Saturday salon 27/8

1. Fruit loop advises Trump on foreign policy

A few months ago Michele Bachmann joined Donald Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board. Now she says she is advising him on foreign affairs.

    Bachmann believes the September 11 attacks represented God’s judgment on America; President Obama and gay rights advocates are bringing about the End Times; homosexuality is “personal enslavement” and “part of Satan”; gay people want to change laws “so that adults will be able to freely prey on little children sexually”; and Obamacare death panels will literally kill people any day now.

    Her foreign policy ideas are driven by her belief that the Last Days have arrived.

She warns that a one-world government is emerging which will usher in the reign of the Antichrist, and wonders if Obama fits the description.

Obama, she says:

    has brought upon the End Times by supposedly promoting policies that are “pro-the goals of Islamic jihad,” aiding ISIS, “sending arms to terrorists” and lifting “up the agenda of radical Islam.”

Of course Trump says that Obama founded ISIS and secretly supports terrorism.

Americans couldn’t vote for this mob, could they?

2. Marriage equality plebiscite may not happen

Labor is pressing for marriage equality to be decided by parliament without a plebiscite, but has not said whether it will block the legislation. The Greens, Xenophon and Derryn Hinch all oppose the legislation, so Labor’s support would be necessary.

Grainne Healy, co-director of the Yes Equality campaign in Ireland, has written to Malcolm Turnbull and parliamentarians urging them not to go ahead with a plebiscite, warning the experience was “brutal” for gay and lesbian people and their families.

She said Irish volunteers needed counselling after abuse and hate speech from reform opponents.

Comedian Hannah Gadsby says “This plebiscite in F**KED”. Growing up in Tasmania in the 1990s she listened to the bile poured out as legalising homosexuality was publicly discussed. She says she grew to hate herself so deeply she has not been able to develop an aptitude for relationships

The Greens oppose the legislation, saying young lives are at stake.

Some 85% of LGBTI Australians oppose a plebiscite on marriage equality and most would prefer to wait for a free parliamentary vote to avoid a plebiscite, a new survey shows.

3. Scott Morrison is no Paul Keating

Scott Morrison tried to scare the pants off us by talking about $1 trillion of debt and said the nation would wind up in recession unless complacency towards ballooning debt and deficit was checked. It included a rant about Australia being divided between the “the taxed and the taxed nots”

Dennis Atkins in the Courier Mail recalled Paul Keating’s “banana republic” comment, pointing out that PJK followed up with the greatest fiscal consolidation in our history, bringing the budget to surplus in 18 months. He says ScoMo is no PJK and his “taxed and the taxed nots” is as simplistic as it is stupid.

Laura Tingle says the OECD, the IMF and some other countries are thinking differently about fiscal policy and debt, and about the role of government:

    While not everyone agrees on a return to bigger government per se, there has been a grudging acceptance that, in some areas, and at some times – such as when there are interest rates at historically low levels, when there is low economic growth and a need for productivity-enhancing infrastructure – the bodies best positioned to exploit the opportunities are in fact governments. And yes, that might mean more debt. It might mean more taxes.

She says that, week by week, month by month, the policy gap between the Coalition and Labor is broadening. The LNP are swimming against the tide.

Shorten told the Press Club that stagnant wages, flat-lining productivity and a lack of economic growth were the real issues.

    He spoke of “the missing link – it’s public infrastructure”.

    There have to be “generational decisions”, he said. “Monetary policy in a low investment return, low interest rate return, that’s not going to stimulate wages. You need to have public growth.”

We don’t just need a compromise in parliament, she says, we need a compromise in how we talk about the economy and what we are allowed to say.

4. Two tragedies in Europe

Two tragedies in Europe in the last week. The first was the earthquake in Italy, with now 268 counted dead.

Also from the BBC, before:

Italy earthquake_90897926_comp-amatrice_before

and after:

Italy earthquake_90897926_comp-amatrice_after

The other tragedy is the clothing police at work on a beach in France, demanding that a woman remove part of her clothing:


I understand the burkino is an Australian invention.

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.

30 thoughts on “Saturday salon 27/8”

  1. I heard this in the shower after posting last night:

    France’s highest administrative court has suspended a ban on full-body “burkini” swimsuits that was imposed in a town on the Mediterranean coast.

    The ban in Villeneuve-Loubet “seriously and clearly illegally breached fundamental freedoms”, it found.

    It’s an interim decision, with the full decision to follow. There are still another 30 or so other towns that have imposed the ban and some say they are going to continue.

  2. 1. Could Trump be elected? I don’t think it is impossible but unlikely. The assumption that some reality or common sense will drive a not-Trump outcome is easy to believe or hope for.
    Voting is not compulsory in the US so if one group motivates it’s people to vote more than the other that could tip the scales. Another thing is that individual States can “interfere” with voting. North Carolina is a Republican State. The University of North Carolina had a voting point on campus but no longer. It has been moved a considerable distance away from the campus for no apparent reason but to vote you have to drive or take a bus journey. The University has disallowed the use of University buses to transport voters to a polling point.
    At the last Presidential election there were issues with the Florida vote.
    Perhaps a combination of pathos and obstruction could make a sufficient difference in the US outcome.

    2. For the life of me I cannot fathom why the gay marriage issue gets debated. It is a no-brainer human rights concern. That we even argue about how we decide is crazy – we employ people to gauge and respond to our wants/needs. They just need to act.

    3. I like Tingle, she she always incisive. Citing Brian above – “We don’t just need a compromise in parliament, she says, we need a compromise in how we talk about the economy and what we are allowed to say.”
    I think she could have said that we need a return to a bipartisan style of government, one that works for the good of the country. Our current stye – since the mid-eighties is seemingly focused upon the task of discrediting the incumbent government at the expense of the national good. I will place Keating as the instigator of this but both parties have persisted with that paradigm, even if you dispute Keating’s role.
    Enabling this style is the media whose aim is to create “interest” by biased reporting.

  3. GH: I would suggest that our parliaments are “multipartisan” most of the time in the sense that most legislation put up by the government at the time is passed. The problem is that the agreement doesn’t sell papers so we hear about little about multipartisanship.
    I would also suggest that some of the disagreement is based around issues where there are no simple answers and various parties hold different views in good faith. At the moment economics is a point of real disagreement. There may be some people out there who really do believe we face a “budget emergency” that justifies serious cost cutting. There may be others like me who believe that it is more important to stimulate the economy by getting more money into the hands of low income consumers and that printing money is a sensible way of doing this while a bloated currency and too low inflation are seen by the reserve bank as the real problem.
    But don’t expect politicians to stop doing things that will help them win the next election.

  4. On Trump, there was an opinion poll recently that gave Clinton a 5% advantage. In Australia that would indicate a very comfortable win, but in the US it’s uncomfortably close, given that many who would vote Democrat don’t like Clinton either and might stay home.

    Geoff, I did follow that business of game-playing to prevent people voting in some detail years ago. Why the Americans can’t set up an independent electoral commission beats me. There have been serious games played also in Ohio, with fewer voting opportunities in poor areas, and a legal action having to be routinely taken to keep the polls open when there is still a long queue waiting to vote. There’s more to it, and it’s disgusting in a country that prides itself on freedom and democracy.

  5. On 2, as I understand it, very few matters are ever put to a national plebiscite around here. 🙂 I recall expressing a preference for a national anthem once.

    Vive la France,!?? Burkini Ban Beggars Belief.
    Thanks for the photos, Brian. Les flics could have their hands full….

  6. JD I suspect you are more charitable than me. True, much legislation is passed but the really chewy stuff, and that which has political substance gets dicked around with the intent of making one or ultimately both parties seem inept. I don’t think of the quantitative side, rather the qualitative aspect.
    That more complex matters arise – of course. And in most cases the best policy is just not an option, and so lesser choices will be accepted as the best compromise. Comes down to winners and losers often enough and where the collateral damage is felt.
    But I will carp and moan about our planning horizon which seems to be three years or less. Two hundred years for some things would be good to give a general direction. But three years is not enough and if the government-in-waiting vows to repeal laws made in the current term then you can see no planning at all. Nor that wonderful fertiliser called Certainty.
    We are poorly served by our politicians and press.

  7. Geoff I tend to agree with you about the chewy stuff. To me there are three categories of stuff coming to the Senate. First, routine stuff, a lot of it, that gets waved through on the voices.

    Secondly, stuff that independents or minor parties, especially the Greens, know is going to go down, but they call for a division so that the can later say “Labor voted against x, y of z”.

    Thirdly, stuff that really matters and the Greens and Labor have a different view from the LNP.

    Unfortunately for the LNP much of their budget strategy that matters to them is unacceptable to Labor and the Greens, and will struggle with the crossbench.

  8. In this context ScoMo was trying to scare us, by appeal to the amygdala rather than to reason. Problem is it won’t work. Keating may have scared us with the banana republic (he said it on John Laws’ program), but with ScoMo people who notice will just say, Here’s ScoMo trying to scare us.

    And he won’t scare the people in parliament he needs to pass his stuff.

    Chris Bowen has said they’ll support anything they, Labor, took to the election. We can infer this means the $6.5 billion of ‘zombie’ cuts they included in their budgeting, but they’ll want to see the fine print first.

    Shorten sees Turnbull’s “sensible middle ground” as including revenue measures, like negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions.

    Turnbull can’t move on this front, given the ridiculously hyper language he used in the election campaign. Similarly Shorten won’t move on most of the stuff he criticised.

    So ScoMo will find the going tough.

  9. Look, I acknowledge that France is at war, nonetheless I feel that the Burkini ban would mean the French State had adopted a policy of extreme secularism, which moderate secularists in other countries will condemn.

    But perhaps the French belief in laicite is just deeply ingrained, inseperable from their national identity since the Revolution?

  10. Actually I don’t agree with Shorten on his “the missing link is public infrastructure” notion. Below is a comment I sent to a friend who was severely impacted by by the state government’s hand the building of the next generation of inter city trains to Hyundai in stead of the near equal Australian tender ($2.75 billion was the tender, $3.8 billion is the audited probable end cost), so this is a different way of looking at those kinds of figures

    “People rarely stop to think what a billion dollars actually represents.

    One billion is 10,000 times 100,000 . What does $100,000 buy? Well if one was to buy 10,000 CNC Lathes they would cost around $100,000, or less.

    So looking at comparative value lets consider the West Connex stage 1

    ….which is 17.5 kilometers in length at a cost of 3.5 billion dollars, The same money would buy some 35,000 CNC Lathes, or milling machines, which with their base length of 2.5 metres, would fill all of the new [5] lanes of this highway up grade end to end with high precision CNC machinery.

    Now if the productive throughput of a properly managed precision CNC fully automated machine is at least its primary investment cost per year, in this case $100,000, even before considering the secondary downstream community economic activity generated by that amount of new industrial throughput

    , this would amount to $3.5 billion per year of new manufacturing throughput while creating some 210,000 new jobs.

    So what would be an alternative strategy to ever widening highways at massive expense?

    Buy 35,000 new CNC machines, give them to proven and performing industrial players to place them in a broad ring of communities away form the Sydney CBD, preferably in regional areas.

    The end result would be a redirecting of employment related road traffic away from our central CBD eliminating the need to widen these roads to meet peak one way traffic, while at the same time resolving unemployment and improving the state governments fiscal position from the increased taxation generated, which is sufficient to write down the investment after 4 years and move forward with a very different fully funded infrastructure spend some years later.

    I am not saying that this a realistic scenario, I am simply offering it as a perspective with which to examine the overall value of infrastructure expenditure. However, I suspect that this is more along the lines of how the Chinese government would consider infrastructure investment.

    Production first, infrastructure overheads second.”

    To give you an idea of what CNC machines are designed to do (the following is a fairly high end machine, but you will get the idea), as the cornerstone to our modern technological revolution.

  11. GH: You are right about the lack of long term vision.
    If you look at the schools that were built in the earlier parts of the 20th century you get the impression of a country that saw a grand vision of its future.
    If you look at the portable schools of the late 20th century you don’t see that.
    Statesmen is what we used to call the men who talked about the longer term and did something about it. Still get nostalgic about Gough from time to time. It is amazing just how much we take for granted now that started with the Gough vision.

  12. JD – Statesman? Now there is an antique word not used these days. Yeah I recall Gough – he once looked directly at me and nodded. That was 1970 and I recall it well. I also recall Menzies (or Ming as Martin Sharp would call him).
    But Statesmanship in the Whitlam or Menzies sense is so far gone I wonder if many voters know the term and aspire for its return. I met some students the other day who were unsure who the Beatles were. It did not make me feel old, more like I had missed a boat…

    Bilb’s shot at a radical solution is more likely to get up than Statesmanship I think.

  13. Bilb: One of the trends in my working life has been for companies to take advantage of the economics of scale while putting up with the cost of having to transport our products further and further. In some cases economics of scale have come with increased risk. (These days a cyclone in the wrong place means a banana supply crisis.) Add cheap labor overseas and we end up doing even more transport to take advantage of lower centralized production costs.
    I don’t know about decentralized lathes but I do think that things like 3D printing, more flexible robots and things like Skype that reduce the need to travel to central offices may encourage decentralization and make quite a bit of transport infrastructure redundant.
    GH: Boosting infrastructure jobs is not what we really need. Construction workers have a suicide rate of about 6 times the national average (which might be telling us something about infrastructure jobs. ) What we need are permenant jobs that offer some security.

  14. John

    Construction workers have a suicide rate of about 6 times the national average (which might be telling us something about infrastructure jobs. )

    It’s about double, agricultural may be a bit higher, but regardless, what is that telling you exactly ?

  15. Jumpy: Men are about three times and men working in construction are about double the male average.
    What it is telling me is that construction is not a particularly good job due to stresses, living away from home and lack of job security. We need to build good jobs.
    I have spent enough time living in construction camps and working on construction sites not to be surprised by the suicide figure.

  16. JD: I was surprised by the statistic of suicides in the construction sector. Then you mentioned construction camps – I had not thought of that at all.
    Can the suicides be grouped to identify any clusters if they are occurring?

  17. On a brighter note, good to hear that the Colombian govt and rebel group are on the way towards armistice, after FIFTY years of armed conflict and hundreds of thousands of deaths. War is hell.

  18. Geoff: I have never been anywhere where a suicide has occurred. By its very nature the workers move around a lot so it would be hard to tag particular companies, locations or types of work.
    My own experience suggests that the camps themselves are OK and the camp messes and bars are places where the men can socialize. Most construction workers are good at making friends when they move from site to site. In a way the camps are the comfort zones and the men are most comfortable in their dealings with men rather than wives that they don’t see very often. (A big project that I worked on at Whyalla had most of the workers on 10 days on, 3 days off even though they were recruited from Perth. Many rosters are even less family friendly than this.)
    I suspect that the real crisis that leads to suicide may occur between jobs, when men can’t get work or after their working life has finished.
    Jumpy may know moer about the problems of construction workers that normally work away from home than I do.

  19. I think i’d first make a distinction between ” workers in the construction industry ” and ” construction workers “.
    It, as an industry, is very broad ranging from engineers and architects to Tradesmen, road gangers and labourers.
    The stats don’t break down that far ( that I can find ) but I’d guess the vast majority of suicides are from the ” hands dirty ” section.

    These tend to be male, younger, drink harder and less highly educated.
    The first three are a given but the less highly educated aspect gives other clues. They are not less intelligent, so why the bad school results ?

    Let’s face it, no A grade students seek a Trade Apprenticeship. When they come to us they’re usually broken in some way, shape or form.

  20. Jumpy it used to be understood that the duller kids in class would head for the trades via technical colleges and the brighter ones for uni. I don’t believe it is as clear cut these days: things have changed over the past 75 years.

    Some of the brightest guys I ever worked with did not complete high school and some had interesting histories or dubious pedigrees.
    I know a guy who failed high school and drove a truck for five years. ‘Returned to school, matriculated, took an Arts degree and returned to truck driving. He has since taken two post graduate awards.

    You might want to say the apprentices were broken in some way: maybe that is your experience, but mine was different.
    And if you have a piece of CNC machinery that may be worth say, $500K, are you going to hand it to a uni graduate or a skilled machinist?
    In my apprentices I found raw ability and insights way past my own. I had no “trick” to bring them out, just enough humility to accept that they usually knew more than me about the matter at hand and to let them find the best way.

    You can see Jumpy that I don’t share your jaundiced or hierarchical view of apprentices.

  21. They are not less intelligent, so why the bad school results ?

    It’s well-recognised that school knowledge favours those who handle abstract knowledge well. There are also personality issues, where some kids can be as you say “broken”.

    The school our youngest went to had a strong program for unacademic kids as well as a strong program for fixing ‘broken” ones. On the whole, though, I suspect the system comes up short.

  22. I’ve had one of those days.

    Started yesterday with acquiring a ‘Cydoor’ spyware pop-up alert thingie appearing. It says all your finacial information is under threat, just call them and their Microsoft certified technicians will remove it. It’s a scam of course and you don’t call them.

    Got my computer tech bloke in to remove it, which after Googling I was assured that it can be tricky, and you can lose stuff.

    Along the way we did lose all my email contacts, which the tech found in a database and reinstalled. Then Firefox wouldn’t open.

    To cut a long story short, I got Firefox back, but lost all the settings I use, and windows I had open of stuff that I was going to use in posts.

    Now I find that the Climate Plus mailbox will send, but not receive.

    Eventually I might get back to posting some day!

  23. Sorry to hear of your woes today, Brian.

    Down here in Victoria, the CFA dispute rumbles on like a tumbril over cobblestones.

    There’s a theory that Mr Shorten would now be PM (without a ‘working majority’) had the Victorian Govt not acted to support the UFU’s claim, sacked the Minister and replaced the CFA Board. That’s not clear.

    But in one of Mr Turnbull’s very few campaigning moves, he tried to make the roiling dispute a federal issue. It chimed well with the Govt’s sub-theme* of union thuggery.

    And CFA volunteers are generally revered across the State, whether rural or suburban.

    Now the sacked Minister, Ms Garrett, proposes to pursue a claim of workplace bullying. She says a UFU official threatened her. I thought there was a separate law against threatening Ministers or MPs…… but WWIK?

    Anyway, it’s tense in Spring Street. Will Victorian Labor follow the glorious lead of Canberra Labor, and oust a first-term Premier?

    * recently there was a report that during the federal election, Mr Turnbull complained to Mr Shorten about being portrayed as an out-of-touch, wealthy investor; Mr Shorten was said to have replied, “How do you think I like being called a union thug?” Both agreed to lay off, it was said.

    If so, it might explain why: [CFMEU/thuggery/Royal Commission into Julia Gillard Union Governance/CFMEU/illegality/ABCC/Norm Gallagher/did I mention thuggery?] didn’t get much of a run.

  24. Ambigulous, I did hear of that exchange between Shorten and Turnbull.

    On the CFA I suspect you’ve got it right, but I’ve never written about it because I don’t understand it. I suspect that rather than the CFA being controlled by the union, the problem might be that the professional fire-fighters, who happen to be unionists, reckon they should be in charge.

    Thing is that locals, especially farmers, are very practical people and being local, pobably understand what’s going on with a fire and how to tackle it better than blow-ins.

    Anyway that’s what I suspect, and it’s based on what happened in Qld when the Barakula Forest burnt, as the locals said it would when the foresters got kicked out and it was made a national park at the behest of the greenies. It’s near where I grew up, and I heard of the comments of local volunteer farmers who were under the control of the blow-in firies.

    Farmers and unions are a volatile mix.

    Turnbull’s political use of the conflict was quite blatant, I think.

  25. Jumpy: There are plenty of stats on professions and suicide rates. if you care to google the subject. Many of the groups with high suicide rates are professionals so I doubt that the problem is as simple as education level.
    In case you missed it school results and whether you make it to uni depends a lot on how much work you do. In the case of teenage boys high marks and doing homework are not high priorities. The problem has got worse for boys now that class marks (doing homework well) have become far more important. It is all about measuring compliance rather than ability.
    I have been generally impressed by the ability of construction tradesmen to get things done and solve problems.

  26. Thanks Brian,

    We’ve lived in two bushfire-prone areas to the east of Melbourne. CFA crews are admired for their local knowledge, skill, selflessness, bravery. Volunteers include many non-farmers, especially in or near regional towns.

    One bloke I know told me that the captain of the first crew to arrive at a fire is in charge of the firefighting, until she/he voluntarily relinquishes control at that site. That seems to me logical and practical.

    The SES and Beach lifesavers also save lives, but the CFA ethos runs deep in rural and regional communities. They save houses and sheds too! 🙂

    These days, outer areas of Melbourne, Bendigo, Geelong etc. are just as much in need of capable and well-equipped firefighters.

    Not to mention Canberra, Brisbane, Hobart, Sydney, Adelaide, …..

    I too don’t understand the details of the current imbroglio.

  27. PS: “Controlled burning when safe” and “fire dangers near national parks” are other kettles of fish.

  28. John
    I can’t get your link to work, and yes, I have bothered.

    I have been generally impressed by the ability of construction tradesmen to get things done and solve problems.

    As have I.

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