Thursday, 28 March 2013

Rudd vs Gillard

A couple of articles on the topic.

Drag0nista in Crean, Rudd and WTF? explains what happened in the non-spill of March 2013. It's probably the best analysis I have seen up to now.

Josh Bornstein, an employment lawyer, explains in When you understand hate, you understand Rudd's fall why so many of Kevin Rudd's colleagues hate him and thus would rather lose than make him leader again.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The decline of whom

In For Whom the Bell Tolls Megan Garber writes about the slow death of "whom".

Household income distribution

Matt Cowgill posted this table of working age population household income distribution to Twitter:

Government debt - it's more complicated than what it seems

American health care costs compared

Ezra Klein in 21 graphs that show America’s health-care prices are ludicrous highlights how much more expensive the US health system is compared to other developed countries.

457 Visas

457 visas have been in the news lately. Here are a couple of articles on the topic:

Peter Mares, adjunct fellow at the Swinburne Institute for Social Research, in Temporary migration is a permanent thing discusses the benefits of the 457 visa and the implications for the permanent migration cap and processing queue as temporary visa holders seek permanent residence.

Tim Colebatch in The books are being cooked on 457 visas discusses how the visas are being abused just as happened with student visas.

Brett Winterford in Why we use 457s in Australian IT projects quotes an executive as explaining whey they use 457 visa workers:
  1. There are generally insufficient skilled Australian IT workers available to ramp up large scale IT projects.
  2. The cost of employing Australian resources, even if you can find them, is very high in relation to the rates available via third party companies.

Sylvia Pennington in Employers want a 'cheapie, just arrived off the boat', Aussie IT workers told quotes IT workers as saying that employers are using 456 and 457 visas to cut staffing costs and undercut local businesses when tendering on outsourcing contracts.

Turnbull on Abbott's climate change policy

Abbott's climate change policy is bullshit is an old op-ed by Malcolm Turnbull on Tony Abbott's climate change policy. Since it was written the Coalition has released its Direct Action policy. However, much of the criticism still stands.

Global warming is accelerating

Dana Nuccitelli writes in In Hot Water: Global Warming Has Accelerated In Past 15 Years, New Study Of Oceans Confirms that global warming is actually increasing with much of the warming taking place in the deep ocean:
Perhaps the most important result of this paper is the confirmation that while many people wrongly believe global warming has stalled over the past 10–15 years, in reality that period is “the most sustained warming trend” in the past half century. Global warming has not paused, it has accelerated.

The paper is also a significant step in resolving the ‘missing heat’ issue, and is a good illustration why arguments for somewhat lower climate sensitivity are fundamentally flawed if they fail to account for the warming of the oceans below 700 meters.

Most importantly, everybody (climate scientists and contrarians included) must learn to stop equating surface and shallow ocean warming with global warming. In fact, as Roger Pielke Sr. has pointed out, “ocean heat content change [is] the most appropriate metric to diagnose global warming.” While he has focused on the shallow oceans, actually we need to measure global warming by accounting for all changes in global heat content, including the deeper oceans. Otherwise we can easily fool ourselves into underestimating the danger of the climate problem we face.

Krugman on Cyprus

Paul Krugman has now written several articles on the current financial crisis in Cyprus.

In Hot Money Blues he ponders whether we might see a move to increase limits on international capital flows.

In Cyprus, Seriously he suggests that the best thing for Cyprus to do is to withdraw from the Euro.

Artic sea ice loss causing extreme weather in Europe

John Vidal writes that Scientists link frozen spring to dramatic Arctic sea ice loss.

Soil carbon sequestration costs $80 per tonne of CO2

Actual viability of soil carbon sequestration for farmers studied looks at work by UWA researchers into estimating the impact of using soil carbon sequestration to mitigate carbon emissions:
NEW UWA research looking at the economic impacts of implementing soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration methods into farming practices, is showing that these impacts may prove impractical for farmers.

The authors found that while altering certain practices can be used to increase carbon sequestration it is costly and farmers would require high levels of compensation to make it a viable option.

By modeling the cost of these practices researchers estimate the profit loss for each additional tonne of CO2 stored on the model farm was $80.00 which is far more than the initial buying price of $23.00 per tonne under carbon tax legislation.

A/Prof Kragt says there are also a number of other barriers for the implementation of many practices of carbon sequestration.

“There are a lot of opportunities to increase soil carbon but pretty much most of those are categorised as conservation practices and those conservation practices won’t be eligible for carbon credits under additionality”, A/Prof Kragt says.

Additionality is the requirement that any practices implemented create additional sequestration or reductions in emissions than would have occurred under a business as usual scenario.
In summary, Direct Action will cost $80 per tonne.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Using The Wire to explain horizontal fiscal equalisation

In The Wire and horizontal fiscal equalisation Matt Cowgill uses examples from the HBO series The Wire to explain why we have and need horizontal fiscal equalisation:
It’s this sort of ruthless indifference to poorer areas that underpins the American approach, illustrated so vividly on the Wire. I’m not claiming that a recalibrated Commonwealth Grants Commission funding formula would lead us to a situation like Simon’s Baltimore, but I am suggesting that any deviation from the principle of citizens’ equal entitlement to government services would be a disastrous and repugnant step, however tentative, in that direction.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Renewables may be reducing power prices in South Australia

Dylan McConnell, Research Fellow at University of Melbourne, writes in Power of the wind – how renewables are lowering SA electricity bills that:
Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power appear to be the impetus behind a South Australian proposal to substantially drop electricity prices, just as other states are hiking theirs.
And while it is not specifically acknowledged in the determination, this may be the first time the “merit order effect” of renewable energy sources can conclusively be seen flowing through to consumers in Australia.

Mark Lathams' Quartely Essay - Not Dead Yet

The latest Quarterly Essay features Mark Latham's Not Dead Yet: Labor's Post-Left Future. As the Quarterly Essay in not free I am unlikely to read it. There have been some positive reviews on Latham's essay, and a few critical analysis.

Matt Cowgill's Back to the future with Mark Latham’s Quarterly Essay concludes with:
The essay isn’t all bad. I applaud Latham’s goal, announced in the first chapter, of producing a work that is more focused on policy proposals than on blood-letting and carping from the sidelines. I do, strange as it might seem, agree with him about many aspects of policy. Labor has always been a pragmatic party, a party that seeks to govern. It’s not a dogmatic party, driven by purist ideology. Latham has that right. I think that Labor was right to float the dollar and to pursue many of the more market-oriented reforms it has implemented over the past three decades.But I think that Latham is wrong to miss the other half of the picture, Keating’s view that if people “fall off the pace you will reach back and pull them up.” Some members of the Clause IV generation are too keen to leave behind central elements of the centre-left agenda.

Mark Bahnisch, who seems to have had a run in with Latham in the past, isn't a fan of the essay. His post Mark Latham Redux: Just a step to the right? concludes with:
I’ve enjoyed a lot of Mark Latham’s occasional writing in the Financial Review and in Crikey, but I don’t think Australian Labor has a lot to learn from ‘Not Dead Yet’. Nevertheless, it’s a good thing that he’s written the essay, as debate among Labor people and sympathisers about its political philosophy and strategic direction is much to be welcomed.
In Mark Latham and the return of the underclass Don Arthur writes that Latham's plan to end poverty won't.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Latham on education

In The real education revolution Labor needs Crikey has an extract from Mark Latham's contribution to Quarterly Essay 49, Not Dead Yet: Labor’s Post-Left Future.

Politics of Narcissism

Matthew Yglesias in Rob Portman and the Politics of Narcissism notes that Senator Rob Portman of Ohio has changed his mind on gay marriage after learning that his son is gay.
But what Portman is telling us here is that on this one issue, his previous position was driven by a lack of compassion and empathy. Once he looked at the issue through his son's eyes, he realized he was wrong. Shouldn't that lead to some broader soul-searching? Is it just a coincidence that his son is gay, and also gay rights is the one issue on which a lack of empathy was leading him astray? That, it seems to me, would be a pretty remarkable coincidence. The great challenge for a senator isn't to go to Washington and represent the problems of his own family. It's to try to obtain the intellectual and moral perspective necessary to represent the problems of the people who don't have direct access to the corridors of power.

Senators basically never have poor kids. That's something members of Congress should think about. Especially members of Congress who know personally that realizing an issue affects their own children changes their thinking.
Recently Tony Abbott was on TV explaining how his attitude to women had changed because of his daughters (this seems to have been a rather slow change). Likewise his attitude to gays had changed after his sister's recent coming out. This is exactly what Yglesias is writing about in his article.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Probability of warming being due to random chance

Philip Bump in If you’re 27 or younger, you’ve never experienced a colder-than-average month quotes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in October 2012 as saying:
The average temperature across land and ocean surfaces during October was 14.63°C (58.23°F). This is 0.63°C (1.13°F) above the 20th century average and ties with 2008 as the fifth warmest October on record. The record warmest October occurred in 2003 and the record coldest October occurred in 1912. This is the 332nd consecutive month with an above-average temperature.
Bump goes on to write:
If you were born in or after April 1985, if you are right now 27 years old or younger, you have never lived through a month that was colder than average. That’s beyond astonishing.
Josh Voorhees in It Has Been Nearly 28 Years Since We Have Had a Colder-Than-Average Month quotes the above Bump article (although I couldn't find the reference to February 2012 in the article myself):
The last below-average month was February 1985. The last October with a below-average temperature was 1976.
I assume Voorhees came up with February 1985 by subtracting 332 months from October 2012 (the month referred to in the NOAA quote above. It's now March 2013. So last month makes 336 consecutive month with an above-average temperature.

What's the chance of that happening by random chance? Let's assume that there's a 50% chance that temperatures in any given month could be above average (it's actually slightly less than 50% because temperatures could be above, equal to or below the average, but it's close enough for our task and if anything will understate things). The equation is basically 2336. According to Microsoft Excel the probability is 1 in  139,984,046,386,113,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (note Excel rounds numbers this large). The Windows calculator puts the probability at 1 in 1.3998404638611276315984014253553e+101. Either way that's a very large number.

So what does it mean? It means that it's not random chance that we have had 336 consecutive months with an above-average temperature. Something has caused it and all the evidence indicates that to a large extent it's us.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Higher taxes for the 1% might be a good idea

Chrystia Freeland in Putting the magnifying glass on the one percent writes about economic research on growing income inequality and the 1%.
One of the most striking findings will probably give comfort to the plutocrats: In contrast to previous generations, the super-rich today tend to have earned their fortunes rather than inherited them.

Steven Kaplan of the University of Chicago and Joshua Rauh of Stanford University in California studied Forbes magazine’s annual list of the 400 richest Americans. They found that in 1982 just 40 percent of these plutocrats had built their own businesses. By 2011, the super-rich had gotten much richer — the combined wealth of the Forbes 400 was $92 billion in 1982 and had surged to $1.53 trillion by 2011 — and many more of them had, as the meme of the 2012 U.S. presidential election campaign had it, built it themselves: 69 percent.

“This isn’t the ‘Downton Abbey’ rentier class,” explained Van Reenen, who has found a similar trend in Britain. “These incomes come from the labor market. You can say it is a triumph of the human capitalists over the physical capitalists.”
Interestingly it seems that these researchers are calling for higher taxes for the very rich:
Among economists who study the surge in pay at the top, it is pretty much a truth universally acknowledged that taxes should rise at the summit, too. “Economics would suggest that when you have big increases in inequality, the top tax rate should rise,” Van Reenen said. “That seems very right and very reasonable.”

The impact and the structure of higher taxes for the rich are a more complicated and controversial issue. Timothy Besley and Maitreesh Ghatak, both of the London School of Economics, make a robust case for higher taxes on bankers’ bonuses. Their work is theoretical, but beyond the campus green what may be particularly interesting is the way they frame the wider debate.

“Little undermines the case for a market economy more than the perception that there is injustice in the rewards that it generates,” they argue in a recent paper. “The greatest clamor for reform should come from those who support the market system.”

“We have shown that some form of bonus taxation in the financial sector is optimal above and beyond standard progressive income taxation,” they conclude. “We have identified a form of taxation that we believe makes the market system both fairer and more efficient.”
Emmanuel Saez, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who is one of the pioneering students of incomes at the very top, has offered an even more provocative suggestion. At the American Economic Association meeting, he argued that when tax rates at the top are low, “top earners extract more pay at the expense of the 99 percent.” Higher tax rates for the rich, he suggested, “reduce the pretax income gap without hurting economic growth.”

The global is still warming

YouTube has a video showing Global warming over the last 16 years. The accompanying website containing the methodology behind the video is at 16 years - Update and Frequently Asked Questions.

Monday, 11 March 2013

What we need to do to support teachers

Jane Caro in Hey politicians, leave those teachers alone argues that we need to make teaching desirable again if we want to attract the best and brightest:
If we really want to help our teachers, both new and experienced, to do their jobs to the best of their ability, we need to do some fairly obvious things. First, give the teachers in the toughest schools the support they need. Larger class sizes may be fine in nice middle-class schools, but in schools dealing with the really tough social and behavioural problems that generational poverty and marginalisation can cause, they will make everything worse. The really tough schools may need teachers aides, social workers and behavioural psychologists on staff to free teachers up to do their job.

We need to lower the workload on teachers, particularly for young teachers and those in tough schools, so that they can de-stress and get the support they need to survive. We certainly don't need to add to their stress with more testing or hoops to jump through.

We need to give them time to do specialist professional development and experienced mentors to coax them out of the fetal position and give them strategies to cope. (By the way, the current mentoring program is being scaled back.) Just as you can only help children develop effectively by supporting their mothers, so you only help children learn effectively by supporting their teachers.

If we simply raise the ATAR and the hurdles that must be jumped over before you can do a teaching degree, but continue to throw young teachers to the lions unsupported, all we will do is have an even higher churn. The brighter the teacher, the more choices they have, so if this is all we do, expect teacher retention problems to get even greater.

But if we support, nurture and respect our teachers, and acknowledge and reward the degree of difficulty they face in their extremely demanding jobs, we won't have to artificially fiddle about with ATARs and interviews. If we make teaching a desirable job again, the ATARs will rise all on their own.

Interesting article on stopping the boats

In Stop The Boats. Seriously. Damien Walker documents the tragedy of SIEV-221 and the reasons why the the Houston Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, including Paris Aristotle recommended the policies they did. Walker criticises those who think that other policies are more humane.

This is a well researched and argued post by Walker. Recommended reading.

Our productivity is rising despite the rent seekers

In Productivity rising, but few notice Ross Gittins documents the increase in labour productivity over the last year. He also suggests that those who were previously complaining about a productivity crisis were more probably just business rent seekers.

You could call it the mystery of the disappearing productivity crisis. Last week's national accounts for the December quarter confirmed that, if we ever really had an underlying problem with weak productivity improvement, we don't have one now. By now, that's not such a mystery. No, the puzzle is why the people who made so much noise about the supposed productivity crisis show little sign of having noticed its evaporation.
Call me cynical, but it makes me suspect all the tears shed over productivity were little more than cover for an exercise in big-business rent-seeking. Shift the rules in my favour and it'll do wonders for the economy.
Big business is wedded to the happy notion that productivity improves when governments do things to make business's life easier. If these guys were a bit better versed in economics [as opposed to rent-seeking] they'd know the truth is roughly the opposite: productivity improves when governments either do things, or allow things to happen, that make life tougher for business.

So why had productivity improved? What did the Government do?
What the Gillard government did was do nothing to lower the high dollar - not that there was anything sensible or effective it could have done - and limit the budgetary handouts to only part of manufacturing industry.

The result was a lot of pressure on export-and import-competing industries to raise their efficiency (or, at the very least, cut costs) or go under. As well, a lot of other industries, including retailers and much of the media, have been subject to pressure on sales and profits coming from the digital revolution and structural change.
Gittins quotes Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens:
As we go through a period of transition from mining-led growth to stronger growth in the rest of the economy, he said, ''the pressures to adapt business models, contain costs, increase productivity and innovate will remain. But such adjustments are actually positive for longer-run economic performance.''
Gittins concludes his column with a great piece of advice:
Moral: Don't get your economics from overpaid chief executives - or crusading newspapers.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Poverty is another country

Alex Andreou in You’ll Never Live Like Common People talks about the almost 16 months he spent homeless and living in extreme poverty:
I was homeless from 3 January 2009 to 27 April 2010, and I can tell you - poverty is another country. You have either lived there or you have not.
This is not something I want to ever experience. Recommended reading.

Updated hockey stick graph shows unprecedented warming

Michael Marshall in True face of climate's hockey stick graph revealed has reported on research extending the hockey stick graph back to the end of the last ice age:
Earth's temperature is changing faster now than at any time since the last ice age, according to a new analysis of global temperatures spanning the last 11,300 years.

The study has produced the first extension of the notorious "hockey stick" temperature graph all the way back to the end of the last ice age.

It suggests that we are not quite out of the natural range of temperature variation yet, but will be by the end of the century.
Marcott's graph shows temperatures rising slowly after the ice age, until they peaked 9500 years ago. The total rise over that period was about 0.6 °C. They then held steady until around 5500 years ago, when they began slowly falling again until around 1850. The drop was 0.7 °C, roughly reversing the previous rise.

Then, in the late 19th century, the graph shows temperatures shooting up, driven by humanity's greenhouse gas emissions.
Over the Holocene, temperatures rose and fell less than 1 °C, and they did so over thousands of years, says Marcott. "It took 8000 years to go from warm to cold." Agriculture, communal life and forms of government all arose during this relatively stable period, he adds. Then in 100 years, global temperatures suddenly shot up again to very close to the previous maximum.

How fast temperatures change is the real issue of climate change, says Mann. "That's what challenges our adaptive capacity." Rapid change means farming practices must alter quickly, and preparations for extreme weather events must also be rapidly put in place.
Here's the updated graph from

Edit: The Atlantic reports on the same study: We're Screwed: 11,000 Years' Worth of Climate Data Prove It with a similar graph:

As does Scientific American: Global Average Temperatures Are Close to 11,000-Year Peak
And the ABC: Earth on track to be hottest in human history: study

Before and after of Arctic sea ice

Before and after: Arctic sea ice in 1984 and 2012 "NASA has released maps showing sea ice coverage of the Arctic in 1984 and 2012, after researchers revealed that sea ice melted to its lowest level on record this year". The interactive graphic in the above link compares the two.

Some scary global warming math

Take a look at the image below from How Many Gigatons of Carbon Dioxide...? on Information is Beautiful.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Australia's rising productivity

In Waking up to a productivity promised land Jessica Irvine looks at why Australia's productivity is now increasing and what we can do to ensure future increases (e.g. better infrastructure, breaking up cartels, removing artificial barriers).

Cheaper supermarket prices aren't all bad

People in business, and this includes farmers, need to understand that the world doesn't owe them a living. In Coles, Woolies and misguided outrage Michael Pascoe writes that it's no bad thing that Woolworths and Wesfarmers are screwing suppliers down as the benefits are then split between shareholders and customers.

How did predictions for the 2012 Australian economy do?

Not so good actually. Glenn Dyer and Bernard Keane Mythbusting the great economic claims of 2012. They also explain the difference between nominal GDP and real GDP:
Now: nominal is growth with inflation, real GDP is growth without inflation. Governments like nominal GDP to be higher than real GDP because it allows their revenues to rise faster than outlays; “fiscal drag” happens under high nominal GDP.

What happens when real GDP is higher than nominal GDP? Not much in the real world — but it does mean tougher budgets for federal, state and local governments.

So memo to Joe: there’s a simple reason. The national accounts showed the two main measures of inflation remained low. The implicit price deflator for household consumption rose 0.5% in the December quarter to be 2.4% over 2012. The GDP deflator — a broad measure of prices received by producers — fell 0.1% per cent last quarter to be 1.1% lower over the past year. This slowed growth in nominal GDP. That’s the strong dollar exerting downward pressure on prices and costs. And the smaller rise in nominal GDP underlines the strength of GDP growth in the economy because more of it came from higher demand than from inflation, which is surely a good thing — at least if you don’t have a government budget to run.

The shifting goalposts of anti-Keynesians in recent years

Brad DeLong on The Current State of the Macro Policy Debate: Musings on Paul Krugman vs. The Three Tweeters of Bruxelles.

Articles on the purpose of the Australian Labor Party

In Labor’s Best Strategy: Become A Party For True Liberals Andrew Leigh wrote an article suggesting that Labor should embrace the philosophy of social liberalism inspired by Alfred Deakin.

By contrast Tim Watts suggests in Labor’s Future Lies In Progressive Leadership, not Progressive Liberalism that Labor should embrace the political tradition of TJ Ryan "a path of consensus-driven, progressive electoralism".

An explanation for the demise of Ted Baillieu

In Right, said Ted, Liberal factional gangs have me done Charles Richardson explains some of the factional power plays in the Victorian Liberal Party.

Vectoring not a solution for NBN

In Blowing Thought Bubbles Like A Preschooler With Bubblegum the Sortius is a geek blog looks at Turnbull's proposal to use vectoring technology on ADSL instead of fibre.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Things are getting worse for the world's refugees

The Economist has an interesting article on the growing refugee problem the world faces: Flight to nowhere.

The decoupling of wages and labour productivity

In Labour’s shrinking share Matt Cowgill shows that real hourly labour income growth has fallen behind real output per hour growth. That is, over the last decade or so hourly wages have not kept pace with productivity growth. As a result labour share of national income has also fallen

House Republicans aren't accountable to the people, they're accountable to the Tea Party

In It’s almost like the Tea Party won Steve Kornacki looks at the ongoing tussle between the White House and Republican members of the House over the Sequester, the debt ceiling, etc. He concludes with the following:

It’s an outcome almost no one saw coming a year ago, and one made all the more remarkable by the fact that the most recent election seemed to represent a rebuke of the GOP and its embrace of Tea Party fiscal values.
I think Kornacki and many others are making a fundamental mistake in their understanding of the members of the Republican Party in Congress. Thanks to gerrymandering most Republicans in the House pretty much occupy safe seats. The greatest threat they face is not at the next election but in the preceding primaries. That's where the Tea Party, with its organisation and money, is at its strongest. House Republicans who do a deal with Obama that helps the nation but puts them offside with the Tea Party may well lose endorsement at the next election. On the other hand, not doing a deal no matter what the consequences for the nation could see them re-elected. What option do you think they'll take?

RICE Project

Finlay Macdonald in The Snow-Readers looks at the RICE project that is examining CO2 levels in drill cores taken from the Ross Ice Shelf.
Ice contains a “memory” within its compressed crystals that we can now recover and turn into climate records. From the savage Antarctic comes a team of ice-core drillers — and arriving in New Zealand imminently is their ice, possibly the strongest evidence yet of the vulnerability of great ice sheets to global warming.

Permafrost tipping point

Julia Whitty in We're Scarily Close to the Permafrost Tipping Point has an interesting map showing the extent of the permafrost in the Northern Hemisphere. If the permafrost starts melting we could see a massive release of methane and carbon dioxide that will significantly accelerate global warming.

Howard Government wasteful according to the IMF

Peter Martin reports in Hey, big spender: Howard the king of the loose purse strings that, according to the IMF:
Australia's most needlessly wasteful spending took place under the John Howard-led Coalition government rather than under the Whitlam, Rudd or Gillard Labor governments, an international study has found.

The future on journalism and outsourced education

Robert W. McChesney has written a rather bleak article on the future of journalism in Mainstream media meltdown! Basically he says that there's not enough money to support quality online journalism.

However, it's the summary that I want to highlight:
There is probably no better evidence that journalism is a public good than the fact that none of America’s financial geniuses can figure out how to make money off it. The comparison to education is striking. When manag­ers apply market logic to schools, it fails, because education is a cooperative public service, not a business. Corporatized schools throw underachieving, hard-to-teach kids overboard, discontinue expensive programs, bombard stu­dents with endless tests, and then attack teacher salaries and unions as the main impediment to “success.” No one has ever made profits doing qual­ity education—for-profit education companies seize public funds and make their money by not teaching. In digital news, the same dynamic is producing the same results, and leads to the same conclusion.
Unfortunately there's nothing in the body of the article discussing corporatised education. Judging by the one paragraph above I think it's a topic probably worth an article in itself.

Graph of weekly ordinary time cash earnings distribution

Matt Cowgill posted the graph below to Twitter with the caption: 'One for the "$150k is a lot of money" file'. From

How "skeptics" view global warming

I think I might have posted this before:


Tuesday, 5 March 2013

American conservatives have an ideas crisis

In American Conservatism’s Crisis of Ideas J. Bradford DeLong gives a brief history of conservative ideas then examines the floors with current ideas:
So what is the problem that America’s new generation of conservative critics of social insurance sees? It is not that raising poor people’s standard of living above bare subsistence produces Malthusian catastrophe, or that taxes and withdrawal of welfare benefits make people work, at the margin, for nothing.

For Eberstadt, the problem is that dependence on government is emasculating, and that too many people are dependent on government. For Brooks, it is that knowing that public programs make one’s life easier causes one to vote for non-Republican candidates. For Murray, it is that social insurance means that behaving badly does not lead to catastrophe – and we need bad behavior to lead to catastrophe in order to keep people from behaving badly.

The crucial point is that America’s conservative elites believe Brooks, Eberstadt, and Murray. To this day, Mitt Romney is convinced that he lost the presidency in 2012 because Barack Obama unfairly gave Latino-Americans subsidized health insurance; gave women free reproductive health coverage (excluding abortion); and gave other groups similar “gifts.” He could “never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
The problem for American conservatives is not their choice of candidates or the tone of their rhetoric. It is that their ideas are not politically sustainable.

Why you shouldn't drink too much coffee

Linette Lopez highlights 10 Things That Drinking Too Much Coffee Can Do To Your Body.

Climate change debate flowchart

A handy tool: How to Win Any Climate Change Argument.

Video showing wealth inequality in the US

This video is apparently going viral: Video on Wealth Inequality in the U.S.

Alpine glacier changes shown over 100 years

Repeat photos of Vadret da Morteratsch and Vadret Pers shows the decline in glacier size over the last 100 years.

New monetary trilemma?

The Economist looks at an interesting issue in The low rate conundrum:
LONGER-TERM interest rates have been low for quite some time now across much of the rich world, and there is little sign of an upturn any time soon. This is disconcerting. As Ben Bernanke put it in an interesting speech delivered Friday, there are two reasons to worry about low long-term rates: that they'll rise and that they won't. As rates remain low, financial market participants may be encouraged to "reach for yield", by taking dangerous risks and leveraging up. Alternatively, if rates rise sharply then there could be large financial losses in the system. As Mr Bernanke notes, the two risks are mutually reinforcing; reach-for-yield behaviour may increase exposure to losses in a rising-rate world.
But we should also anticipate that longer-run real growth rates may be higher given higher inflation. Why? Because we have learned that the odds of hitting the ZLB at low-inflation rates are greater than many anticipated prior to the crisis. And because we have learned that the Fed systematically under-responds to demand shortfalls when stuck at the ZLB, because it has concerns about the risks of unconventional policy. Higher inflation therefore implies fewer, shallower recessions and faster recoveries.

It is perhaps premature to declare the existence of a new monetary trilemma, that over the medium-term central banks can choose at most two of the following: low inflation, low unemployment, and financial stability.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Labour productivity increasing

In Why cutting wages is a fool’s way to boost the economy Malcolm Farr notes that recent declines in productivity are entirely capital driven, employee productivity has actually been increasing.
The history of the issue is this: From 1993-94, labour productivity rose consistently in what Mr Parham called “very, very strong output per hour worked’‘. Meanwhile, capital productivity was flat, meaning machinery, buildings and mines were less efficient.

There has been a big change in the past 10 years. Capital productivity has tanked, said Mr Parham, dropping 20 per cent since 2003-04.

“And it’s capital productivity that has been the drag on Australia’s overall productivity performance. Because you can see multi-factor productivity, which is often the key indicator of efficiency, has done nothing. If anything it has gone backwards,’’ he said.

And what did labour productivity do while capital efficiency tanked? In recent years it has risen 3.3 per cent a year. Over the same period capital productivity has fallen by 3.4 per cent a year.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

The not very rational voter

The Gordon's Thoughts blogs has an interesting post: Voting against one’s rational interests. The blog argues that:

People make decisions and behave emotionally and justify their decisions and behaviour rationally!
The blog later makes the point the following point:
Framing and communication matter! It’s all well and good to cite long policy lists of achievement and what the data says in regards to how certain policies are working but if you aren’t dealing with people on an interpersonal level and there is no process of illustration or persuasion mechanism to get people to buy what you’re saying, it all falls on deaf ears.
I found it informative.

It's not a tax, you can't buy and sell a tax

In this memorable quote from Rob Oakeshott says:


CSIROh! shown to a toxic mix of conspiracy theories and antisemitism

In Toxic legacies: Malcolm Roberts, his CSIROh! report and the anti-Semitic roots of the “international bankers” conspiracy theory The Watching the Deniers blog systematically tears apart the Malcolm Roberts written CSIROh!. Malcolm Roberts is project manager for the Galileo Movement - an organisation that denies the existence of human induced global warming.
According to parts of the climate sceptic movement, the world is not as it seems.
The CSIRO is a tool of international bankers, who over the past century have also orchestrated every major financial boom and bust since 1913. The United Nations was created at the urging of international bankers, who are using it as a vehicle to usher in a New World Order.

The Rockefeller and Rothschild families have been working behind the scenes for centuries manipulating events. These same banking families instigated both the First and Second World War in order to profit from the chaos. Every Australian Prime Minister of the post-War period – except John Howard – was a Fabian-socialist-Manchurian candidate.

Or so claims Malcolm Roberts, project manager for the Alan Jones sponsored Galileo Movement .
Background: the perceived antisemitism of Roberts conspiracy theories

For those readers not familiar with Roberts, he is the project manager for the climate sceptic group the Galileo Movement. The mission of the Galileo Movement is to see the “carbon tax” repealed and to cast doubt on the science of climate change.

Last year in an interview with Sydney Morning Journalist Ben Cubby Roberts claimed a cabal of international bankers were behind the climate change “scam”. This revelation ultimately lead to conservative columnist Andrew Bolt repudiating both Roberts and the Galileo Movement due to the implied whiff of antisemitism of his claims.

Since then Roberts has clearly been smarting, and in CSIROh! he attempts to set the record straight and vindicate his claims.
However, CSIROh! is not an ordinary report. In it Roberts creates an alternative history of the world, in which the Rockefeller’s and Rothschild’s have been working behind the scenes to wreck and profit from financial chaos, incite major wars and build the foundations of a tyrannical world government.
Basically the blog shows that CSIROh! is built upon a web of absurd, and often contradictory, conspiracy theories and anti-semetism.

Trade deficits forever

Matthew Yglesias makes the point that America Can (And Will!) Run a Trade Deficit Forever as Australia has successfully done.

The free market is not a god to be worshipped

In The Sequester's Market Utopians Adam Gopnik argues that the free market is not a god to be worshipped but a tool to be used when it works. He argues that some services (e.g. health, opera, the US Postal Service) are not best left to the markets. He makes this great point:
Society is about running at a loss, because profit and loss are, above all, human terms to be given a human measure. Societies run at a loss so that their citizens can live at a profit, in productive comfort.

Friday, 1 March 2013

The NBN vs the Coalition's proposal

In The vast differences between the NBN and the Coalition's alternative Nick Ross has written a detailed comparison of the Government's NBN and the Coalition's proposal:
The Coalition's broadband policy slogan states that they will "Complete the current NBN cheaper and faster." This simply isn't true.
Ross goes on to justify this statement in great detail. Whilst Ross comes across as a little on the strident side (and I'm not sure the suggested savings in health costs would ever eventuate) I think his argument is essentially correct.

5 false political assumptions

In 5 False Assumptions Political Pundits Make All the Time Molly Ball analyses work published by political scientist Morris Fiorina. The five false assumptions are:

1. The electorate is not "polarizing." It's "sorting."
2. Candidates change more than voters do.
3. Independents aren't partisans.
4. "Division" is easy to overstate.
5. Campaign ads really, really, really don't make much difference.

This is an American article and the rules reflect the US political system. However some of it holds true for Australia. Worth a read.