Saturday salon 13/2

1. Garbage out, garbage in

Stuart Robert had to go. Ben Eltham goes through the detail and finds his defence “is somewhere between threadbare and farcical.” So Malcolm told him to resign, and he did.

So with Mal Brough and Jamie Briggs in the naughty corner, plus Warren Truss and Andrew Robb giving the game away, we now have five vacancies.

Time for a ministry makeover. Steve Ciobo is tipped for trade. I’ve heard him on local radio. If you want someone with verbal diarrhoea, glib and not afraid to lie, he’s your man!

2. Is he nuts or is he a genius?

That’s the question Lucy Barbour says we must ask about Barnaby Joyce, as he replaces Warren Truss as leader of the Nationals unopposed. Not a genius, I think. To me he looks a bit drunk even when he’s sober.

His deputy will be Fiona Nash, who two years ago was mired in scandal:

    It had been revealed that her chief-of-staff, Alastair Furnival, was co-owner of a company lobbying for soft drink and confectionary companies when she had intervened in pulling down a new health star-rating website at the time she was assistant minister for health.

Strictly speaking she misled parliament and that should have been the end for her. Nevertheless I find myself preferring her to Barnaby Joyce, although that doesn’t say much.

Here’s five strange things about Barnaby.

3. More weirdness

The record of the week would not be complete without mentioning that Philip Rudd, no longer a minister, is resigning to become our human rights special envoy. And Greg Hunt was named the “best minister in the world” by some outfit meeting in Dubai.

Clearly, in politics anything is possible!

4. Bear market bites investors

Th Australian sharemarket finished the week at 4816, down about 10% for the year, and around 20% down from its highs of last year. Analysts say that qualifies it as a ‘bear’ market.

Inexperienced investors typically buy during a bull market, sell with the bears and then retreat to lick their wounds.

More of us are involved now courtesy of our superannuation accounts.

The latest worry is that resource companies defaulting on their loans will endanger big banks.

Reserve Bank chief Glenn Stevens says investors have “dropped their bundles” and he doesn’t know where it will all end. It seems as though the sheep have all run to one side of the paddock.

But for every seller there is a buyer. Some are seeing opportunities.

Christopher Joye in the AFR looks retrospectively at where you should have put your money. In short, diversification, and not all in shares. He thinks the Commonwealth Bank is still too expensive, but

    total exposure to mining, oil and gas is just $18.9 billion, or 1.8 per cent of its committed exposures, and only 1.9 per cent of the value of these loans are impaired.

I saw an article where a resources hedge fund made 19% in January. Someone somewhere is always making a packet!

5. Gravitational waves sighted

Einstein told us they must be there, but doubted we’d ever see them, they are so weak. We are told that both arms of the L-shaped detector changed “by only 2 billionths of a billionth of a meter, about 400 times smaller than the radius of a proton.”

Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of space/time, in this case caused by the collision of two large black holes 1.3 billion years ago.

Scientists are very excited about it. My sense is that Prof Karsten Danzmann, from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Germany, has it about right:

    He said the detection was one of the most important developments in science since the discovery of the Higgs particle, and on a par with the determination of the structure of DNA.

There’s more at The Scientific American.

Introduction to Saturday salon

Because of the way the blog currently presents posts on the home page I think it’s better to remove the introductory material to a different place. For new readers, here’s the rationale for this space.


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

    The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

11 thoughts on “Saturday salon 13/2”

  1. ** Bulletin from the Imperial Barge **

    Signor Bruffi has had to depart. The Emperor decided to clear the decks. Signor Bruffi executed an elegant dive from the gangplank in the middle of the Grand Canal, without slippering as he departed the barge.

    Signor Bruffi distinguished himself by being a rat who joined the barge.

    Signor Roberto departed yesterday. The Emperor decided to clear the decks. Signor Roberto fell off the gangplank, after it emerged he had an interest in Signor Marco Polo’s erratic journeys to the Orient.

    Other Signores or Signoras who may wish to use the gangplank soon, please take a number and form an orderly queue.

    Those merchants hoping for ingress to the Inner Sanctums, please see the Doge [c/- the Dogey Brothers, Via Liras Milionas]

    Meanwhile, men: row on!
    Re-double your sterling efforts!!
    Victory is in sight; Signor Hocki is far, far away…..

  2. from * Court Circular *

    After trumpet fanfares and perfumed trinkets a benevolent calm descended, and we knew that the Emperor was amongst us.

    The Court Jester stepped forward:

    We who benefit from the Emperor’s kindness must now hail these further evidences that he is Master of the rich velvet and brocaded Logic of Princes, for it was not right that Signor Roberto should depart until due process had been completed; whereas it was right that Signor Bruffi should depart before due process has been completed.

    The Wisdom of the Emperor is manifest.

    All present laughed politely.
    Most were puzzled, however, when the Jester added:

    The people of Florence will ask, ‘Are the Venetians blind?’

    No-one laughed.

  3. Happy 50th Birthday Australian Decimal Currency !
    And three cheers to all the amateur coin collectors out there, no matter the size or value of their collection.

  4. Look over your shoulder, Ambigulous, whilst H.I.H., The Emperor, (here all genuflect – or else!), was amusing himself with Signor Bruffi and other intellectual gladiators, that confounded Napoleon and several columns of stroppy, well-armed Frenchies (not to be confused with French fries) are marching on the Serene Republic and so Il Serenis himself will have to do a belly-flop into the Grand Canal and dog-paddle (or should that be: doge -paddle ?) away as fast as he can.

    Moral of the story? Ugg-ugg the Neanderthal reckons you should never ever take your eye off the main game to amuse yourself with trivia.

    H.I.H, The Emperor, (soon to be Emperor emeritus), is said to be seeking political asylum in Transdneistr, Puntland, a former North Sea oil platform and a place called I.S. or I.F. or something.

    gggrrrr. We pay these boofheads good salaries to run a government on our behalf and what do we get ….?

  5. “Democracy is that system under which every citizen is permitted to wonder out loud, how the country would be going under really good government.”

    damn that Napoleon !!

  6. Signor Macca ex Portfolio departed today. The Emperor decided to clear the decks. Signor Macca didn’t bother taking a number. He made a rasping noise as he plummeted into the Grand Canal in a most unceremonious but exquisitely timed lurch, con brio.

    The Emperor muttered that we are extraordinarily unlikely ever to see his like again, with any luck.

    The Court Jester is away at a monastery (silent order).

  7. Oh no! Surely not Signor Macca The Magnificent, Arch-Prince of Sterquilinium? That rasping sound was probably caused by direct contact with the climate-induced rapidly drying silt at the bottom of the Gran Canal.

    The Court Jester is smart. He knows a good place to hide when everything is going down the gurgler.

  8. Si, it was Signor Macca Il Magnifico!

    * Notes from a rough taverna well away from San Marco *

    Signor Sciorto spoke to some friends, and also to numerous loyal members of the Association of Barge Operatives, Gondola Scrubbers ands Ordure Collectors. Quoth he:

    If these departures from the Imperial Barge keep going at anything like the present rate, the Emperor will have to organise a farewell party!!!

    Greeted by appreciative chuckles from his friends, silence from all the others.

    Signora Parco has departed. Signor Sciorto said it was time to sweep away cobwebs, and gather dead wood for kitchen fires. Signora Parco said she had become weary of dealing with Tuideldi e Tuidelduomo, and hoped her departure would make a difference.

    Signora Alannaha has departed. Signor Sciorto said it was time to gather horse droppings for the kitchen fires, renew his commitments to all cobwebs smaller than five hands breadths, and scrub out the stables. The Signora would be spending more time with her famiglia and many bambini.

    Signor Grigio has departed. Signor Sciorto said it was to sweep away the house flies, harness the power of sparrows, gather horse droppings for vegetable gardens, admire the essential stability of stables, and mean it when he said it. Signor Grigio will spend more time with his familiars, who operate several silver mines.

    The Court Jester, should he ever hear of this, may have a fit of the vaporettos.

    The Venetians generally have a sinking feeling, as is customary.

  9. Signor Bruffi, having spent several weeks doge-paddling along the Grand Canal looking for safety, with no help at all from his many friends at last made it to dry land in a poorer district, and after seeking unguents for his ravaged, disconsolate visage, put up at a cheap inn.

    However, word reached him that he was not immediately needed back on the Imperial Barge, so he has now set out on the long journey to his province Terra Regina Vergognosa {lit. ‘Land of Queen Shameful’}

    The Emperor is hoping not to see the like of him again.

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