Sunday, 14 September 2014

Germany’s move to sun and wind power and other news and views for Sunday 14 September

The small German island of Heligoland, a popular tourist destination, is undergoing dramatic change as the wind industry takes over. Video Credit By Erik Olsen on Publish Date September 13, 2014.
The small German island of Heligoland, a popular tourist destination, is undergoing dramatic change as the wind industry takes over. Video Credit By Erik Olsen on Publish Date September 13, 2014.
  • Sun and Wind Alter German Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind  -“Of all the developed nations, few have pushed harder than Germany to find a solution to global warming. And towering symbols of that drive are appearing in the middle of the North Sea. They are wind turbines, standing as far as 60 miles from the mainland, stretching as high as 60-story buildings and costing up to $30 million apiece. On some of these giant machines, a single blade roughly equals the wingspan of the largest airliner in the sky, the Airbus A380. By year’s end, scores of new turbines will be sending low-emission electricity to German cities hundreds of miles to the south.”
  • The journalists who never sleep - “‘Robot writers’ that can interpret data and generate stories are starting to appear in certain business and media sectors.”
  • Power from the people: what privatisation has meant for Britain – “Britain has changed beyond recognition in the past 20 years. A failed government policy must take much of the blame.”
  • Iraq: The Outlaw State – Max Rodenbeck in the New York Review surveys four recently published books on Iraq and notes how a fusion of the homicidal and messianic is not without precedent in Iraq. The use of seemingly gratuitous cruelty as a form of display—as a talisman of godlike power and an advertisement of worldly success—has old roots there. “… the country that is now Iraq—although alas not, perhaps, for much longer in its current shape—is no stranger to the ghoulish and macabre. The Mongols, famously, built pyramids of skulls when they pillaged and razed Baghdad in 1258 and again in 1401. It was in Iraq in the 1920s that Britain introduced newer, cheaper methods for keeping unruly natives under control, such as chemical weapons and aerial “terror” bombings. Saddam Hussein’s three-decade-long Republic of Fear, with its gassing of Kurdish villagers, grotesque tortures, and mass slaughter of dissidents, made the later American jailers of Abu Ghraib look downright amateur.”
  • Sweden election: Social Democrats may regain power
  • Nations Trying to Stop Their Citizens From Going to Middle East to Fight for ISIS – “France wants more power to block its citizens from leaving the country, while Britain is weighing whether to stop more of its citizens from coming home. Tunisia is debating measures to make it a criminal offense to help jihadist fighters travel to Syria and Iraq, while Russia has outlawed enlisting in armed groups that are “contradictory to Russian policy.” The rapid surge of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and its ability to draw fighters from across the globe, have set off alarm bells in capitals worldwide. Countries that rarely see eye to eye are now trying to blunt its recruitment drive.@
  • Wine As Economic Indicator: Do Sales Of $50 Pinots And Merlots Predict Our Economy’s Future?

Miranda Devine finds an anti commo mum to hide her Gillard hatred behind

Another gem this morning to add to my “Views of Miranda Devine” collection. This time our intrepid Sydney Sunday Terror columnist has found a granny to hide her views of Julia Gillard behind.
Emilia Pastuszka, a “stay at home mum” from Wahroonga, has a remarkably similar life story, that propelled her into the public gallery on Wednesday. Her father was part of Poland’s anti-communist Solidarity movement. “He was in prison a few times. I lived through it. You had to accept corruption or shut hut up … social socialism is supposed d to be about equality but who’s ever in power is the new bourgeoisie,” Pastuszka said.
In a moment of candour last week, Gillard lamented the lack of a time machine. “If one got to do the whole thing again you would do things differently.” She’s not the only one. “Things would have been different if this evidence had come out 20 years ago,” Emilia says. “Julia Gillard would not have come to government.”

Friday, 12 September 2014

Hastening the death of a newspaper’s influence

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The blatant political partisanship of the Murdoch tabloids is spreading. The Sydney Daily Telegraph led the way with distorted coverage of the Labor Party and the Brisbane Courier Mail joined in last year. And now it’s the turn of Melbourne’s Herald Sun.
The biased prejudice that once was confined to those hysterical columnists Andrew Bolt and Terry McCrann has now reached the front page - as in this morning's early edition.
The good news is that the combination of declining readership and the good sense of voters is confirming that tabloid hysteria now just preaches to the converted. A win by Labor in the forthcoming Victorian state election will confirm the approaching death of the political influence of newspapers.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

With employment and unemployment go with the trend and it’s not good

Much ado about nothing today as the pundits try to make sense of the employment and unemployment figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. I’m happy to stick with the trend figures for what is always a volatile series. And the trend indicates that economic growth is just enough to stop things getting much worse and that’s about it.
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Perhaps the ABS figures for total hours of paid work give the best indication.
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Over the last year the increase in hours worked is a meagre 0.56% and that is less than the increase in the number of people available to enter the labour force. Clearly it is not a time to be reducing government spending.

What constitutes a “real” refugee? and other news and views for Thursday 11 September

  • What constitutes a “real” refugee? – Katy Long, Lecturer in International Development at University of Edinburgh and an editor of The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, writes: “We are increasingly skilled in crafting complacent fictions intended not so much to demonise refugees as exculpate our own consciences. In Australia, for instance, ever-more restrictive asylum policies – which have seen all those arriving by boat transferred off-shore and, even when granted refugee status, refused the right to settle in Australia – have been presented by supporters as merely intended to prevent the nefarious practice of “queue-jumping”. In this universe, the border patrols become the guardians ensuring “fair” asylum hearings, while asylum-seekers are condemned for cheating the system.”
  • The American fear-mongering machine is about to scare us back into war again – “Did you know that the US government’s counterterrorism chief Matthew Olson said last week that there’s no ‘there’s no credible information’ that the Islamic State (Isis) is planning an attack on America and that there’s ”no indication at this point of a cell of foreign fighters operating in the United States’? Or that, as the Associated Press reported, ‘The FBI and Homeland Security Department say there are no specific or credible terror threats to the US homeland from the Islamic State militant group’?”
  • All eyes on Rupert Murdoch over the Sun’s Scottish independence stance
  • Sports concussion ‘breathalyser’ proposed – “Among the new proposals is a breath test, which successfully detects key chemicals in early laboratory trials. Produced by the damaged brain, these chemicals are known to indicate a brain injury when found in the bloodstream.”
  • How Do Citizens React When Politicians Support Policies They Oppose? Field Experiments with Elite Communication – “Politicians have been depicted as, alternatively, strongly constrained by public opinion, able to shape public opinion if they persuasively appeal to citizens’ values, or relatively unconstrained by public opinion and able to shape it merely byannouncing their positions. We conduct unique field experiments in cooperation with legislators to explore how constituents react when
    legislators take positions they oppose. … These findings suggest politicians can enjoy broad latitude to shape public opinion.”
  • Climate change deniers raise the heat on the Bureau of Meteorology

The pendulum swings back towards a “no” vote in Scotland

A couple of opinion polls showing a lead for the “No” vote in the Scottish referendum and the market has moved strongly back to put the probability of defeat for independence at 77%.

The Reasons Bankers Weren’t Busted

On this little blog of mine I have been featuring stories on what I describe as ticket clippers for many months now. One of the continuing themes of many of them is the way that while banks keep getting hit with huge fines, the bankers that run them have almost always avoided being charged with any offences. It really is a depressing story of how money talks when it comes to the criminal justice system. I recommend you browse through my ticket clipper archive and also read a couple of recent postings on Bloomberg View.
Here Bloomberg View columnist Barry Ritholtz, who has been following the absence of legal prosecutions since 2008 and posted on that subject more than 500 times, reviews the events of the financial crisis showing that the law was broken repeatedly by bankers.
Political access and lobbying go part way toward explaining the absence of prosecutions and, therefore, the lack of convictions. To understand why there were no convictions of senior bankers, you need to understand a bit of criminal law in the U.S. The American form of jurisprudence requires a criminal indictment to bring someone to trial. No indictment, no trial, no conviction. Where bankers and their lawyers have been so successful is stopping prosecutions before they begin. You don’t get to the conviction part if prosecutors don’t bring indictments.
In The Biggest Lie of the New Century Ritholtz argues that the biggest reason so many financial felons escaped justice was because they “dumped the cost of their criminal activities on you, the shareholder (never mind the taxpayer).” He then takes his readers on a brief survey of some of the more egregious acts of wrongdoing – Foreclosure fraudMortgage underwriting: where defects were knowingly ignored; Money Laundering of staggering sums of money for drug dealers and terrorists; Market manipulation where prices were either improperly manipulated or illegally rigged, with knowledge of the bank executives and the traders they employed and supervised; Fraud, skimming and bid-rigging of the good old-fashioned kind; Accounting fraud where some executives at banks cooked their books.
And the author’s conclusion of his two-part survey?
So next time you hear the claim that “there were no crimes committed by bankers,” just remember that this may be the biggest lie of the 21st century.