Category Archives: Social Science and Society

COVID virus news 20/6

Sundry news about COVID 19.

World-wide, the 7-day average of new daily cases is now above 140,000 and rising, with a spike above 150,000. See WHO warns pandemic is ‘accelerating’ with record spike in new infections.

That article also reports that sampling of wastewater in the northern cities of Milan and Turin shows the virus was in Italy last December, at least two months before the country’s devastating outbreak. There is no concrete evidence that the outbreak came from those early infections, although one would hardly think it faded away. Perhaps the infected people were not identified as having a ‘novel’ virus. Continue reading COVID virus news 20/6

Covid, tourism and the value of a human life

When Queensland behind interstate barriers opened to intrastate tourism, we see that tourism operators were ‘ecstatic’ about easing restrictions if you scroll down this article:

    Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive, Mark Olsen, said… the region lost more than $200 million worth of bookings in March, with the impact to the end of April estimated at $500 million in lost visitor spending and thousands of jobs lost.

    “Over the last 24 hours, the phones have been ringing off the hook with travellers from the south-east corner confirming their accommodation and looking forward to their journeys, ” Mr Olsen said.

It raises the question as to how much scope there is in the intra-state tourist market, and secondly whether business is suffering too much through trying to wipe out the coronavirus. Continue reading Covid, tourism and the value of a human life

Weekly salon 26/5

1. Three first nations people in Queensland parliament

Lance McCallum, newly elected Labor MP for Bundamba now joins Cynthia Lui, Labor Member for Cook and Leeanne Enoch, Member for Algester and Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Minister for Science and Minister for the Arts in the Queensland parliament:

Continue reading Weekly salon 26/5

We need to talk about China

Here the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People on January 28 in Beijing, with appropriate distancing. Dr Tedros later commented that Xi had a surprising mastery of the detail of what was going on. Two days later the WHO declared the novel coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern. People have made up stories about this meeting and the sequence, but it seems to me an orderly progression of events, coming 10 days after China had alerted the world to a person to person highly infectious novel coronavirus, then sealing off and locking down Wuhan on 23 January. Continue reading We need to talk about China

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM TAIWAN COV19

Tim Colebatch wrote an interesting article “There is an Alternative to Lockdownsfor Inside Story. The article compares the performance of various countries in their handling of the corona virus pandemic. Tim’s assessment is that the outstanding performer has been Taiwan. It has been the world’s most successful country in fighting the virus. In a land with almost as many people as Australia, only six people have died, and 426 have been infected. This has been achieved without the economic and social collateral damage that has been a feature of the Australian approach.

This post looks at what Tim has reported and asks whether Australia should change the way it is dealing with the epidemic. Continue reading WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM TAIWAN COV19

Run for your life!

Or walk.

Seeing people holed up inside apartments around the world has worried me for many reasons, including people’s access to vitamin D and the necessary exercise to maintain health.

On an earlier thread John Davidson said he had been part of a UQ study on the use of high intensity exercise, and as a result he tries to get 36 mins intense exercise every week at above double his resting heart rate. In this post I summarise the findings of a number of articles that have recently come my way. Continue reading Run for your life!

Care of strangers

Back on August 30, 2004 John Quiggin posted a guest post from me Care of Strangers. He introduced it as being on the philosophy behind our stance on asylum seekers, and saying it raised some important (though not entirely new) questions about the adequacy of utilitarianism in contexts like this.

Here’s the post with minor editorial changes. More commas! Continue reading Care of strangers

The decade in review

There have been reviews aplenty. This one is based on Twenty years to 2020 published in the AFR, with some enhancements.

2009

Bitcoin was born and we had the Black Saturday bushfires. The Copenhagen climate talks failed, ratf*****d by the Chinese, according to Kevin Rudd, who spent the summer break writing a children’s book while Wayne Swan read to Henry Review into taxation.

2010

My wife and I walked the Milford track. 16 year-old Jessica Watson sails around the world. Kevin Rudd squibs a double dissolution election on climate change, and is turfed out in favour of Julia Gillard.

30 asylum seekers drown when their boat crashes into the rocks at Christmas Island.

Scientists develop a functional synthetic genome.

2011

A 6.3 magnitude earthquake hits Christchurch, killing 180. A tsunmami hits Fukushima, blowing up the nuclear plant, killing 15,840. Osama bin Laden is killed, and Qantas grounds its entire fleet in an industrial dispute.

Australia did pass ‘world leading’ climate change legislation, courtesy of the Gillard government, working with the Greens and independents.

The AFR forgot the Brisbane floods, the Toowoomba cloudburst and cyclone Yasi.

2012

Gillard made he famous ‘misogyny speech’, Uber launched in Australia, a Royal commission into child abuse was announced, and Australia introduced plain cigarette packaging.

Not mentioned by the AFR the Bahnisch family had a reunion.

2013

Rudd turfs Gillard out, then loses the election to Tony Abbott, instituting a new dark age which still prevails.

Prince George was born and analog TV was turned off in Oz.

2014

Malaysian Airways flight MH4370 disappeared with 239 people on board, Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine with 298 killed, Gough Whitlam died and two hostages and a gunman were killed in the Lindt Cafe siege.

Some of us had a Red Centre holiday and crossed the Simpson Desert.

Also the blog Climate Plus came into being.

2015

The Charlie Hebdo shooting saw 12 killed and the birth of the slogan “Je suis Charlie”.

The Apple watch is launched and Malcolm Turnbull turfs out Tony Abbott.

The Bahnisch family did a trip from Prague to Budapest, via the Danube which ran out of water at Bratislava. Plus various other European places of interest.

Not mentioned by the AFR, but Germany experienced the VW stuff-up, plus absorbed about a million refugees.

Nor did they mention the Paris Agreement on climate change and the death of a bloke called John Malcolm Fraser.

2016

UK votes 51.9% in favour of Brexit.

Augmented reality game Pokemon Go is released.

Donald Trump is elected 45th POTUS.

2017

Women’s march is the largest single-day protest in US history.

Grenfell Tower fire in London kills 72.

GMH ceases manufacturing in Oz.

Same sex marriage is legalised in Oz.

2018

The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Super and Finance Industry makes a stir.

Kim Jong-on crosses into South Korea.

Apple becomes the first trillion dollar company.

Malcolm Turnbull got the chop, making way for Scott Morrison.

2019

Cardinal Pell was found guilty of sexually abusing two boys in 1996.

Scott Morrison wins an election with a little help from Clive Palmer, Bill Shorten and the ALP election team. (There is a rumour that former Greens leader Bob Brown and a coal mine in Central Queensland had an effect.)

Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg inspires the school climate strikes. (Actually that started in 2018, she sailed to New York and addressed the UN in 2019.)

Australia burnt.

Did they miss any?

Of course any list is somewhat arbitrary. I would have noted the rise of social media other than blogging, which I think dates from around 2012.

Then there was the Me Too movement from 2017.

Also in 2018 there was the Thai cave rescue story, and the Christchurch massacre.

Any others?

Where are we now?

According to Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens at The Minefield we’ve reached a point where nothing really matters any more. There are no consequences for bad behaviour, truth has no enduring meaning and can be changed with a tweet to become whatever you want.

All that could be changed if we could clone Jacinda Adern and get her to run every country on the planet. In 2019 she brought down a Wellbeing Budget:

After more than a year of curiosity and speculation, New Zealand’s Labour coalition government has unveiled its “world-first” wellbeing budget, to widespread praise from social agencies charged with looking after the country’s most vulnerable people.

The finance minister, Grant Robertson, unveiled billions for mental health services and child poverty as well as record investment in measures to tackle family violence.

“Success is making New Zealand both a great place to make a living, and a great place to make a life,” Robertson told parliament.

He said many New Zealanders were not benefiting from a growing economy in their daily lives, and this year’s budget had been designed to address the growing disparity between the haves and have-nots.

What will 2020 bring?

We’d best not talk about climate change here or we’ll never finish.

I don’t think killing Major General Qassem Soleimani of Iran was a smart move. After Iran did a deal with Obama on nukes the country could have pursued peace and prosperity, one would think. What happened was anything but. However, killing a military leader is unlikely to be followed by an outbreak of peace and love.

Now if Iran misbehaves Trump has threatened 52 strikes, including cultural sites, normally classified as a war crime.

Apart from that, any given year usually brings forth something entirely unexpected.

The New Scientist has a short article suggesting that facial recognition technology will be big, and on another front research on human origins may produce a more settled view on how we evolved from being just another ape.

Then medical research is on the threshold of producing two drugs which may make ageing redundant.

One new drug clears out “senescent” cells out of the brain. The second drug mimics the transfusion of young blood “which has been shown to increase cognition in animals and reduce biomarkers for cancer and heart disease.

They are about to enter phase 3 trials, but could be sold as al-purpose rejuvenation therapies by the end of the decade.

Probably too late for me, and that might be just as well!

The New Scientist asserts that most of us are materially better off, but that puts no price on ‘nature’ and the environment. As top predator we are still on a classic path of a plague species heading for a population crash.

Happy new year!

Political panic or dynamic leadership? Morrison’s bushfire response

That’s a screenshot of an advertisement put out on Twitter, which you can see here authorised by S. Morrison for the Liberal Party to spruik what the Australian Government is doing to in ” response to these terrible #bushfires“.

If you scroll down a bit you will see this:

Katherine Murphy lets fly in Scott Morrison’s political ad is a bizarre act of self-love as firefighters battle to save Australia:

The prime minister’s promotional video was staggeringly objectionable and highlights his failure to lead

It really is hard to keep up with a prime minister who declares one minute disaster management is predominantly a state responsibility, and he won’t be running over the top of state premiers, and then, seemingly, five minutes later, calls out the ADF reserve, deploys military assets and procures more water bombers than anyone asked for.

This kind of plot twist is dizzying stuff in normal conditions, let alone in the middle of a disaster, when the prime ministerial norm is generally one of steadiness and consistency.

Perhaps it was Scott Morrison’s own demonstrable lack of clarity about what his government was, or was not, doing, in response to Australia’s catastrophic summer of bushfires that prompted his communications team to pump out a promotional video – on one of the most perilous days of the disaster – outlining today’s initiatives.”

That was Murphy just warming up.

Perhaps surprisingly news.com.au gives a quite dispassionate account in Scott Morrison slammed after tweeting 50-second ad spruiking new bushfire measures.

That piece ends with Morrison’s own account of the woman at Cobargo refusing to shake his hand and other people yelling at him. Essentially he says there is a lot of emotion around, and the fact that he was the ‘first senior leader’ to enter the town made him a target for people’s anger and fear.

The ABC’s account rounds up criticism from all directions, labelling the ad ‘absolutely obscene’ and ‘It’s like being ‘sold to’ at a funeral’.

More importantly:

‘The Australian Defence Association (ADA) — a public-interest watchdog of Australian defence matters — said on Twitter the video “milking ADF support to civil agencies fighting bushfires” was a “clear breach of the (reciprocal) non-partisanship convention applying to both the ADF & Ministers/MPs”.

The ADA website notes that “politically expedient Government announcements” featuring the ADF “is always wrong”.

On the radio Morrison is arguing that earlier he took the position that fire-fighting was a state matter, and that he had been responding to their requests. Now, he says, they were not asking enough and the situation demands actrion, so he is acting.

However, his style appears to be totally non-consultative, ignoring the appropriate protocols. As John Davidson said on another thread:

” He also said somewhere that he was doing what he was doing without listening to the premiers. The big man has taken over AND IT WILL BE DONE HIS WAY!!!

Sounds like out of control political panicking from someone who doesn’t know how to lead. “

This David Rowe cartoon from mid-November seems apposite:

When people with expertise wanted to meet with him he refused. Now he just goes ahead regardless, although on radio he said that calling in the reserves was planned in November. The Guardian has a useful chronology from May 2018 of how the issue developed over time, although they could have started with scientists’ warnings which Penny Wong says she was given when in government prior to Abbott’s ascension to power in 2013.

Moreover, Australia is already majorly on the nose overseas on matters relating to climate change. An article in the New York Post written after the Cobargo incident – Australia fires: Scott Morrison chased out of scorched town by angry locals – is worth a read, with the PM being called a “scumbag” and told to “piss off”. It gives a full report of the video seen here that went viral.

Paul Bongiorno had already written Morrison’s leadership off in The summer Scott Morrison’s leadership broke. Bongiorno details how Morrison continually gets the decisions, the optics and the words wrong. Whatever political capital he had from the election has been squandered.

On New Year’s Eve we had the PM telling us what a great place Australia is to live when a debate raged as to whether the fireworks should be cancelled and the cricket authorities are spelling out the protocols about who decides whether the players can still see the ball for the smoke. Well before that time the PM had become a bit of a joke. The first comment on this Mumbrella piece says “Morrison is no leader, he couldn’t even lead a choko vine over a dunny wall.! “

Laura Tingle asks a reasonable question in Are the bushfires Scott Morrison’s Hurricane Katrina moment that he can’t live down?

Reflecting on a photo of himself surveying some of the damage from Air Force One, George W Bush said:

That photo of me hovering over the damage suggested I was detached from the suffering on the ground,” Bush wrote later in his book Decision Points.

“That was not how I felt. But once that impression was formed, I couldn’t change it.”

Tingle dismembers the Government’s shallow, perfidious and contradictory climate ‘policies’.

A price we have paid is a general lack of trust in politicians and the institutions of government, which the right side of politics have trashed in Australia over the last 10 years. Joe Hildebrandt comes up with an unusual analysis which nevertheless is built around the central point that we’ve had Liberal and Labor powerbrokers treating the office of the prime minister as a personal plaything and the electorate with contempt in the process. The notable exception, he says, has been Anthony Albanese, but than he says Albo has been attacked by the lunar left for not attacking Morrison.

Must say, I don’t know where or when that happened, or who the ‘lunar left’ are.

I was surprised at Tingle’s report on the scale of the fires:

“To give some scale to what has happened here so far, international media outlets have been reporting the 2018 California fires burnt 2 million acres; the 2019 Amazon fires 2.2 million; and the 2019 Siberian fires 6.7 million.

So far Australia’s 2019/20 fires have burnt 12 million acres.”

As commenter zoot pointed out the New York Times has an excellent piece Why the Fires in Australia Are So Bad. Just in is an excellent graphic explainer from the BBC.

Our problem is that at the UN climate talks in Madrid in December our stance not just a sad, irrelevant joke, we were actively obstructionist.

The world is watching. See also the BBC’s What is Australia doing to tackle climate change?

I think 2019 is the year climate change smacked us in the face. It’s time to act now, urgently and at scale, on immediate and longer term adaptation and mitigation.

On the latter, that should mean net zero CO2 by 2030 at latest, and 350 ppm ASAP thereafter.

Westpac’s woes

To senior people at Westpac the AUSTRAC charges seemed like a minor technical glitch. Instead they’d been handed a grenade which exploded in their faces. The media portrayal has been of greedy bankers who would engage in anything to make a profit. This SMH editorial begins:

    After the royal commission into the financial sector last year, many pundits said that trust in banks could not go any lower. Westpac has proven them wrong.

    Less than a year after Kenneth Hayne delivered his report about rip-offs and illegal sales tactics by Australia’s most profitable financial institutions, Australia’s second largest bank has been pinged for breaches of money laundering and anti-terrorism laws, including facilitating payments to paedophiles in the Philippines.

The actual is a little more prosaic, as the editorial goes on to tell:

    Westpac’s latest failures raise different issues to the Hayne inquiry. This is not a case of bank managers ordering their staff to act unconscionably or flawed incentive payments. Westpac’s crimes here are arguably more those of omission than commission. It failed to implement and check the IT systems required to properly detect and report suspicious transactions. (Emphasis added)

Continue reading Westpac’s woes

WHERE HAS ALL THE MONEY GONE?

WHERE HAS THE MONEY GONE?

Productivity has grown enormously since I started work. In addition, participation of women in the workforce has also risen dramatically. In theory, these changes should have resulted in families being much better off financially assuming a reasonable share of the benefits of both these changes were shared with families.

Problem is that too many families with both parents working claim to be struggling financially as well as being stressed by the pressures associated from having both parents working long hours. Which begs the question: What has happened to all the extra money generated by the increases in productivity and working hours per family?

This post asks “where has all the money gone?” with particular reference to affordable accommodation.

Continue reading WHERE HAS ALL THE MONEY GONE?