Weekly salon 1/9

1. Waiting for Godot

Part of my delay in completing this week’s edition was waiting for something that wasn’t ridiculous to happen. There is plenty like Boris Johnson suspending parliament, and Trump attacking Fox News, and Fox News hitting back.

To be honest, I’ve been knocked a bit askew by the David Spratt’s question At 4°C of warming, would a billion people survive? The answer according to some respected scientists is, in brief, probably not, something less than a billion, and 4°C seems to be where we are heading.

That would mean on average more than a million deaths from global warming each week for the next 90 years.

Then the IPCC is preparing a new report saying that rising sea levels and catastrophic storm surges could displace 280m people “immediately”, whatever that means.

Please note, one of the chief bearers of these glad tidings says we can fix it if we stop waving our arms, said he, waving his arms, and things go better with optimism.

I started a post, but I had to put it aside. Next cab off the rank.

2. Julian Assange

Julian Assange should have gone to Sweden, did time for his sexual misadventures, and then where? Russia?

I know someone who had lunch with Julie Bishop the other day. It was a group of a dozen or so, and the person I know was sitting almost opposite Ms Bishop.

She decided to ask Ms Bishop why the Australian Government did not provide any help to Assange. The answer may surprise.

Assange was offered help from the outset, but refused, because we had extradition arrangements with Sweden and the US. Now that Ecuador is unsafe for him, his choice of countries has narrowed even further. Ms Bishop said that at any given time there were over 1000 Australians banged up somewhere in foreign lands, some on death row. We only get to hear about the high profile ones.

3. Citizen Yang Hengjun

Which brings to mind the case of detained Australian citizen Yang Hengjun, who has been accused of spying by China.

People should understand that being detained in China is pretty much a case of the justice system processing the guilty, so going public is unlikely to change anything. It has more to do with political agendas, internal and external.

My son Mark has just been to Sydney, where he had a chat with a Chinese friend who is here doing a PhD in sociology. She said that anti-Chinese discrimination and hysteria has definitely escalated in the last two years.

Her more interesting comment, however, was that Chinese sociology was conceptually different from Western sociology. It’s a matter in part of how language works within society.

We can already see this in how Anglo sociology was different from its French and German roots in Auguste Compte and Max Weber. For example, Weber’s concept of the “iron cage” is generally used as a translation of “stahlhartes Gehäuse”, which is literally “steel-hard housing”, substantially different conceptually. Gehäuse houses not only the gearbox, which actually works unlike a bird in a cage, it also houses the snail.

That’s just one accessible example. The situation is worse with philosophers like Hegel who was a big influence on Marx. It is said that German philosophers in part used the language they did so that their political masters would not understand what they we talking about. They also wanted to be precise, not subject to the vicissitudes of common language, so they ended up with almost no-one understanding what they were on about.

The basic point here, though, is that in 30 years time the sociology Australian students may be using has a fair chance of owing more to what is written in Chinese, rather than the European variety, which will no doubt live on in Ramsay Centres devoted to preserving the Western variety, which may become an historical curiosity.

However, I rather think that notion is going to be interrupted by the effects of global warming.

4. John Mearsheimer and Australia’s dilemma

John Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science University of Chicago, gave a talk Australia’s choice in a US-China conflict at the Lwy Institute entitled Australia’s choice in a US-China conflict. It’s no doubt paywalled, but he spoke to the AFR’s Lisa Murray in ‘Security trumps prosperity’: Australia will choose US over China:

    ‘If you take the long view, Australia has never been able to sit on the fence when there was a threat in East Asia.’

His basic message is that the US will force us to choose and punish us if we don’t choose them.

He bases this on some mad theory of how hegemons work. He says the the US is a hegemonic power in the Western hemisphere, and will not tolerate any other power becoming hegemonic in their own region, because they would then threaten the US.

What he does not see is that with globalisation economies become so interdependent that mortal conflict is against the interests of any hegemon. I would have thought that the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrated the limits of US power.

However, the speech was worse than that. It valorised the European expansion across the North American land mass which involved defeating, even exterminating the existing tribes. He said, that is just the way things work and accepted the analogy of Hitler moving east for “Lebensraum”.

The idea of national self-interest is toxic and is getting a new run.

This is serious at a time when humanity needs to see itself as one tribe, and essentially one class. Survival is not going to be automatic for the next few generations. It is the powerful who are not acting on climate change.

5. Compassion needs to become a leading value

Lately I have been asking myself whether preserving human life can be an ultimate human value, if what we are preserving is a peak predator like no other and a palpable danger to life on the planet.

How is it that American lives, their freedom and capacity to pursue happiness is worth so much that harm to others is acceptable?

Here in Oz, Martin Parkinson declares ‘entrenched disadvantage’ in Australia a disgrace, Explosive mortgage debt growth [is] putting the squeeze on older Australians and Tamil family’s supporters ridicule DFAT report [that] they’ll be safe in Sri Lanka.

Two children who I understand to be Australian citizens are to be evicted along with their parents. This family is wanted and valued by a Central Queensland community and a petition of (last I heard) 220,000 Australians want the minister to show compassion and let them stay. Are they a threat to our safety? To say that Ministerial discretion can’t be exercised is humbug. The circumstances are unique, and this is what ministerial discretion is for. Fran Kelly babbling about thousands of similar cases on Insiders this morning was just humbug. Just use common sense for once!

For a variety of reasons I have been thinking about my earlier life. We were lucky, I think, to buy a house in the early 1980s when you could still do it on one salary. On Fathers day, I think about my three children who have not been so lucky.

Back in the 1950s Florence Kluckhohn said there were three value orientations to our perceptions of human nature.

Intrinsically we can be seen as good, bad, or both good and bad. The latter category can be further split two ways – capable or incapable of change. If you work your way through those concepts there is only one way to go. We all need to work for the betterment of everyone. What that means in practice is too big for Sunday morning.

Happy Fathers’ Day

Irrespective of the above, happy Fathers’ Day. Where would we be without them?

I thought I might slide through unnoticed, but my daughter was on the phone this morning, and our local domestic manager has decreed that the four of us who sleep under this roof shall be present for pizzas this evening. Which will be more than enough. It’s good to be alive!

42 thoughts on “Weekly salon 1/9”

  1. On the previous salon thread zoot linked to an article by Greg Jericho ABS’s shameful distortion of the truth shows why good journalists see beyond the spin. Because people a lazy at following links, I’ll give you the money bit here. Jericho says:

    “The latest two-year survey of household incomes and wealth from the Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed that over the past two years inequality has increased. The wealthiest 25% of Australians have increased their income by nearly double that of median income households, while the wealth holdings of the poorest 20% of households has actually declined.”

    Yet, says Jericho, the ABS spun the result as the average now being more than $1 million and the headline of the media release was “Inequality stable since 2013–14”.

    I’d like to move the discussion, if any, here because the out going secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department Martin Parkinson has condemned “entrenched disadvantage” in Australia, in his valedictory address on leaving the public service.

    Even if inequality wasn’t increasing, it’s bad and a disgrace. To put a gloss on it is like saying it’s OK for the Amazon to be burning, because it’s been burning since the 19070s and this year in not the worst year.

    Also, when I dig into that climate catastrophe story, we’ll find one leading scientist say we won’t fix the problem while the wealthy own so much of the world’s resources and have so much power.

  2. Happy Fathers’ Day Brian.

    Three cheers for your Domestic Manager too.
    Congrats, Mrs Bahnisch oder Frau, Mutter, u.s.w.

    Next to every Father is a good Mother.

  3. Firstly,

    Two children who I understand to be Australian citizens are to be evicted along with their parents.

    Nope, they are Australian citizens and innocent, they can stay.
    The parents on the other hand have broken the law, lied, and are not Australian citizens or refugees as thoroughly as can be proved at every level of our Judicial System. They gotta go.

    There’s is no “ slippery slope “ argument either, there’s a “ look what happened before “ evidence argument.

    I don’t care if they’re English, Swedish, Eskimo or Kiwi.

  4. So in your world, jumpy, the kids become virtually orphans. Maybe the parents could be hired as minders on a work visa.

    Jumpy, the reason we have ministerial discretion is to save the law from being an ass. Or actually harming people.

  5. In the last 24 hours I saw an article where nationalism, racism and environmentalism are being conflated.

    Emigrants who are not white are being seen as intrinsically to blame for harming the environment.

    Can’t find it now.

  6. Just for fun…

    A BBC reporter talked about a new Cadbury choc bar launched in India, the “Unity Bar”, including white, light brown and dark brown chocolate.

    Unity, against racism, geddit?? !!!!

    A Twit twitted:
    I have a dream…
    That one day…
    My children will not be judged on the colour of their chocolate
    But on the content of their filling!

    Nice.

  7. Brian

    So in your world, jumpy, the kids become virtually orphans.

    No, they’re not orphans virtually or realistically.

    Maybe the parents could be hired as minders on a work visa.

    Hire ? No, no, surely the love and generosity of the Bendigo folk that have called them family could babysit till they come back through legal channels. IfL of course their rhetoric isn’t empty. My next door neighbors sponsored a Venezuelan family to expedite the process.

    Jumpy, the reason we have ministerial discretion is to save the law from being an ass. Or actually harming people.

    I disagree. ministers shouldn’t have discretion over the law, parliament should write the law properly in the first place. The pick of 45,528 voters in Dickson should abide by the Courts decisions in Law, not just make it up as she/he goes along.
    He already has far too much “ discretionary power “ for my liking.
    Be very careful when those in power exercise “ discretion “ over the law Brian. History is littered with authoritarian discretion.

  8. Mr A.
    Heh, that “ unity bar “ has the white and dark chocolates segregated.
    Perhaps they should mix all together first and the colour will be whatever it be.

    Looks like another virtue signal gone wrong.

  9. … surely the love and generosity of the Bendigo folk that have called them family could babysit …

    I don’t know if this is a reflection on Jumpy’s grasp of the facts or not, but the people who want to keep the family in their town live in Biloela, not Bendigo.

  10. Bravo zoot !
    I’m only out by about 1,800 kms.
    Fair cop.

    Spellchook not at fault this time.

    But the town is irrelevant to Federal Law.

  11. Heh, one wag on the inter web just stated “ the worst thing about the Chinese bribing the ALP was the PLASTIC SHOPPING BAG !!! “

    Gotta love meme satire…

  12. Jumpy, you said “parliament should write the law properly in the first place”.

    I agree, but parliament’s can’t foresee all possible circumstances. That’s why we need ministerial discretion.

    BTW it’s not Peter Dutton’s call. It’s David Coleman, MP Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs. If the people in his electorate don’t like the decisions he makes, they can vote him out, but exercising discretionary powers in a single unique instance is not the end of democracy as we know it.

  13. It seems to me this is a classic example of top down governance. The jackboots of the Federal Government are trampling all over the expressed wishes of a small Queensland community.

  14. zoot, jumpy usually comes down on too much government intervention.

    They don’t seem to care who they hurt, as long as they look tough on border control..

  15. They don’t seem to care who they hurt, as long as they look tough on border control.

    True Brian, but any further comment from me would infringe Godwin’s Law.

  16. Jumpy: If you were expelled from Australia for your lack of compassion and un-Australian attitudes you would be screaming like a cut pig about the injustice. Just once how about showing a bit of empathy?
    My take on the refugee crisis is that Aus could have been taken by the Japanese in WWII and, if we were lucky, my mother and I could have been on a leaky boat hoping that someone more generous than you or our current government would accepted us.

  17. Some time ago I wrote about reducing congestion by managing demand. The post summary said:

    Most of us would like to be able to travel when, where and how we want to and for the transport system to be managed in such a way that there will always be enough capacity to allow us all these choices. The problem with this “capacity management” approach is that a lot of money would have to be spent providing capacity that is only used for a very limited time of the day. Without this extra spending we still have to continue putting up with congested roads and overloaded public transport during peak hours.
    Required capacity could be reduced by managing the “when”, “how” and “where” choices. This post looks at some “demand management”strategies that might be used to reduce peak capacity requirements These strategies offer rapid, low cost ways of getting more from the transport infrastructure we already have. It was concluded that a rapid, low cost doubling of capacity is not an impossible dream.

    Just In has an article “Flexible working, the neglected congestion-busting solution for our cities” that looks at a wider range of capacity managing strategies.
    Problem is that the people who think the answer is more infrastructure or more “public and active transport” dominate the thinking on what could be done to dramatically reduce congestion.

  18. Peter Dutton has now told us that 6 boats from Sri Lanka have been turned back because they are just economic refugees. I don’t know what information he uses to come to that conclusion.

    Barnaby Joyce and a former deputy of the immigration department have come out in favour of exercising compassion.

    Dutton says he understands the compassion. the question is whether he feels it as well as understands it. Any way his attitude says something about him.

  19. John, I don’t know enough about public transport, but I’ve been to town a number of times recently and typically coming home during peak hours. Brisbane buses are rarely more than half full at those times, except when infested by private schoolies.

    Mark says that Sydney public transport is markedly worse than Brisbane’s as well as being more expensive.

  20. John

    If you were expelled from Australia for your lack of compassion and un-Australian attitudes you would be screaming like a cut pig about the injustice. Just once how about showing a bit of empathy?

    They were NOT expelled from their county. He traveled often in and out of Sri Lanka, she was living in India. They were NOT refugees

    You do realise we take a set number of UNHCR certified refugees that a genuinely persecuted and haven’t got the coin to pay a people smuggler. If these frauds are excepted as refugees then what empathy and compassion do you have for the real refugees they displaced?

    We saw how Rudds ( and presumably your ) empathy and compassion resulted in kids floating face down smashing into rocks at Christmas Island, over a thousand drowned.

    Don’t question my empathy and compassion before you make amends for the results of yours first.

    Your co

  21. Jumpy: Don’t forget that Gillard effectively blocked the boats by introducing the Malaysian solution. Unfortunately is was blocked by Abbott and Morrison because the Malaysian solution took away political advantage.

  22. Brian: I gave up on Brisbane public transport commuting because route 425 was infrequent and often went missing on the home commute.
    Would have kept using public transport if I had the lightweight folding e-scooter I now own. It would have made it practical to use the high frequency Moggill Rd services for the home trip.

  23. John, we live exactly between the Bardon and Ashgrove/The Gap runs. Also we have the “buzz bus” 385 that stops less and goes through to the Cultural Centre, so we are well-served.

  24. Current account surplus!!!

    “How good is” the Australian economy??!!!

    Jeepers creepers, those Coalition dudes down in Canberra know how to run a national outfit properly, eh?

  25. I mean

    Low wage growth, low inflation, reduced weekend penalty rates, low taxes on multinationals, low dollar, slow action on bank misbehaviour, no rise in Newstart, robots chasing the bludgers….

    This is the life for high net worth, high income, subsidised and favoured well off the heavy lifters going out and giving it a go.

    Fabulous!

  26. On another tack,

    Thank you, Kristina Kenneally*, but I can do without your scriptural, ethical and moral advice, based on your interpretation of the Catholic Christian faith, which you so often proclaim and this morning used to admonish the PM.

    Have you heard of the separation of Church and State, Ms Kenneally? It’s a foundational principle of modern, secular States.

    If you want “Christian principles” a.k.a. generally accepted ethical and moral rules to be carried out in Australia, follow the Parliamentary route and have them enacted in laws passed by a Parliamentary majority. Or argue those precepts in every relevant Act of Parliament…..

    Otherwise, get thee to a pulpit after resigning from the Senate.

    Best wishes.

    * interviewed at length on ABC Radio National this morning

  27. Jeepers creepers, those Coalition dudes down in Canberra know how to run a national outfit properly, eh?

    Ambi, Alan Kohler reckons it’s because of the price of iron, which in turn is because of the Brumadinho dam disaster in Brazil.

    Can ScoMo and Josh take any credit?

    Niki Savva reckons that before they went off to the party meeting where ScoMo was elected leader he and his mate Stuart Robert took a few minutes to fall on their knees and pray.

    “We prayed that righteousness would exalt the nation,” he said.

    God works in mysterious ways, but good to have her onside!

  28. Hmmmmm

    If we’re benefitting from a deadly mine disaster, and it’s Her method of exalting the nation, that once again raises the tricky question: why does the omnipotent Goddess who loves us allow nasty disasters to occur?

    But I don’t wish to stray into theology.
    Kristina Keneally’s got that area well and truly covered.

    Nation exalted? Tick
    Economy good? Tick
    Emissions down? Tick
    Borders secure? Tick
    Ashes series won? Look, there are some things that are entirely outside our control. The English got the EU to slap a ban on imports of Australian sandpaper. Bastards!!

  29. Brian

    Ambi, Alan Kohler reckons it’s because of the price of iron, which in turn is because of the Brumadinho dam disaster in Brazil.

    The iron ore prices aren’t special at the moment, they were well above that for Swan.

    Can ScoMo and Josh take any credit?

    Didn’t stop Swan from excepting “ Treasurer of the Year “ from some Euro trash magazine.

    Might pay to compare gold and coal prices during the Swan miracle and now too.

  30. Because look at the comparative commodity prices.
    Swan ( and the States ) got kissed on the d**k by an angel with the price of red, yellow and black rocks.
    The excessive helicopter money turned out to be a long term counterproductive economic fail and did bugger all short to mid term. The economic science is in and clear.

    That’s why Swan.

    Feel free to rebut with a provable hypothesis.

  31. What??
    I thought Mr J was talking about dock .
    They’s weeds round ‘ere.

    When I were a lad, me Moom said “go ‘n eat yon dock leaves, lads! Be good fer yer teeth” ‘n summat.

    Ask me, were bluddy AWful!!

    Aye, but were ‘appy times.
    Dock leaves were growin’ unrestricted, unregulated, in a state of bluddy nature, they were, ‘n all!
    Somebody tried to set oop bluddy Sunday market, Vicar kicked ’em oop backside!

  32. Jumpy: The Australian response to the GFC was brilliant. Swan/Rudd used short term payments to the less wealthy members of the population who then went out and spent it in Australia which was what the economy needed at that time. (Ditto short term infrastructure spending. It was brilliant because it fixed a problem without committing to long term expenditure that may or may not have been desirable in the long term.
    Turnbull wanted to cut taxes to his rich mates to stimulate the economy. Dumb dumb dumb because the rich were less likely to rush out and spend it and would screech and complain if a government tried to remove the tax cuts at times when increasing taxes made sense. (Think about the weeping and wailing when Shorten was silly enough to talk about ending unfair franking credits.)
    Back to the present Frydenburg seems to be more interested in getting a surplus than doing what makes sense during a period when the per capita GDP is shrinking.

  33. But John D, Mr J hates stimulus spending.
    Laments folk going out to buy plasma tellies, as I recall.

    Seems oblivious to the way plasma telly $ transmutes into telly shop $ wages, transport company $ for supply of more tellies, transport driver $ wages, income tax $ and GST $ recirculating as welfare payments (spent quickly on $ food, $ rent), estate agent $ wages from rent, supermarket and shop $ wages from food purchases et cetera in ever widening ripples and echoes.

    To repeat what was reportedly the motto of the Bill Clinton campaign team in 1992, It’s the economy, st*pid!!”

    A network of producers, purchasers, users, taxers, taxpayers, services, retailers, wholesalers, importers, exporters, and so forth.

    I’m not sure which aspect of our near miss after the GFC, Mr J loathes most:

    is it our relatively small rise in unemployment?

    or is it the fact that unemployed persons [ then and now] receive weekly benefits from Centrelink at all?

    Why, I’ve heard some folk say the Australian economy can behave quite unlike a “zero sum game” where one person’s gain MUST be another person’s loss. Remarkable. And to think it coexists with a society of persons. Extraordinary!! Whatever would My Liege Lord the Viscount of Toorak have said about all this?? (Luckily, we were able to keep the worst aspects from him.)

  34. Over in England, PM Johnson’s brother Jo has quit as MP and Minister.

    A Labour MEP joked that it was “the first time a Member has resigned to spend less time with his family”.

    It appears JoJo was unhappy about BroBoJo’s purge of rebel Tory MPs.

    ByeBye JoJo.

  35. Goodbye Mr Mugabe, former tyrant of Zimbabwe.

    His harsh and murderous habits emerged early with the Matabeleland Massacre, 1983 –

    See Wikipedia on “Gukurahundi”.

    Many news outlets didn’t catch on until widespread hunger and rigged elections and intimidation by ZAPU and land seizures drew the attention of their slowish learners…

    But now he’s gone.

  36. Here’s a quote* from Tony Abbott

    This is not a true market.
    Just ask yourself what an emissions trading scheme is all about.
    It’s a market, a so-called market, in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no-one.

    Reporter: Isn’t that like financial markets?

    [15th July 2013]

    IMO that’s an interesting comment.

    * “Tony Speaks!” compiled by Russell Marks, Black Inc 2014;
    p. 50

  37. Mr A

    Reporter: Isn’t that like financial markets?

    [15th July 2013]

    IMO that’s an interesting comment.

    Interesting indeed.
    Was Abbott’s response provided in the book ?

  38. No, Mr J.
    The book gave only what I quoted.

    Perhaps one interpretation is that financial markets deal with tangible things like production, profits, wages, inflation, taxes and also with intangibles such as future prospects, expectations, sentiment, confidence, uncertainty, risk, and so forth??

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