Tuesday, 25 February 2014


"The Archdruid" whoever that might be, as written several posts on the history of fascism. I'm not sure how accurate they are but they're interesting reading:
Fascism and the Future, Part One: Up From Newspeak
Fascism and the Future, Part Two: The Totalitarian Center

Part one also had a link to the post Fascism, Feudalism, and the Future.

Climate change and the threat of bushfires

Nicholas Symons has some interesting graphs on climate change and bushfires: Be Prepared: Climate Change and the Australian Bushfire Threat

An argument for the abolition of private schools

Elizabeth Farrelly argues in Why private schools add little to education mix that all schools should be made public:
Private schools, on the other hand, add little. They build enclaves of privilege for those who need it least. They suck public funding, with three-quarters of non-government schools getting most of their funding from government sources. This is bizarre and unprecedented. And, as theologian Marion Maddox notes in her book Taking God to School, they guise all this as neo-liberal "choice".

More compelling still, as corporate lawyer and father of six David Gillespie argues in his new book Free Schools, private schools offer no guarantee of a better educational outcome. You can fork out $150,000 for a child's schooling and essentially get nothing for it.

Private schools may perform decently in league tables but only because they use the fee-hurdle to select for socio-economic status, by far the best predictor of academic success. They further skew their results by giving scholarships to select gifted children who will up their average.

In other words, says Gillespie, once you correct for socio-economic advantage, our education system adds no value to what children bring from home. Losing such schools therefore has no net negative. In fact, by flooding middle class energy into the public system, it would bring massive gains.

Gillespie points out that the best measure of how much value an education system adds overall is "resilience", that is, the chance a socially disadvantaged child has of performing to his or her full capacity as a human.

The world's best education systems - Japan, Finland, Korea - all have a resilience measure over 50 per cent. In Australia it's 30 per cent, and falling.

This is bad for us all. Your private school may sit near the top of our league table, but as Gillespie notes, "we are riding a sinking tide, and a sinking tide lowers all boats".

Rising health costs are sustainable if we're willing to pay for them

Recently Joe Hockey has argued that Australia's spending on health is unsustainable and the Government will no longer be able to afford it in the future. In Spending on health is sustainable precisely for the reason that we want to sustain it Peter Martin disputes Hockey's claims. As Martin right points out, we can find the money if we want to.
There's little doubt that we want to pay more tax for health. The latest increase in the Medicare levy (due in July) was approved with scarcely a murmur. It'll help fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Pascoe on the low hurdles Hockey is setting himself

In Joe Hockey sets himself the lowest of hurdles to save the world Michael Pascoe observes that "Joe Hockey frames the rules for the local politico-economic game to suit himself with hurdles so low that they're part of the grass".

Hockey has set a goal of an economic growth rate of 3%, something that we were likely to achieve anyway:
That's the benefit of setting the rules: announce a target that you're on track to achieve, achieve it and then announce yourself to be the winner and an economic hero.
Pascoe goes on to write:
Australia does face various challenges, as all economies do. There are improvements that need making, unnecessary spending that can be trimmed, entitlements that should be reduced (mainly at the upper end) and a more efficient and equitable taxation system to be pursued, starting with ending the blatant rorting. In various speeches, sound treasury secretaries and RBA officials have made the case for reform being necessary to protect and enhance our standard of living.

Unfortunately though, attempts by either side of politics to launch rational reforms are immediately reduced to political games. On the available evidence, it increasingly looks like May's budget preparation, with all its huffing and puffing, is more about politics than economics. Dressing it up further in a supposed cloak of G20 global commitments borders on moving it into farce.

A couple of articles on class in Australia

The Conversation is running a series on class in Australia.

In Bogans and hipsters: we’re talking the living language of class Christopher Scanlon argues that the user of labels like bogan and hipster proves that Australia is not a classless society. I especially liked the ending:
Once again, I kicked off the tutorial by asking if they thought class existed in modern Australia. They looked at me as if the answer were obvious: of course it did.

I asked one student why he was so certain. He replied simply:

    I live in Frankston and work at Woolworths.
In Denial to celebration: political responses to class in Australia Geoffrey Robinson looks at the reasons why conservatives supported economic egalitarianism in the middle part of the 20th century and now oppose it.

Yet more evidence wind farms are not harmful

Lenore Taylor in No reliable evidence wind farms harm health, peak research body says writes that a recent National Health and Medical Research Council draft report has found there was "no reliable or consistent evidence that windfarms directly cause adverse health effects in humans".

Hardly a surprise. However, the Government intends to hold more inquires. No doubt they'll eventually be able to create one that gives the answer the want. They just need an inquiry head who's ideologically sound and fact adverse.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Bluntshovels calls austerity for what it is

In Austerity is bullshit El Gibbs writes that austerity isn't about reducing debt, it's "about a bunch of rich, mostly blokes, cutting the heart out of the social safety net".

Increase in heat wave days in Australia

Alexander White has tweeted that:
The number of heatwave days averaged across Australia has gone from 2.6 in 1951-60 to 5.8 in 2001-10.
His tweet included the graph below:

I think I can see a trend.

There is no crisis in the sustainability of the Disability Support Pension

Matt Cowgill writes in DSP reform: a solution in search of a problem that, contrary to the impression given by the minister and elements of the press, we've seen a decline in the proportion of people on the Disability Support Pension.
There is no crisis of sustainability in our disability support system.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Three interesting opeds on the issue of asylum seekers

In Building Australia Drag0nista, aka Paula Matthewson, argues that Australia should abandon it's current draconian policy to asylum seekers and instead open the door. She argues the $2 billion saved could then be used to fund the infrastructure our growing cities need.

In The logic of PNG policy is sanctioned horror Waleed Aly says we shouldn't be outraged at the death on an Iranian asylum seeker on Manus Island this week because tragedy was an inevitable outcome of Australia's current policy.

In Critiquing the open borders policy Mark Fletcher argues an open border policy is unfair on those who are unable to buy passage to country like Australia and must instead languish in a refugee camp for 17 years.

What do I think? I don't know, this is a complex area. Each of the above put forward valid arguments. Our current policy shames us though.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Banking scams

In The Vampire Squid Strikes Again: The Mega Banks' Most Devious Scam Yet Matt Taibbi looks at the move of big banks into the manipulation of commodities and markets.

Using the scientific method to help the poor

Jessica Benko, in The Hyper-Efficient, Highly Scientific Scheme to Help the World’s Poor, reports on the move by economists to implement randomised trials in efforts to help the poor.

Heatwaves in Australia exceeding predictions

Oliver Milman, in Heatwave frequency 'surpasses levels previously predicted for 2030', highlights the increasing frequency of heatwaves in Australia.

More inequality, more guards

In One Nation Under Guard Samuel Bowles and Arjun Jayadev highlight the correlation between inequality and the number of guards employed.

The conversion of a climate change sceptic

Mark Colvin interviewed Professor Snow Barlow, previously a bit of a climate change sceptic, about what changed his mind. Basically he thinks the climate change models have improved to a lever that he now trusts. He's also accepting the evidence of what's happening around him. Barlow also talks about how heatwaves will become more common:
SNOW BARLOW: Particularly heatwaves.

We know that when you look at the way you calculate temperatures, as you move it up a degree - and the climate in Australia has actually moved up by 0.85 of a degree centigrade in the last 50 years - you move the distribution of temperature. That means that you get more events, very hot days. In other words: heatwaves. And not only individual days that are over 35, or in some areas 40, but sequence of days.

So instead of having an isolated day, you may have three or you may have five. And individual occurrences of that is what we call weather, of course. But when you put them all together and you see what the model is projecting, they paint a very convincing picture.

I found this bit interesting:
SNOW BARLOW: For example, the industry that I've worked the most in which relates to climate change is the wine industry, the growing of grapes. And we have shown quite convincingly and published these papers in Nature, showing that vintages in Australia have moved forward - in other words earlier - by something like a day a year over the last 25 years.

And so there are some places in Australia where vintages now are somewhere between 20 and 30 days earlier.

A darker Artic is accelerating Global Waming

In Arctic getting darker, Earth warmer AP reports that melting ice "absorbing more heat than expected":

That extra absorbed energy is so big that it measures about one-quarter of the entire heat-trapping effect of carbon dioxide, said the study's lead author, Ian Eisenman, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California.