Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Why New Year's resolutions can work

In Why New Year's resolutions work Peter Martin describes why such resolutions have a higher success rate than we might expect:
His finding has been replicated repeatedly: resolutions work. And it suggests that rather than being single-minded, as economists have traditionally believed, many of us are better thought of as having at least two minds, each fighting for control. One might be the saver, the other the spender; one the lifter, the other the leaner; one the dieter, the other the eater.
Economics has traditionally explained away what appear to be two separate selves by saying each of us is one self with stable preferences moderated by a discount rate. Because we care most about the present we "discount" whatever good or bad things are likely to happen in the future when comparing them to the good or bad things we are facing now. We are said to have a constant discount rate of about 8 per cent per year.

But the explanation doesn't stand up. Rather than being constant, our discount rate seems to climb the closer we get to the choice we have to make.

Ask someone today to choose between working seven hours on April 1 or eight hours on April 15 and that person will almost certainly choose the easier day on April 1. But ask again when April 1 arrives and the same person will almost certainly choose the harder day in a fortnight's time.
It seems that our short term self is always in a battle with out long term self.
The two fight it out. There's no single "self" always in command.

If they are right it explains the success of resolutions - they are a tool the long-term self can use to trap the short-term self into acting.

And it explains why certain types of resolutions are more likely to succeed than others - those that are specific and are made in public with no room for backing out.
His advice for tonight is to eschew vague resolutions and go for absolutes: "Just as it may be easier to ban nuclear weapons from the battlefield in toto than through carefully graduated specifications on their use, zero is a more enforceable limit on cigarettes or chewing gum than some flexible quantitative ration."

And say it out loud. Lock yourself in. Surprise yourself.

Friday, 26 December 2014

7 food hygiene tips from ABC Health & Wellbeing

ABC Health & Wellbeing has some useful food hygiene tips in 7 ways to share food, not food poisoning this Christmas.

Christmas cake truffles recipe

From Ten ways to use up Christmas leftovers comes Christmas cake truffles:
Make a chocolate ganache with equal parts cream and good quality dark chocolate. As the mixture cools and thickens, stir in crumbled Christmas cake and some finely chopped almonds. Pour into a shallow tray and set in the fridge. Use a melon baller or teaspoon to scoop dainty little truffles. Roll in dutch cocoa or dip in melted chocolate. Serve as petit fours with coffee.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Radicalisation and education

Ben Doherty in Pakistan attack reveals the truth about terrorism: it kills more poor Muslims than rich westerners writes how educating children, especially girls, is one of the best ways of defeating terrorism.
I asked the head of the school, a gruff, uniformed major, what the root cause of radicalisation was.

What was the fundamental, underlying reason why these boys could be convinced to kill in the name of a distorted religious interpretation, to don a vest they knew would kill them and walk towards a target?

“Poverty,” he said.

“It’s poverty, and that comes from a lack of education.”

Boys in school, he explained, didn’t grow up to become suicide bombers. Young men with good jobs didn’t run away to the hills to join the Taliban.

Literate girls go on to lift entire families from poverty. Women with an education don’t allow their sons to be radicalised.

The cost now might seem too high, but Pakistan must keep its children in school.

That’s how the war will be won. And the whole world will benefit.
There's some truth to this. Australia provides aid to Indonesia so children are educated in sectarian schools rather than being potentially radicalised in a madrassa. Indeed many of the Taliban were educated and radicalised in madrassas in Pakistan teaching Wahhabism.

However, it's not the whole story. It doesn't explain many of the people fighting for ISIS and similar groups in Syria and Iraq. Many of them received a reasonable level of education. And yet they have also been radicalised.

We also should also not forget that many terrorists in western countries in the seventies and eighties (e.g the Red Army Faction) were highly educated.

Jim Jefferies on gun control

Amusing: Jim Jefferies - gun control.

Psychlopedia on the need for closure

An interesting page on the Need for closure by Psychlopedia.

Psychlopedia on right wing authoritarianism

Right wing authoritarianism looks at some of the characteristics of people who share that attribute. The page also discusses left wing authoritarianism and conservatism.

Right wing authoritarianism represents the extent to which individuasl feel that authorities should be followed. Specifically, right wing authoritarianism comprises three key related attitudes: Individuals submit to authorities, they endorse aggression towards anyone who violates regulations, and they follow the established traditions of society (e.g., Altemeyer, 1998). These three attitudes are called authoritarian submission, authoritarian aggression, and conventionalism respectively. These attitudes represent key determinants of prejudice (Altemeyer, 1998).

Another example of overpricing in the US health system

In The Odd Math of Medical Tests: One Scan, Two Prices, Both High Elisabeth Rosenthal looks at excessive charging the US health system for tests like echocardiograms.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Sweden isn't Sweden anymore

In Forget everything you know about nice, liberal Sweden — that country no longer exists Emanuel Sidea explains how Sweden is moving from more towards European style politics.
The crisis has revealed the existence of a new political generation in Sweden (three of the nine party leaders were born during 1980s). It is one that is much more prepared for a European-style fight to the death. The idea that Swedes always try to reach a consensus is now long gone.
Löfven, a former union leader, shouldn't be surprised that Sweden isn't the same as it was just ten or twenty years ago. He knows the statistics. We have a large youth generation without proper jobs or housing. An infrastructure in dire need of investment. A private sector eager for political innovation and vision. And a system of young outsiders that put them against a generation born in the 1940s and 50s that harvest all the benefits. Because of the previous centre-right government, led by the "Swedish David Cameron" Fredrik Reinfeldt, there is no inheritance, wealth, or property tax, and large decreases in income tax and capital tax. At the same time, inequality and income distribution is increasing at an alarming rate.

How the Pakistani Taliban became what it is

In How the Pakistani Taliban grew into a deadly force Carlotta Gall gives us a history of the Pakistani Taliban.

Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipe

A Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe from the Kawaii Kitchen blog.

Minty Chocolate Cake

The Kawaii Kitchen blog has an interesting Minty and Super Moist Chocolate Cake recipe.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Good cartoon on vaccines

Maki Naro posted a great cartoon on vaccines: Vaccines Work: Here Are the Facts

Tingle on the less than rosy outlook for out economy

In Voters vulnerable as luck deserts Coalition Laura Tingle has some bad news for us.
It has been a truism of Australian politics for decades that the Coalition has traditionally been blessed with good economic luck, while Labor has tended to be voted into office just as things have turned sour: the OPEC oil crisis in the early 1970s in the case of Whitlam; the “banana republic’” fall in the terms of trade, and subsequent sharp reversal, for Hawke and Keating; the global financial crisis for Rudd.

But the mid-year review of the budget confirms that the decades-long run of economic good luck for the Coalition has finally come to an end.

It is not just that economic conditions are difficult and will stay that way, but that the government has to prepare a couple of generations of voters who have never experienced grim economic times for what is to come.

Bad news for the people

While the bad news for the government in the mid-year review is that the decade of deficits is upon us, it is in the bad news for the people that the real dilemmas lie.

The budget forecasts now officially embrace virtually no growth in wages and rising unemployment. That is not just for this year, but for the foreseeable future. It is predicting even weaker household consumption and a weak housing market.

Just where the growth that is forecast to continue comes from when Chinese growth has been downgraded is not clearly spelt out. This is not a recipe to inspire confidence or make voters feel pleased with the world.
She also has some interesting graphs showing the budget bottom line:

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Vaccinations reduce the incidence of allergic disease

In Vaccination Protects Children Against Allergic Disease Pam Harrison reports on a cohort study showing that vaccinated children were less likely to suffer from allergies than unvaccinated children.

How did Australia spend its boom

In AFTER THE PARTY: How Australia spent its mining boom windfall David Hetherington and Dominic Prior document what Australia did with its windfall during the mining boom.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Detox a crock?

In You can’t detox your body. It’s a myth. So how do you get healthy? Dara Mohammadi addresses the scam that is "detox".

In Detoxing is a scam, isn't it? Sarah Berry gets some alternate views.

Matthew Beard on the evil of torture

In Inside the mind of a torturer Matthew Beard explains that torture doesn't just damage the victim.

Warming has not paused

The post Recent global warming trends: significant or paused or what? has the following graph:

So warming has not paused. The variability we see is still inline with long term trends.

To quote the post:

In summary: that the warming since 1998 “is not significant” is completely irrelevant. This warming is real (in all global surface temperature data sets), and it is factually wrong to claim there has been no warming since 1998. There has been further warming despite the extreme cherry pick of 1998.

What is relevant, in contrast, is that the warming since 1998 is not significantly less than the long-term warming. So while there has been a slowdown, this slowdown is not significant in the sense that it is not outside of what you expect from time to time due to year-to-year natural variability, which is always present in this time series.

How Disney avoids paying tax in Australia

In How Disney has McDucked its tax, left Australia holding pumpkin Neil Chenoweth explains how Disney, through complex offshore transactions, has avoided paying their fair share of tax in Australia.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Reviewing the interview

Peter Clarke is a "Melbourne-based broadcaster, writer and educator who teaches at RMIT and Swinburne universities". In Brandis free speech fudge he reviews Emma Alberici's interview with George Brandis on the topic of the Gillard Government's proposed media reforms.

Journalists are often criticised in social media when they interview prominent politicians. Usually the criticisms reflect the bias of the critic more than any alleged bias of the interviewer. It's good to see an independent and informed critique of an interview by an expert. We need more of it.

Some more Clarke reviews:

Anatomy of Sales -v- Gillard interview - Leigh Sales interviews then Prime Minister Julia Gillard

Morrison’s brick wall on how he’ll stop the boats - Sabra Lane interviews then shadow Immigration Minister Scott Morrison
How Sales dropped the ball on Abbott - Leigh Sales interviews then Opposition Leader Tony Abbott

Mosler rejects the theory that government debt is bad

In Mosler lays down tablets on the economy, stupid Peter McAllister talks to economist Warren Mosler about his theories that government debt isn't bad but government surpluses can be. That's provided the debt is in the country's own currency (unlike Euro-zone countries).

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Australian newspaper's move to the right

In The ABC versus The Australian - and the winner is ... Alan Stokes writes:
As mad as it might make the independents feel, the Murdoch press simply pitches confirmation journalism to conservatives who are perfectly legitimate consumers of media products.

How would I know?

Because I have split my three-decade working life roughly between Fairfax Media and Rupert Murdoch.
There was a time when The Oz was less extreme. Then the powers that be made a survival decision. I sat at meetings where News Corp executives stressed that The Australian should aim to become a conservative newspaper with story decisions seen through that prism.

More than a decade on it remains a great newspaper. The Australian has many very talented reporters.  Hedley Thomas's dogged pursuit of Clive Palmer has been laudable, as have campaigns to improve indigenous health and utilise freedom of information laws.

But too often the good journalism gets lost in the polemics.

The Abbott government gives The Oz more exclusives because they will be given less critical treatment and, usually, more space. Myriad news reports quote like-minded lobbyists, think-tanks, fellow staff and even editors at length. As noted American sociologist Charles Tilly might say, sometimes journalists just seek "a quotable bit that will reinforce the point they already want to make".

Monday, 24 November 2014

Nutella and banana sushi

Kidspot has a Nutella and banana sushi recipe.

Ecstasy and mental health

In What are your 'ecstasy years' doing to you today? Clem Bastow reports on an ABC short documentary exploring links between mental illness and ecstasy use in The Agony Of Ecstasy.
Other friends were certainly not so shy, nor was Lise, now 28, whose former ecstasy use is the subject of the short ABC2 documentary The Agony Of Ecstasy.

Having used ecstasy regularly - “every weekend, for two years” - in her younger days, Lise soon found herself dealing with detrimental effects to her mental health that went beyond the accepted ‘comedown’ period after each party: psychosis, anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. The Agony Of Ecstasy explores the possibility that regular use of the drug could contribute to long-term detrimental effects to mental health, memory, motor skills, and even the ability to learn.
As it turns out, many of the potential long term effects of ecstasy use are tied to what makes it such a popular drug in the first place: its stimulation of the hormones serotonin and oxytocin, and the ensuing depletion of the former, which can take days to replenish.

In Agony, Lise visits Prof. Ian McGregor of Sydney University, who has been conducting research into the effects of the drug: he has found evidence of long term depletion of serotonin, and increased rates of depression and anxiety, in even casual users. In rats that had been exposed to small amounts of MDMA, Prof. McGregor also found long term depletion of oxytocin, which is essential for day-to-day social functioning. Compellingly, he says there is also evidence to suggest that users who experience “terrible Tuesday” could be displaying a predisposition to mental illness.

It is, as Lise puts it during her Agony journey, “a chicken and the egg” scenario: it’s difficult, if not impossible, to tell whether she was already prone to anxiety, depression and poor judgment before she began taking the drug, or if the drug left her in that state.
“Absolutely,” agrees Lucas, “a harm reduction approach that focuses on safe use has been proven to be more  effective in terms of reducing the risk to individuals and society. Of course there will always be a demand for drugs because young people will always want to try new experiences, but making sure they are making informed choices around drug taking, and the risks involved, is really what we want to contribute to.”

Need to lose weight - try a vegan diet

In Eat carbs, lose weight – lessons from a vegan diet Paula Goodyer reports that those participants in a small study found those on a vegan diet lost double the weight of those on diets including meat or fish.

It seems a vegan diet can also carry other health benefits:
It's not the first study to show weight loss success on a diet based entirely on plants. Six years ago I interviewed  Dr Neal Barnard, Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine at George Washington School of Medicine, about his research looking at using a plant food-only diet to control type 2 diabetes. He found that besides controlling blood glucose more effectively than the standard American Diabetes Association diet, the diet also helped reduce weight and cholesterol.
What about the argument that eating a lot of carbohydrates forces the body to produce too much insulin, which in turn encourages the body to store fat more easily?

"If this was the case, we wouldn't have studies consistently showing that vegetarians, who typically eat more carbohydrate, have better insulin sensitivity, a reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease and are less likely to be overweight," she says.

But another advantage of a vegan diet may have something to do with the kind of bacteria that reside in a gut where the only available food comes from plants. New research from the City University of New York has found that the gut microbe population of people on a vegan diet is different to that of omnivores and includes more of the microbes thought to help protect against obesity and diabetes.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Monday, 17 November 2014

Will China do nothing about climage change for the next 16 years?

John Mathews and Hao Tan in FactCheck: does the new climate deal let China do nothing for 16 years? argue that far from doing nothing, China will be leading the world in the deployment of zero emission electricity generation. China's carbon emissions will likely peak well before their 2030 deadline.

The pursuit of rank rather than knowledge drives univerities

In University status comes at a high price Ross Gittins highlights how universities are more interested in their status than their students needs.
Has it occurred to you that universities are fundamentally about the pursuit of status? Almost every aspect of their activities focuses on the acquisition of rank. And Christopher Pyne's proposed "reform" of universities is about harnessing the status drive to help balance the budget.

Ostensibly, unis exist to add to the store of human knowledge and to educate the brightest of the rising generation. All very virtuous.

When you think about it, however, you see that unis are about the pursuit of certification, standing, position and prestige. The main way they earn their revenue is by granting superior status to young people seeking to enter the workforce.
Ross Gittins continues on this theme with Students pay for status under uni fee rise.

Berlin, the city of "surveillance refuseniks"

In Berlin’s digital exiles: where tech activists go to escape the NSA Carole Cadwalladr documents how Berlin is become the city of choice for many people concerned about government surveillance.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Human performance may respond best to what matters most

In Don't Choke:What we value affects how we perform under pressure Olga Khazan writes about research which suggests that we have it wrong on why people choke.
What they found was that people who were very loss-averse (very afraid of forfeiting their money) did better when they were threatened with losing greater amounts. They choked, however, when offered a $100 award.

Meanwhile, those who weren't loss-averse (they didn't fear losing what they had) were mostly motivated by gaining more money. When threatened with losing $100, they fumbled.

In other words, human performance responds best to what matters most.

Use Luxembourg if you want to reduce your corporate tax bill

In How a European duchy makes tax bills disappear Leslie Wayne, Kelly Carr, Marina Walker Guevara, Mar Cabra and Michael Hudson explain how many companies use secret agreements with the Luxembourg Government to avoid paying tax in other countries.
Pepsi, IKEA, FedEx and 340 other international companies have secured secret deals from Luxembourg, allowing many of them to slash their global tax bills while maintaining little presence in the tiny central European duchy, leaked documents show.

These companies appear to have channelled hundreds of billions of dollars through Luxembourg and saved billions of dollars in taxes, according to a review of nearly 28,000 pages of confidential documents conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and a team of more than 80 journalists from 26 countries.

Big companies can book big tax savings by creating complicated accounting and legal structures that move profits to low-tax Luxembourg from higher-tax countries where they have their headquarters or do lots of business. In some instances, the leaked records indicate, companies have enjoyed effective tax rates of less than 1 per cent on the profits they've shuffled into Luxembourg.

The leaked documents reviewed by ICIJ journalists include hundreds of private tax rulings – sometimes known as "comfort letters" – that Luxembourg provides to corporations seeking favourable tax treatment.

The European Union and Luxembourg have been fighting for months over Luxembourg's reluctance to turn over information about its tax rulings to the EU, which is investigating whether the country's tax deals with Amazon and Fiat Finance violate European law. Luxembourg officials have supplied some information to the EU but have refused, EU officials say, to provide a larger set of documents relating to its tax rulings.

More about how IKEA avoid's paying tax

Neil Chenoweth explains some of the techniques IKEA uses to avoid paying it's fair share of tax in Why IKEA’s profits are mostly tax free.

Friday, 31 October 2014

"Dressing down" might increase street harassment

Tiah Eckhard, a writer and model, has a really interesting observation on street harassment of women at She did an experiment where on day one she dressed down (no make up, wore a sweater, pants and running shoes) and day two she dressed up (full make up and hair, mini dress and high heels). She was harassed on day one but not day two.

Proving the odd pattern I had noticed since I started to dress up less. Not only did this prove that the crap society feeds us- that if we don't wear make-up and short skirts and instead 'cover up' and downplay our sexual appeal for our own 'safety'- is not just just ineffectual (for me at least), it downright contradicts it. I don't know if it's because a younger-looking or more casually dressed woman appears more vulnerable, to have lower standards or be easier prey. Or if aggressive or insecure men- the kind that would likely indulge in that sort of behavior- are intimidated by confident or good looking women, I don't know. What I do know, is following the ridiculous standards that stupid people expect us to in order to be responsible for our own safety, not only suppresses our autonomy over our appearance, but gets us nowhere, in regards to progression OR safety. So dress however you want, you have a right to. And remember that a swiftly wielded stiletto heel will do more damage to someone's face then a 2 gram foam Nike free-run.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Whitlam's economic record

Ian Verrender in Think Whitlam ruined our economy? Think again suggests that much of the criticism of the Whitlam Government's economic management is misplaced given the context of the times (much of the developed world, including the USA and UK did much worse over the same time period.

The cause of rising inequality in America

In Reaganomics, not QE, caused inequality Alan Kohler nails the real reason for growing inequality in America. If you only read one article on economics this year then read Kohler's.
Rising inequality began in the 1980s and was the direct result of Reaganomics, and more specifically President Reagan’s decision to cut the top marginal income tax rate from 70.1 to 28.4 per cent as well as the maximum capital gains tax rate to 20 per cent.

That had such a horrendous effect on the Federal budget that Reagan took back half the 1981 tax cut, but since then the top marginal tax rate in the US has remained lower than at any time since 1931, when it was raised from 25 to 63 per cent.
The benefits of the 1980s tax cuts for the rich were meant to trickle down, but they were captured and held onto instead, and now zero interest rates and quantitative easing are increasing the value of their assets.
Less than a decade after the repeal of Glass Steagall, the global banking system seized up, effectively insolvent.

At the risk of over-simplification, the Wall Street division of the Top One Percent sold too many mortgages to the lower classes that had been created by the failed ‘trickle-down’ economics of Reagan. Their inability to repay the loans both caused the crisis and drove them deeper into poverty.

American taxpayers then bailed out the banks and investment banks to the tune of $1,270 billion, but left mortgagees who had defaulted to their own devices. And the right-wing of the Republican Party ensured that the bailout was not paid for by increased taxes on the rich.

In fact, as Paul Krugman points out in today’s New York Times, “the destructive ideology that has taken over the Republican Party”, has blocked any kind of government spending at all, including social programmes for the poor and public infrastructure.

Unfortunately, given our current Government's policies I fear we might be looking at a similar outcome in Australia.

An argument for negative gearing

In Negative gearing is not so negative Michael Pascoe argues that negative gearing is not necessarily a bad thing. As he writes, and this is something I've thought for a long time, the issue with housing affordability isn't the presence of investors but the lack of supply. On the positive side, the additional investors attracted by negative gearing increase the supply of rental accommodation in the market, this lowering rental costs.
More fundamentally, the article homed in on the negative gearing scapegoat because it only addressed the housing affordability question from one side of the equation – demand – and did not mention the other side – supply. Fixing the supply problem is a better way of solving the housing affordability problem than trying to arbitrarily restrict broad taxation principles for one particular sub-set of an asset class.
Increasing supply, given our population growth, is a much better way of equitably dealing with housing affordability.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

It appears Australia's health spending is not out of control

In Health spending crisis isn't real Ross Gittins has read the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's report on total health spending in 2012-13 and concludes that our health spending is not growing unsustainably:
So how unsustainable was the growth in 2012-13? Total spending on health goods and services was $147 billion, up a frightening 1.5 per cent on the previous year, after allowing for inflation. This was the lowest growth since the institute's records began in the mid-1980s, and  less than a third of the average annual growth over the past decade.

Allow for growth in the population, and average annual health spending of $6430 per person was actually down a touch in real terms.

It gets better (or worse if you've been one of the panic-merchants). That $147 billion is the combined spending on health by the federal government, state governments, private health funds and other insurers, plus you and me in direct, out-of-pocket payments on co-payments and such like.

So total spending may not have grown much, but the federal government's share of the tab rose faster than the rest, right? Err . . . no. The opposite, actually.

The feds' health spending in 2012-13 actually fell by 2.4 per cent in real terms. The states' spending rose by 1.5 per cent, but that left the combined government spend falling by 0.9 per cent.

So it was actually the private sector (including you and me) that accounted for  most of the overall increase in spending. This is a big problem for government?

By my reckoning, out-of-pocket payments by individuals rose by 6.9 per cent in real terms. The pollies seem to have been doing a good job of shunting health costs off onto us even before the latest onslaught.
The institute's latest figures show the federal government's real spending on health grew at an annual rate of 4.8 per cent over the five years to 2007-08, but by just 4.1 per cent over the five years to 2012-13.

Perhaps more significantly, they show that whereas the prices of health goods and services rose faster than the prices of all domestic goods and services by 0.7 per cent a year during the first five-year period, during the second period they rose by 0.2 per cent a year more slowly than other prices.

3 Ingredient Banana Bread Biscuit Recipe

Spotted on Facebook, 3 Ingredient Banana Bread Cookies recipe:

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

What IS really wants

In An ‘apocalyptic death cult’? What IS really wants Andrei Ghoukassian explains that rather than being a devastating terrorist organisation the Islamic State jihadi group is really a mid-sized militia.

The Wahhabi roots of Islamic Radicalism

The Islamic Supreme Council of America has an interesting post on Islamic Radicalism: Its Wahhabi Roots and Current Representation.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Keynesian economics is not left wing

In Is Keynesian Economics Left Wing? Mark Thomas quotes Simon Wren-Lewis arguing that Keynesian economics is not left wing. According to Wren-Lewis:
So my argument is that Keynesian theory is not left wing, because it is not about market failure - it is just about how the macroeconomy works. On the other hand anti-Keynesian views are often politically motivated, because the pivotal role the state plays in managing the macroeconomy does not fit the ideology.

Everyone has the same right to happiness

Ross Gittins discusses the work of Joshua Greene in Moral trade-offs are for the common good. I especially liked Green's comments on utilitarianism:
... happiness is what matters and everyone's happiness counts the same. This doesn't mean that everyone gets to be equally happy, but it does means than no one's happiness is inherently more valuable than anyone else's.


Susie Burrell describes the health benefits of nuts in Cashews, almonds, pistachios: how to go nuts for nutrition.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Did throwing drive human evolution

In How throwing helped humans conquer the world Rod Whiteley argues that skilled throwing might have been a major driver of human evolution, leading to intelligence and language.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Police shootings - the reality

An interesting YouTube video by the Eugene Police Department: Hollywood vs. Reality Officer Involved Shootings.

When you lose weight... where does it go?

Ruben Meerman "answers the question: When you lose weight... where does it go?" in The mathematics of weight loss: Ruben Meerman at TEDxQUT.

Australia losing the war on terror?

Irfan Yusuf explains By ignoring Muslim voices, Australia is losing the war on terror. My only criticism is that the article is behind a paywall. However there is a free trial.

What is Sharia Law?

Jamila Hussain gives us Sharia 101: a user's guide for Jacqui Lambie.

Five unanswered questions on the recent counter-terrorism raids

Paul Farrell writes: Counter-terrorism raids: five unanswered questions.

The real existential threat to us

Jonathan Holmes explains that Islamic State is not an existential threat to us but climate change is.

Making a million dollars and also ETFs

A bit of investment advice:

Scott Phillips: How to make a million in shares
John Collett: ETFs have a downside but can widen your exposure

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Fixing climate change might not cost any extra

Justin Gillis writes that Fixing climate change may add no costs, report says.
A global commission will announce its finding overnight that an ambitious series of measures to limit emissions would cost $US4 trillion or so over the next 15 years, an increase of roughly 5 per cent over the amount that would likely be spent anyway on new power plants, transit systems and other infrastructure.

When the secondary benefits of greener policies - such as lower fuel costs, fewer premature deaths from air pollution and reduced medical bills - are taken into account, the changes might wind up saving money, according to the findings of the group, the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Predicting the future

In How to see into the future Tim Harford looks at research into how successful people are at predicting the future.

Here's the article's recommendations on how to be more accurate in your predictions:
Some participants in the Good Judgment Project were given advice on how to transform their knowledge about the world into a probabilistic forecast – and this training, while brief, led to a sharp improvement in forecasting performance.
The advice, a few pages in total, was summarised with the acronym CHAMP:
  • Comparisons are important: use relevant comparisons as a starting point;
  • Historical trends can help: look at history unless you have a strong reason to expect change;
  • Average opinions: experts disagree, so find out what they think and pick a midpoint;
  • Mathematical models: when model-based predictions are available, you should take them into account;
  • Predictable biases exist and can be allowed for. Don’t let your hopes influence your forecasts, for example; don’t stubbornly cling to old forecasts in the face of news.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Easy Chocolate Fudge recipe

The Cake Mistress has a Quick & Easy Chocolate Fudge recipe that does look easy.

No-bake Lemon Coconut Slice Recipe

Essential Kids has a No-bake Lemon Coconut Slice from The Cake Mistress.

Apple, rye and ginger teacake recipe

Frank Camorra has an Apple, rye and ginger teacake recipe.

Yet another article on IKEA not paying tax

In IKEA pays a low amount of tax Michael West looks at another implication of IKEA not paying taxes, the advantage they have over their competitors who do:

"I am occasionally reminded by the ATO that tax is a competition issue, and that a late-submitted BAS is unfair to competitors. But my competitors as a furniture maker include the likes of IKEA, who I understand is a charity registered in the Netherlands that pays no tax whatsoever in Australia. How is this fair, and how are we to encourage home grown entrepreneurs?" Email from a reader, Dave.

Dave makes a solid point. It is not just individuals who suffer from the failure of government to police big tax avoiders. It is local businesses too, small and large, forced to compete on the same playing field as their multinational rivals. The latter enjoy an advantage of scale and far lower funding costs and pay negligible tax.

Born to walk, not to run

James O'Keefe at TEDxUMKC makes a really interesting presentation on the importance of exercise, but not too much exercise, in Run for your life! At a comfortable pace, and not too far.

Why can't we allow the import of second hand vehicles?

In Driving the status quo Michael Pascoe explains why the restrictions on importing second hand cars needs to go after local vehicle manufacturing stops. I can't understand why, for example, a new Mercedes Benz in Australia is so much more expensive than the same car in the USA. The tariff on imported new vehicles in Australia is only 5% so that's no the reason. However, a bit of competition from relatively young second hand imports from the UK and Japan should increase the competition and force the top end to drop their prices.

Yet another death row inmate found innocent through DNA evidence

Jonathan M. Katz and Erik Eckholm in Brothers freed after 30 years in jail amid new DNA evidence
describe a sad case of injustice:
Thirty years after their convictions in the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in rural North Carolina, based on confessions that they quickly repudiated and said were coerced, two mentally disabled half-brothers were declared innocent and released on Tuesday by a Robeson County court.

The case against the men, always weak, fell apart after DNA evidence implicated another man with a history of rape and murder.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

A solution to the boats

Richard Ackland in The Pacific Solution is reaching its endgame. Scott Morrison will soon run out of options suggests that we take more asylum seekers from camps in Indonesia and Malaysia. Although he doesn't mention that's basically what we did under the Fraser Government. It's also something I have been suggesting for some time. It's far more of a humanitarian solution than the Government's current policy.

How does the other half live? We have no idea.

Ross Gittins explains that We have no idea how the other half lives. It seems most of us think we are on an average income and we are becoming socially more stratified as the affluent move the inner-city and the less well off to the outer fringe.

A good article on why Labor created the NBN

David Braue explains the reason Labor created the NBN in Time for a reality check on Labor's CBA-less NBN strategy.

Monday, 25 August 2014

World's best diet?

Paula Goodyer reports on what we should be eating in World's Best Diet revealed by scientists.
A total of 773 adults  who'd already lost an average of 11 kilos were assigned to one of five diets each based on a different combination of protein and carbs - some were lower in carbs and higher in protein and vice versa. Some diets included high GI carbs- meaning the 'fast', often more refined carbs that raise and lower blood sugar rapidly;  others had slower burning low GI carbs that raise and lower blood sugar more slowly. And the winner? The low GI carb and high protein combo. The people on this diet not only kept the weight off during the six months of the study but they also continued to lose weight too.
There are no fluffy carbs in this diet. Instead it's based on fresh vegetables, lean protein sources like fish, poultry, legumes, nuts and dairy foods and dense, grainy foods like rye bread, pumpernickel and barley - the book's recipe for rye porridge with apple and hazelnuts is the polar opposite of lightweight breakfast cereal. 

The reason these robust carbs are more filling than their more refined cousins like white bread isn't just that they keep blood sugar levels steadier, Brand-Miller explains. They also stimulate cells in the gut that produce one of the satiety hormones we need to feel full. These cells are located deep down in the gut – a place that rapidly digested carbs never reach because they're digested in the upper half of the gut, Brand Miller explains.

"This explains why we still feel hungry after we've eaten fluffy white rice," she says.

But while the World's Best Diet is higher in protein and lower in carbs it's no radical diet. The idea is to modestly lower the carbohydrate content of the diet and modestly increase the protein content  to give a ratio of around 2:1 in favour of carbs, says Brand- Miller explaining that a typical Australian diet is generally higher in carbohydrates with a ratio as high as 4:1

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Statistics on Australia

Jonathan Green cites some interesting statistics about Australia in Team Australia: the reality of the figures.

Chris Berg on mandatory sentencing

Chris Berg has some interesting things to say on the problems of mandatory sentencing in Mandatory sentencing: a king hit for courts.

Saul Eslake on tax reform

Prior to the 2011 Tax Summit Saul Eslake made an interesting speech on tax reform. The transcript is online at Australia's Tax Reform Challenge. While I don't necessarily agree with everything he says, he has some very compelling arguments. He may even have changed my mind on negative gearing. Well worth a read.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Gittins on inequality

Ross Gittins in Abbott and Hockey: Why poor people don't matter quotes former Treasurer Wayne Swan and IMF head Christine Lagarde on why increasing inequality is not good.
“Many would argue, however, that we should ultimately care about equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.” As it happens, Hockey has defended his budget’s unfairness with just that argument.

“The problem is that opportunities are not equal. Money will always buy better-quality education and health care, for example. But due to current levels of inequality, too many people in too many countries have only the most basic access to these services, if at all. The evidence also shows that social mobility is more stunted in less equal societies.”

Disparity also brings division, she said. “The principles of solidarity and reciprocity that bind societies together are more likely to erode in excessively unequal societies. History also teaches us that democracy begins to fray at the edges once political battles separate the haves against the have-nots.”
“It is therefore not surprising that IMF research - which looked at 173 countries over the past 50 years - found that more unequal countries tend to have lower and less durable economic growth,”  Legarde also said.

Get that? Until now, the conventional wisdom among economists has been that efforts to reduce inequality come at the expense of economic growth. Now a pillar of economic orthodoxy, the IMF, has found it works the other way round: rising inequality - as is occurring in Australia, the US and almost all advanced economies - seems to lead to slower growth.

Lagarde said other IMF research had found that, in general, budgetary policies had a good record of reducing social disparities. Social security benefits and income taxes “have been able to reduce inequality by about a third, on average, among the advanced economies”.

What can we do? “Some potentially beneficial options can include making income tax systems more progressive without being excessive; making greater use of property taxes; expanding access to education and health; and relying more on active labour market programs and in-work social benefits.”

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Standing vs Sitting

In Health Check: Sitting versus standing Bethany Howard and Neville Owen compare the benefits and risks of both. Their recommendation:
To obtain the health benefits of standing and reduce the potential adverse effects, the best option is to alternate between sitting and standing. Our message is to stand up, sit less and move more.

Alternating between sitting and standing will increase muscular contractions, stimulating blood flow and resulting in more calories burnt and healthier blood sugar levels. Recent findings from our lab show that alternating between 30 minutes of sitting and standing can improve blood sugar levels after a meal.

Saturday, 16 August 2014


Andrew P Street makes some interesting points in Scott Morrison and the Conveniently Comforting Doctrine of Predestination. He explains how some Pentecostal Christians can be complicit in all manner of evil activities without troubling their conscience.
Morrison belongs to Shirelive, a giant Pentecostal church in the Sydney suburb of Sutherland. It's an evangelical Protestant church of the clapping-and-waving variety and falls under the charismatic umbrella of what is somewhat dismissively called “prosperity theology” - the idea that material success is a sign from God that you're doing His work.

The flipside of this doctrine is that those who are not doing well are clearly not in God's good graces. Such as, for instance, the poor, or the sick, or those fleeing persecution from repressive regimes by buying passage for their family with people smugglers and being intercepted on the high seas by Australian Customs Vessels.
Street then goes on to explain the justification for this belief:
You may justifiably ask how this can possibly work theologically, given everything that Jesus said about camels and the Kingdom of Heaven and needing to liquefy the rich to get them through the eye of a needle. And the answer is that it's via a handy bit of doctrinal sleight of hand.

Morrison's church believe in Predestination, the notion that God knows absolutely everything about everything from the moment of creation until the end of the world. Long before you were born He knew everything about you – what you'd do, what you'd think, who you'd meet, the very specific types of pornography you'd enjoy, everything – including whether or not you were going to Heaven or Hell.
Street then brings Morrison back into the picture:
Well, he knows that those who come across the seas are all doomed to damnation – after all, God wouldn't have plonked them in the middle of the civil war in Syria if He didn't want to punish them for their unchangeable wickedness – and therefore locking them up indefinitely to self-harm in disease-riddled camps is perfectly fine. He's not going to examine his conscience on the subject, because the act of doing so would be an affront to God.

Meanwhile, he's on a sweet parliamentary salary with a high-profile government portfolio, a wife and kids and a lovely house in a quiet Sydney suburb. God's clearly giving him a tangible version of a spiritual high-five.

So to answer the original question: how can Scott Morrison be responsible for overseeing all these human rights atrocities and call himself a Christian? With absolute ease. And he probably sleeps better than you do.

After all, it was predestined.

Economies of agglomeration

In Economists need to learn where we're at Ross Gittins writes about the work of economic geographers who "have long known there's also a lot of economic logic to where people settle" and the benefits of economies of agglomeration.

A couple of points from this column. Firstly there are economic benefits to having workers in a knowledge industry close to each other:
Being close to suppliers, customers and rivals helps businesses generate new business opportunities and ideas for products and services, and better ways of working. These transfers of expertise, new ideas and process improvements that occur through interactions between businesses are called ''knowledge spillovers'' (a class of ''positive externality'').

Within cities, CBDs and inner-city areas offer the most opportunities for face-to-face contact among workers, essential to benefiting from knowledge spillovers. Spillovers often involve combining and recombining knowledge to come up with new products and ways of working.

Workers build on each other's thoughts, jointly solve problems and break through impasses. Trust is essential, and these kinds of complex conversations are best had in person.

''High-speed broadband and other advances in communication technologies will never replace the importance of face-to-face contact,'' we're told.
Secondly transport infrastructure may limit the economic benefits of agglomeration:
Grattan's research finds that residential patterns and transport systems mean CBD employers have access to only a limited proportion of workers in metropolitan areas. Turning that around, many workers, particularly in outer suburbs, have access to only a small proportion of jobs across the city. For instance, in some outer suburban growth areas of Melbourne, just 10 per cent of the city's jobs can be reached within a 45-minute drive. If work journeys are made by public transport it's worse.

The report warns that unless governments lift their game, ''Australian cities are likely to continue to spread outwards, further increasing the distance between where many people live and the most productive parts of large cities.'' This would harm productivity - and workers' opportunity to get ahead.

The point is, governments need to understand the economy's spatial dimension and respond by ensuring transport networks better connect employees with employers, and businesses with their customers and suppliers. Continue letting congestion worsen and you cause productivity to be lower than otherwise, not to mention adding misery to people's lives.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Middle-Out Economics

From the Middle-Out Economics website:
The Middle-Out Economics project is an initiative of the Economic Policy team at the Center for American Progress that combines original analysis, public policy proposals, live events, and multimedia presentations to demonstrate that a strong and stable middle class is the key driver of American economic growth.

Progressives should be aiming to strengthen the middle class

In Middle-Out Economics And Bottom-up Politics Matt Browne writes about the challenges facing progressive parties.
[T]the challenges now facing progressives across the developed economies and mature democracies are remarkably similar. The crash of 2008 not only changed the shape of our societies and our politics, it also fundamentally challenged the underlying assumptions about the nature of economic growth. Today, concerns with rising inequality are now an essential part of elite policy discussions, a pre-occupations of “Main Street” as well as mainstream politics. This new state of affairs is perhaps best illustrated by the global success of French economist Thomas Piketty’s work on inequality. Similarly, restoring trust in politics and a sense of connection between voters and parliamentarians is now a prerequisite for many political movements.
This new economic vision implies that progressives need to work harder to support, strengthen and grow the middle classes. And, as global competition grows ever more intense, we need to ensure our agenda for economic growth and our competitive edge is based on the creation of high-wage and high-skilled jobs, not low-wages and low skills.
The challenge for all progressives, whether in Europe or the US, will be to generate new a new policy agenda and a new approach to doing politics that is able to attract, engage and retain new cohorts of voters while retaining their history, values and the support of their traditional voters. Those that succeed, will help build a movement for the future. Those that fail will become monuments to the past.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Blueberry bake recipe

Bridgitte Hafner's recipe: Prue's blueberry bake.

Rum, raisin and chocolate bread and butter pudding recipe

Luke Mangan's Rum, raisin and chocolate bread and butter pudding.

Fast and easy chocolate cake recipe

Caroline Velik's fast and easy chocolate cake.

Winter cake recipe

Stephanie Alexander's winter cake.

Warm apple crumble cake recipe

Jill Dupleix's warm apple crumble cake.

Lemon coconut cake recipe

Goodfood's lemon coconut cake recipe.

Baby carrot cakes recipe

Jill Dupleix's baby carrot cakes recipe.

ANZAC biscuits recipe

Goodfood's ANZAC biscuits recipe.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Gladwell on Macintyre on Philby and the problem of trust

In Trust No One Malcolm Gladwell looks at Ben Macintyre’s book A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal:
“A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal” (Crown) is the latest in Ben Macintyre’s series on twentieth-century espionage (including the best-selling “Operation Mincemeat”). All are superb, and “A Spy Among Friends” is no exception. Macintyre gives the familiar story of Philby new life, putting the case in its full social context.
I found it especially interesting because in the middle of the article Gladwell talks about the damage caused by two very different security models: the high trust model and the trust no one model. The former is prone to false negative errors (traitors like Philby), the latter to false positives (Wright erroneously accusing a prime minister of treason). But which is worse? In the former case secrets are lost and lives destroyed (literally in the Philby case when betrayed agents were executed by the Soviets). In the second, organisations may become unworkable resulting in nothing being achieved. As the article asks:
What did more damage—Philby’s treachery or the subsequent obsession among spy officials with preventing future Philbys?

It did make me wonder if a country might be better off having no intelligence service at all.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Blueberry Muffins

Donna Hay recipe for Too-Easy Blueberry Muffins. It even has a video on how to make it.

Most Americans favour a carbon tax if revenue neutral or the proceeds spent on renewables

A recent survey Public Views on a Carbon Tax Depend on the Proposed Use of Revenue found that the majority of Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, are in favour of a carbon tax if the revenue raised is returned to tax payers or spent on renewable energy.

Quoting the key findings of the study:
  1. Most Americans oppose a carbon tax when the use of tax revenue is left unspecified. Overall support for such a tax is 34% in the latest NSEE survey. Attaching a specific cost to the carbon tax reduces overall support to 29%.
  2. A revenue-neutral carbon tax, in which all tax revenue would be returned to the public as a rebate check, receives 56% support. The largest gains in support come from Republicans.
  3. A carbon tax with revenues used to fund research and development for renewable energy programs receives 60% support, the highest among tax options that we presented. Majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents each express support for this tax.
  4. Most respondents oppose a carbon tax with revenues used to reduce the federal budget deficit. Overall support for such a tax is 38% with a majority of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents each expressing opposition to this tax.
  5. When asked which use of revenue they prefer if a carbon tax were enacted, pluralities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents each prefer renewable energy over tax rebate checks or deficit reduction.

GDP growth since 2007, G7 economies and Australia

Wayne Swan tweeted this graph showing the economic growth of various economies since the GFC:
Economy doomsayers can’t explain why the Australian economy is one of the fastest growing (15% larger since 2007)

Numbers of people subject to the top marginal tax rate - 1982/3 vs 2012/3

Another graph tweeted by Matt Cowgill:
The top tax rate doesn't kick in until you earn about 2.5 times male ave earnings; the # who face it has fallen a lot

Comparing the marginal tax rate on top incomes vs average incomes

Another tweet from Matt Cowgill comparing the marginal tax rate on top incomes vs average incomes:
Marginal tax rate on top income earners is nearly 15 ppts lower than it was in 1982-83; MTR for average earner=higher

Note, MTAWE = Male Total Average Weekly Earnings

Federal Government receipts as a proportion of GDP

Matt Cowgill tweeted the following graph of Federal Government receipts as a proportion of GDP:

The GFC increased public debt

Michael Pascoe in Why our financial minnows are still too big to fail takes a look at a recent speech by Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens. Stevens gave a "carefully considered presentation on how economic policy makers handled and perhaps should handle the global financial crisis".

One of Steven's observations Pascoe highlighted was the increase in public debt due to the GFC:
And then there was another “it’s not about Australia” observation by the governor that nonetheless is worth remembering in the local political context:

“One of the difficulties has been that public debt burdens rose sharply. This was partly as a result of the cost of fiscal stimulus measures and bank recapitalisations in some cases, but it was mainly because of the depth of the downturn in economic activity.

"A financial crisis and deep recession can easily add 20 or 30 percentage points to the ratio of debt to GDP, and did so in a number of cases.”

If you don’t like the (relatively low) level of Australian government debt now, consider what it might be if we hadn’t “gone early and hard” with stimulus. 

And, no, it wasn’t just China that saved Australia from recession – one of the more obviously weird claims regularly made from the loonier edge of the right.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Agreeing with people might be the best way to change their attitudes

In Propaganda for peace? To change attitudes, don't argue — agree, extremely Julia Rosen writes about a study that found a better way to change people's minds might be to show them extreme versions of their beliefs:
What if the best way to change minds isn’t to tell people why they’re wrong, but to tell them why they’re right? Scientists tried this recently and discovered that agreeing with people can be a surprisingly powerful way to shake up strongly held beliefs.

Researchers found that showing people extreme versions of ideas that confirmed — not contradicted — their opinions on a deeply divisive issue actually caused them to reconsider their stance and become more receptive to other points of view. The scientists attribute this to the fact that the new information caused people to see their views as irrational or absurd, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
However, it doesn't seem to work on all people:
There is also a risk of backfire — some people in the study took the videos at face value, assimilating the extreme messages into their personal beliefs. And, of course, nothing would stop governments or organisations from employing the same technique to promote their own agendas.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Some cooking websites

Seven easy steps to becoming a better cook recommends the following websites:
  • - a subscription service that indexes your own library of cookbooks, allowing you to search by ingredient, special diet, season and course. A brilliant time-saver.
  • - a comprehensive one-stop shop for recipes, videos and forums that envelop you in an online community.
  • - Rohan Anderson chronicles his huntin'-fishin'-growin' sustainable lifestyle on his Ballarat property.
  • - no one does inspirational food and travel porn quite like Sydney-based cookbook author and photographer Katie Quinn Davies.
  • - Delia Smith, the famously no-nonsense British cooking doyenne, hits the web with excellent instructional videos for the novice (how to separate an egg white; how to skin and deseed tomatoes), as well as recipes and a smattering of product placement.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Vaccines - the lies parents are told

Dr Jennifer Raff has written a great piece on her Violent metaphors blog about vaccines: Dear parents, you are being lied to.

Tony Abbott the journalist "lacked fairness and balance"

Damien Murphy has some quotes from Tony Abbott's old editor at the now defunct The Bulletin in Tony Abbott's old editor says he lacked fairness and balance. Murphy writes:
In fact, he only arrived at The Australian after encountering problems as a feature writer with the Packer-owned magazine The Bulletin.

Mr Abbott's misadventures with a typewriter came to a head in 1988 when his editor, David Dale, asked him to rewrite an article five times.

"Tony couldn't seem to get the idea that a feature for The Bulletin had to be fair and balanced," Dale said on Monday. "I told him if he kept going like that he had no future on the magazine."

Mr Abbott went on to work briefly in a concrete factory before joining The Australian as an editorial writer.
I'm sure Tony Abbott fitted right in at the The Australian.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Why Doctors will be forced to charge more...

Over at Crikey's health blog Marie McInerney has an interesting table in the article GP co-payments – deregulation of the bulk billing market. It shows how payments to doctors will change under the Government's GP co-payment proposal:

Note, Doctors will also receive $5 less for non-bulked billed consultations so expect them to go up as well.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Increasing minimum wages may be a good thing

Ross Gittins in Minimum wage rises don't lift unemployment, analysts agree looks at economic research suggesting that increasing the minimum wage may actually be good for employment.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Stiglitz compares Australia to the US

Joseph Stiglitz compares Australia to the US in Inequality: Why Australia must not follow the US.
The combination of unequal education opportunities and access to healthcare and inadequate systems of social protection translates into poor average performance of our children - well below the average of the advanced countries in standardised tests, in contrast to Australia, whose children perform well above average. Contrary to what some in Australia’s government have suggested, support for poor families is not only a moral imperative, it is an investment in the country’s future.

Two big lessons of economic research over the past 10 years are that inequality is not the result of inexorable laws of economics but rather of policy; and that countries that adopt policies that lead to high inequality pay a high price - inequality not only leads to a divided society and undermines democracy, but it weakens economic performance. Hopefully, as Australia debates its new government’s budget and economic “reforms,” it bears this in mind.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Stiglitz on Australia

In Tony Abbott's changes to universities and health 'a crime, absurd', says Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz Peter Martin writes:
Asked by Fairfax Media to nominate the two biggest mistakes the government could make that would take it down the American path of widening inequality and economic stagnation, Professor Stiglitz chose the budget changes to university fees and Medicare. Each would make Australia more like the US.

"Countries that imitate the American model are kidding themselves," he said. "It seems that some people here would like to emulate the American model. I don't fully understand the logic."

In the lead-up to the budget Education Minister Christopher Pyne said Australia had much to learn about universities from overseas, "not least … from our friends in the United States".

Professor Stiglitz said Australia had "a system that is really a model for the rest of the world", and deregulating fees would move the entire system in the wrong direction.

"Trying to pretend that universities are like private markets is absurd. The worst-functioning part of the US educational market at the tertiary level is the private for-profit system,'' he said. ''It is a disaster. It excels in one area, exploiting poor children.

"If you're rich your parents can pay the fees, but if you are poor you are going to worry about how much debt you're undertaking.

"It is a way of closing off opportunity and that's why the US doesn't have educational opportunity.

"While we in the US are trying to re-regulate universities, you are talking about deregulating them. It really is a crime."
Asked what Australia had done right that the US had not, he said: "unions".
The elite, the top one per cent are not too concerned. When you have so much inequality those at the top say: I don't need public transportation, I have a helicopter, I don't need public schools, I don't need all these other public services and so the result of that is - you look at America today we have some of the best universities, but our average education performance is mediocre.”

The spin of earn and learn

Greg Jericho writes in Hang on, youths already earn and learn that youth unemployment mirrors overall unemployment.
When it comes to either earning or learning the 15-19-year-olds are doing that in record numbers. In May about 92 per cent of youth aged 15 to 19 years of age were either working or learning. This includes about 44 per cent who were employed, 5.7 per cent who were unemployed but doing full-time education and 42 per cent who were not in the labour force but were attending full-time education.
There has always been a strong link between the percentage of 20-24-year-olds out of work and not attending education and the total unemployment rate.
Earning or learning sounds great, but not when the number of jobs is declining, and you have reached a point where you have already done a fair amount of learning. Do you do another TAFE course? Another degree?

And the problem is it's not like you can just pick your job. The jobs market is tough - and has become tougher in the past two years.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

How many charities are there in Australia?

Sarah Dingle in Why put the charity watchdog to sleep? writes that there may be more than 60,000 charities and not-for profit organisations registered by the ATO in Australia. The problem is no one knows how many are still operating.

Mushroom and noodle stir-fry

Jeremy & Jane Strode's Mushroom stir-fry.