Category Archives: Social Science and Society

China matters: Turnbull puts Australia’s future in play

When Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister, Chinese media outlets gave him the nickname Tang Bao, which sounds like his surname and means sweet dumpling, according to Lisa Murray in the AFR. Yet the dumpling has turned sour as relations with China are assessed as worse than they were since the Tienanmen Square incident

On Saturday 9 December last year Turnbull stood in a leafy garden and let fly:

    Switching between Mandarin and English, Turnbull then said: “Modern China was founded in 1949 with these words: ‘The Chinese people have stood up’. It was an assertion of sovereignty, it was an assertion of pride.”

    “And we stand up and so we say, the Australian people stand up.”

Historians may come to mark that day as a turning point, when Australia’s future was put into play, ending later during Bill Shorten’s period as PM with Australia declaring neutrality in relation to both China and the USA. Continue reading China matters: Turnbull puts Australia’s future in play

Saturday salon 1/4

1. Coached to cheat!

No I’m not talking about cricket, I’m talking about rugby league, highlighted by a match between the Melbourne Storm and the Cronulla Sharks where 33 penalties were blown, and Cameron Smith, captain of the Storm, Queensland and Australia was binned for 10 minutes for dissent. I didn’t see it, but I understand Smith made very clear that he did not think he should go.

The fact is that teams had been coached to cheat for years. The NRL had reached the point where they either had to enforce the rules or change them. Players were not standing up before they played the ball, then simply rolling it between their legs. The defending players, back the mandatory 10 metres, were taking off before the ball had cleared the ruck.

If everyone played by the rules, the game would look cleaner, tidier, and would be more open. However, players had been coached to ignore the referees, who typically gave a couple of penalties, then put the whistle in their pocket. The public called for consistency. Now they are getting it, some don’t like it. However, if the referees give in now, then we may as well give up on the rules. Continue reading Saturday salon 1/4

The rise and rise of American gun culture

On the 4th of July in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence the thirteen American colonies then at war with the Kingdom of Great Britain—New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia— announced that they would now regard themselves as thirteen independent sovereign states no longer under British rule.

It was a very brave thing to do, because there were very few guns in the colonies and they had no significant gun industry. Yet the American War of Independence (1775-1783) was won and with it the American gun industry was born. ABC RN’s Rear Vision program recently took a look at the origins of the American gun industry (transcript available) with some erudite published authors and scholars. Continue reading The rise and rise of American gun culture

Deep origins: patriarchy

Back in 2013 when I wrote the post Deep origins: language I had intended to follow with an examination of how patriarchy emerged within the societies that adopted the Indo-European language group. It is mind-boggling that so many languages from Iceland to Russia, to India, Iran and Mediterranean Europe speak languages evolved from the same source:

The exceptions in Europe are Basque, Estonian, Finnish and Magyar (Hungarian).

This posts gathers some thoughts towards that end, stimulated by the discussion on the Saturday salon 6/1 thread from about here. Continue reading Deep origins: patriarchy

It’s all John Howard’s fault

When we think of worst prime ministers, the completely useless Bill (Sir William) McMahon comes to mind, followed by the negative, sloganeering bully Tony Abbott. However, if you are looking for a PM who did actual damage to the country’s economic and social fabric it’s hard to go past John Winston Howard.

Mike Seccombe has a brilliant article on the topic in the Saturday Paper, where you are allowed one article a month free, or can take out a sub for about $1.90 per week.

Continue reading It’s all John Howard’s fault

Not what we needed at Christmas

Here it is in pictures, a SUV ploughed into a crowded intersection in Melbourne’s Flinders Street, where people were simply crossing the road during peak hour.

19 people have been injured, four critically, with no deaths so far. Police say the act was intentional, but are not at this stage linking it to terrorism. The man at the wheel, a 32-year-old Australian of Afghan descent, has a mental illness and a history of ice addiction. Continue reading Not what we needed at Christmas

“Mutti” Merkel looks a certainty

I’m told Germans have little respect for politicians, rating them at the bottom of the pile. Generally, though, they are said to be courteous, even boring in how they conduct their politics, although it doesn’t altogether look that way from the outside.

However, this time policies are not so much to the fore, it’s really about the Merkel model of how to succeed in politics – unobtrusive, appearing ordinary and not of the elite, Continue reading “Mutti” Merkel looks a certainty

Commonwealth Bank class action – a lawyers picnic?

Respected financial journalist Michael Pascoe thinks the Commonwealth Bank class action would hurt everyone but the lawyers.

    Two ambulance-chasing firms are inviting CBA shareholders to punch themselves in the head and pay the firms for the privilege.

    A narrower version of the story is that lawyers Maurice Blackburn and litigation funder IMF Bentham are out to profiteer by provoking one group of innocent CBA shareholders to rip money off another group of innocent CBA shareholders and further damage the share price in the process.

Continue reading Commonwealth Bank class action – a lawyers picnic?

Drug syndicates turned CBA into a money pump, but the whole financial system is at risk

When Prof Jason Sharman told Phillip Adams that half a million dollars was stuffed into the new intelligent deposit machines installed in the Commonwealth Bank from 2012, and then did the same for the next three years, it sounded incredible, and if true, could only happen with complicit corruption. Seems it didn’t happen quite like that, but what authorities say did happen is staggering and quite bizarre. Continue reading Drug syndicates turned CBA into a money pump, but the whole financial system is at risk

Which bank under heavy fire

For now same sex marriage takes centre stage, but journalists and pollies have taken time out to unload on the Commonwealth Bank, forgetting that their own esteem in public eyes hovers around that of used-car salespersons. Also most have never organised anything bigger than a booze-up in a brewery, so the chances of them understanding how large businesses work is close to zero.

We’ll have to wait for the court case to find out what really happened, but there have been a couple of articles in the AFR, and an ABC TV interview with the chair of the board, Catherine Livingstone, so here is my best estimate as to what happened. Continue reading Which bank under heavy fire

AER, ACCC and the ABC join the fray on Qld electricity prices

In last Tuesday’s post It’s gas, not renewables, pushing up electricity prices the federal Minister Josh Frydenberg attacked the Queensland government through it’s state-owned generators for “gaming the system”, which, he said gave Queensland the nation’s most expensive electricity, costing jobs. In that post Queensland’s electricity was shown to be low compared to those of the other eastern mainland states, in recent years and in recent months the lowest.

The state has now been attacked by the AER (Australian Energy Regulator) and by the ACCC. At the end of it all, Steve Austin, the host of Mornings on Brisbane’s local ABC, sank the boot in. So what to make of it all? Continue reading AER, ACCC and the ABC join the fray on Qld electricity prices

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