While we are on the subject of charitable giving, a reader has sent in a link to the Giving one percent website of a non-profit group trying to create a culture of charitable giving. Well worth a visit!
It’s been a while since we’ve had a fundraiser here, but a great opportunity has just come up. I’ll be attempting a half-marathon as part of the Brisbane Running Festival on 7 August, and there’s an associated fundraiser for the Queensland Cancer Council, which promotes research, awareness and support services. So, I’ve created a webpage for my effort here, where you can donate money (before June 30 if you want to claim it in this year’s tax return!).
A good fundraiser needs a good gimmick, so here goes. I completed my first half-marathon run a week ago, in a time of 1:59:24, staying just ahead of the 2:00:00 pacerunner (someone who runs with a balloon or flag at a steady pace so others can keep pace) the whole time. I was pretty tired and sore by the time I finished – it’s not what you would call a fun run! This time, I want a commitment device to push me to run at 1:55 (or even better!). So, for each $1000 I can raise before race day, I’ll commit my best effort to stay a minute ahead of the 2:00:00 pacerunner. If I can raise $5000, I’ll run at the 1:55 pace as long as I can. And, if there’s $10 000, I’ll try for 1:50, which will really push me to the limit.
I’ll start the ball rolling by promising to give $200 for each minute below 2:00 hours. So, you only need to give $800 to push my time down.
This is a great chance for everyone. If you enjoy the free commentary I’ve provided, please say thanks by giving whatever you can afford. If I’ve annoyed you, toss some money into the pot, and you can enjoy a Sunday morning lie-in thinking about me struggling to keep a punishing pace (at least for a middle-aged academic) over 21.1 km.
I’ll provide regular updates, and thanks to contributors, except for those who prefer to give anonymously.
fn1. I also did one in 2010, but I had to walk a fair bit, so I don’t think it counts.
fn2. No guarantees, as I’ll slow down if I’m feeling knee damage, but I’ll do my best to push on through exhaustion.
At afternoon tea yesterday, one of my colleagues raised the point that, particularly in Europe, the prefix neo- is automatically taken to be pejorative, with neo-liberal as the obvious illustration. It struck us that the corresponding, positively weighted prefix is post- , as in post-Keynesian, post-Communist and so on. 
My thought on this is it reflects an underlying progressivist assumption, shared even by many people who would reject explicit claims about historical progress. Given this assumption “post-X” is good, since it represents an advance on X, while “neo-X” is bad since it represents a reversion to X, implying the existence of some Y which must be post-X.
Feel free to provide counterexamples, contrary explanations and so on.
I’m still on the other side of the planet, but the news from Brisbane is bad and seems to be getting worse. Fortunately, my family and I are all out of harm’s way. Unfortunately, that’s meant we’ve suffered a fair bit of property damage, and won’t be able to do anything about it for some time. I’ll probably be off-air for a while. We’ve had some very successul appeals for help in relation to past disasters here, but I’m not in a position to run one this time. Feel free to use this thread for offers of help to those affected, and any useful insights. Please, no pointscoring or social/political debates – there will be time for that later on.
This is a sandpit for people who want to
(a) argue about the efficacy of specific road safety interventions
(b) record their status as believers (with or without qualification) in the libertarian/conservative orthodoxy that climate change is a hoax/fraud/unsupported hypothesis.
I’d request no responses to those in category (b). They are, in my view, beyond help, and there are plenty of sites pointing out their errors if they want to look.
Well, 2010 is over and it’s been a year of contradictions for me. In personal and family terms, things have gone very well, starting with the birth of my first grandson, James in March. Then there’s my literary offspring Zombie Economics, which seems to be going very well, and my election as a Fellow of the Econometric Society (quite a big deal in the academic circles where I move, if not exactly a barbecue-stopper among family and friends in general).
Politically on the other hand, it’s been a year of frustration.
It is too early to say much about this latest tragedy, but I wanted to mark it.
A moving post on marriage rights from reader and occasional CT commenter Tim Scriven.
The floods in Pakistan never produced a dramatic moment like the Boxing Day tsunami. And one flood looks much like another on TV, so it’s hard to comprehend the scale of this disaster. But it is truly one of the worst in recent history, worse even the tsunami in terms of the destruction it has wrought, though not for immediate loss of life. There’s some more information here from Oxfam.
James Farrell ran an election-tipping exercise at Club Troppo, which raised $1150 ($250 from me). I haven’t thought of a gimmick (suggestions appreciated) but I hope we can raise at least as much here. Please give to your favorite charity and record it in the comments box. If you’re shy, email me with the details and I’ll add you to the list as “an anonymous reader”
I’m moving this back up to the top. The disaster is still going on, and help is urgently needed
It’s hard to say anything good about this election campaign, but it is a trivial problem compared to the disaster afflicting Pakistan. To get something good out of this horse-race, James Farrell has organized a tipping competition, with proceeds going to flood relief. Get over, make a prediction and pledge some money.
Open for your thoughts on mothers and motherhood, reminiscences, and so on.
On this day, nearly 100 years ago, thousands of young Australians and New Zealanders ran on to the beaches of Gallipoli. Many of them died before the day was out, along with many more among the Turkish defenders and troops from Britain, Canada and many other places. By the time the campaign ended in failure, over 100 000 were dead and hundreds of thousands more severely wounded. A small toll by comparison with the main Western and Eastern fronts, but quite sufficiently horrific to be remembered a century later.
The Anzacs had no quarrel with the Turkish soldiers who were trying to kill them, nor did the people of Australia and New Zealand have any quarrel with those of Turkey. Their bravery and their lives were expended in the course of a bloody and pointless war between alliances of which the armies fighting at Gallipoli were tiny parts, over pretexts no one alive now, and very few at the time, could comprehend as the basis for a cataclysmic war.
By the time the Gallipoli attack was planned, the dreams of rapid and glorious victory that had led both sides to war had drowned in the mud of France and Flanders. It should have been obvious that this was a war no one could win. But, a peace that restored the status quo ante would mean an admission that it had all been for nothing.
Instead, the war planners kept coming up with futile strategic ideas like Gallipoli, secret weapons like poison gas, and new tactics previously considered unthinkable such as submarine attacks, without warning, on merchant shipping. By the time of the armistice in 1918, ten million or more had died, and the seeds of future wars had been sowed.
For all those who died, bravely following their country’s call to unknown battlefields, lest we forget.
We just returned from Sydney where we saw our first grandchild, James, now two weeks old. (I’ll skip all the doting grandparent stuff, but other grandfathers and grandmothers can fill it in for themselves). It’s striking to think that he could easily be around in 2100 and, given plausible advances in medical technology, well beyond that.
When we (that is, middle-aged and older people) talk about the effects (good and bad) of our actions on “future generations”, it’s worth remembering that young people now alive will experience those effects long after we are gone.
As in past years, Nicholas Gruen is organising a group subscription to Crikey. Check it out here
Also, in yesterday’s Fin, Geoffrey Barker accused Abbott of going for the bogan vote (paywalled), where bogan is taken to mean ignorant. Leaving aside the class/cultural analysis implicit in the term “bogan”, which I think is wrong, the argument is the same as I made in my post on agnotology, as his characterization of Rudd as a technocrat, not really at ease with the kind of politics that includes demands for authenticity and so on. Coming back to “bogan”, the big issue in agnotology is not ignorance in the ordinary sense of the term (people who don’t know much about political issues, and don’t care to learn – that is certainly part of the stereotypical bogan image, and may perhaps be descriptive of the actual demographic groups commonly associated with the term, though I don’t know of any evidence of this).
The ignorance associated with climate change delusionism and other rightwing factoids is metacognitive and has much more to do with the Dunning-Kruger effect of overestimating one’s own competence. The classic example is the kind of person who eagerly circulates reports that there has been no statistically significant warming since 1995. The only information content in such a report is that the person doing the reporting doesn’t understand the concept of statistical significance, and therefore is incapable of assessing any issue involving statistical analysis, of which climate change is a prime example.
The stereotypical candidate, in relation to climate change, is that of a 50+ male with a business background in engineering or some similar field where practical judgement is accorded more value than theoretical expertise, and where a willingness to push on regardless is an important element of success. Journalists and opinion columnists, accustomed to “mastering a brief” at short notice are also highly susceptible – lawyers who may actually have to master briefs involving technical issues seem mostly to recognise that this is the kind of problem where expert judgement is required, as does the more sensible kind of economist
fn1. Note for pedants. A Bayesian statistician would say that confusion over the concept of significance reflects the logical problems of the concept and the underlying classical theory of statistics. But that only makes sloppy misuse of the concept even worse. I’ll have more to say on this soon, I hope.
fn2. A demographic group to which I belong
fn3. This one, too.
fn4. This one, too, I hope.
The Haiti earthquake looks to be one of the worst natural disasters in recent years. Lots of aid agencies will be involved in rescue and recovery efforts, but I’ll mention PLAN International which has been active in Haiti for a long time.
Remember also that, while earthquakes and tsunamis rivet our attention, hunger and disease are cutting lives short every day. Give what you can, whenever you can, to help.
However you celebrate, or even if you don’t, I wish all my readers a Merry Xmas. I’ll be back in the New Year, and wish everyone a great 2010.
There are lots of tragic scenes from the tsunami and earthquakes that have affected so many of our neighbours, and the terrible typhoon and floods in Manila. You can help by giving more generously than usual to the development charity of your choice. Here is a link to an appeal by CARE. ????? ?????? ???
Tigtog at LP points to a study showing that involvement with Facebook, MSN and so on has increased the textual skills of young people, including not just “good writing” but the ability to adapt style to an imagined readership that varies in different context. I was banging on about this last millennium.
Tigtog finishes with a really last-millennium question? “Does anybody here still do lots of handwriting?”.
For those who don’t recall, “handwriting” was a method of producing text, popular in the second millennium, in which, rather than using a keyboard or pointer to produce letters, you used an ink-dispenser to draw each letter in succession. There was a version of this called “cursive” or “script” in which, rather than drawing the letters separately, they were all run together. This was much faster to produce, but, as I recall, almost impossible to read unless done by a real expert. I can still do a very inexpert version of the letter-by-letter method, which was called “printing” (nothing to do with real printing, but the result, done well, looked a bit like printed text).
Quite a while ago, I raised a question about the practical implications of the “rapture” doctrine, held by large numbers of evangelicals.
Do they install automatic watering systems for their gardens and arrange for unsaved neighbours to feed the cat? Or do they just pay into their IRAs as if they expect the world to last forever?
Now it appears, some enterprising atheists have set up a service addressing one of the problems I raised. In the event of rapture, they guarantee that , assured of being left behind, they will look after the pets of those who are taken up. (video here)
I’ll be appearing tomorrow (virtually, via Skype) at this event which promises (and may well help to deliver!)
Thousands of years of heritage at your fingertips
Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums and Wikimedia:
Finding the Common Ground
6-7 August 2009, Australian War Memorial, Canberra
More details here
Meanwhile, in meatspace, I’m speaking tomorrow and Friday at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies symposium Securing Coral Reef Futures on 6th and 7th August in Brisbane at Customs House. There’s a public event on Friday evening
I tried to ignore it, but Employment Services Minister Mark Arbib’s resurrection of the (Tony Abbott?) “job snobs” line has turned into yet another tiresome round of the generation game. This time it’s Generation Y who are copping the flak for being “Generation Lazy”, a collection of job-hoppers and dole bludgers.
How many times must these cannonballs fly? Arbib (born 1971) was barely out of nappies when the phrase “dole bludgers” was coined and applied to the unemployed members of Generation Jones (the younger boomers who missed out on the fun of the 60s), a group to which I briefly belonged. That continued right through the late 1970s, and into the recession of the early 1980s. And even before that, the older boomers had been routinely labelled as work-shy hippies.
The recession of the 1990s hit all groups of the population, with older workers suffering even more than youth. Still, the old cliches were dragged out and applied to Gen X-ers (remember the Paxtons?)
Now the economy has soured again, and Gen X bosses and pollies are kicking their Gen Y subordinates. If the slowdown drags on as long as I expect, it will be the turn of Gen Z/Millennial/Potter before long.
As I said back in 2000
Much of what passes for discussion about the merits or otherwise of particular generations is little more than a repetition of unchanging formulas about different age groups Ð the moral degeneration of the young, the rigidity and hypocrisy of the old, and so on.
You couldn’t get a better example than the latest round of recycled cliches.
I gave two talks yesterday, one in Wollongong and one in Parramatta, about different aspects of the financial crisis. In both cases, my initial destination was the corner of Church and Market Streets and the person who had organised my trip was taken ill and couldn’t attend the talk. By this morning, I was a bit confused as to my location and status.
I was willing to believe a headline stating that Biblical knowledge is in decline, but after looking at the story, I think the decline must be located somewhere else. It starts off by observing that
Forty per cent did not know that the tradition of exchanging Christmas presents originated from the story of the Wise Men bringing gifts for the infant Jesus
I’ll confess to being among the 40 per cent before I read the story, and remaining among them afterwards. Let’s leave aside the observations that the custom of midwinter giftgiving almost certainly predates Christianity, and has nothing to do with Christianity in the religious sense of the term. Even in the fictional universe of what might be called folk Christianity I didn’t (and don’t) believe that this claim is canonical. There seem to be all sorts of stories to account for Chrissy presents – the one I would have offered unprompted relates to Saint Nicholas, a prototypical Father Christmas figure.
Then there’s the observation that only one in 20 can name all ten commandments. Maybe I’m wrong, but I suspect if you popped this question up to a bench of bishops with no notice, and required the commandments to be given promptly and in order, you’d get a fair few failures, though maybe not as amusing as this one
I’m back on deck, sort of, after the Budget lockup in Canberra on Tuesday. The event was quite an experience, though maybe not one I’d choose to do every year. It started with a scrum in one of the big halls in Parliament House where the assembled journos +me gathered to await our chance to look at the Budget paper. Then we were sorted into committee rooms, some equipped with elaborate preinstalled computer networks (AAP for example) and some with one power cord for two computers (Crikey!).
In case any readers are medical practitioners, I’d like to alert them to this startling story. Apparently Merck and Elsevier have produced something called the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine which looks like a peer-reviewed journal but is actually a marketing exercise for Merck. If you receive any marketing material citing this “journal” you should consign it to the circular file, and consider whether it is sensible to prescribe medicines that need such snake-oil tactics in their marketing.
This is utterly inexcusable, and no-one involved can retain any credibility in either academic or medical terms. Following on from the arms fair fiasco
a while back, this exercise is forcing me to consider, again whether publishing in Elsevier journals can be justified.
Anzac day was not a big one in our family. My father, who served in New Guinea, was never keen to talk about it. Both my grandfathers, who were in the Great War, were much the same as far as I can remember – one never fully recovered from being gassed. But it’s important to remember and honour all those who risked, and often gave, their lives in answer to calls made in all our names.
For as long as anyone who took part survived, their memories on Anzac Day and similar occasions served to remind us what a tragic disaster was the Gallipoli expedition, and indeed the whole Great War. Now that we have to rely on the words of those who have passed, Bert Facey’s wonderful book, A Fortunate Life is one of the best.
Now that the Anzacs, and most of the survivors of 1939-35, are gone, I hope that we can remember their sacrifice and do our best to end the wars that still cause so much grief and suffering around the world.
I’ve spent a very enjoyable Easter Weekend at the National Folk Festival in Canberra . Lots of great music (longer post if there’s interest) but a very pleasant surprise was listening to Warren Fahey and the Larrikins, when Warren launched into one of my songs. It’s old, but the theme is, as it were, evergreen.
I’ve been thinking about the impact of the financial crisis on retirement income policy and individual strategies, and have come up with a reasonably simple way (I hope) to illustrate the core problem. Pre-crisis, it seemed reasonable to base a retirement strategy on the idea that a long-term investor, focusing on stocks could average a 7 per cent real return over 30 years, with relatively little risk. Now it’s clear that assumption has been proved wrong for lots of people. So it seems reasonable to ask how retirement strategy would look if, instead, you assumed a 2 per cent real return (what you might get with a portfolio of government bonds and the safest stocks).
To answer this question, we can use the magic of compound interest. At 7 per cent, money doubles in 10 years (the rule of 70), so a dollar invested today will be worth 8 dollars in thirty years time. That means someone with a stable real income, who starts saving 10 per cent of their income at age 25 and retires 30 years later at age 55, with a further life expectation of 30 years, can retire on 80 per cent of their pre-retirement income, as compared to 90 per cent net of saving in the working years. Quite attractive!
At 2 per cent, though, money doubles in 35 years. To get a more less stable consumption stream you need to change the balance above by a factor of four. A simple way to do this is to double contributions, to 20 per cent of income and shift the work-retirement balance, so that you work from 25 to 65 to finance an expected 20 years of retirement income.
Among other things, this means that the flow of savings into superannuation will have to increase a lot in the medium term which may help to resolve some of our many macroeconomic imbalances. But how this is to be brought about remains to be seen.