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Archive for August, 2005

Charitable pledges

August 10th, 2005 11 comments

Via Chris Bertram at CT, another try from Nicola at a charitable pledge aimed at overcoming the free rider problem inherent in lots of desirable activities. I will give 1% of my gross annual income to charity but only if 100 people will too. Nicola has a blog, as you would expect. Go over and sign up to the pledge!

I’m always interested in ways of using the Internet to promote good collective actions like charitable giving. The tsunami appeal earlier this year was a big success, but the gimmick of tying the amount paid to comments on the blog seems to have got tired, as gimmicks do.

So I’m going to go for something much simpler this time. I’m asking people to donate money to help with the Niger famine (feel free to substitute an alternative cause or organisation if you think it would be more worthwhile). Just send in a comment announcing your donation, or advise me by email, by Sunday and I’ll match it, up to a total of $1000. I’m giving to Medecins sans Frontieres.

Remember this is all tax deductible. So, if you’re on the top marginal tax rate, a donation of $100 actually costs you only $50. With my matching $100, the total amount given will be $200, enough to save many lives. But, if your budget is tighter, and you don’t benefit from tax deductibility, even $10 or $20 can make a difference.

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Hugo winners announced

August 9th, 2005 2 comments

The Hugo award for best novel went to “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel” by Susanna Clarke, beating a strong field. Charles Stross, whose Iron Sunrise was also a contender, took out the best novella prize for The Concrete Jungle. And I’ll be surprised if we don’t see Ian McDonald, Iain M. Banks and China Miéville among future winners of the award.

Categories: Books and culture Tags:

Blogroll changes

August 9th, 2005 12 comments

I’ve added The Currency Lad to the blogroll. This was long overdue, as CL is easily the best blogger on the conservative side of Australian politics, but for a long time his blog template was unreadable on Safari. I checked a little while ago, and found the template problem now resolved. here’s an interesting first birthday reflection on blogging .

I’ve deleted a few dead or moribund links, among whom I’ll mention Rob Schaap, whose irregular, idiosyncratic and lengthy essays were one of the most interesting features of the early days of Ozplogistan. Feel free to post suggested additions in the comments section. I’m a bit overstretched at the moment, so it may be a while before anything happens.

Categories: Metablogging Tags:

Converts

August 8th, 2005 128 comments

I’ve had a few brushes recently with people who’ve shifted, politically, from positions well to my left to positions well to my right. There’s some useful discussion (and some not so useful) of this and related phenomena in this Crooked Timber comments thread following up a post by Chris Bertram about Nick Cohen, a recent exemplar of the left-right shift. I’m taking points from various commenters with whom I agreed, without acknowledging them: read the thread and you can see who has said what.

A couple of things have struck me about this process. One is that, even though the shift from radical left to neoconservativism or neoliberalism is rarely instantaneous, and appears in some ways to be a smooth transition, there doesn’t usually seem to be any intermediate stage at which people in this process hold a position similar to my own (social democratic in domestic policy, internationalist in foreign policy and reluctant to support war except as a last resort). Rather, what seems to happen is that leftist modes of critique are used, increasingly, to defend rightwing policy positions.

An obvious example is the way in which ex-Marxists seize on largely incoherent notions of ‘the new class’ and ‘elites’ (typically defined in cultural terms rather than with any analysis of economic or political power) as a way of attacking their former allies. Eventually, this kind of thing is often abandoned in favour of traditional conservative or free-market rhetoric, but by this time, the shift in political position is usually complete.

The other is that, although people change their opinions, they generally don’t change the confidence with which they express them or their attitudes to those who disagree. If they were thoughtful and sceptical as leftists, they generally remain so. If they regarded all who disagreed with their leftwing shibboleths as fools or knaves, they will take exactly the same view of those who disagree with them when they begin spouting rightwing shibboleths instead.
Read more…

Categories: Politics (general) Tags:

Anonymous comment under threat, part 2

August 7th, 2005 13 comments

I’ve made a Supplementary Submission (over the fold) to the Parliamentary Electoral Matters Committee Inquiry into the Conduct of the 2004 Federal Election and Matters Related Thereto regarding the possibility that bloggers and commenters might fall under Section 328 of the Electoral Act, requiring publication of names and addresses authorising political matter. Comments appreciated
Read more…

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Telstra, yet again

August 6th, 2005 55 comments

My piece in Thursday’s Fin (over the fold) was about Telstra. As I result I got a call from the Age and was quoted in this report.

Comments appreciated
Read more…

Categories: Economic policy Tags:

Weekend reflections

August 5th, 2005 55 comments

It’s time, as usual for Weekend Reflections. The idea is that, over the weekend, you should post your thoughts in a more leisurely fashion than in ordinary comments or the Monday Message Board.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Fitting the profile

August 5th, 2005 21 comments

I’m usually dubious about profiling, but I must break with my usual scepticism to support former ASIO officer Michael Roach who says

They need to be given a criteria as to what they should be looking for and there is a criteria. What the public needs to be looking for, what the trained officials need to be looking for, is somebody standing in the corner, somebody who’s holding onto their backpack, somebody who looks really concerned and anxious. Somebody who’s clean shaven

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Live comment preview is back

August 4th, 2005 5 comments

In response to tireless lobbying from James Farrell, I’ve reintroduced Live Comment Preview. In limited tests works fine for me using Safari, and I hope it doesn’t break anyone’s user interface. Please advise if it causes any problems.

Categories: Metablogging Tags:

“Critical literacy” to be scrapped in Queensland schools

August 4th, 2005 40 comments

My son, going into Year 12 next year, is really happy about this. I agree that teaching “Theory” derived from the kind of second-hand postmodernism that was until recently dominant in Australian humanities departments is a waste of time, and an unreasonable imposition on students who are conscripted into this course on the assumption that they are going to learn about English (the language, not the academic specialisation of the same name).

On the other hand, I don’t look back to the Golden Age of courses on Shakespeare and the Canon with any great enthusiasm either. What I’d like for my kids to get out of high school English is an ability to write well in a variety of modes and (if possible) a love of literature. I don’t think courses in literary criticism (traditional, modern or postmodern) do much for either goal. As far as love of literature goes, they’re often counterproductive.

More on this from Mark Bahnisch

Categories: Books and culture Tags:

A nice round figure

August 3rd, 2005 33 comments

According the Bureau of Economic Analysis, US household saving was 0.0 per cent of income in June. I was going to boast that we in Australia were doing better, having had negative savings for several years now, but a check over at General Glut’s Globblog informs me that the ABS figure deducts depreciation of privately owned housing (correctly in my view,though others disagree) while the US does not. Both measures omit capital gains, and the validity or otherwise of doing so is central to any assessment of the sustainability of the present economic trajectory.

Regardless of this, the collapse of household saving in the English-speaking countries suggests to me that, with deregulated capital markets, the low real interest rates that have prevailed recently, particularly in the US, are not consistent with any significantly positive savings rate. It follows that such low interest rates can be sustained only so long as someone else is saving: either households without easy access to credit or foreign governments. Business may save some of the time, but low interest rates make borrowing for speculative investment quite attractive I can’t see this lasting too long, and therefore conclude that real interest rates have to rise.

Categories: Economics - General Tags:

Morris Who?

August 2nd, 2005 38 comments

New South Wales has a new premier, someone sufficiently obscure (to me, at any rate) that his name didn’t even occur to me when I thought about possible successors to Bob Carr last week, and suggested that the NSW machine would do well to look outside their own ranks. Instead, they’ve picked someone who’s been a minister for two years, and whose main claim to fame is that he’s a protege of Graham Richardson. Having done so, they managed to fix up an uncontested appointment, apparently under the impression that voters are worried by any suggestion that their rulers might not only believe in democracy but practice it from time to time. I’ve seen many instances of this kind of deal, but can’t recall any that led to electoral success. And, given that Iemma’s first action was to sack his deputy, I doubt that this will turn out to be an exception.

What thought process can have led the Sussex Street machine to think this was a good idea? Given the absence of any obvious candidate, wouldn’t it have been a good idea to leave this one to the Caucus to sort out. Even pure self-interest might have suggested keeping their nose out. In the quite likely event that Labor loses the next election, the machine will certainly cop a large share of the blame, whereas, should they win, the credit will go to Iemma personally.

I think this is yet another instance of the hammer-nail problem. What the machine does is stitch up deals, so any problem looks like the occasion for a stitch-up.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

The real de facto ban

August 1st, 2005 5 comments

The widely circulated claim that the antimalarial use of DDT has been banned, costing millions of lives, seems finally to have been refuted (score one for the self-correcting blogosphere!). For those who haven’t followed this one, here’s one of my contributions, with links.

The last line of treat for this argument is the claim that there is a “de facto” ban on antimalarial use of DDT (agricultural use is banned, and a good thing too, since this builds up resistance). Tim Lambert nails this one, assisted in a lengthy comments thread by Ian Gould, a regular commenter on this site also.

There is a sense, though, in which all antimalarial strategies are subject to a de facto ban: there simply isn’t enough money to implement them. The Roll Back Malaria partnership has a comprehensive program to halve the burden of malaria by 2010, which could be implemented for a fraction of the cost of the Iraq War (or, to be evenhanded with the examples, the EU Common Agricultural Policy), but it’s almost certainly not going to happen.

Categories: Environment Tags:

Draft Hugos preview (crossposted at CT)

August 1st, 2005 13 comments

Here’s the first draft of my Hugos preview. Comments much appreciated.

Thanks to all who contributed. You can see the final product in Friday’s Fin (Review section
Read more…

Categories: Books and culture Tags:

Monday message board

August 1st, 2005 95 comments

As usual on Monday, you are invited to post your thoughts on any topic. Civilised discussion and no coarse language, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags: