Category Archives: Life

Saturday salon 12/8

1. Made in Australia by the Turnbull government

The Liberal Party Has Overwhelmingly Decided To Keep Its Plebiscite Policy, so because the Senate again failed to pass the necessary legislation, we are off to a $122 million postal vote, which is really a voluntary survey to be conducted by the ABS, if the High Court lets them.

Except, we already know what the people think, because they’ve already been surveyed, and people who know about these things say that the proposed survey is incompetent as a survey, lacking proper sampling. Of course, the opponents of same sex-marriage see this as their best chance of getting a “no” vote and kicking the can down the road.

Peter FitzSimons asks, How did the Liberal Party get into such a mess? Continue reading Saturday salon 12/8

Power cripples your brain

The old saying that power corrupts has been verified by science. Not only that, it does your head in, as it were, cripples your brain and cuts you off from reality. Jerry Useem tells the story in Power Causes Brain Damage.

Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley, conducted years of lab and field experiments.

    Subjects under the influence of power, he found in studies spanning two decades, acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury—becoming more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view.

Continue reading Power cripples your brain

The behemoth is coming

It’s official, Amazon is coming to Australia, promising cheaper prices, faster delivery times, and access to a greater range of products, including groceries.

Amazon books no profit, pays no dividends and puts everything it earns back into growth. Starting 20 years ago with a share price of $US16. In April the AFR reported the price as over $US900 with a market capitalisation around $US440 billion. Gerry Harvey warned:

    “They are the animal that went right across America devouring all before it, sending everyone broke.”

Continue reading The behemoth is coming

Learning from Lindt Cafe siege

Generally speaking coroner Michael Barnes’s report on the Lindt Café siege has been well-received, but not everyone is happy. The Police Association of New South Wales pre-empted the report, calling it a witch hunt. Bernard Keane at Crikey thinks we now need a full judicial inquiry. ABC’s Four Corners provided a platform for the relatives of the victims (see The Siege Part One and The Siege Part Two who want adverse findings to be made, people within the police force to be charged, and the psychiatrist consulted at the time never to work for government again.However, Martin McKenzie-Murray in an excellent piece at Saturday Paper Making sense of the Sydney siege thinks it has a “deft balancing of respect and criticism”. [Saturday Paper allows one free view per week.]

As Mark Kenny points out, there is no nonviolent way of storming a venue. Collateral deaths are always to be expected. If police had stormed the cafe early, others relatives may now be saying that their loved ones died because the police blundered in.

In fact the police thought that Man Haron Monis had a bomb. They thought everyone in the cafe might die; they themselves expected to die. Some of them called loved ones to say goodbye before they went in. Continue reading Learning from Lindt Cafe siege

Snakes alive

For something a bit different, for many years our neighborhood has had a carpet python that visited the back yards from time to time, where it cleaned up any vermin and then moved onto the next house. At over two metres it was sizeable – we know it has devoured a possum or two. Recently when it appeared in a yard nearby, hanging about in a small tree, we thought it might be dead after it stayed motionless for a couple of days:

Continue reading Snakes alive

Saturday salon 22/4

1. Theresa May’s brave gambit

She didn’t need to, so why did she, especially after promising absolutely definitely that she wouldn’t?

Given a lead of about 20% in the polls, she possibly sees a chance of decimating Labour and governing virtually as a one-party state for the next five years.

However, Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight warns that the British polls are basically not worth a cracker. Their abysmal performance translates into a margin of error of 13 to 15%. Continue reading Saturday salon 22/4

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

Teflon-coated politicians – no heart, no brains, no ethics

I must admit I didn’t know in advance that on Tuesday there were rallies all around the country in protest against the overpayment recovery system used by Centrelink which has seen thousands of people wrongfully issued with overpayment notices until I heard the Radio National report in the evening.

Googling, the only other report I’ve found was of the Melbourne rally, which, inter alia, said that over the last five years Centrelink staff have seen 5,000 of their colleagues lose their jobs. Also this item about strike action by staff last December. CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said:

    “Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support staff are frustrated and worried by the Turnbull Government’s mean and illogical public sector bargaining policy. These working mums and dads are asking us if they can go on strike again to bring some attention to this unfair situation, as they face their third Christmas without a pay rise.” Continue reading Teflon-coated politicians – no heart, no brains, no ethics

Federer rules, for now


I’m a bit of a sports nut, so we’ve had plenty of tennis watching in the last month. When we were first married we used to get up in the middle of the night and watch Björn Borg play Wimbledon. Can’t do that now, so it’s pretty much the Australian season.

This year was a celebration of the oldies, with no-one under 30 in the men’s or women’s finals. Serena Williams at 35, beating her older sister Venus (36) always looked inevitable, an unstoppable force. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal was a pure gift. Federer had no right to be there at age 35. Nadal is 30 and shouldn’t be there either. I thought Nadal would win, but I thought the match had nothing to do with who was the best player in the modern era.

The play was amazing. Federer rained down 20 aces to Nadal’s four, but Nadal’s serve was the more consistent. 73 winners flowed from Federer’s racquet to Nadal’s 35, but Federer was also making twice as many unforced errors. However, Federer’s strategy of attack paid off, winning five games in a row in the final set, after looking out of it, down a break at 1-3.

There is no single criterion for judging who is the ‘best player’, but the perception for many was that Nadal was better because he had a better head-to-head record with Federer, and dominance over Federer in Grand Slams since 2008, ignoring the fact that Nadal’s dominance only started when Federer was 27, arguably past his best, and Nadal five years younger was entering his prime. Federer winning has made some people think again, and so they should. Continue reading Federer rules, for now

Centrelink fail: Ashgrove pensioners billed for $45,000

He’s 90, she’s 88. On July 25, 2016 Centrelink sent them a letter demanding that they pay back $22,239.82 each in excess pension payments. They were given 28 days to pay from the date of the letter. If they didn’t they would lose the pension, it would be put in the hands of a debt collector and interest added. In addition they would no longer have access to cancer drugs, costing $2,000 a month. Continue reading Centrelink fail: Ashgrove pensioners billed for $45,000

Australia, you are standing in it

flag_index_250 Last year I said:

    My brother and his wife hosted a street party where people hailed recently from seven different overseas countries. Yesterday one of my wife’s clients said she knew Aborigines who would just close their doors and cry.

And the TV news reported us “playing and protesting”. Nothing has changed this year, but I’m sure eventually it will. Chris Graham, the indigenous editor of New Matilda, asks the simple question:

    If your ancestors were dispossessed, slaughtered and had their land and their children stolen, would you celebrate the date on which that all began?

Continue reading Australia, you are standing in it