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Archive for October, 2012

The carbon price: three months on

October 29th, 2012 83 comments

The UQ Risk and Sustainable Management Group, which I lead, held a small workshop last week, looking at early experience with the carbon price. We plan to produce an edited volume from it, to be published early next year. A few items of information that were new(ish) to me;

* There’s been a lot of work going on to tighten up estimates of climate sensitivity (conventionally measured as the equilibrium response to a doubling of CO2). The news on this front has been moderately good. The worst case catastrophes are less likely and stabilization at 475 ppm would give a 90 per cent chance of holding the global temperature increase to 2C or less. This is excellent news, since, as I’ve argued previously, it will be a lot easier to get to 475 than to the internationally agreed target of 450. We’re adding about 2ppm/year, so the extra 25ppm more or less offsets the decade of delay we’ve just experienced.

* Just by selecting the right breeding stock, we might be able to reduce methane emissions (belches and farts) from ruminants by around 30 per cent

* Soil carbon storage, much beloved of Opposition climate spokesman Greg Hunt and others, is (almost) a complete furphy

Categories: Environment Tags:

Monday Message Board

October 29th, 2012 84 comments

Back on air with another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. As usual, civilised discussion and no coarse language. Lengthy side discussions to the sandpits, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

An unpublished letter to the New York Times

October 27th, 2012 33 comments

Gary E. MacDougal (The Wrong Way to Help the Poor, 10/10/12) claims that the Federal government currently spends an average of $87000 a year on the typical family of four living in poverty. MacDougall’s calculation is out by a factor of at least four and probably more.

MacDougal’s source, Michael Tanner of Cato, treats all means-tested programs as anti-poverty programs. This includes the Earned Income Tax Credit, Family Tax credit and other programs for the middle and working classes. As Tanner admits, these programs have at least 100 million recipients, and probably many more. So, the average payment is less than $10 000, not the $20, 610 Tanner estimates.

It gets worse. The number of recipients doesn’t include children or adult dependents, but MacDougal’s calculation does. His family of four would include at most two benefit recipients, and would therefore receive less than the poverty line income of $23 050.

0.4 percent of a wrecking ball makes …

October 24th, 2012 165 comments

… a ball bearing perhaps?

0.4 percentage points is the estimate of the CPI impact of the carbon price, published in the Herald Sun (hardly likely to understate it). In the attempt to stop this catastrophe, the Australian political right has trashed its intellectual credibility, embraced lurid conspiracy theories, reduced its leading publications to laughing stocks, and promulgated a string of easily falsified talking points, each one more absurd than the last. So, now that their predictions of doom have come to this, what will be their response? My guess is that they will double down – Catallaxy and Andrew Bolt are already on the job.

Of course, a price of $23/tonne is just the thin end of the wedge. Most estimates suggest that we need a price somewhere in the range $50-100/tonne to produce a long run shift to a low-carbon economy. That might amount to a price increase of 2 or 3 per cent – about the same as the GST.

Categories: Boneheaded stupidity, Environment Tags:

Will there be buyers for Queensland’s uranium

October 23rd, 2012 134 comments

Dumping yet another election promise, Campbell Newman has just announced the end of restrictions on uranium mining in Queensland. Crikey asked for my opinion (their article is here, maybe paywalled). I said

The end of Queensland’s ban on uranium mining comes at a time when long-term prospects for uranium markets have never looked bleaker. The failure of the “nuclear renaissance” in the US means that at most 2-4 new plants will be built there this decade, while older plants will close as plans for upgrades and license extensions are put on hold. In Europe and Japan, not only will there be little or no new construction, but the phaseout of existing plants is being accelerated. China’s big expansion plans are still on hold after Fukushima, and the program as a whole is being scaled back in favor of renewables. In these circumstances, uranium exporters must accept lower prices, be less choosy about their customers, or both. As one of the few markets with significant growth potential, India is in a strong bargaining position. It’s not surprising that the Gillard government has been keen to overlook India’s contribution to nuclear proliferation and the limited progress that has been made in separating civilian and military programs and stockplies.

Categories: Environment, Oz Politics Tags:

The surplus we deserve

October 23rd, 2012 22 comments

Bernard Keane in Crikey wrote exactly what I was going to regarding Wayne Swan’s use of a variety of timing fiddles to keep the 2012-13 Budget in surplus. This was a silly target, to which the government unwisely committed itself when the recovery from the financial crisis looked a bit stronger than they had expected in 2009, and also stronger than it has actually turned out to be. The sensible thing would have been to return to the original schedule of a surplus by 2014-15 (IIRC). But with an Opposition led by an economically illiterate attack dog like Tony Abbott, and a press gallery that’s not much better, that wasn’t an option. So, the next best thing is to shuffle payments and receipts to generate a surplus this year, at the expense of a smaller surplus next year.

I’ll talk a bit more about the substantive measures in the mini-budget (some good and some bad) when I get a little more time free.

Categories: Economic policy Tags:

Today’s outage

October 22nd, 2012 4 comments

Approximately 4 hours ago, Ozblogistan began to receive a very high level of traffic. During this period my performance tracking tools stopped working so it is difficult to tell how much traffic was received during the period.

A few minutes ago I kicked over our web server to reset all connections, which resolved this matter last time. This time too, apparently.

There are three possibilities:

  1. Misconfiguration of the web server software
  2. A badly behaved indexer program
  3. A denial of service attack

I am confident that the server is correctly configured, but I cannot eliminate the possibility that I am misinterpreting the available performance records. That kicking the server over “fixes” the problem might suggest this possibility.

If there was a badly behaved indexing program crawling all Ozblogistan sites, it should have turned up in my Cloudflare dashboard which, so far, it has not.

The odd man out in the Ozblogistan network is Catallaxy Files. The Cat is the only site currently not “behind” Cloudflare’s protective service. If we were receiving the loving ministrations of a badly behaved indexing program, then that program was exclusively crawling the Cat.

The unhappiest possibility is that this was a denial-of-service attack; again, directed against the Cat. Sometime in the next few days I expect that Catallaxy Files will be placed behind Cloudflare along with the other Ozblogistan sites and that this will prevent any such attacks from being successful.

Well, that’s it, folks. Please resume your usual blogging and commenting.

Categories: Site News Tags:

The U.S. Lacks Interests in the Mideast

October 21st, 2012 25 comments

That’s the headline for my latest piece in The National Interest. Opening paras over the fold

Read more…

Categories: World Events Tags:

Stuck in the 20th century at #Ozfail

October 20th, 2012 56 comments

I really need to get back to the analysis of tax and expenditure options I’ve been working on, but the absurdities of the Oz keep distracting me. Today’s paper runs a front page story claiming “Temperatures were higher 2000 years ago“. The story is based on a study published in Global and Planetary Change, which uses tree ring records to estimate (with lots of caveats about uncertainty) that Northern Hemisphere (presumably land) temperatures were warmer in the 1st Century AD than in the 20th. More precisely, “The first century AD was the warmest 100-year period (+0.60C on average relative to the 1951-1980 mean) of the common era”. Take that, warmists!

There’s are a couple of minor problems with the story. As part of the Murdoch empire, encompassing 20th Century Fox, the Oz has apparently not noticed that the 20th century ended some years ago. And, being prone to printing silliness about pauses in warming, the writer, Graham Lloyd, did not bother to check whether the temperature today is warmer than the 1951-1980 mean. This isn’t hard to do. The US National Climatic Data Center reports global temperatures on a monthly basis. It reports that the Northern Hemisphere land temperature for September 2012 was +1.04 ± 0.26 above the 20th century average (I’ve checked and 1950-80 was about equal to the average for C20 as a whole).

So, the correct headline for the story should have been “Northern Hemisphere warmer than at any time in past 2000 years”

One more point, just for completeness. Readers might reasonably assume that the graphic accompanying the story is taken from the journal article it reports. In fact, it’s credited to the Global Warming Policy Foundation – given the fact that the Oz has linked to it, you don’t need to be Einstein to guess what kind of policies the scientific ex this foundation (headed by Benny Peiser) is pushing.

Update Reader andrewt points us to the actual article. The GWPF graphic is taken from the article, with the addition of a bunch of chartjunk. The article actually focuses on Northern Scandinavia, though its results are broadly consistent with other reconstructions at the hemispheric and global scale. And, while I won’t bother linking, it’s clear that Lloyd has taken his story, and interpretation of the results, from the Anthony Watts “sceptic” site.

Categories: #Ozfail, Environment Tags:

Statistical significance

October 19th, 2012 27 comments

I know I should just ignore the Oz, but faced with its continuous campaign to promote innumeracy, cheered on by the likes of Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt, I can’t help but try to set things straight. We’ve seen on many occasions that nearly all “sceptics” either misrepresent of misunderstand the concept of statistical significance, assuming it to correspond to the ordinary meaning of “significant”. The classic example is the Lindzen talking point, made in 2008 that “there has been no statistically significant warming since 1995″. As everyone who understands statistical signifance (notably including Phil Jones, who gave an accurate response and saw a distorted version of his words become a delusionist meme), that’s because statistical significance depends on sample size. Roughly speaking, to see a significant upward trend in a noisy time series, the trend, multiplied by the number of years of data, needs to be about twice the standard deviation of the random variation about trend. So, if you have an upward trend of 0.015 degrees per year, and a standard deviation of 0.1 (these are estimates, but feel free to check)) you typically need 14 or 15 years of data to see a statistically significant trend. Over shorter periods, it’s easy to eyeball a pause or decline, as this graph from Skeptical Science shows.

Lindzen obviously knew this, and it was easy to check that he could go back 13 years from 2008 (but no further) without finding a statistically significant trend. He also knew that, given a few more years of data, the trend for the period since 1995 would be statistically significant, but correctly assumed that no-one on the delusionist side would know or care. Now, the Oz has this, from Michael Asten, professor of geophysics at Monash University. It’s worded carefully enough for me to think he knows he’s pulling the same swifty as Lindzen, but it’s hard to tell for sure[1]

Global temperatures have not increased in a statistically significant sense in the past 15 years. A pause of 10 years in the upward trend of the past 40 years would be unsurprising from existing models. A pause of 20 years would definitely surprise. Changes across the next five years will be watched closely.

As you would expect, Asten has to move Lindzen’s goalposts forward by a couple of years, to an implied starting date of 1997. Note also that he slides from “no statistically significant trend” to “a pause”. What can we say about this? In one sense he is right. As I’ve said, we need about 15 years of data to get a statistically significant trend, so we wouldn’t expect to find one with 10 years, and we would usually expect to find one with 20 years. But, of course, that number itself is variable. Asten is repeating basic facts about time series, in a way that would lead unwary or gullible readers (the vast majority, given the outlet) to suppose that recent evidence casts doubt on the observed warming trend. The only thing that’s hard to figure here is whether he is fooling himself as well as his readers.

fn1. (Lindzen himself often slipped from “no statistically significant warming” to “no warming” either out of sloppiness or because he thought no one was looking.

Categories: Boneheaded stupidity, Environment Tags:

Jones goes to J-school

October 19th, 2012 14 comments

The past seems to be catching up with Alan Jones, just when his most recent outrage has caused him more trouble than all the others put together. First, he lost an appeal against a finding that he incited racial hatred in the leadup to the Cronulla riots. Then 2GB got caught in another cash-for-comment scandal. Now he’s been told to go back to journalism school, to learn about checking his facts, in relation to his silly claim that ”The percentage of man-made carbon dioxide Australia produces is 1 per cent of .001 per cent of carbon dioxide in the air.” (Similar claims have been made by Andrew Bolt, and by some commenters at this blog.) As Lenore Taylor observes, if 2GB and Jones really want to check their facts, they’ll have a lot of work ahead of them.

Categories: Media Tags:

The Oz is not a newspaper

October 17th, 2012 99 comments

I happened to look at the front page of The Australian today, something I don’t do very often. Of five front-page stories, one was a brief teaser for a business story about Channel 9. The other four were hit pieces on the Federal government. Even a piece on increasing inequality was presented as an attack on Wayne Swan. One (on asylum seekers) was accompanied by an “opinion” piece by Greg Sheridan, notable for the fact that it was more sober and balance than the “news” story on which Sheridan was commenting.

As I’ve said before, I don’t see this as a problem requiring a regulatory solution, as suggested by the Finkelstein Report. Rather, we simply need to recognise that 20th century assumptions about “the press” have ceased to be applicable. The Australian looks like a 20th century newspaper, just as Fox resembles a 20th century US TV network, but both are far more like political blogs in terms of their content and operating procedures.

An obvious implication is that, while Murdoch should be free to publish whatever he likes, his employees should not be accorded any of the special privileges that were routinely accorded to journalists in the 20th century, such as press passes, access to press conferences, special privileges shielding sources and so on. These should either be made available to everyone, or restricted to media organizations willing to commit to factual reporting, fair treatment of the issues in news stories and so on.

The most important asset of the traditional media is not a formal privilege but the assumption that journalists, unlike you and me, have a right to ask questions of perfect strangers on matters of all kinds, and to expect an answer. In a context where the answer is bound to be used dishonestly, this makes no sense.

If I were advising the government at this point, I would suggest a routine policy of “no comment” in response to any question from an employee of News Limited. Obama tried this with Fox News early on, but other news organizations threatened to boycott his press conferences in solidarity and he backed down. That was, I think, a mistake.

Categories: #NewsCorpFail, #Ozfail, Media Tags:

Monday Message Board

October 15th, 2012 24 comments

Another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. As usual, civilised discussion and no coarse language. Lengthy side discussions to the sandpits, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Technical problems

October 13th, 2012 3 comments

The Ozblogistan network suffered either an internal breakdown or a DDOS attack last night. Things seem to be OK now, but if you are having trouble getting access you may need to refresh your cache etc. Also the site will be down (hopefully only a couple of minutes), around 6pm Brisbane time.

Categories: Economics - General Tags:

Opportunity knocks

October 12th, 2012 18 comments

I’m very interested in ways of increasing leisure, so when I saw mention of The Four-Hour Workweek, I naturally rushed to check it out. It turns out to be about “Outsourcing your Life” by hiring a fleet of remote executive assistants from India, to handle your email, pay your bills, run interference between you and your wife (really! ) and generally to replicate the archetypal “office wife” secretary, right down to the 1950s gender stereotypes.

That wasn’t what I had in mind at all, but just after seeing the link, I got an email asking about a presentation I gave last year, and which I had totally forgotten. It only took me a few seconds to find it (one reason I don’t want a remote EA), and to recall that it’s an improved version of this old blog post which reads as if it was written just before I joined Crooked Timber. But I haven’t got around to turning into an article and probably never will. 

Read more…

Categories: Economics - General Tags:

Boycotting hate radio

October 9th, 2012 148 comments

When the move to boycott Alan Jones began a week or so ago, the ‘savvy’ conventional wisdom of media experts was that advertisers might pull their ads for a while, but that they would be back as soon the fuss died down. The recent examples of Rush Limbaugh and Kyle Sandilands were cited in support of this claim. I don’t know about Sandilands (is there any info on advertisers who publicly dropped him, then returned?) but I don’t think Limbaugh’s case supports this claim, and the decision of 2GB to run Jones ad-free makes it even more problematic.

In the US, it seems that, far from returning to Limbaugh, big corporations have concluded that advertising on hate radio of any kind is a losing proposition, now that people outside the immediate audience are paying attention to what they are doing. Far from returning to Limbaugh they are pulling ads across the board, in favor of straight news shows, or away from radio altogether. The new model for hate radio is narrowcasting, as practised by Glenn Beck, who relies on his own merchandise and small advertisers. That’s commercially viable in a country as big as the US, but it ensures that Beck remains a marginal figure, with none of the influence he had in his days with Fox. Limbaugh hangs on, but he’s a much diminished figure, who no longer inspires terror, even among Republicans.

The 2GB “ad-free” strategy seems like a panic move. The obvious problem is that you are either ad-free or you are not. So, presumably they are planning on a relaunch, in which a bunch of advertisers return simultaneously, and with a fair bit of publicity. If I were the PR director of a major national company, I don’t think I’d be keen to be part of that. So, their best bet is to line a bunch of rightwing small businesspeople who are willing to take one for the team. Perhaps that will carry him long enough for some bigger companies to sneak back, but I doubt it. The boycott campaigners are seeking commitments to stay away through 2013. With no ads running anyway, making such a commitment, and getting loads of good publicity as a result, seems like a no-brainer for most companies.

Categories: Media Tags:

40 minutes a day

October 9th, 2012 20 comments

Back before many readers of this blog were born, there was a TV ad campaign “Life, Be In It“, encouraging us all to be more active. It featured a jolly, middle-aged, mildly overweight character called Norm (as in Norm Everage), and a jingle on the merits of “Thirty Minutes a Day” of moderate exercise.

I think of myself as a lot more energetic and exercise-oriented than Norm, and being a data fan, I record most of my exercise using Runkeeper. So, I finally got around to checking the duration stats and was surprised to find that I do only about 20 hours of running, cycling and swimming in the average month[1]. That’s just 40 minutes a day. You can take from that what you will, but my thought is that, unless you’re aiming to qualify for the Boston Marathon, or, like me,you just enjoy exercise, Norm was right. 30 minutes a day is all you need.

fn1. That doesn’t including walking, short cycle trips to work and the shops, and occasional gym workouts, but those things wouldn’t add more than 20 mins a day.

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Republican conspiracy theory update

October 8th, 2012 34 comments

Republicans are now so habituated to conspiracy theories that they have become the default mode of reasoning. Even minor news items, unfavorable to the Repub line of the day, instantly produce conspiracy-theoretic explanations. Moreover, existing, previously non-partisan conspiracy theories are being welcomed in to the Republican coalition. Three examples from the past week , two of them for the same news item

* Unexpectedly good employment figures produced the “jobs truther” conspiracy theory that the Bureau of Labor Statistics had cooked the numbers. This was first advanced by former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, taken up enthusiastically by Republican rightists like Laura Ingraham and Allen West, and boosted by Fox News.

* As the difficulties with this theory became apparent, Repubs switched to a non-falsifiable alternative. Unemployed Democrats had conspired to lie to BLS surveyors by claiming they had found jobs, thereby boosting Obama’s re-election numbers.

* The third is a health conspiracy which is based on the idea that the symptoms normally associated with depression or chronic fatigue syndrome are actually a chronic form of Lyme Disease (an infection carried by deer ticks) and that the medical establishment is conspiring to suppress the evidence. Romney and Ryan are pandering to this.

The biggest (non-political) conspiracy theories remaining unclaimed are Ufology and anti-vaxerism. So far, at least these seem to be beyond the pale for the Repubs. Michelle Bachmann got a very negative reaction to her embrace of anti-vaxerism during the primary campaign, even though she was using it to bolster the rightwing case against HPV vaccination for girls. If we ever see a softening on this, we’ll know that the party has finally lost all remaining touch with reality.

Not quite on conspiracy theories, but here’s a Repub member of the House Science committee saying ““All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell,”.

How about Australia? So far at least, “cafeteria crazy” seems to be the rule in most places. Full-blown conspiracy theories on climate change coexist with routine political rhetoric on most other issues.

But the local right has long been dependent on talking points imported from the US, and the supply chain is increasingly dominated by conspiracists. Examples of full-blown crazy are the overlapping circles of Catallaxy and Quadrant who recirculate most the US conspiracy theories. Here’s Quadrant denouncing Darwinism. And more here from rightwing eminence grise, Ray Evans, linking evolution and climate science. And here’s Catallaxy pushing poll trutherism

Categories: Oz Politics, World Events Tags:

Sandpit

October 8th, 2012 57 comments

A new sandpit for long side discussions, idees fixes and so on.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Monday Message Board

October 8th, 2012 9 comments

Back on air with another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. As usual, civilised discussion and no coarse language. Lengthy side discussions to the sandpits, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Cranks, crazies and globalisation – US politics is fair game for Aussies

October 4th, 2012 159 comments

Wayne Swan’s [remark last month](http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-09-21/swan-attacks-republican-cranks-and-crazies/4273300) that the US Republican Party had been taken over by “cranks and crazies” is notable in two respects.

First, it is true.

Second, it marks a further move towards a globalised politics, in which political arguments routinely transcend national boundaries.

The truth of Swan’s claim is so obvious that few, even in Australia, have bothered to dispute it. The following are just a sample of the lunatic beliefs held by much of the Republican Party base, propounded on its news outlets such as Fox News, and put forward by leading Republican politicians:

* That President Obama is a [foreign-born Muslim](http://www.mediaite.com/online/new-poll-shows-conservative-republicans-increasingly-believe-obama-is-muslim/), a rabid [socialist](http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/04/obama-socialist-claim-history_n_1568470.html) and more [sympathetic to jihadists](http://news.yahoo.com/michele-bachmanns-mccarthy-esque-hunt-islamist-infiltrators-guide-182000777.html) than to the United States.
* That scientific evidence on climate change is the product of a global conspiracy aimed at imposing a UN-dominated [world government](http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,575565,00.html).
* That opinion polls showing Republican candidate Mitt Romney trailing President Obama [have been rigged](http://theweek.com/article/index/234067/the-polls-are-not-rigged–theyre-just-nuanced) in the hope of depressing the turnout of Republican voters.

While not all Republicans believe all of these things, few, if any, have been willing to repudiate these conspiracy theories and their advocates. Mitt Romney, for example, has [equivocated on climate change](http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20127273-503544/mitt-romneys-shifting-views-on-climate-change/), [embraced "birthers"](http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/30/us-usa-campaign-idUSBRE84S19O20120530) such as Donald Trump and, through his campaign organisation, promoted [opinion poll denialism](http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2012/09/can_the_polls_be_believed.html).

The view that the Republican Party has been captured by cranks and crazies is not confined to Democrats or even centrists. Leading conservatives such as [David Frum](http://nymag.com/news/politics/conservatives-david-frum-2011-11/), speechwriter for George W. Bush and [Bruce Bartlett,](http://workingreporter.com/wordpress/?p=1053) domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan have said the same thing, in equally blunt terms.

Even the remaining conservative intellectuals who deny the “crazy” claim do so in a half-hearted fashion. New York Times columnist [Ross Douthat argues](http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/11/opinion/sunday/douthat-the-responsible-republicans.html) that Romney’s success in claiming the Republican Presidential nomination, after half a dozen manifestly crazy candidates had held the lead at one time or another, proves that the Republican base is not entirely crazy. Others, such as [Stephen Bainbridge](http://www.professorbainbridge.com/professorbainbridgecom/2011/11/this-country-is-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket.html), engage in _tu quoque_, picking isolated instance of Democratic silliness to suggest that both sides are crazy. Both approaches have proved unconvincing.

Accurate as Swan’s remarks are, it would have been surprising, until relatively recently to see an Australian leader make such comments about US politics. The etiquette that “politics stops at the water’s edge” precluded both comments on domestic politics while travelling overseas, and on the domestic politics of other countries.

Such niceties have ceased to be relevant in a world of massive and instantaneous communication. For practical purposes, any comment, wherever it is made, is addressed to the world as a whole. More significantly, political debate has been globalised. In particular, the “cranks and crazies” who dominate the US Republican Party, along with the right wing of the Tory party in the UK, inform the thinking of much of the Australian right-wing commentariat.

The Republican conspiracy theory about opinion polls was only days old when it appeared on Australian right-wing blog sites. Writing in Quadrant, once the voice of high-toned intellectual conservatism, Steve Kates [called President Obama](http://www.quadrant.org.au/blogs/qed/2012/09/america-s-last-hurrah) “a socialist of the most radical leftist kind”. This is an absurd description of a centrist Democrat who wasted much of his first term seeking a “grand bargain” with the Republican party to reduce social welfare expenditures while modestly increasing taxes. And of course, climate conspiracy theories, recycling material derived from the US, are run of the mill material for the Australian right.

Some on the Australian right are more circumspect, in a manner that might be described as “cafeteria crazy”. That is, they accept a full-blown conspiracy theory regarding climate change, in which Obama, and most other world leaders, scientific organisations and so on, are embroiled in a plot to enslave the free peoples of the world. On the other hand, they indignantly reject birtherism, and get uncomfortable when the list of climate change plotters is extended to include the Rothschilds, the Royal Family and so on.

It’s fair to observe that the globalised Republican brand of craziness is not the only one in the market. Most obviously, there is the mirror-image brand of militant Islamism, circulating on websites and mailing lists out of the view of most Australians. At a much lower level, there are silly ideas propagated in some leftwing circles, from 9/11 “trutherism” to the wilder fringes of the environmental movement. But, unlike the case with the Republicans, neither of these brands of crazy has a significant presence in mainstream politics, either here or in the US.

A globalised world produces globalised politics. At one time, criticism from “overseas” (the very term recalls an long-vanished world of sea voyages), would have been largely counterproductive, producing a united reaction against outside interference.

But the US reaction to Swan’s remarks has been on predictably partisan lines. Democratic-leaning bloggers such as Paula Gordon on [The Huffington Post](http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paula-gordon/feint-praise_b_1908595.html) have endorsed Swan. The fact that Australian politicians rarely make such remarks has been cited, not as a criticism of Swan, but as evidence that Republican extremism has gone beyond any normal bounds.

Conversely, right-wing US sites have attacked Swan in much the same terms as they do their domestic opponents. Exactly the same responses, with sides reversed, greeted Israeli PM Netanyahu’s attack on Obama, and, going back a few years, George Bush’s criticism of Mark Latham.

In practical terms, the re-election of the Obama Administration, which now seems highly likely, would constitute a substantial win for the Australian Labor Party. And a surprise victory for the Republicans would be a win for Tony Abbott and his Republican-style politics of culture war.

In a globalised world, there is no meaningful “water’s edge” and politics no longer respects national boundaries.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Al Capone was done for tax evasion

October 1st, 2012 108 comments

Alan Jones is in a heap of strife for his tasteless and offensive attack on Julia Gillard. He’s suffering the same effects of social media that Rush Limbaugh encountered when he called a student advocate of access to contraceptives a “slut”. Limbaugh’s show has survived, but his leading advertisers are gone, and his power over the Republican Party (so extreme that anyone who criticised him was forced into a grovelling apology) has dissipated. It’s too early to say for sure, but Alan Jones may be in even more difficulty than Limbaugh. Unlike Limbaugh, whose audience and local advertisers are scattered across the US, Jones depends critically on 2GB and Sydney. That makes things simple – until Jones goes, any company that advertises on 2GB is effectively supporting him. Advertisers seem to be jumping ship fast, to the point where the station must be hurting pretty badly.

In both cases, the response to the comments might be seen as over the top, if it weren’t for the track record of getting away with such appalling stuff in the past. Leaving aside his consistent nastiness, of which the latest was just an extreme example, Jones should have lost his job for the cash-for-comment scandal and then again for his incitement of the Cronulla riots. He got away with both of those, but it looks like he might have run out of luck this time.

Of course, as a private citizen, Jones has the right to say hateful and offensive things. But we don’t have to listen to him, or contribute to his wealth by buying the products of his sponsors.

If you haven’t signed the petition yet, its here

Categories: Oz Politics Tags: