Kids in uniform

I’ve never been a fan of uniforms in general and school uniforms in particular. Recently, I was unimpressed by the insistence of numerous state schools in Queensland that girls should be forced to wear dresses even if they would rather wear shorts or pants. The Minister eventually overrode them, but the episode was a pretty clear indication that uniform rules are about the arbitrary exercise of authority, not making kids more comfortable at school.

I was reminded of this by a report in the New Daily quoting “experts” who support school uniforms, though the text of the report suggests that there’s not much research to back this view, and what evidence there is goes both ways.

I was more surprised to read that “the jury is still out on what is more affordable, free dress or school-designed uniforms.” The report links to a school supplier who charges between $240 and $340 for a single (state school) uniform outfit. That’s far more than similar generic items would cost at Target or other stores.

Of course, lots of parents will find ways to save a bit, buying generics for the less obviously school-specific items, or finding hand-me-downs. But that undermines the supposedly equalizing effects of uniforms. At least when I was at school, it was always obvious who’d paid full price and who had patched their uniform together.

More importantly the kids aren’t going to wear their uniforms at weekends or during the holidays. So, having paid for a uniform (or more, assuming you need to wash) , parents still need to buy ordinary clothes anyway. That can’t possibly be more affordable.

Adani starting work?

A few weeks ago, I commented sceptically on Adani’s announcement that it had moved heavy earthmoving equipment to its Carmichael site. At the same time, Adani flew a banner over its Brisbane office, claiming it was ready to start the mining project the moment it got the green light. As I observed at the time, the “heavy earthmoving equipment” appeared to consist of one large grader and a few smaller vehicles.

The latest news is that Adani is “moving ahead with access work” namely, building by-passes around cattle grids, which “which will allow larger machinery and equipment to be transported to site. ” It sounds as if the start of real work is a long way off.

And here’s our big yellow grader at work.


Read More »

Monday Message Board (on Tuesday)

Another Monday Message Board, running a bit late. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please. If you would like to receive my (hopefully) regular email news, please sign up using the following link


http://eepurl.com/dAv6sX You can also follow me on Twitter @JohnQuiggin, at my Facebook public page   and at my Economics in Two Lessons page

Fake news: the medium is not the message

AA study of fake news on Twitter Facebook has found that the biggest propagators are Republicans over 65. No surprises there. Unfortunately, the researchers muddy the waters by suggesting that this group is prone to believing and spreading lies because they are “digital immigrants”, rather than “digital natives”, a distinction I thought had disappeared.

,A moment’s thought should have suggested a different interpretation. The same group, after all constitutes the primary audience for Fox News and (globally) the core readership of the Murdoch press. Even before the emergence of a distinctively partisan rightwing media, evangelicals eagerly spread fake news by word of mouth.

And this study defined fake news in the narrow sense covering reports that Obama is a lizardoid Muslim and similar. A more accurate definition, encompassing deliberate denial of overwhelming evidence, would encompass the entire rightwing media universe, going beyond the Murdoch press to include the output of thinktanks like AEI, Cato, Heritage and Heartland. The extreme cases studied on Twitter are the core of an onion wrapped in multiple layers of denial and defense mechanisms.

Until recently, the most obvious case was that of climate change, but now they have Trump. It’s now impossible to survive on the right without giving Trump a pass for his thousands of glaring lies. In these circumstances, it’s scarcely surprising that Republican activists who have been steeped in this environment for decades. see it as virtuous to circulate talking points regardless of their truth or falsity. Far from misleading this cohort, Twitter Facebook simply provided them with an amplifier.

How the High Court helped wreck Morrison’s visit to Fiji

As with just about everything Scott Morrison has done since becoming PM, his visit to Fiji was a trainwreck. Morrison must have hoped that his Trumpian willingness to endorse the dictatorial methods of Fijian PM Frank Bainimarama would ensure a warm welcome. It was not to be.

In part, this was due to the government’s embrace of climate denialism, which reflects hostility to the global environment in general, rather than Fiji in particular, and isn’t going to change any time soon. But there was also the avoidable own goal of stripping Australian citizenship from accused terrorist Neil Prakash, on the pretext that Prakash was also a Fijian citizen.

Peter Dutton isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but under normal circumstances, he wouldn’t have reached the conclusion that Prakash, a Melbourne-born Australian was actually a citizen of another country he’d never visited or had any dealings with.

Dutton’s error is explained by the fact that the legal geniuses of our High Court have accustomed us to thinking in precisely this absurd way. Taking the silliest possible reading of the Constitution, they have led us to the position where people born in Australia to Australian citizen parents, and who may never have left the country, are routinely described as “foreigners“. Even Aborigines like Pat Dodson are open to this attack.

The mere possibility that one might apply for the citizenship of another country is sufficient. And even public renunciation of foreign allegiance is not enough, if the government in question is slow to accept it

It’s striking to observe that seven of the allegedly brightest legal minds in the country are effectively dumber than a bigoted ex-policeman, but that is the sad reality. We would be better off replacing the current High Court with seven randomly chosen citizens, or, for that matter, with the flip of a coin.

Save the nukes

I’ve written numerous posts pointing out that expansion of nuclear power is not a serious option in decarbonizing the electricity supply. In a sense, there’s no need to make the case, as no profit-oriented corporation is ever likely to start a new plant. The recent abandonment of two proposed plants in the UK, despite the offer of massive subsidies, illustrates the point. The only purpose of talk about new nuclear power is to attack the only realistic options, wind and solar PV.

On the other hand, nuclear power is a lot less dangerous than coal. So, it’s worrying to see nuclear power plants closing down in the US and elsewhere, when there are plenty of coal-fired power plants still in operation. The worse case is Germany, where the phaseout of nuclear power has left lots of lignite-fuelled power stations still in operation.

The sensible policy is first, to abandon any idea of closing nuclear power stations by direct regulation and second, to impose a substantial carbon price, putting coal-fired power stations first in the “order of demerit” for closure.

Read More »