Category Archives: Sundries

Posts on sundry matters of life the universe and everything: Culture, Environment, Life, Politics & Government, Science, Social Science and Society, Technology etc.

Happiness: the universal goal

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The main goal is always to beat New Zealand, but this time they beat us, according to the World Happiness Report 2017, which tells us that increasingly, happiness is considered to be the proper measure of social progress and the goal of public policy. They say:

The results are yet another resounding endorsement of the ‘Nordic model’. The top four countries, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland are statistically a dead heat, while Finland is fifth, and Sweden ninth, tied with Australia to three decimal places, after The Netherlands, Canada and New Zealand. Continue reading Happiness: the universal goal

Saturday salon 25/3

1. Service interruption

I’ve been advised by the host of Climate Plus that they will be taking time out for maintenance for about two hours from 2pm PDT (whatever that means, they are based in the USA) on Saturday March 25. It’s about MySQL and they say connectivity could be affected during that time.

2. Who pays and who gets the loot?

Laura Tingle has an interesting graph about who pays the bills and who gets cash and kind from the government:

Continue reading Saturday salon 25/3

Gas to burn

Jay Weatherill’s energy plan involves the construction of a government-owned 250MW gas-fired power plant to provide emergency back-up power and system stability services for South Australians, and power for his resources minister to instruct the owners of Pelican Point to turn it on. Yet his plans for cheaper gas, or any gas, will not work quickly and possibly will not work at all. Laura Tingle in an excellent article published under the title of Power sources: steaming Premiers and Pumped PMs tells us that on the futures market on Wednesday, the June contract for electricity in Victoria hit $147.50 per megawatt hour, compared to a price for the March contract of just $80 as energy traders put a price on the closure of Hazelwood in Victoria at the end of March.

Meanwhile a group of former BHP Billiton and BP executives is consulting with SA to build a private equity funded power station, using gas from a floating regasification plant sourcing gas from the North West Shelf and from Singapore, some of which may actually come from the Cooper Basin in the state’s north via Gladstone.

Is this for real, and how did we get into this ridiculous mess? Continue reading Gas to burn

Saturday salon 18/3

1. Sally McManus is one to watch

Sally McManus has just become the first female secretary of the ACTU. When she went to study a bachelor of arts at university her parents said “We never knew you were good at painting.”

There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle over Leigh Sales ‘gotcha’ question about supporting the rule of law on the 7.30 Report. McManus took the bait head-on by stating that there was no obligation to obey an unjust law. Christopher Pyne called it “anarcho-Marxist claptrap”. Bill Shorten took the easy road and said “We believe in changing bad laws not breaking them.”

People should remember Rosa Parks and Mahatma Gandhi. Continue reading Saturday salon 18/3

Solutions to the energy crisis

Malcolm Turnbull has now, for reasons best known to himself, elevated “energy crisis” to a “national security” issue. Ben Potter puts the situation well:

    A decade of fighting over renewable energy, carbon prices and fossil fuels has left Australia with some of the world’s dirtiest and costliest energy – a bitter yield from historical abundance.

    Three years ago, manufacturers began complaining they couldn’t get gas, and 18 months ago the South Australian grid started to wobble.

    Now, electricity and gas prices across the eastern states are two to three times their levels only a couple of years ago.

    Gas exporters overcommitted to foreign buyers; the federal government mismanaged renewable energy and the regulatory apparatus – and politicians responsible for it – are frozen in the headlights.

Continue reading Solutions to the energy crisis

How Bill Clinton and Barack Obama prepared the ground for Donald Trump

Thomas Frank has recently been in Australia, spruiking his book Listen, Liberal or Whatever Happened to the Party of the People. He told Richard Fidler that

    the Democratic Party has drifted away from its working class roots and been captured by technocrats — lawyers, financiers and professionals.

    As a result, the Democrats have lost interest in the problem of inequality and the increasingly stressful lives of the everyday people who used to vote for them.

He told Fidler that Democrats believed that if people felt they had been left behind (“the deplorables”) it was because that is what they deserved. They had made the wrong choices, studied the wrong subjects, or hadn’t tried hard enough. Continue reading How Bill Clinton and Barack Obama prepared the ground for Donald Trump

Saturday salon 10/3

1. WA elections

I haven’t followed the WA election closely, but the main impression is of chaos and farce. Newspoll has Labor ahead 54-46 TPP, with Labor winning 34 of the 59 seats in the lower house on a uniform swing. One Nation has tanked from 13% to 8% over the last six weeks.

Colin Barnett’s punishment for the upper house preference swap deal with ON was having to explain the reasons to the media 35 days in a row. Continue reading Saturday salon 10/3

What is Trump up to?

It has emerged that Donald Trump was from youth a regular church-goer and an enormous admirer of his pastor, one Norman Vincent Peale, whose 1952 book The Power of Positive Thinking was translated into 15 languages, remained on the New York Times best-seller list for 186 weeks and sold 5 million copies.

Peale’s son is not so keen on Trump, but Trump is very keen on himself. His biographer says Peale’s influence is the source of Trump’s boundless self-confidence, and is the key to his persona, along with his father’s modus operandi and interest in branding.

Trump’s “America first” meme presented as somewhat isolationist. What has emerged in his recent speech to the joint houses of Congress, is that Trump has in fact embraced American exceptionalism, the notion that America has a special role in the world to lead the all peoples and countries to the sunny uplands of peace, justice and freedom. Trump is going to save the world. Continue reading What is Trump up to?

Saturday salon 4/3

1. Mining invades the ABC

This report gives a factual account of four appointments, two each to the ABC and SBS boards, recently announced by the Government.

The one that raised eyebrows is Vanessa Guthrie who chairs the Minerals Council of Australia and was formerly CEO of Toro Energy. She is also the deputy chair of the Western Australia Cricket Association and an independent director of the Murlpirrmurra Connection.

She’s a woman and from WA, but there is little doubt the appointment has ideological intent. Continue reading Saturday salon 4/3

Will Barnaby Joyce save Malcolm Turnbull?

Peter van Onselen, a university professor who also goes under the title of ‘Contributing editor’ at The Australian, told us last Monday that a group of Liberal MPs had tried to bring Malcolm Turnbull down (paywalled):

    A group of conservative Liberal MPs calling themselves “the deplorables” held regular phone hook-ups after last year’s close election result to co-ordinate a strategy to attack Malcolm Turnbull on several policy fronts and to get Tony Abbott back into cabinet.

    The hook-ups throughout the second half of last year were instigated by Mr Abbott and Eric Abetz via calendar invites and group texts, with the pair chairing meetings that included directives to junior MPs to use the media to pressure the Turnbull government on issues such as Safe Schools and amending section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Continue reading Will Barnaby Joyce save Malcolm Turnbull?

Poll stuff: the redhead on the surge

The dominant media narrative has been that the voters continue to desert the main parties, especially the LNP, in droves, mainly to One Nation. Reality is a bit more complex, and recent polls have thrown up other interesting results, like 64% of people overall, and 56% of LNP voters, support a royal commission into banking.

Let’s look at Newspoll first, where Labor has opened up a yawning two-party preferred gap of 55-45, up from 54-46:

Continue reading Poll stuff: the redhead on the surge

Henry: politicians fail while Australia burns

That was the title of Phillip Coorey’s article in the AFR about Ken Henry’s withering speech to the Committee of Economic Development. For those who came in late, Dr Ken Henry was secretary of treasury from 2001 to 2011, appointed originally by Peter Costello and served during the Rudd/Gillard years. He is now chairman of the NAB board.

I think it was the news story of the week. Continue reading Henry: politicians fail while Australia burns