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Nature is ghastly and has to go

Published by Matthew Davidson on Fri, 15/07/2016 - 5:34pm in

I had to consult the local GP co-operative multiplex today, and as it was bloody cold indoors (defined hereabouts as anything below 20℃), and I had a teensy hangover, I resolved to set off early and have a restorative picnic lunch of fried chicken at Bogan Bay before my appointment. I set up camp at a picnic shelter, opened my laptop with a view to pursuing my lower higher education over lunch, and tentatively nibbled on a soggy chip. Almost immediately I was joined by a magpie.

Magpies are quite intelligent birds. I had been in this situation before, and I'm sure the magpie had been in this situation before. I therefore reasoned that repetition of some terse, likely recognisable phrases ("bugger off!", etc.) would clarify my position vis-à-vis the magpie's implied food redistribution proposal. The magpie remained unconvinced, so I began waving my hat at it, and then chasing it round and round the picnic shelter, until finally it perched on the barbecue in the middle of the shelter and made a great show of minding it's own business. Satisfied, I returned to my study and my junk food. The magpie began loudly warbling.

Soon I was surrounded by half a dozen magpies making menacing advances. I am not easily riled, but I have to say that being thus unfairly outnumbered I was positively livid. I began remonstrating with this gang in no uncertain terms, waving my hands about for emphasis. Which is how a nearby kookaburra, evidently watching proceedings with interest, came to see it's opportunity. It swooped into the now crowded picnic shelter, plucked the greasy piece of fried chicken from my hand, and sailed upward into the treetops to savour it's prize.

I like cities. I like slate paving stones, generous blocks of sandstone and granite, the odd bit of marble, and some concrete and glass if you must. I like street corners that have crossing lights, socialists, scientologists, and schizophrenics. I like wildlife — well, pigeons and rats — to be suitably circumspect and skittish when going about their business. The sooner we get this place comprehensively paved and fitted out with newsagents, railway stations, pubs, banks, dirty book shops, and cheerfully cheap asian eateries with plastic furniture, the better.

Sunday, 10 July 2016 - 4:07pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 10/07/2016 - 4:07pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Psychologists Throw Open The “File Drawer” — Neuroskeptic: Now, a group of Belgian psychology researchers have decided to make a stand. In a bold move against publication bias, they’ve thrown open their own file drawer. In the new paper, Anthony Lane and colleagues from the Université catholique de Louvain say that they’ve realized that over the years, “our publication portfolio has become less and less representative of our actual findings”. Therefore, they “decided to get these [unpublished] studies out of our drawer and encourage other laboratories to do the same.”
  • Insanity — xkcd:
    Insanity
  • Reform School — Malcolm Harris at The New Inquiry reviews Schools on Trial, by Nikhil Goyal: In 1837, Horace Mann, the founder of American compulsory education, established the Massachusetts Board of Education, the first such agency and one which would become the model for the nation. But Mann didn’t want a more intellectually engaged population—literacy in the state already stood at 99 percent. Social control was a serious concern for Western elites after a series of failed revolutions, and Mann was very impressed by the system he saw on a visit to Prussia. He returned with a plan for public education. “Compulsory schooling evangelists,” Goyal writes, “which included many industrialists and financiers, in fact, wanted to ‘dumb down’ the American population to create docile followers, not potentially troublesome freethinkers who questioned authority.”
  • Trade Treaty Propaganda Goes Into High Gear — Dean Baker, CEPR: As far as the protectionism in the TPP, the deal is quite explicitly about increasing the length and strength of patent and copyright protection. Yes, that is "protection" as in "protectionism." Patent and copyright protection do serve a purpose in providing an incentive for innovation and creative work, but all forms of protection serve a purpose. The question that serious people ask is whether there is a better way to serve the purpose.
  • 'I Love My Label': Resisting the Pre-Packaged Sound in Ed-Tech — Audrey Watters: As someone who works outside of academia, without an institutional affiliation, I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating it is to be unable to access journal articles. I always get so irked when I hear technology evangelists proclaim “You can learn anything you want on the Internet.” No, you can’t. Huge swaths of knowledge, art, science remain inaccessible; and it’s a loss for scholarship, which need not and does not only happen among those with access to a university research library or with log-in credentials to its online portal. That inaccessibility is a reflection of institutional culture, industry culture, corporate culture, copyright (that is, intellectual property laws), capitalism, and code. That is, when we talk about the future of something like “education technology” or even when we talk about the future of research and scholarship or teaching and learning, we must grapple with issues that are technological, sociological, and above all, ideological.
  • The elites hate Momentum and the Corbynites - and I’ll tell you why — David Graeber, providing "opinion" for The Guardian, as opposed to whatever the hell you'd call the utter tripe they normally publish about Corbyn: I’ve spent much of the past two decades working in movements aimed at creating new forms of bottom-up democracy, from the Global Justice Movement to Occupy Wall Street. It was our strong conviction that real, direct democracy, could never be created inside the structures of government. One had to open up a space outside. The Corbynistas are trying to prove us wrong. Will they be successful? I have absolutely no idea. But I cannot help find it a fascinating historical experiment. […] insofar as politics is a game of personalities, of scandals, foibles and acts of “leadership”, political journalists are not just the referees – in a real sense they are the field on which the game is played. Democratisation would turn them into reporters once again, in much the same way as it would turn politicians into representatives. In either case, it would mark a dramatic decline in personal power and influence. It would mark an equally dramatic rise in power for unions, constituent councils, and local activists – the very people who have rallied to Corbyn’s support.
  • The Duncan Smith resignation: fundamentally shifting the economic debate — Neil Schofield: 'I am unable to watch passively whilst certain policies are enacted in order to meet the fiscal self imposed restraints that I believe are more and more perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest.' In other words, for the first time a key player in the post-2010 Conservative project has said, almost explicitly, that austerity is a political, not an economic choice. […] In other words, Duncan Smith’s resignation letter – and the events surrounding it – powerfully endorse the fundamental tenet of Jeremy Corbyn’s and John McDonnell’s economic programme: that austerity is a choice, not an economic necessity. It wholly destroys the intellectual underpinning of McDonnell’s opponents in the Parliamentary Labour Party.
  • Peak Indifference — Cory Doctorow in Locus Online: At a certain point, indifference to tobacco’s dangers peaked – long before actual tobacco use peaked. Peak indifference marks a turning point. […] That’s why it’s time for privacy activists to start thinking of new tac­tics. We are past peak indifference to online surveillance: that means that there will never be a moment after today in which fewer people are alarmed by the costs of sur­veillance.
  • A world war has begun. Break the silence. — John Pilger: In 2009, President Obama stood before an adoring crowd in the centre of Prague, in the heart of Europe. He pledged himself to make "the world free from nuclear weapons". People cheered and some cried. A torrent of platitudes flowed from the media. Obama was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It was all fake. He was lying. The Obama administration has built more nuclear weapons, more nuclear warheads, more nuclear delivery systems, more nuclear factories. Nuclear warhead spending alone rose higher under Obama than under any American president.
  • Budget accounting tricks — Simon Wren-Lewis: One of the problems with fixed date deficit (or in this case surplus) targets is that they encourage playing around with the public finances to hit the target. Generally, but not always, this involves making a saving today by shifting costs into the future. Privatisation is an obvious example. It may be justified if the net present value of the sale is positive, or if privatisation really improves efficiency, but all to [sic] often it is a device to meet a short term target. Although a New Keynesian (Wren-Lewis will when pressed admit he subscribes to the superstition of "sound finance"), he makes a good point here. i.e. that, just as in the popular bugaboo where public deficits can be run up by unscrupulous pollies who "buy votes", those same unscrupulous pollies are more likely in the current neoliberal environment to buy a reputation as good economic managers by using fire sales of public assets (usually a bad thing) to hide deficits (rarely a bad thing).
  • Get ready for a recession by 2017 — Steve Keen in the Australian: Whichever party is in opposition at the time will blame the incumbent, but in reality this recession has been set up by the sidestep both parties have used to avoid downturns for the past quarter century: whenever a crisis has loomed, they’ve avoided recession by encouraging the private sector to borrow and spend. […] Australia’s most famous recession sidestep was during the GFC, when it was one of only two countries in the OECD to avoid experiencing two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth (the other country was South Korea). Since then, the private sectors of the advanced countries have collectively de-levered, reducing their debt levels from about 170 to 160 per cent of GDP. Australia, in stark contrast, has levered up.
  • Tony Blair's spin unspun: how his claims compare with the Chilcot report — Andy McSmith, The Independent: Mr Blair has claimed that he was promising the Americans his support as a way of influencing Washington’s decision making and getting them to seek United Nations approval before acting. Taking questions from journalists, he asserted that his support was not “unconditional”. But the opening words of that July note [to Bush] – “I will be with you, whatever” – do sound unconditional.
  • I read the Chilcot report as I travelled across Syria this week and saw for myself what Blair's actions caused — Robert Fisk, The Independent: When Blair can say, as he did the moment the Chilcot report was published, that it should “lay to rest allegations [sic] of bad faith, lies and deceit” – without a revolution in the streets against his bad faith, lies and deceit – then you can be sure that his successors will have no hesitation in swindling the public again and again. After all, what’s the difference between Iraqi WMDs that don’t exist, 45-minute warnings that are falsities, 70,000 non-existent Syrian “moderates” and a fictitious NHS windfall of millions if Britain left the European Union?
  • To Save The Economy, We Have To Break Its One Sacred Rule — Jason Hickel, Co.Exist: As soon as we start focusing on GDP growth, we’re not only promoting the things that GDP measures, we’re promoting the indefinite increase of those things. And that’s exactly what we started to do in the 1960s. GDP was adopted during the Cold War for the sake of adjudicating the grand pissing match between the West and the USSR. Suddenly, politicians on both sides became feverish about promoting GDP growth. GDP growth became a sacred rule. And we remain in thrall to it today.
  • Mocked and forgotten: who will speak for the American white working class? — Chris Arnade in The Guardian: America, and particularly the white working class, is dealing with a drug epidemic that is killing more people each year at a startling rate. Just in the past decade deaths from drugs has doubled. The National Review sees it as another sign of the flawed character of the poor. This is a common and moralistic trope those battling an addiction have long dealt with – that it is all the fault of their weakness. The reality is often far more complex. Addiction thrives in societies undergoing stress.
  • Stopping Deflation? Dead Easy. So Why Isn’t It Being Done? — Ian Welsh: If you let fixed costs have inflation above income increases, then everything else is going to have to suffer deflation, because it is discretionary. Gotta eat and have a warm place to sleep, first.
  • The Tory leadership election is a sort of X Factor for choosing the antichrist — Frankie Boyle in the otherwise disgraceful, paper of choice for the discerning New Labour war criminal, The Guardian: [The Parliamentary Labour Party] say they need a leader who knows how to oppose, albeit primarily their own party membership. The idea is that Corbyn is unelectable, and it’s just one of life’s sad ironies that none of the people who believe this will be able to beat him in an election. […] One of the PLP’s main worries will be that Labour’s vote will crumble to Ukip under Corbyn, who won’t produce enough racist mugs and mouse mats to reassure everybody. And, to be fair, it must be galling to a party that invaded Iraq, rendered Libyans to be tortured by Gaddafi and detained asylum seekers with Dickensian cruelty to lose voters on the race issue.

Saturday, 9 July 2016 - 1:48pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 09/07/2016 - 1:48pm in

There is nothing so futile as speaking truth to bureacracy, but here I go again:

Walk into any "Job Services" provider and look at the services they actually provide. There are posters on the wall telling young people to dress smartly; men to polish their shoes and women to go easy on the make-up. Does anybody seriously believe that persistent, widespread unemployment is to any significant degree caused by an epidemic of poor fashion sense?

The huge parasitic industry that has been peddling such fatuous advice since the abolition of the Commonwealth Employment Service is designed to police, punish, and brainwash the unemployed into destitution and subservience.

The federal government could eliminate all unemployment in a matter of months, if not weeks, were we to demand they do so. The government's 1945 White Paper on Full Employment declared that "governments should accept the responsibility for stimulating spending on goods and services to the extent necessary to sustain full employment. To prevent the waste of resources which results from employment is the first and greatest step to higher living standards." The policies proposed in that paper worked, at least until the monetarists used the opportunity of the OPEC oil crisis to take control of the public debate and ransack everything that had been achieved.

You cannot train away the unemployment and underemployment of about a fifth of the working age population. There is useful work to do and people to do it. Refusal to mobilise the resources to put people to work is nothing but class warfare.

Brexit Buffet

Published by Matthew Davidson on Tue, 05/07/2016 - 4:14pm in

I don't get politics. I understand particular political issues, but I never understand the state of popular opinion about them. Politics, in that sense, is that thing I'm perpetually out of step with. So I should have known that the UK leaving the European Union, appearing to me such a self-evidently bad idea, was inevitable. I am further surprised to find that on the wisdom of "Brexit" some really super-smart people disagree with me. This almost never happens; coincidence of opinion is my infallible yardstick for intelligence, after all.

I understand the main criticisms of the EU, and they bear repeating:

  • The Maastricht fiscal rules (national debt must stay below 60% of GDP and annual deficits below 3% of GDP) guarantee that any country under that regime which happens not to have a large export-driven economy (like for instance Germany) will be unable to use fiscal deficits to offset current account deficits and maintain spending power in the private sector (see Godley's sectoral balances for how that works), and will be driven into a debt deflation spiral that shrinks their economy. That is, the more the Eurozone periphery nations try to stick to the rules and end up liquidating productive capacity in the attempt to reduce debt/deficits, the less able they become to stick to the rules, and the worse they suffer. When Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and Greece joined the EU, they also joined the third world. Any other outcome was a logical impossibility.
  • The Euro is the most disastrous faux-gold-standard since the last one. If you ever need an argument against independent central banks, just point to the way the ECB, the most independent central bank in history - 100% free of democratic accountability, has turned Europe into a game of beggar-thy-neighbour mercantilism. Unnecessary suffering on a grand scale, for no reason other than the ridiculous pursuit of larger numbers on the ECB's computer. Not even any useless lumps of soft yellow metal to show for it! Under the Euro, a country's economic prospects end up not being a function of their real productive capacity, but a result of a surfeit of or lack of those magic numbers.

So I understand why Bill Mitchell would welcome the Leave vote as the return of the class struggle, and why Steve Keen and Mark Blythe also see leaving as the most sensible course of action for any country able to do so. I have two reasons to disagree:

1. The quickest and easiest solution for any individual EU member state able to leave is not the best long-term solution for Europe.

Thanks to the City of London, the UK has the economic heft to wear any negative consequences of Brexit (although this is rather like sailing into a storm and thinking "It's a good thing we have that huge, unexploded bomb to use as ballast!"). Countries currently under the thumb of the "troika" of the ECB, the IMF, and the Eurogroup do not have a realistic, or at least tolerably painless, exit option, and it is in nobody's interest that they should continue to suffer. It may be satisfying to say "Congratularions Dr. Schauble, your prize is the 1930s," but it would have been better to deploy the UK's weight towards building a democratised EU, rather than a disintegrating Europe.

2. There is no reason to believe the scope for meaningful democracy in the UK will be improved by Brexit.

I will be dancing in the street when Jeremy Corbyn's Labour wins the 2020 (or earlier, maybe) general election. But it will be more for what it says about the UK's political aspirations than in anticipation of of what Labour will be able to achieve. John McDonnell has already undertaken to follow monetarist "balanced budget", "sound finance" policies, rather than the "functional finance" which is necessary to defuse the City of London financial bomb and rebuild the real economy. Regardless of which party is in power, for the forseeable future the UK has merely shed the straightjacket of Maastricht for the straitjacket of the Charter for Budget Responsibility. In the process the far right has come to feel vindicated and emboldened.

I would love to be wrong about this, but I fear I am merely in the minority, as usual.

Sunday, 3 July 2016 - 4:49pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 03/07/2016 - 4:49pm in

This week, I have been mostly not reading, with some exceptions:

  • Ignored for Years, a Radical Economic Theory Is Gaining Converts — Michelle Jamrisko in Bloomberg, no less: “There’s an acknowledgment, even in the investor community, that monetary policy is kind of running out of ammo,” said Thomas Costerg, economist at Standard Chartered Bank in New York. “The focus is now shifting to fiscal policy.” That’s where it should have been all along, according to Modern Money Theory. The 20-something-year-old doctrine, on the fringes of economic thought, is getting a hearing with an unconventional take on government spending in nations with their own currency.
  • How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Drone — Ted Rall: The Penagon said it would never deploy Predator or Reaper drones in the United States. Now USA Today reveals that they do, and have for years. But noit to worry: now the Pentagon says they won't be used to kill Americans the way they're used in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan.
  • E.J Dionne Is Far Too Generous, “Moderate Progressives” Were Promoting Inequality — Dean Baker, CEPR: It's also worth noting that Clinton's cult of deficit reduction and balanced budgets contributed to the victory of austerity politics following the downturn. Many Clintonites absurdly argued that the prosperity of the late 1990s was due to the fact that Clinton balanced the budget and subsequently ran surpluses. Of course the reality was the exact opposite. (The unexpected boom, due to a stock bubble, lead to the surpluses.) Nonetheless, the power of this Clinton myth made it more difficult for progressives to push the case for stimulus following the collapse of the housing bubble.
  • The Era of Free Trade Might Be Over. That’s a Good Thing — Jared Bernstein: So we should welcome the end of the era of F.T.A.s, which had long devolved into handshakes between corporate and investor interests on both sides of the border, allowing little voice for working people. With such noise behind us, we might be ready to foster the next generation of advanced production and help our exporters fight back against currency manipulators. That would be more productive than fighting tooth and nail over the next big trade deal. Plus additional remarks on his blog, "where real estate is dirt cheap".
  • The New Truth About Free Trade — Robert Reich notices the US has spent decades negotiating the export of monopolies and the import of monopoly rents: Big American corporations no longer make many products in the United States for export abroad. Most of what they sell abroad they make abroad. The biggest things they “export” are ideas, designs, franchises, brands, engineering solutions, instructions, and software, coming from a relatively small group of managers, designers, and researchers in the U.S. The Apple iPhone is assembled in China from components made in Japan, Singapore, and a half-dozen other locales. The only things coming from the U.S. are designs and instructions from a handful of engineers and managers in California.
  • Both sides now. — Jonathan Rees: Yes, MOOCs can’t do what professors do, but what happens if what you do gets redefined so that they can? You know that education is not the same as content transmission, but unless you stay engaged with all the two-bit hucksters who think it is they will win the battle of public opinion and your tenured sinecure will dry up when your students all enroll at some barely acceptable online clown college.
  • Global Inequality: Branko Milanovic Takes on the World — Dean Baker in HuffPo: It is more than a bit absurd that many intellectual types are running around worried that the robots will take all the jobs (when they aren’t worried about the demographic crisis creating a shortage of workers) when the “problem” can be easily solved by reducing work hours. But this issue actually segues nicely into my more fundamental criticism of [Milanovic's] book. While it does not outright say this anywhere, many readers will likely believe that the harm to the middle class and working class in rich countries was a necessary price for the gains in the developing world. This is a huge leap which certainly does not follow from standard economic theory. […] There is also the question of intellectual property rights, which Milanovic frustratingly treats as a fact of nature. Again, one of the great absurdities of debates on inequality is that we have people wringing their hands over how we can reverse the upward redistribution of income, while we constantly write new laws and trade agreements that make patent and copyright protection longer and stronger. Instead of deliberately designing policies that promote upward redistribution, we could instead look to alternative mechanisms to finance innovation and creative work.

Saturday, 2 July 2016 - 6:25pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 02/07/2016 - 6:25pm in

Look, I'm no expert in the psychology of child abuse, but it seems self-evident to me that if you cover some poor woman with gold paint, and force her to assume a stress position, bearing the weight of a bloody great sword and a pair of scales that aren't even being used to weigh anything, you really have nobody but yourself to blame if afterwards she's a bit short-tempered. Who's the real villain here?  Clearly there's somebody high-up, with a gold paintbrush, who isn't being held to account, while she's left holding the baby.

Friday, 1 July 2016 - 10:14pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Fri, 01/07/2016 - 10:14pm

Driven by nostalgia for shag pile carpet, blue eye shadow, my non-drinking parents' very sophisticated (and devoid of drink) drinks cabinet, and televisions that need time to warm up, I've been re-watching Dave Allen at Large from the year of my birth, 1971 (episode five, if you're playing along at home). He tells this gag:

Today we are perhaps more affluent than we've ever been in man's history, and the strange thing about man, no matter what he has, or how much of it, he wants more. And if you think it's bad nowadays, what do you think it's going to be like in about fifty years time? Can you imagine the year two thousand and twenty? And the shop steward, taking to his members.

And he says "Alright lads, I've had a chat with the management. They've agreed to our demands. A rise of thirty-five pound a week, bringing our basic weekly wage to three hundred and fifty-two pound per week. One condition: we've got to work on a Wednesday."

And a voice from the back said "What? Every bleeding Wednesday?"

Never mind 2020. Can we imagine 1971?

Tuesday, 28 June 2016 - 9:34pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Tue, 28/06/2016 - 9:34pm in

The jewel in Coffs Harbour's cliche crown is still putting out the red light for any real estate agents in need of discreet, high-class services, after rejecting suggestions that a news story requires more than one source before it can be considered journalism.

The Advocate's advertorial editor-in-chief, Mr. Earnest Hardwicke-Goodge said he was disappointed by so many readers mystified as to why the unchanged ownership of prime CBD graffiti canvas was considered newsworthy.

"The continued presence of readers is a regrettable distraction from our core business of connecting advertisers with other sophisticated, consensual, like-minded advertisers," Mr. Hardwicke-Goodge said. "Unfortunately, despite filling any unsold advertorial space with the most unreadable tripe imaginable, we've been unable to shake them off."

Mr. Hardwicke-Goodge said that while an upcoming series of particularly nauseating stories of wholly uninspiring local people doing utterly unremarkable things had the potential to turn the situation around for the paper and it's key stakeholders, he urged any remaining would-be readers to remember one simple rule: "If you're not looking to scam or be scammed, just put the paper down and walk away; it's not for you."

Sunday, 26 June 2016 - 5:20pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 26/06/2016 - 5:20pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • How Bernie Gives Hope for the Future — Ian Welsh provides a nuanced and pursuasive variant on the "nothing left to lose" argument for social change, to which I've never subscribed, but hey, you take your hope where you can get it: This is not the 2000s or 90s. This is not the age of compromise. The fruits of neoliberalism, neoconservatism, and oligarchy are being reaped; the youngsters have now grown up and never known a good economy. Many barely remember a time when the US wasn’t at war. […] The Democrats are the conservative party right now. They are about the status quo: Keep neo-liberaling, keep bombing and invading brown people’s countries, keep shoveling money to the rich. […] But Bernie lost in a genuinely hopeful way, showing that a socialist is now viable in the US and that young people are massively against the status quo.
  • On decriminalizing the sex trade — Chris Dillow: Here, though, is the thing. I – and I, strongly suspect, Mr Corbyn too – favour legalization of the sex industry in the context of other policies that empower women to reject exploitation. For me, these include full employment policies to give them other career possibilities; a mass housebuilding programme to reduce rents; and – of course - a basic income to improve their outside options.
  • What Will Many Bernie Sanders Voters Do After July? — Ralph Nader in Common Dreams: Here we go again. Every four years, the Democratic leaders define the Democratic candidate by how bad the Republicans are. This is designed to panic and mute their followers. Every four years, both parties become more corporatist. Sanders’ voters want to define the Democratic Party by how good it can be for the people. […] Where does this leave the Sanders people who see Hillary as experienced in waging wars, qualified as an entrenched pol, and realistic to suit the plutocracy’s tastes, and not really getting much of anything progressive done (alluding to the ways she has described herself)?
  • The trouble with getting the BBC to be less popular — David Mitchell, who—damn him—is still occasionally funny, in the Guardian: A report, commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and published last week, argues that “greater distinctiveness” in the BBC’s output will allow its commercial rivals to make an extra £115m a year. […] Unfortunately the distinctiveness of a Hitchcock movie, a Lowry painting or a Cole Porter lyric doesn’t seem to be the sort the report is getting at, because that’s a kind people really like. That would be entirely counterproductive to its stated aims. By “distinctiveness”, the report means that the BBC should deliberately target smaller and more niche audiences, in order to allow the commercial sector to take the bigger ones. Its distinctive flavour would be less like chicken liver and more like calves’ brains. Because that would be fairer on the market place.
  • Paul Samuelson on Deficit Myths — L. Randall Wray at New Economic Perspectives: […] the need to balance the budget over some time period determined by the movements of celestial objects, or over the course of a business cycle is a myth, an old-fashioned religion. But that superstition is seen as necessary because if everyone realizes that government is not actually constrained by the necessity of balanced budgets, then it might spend “out of control”, taking too large a percent of the nation’s resources. Samuelson sees merit in that view. It is difficult not to agree with him. But what if the religious belief in budget balance makes it impossible to spend on the necessary scale to achieve the public purpose? […] We don’t need myths. We need more democracy, more understanding, and more transparency. We do need to constrain our leaders—but not through dysfunctional superstitions.
  • The Fed shouldn’t accept the “new normal” without a fight — Josh Bivens at the Economic Policy Institute: [A] key contributor to productivity growth is technological advance. This technological advance does not fall from the sky, rather it is the product of directed investment (R&D) and trial and error (workers learning by doing). When the pace of R&D investment is slow and output growth is slow enough to provide fewer opportunities for learning by doing, it is not shocking that technological advancement may slow. Further, there is ample evidence that firms boost labor-saving investments (which boost productivity) when labor costs are rising rapidly. Rapid labor cost growth has not been a feature of the recovery from the Great Recession. Between 2007 and 2014, real hourly pay for the median worker, for example, has slightly declined (see Table 1 here), and the share of corporate sector income accruing to capital owners rather than to employees reached historic highs. This labor market slack and weak wage growth has provided very little spur to boost productivity in the search for higher profits.
  • How negative-gearing changes can bring life back to eerily quiet suburbs — Kim Dovey in The Conversation: It is impossible to say how much this production of empty architecture is a function of negative gearing since it also goes hand-in-hand with neoliberal markets and high disparities of wealth. However, the curbing of negative gearing will have a significant impact in getting empty housing onto the market. This in turn could go some way to reversing this cycle of emptiness – bringing life to the shops, offices, streets, parks and public transport.
  • It's Time to Rid the DNC of DINOs, Starting With the Chair — by a gestalt creature called The Daily Take Team, from The Thom Hartmann Program: Jim Fouts, a three-term Independent mayor of Warren, Michigan, attended Sunday's Democratic debate, just like he had attended the Republican debate on Thursday. […] He told BuzzFeed News that he was seated behind Wasserman Schultz, and that he was praising Bernie's performance and talking about how this debate proved that more debates were a good idea for the Democrats. Then, during an early commercial break, Fouts and his assistant were taken out of their seats and the sergeant at arms told him, "The people that run this want you ejected, they don't want you here." Fouts was allowed to watch the rest of the debate from his seat, but he had to be careful about even clapping too loud or at the wrong time, for fear of getting ejected. […] Debbie Wasserman Schultz isn't the only Democrat-In-Name-Only (DINO) in the Democratic leadership. But as the DNC Chair, she is the highest-ranking DINO in the party. Tim Canova will take her seat in Congress, but Clinton is sure to give her a plum job elsewhere, for services rendered during the primaries.
  • On the results of the UK referendum — DiEM25: OUT won because the EU establishment have made it impossible, through their anti-democratic reign (not to mention the asphyxiation of weaker countries like Greece), for the people of Britain to imagine a democratic EU.
  • The American Fascist — Robert Reich: As did the early twentieth-century fascists, Trump is focusing his campaign on the angers of white working people who have been losing economic ground for years, and who are easy prey for demagogues seeking to build their own power by scapegoating others. […] As the Washington Post’s Jeff Guo has pointed out, Trump performs best in places where middle-aged whites are dying the fastest.
  • Whither Europe? The Modest Camp vs the Federalist Austerians — Yanis Varoufakis and James Galbraith: Soon after the Great Crisis of the Eurozone struck, Europe decided to treat it piecemeal – as though each affected country had committed separate and unrelated policy errors. The governing institutions of Europe denied that the difficulties of Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Italy could be part of a single disaster, spanning at once the realms of banking, public debt and investment.
  • Negative Gearing. It's turning us into a nation of landlords and serfs — Peter Martin: The great Australian dream meant owning your own home. "Getting ahead" means getting ahead of someone else. It's how Treasurer Scott Morrison sees the Australian dream. […] It's certainly what negative gearing is about. "The vast bulk of Australians who use negative gearing are just trying to get ahead and trying to get their family in a better position," Morrison says. But negative gearing only gets them ahead if prices climb. The more that people negatively gear in order to get ahead, the more prices climb. The further they climb, the harder houses become to buy. And the harder they become to buy, the more the Australian dream recedes.
  • Whittingdale is wrong: it is advertisers who are destroying the digital economy — Alexander Hanff in openDemocracy: Publishers feel like they have no control over the type of ads being forced on them by adtech companies and advertising agencies. This is a situation that needs to change – publishers should control all of the content they publish – including ads; and traditionally that was always the case. […] Advertisers and brands need to understand that their route to the audience is via the publishers whose content they are poisoning through invasive technologies and an ever increasing greed for more and more data. They need to purify the water before they can persuade us to start drinking it again – they need to stop tracking and profiling us, they need to better police their networks and platforms to eliminate malvertising and they need to yield control of the experience back to the publishers who own the audience. [Needless to say, we should object to being considered "owned" by publishers as well.]

Monday, 20 June 2016 - 9:44pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Mon, 20/06/2016 - 9:44pm in

This confirms my long-held suspicion that Bellingen is really an extended episode of Father Ted.

"And you say the giant rock hasn't moved since? … Yes, I agree that is curious. … Well, I'm no giant rock expert, but I'd say that if it's got it into its head to stay where it is, you'll be wanting to undertake some processes - safe ones if at all possible. So it's on the left-hand side of the road - is that my left or your left? … Ah, the rock's left, of course. Right you are. Listen to me now; big eedjit!"

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