equivalent value. 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.
  • We are not and never will be dependent on bond markets — Richard Murphy: […] no government need issue gilts at all. It has only been EU law that has required the UK to do so in recent years. It is that law which has prevented the government simply issuing new money instead at any time. […] far from investors doing the government a favour by investing in gilts the government does savers an enormous favour by letting them place funds on effective deposit at guaranteed fixed rates with the only deposit taker who will never default because they can always print more money to make sure that they will not do so. The government could, in effect, entirely avoid paying this interest but for the essential role that the government wants its bonds to play in certain key financial markets, such as the repo and pension sectors.

Sunday, 1 January 2017 - 4:56pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 01/01/2017 - 4:56pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Stand, Fight, Resist — Jason Griffey: Neutrality favors the powerful, and further marginalizes the marginalized. In the face of the current political climate, with the use of opinions as bludgeons and disinformation as the weapon of choice for manipulation and intellectual coercion, it is up to those who value fact and believe in the care of those in need to stand up and positively affirm that to do otherwise is evil.
  • Going down the drain, putting this wondrous stock market at risk? — Wolf Richter: Companies in the S&P 500 spent about $3 trillion since 2011 to buy back their own shares, often with borrowed money. It’s part of a noble magic called financial engineering, the simplest way to goose the all-important metric of earnings per share (by lowering the number of shares outstanding). And it creates buying pressure in the stock market that drives up share prices. […] “Only” 362 of the S&P 500 companies bought back shares in Q3, the second lowest number in three years, with Q2 having been the lowest number (blue line in the chart below). [And, not unrelated:]
  • Apple CEO Tim Cook Met With Trump to “Engage” on Gigantic Corporate Tax Cut — Jon Schwarz, the Intercept: Cook first described how it was critical for Apple to “engage” with governments on what he called “our key areas of focus.” According to Cook, these include “privacy and security, education,” “advocating for human rights for everyone,” “the environment and really combating climate change” and “creating jobs” — i.e., nothing as mundane as money. But in the third paragraph, Cook acknowledged, “We have other things that are more business-centric — like tax reform.” [And, tying it all together a few months ago:]
  • Standing up to Apple — Robert Reich: Congress’s last tax amnesty occurred in 2004, when global U.S. corporations brought back about $300 billion from overseas, and paid just a tax rate of 5.25 percent rather than the regular 35 percent U.S. corporate rate. Corporate executives argued then – as they argue now – that the amnesty would allow them to reinvest those earnings in America. The argument was baloney then and it’s baloney now. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that 92 percent of the repatriated cash was used to pay for dividends, share buybacks or executive bonuses.
  • James Galbraith Tells Us What Everyone Needs to Know About Inequality — Polly Cleveland reviews - well, quotes from - Jamie's new book at the D&S Blog: Galbraith adds a new insight: not only did the postwar high-tax regime induce corporations to keep executive pay in check, it also induced them to retain profits and reinvest them in the corporation. With the 1980’s “greed is good” transformation, rates of reinvestment slowed as executives started taking more for themselves—surely helping slow the overall rate of growth. [i.e. for currency-issuing governments, the purpose of taxation isn't revenue-raising; it's about steering the economy toward desirable public policy ends.]
  • A Chat (Avec Chat) — Wondermark, by David Malki !: PANEL 5: CLOSE UP: The teacup lies on the ground, shattered, the tea long since cold.

Sunday, 25 December 2016 - 4:55pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 25/12/2016 - 4:55pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • How Laissez-Faire Economics Led to Inequality and Recession — Jeff Madrick in the Huffington Post: The Federal Reserve just named a new committee headed by vice chairman Stanly Fischer to research how unstable financial markets may affect the real economy of jobs, production, business investment and profits. If you read the 2008 minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee (released earlier this year), which meets roughly every six weeks to set interest rate and other policies, you’ll see that the policymakers and their staffs had little idea how to account for financial risk. Finance simply wasn’t in their economic models.
  • “I don’t need your civil war.” — Jonathan Rees: All us historians let out a loud sigh when we read that story about Republican Senator Ron Johnson wanting to replace us all with Ken Burns videos. It’s an incredibly stupid argument, of course, but it’s also sadly typical of everyone who has no idea what history professors actually do all day. […] Better to be the ones inserting the video cassette and administering the multiple choice test after the tape ends than not to have any job at all.
  • Facebook recommended that this psychiatrist’s patients friend each other — Kashmir Hill, Fusion: She hadn’t friended any of her patients on Facebook, nor looked up their profiles. She didn’t have a guest wifi network at the office that they were all using. After seeing my report that Facebook was using location from people’s smartphones to make friend recommendations, she was convinced this happened because she had logged into Facebook at the office on her personal computer. She thought that Facebook had figured out that she and her patients were all in the same place repeatedly. However, Facebook says it only briefly used location for friend recommendations in a test and that it was just “at the city-level.”
  • Where’s your data? It’s not actually in the cloud, it’s sitting in a data centre — Brett Neilson, Ned Rossiter, and Tanya Notley of Western Sydney University in the Conversation: Governments spend a great deal of resources safeguarding critical infrastructure. The protection of data and information systems is now included in this work. However, the focus for data security is on the development of software, as though we have forgotten that data storage happens in real places on the ground – and not in “virtual” clouds. Not knowing where data centres are located, or indeed what they actually do, prevents us from having conversations about how this infrastructure is governed, supported and protected.

Sunday, 25 December 2016 - 12:51am

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 25/12/2016 - 12:52am in

Great. Sleigh-people entering our homeland, radicalising our young with their degenerate something-for-nothing culture.

When I was young, our parents would crucify us at Easter - not all the way of course, and we'd had our tetanus jabs. But that principal of making an investment of excruciating pain, and often permanent maiming, to earn the right to eventual Christmas gifts of subscriptions to the Economist or the Financial Times, made us all appreciate the exchange value of our personal misery.

It's time to turn back the sleighs, and crack down on the Christmas cheats. Those children need to know that they enter the world in debt, and must spend an otherwise meaningless lifetime paying it back. That is the economically sustainable Christmas message.

Sunday, 18 December 2016 - 6:32pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 18/12/2016 - 6:32pm in

This last few weeks, I have been mostly going mad, and reading:

  • Ageing out of drugs — Stacey McKenna in Aeon: So, what have we learned so far from those who age out of drug use? When people talk about the life cycle leading to natural recovery, numerous factors are at play. For many, it’s a simple case of ‘being sick and tired of being sick and tired’. […] Though this is the path that’s most common among people who have tried or even become addicted to drugs, it’s the one least discussed. But careful scrutiny of ageing out – both why people do and why they don’t – tells us a lot about drug dependence and what to do about it. […] The so-called unbreakable cycle of addiction appears to result from inequity – from poverty, from discrimination, from social and economic oppression.
  • Did Money Eat Our Brains? — Steve Roth at Evonomics: After growing rapidly for a couple of million years, doubling from roughly 750 to 1,500 cubic centimeters, human brains have shrunk by about ten percent over just ten or twenty millennia. (So they’ve been getting smaller maybe twenty times faster than they got bigger.) Imagine taking an ice cream scoop out of your brain. That’s about the size of it.
  • Why America’s MOOC pioneers have abandoned ship — Jonathan Rees: The most obvious reason why everyone from the founders of MOOC companies to students who sign up for such course are abandoning MOOCs is because these kinds of courses have not lived up to their initial hype. MOOCs were supposed to transform education as we know it, but traditional education with its inefficiency derived from the close proximity between professors and their students has proved more resilient than its wannabe disruptors ever imagined.
  • S&P warns on NZ house prices. What about Oz? — Leith van Onselen at MacroBusiness provides your terminally ill economy chart porn of the week:
  • Podcast Out — David A. Banks in the New Inquiry is onto something: The invisible forces that control human behavior, as it turns out, are not sociological or even cultural; the answers to life’s most important questions are invariably cognitive, biological, or evolutionarily determined. Topics that might have once been subject to political debate or rhetorical argument–work demands, exposure to toxins, surveillance, the limits of love, even Marxian alienation–become apolitical subjects for scientific testing. But the results only lead to greater and greater complexity, prompting introspective thought rather than action. Thus, liberal infotainment is full of statements that sound like facts–what social media theorist Nathan Jurgenson calls “factiness”–that do nothing more than reinforce and rationalize the listeners’ already formed common sense, rather than transforming it: what you believed to be true before the show started was not wrong, it just lacked the veneer of factiness.

Monday, 12 December 2016 - 6:29pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Mon, 12/12/2016 - 6:36pm in

Airport a leading regional air hub
COFFS Harbour Regional Airport has reached another significant milestone.

Funny. I was there just yesterday thinking "This place is a hub. A total, complete, and utter regional hub." I suppose I was being processed at the time, though I couldn't tell if it was during a peak period. I expect it's tricky identifying a peak in a subdued environment. Are there any particular signs we should look out for?

I'm glad there was a specific strategy involving the development of detailed proposals and extensive negotiations, resulting in outcomes. I have just a few trifling details that could perhaps be cleared up: what was done, by whom, and what were the consequences?

Also welcome are the current works that will be completed, but I think some future works may also be in order. I'm no expert, but I don't like the sound of projecting growths. Sound like precisely the sort of thing you don't want, especially in a peak period. Could have somebody's eye out. Or trip up a small boy, resulting in a grazed knee, miles from the nearest bottle of Dettol. Mind you, he might be consoled by the splendid parking facilities, so it's not all bad news.

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