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Monday Message Board

February 18th, 2013

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

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  1. Garry Claridge
    February 18th, 2013 at 14:52 | #1

    What economic policies will be the most important for this election? Both real and imagined.

  2. Newtownian
    February 18th, 2013 at 15:52 | #2

    Our on paper superannuation investments have recently magically bounced back to a large degree if not completely to pre bubble levels – magic being the operative word because nothing else fundamental has changed? So why do I still feel apprehensive like in 2004 to 2007? Could it be that the logic of austerity is still driving the US, EU and UK economies into a decline where they still cant pay to get out of the austerity/debt spiral, and the next time there is a crisis there will be no governments to bail the banks out or in the case of Australia and Canada the conservative governments of the time will refuse to on ideological grounds?

    On the other hand at least it should reduce greenhouse gas emissions and clobber delusional dam building so maybe I should look on the bright side?

  3. may
    February 18th, 2013 at 17:01 | #3

    echo-gnomic occupies the overton window.

    todays west australian has pictures of the barnett on the front page and the abbortt inside that are framed to make it look like there were lots and lots of people that had come to see and adore.

    but

    if you looked past all the crowded foreground and into the interstices of the pictures,there were hardly any of the “best australians”,or anybody else,there at all.
    abbortt has actually trotted out “fair dinkum”regarding some psolicy or other,when are we going to start hearing the term ridgydidge?

    the fin follies continue.

    front page disaster aargh.
    last friday i answered my phone and had a chirpy request to participate in a poll (this one?)
    i declined.
    do pollsters give the numbers of declinees in their results?
    the opinion page had a nice description of actuaries that also fits pollsters like a glove.

    “a person who passes as an expert on the basis of prolific ability to produce an infinite variety of incomprehensible figures collected with micro-metric precision from the vaguest of assumptions based on debatable evidence from inconclusive data derived from by persons of doubtful reliability”.
    quite.
    then
    page 3

    our very own marie antoinette of the pibara,
    “let them live on two dollars a day”.
    style queen of really expensive op-shop chic and godawful hats,shown from the back of a truck and accessorised with a megaphone.
    “don’t call me heiress,i’ve worked bloody hard for everything i’ve got,bugr off youse kids”,
    rethinking foreign labour.
    they probably wanted four dollars a day.
    or maybe there is an election on the far horizon and “we mustn’t spook the mugs”.

    onward and forward,this is after all the best newspaper in Oz (really!)

    page nineteen
    a picture of a puzzlooking bloke holding the fin showing headlines of
    “the safe hands” and”enter the proffesso”.

    page twentyone
    a full page that finally gets round to the bit where some blokes identifying shareholder number on a bid acceptance form was published in “where-else-but” and he is going to sue.

    in the first bit of the education section
    it seems the independent schools council of australia seem ready to make a political campaign bout the Gonski Funding Formula.
    can the poor lost souls afford it though?

    slight problem.
    we don’t know yet what the Gonski Funding Formula will be.

    twitchy much?
    same page

    the lib govt of vic is making $300 MILLION in cuts to TAFE funding.
    the nsw is AXING 800 jobs from it’s education division
    and qld plans to “Rationalise” TAFE campuses.
    speaking of rationalisation,the next page has a sad couple of lines that go
    “universities stood by as publications once owned by academic societies were bought by publishing houses and were now owned by a few large “players”.
    “that need not have happened but got away f4rom us over 15 years. now universities face an extroadinarily high cost.”

    page twenty eight

    economists implied Australia has one of the world’s most overvalued currencies.
    friday 15 feb,page eight has a headline

    “coalition may leverage strong dollar”

    what happens to the “lever” when the penny drops?

  4. Ikonoclast
    February 18th, 2013 at 20:47 | #4

    @Garry Claridge

    A better question would be: “What economic policies will be different under Tweedlelabor and Tweedleliberal?”

    There will be very little real difference. The venality and stupidity of all our politicians and the ruling elites is almost beyond belief. A pox on all their houses!

  5. Steve
    February 19th, 2013 at 10:00 | #5

    Looks like both the EU and the US are going to devote large sums of money (>= 1 billion) to creating a complete map of the human brain:
    http://www.humanbrainproject.eu/
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/science/project-seeks-to-build-map-of-human-brain.html?ref=science&_r=0

    Money well spent? Can’t say, I’m pretty skeptical of the european one, but its huge sums of money over 10 years, so who knows?

  6. may
    February 19th, 2013 at 12:02 | #6

    puzzlooking?

    puzzled looking.

    extroadinarily?

    extraordinarily.

    bout?

    about.

    declinees?

    decliners.

    pibara?

    pilbara.

    op-shop chic?

    apologies to any and all op-shops.

    for those not poverty stricken in the time dept,op-shops can provide some amazingly good stuff.

    if time is money then money is time?

  7. Jim Birch
    February 19th, 2013 at 12:11 | #7

    Here’s a paper from Nature Diet and Nutrition that proposes a relationship between two highly rated themes on this blog, CO2 pollution and obesity.

    http://www.nature.com/nutd/journal/v2/n3/full/nutd20122a.html

    The basic argument is this: over the last century the atmospheric CO2 level has increased by 50% over the levels that existed for the last few million years. This would raise our base internal CO2 levels and produce an change in our pH. A change in pH is know to have a strong effect on orexin neurons that affect appetite and energy storage, plus other things like wakefulness and pleasure-seeking behaviours.

    This proposed link is speculative. Some of the component mechanisms are well known but the overall effect hasn’t been reliably established. The primary epidemiological evidence is the increasing levels of obesity in humans. As we all know, there are plenty of other proposed causes of escalating human obesity, notably, the availability and types of food, and sloth. The CO2 hypothesis would imply a movement in the satiety point for humans which would kind of undercut other effects. Interestingly, similar increases in obesity have been observed some animal species that have apparently had a constant food supply and diet and don’t watch tv ads for snack foods.

    If this proposed mechanism proves correct, the kind of CO2 levels projected in 2100, 500+ ppm – could produce a seriously obese population and/or a new highly profitable drug target.

  8. kevin1
    February 19th, 2013 at 13:14 | #8

    @Jim Birch
    This ties in with Clive Hamilton’s idea that humans as an agency acting on nature is no longer relevant, and the social sciences have to rethink their paradigms. http://theconversation.edu.au/climate-change-signals-the-end-of-the-social-sciences-11722
    An attention-grabbing AGW message for the masses who like it close to home!

  9. Newtownian
    February 19th, 2013 at 13:19 | #9

    @Jim Birch
    Yeah maybe.

    Any conflict of interest that they might profit from a beat up – well yes as the authors themselves identify – indeed they should profit which ever way this goes.

    see : “Conflict of interest

    Professor Arne Astrup is salaried author for Ude & Hjemme; salaried associate editor of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; advisor or member of advisory boards for a number of food and pharmaceutical producers and so on: Communications and Scientific Advisory Board of The Global Dairy Platform, Kraft Health & Wellness Advisory Council, Glenview, Il, USA; Scientific Board member, Beer Knowledge Institute (Amsterdam); Novo, NeuroSearch, Basic Research, Pathway Genomics Corporation, La Jolla, CA, USA; and Jennie Craig, Carlsbad, CA, USA; and recipient of honoraria as speaker for a wide range of Danish and international concerns. Ownership, in accordance with the Danish University regulations, of inventions and patents where Arne Astrup is co-inventor. Arne Astrup has, from the university, been granted shares in Mobile Fitness A/S. LG Hersoug and A Sjödin declare no conflict of interest.

    As to their evidence? – a sample size of 6???!!! which showed bugger all effect plus a tiny grab bag of literature. How did they get this published?

    Looking at this ‘Nature publication’ citation and recognising it will probably get quoted for all the wrong reasons you really have to wonder how the Australian Federal government can use damn journal citation statistics as a credible way to compare research.

  10. Newtownian
    February 19th, 2013 at 13:28 | #10

    @Jim Birch

    ps – if you enjoy joke environment science like I do can I recommend the following which has 25 citations to date.

    Computers & Geosciences Vol. 22, No. 5, pp. 585-588, 1996
    Copyright 0 1996 Else&r Science Ltd
    THE INTEGRATION OF GIS, REMOTE SENSING,
    EXPERT SYSTEMS AND ADAPTIVE CO-KRIGING
    FOR ENVIRONMENTAL HABITAT MODELING OF THE
    HIGHLAND HAGGIS USING OBJECT-ORIENTED,
    FUZZY-LOGIC AND NEURAL-NETWORK TECHNIQUES
    OLEG McNOLEG
    Brigadoon University of Longitudinal Learning, School of Holistic Information Technology,
    Noplace, Neverland?
    (Received 31 May 1995; accepted I November 1995)
    Abstract-A report is given on several major breakthroughs in geomaticsl, and their application is
    demonstrated on a particularly difficult habitat modeling exercise. Results show conclusively that these techniques, when applied to GIS related problems, improve the analytical capability in absolute quantitative terms by quite a bit really. Copyright 0 1996 Elsevier Science Ltd

  11. Newtownian
  12. February 19th, 2013 at 14:21 | #12

    For me new net job creation would be the winning policy at this election, however, not even Labor have one – their “Plan for Australian jobs” Industry and Innovation policy is about protecting jobs not NET creation of jobs.

    There’s an easy gauge for the Australian economy (and thus the well-being of its people) and it is not relative comparisons to the rest of the world but whether the joblessness rate is rising or falling. It is rising – so Australia is performing poorly.

  13. Jim Birch
    February 19th, 2013 at 15:09 | #13

    @Newtownian
    I think the authors might agree with your yeah maybe comment. Isn’t speculation a normal part of science? They have a potential mechanism that fits with some known facts but that would need a lot of validation. They never said otherwise. Biological systems are complex and are typically loaded with homeostatic mechanisms, however, those mechanism are aimed at the normal ranges of inputs; there is a toxic level of everything. :) The ability to cope with a persistent CO2 level that is a way over anything in our species’ recent evolutionary history might not be adaptive.

  14. Newtownian
    February 19th, 2013 at 17:28 | #14

    @Jim Birch
    Thanks Jim – excellent points taken and not trivial and not at all irrelevant to this being and economics blog. Some responses:

    - I’m not sure whether these authors were taking the piss. Copenhagen was such a joke you wonder what the locals thought. I expect they have a lot of jokes flying around we never hear of because of the language barrier. Maybe this is one of them.

    - A different point is its pretty minor concern. People maybe will become a bit fatter and need Jenny Craig . But this is trivial compared with serious climatic change impacts which we can already expect – for example what will happen to the residual wildlife which resides in national parks when those habitats’ climate change dramatically – think road kill impacts multiplied 1000 fold – or perhaps the impact of the failure of the Indian Monsoon which could happen also through the vagueries of the weather as well.

    - Regarding complexity and biological systems and a possible relationship – plants will respond to elevated CO2 and there is certainly a place for speculation on effects on physiology in science – but I found both their review and experiments pretty thin and then there was their affiliation (Jenny Craig for heaven’s sake).

    - Moral of the story is dont believe everything you see in the refereed literature without applying a laugh test or a bull*&^% meter to it.

  15. February 21st, 2013 at 12:37 | #15

    Today’s Oz front page makes the claim that 11% of Australians “owe their jobs” to the mining sector and its flow on benefits. This is based on an RBA discussion paper entitled:
    “Industry Dimensions of the Resource Boom: An Input-Output Analysis”

    http://www.rba.gov.au/publications/rdp/2013/2013-02.html

    I thought that input output was a discredited model for drawing these kinds of conclusions? If so, what the heck are the RBA playing at?

  16. Sancho
    February 21st, 2013 at 13:08 | #16

    Secular tithing. If I donate ten percent of my income, which non-religious charities are the most effective per dollar?

  17. Newtownian
    February 21st, 2013 at 13:48 | #17

    This begs the questions how do you measure effectiveness especially as we are talking long term and whether they are doing good or bad? Groups allied with the NSW Shooter are arguably doing an excellent job for their constituency but would you want to support them on the basis of effectiveness.

    If you are talking overseas aid you could try and find out how much money made it to the community you are trying to support but even this is hard to assess sensibly. A few years back I saw a host of pit latrines installed in rural Peru leading I’m sure to box ticking by an NGO or government or someone else trying to ‘make a difference’. But all had fallen into disuse (they filled and it was clear that no maintenance program was part of the process).

    If you are talking environmental NGOs how for example would you cost/benefit analyse Sea Shepherd’s current activities in ‘Australian territorial’ waters in Antarctica? (they seem to have charity status in the US).

    There are probably ratings systems out there as there are for everything. Maybe something like index citations used in the Academy which we all know are a perfect reflection of truth (just kidding).

    But I suggest the best option is qualitative Bayesian decision based – personally get to know an organisation/its individuals and if you feel they are worthy, ethical and noble and you support them strongly conceptually, just go for it. If you feel a formal probablistic Bayesian tree is necessary then quantify some useful indicators that correlate with these considerations like whether they are as poor and churchmice and what the campaigners are doing is what in your guilt stricken conscience you feel you should be doing, and they are doing good on the smell of an oily rag.

  18. Sancho
    February 21st, 2013 at 14:28 | #18

    That’s probably good advice.

    There’s a number of websites and NGOs that monitor charities, but the ambiguities of funding and effectiveness (including the murky waters of administration costs) make it difficult to judge by the numbers alone.

    My aid priorities are education, family planning, and human rights, which narrows it down a bit. Not that medicine and clean water aren’t essential, but I have the impression that those are well-served by existing charities, especially the huge ones.

  19. Jim Birch
    February 21st, 2013 at 14:36 | #19

    I donate to this outfit: http://www.roomtoread.org/

    They work on the premise that poor areas need education for their kids to advance their long term welfare, but can’t afford enough. I don’t know what their efficiency rating is.

  20. Newtownian
    February 21st, 2013 at 14:45 | #20

    @Sancho

    These seem reasonable. I have reservations about much high tech medicine especially diseases of aging and cancer in that much of it is about kicking cans down the road. Life afterall has a 100% mortality – which would suggest we should be aiming for immortality – but a world of the same geriatrics still blogging on this site in 100 years. That is scary.

    Regarding clean water its funny you mention it. Because among the biggest needs/black holes are probably in hygiene education and (human) rights to access good clean water.

    Regarding your comment about huge charities they worry me too. A big question in funding them is whether their employees deserve proper living wages and a career – which also explains the overheads that tithers worry about. I think they do in part because of what friends I have do there and whom I have the highest respect for – but then you get fiasco’s like the AI Irene Khan saga of a few years back and you worry. By the way people in AI were just as appalled at the obscene salary / handout she seemed to have negotiated as anyone.

  21. Sancho
    February 21st, 2013 at 17:32 | #21

    Thanks Jim. I look forward to reading up on RtR.

    My plan is to determine a monthly charity budget, and allocate a third each to domestic aid, international aid, and animal welfare groups.

    Newtonian, I don’t think it’s controversial to say that people with the capacity to access information and skills independently will do so to improve their circumstances, which can have an exponential effect not necessarily granted by access to basics and external service provision.

    Also, I don’t go in for the sort of childish self-absorption that gets labelled “libertarianism”, but I’m wary of the welfare trap that can exist. Teach a man to fish, and all that.

  22. February 23rd, 2013 at 21:43 | #22

    Just finished Neil Chenoweth’s gripping book about Rupert’s other criminal activities.

    Highly recommended reading.

    Now, Dick Cheney and Rupert Murdoch are drilling for “oil” (inverted commas because this is about geo-politics and fascism much more than it is about pissy little amounts of fossil fuels that probably aren’t under land that legally belongs to Syria) in the Golan Heights.

    Apparently nobody cares about the fact that Rupert Murdoch is a fascist and controls what you hear, see and read because his trolls are all over your radios & TVs including his ABC.

    Australian political life is dead.

  23. Julie Thomas
    February 24th, 2013 at 07:09 | #23

    @Sancho
    “Also, I don’t go in for the sort of childish self-absorption that gets labelled “libertarianism”, but I’m wary of the welfare trap that can exist. Teach a man to fish, and all that.”

    I like that bit about childish self-absorption being libertarianism; I think it is a good call and it is also interesting that libertarians, people who characterise themselves as extreme individuals, seem to feel a psychological need to have an identifying label and be part of a group. When they, the more rational ones anyway, wake up to the fact that one of the many ’causes’ – but I think a significant one – of welfare dependency is the attitude that some welfare recipients develop in response to the name calling and disapproval they have been subject to over the past years of neo-liberal ‘hegemony’.

    Hand-outs without any requirement for reciprocity are obviously wrong and the ‘old’ idea, back in the 50′s and 60′s, that a handout was for social security was trashed when the existence of society was denied and the individual became the best things since sliced bread. Of course this is a simplistic and biased analysis of the way it happened. But simple narratives seem to work so lets not complicate the story.

    Working in made-up government jobs is also a problem because it is not ‘work’ and it provides very few people with any satisfaction or sense of achievement but real jobs in a government enterprise do provide a way of building the self-esteem that is required for losers to build a life in which they can achieve some success and contribute to the greater good.

    The unemployed are not, in my experience all that stupid, although they probably really do appear this way, to the type of person who lacks insight into other types of people. Some people just do not have the neurons that provide them with the ability to be able to put themselves in another’s shoes, so they lack insight to other types of people.

    It seems to me that the unemployed and other misfits often deliberately adopt a ‘stupid and lazy’ attitude as a way of preserving some control of a situation in which they are powerless. In that way people can maintain some self-esteem and pride in themselves. It is not an adaptive response but this type of person often makes the wrong choice and that is usually why they are unemployed.

    Some of them know how to fish in a normal pond, but the pond has changed; it is so much more complex and less intuitive; the old fishing values are no longer useful. The idea now is not to sit and catch enough for oneself and others one is responsible for feeding, the idea is to use any method to blast as many fish out of the pond as possible and make an immediate profit.

  24. Garry Claridge
    February 24th, 2013 at 07:49 | #24

    @Bradley Smith
    I get the impression that the RBA is a bot “Old School” ;(

  25. Garry Claridge
    February 24th, 2013 at 07:50 | #25

    @Garry Claridge
    bot = bit

  26. Jim Rose
    February 24th, 2013 at 09:09 | #26

    Julie Thomas, The psychology of mass movements and the role in identity is interesting. There is a large literature on social identity.

    The theory of expressive voting centres on how voting for various parties and policies gives a sense of identity and self-worth.

    There is Marx and the class struggle and class solidarity. Many had identity crises when the Berlin Wall fell.

    The migration of so much of the working class into the middle class is giving Labor an identity crisis.

    There is the environmental movement, the anti-nukes movement, and the antiwar movement to name a few. They all attract youth, in part, because their activism helps young people give life to the rebelliousness of youth.

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