Saturday salon 28/5

Warning. There’s nothing about Australian politics in this post!

1. American teen so rich he couldn’t tell right from wrong

In 2013, 16-year-old American teenager Ethan Couch

    was sentenced to 10 years’ probation after killing four people in a drink driving incident. During his sentencing hearing, Couch’s defence team successfully argued that their client was so wealthy he could not tell right from wrong, and therefore should be given a lighter sentence.

During sentencing his psychologist testified Couch “was suffering from “affluenza” at the time, a condition resulting from the inability of his wealthy parents to instil basic moral principles into him.”

The judge bought it and he got some compulsory rehab and a 10-year suspended sentence. Of course he learnt nothing, so he breached his conditions, fled with his mum to Mexico, was extradited and put in the clink for two years.

There is a theory that wealth only lasts three generations. One can well see why.

2. Too big to fail?

A couple of days ago Fairfax ran a story on the Channel Nine Beirut child kidnapping affair, saying that there were concerns that some of the staff involved were too big to fail, and that a sacrificial lamb would be found. Producer of the segment, Stephen Rice, would likely get the chop, but reporter Tara Brown and current executive producer Kirsty Thomson, who was chief of staff when the story was approved would survive.

So it turned out to be.

Seems Rice approved the project without checking upstairs. Whatever one thinks of a mother seeking to retrieve her kids when the Australian courts had granted her custody, Nine was making news rather than reporting it. And are said to have paid a million bucks to get the charges dropped, while the child retrieval agent they had paid, and his staff, languish in a Lebanese jail.

There’s a story in the Oz (paywalled) that tells how the whole thing unfolded. (Google ‘Jacquelin Magnay The telephone call that sank 60 Minutes crew’ and you should get it.)

Having snatched the kids, one of the crew got the mother, Sally Faulkner, to ring her husband with a “honey, I’ve got the kids” call. The phone was registered in the name of the child retrieval agent Adam Whittington,

    who had booked under his real name at the $1000-a-night Movenpick hotel where 60 Minutes star Tara Brown and her crew were staying.

Hubby told the police who nabbed them.

3. The end of everything

A cheery article in the New Scientist (paywalled) reminds us that life on earth is transient. The sun is 30% hotter now than when our solar system was formed and is basically flaming out. In 900 million years as CO2 is dragged out of the air by weathering rocks, CO2 levels become too low to support photosynthesis. The temperature is an average of 47 degrees. Tube worms and life forms that feed off bacteria might survive. At a billion years only microbial life will be left, and water in the seas starts to evaporate.

At 4 billion years it’s hot enough to melt rock.

We might be able to buy time if we can shift the planet further out from the sun. Tricky, because the moon would have to come too. It’s moving away from us at 3.78 cm every year. It’s holding our spin steady at a 23 degrees tilt. Some time after 1.5 billion years the moon loses its grip, then we either flip 90 degrees so the poles end up at the equator, or find a new angle, which in any case would be erratic.

The article helpfully reminds us that mammal species last a million years on the average. To last 10 million years would be exceptional. On our performance over the last 200 of our 200,000-year existence we could pull up well short of that.

4. Worrying about Hillary

Donald Trump has enough votes to get the Republican nomination. Bill Shorten reckons he’s “barking mad”, but some are also worrying about Hillary Clinton too. For example Thomas Frank in Why Hillary Clinton’s 90s nostalgia is so dangerous tells us that she’s going to put hubby Bill in charge of the economy. The US had some good years towards the end of his reign. He balanced the budget, in part by dynamiting welfare, and deregulated everything, including the banks and the financial sector, and appointed deregulators everywhere. That went well!

I think Bernie Sanders may be hanging in there in case the super-delegates have any second thoughts. Then there is also the FBI investigating emails when she was Secretary of State. They just might decide to take a hand in the matter.

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.

12 thoughts on “Saturday salon 28/5”

  1. Cleburne Sheet Metal, I think. Anyway Fred and Tonya had plenty scrapes with the law themselves.

    The company only turns over turns over about $15 million per year, so it’s not humungous. Fred had convictions for writing bad checks and in August 2014, impersonating a police officer, and most recently attacking his girlfriend and trying to choke her.

    Not model parents.

  2. Yes, when the school principal objected to Ethan driving to school when he was 13 Fred threatened to buy the school.

  3. It may make sense for households to balance their budgets but it certainly does not make sense to be obsessed about balancing budgets when an economy is limping along. Amercica and Australia need to get on with stimulating the economy, not balancing budgets.

  4. Going back to 1 , on the other hand there is now a legal precedent that accepts that excessive wealth is degenerative. That could have major implications if it were able to be made to stick. I suspect, though, that Ethan Couch will eventually spend much of his life in jail.

  5. John, that was me, not BilB. Yes, there an obsession with deficits. Some economists think we should take the opportunity to borrow at these interest rates to invest in infrastructure.

    My best example is the Story Bridge, which cost big bucks when it was opened in about 1947. I think it was paid off over 50 years, and by that time the payments were peanuts.

    It used to happen all the time in schools. The P&Cs would borrow to build facilities that their kids could use. They never would have contributed to facilities that only could be built for their grandkids.

  6. Sorry, no new post today. I wasted Saturday night and thought there was plenty of time on Sunday. There wasn’t. Have to work today.

    Work is slowing, because no rain for nearly a month and very little in the last two months, so may have more time on computer. Not good for the bank balance, however.

    BOM had predicted above average rain for the season and still does:

    June to August rainfall outlook: above average for large parts of mainland Australia.

    Wish I could believe them!

  7. Spent the night watching State of Origin, of course. The Maroons won 6-4 in a close one.

    It could have easily gone either way.

    The Blues were seething over the referees, and the Morris no-try.

    They shouldn’t. It was clearly short of the line. Also they only had a crack at our line because a ball that bounced off Farrah’s head was ruled a Qld knock-on.

    Classic SOO where a couple of centimetres here or there decide the game.

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