March 23rd, 2015

A new sandpit for long side discussions, idees fixes and so on. Unless directly responding to the OP, all discussions of nuclear power, MMT and conspiracy theories should be directed to sandpits (or, if none is open, message boards).

Categories: Economics - General Tags:
  1. Ikonoclast
    March 23rd, 2015 at 20:44 | #1

    What happened to the “Unholy Trinity”? I mean big government, big business and big unions. Here it is in a nutshell.

    1. Big unions have been destroyed.
    2. Big business has gotten even bigger but it is never mentioned as a negative issue.
    3. Big government has been minimised or co-opted to the service of big business.

    There has been a mass change of perception. Unions are off the critical radar (too small to register). Business is off the critical radar (it is teflon coated and stealthed). Big government is evil except when it helps big business. It’s the new normal. It’s now normal for business (meaning the rich few) to run our whole society.

  2. Nevil Kingston-Brown
    March 24th, 2015 at 09:45 | #2

    Why are the BCA so keen for the government to run a surplus? A recession isn’t going to do them any good.

  3. John Bentley
    March 24th, 2015 at 11:13 | #3

    I had a listen to Richard Denniss’ eloquent Manning Clark lecture. Enlightening to say the least.

    I think the B in BCA stands for Buffoons!

  4. totaram
    March 24th, 2015 at 11:57 | #4

    @Nevil Kingston-Brown

    There is a view that recessions lead to cheap assets which only the rich can pick up. Once the recession is over, the richer are even richer than before!

  5. pablo
    March 24th, 2015 at 15:42 | #5

    Yes Icon since the collapse of the USSR and Tianamen Sq it seems obvious that capitalism does not need democracy. Maybe works best in it’s absence.

  6. Ikonoclast
    March 24th, 2015 at 20:17 | #6

    All five posts above do indeed conform to a theme. The theme is the division of wealth between labour and capital. I pointed out that the workers unions are essentially defeated, at least in the anglophone countries of US, UK, Canada and Australia. Nevil K-B asks why businesses want to create a recession (because they seem to be calling for recessionary measures). Totaram offers a reason the rich might want a recession. John Bentley’s post points to a talk on the impossibility of projecting on trends (especially because of economic and political changes). Pablo suggests capitalism doesn’t need democracy. Capitalism does not WANT democracy but it might actually NEED it and that is part of the story.

    In terms of income and wealth distribution, there are at least three ways of defining what is a good “pure” capitalist economy. (I will ignore ecological and sustainability issues for now.)

    (1) The overall wealthiest and fastest growing economy regardless of income and wealth distribution and before social transfers.
    (2) The most equitable economy before social transfers.
    (3) The economy which creates the most billionaires regardless of total national income and wealth and regardless of equity issues.

    One could argue about whether (1) or (2) above would be the best economy and lead to the best outcomes for most people. Some even argue (with pretty good figures) that (2) leads to (1). However, it seems clear that only billionaires and those who aspire to that status along with their lackeys, functionaries, sycophants and bribed officials would pick option (3) as the best economy. Yet option (3) is precisely the option we (the anglophone west) are pursuing with the USA in the lead.

    Coming specifically to the labour / capital split it seems to me that the healthiest economy (within the capitalist paradigm) would be that which fully utilised all labour AND all capital. That is to say there ought to be (theoretically) a sweet spot where labour is fully utilised (say 2% frictional unemployment) and capital (meaning in particular capital equipment and buildings but also potentially idle money capital) is also as fully utilised as possible. Now professional economists would know better than I what are realistic capacity ultilisation figures here but one would suspect a really healthy number would be 90% or better for capital utilisation.

    It also seems obvious that idle labour and poorly paid labour will not be able to generate much demand so capital is likely to be idle too. Thus Capital (as the sum total of all capitalist interests) in its own interests ought to be interested in the sweet spot I mention above; namely the full employment of labour and capital. But Capital (mainly as big capitalist interests) is clearly not interested in this “solution” of the economic equation. Clearly, there is a sub-optimal capitalist economy, sub-optimal in not generating the greatest total wealth possible, that nevertheless generates the greatest wealth possible for the 10% or the 1% or the 0.1% as the case may be. It is this sub-optimal “solution” of the capitalist economic equation that is chosen by the rich via the policy settings they buy from the governing parties.

    I am only half way through Piketty’s book so I don’t know if he canvases anything like this in the second half of his book.

  7. James
    March 25th, 2015 at 10:34 | #7

    In reply to @Ikonoclast I really like Lambert Strether’s (from Naked Capitalism) take on Neoliberalism expressed as two simple axioms, ‘because markets’ and ‘go die’. (See ‘Neoliberalism expressed as simple rules’).

    He contends that the axioms are now so embedded in our political thought patterns (Overton window?) that they have achieved moral standing as opposed to pragmatic functionality.

    Hence, big business busting unions is morally right, ‘because markets’, while unions demanding equitable wages is morally wrong, ‘because markets’. So unions should just ‘go die’.

    This once radical idea is now accepted as ‘common sense’, meaning that in informed political discussion there is no need to make a justifying argument for the role of business vs the role of unions. Everyone has moved on.

    Now, if governments just let the ‘welfare leaners’ go die, we would not have any need for argument about government either, having achieved the moral nirvana of the neoliberal social order.

  8. Debbieanne
    March 25th, 2015 at 20:19 | #8

    James, ‘go die’ is most certainly the mantra of the right wing (see PPACA/Health insurance in the US) and they will tell you ‘because markets’ work better. we live in a very sad and disordered world, dystopia maybe, where only those with money ‘deserve’ accolades as our betters and the right to pretend that we 90% don’t matter a twat (all our own fault). knew I chose the wrong uterus to be born from 🙂
    I have always thought, obviously naively, that the mark of a good and well functioning society was how it treated the least amongst it.

  9. Megan
    March 25th, 2015 at 22:41 | #9

    The other day I was listening to the Senate on the radio and heard the following:

    Senator LEYONHJELM (New South Wales) (13:37): Australians are good at many things, but conserving native fauna is not one of them. In the last 200 years, 11 per cent of our native mammals have become extinct. This is one of the worst conservation records in the world. There are species of kangaroos, wallabies, bilbies and potoroos—and of course the Tasmanian Tiger—that are no longer with us. According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a further 36 per cent of our remaining mammals have reason to be nervous about their prospects for survival. Some argue that we should simply throw more taxpayers’ money into preservation, but that amounts to doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.

    That sounded sort of promising, I thought.

    Then he moved on to his libertarian solution to native animal extinction (apart from privatizing the National Parks):

    Allowing native animals to be kept as pets will ensure their survival. Just as cats and dogs are in no danger of dying out, the same will be true if native animals are privately owned. It means they have value. Some who oppose keeping native animals as pets cite welfare concerns, saying they may not be well cared for. By that logic, we would have no pets. The experience overseas is that Australian animals, such as sugar gliders and blue-tongued lizards, live much longer in captivity than they do in the wild. In reality, most of those who oppose keeping native animals as pets are fundamentally opposed to private property. It is not about the animals but about ideology.

    There is no disputing that some native animals may make unsuitable pets, at least in certain situations. Many are nocturnal, for example, which might require us to adjust our own sleeping habits to enjoy them. And obviously there is no suggestion of taking animals from the wild; like cats and dogs, and also like budgies, galahs and cockatoos, they need to be bred as pets. But, allowing for those considerations, widespread ownership of native animals as pets is something that should be promoted.

    I know what I think of this, and I can pretty much guess what other regulars will think, but the reason I mention it is that ever since hearing that – I haven’t been able to get that song out of my head: “We’ll Make Great Pets” from the 1990s band I dare not try to mention the name of for fear of eternal moderation.

  10. Donald Oats
    March 25th, 2015 at 22:43 | #10

    We have been trudging towards aggro-capitalism, a capitalism in which the state space is not constrained by notions of environmental pollution, harm to the individual, impact upon society, etc. Quaint democracy is quite antithetical to aggro-capitalism, although thin veneer democracy sits well with it. Every now and then we chuck up a regulation or a law which provides some protection, then the wreckers come through and mow them down again. A visage of protection is about the best we ever really get.

    [The next bit is impossible to write without coming across all X Files and Get Smart, the paranoia and lunacy in equal strokes. For that, this government and several previous ones should apologise.]

    And now we have the surveillance state, a by-product of aggro-capitalism and thin veneer democracy: thanks to the two major parties, the citizens of Australia have absolutely zero protection against the actions of the state’s spooks and their agencies. In fact, merely saying that they are or are not spying on person X can get you 2 years in slam! Now that is perverse, especially as a law pushed to enactment by the LNP government, a government which proclaims it is for freedom (of the individual), free speech, etc.

    AFAICT, it is legal for them to pick me up in a van, hood me, drive me to an undisclosed location, subject me to interrogation for days to weeks by anonymous spooks, have all my IT devices, mobile, tablets, PCs, NAS, etc poked, prodded, data edited and/or replaced to mean something else, copied, for me to be released back of Bourke with a stern warning not to tell anyone about where I was, for how long, with whom, for whatever purpose, with jail time the punishment for transgression, and then to spy on my every movement via my mobile devices, my ISP, my workplace, and my family’s mobile devices, my friends’ mobile devices, credit card activity, fit bit monitoring, location tracking, smart TV voice monitoring, surveillance camera footage, employer tracking data, all without a warrant. They can forge data, drop it on one or more devices, no back-up archive of the original data necessary, and then chuck your sorry arse to the AFP. The moment your defence lawyer tries to figure out what the heck is going on, they discover they can’t represent you in any meaningful way, and yet they are bound by secrecy laws not to reveal anything they do know in relation to your case. How effed up is that? Is there a lawyer type around who can tell me if this scenario is impossible, and why?

    At least the ALP can pat itself on the back for making a little noise over journalists’ protection. Journos won’t even know if a warrant has been executed against them, and even if they did know, it will be against the law to reveal that fact. So how, precisely, does the ALP think a journo is going to have a reasonable prospect of addressing a defective or malicious use of warrant powers. Sweet Leaf, for crying out loud.

    Then there is the data already collected by third parties, especially the data analytics (digital vacuum cleaners) firms, the ones that employ tracking cookies and more to watch you wend your way through the World Wide Web. Installing ghostery and seeing how many separate tracking companies are inserting their bits in a single web page you’ve clicked, well that is a salutory experience. I recently hit 33 separate bits of dross on a single web page, clinging desperately for a sign my mouse has hovered over their pixel space; aside from sheer difficulty in imagining the need for so many separate trackers, just how much extra am I paying an ISP to download empty useless ad-data/tracker data instead of the actual data of interest to me. Holy f**king Toledo, Batman. The world has gone crazy when so many trackers—like leeches in a jungle—are sucking up my digital footprint, right down to the individual pixels visited by an interloping mouse arrow. If laws should be made, how about kicking these suckers, these leeches, off of the web pages; we never asked for them, we never wanted them, and most of them are very secretive and conceal their nature from the dumb meat-space occupier. Next we’ll have eye attention trackers to see which ads you glanced at first, whether you lingered over any, and so on. You ogle the Indonesian ladies ads? Grist for the mill. Glanced twice at the Indonesian lads ads? Also grist for the mill. And absolutely all of this data can be stored against a datascape called “YOU”. Bayesian data analysis can stitch together the myriad trails and digital crumbs to construct that artefact, your digital persona, and there is SFA you can do about it now. [Sometimes I’m in awe of this, other times I’m less than robustly sanguine.]

    The only credible political party on this topic has been the Greens, and they weren’t exactly welcomed with open arms into the reviews and committees before the bills’ debates this past year or so.

  11. Megan
    March 26th, 2015 at 00:10 | #11

    For anyone interested, there are some palm sunday protests arranged all over Australia this sunday against war and our treatment of refugees.

    And then I have just heard this story from a month ago, (thanks Australian establishment media for deliberately burying it!):

    WASHINGTON — A federal court today granted a preliminary injunction putting an immediate halt to the Obama administration’s policy of locking up asylum-seeking mothers and children as a way to deter others from coming to the United States.

    The Department of Homeland Security has been denying release of these families as part of an “aggressive deterrence strategy.” In rejecting the U.S. government’s argument that detention of the women and children was necessary to prevent a mass influx that would threaten national security, the court wrote that the “incantation of the magic words ‘national security’ without further substantiation is simply not enough to justify significant deprivations of liberty.”

    “The court held that it was illegal to detain families based on deterrence. It made clear that the government cannot deprive individuals of their liberty merely to send a message to others,” said Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “This ruling means that the government cannot continue to lock up families without an individualized determination that they pose a danger or flight risk that requires their detention.”…

    Sounds familiar! Can anyone seriously believe that the ALP/LNP came up with their cruel and inhumane “deterrence” refugee policy all by themselves? Of course they didn’t. Just like ‘austerity’ and neoliberalism and all the other tools of 21st century US fascism they got them dictated to them from their masters. Or perhaps rather than ‘dictated’ they were ‘suggested’. It doesn’t make any difference.

    PS: It looks like we won’t have the ALP/LNP duopoly slamming the new “cyber-surveillance-of-all-Australians” laws through the senate until tomorrow! Yay, freedom and democracy!

  12. Ikonoclast
    March 26th, 2015 at 06:31 | #12

    I have actually come to the conclusion that the inevitable collapse of civilisation will be a good thing. If this is what civilization turns into (the corporate fascist surveillance state) it will actually be better that civilization should collapse. Hunter-gatherers were better and wiser people than what we have turned into. One does not have to do anything to collapse the current system. It will very efficiently destroy itself. Of course, we all die in the process but then death is inevitable in any case so really it’s no big deal.

  13. Salient Green
    March 26th, 2015 at 07:02 | #13

    My own view is that, with a few exceptions, pets have become a fetish. Animals were once kept only for worthwhile purposes, like security, keeping the vermin down, assisting in food supply, providing food, and fed with leftovers, food surplus to human requirements. Feeding pets has become a major environmental disaster, especially providing cat food, and most eat better than third world humans.
    Millions of pets are destroyed needlessly causing immense heartache for authorities who administer that task.
    Billions are spent on vets, medicines, domestic products etc. for pets which are not required for any specific purpose, other than a whim, an indulgence.
    In a capitalist world the same thing would happen if native animals were kept as pets.

  14. Troy Prideaux
    March 26th, 2015 at 08:36 | #14

    @Salient Green
    I don’t have a pet, but I think they’re a nett positive thing generally. I take many of your points, but I also believe pets have helped humans better empathize with animals in general over time – in a general sense to increase an awareness to care more for the welfare of those in the wild.

  15. Ikonoclast
    March 26th, 2015 at 10:56 | #15

    Well I speed read Piketty’s book to finish it. He analysed a lot of data and came to some useful conclusions. Overall, he is a plodder though and not a brilliant thinker. The book was twice as long as it needed to be. Marx was about 100 times the intellectual that Piketty is. Marx’s insights go about a factor of 100 deeper into matters.

    The formula r>g should of course be expressed as: If r>g indefinitely then W (war) & R (revolution). It certainly is very likely that r will remain >g in the world for a while yet (20 years?). By then g will decline to zero or more likely a negative value. I am not sure how capitalism that needs a positive r will fare then. It would be totally unsustainable I would say.

    But we knew that before Piketty came along. And Marx knew that capitalism was unstable and self-destructive in the long run. So no new insights from Piketty really but certainly he found a lot of empirical data to back Marx. So kudos to a plodder. We need them too.

  16. jungney
    March 26th, 2015 at 12:21 | #16

    Civilisation appears to have ended some time ago. The collapse of the metanarratives of modernity, that life always improves and resources increase in a linear fashion, in science as progress without a shadow side, in the triumph of the European civilising mission, was heralded loudly by the Holocaust. We’re just watching the end game.

    It looks like ti will be very interesting times indeed. Ted Cruz, a numpty Republican, announced his candidacy at Liberty University which is the largest Christian College in the US. Founded by Jerry Falwell, it appears to be a xtian fundamentalist cult, which has strong links with the xtian military establishment. The US forces have been suffering a high turnover of drone staffers; something to do with self worth, it seems. But Liberty University has proudly entered into a contract to train and provide people with the right stuff to do the task.

    Though the program only began in earnest in 2013, says the associate dean, retired Air Force Col. John Marselus, Liberty has been lucky to be recently chosen as one of only six test sites in the U.S. for drone training, and the program is proud that just last month one of its true believers became a Predator drone pilot, despite the program’s infancy.

    They want a global religious war between fundamentalists.

    …the university’s School of Aeronautics is headed by what appear to be accomplished retired military officers who share Falwell’s fundamentalist vision. Speaking in densely Christian rhetoric, Col. Marselus celebrates the selection of Liberty as a test and training site. “Despite this lump of clay that is talking right now, God has blessed us immensely,” he said. “All the glory and honor goes to him,” which reads a bit like the Christianist rendering of “Allahu Akbar.”

    And we think we’ve got problems. The influence of these quite mad religionists on Australian politics is discernable mostly, imho, in the sanctimonious self righteousness of the Liberals which appears to have roots in similar faith based thinking.

  17. Megan
    March 26th, 2015 at 12:56 | #17


    high turnover of drone staffers; something to do with self worth, it seems

    I read an article about it a few weeks ago suggesting that it went deeper than that (although being considered toy soldiers and glorified video gamers by their peers was mentioned).

    The idea was that they are also suffering from a kind of ‘remote PTSD’, which I think is a roundabout way of describing the normal human feelings of remorse and guilt for committing cold-blooded mass murder of unarmed innocent civilians on a daily basis.

  18. ZM
    March 26th, 2015 at 13:06 | #18


    “For anyone interested, there are some palm sunday protests arranged all over Australia this sunday against war and our treatment of refugees.”

    I’m sorry I can’t make the Palm Sunday marches this year due to other commitments, but I went to an interesting talk by the historian Joy Damousi the other night on Child Refugees and Australian Humanitarianism and Internationalism. She quoted Menzies a couple of times and his attitudes to refugees were much more ethical and compassionate than either LNP or ALP today — he acknowledge the moral issue and the importance of Australia remaining engaged and sympathetic with the world and troubles elsewhere.

    She started with the child refugees from the Armenian genocide some of who lived in refugee camps in Syria that there were Australian groups involved in fundraising for or giving aid in kind (e.g. ships of flour), and the children of the Spanish Civil War who were sponsored and so on.

    Something I had not heard before was that the high numbers of refugees from World War 2 actually were not fully resettled until 1968 (I think) in the International Year of the Refugee.

    Given numbers of refugees are back to WW2 levels now at over 50,000,000, and that experts predict that climate change will cause 250,000,000 people to be displaced as refugees by 2050, we need some sort of return to the humanitarianism and practical efforts of support of earlier times

  19. jungney
    March 26th, 2015 at 13:17 | #19

    I think that the bilateralism towards refugees in Australia, off the back of genuine if ignorant alarmism in the community about refugees, is a ‘dry run’ for the militarisation of immense numbers of ecological refugees arriving by boat in the near future. It pays to have a good, long hard look at those promoting panic and xenophobia. They are dangerous.

    Megan – yes, of course they’re getting PTSD responses to their banal experience of remote slaughter. I may have read the same article in which it was explained that the operators had clear vision of both before and after which frequently enough showed the mess and the mistakes.

  20. Fran Barlow
    March 26th, 2015 at 15:28 | #20

    @Salient Green

    I generally agree that we first worlders keep far too many pets. That said, as long as people are responsible and are willing to meet fully the physical and psychological needs of pets and ensure that they don’t upset the ecological balance, I see no reason not to allow people to have them.

    Declaration: I have four dogs and two cats. All of them are rescue animals. None were purchased from pet-shops or breeders.

    Sadly, in my experience, the above criterion is more often breached than met in my perception, to the detriment of pets and the ecosystem. The result is that we have significant problems controlling, in particular, cat populations and way too many abandoned dogs as well. If I had my way we would ban the marketing of animals in pet-shops (with the possible exception of tropical or decorative fish) and compel those seeking pets to deal with licensed breeders, who could not supply animals other than those that had been desexed, vaccinated and microchipped.

    Each female cat or dog could bear only one litter in a two-year period, and none would be permitted to become pregnant before the age of 2 years. Every breeder would be obliged to be responsible for every animal they sold for the full term of its natural life and would pay a contribution each month into an escrow account based on every animal they sold, so as to ensure that if they became insolvent another breeder could agist their animals including any returned by clients.

    Inevitably, this would greatly increase the cost of any animal, and discourage frivolous purchase. Speaking as someone long involved in managing the problems of abandoned domestic animals I see this as a huge win.

  21. Salient Green
    March 26th, 2015 at 19:48 | #21

    @Troy Prideaux
    I don’t quite agree there is a net positive benefit of pets but there could be if there was not a profit motive in the service of them. I well remember the fun I has as a kid playing with kittens but now I regard cats as an environmental disaster.
    Too often animals become the babysitters, the substitutes for human companionship, the entertainment for the shallow, the new fashion for the poseurs, the new toys for the intellectually bankrupt, the fan club for the insecure.
    At present there is no reining in of the pet fetish, no widespread, serious attempt to change the culture, to show in graphic detail how unwanted pets are destroyed and in what numbers, how the environment is affected, how the money could be better spent, how the time could be better spent.

  22. Salient Green
    March 26th, 2015 at 19:56 | #22

    @Fran Barlow
    Kudos to you for trying to make the best of a bad situation. Knowing you, the fact that they were rescued animals would be made known to all of your associates. I hope you would press the points I made about the consequences of pet ownership without fear or favour.

  23. Ivor
    March 27th, 2015 at 08:21 | #23


    Despite this big book, and clear evidence of deep injustice, our political keepers (Lib, Lab, Greens, Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives) will not lift a finger to do anything about it.

    They all expect capitalism to continue and boom times to return, when they make the necessary adjustments.

    The current test is the TTIP. This is necessary to maintain international capitalist flows of wealth and the health of corporations and penury for minimum wage workers.

    SYRIZA alone has taken a different tack.

    Georgios Katrougkalos, a former influential Syriza MEP who quit his European Parliament seat to become deputy minister for administrative reform in the leftist Greek government, said the new leadership in Athens will use its veto to kill the proposed trade pact – at least in its current form.

    depending how such a veto impacts the EU, this suggests that the most farsighted capitalists in the EU may be hoping that Greece exits.

  24. Donald Oats
    March 27th, 2015 at 13:26 | #24

    @Salient Green
    I’m glad that we had pets when I was growing up. I like cats on the whole, although there are a couple of dogs whose company I’ve appreciated. I can understand why some people are drawn to having pets around. Still, there is a significant cost, including an environmental one, and it is good to be aware of it before plunging into pet ownership.

    I have difficulty with people who treat pets as a discardable toy, something to dispose of when it becomes too much bother. Seems there are an awful lot of such people around, sadly. Another fad I hope dies a quick death is that of having apartment pets: cats and small dogs that are confined to a one or two bedroom apartment, rarely seeing the outdoors. If people don’t have the facilities to keep an animal like a cat or dog, then they really shouldn’t.

  25. Megan
    March 28th, 2015 at 00:33 | #25

    The indescribable scum that passes itself off as the “media” in Queensland has been keeping itself busy today repeating a headline and front page story from Murdoch’s monopoly Queensland “news” paper about an ALP MP who was behind on his CSA payments.

    The fact that he is indigenous is simply a bonus for the stridently, persistently and overtly racist Murdoch gutter press.

    Hardly anybody even hinted at the fact that the “source” of the story was Grant King. He was once the editor of Murdoch’s racist hate rag for FNQ – the Cairns Post. Lately he is famous for having been an LNP MP in Newman’s failed one-term attempt at accelerated fascism for the state of Queensland. Apparently we’re not quite ready for it!

    So, failed one-term fascist LNP ex-Murdoch stooge scumbag starts dodgy website and discloses details of CSA arrears (is that a crime? I’m not sure, but the law around that stuff is pretty strict. Maybe someone at News Ltd hacked into something – they have a history of that. Or maybe they paid an official to hand over confidential information? – they have a history of that too).

    But our “media” isn’t interested in that aspect of the “story”, bit too interesting obviously.

  26. Megan
    March 28th, 2015 at 00:38 | #26

    Not “Grant” but “Gavin” King is the failed LNP ex-Murdoch hack.

  27. Megan
    March 28th, 2015 at 00:53 | #27

    Also, Gavin King was trying to shop a “Biography Of Newman” to UQP and created a “media storm” recently because they rejected his proposal – they don’t accept unsolicited book ideas, but that didn’t stop our “media” from turning it into a “controversy”.

    We, as a nation, need to tell Murdoch and all his scum operatives to well and truly f*ck off.

  28. sdfc
    March 28th, 2015 at 01:09 | #28


    Let’s hope that now he has a well paid government job that he catches up on his child support payments. Parents shouldn’t dodge their responsibilities to their kids.

  29. Donald Oats
    March 28th, 2015 at 15:47 | #29

    David Ritter’s article on how science is sidelined in the political arena, and needs to be valued instead, is correct. But, how to achieve this? The current PM Tony Abbott takes climate science advice from a business advisor—who only this week gave a rant in the national rag on how climate scientists are in the employ of a shadowy world government movement that hates and wants to destroy capitalism, etc, etc. The PM is intransigent on admitting that climate scientists, indeed virtually all scientists whose work intersects with climate science, are pointing to a looming catastrophe of humanity’s own making. There is no getting past the obstacle here, except through voting the obstacle out of government. Unfortunately, that is only a necessary step, not a sufficient one; somehow, we need to have a party willing to step up and finish what the first Rudd government set out at the 2007 election, but calibrated to be consistent with climate science and what it is telling us. That second step is a doozy: Rudd was something of an outlier as a PM, not supported as strongly on the ETS and the specific CPRS as required; they had a difficult opposition, implacably opposed to everything the government put up.

    The latest scientific articles which examine the “de-icification” of Greenland and Antarctica reveal, as expected (by a significant number of climate scientists), that there are previously unknown—or unexplored—mechanisms by which this happens much faster than the IPCC reports capture to-date. There is a complex interplay between freshwater run-off and the adjacent oceans, for too much run-off can disrupt the deep water circulation of thermal energy. Paradoxically, this can cause cold spots, extreme record-breaking cold spots, to occur, even though the global average temperature is on an upward trajectory. In short, politicians, even those who agree with the basic facts outlined by IPCC work, are far too complacent with respect to the risks inherent in Anthropogenic Global Warming (i.e. AGW).

    Democracies that rely almost entirely on the opinions of lobby groups and local constituents for making decisions have ample opportunity to make Grand Fubar here. The real question is how to pare back the use of lobby firms and to get better direct access to scientific evidence and advice. Perhaps modern democracy is incapable of more informed thinking and decision making.

  30. jungney
    March 28th, 2015 at 18:26 | #30

    @Donald Oats
    Yes. It looks to me more and more that the tipping points thesis is likely accurate. We probably needn’t worry too much about proving the truth of climate science predictions so much as forming and finding ways to sustain networks of humanist rationalists over the next decade or so. The masses are about to receive a mass lesson the like of which will make two world wars seem like a social utopia. Beyond the next decade and a half the future is just a guess. An historically informed guess is why I chose to educate my kids, now adult, with transportable skills as musicians, martial arts training and meditation techniques to help them hold on in a deeply perilous future.

  31. Casey
    March 28th, 2015 at 19:18 | #31

    Relax folks, the Reverend Jim will be here with the Kool Aid in just a minute.

    Anthony Nolan, wait your turn.

  32. jungney
    March 28th, 2015 at 19:44 | #32

    This is stalking. Ref!

  33. Megan
    March 28th, 2015 at 21:11 | #33

    On current counting it looks like the NSW lower house is following the recent trend with the ALP/LNP duopoly losing seats to minor parties/independents and greens.

    It looks like the two biggest swings in the state, by far, are Ballina (30%) and Lismore (27%) both of which have gone from the LNP to the Greens – because of CSG/fracking.

  34. March 28th, 2015 at 23:46 | #34

    Salient Green and Donald Oats, let me try this first paragraph of Donald’s, slightly changed:

    I’m glad that I ate meat when I was growing up. I like meat on the whole, although there are a couple of vegetables I’ve appreciated. I can understand why some people are drawn to eating meat. Still, there is a significant cost, including an environmental one, and it is good to be aware of it before plunging into carnivorism.

    The single biggest threat to the Australian environment is humans, and our habits. Our pets come a very distant second. In terms of policy priorities they should be treated accordingly. If we care about the Australian environment we should be dealing with agriculture and meat eating. Councils that have put huge efforts into controlling cat behavior are wasting resources that could be devoted to much more important environmental issues.

    It’s interesting to note that the Greens are stealing seats from the Nats. Perhaps people are starting to realize that agriculture needs to be reformed …

  35. Megan
    March 28th, 2015 at 23:46 | #35

    The ALP won the latest Unpopularity Contest, in NSW, narrowly.

    It’s getting harder each time to pick the most unpopular of the duopoly on offer.

  36. Ikonoclast
    March 29th, 2015 at 06:01 | #36


    Liberal and Labor are the two wings of the Capitalist Party in Australia. In the US the two wings of the Capitalist Party are Democrats and Republicans. In Britain, the two wings of the Capitalist Party are Conservative and Labour. In France, the two wings of the Capitalist Party are the Socialist Party (!) and the Union for a Popular Movement.

    A noticeable pattern is that the Capitalist Party never calls itself by its true name but has double proxies in each nation to do its bidding.

    Some Marxists wrote this in 2008. It’s interesting how accurate their predictions were;

    “In the face of spreading economic crisis and the interminable horror of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, millions across the United States and billions across the globe hope the current presidential elections will bring them relief.

    The bitter truth is that those hopes will be dashed. Despite their differences, the Republicans’ John McCain and the Democrats’ Barack Obama share a common loyalty to the capitalist system and to the interests of the American imperialist ruling class in particular. They can offer the working-class and poor people of the world only more wars, oppression and exploitation.”

    A very accurate prediction!

  37. Ron E Joggles
    March 29th, 2015 at 08:08 | #37

    I know the MP concerned and he is an intelligent and energetic man. I can’t see why his name shouldn’t be mentioned here – Billy Gordon.

    I suspect Gavin King’s source for the unpaid maintenance story was Gordon’s former partner, and was published in his online “news” site, Gavin’s attempt at generating income to replace a Parliamentary salary. Likely to fail quite soon, in my opinion. Gavin King was never more than a Bolt-like Murdoch hack, a blow-in from the deep south and always regarded as a newcomer, elected in the LNP landslide despite his personal unlikability. Cairns was always going back to Labor.

    Billy Gordon has quite rightly been dragged over the coals by the Premier and has released a statement detailing an extensive history of offences. As a Northerner of mature age and long-term friendships with indigenous people, I view Billy’s criminal record as quite unremarkable, even close to inevitable, for an Aboriginal man of his generation.

    Having run off the rails a couple of times myself, 45 years ago, I all too easily appreciate how difficult it is for Aboriginal men to find their way to a conventional life in a society that throws so many obstacles in their way. Among a hundred or so Aboriginal men I can think of, I struggle to find more than 1 or 2 who have not fallen foul of the law in their youth, most several or numerous times.

  38. Salient Green
    March 29th, 2015 at 08:32 | #38

    I totally agree that Humans are THE environmental problem. Domestic cats however consume more fish per capita than humans. Then there are the millions of native species eaten by domestic and feral cats. Dogs too are fed with a very high protein diet so describing pets as a “distant second” to a larger environmental problem doesn’t really help.
    Besides, the environmental aspect is only one of many negatives of pet ownership, just as pet ownership is only one of the many negatives Humans are having on the environment.

  39. Ron E Joggles
    March 29th, 2015 at 08:51 | #39

    Your concerns about meat eating are apparently environmental – with good reason – but to dispose of the dietetic issues first: humans evolved on a diet of meat and veges (fruits, nuts, roots and leaves), with cereal grains providing very little of the hunter-gatherer diet. The predominant problematic feature of the modern diet is the enormous over-reliance on foods manufactured from grain. The hunter-gatherer diet remains the best diet for humans.

    An artificial grain diet is as bad for ruminants as it is for people, and tender fatty beef from feedlots is inferior to grass-fed beef from our rangelands.

    As a CYP landholder, I share your concern about the environmental consequences of grazing across northern Australia – our properties are managed primarily as nature reserves, but eliminating cattle is virtually impossible. Anecdotal evidence from cattlemen (long since dead) indicates that the Peninsula was heavily grassed and well watered when grazing began in the 1880’s. The impact of hooved animals and the loss of traditional Aboriginal management has resulted in annual disastrous hot burns, destruction of the soil, erosion of flats and the consequent loss of subsoil water, and the silting of streams that formerly had stable deep waterholes.

    The difficulty is coming up with alternative management regimes and alternative economies.

    Ecotourism is attractive but has limited opportunity for growth in a failing world economy.

    The country has to be managed, but will Governments be prepared to fund conservation management across vast areas of the north? And how can we compensate those communities that derive their income from the grazing industry, let alone find something else they can or are willing to do?

    We are stuck with open-range grazing across the north for the time being, and probably live export too. I see little likelihood of improvement before the environmental and economic consequences of global warming result in the abandonment of grazing country in our northern inland.

  40. Ron E Joggles
    March 29th, 2015 at 12:12 | #40

    I know what I think of this, and I can pretty much guess what other regulars will think, but the reason I mention it is that ever since hearing that – I haven’t been able to get that song out of my head: “We’ll Make Great Pets” from the 1990s band I dare not try to mention the name of for fear of eternal moderation.

    I love that song! During the school holidays, working in the school office, I had some favourites playing on Youtube, including “Pets” by Por## for Pyr## – then suddenly thought “I hope that doesn’t ring any alarm bells in a public service office.” Apparently not.

    Dogs and cats are good pets because they fit well into human relationships. I don’t think native animals (apart from dingos) would make great pets.

    I like dogs – that’s why I don’t own one. A dog has to have a job. If it’s left alone while it’s “family” goes to work and school, it is going to be very unhappy and probably a nuisance to neighbours. And I’d be happy to see all cats eliminated from our country, but that’s not going to happen.

    CSIRO researchers visiting our CYP property found that the guts of feral cats contained diverse small mammals, reptiles and birds. I don’t think there is any realistic prospect of saving our remaining small native animals from extinction.

  41. Ron E Joggles
    March 29th, 2015 at 12:18 | #41

    Doh! The first para of the preceding comment is a quote from Megan, above at #9. Obviously I haven’t mastered quoting a small excerpt from a longish comment. And there doesn’t appear to be any way to edit a comment. Sorry!

  42. March 29th, 2015 at 12:20 | #42

    Salient Green, 5 seconds on google shows me that your second sentence is wrong, taken from Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd fame. In fact the estimated proportions of forage fish consumed are:

    Aquaculture 44%
    Poultry 23%
    Pigs 18%
    Fur animals+non-feline pets 7%
    Cats 6%

    I think it’s safe to say that 0% of the damage being done to the great barrier reef is being done by cats, the majority being due to mining and agriculture. So really, domestic animals are not exactly the worst thing affecting the environment now, and if we want to improve the health of marine environments, the best way to achieve the least improvements is to focus on the environmental damage done by cats rather than humans.

  43. Donald Oats
    March 29th, 2015 at 14:19 | #43

    While I do eat meat, it is a very small portion of my diet, and I could easily live without it. I could have lived without pets in my life too, but that would have been an impoverished youth. If you are fortunate enough to be brought up on a farm, or near a nature reserve, animals are generally nearby; in the city, not so much.

    If we shifted away from meat-based diets, we would make a difference in terms of the environmental impact; if we figured out that a relentless upward trajectory of population growth is a problem, then we could make an even bigger difference by reining in our population growth, and perish the thought—aim for decreasing our population. Instead, we have politicians parading with pride the immigration of 400,000 people per annum into Australia, and panicking over the growth of the elderly as a drag on the economy. Australia cannot handle the current immigration rate without serious decline in our major cities, because we a) seem incapable of providing the necessary infrastructure at that rate; and b) have no good way of encouraging immigrants to shift to the smaller cities and towns throughout the interior of the country. We sprawl along the arable lands, and we sprawl along the coastlines. Eventually, sprawl will lead to wasteland suburbs, suburbs you only dare enter if you are in the gang, or in the culture, or a cop, or all of the afore-mentioned.

    Finally, feral cats are a serious menace to native wildlife, no doubt about it. The extent of that menace isn’t easy to measure for many reasons, the cat being a sneaky, intelligent, solitary predator doesn’t help things. Still, the fox and the cane toad are up there as serious menaces to native wildlife as well. The rabbit well and truly made a mess of things, and despite best efforts, they are still a menace. The “buffalo”, feral camels, feral goats, and numerous other imported species are menacing our native wildlife still. The European carp has had profound impact upon our interior waterways; the Murray cod lost that battle. The common element? Humans are the ultimate cause of all these negativities, having introduced every one of these species. And the repeat offender of the feral menace award? Humans themselves an introduced species, modern Europeans being quite the environmental wrecking ball, with plenty of help from the rest of the tribes of humanity.

  44. March 29th, 2015 at 15:04 | #44

    Fortunately fashion has come to the rescue Donald: apparently scrunchies can save birds without interfering in a cat’s ability to kill mice. Brilliant!

  45. jungney
    March 29th, 2015 at 16:49 | #45

    @Donald Oats
    It’s not worth it. To my recall, back in the early 1900’s in the US, a nativist argued for the eradication of cats in North America. He was utterly defeated by the cat lobby whose madness is better described by contemporary science as infected human consciousness .

    Cats, those adorable killers of native animals: … check out the size of the ginger tom in the photo featuring the army guy slinging a beast over his shoulder.

    Cute kittie, my *rse.

    Half a tin of sardines and eight tabs of Panadol, mushed up, equals no ferals round where I live.

  46. Salient Green
    March 29th, 2015 at 17:21 | #46

    You make a good point about the fish consumed by some of the animals we eat. Just a pity you had to introduce it with snarkiness. The per capita consumption of fish by cats in Australia is 13.7kg whilst the per capita consumption of fish by humans is 11kg.
    Clearly, when we eat creatures fed with fish we are indirectly consuming fish, just as we indirectly consume grass and insects and the dead bodies of other animals and chemicals and fungi etc when we consume anything at all.

  47. jungney
    March 29th, 2015 at 17:45 | #47

    The only meat I eat is roadkill. Read ‘Hooks Mountain’ to find out what that means. Big tyres equal more kill of wallabies, possums, snakes and goannas. I like cats but I can’t finish a whole one.

  48. Salient Green
    March 29th, 2015 at 18:48 | #48

    “I like cats but I can’t finish a whole one”. Best you don’t. Eight panadol would fix any headache but not good for the liver.

  49. March 29th, 2015 at 19:08 | #49

    “The cat lobby.” WTF?

    Salient Green, cats weigh 10% of what humans weigh, there are less domestic cats than humans, and they live only 1/6 as long, but you think they eat more fish? As I said, I googled it, I found a research paper, the research paper doesn’t support your findings.

    Nice to see that jungney and Salient Green have taken the high road of laughing about killing people’s pets. Stay classy boys.

    Nice also to see this simple and effective political strategy being adopted: I won’t stop eating meat to protect the environment, but I will demand that other people stop owning pets to protect the environment.

    How is that going to seriously lead to change?

  50. ZM
    March 29th, 2015 at 19:36 | #50

    This article cites research from Deakin University that concurs with the figures provided above saying that annually cats in Australia on average eat more fish than humans:

    “Calculations by Deakin University researchers show an estimated 2.48 million tonnes of forage fish are used each year by the global cat food industry.

    Leading this fishy business is the US, where more than 1.1 million tonnes of small forage fish, including sardines, herrings and anchovies, go into cat food.

    Across Europe the figure is close to 870,000 tonnes, while almost 34,000 tonnes of the increasingly limited biological resource was imported into Australia each year to satisfy feline appetites.

    Fish nutrition researcher Giovanni Turchini described the findings as “a real eye-opener”. They reveal the extent to which fish suitable for human consumption goes into cat food.

    Each cat in Australia eats 13.7 kilograms of fish a year, while humans on average consume about 11 kilograms of fish and seafood each.”

    Source :

    I am divided on the issue of pets. I don’t have one at the moment but having a pet is very companionable. On the other hand the pets are separated from their families and can be isolated at home. When I was young I had a friend who was having a bit of a difficult time and was at home a lot and getting a pet then meant all the world to her, but when she started working and was out a lot the pet was lonely and then the vet put him on animal antidepressants for some time.

    About native animals as pets — when I was young I often wished I could have a wallaby as a pet because they are not too big and not too small and also don’t eat meat. But I am not sure wallabies would like being pets much. You could try to encourage more of a wildlife presence in towns and cities with many green wildlife corridors and parks so they were more friendly and also traversable for native animals (now possums can get stuck in a particular park and overpopulate it) and good for human wellbeing and cooling in summer — but working out how to keep wild animals in the green corridors and parks and away from traffic would be difficult.

  51. Salient Green
    March 29th, 2015 at 19:58 | #51

    How is that going to seriously lead to change?

    Those owning pets may actually be at an advantage should some short term catastrophe occur. Our first peoples would sometimes break a leg or two of their dogs/dingos to prevent them absconding before they were needed as food. This is one of the harsh realities of survival where meat, as a concentrated form of nutrition, was so important to Humans, still is and will be for evermore.

  52. Megan
    March 29th, 2015 at 20:13 | #52

    @Ron E Joggles

    Re: your comment #37

    I see the ALP has decided to burn Billy Gordon.

    The premier has organized for him to be thrown out of the ALP and has called on him to quit parliament. She says he was “dishonest” with her. That point is debatable. In the context of a smear job in News Ltd from an LNP operative about CSA payments and ATO issues, he was asked “is there anything else I need to know”, according to Palasczuk he said “no”.

    Far from a cut and dried “lie”. She asked an ambiguous question in the context of personal financial affairs and is now sacking him for a relatively bland criminal and traffic history all of which is more than 7 years old, and most of which is closer to 20 years old.

    Under the Parliament of Queensland Act 2001, section 64(2), there are issues around prior criminal convictions that disqualify a person from being able to hold office. None of those disqualifying factors come anywhere near Billy Gordon’s situation and therefore he has every right to remain in his seat.

    The ALP’s treatment of this man at the behest of the hateful, racist slime from News Ltd is shameful. They should have stood by him.

    I’d like him to remain as an independent but I’m afraid the ALP machine will put some very heavy force on him to quit. It will serve them right if the by-election delivers government to Springborg.

  53. March 29th, 2015 at 20:29 | #53

    ZM, I used J Agric Environ Ethics (2008) 21:459–467. It reports global consumption. I guess it’s possible that Australians are catastrophically low fish consumers but I doubt it.

    Salient Green, we’re a long time removed from having to lame our cats and dogs because of food security. Do you have any evidence that Aborigines actually domesticated dingos?

  54. Megan
    March 29th, 2015 at 22:19 | #54

    According to Billy Gordon’s statement (and given he is 40 years old), here are the heinous crimes for which he should quit parliament (along with my added comments on age etc.):

    • Breaking entering and stealing in 1987 in Innisfail – when he would have been aged 12.
    • Breaking and entering with intent, attempted breaking and entering and stealing in 1990 in Atherton – aged 15.
    • Breach of probation in 1992 in Atherton – aged 17.
    • Public nuisance in 1996 in Normanton – aged 21.
    • Breach of bail conditions in 1999 (stemming from not attending a court summons from the 1996 incident) – aged 24.

    In addition I have twice had my driver’s licence suspended for unlicensed driving (2004 and 2008).

    Finally, in 2008 I was served with an Apprehended Violence Order as a result of a complaint by my mother – an AVO is a valuable preventative and precautionary tool which, quite rightly, requires no findings of “guilt” on the person the subject of the order, often the circumstances are disputed but the point is to keep two people apart regardless of the facts and it is completely proper that no further conclusions should be drawn from the simple fact that an AVO existed.

  55. Ikonoclast
    March 30th, 2015 at 00:00 | #55


    The ALP is totally morally corrupt just like the LNP (as you say all the time and I happen to agree) so why care about any ALP politician’s career?

  56. Megan
    March 30th, 2015 at 00:45 | #56


    Fair point. But….

    so why care about any ALP politician’s career?

    I couldn’t care less about any ALP politician’s career. The problem in this case is racism.

    News Ltd is openly, proudly and militantly racist. The ALP (proud inventors of the ‘White Australia Policy’) have a very long history of racism.

    As you correctly note, I hate the ALP/LNP duopoly entirely. But, it is worth noting that one of the very first indigenous politicians elected in Australia was in that seat, Cook (Eric Deeral, in about 1974. He was Country Party).

    I have no definitive proof of racism (of course), but let’s imagine a scenario as follows:

    A good old white boy from a very establishment Labor Queensland family gets some history dredged up by an LNP operative, also a News Ltd stooge, and it gets a run in the News Ltd press – not when they first got hold of it, but when it could be used with the most leverage to enforce or test the News Ltd control over the ALP.

    In that case, I have no doubt that the ALP would talk bravely about supporting people who have had a rough start in life and have made bad mistakes but have then come good after working hard to improve themselves, and how everyone deserves a second chance after they have accepted their punishment for the bad things they have done. They would go further, of course, pointing out that the source of the smear was not only a one-term bitter LNP stooge but also that he was a Murdoch tool. They would question the integrity of such attacks…. and so on. I’m sure you can picture the rest.

    As with the swathe of NSW LNP crooks whose punishment for adverse mentions at ICAC was a brief stint on the cross-bench as “Independents”, compare the usual treatment of dodgy characters from both sides in Qld.

    If we’re seeing a new standard of “zero tolerance” across the board on a bi-partisan basis in Qld I’ll eat every single hat at this year’s Melbourne Cup.

  57. Jordan
    March 30th, 2015 at 06:54 | #57

    “Australia has decided to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which would allow Australia to become a founding member of the bank, said a statement released by Prime Minister Tony Abbott Sunday morning.”

    Et tu, Oz?

    Also UK did it earlier:

  58. David Irving (no relation)
    March 30th, 2015 at 12:05 | #58

    The dingoes came over with one of the waves of human migration – my recollection is that they arrived about 20K years ago, but I may be mistaken. So, yes, they were domesticated (much like the dogs native Americans kept).

  59. jungney
    March 30th, 2015 at 15:10 | #59

    @David Irving (no relation)
    There is a claim that dingos originated in China some 10,000 years ago and arrived here via the land bridge leaving behind a smaller relative, New Guinea singing dog. Recently, he dingo has been given its own species status, recognising that it is not descended from dogs or wolves.

    As to their domestic status among Aboriginal people, Watkin Tench wrote in Ch XI of ‘The Expediction to Botany Bay’:

    The only domestic animal they have is the dog, which in their language is called Dingo, and a good deal resembles the fox dog of England. These animals are equally shy of us, and attached to the natives. One of them is now in the possession of the Governor, and tolerably well reconciled to his new master. As the Indians see the dislike of the dogs to us, they are sometimes mischievous enough to set them on single persons whom they chance to meet in the woods. A surly fellow was one day out shooting, when the natives attempted to divert themselves in this manner at his expense. The man bore the teazing and gnawing of the dog at his heels for some time, but apprehending at length, that his patience might embolden them to use still farther liberties, he turned round and shot poor Dingo dead on the spot: the owners of him set off with the utmost expedition.

  60. Ron E Joggles
    April 1st, 2015 at 05:04 | #60

    I agree entirely. The Premier has overreacted to the current hypercritical political atmosphere where both sides of Parliament are constantly seeking evidence of impropriety.

    As Noel Pearson said, they have thrown him under a bus. I’m on the verge of resigning my membership.

    If they don’t approve the Mt Emerald wind farm, that will be the last straw.

  61. Ron E Joggles
    April 1st, 2015 at 05:12 | #61

    The dingo may be distinctive enough to warrant it’s own species, but nevertheless has the same origin as hunter-gatherer companion dogs in eastern Asia and New Guinea, and ultimately dogs generally. Aboriginal informants 50 years ago told my father that their custom was to allow their female dingo to whelp where she chose, usually leaving her behind when they moved camp, knowing she’d be there on their return, and would then eat most of the pups, keeping a couple for the next generation.

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