Category Archives: Social Science and Society

Weekly salon 25/5

The sun came up on Sunday morning after the election, and has continued to do so ever since. So perhaps there was not a fundamental tear in basic fabric of reality as seemed to be the case on Saturday the night. So how is the rest of the world getting along?

1. Why smart people do stupid things?

Continue reading Weekly salon 25/5

Weekly salon 28/4

1. Any clown can lead a country!

What with our ScoMo and Donald Trump as POTUS, you might think that any clown can run a country. Now in Ukraine we have – Comedy is a tool, a trick – Ukraine will soon see that running a country is no joke. Jack Bernhardt, a comedy writer and occasional performer, takes a look at the news that:

    Volodymyr Zelenskiy, an actor and comedian with no political experience other than playing the role of president in a TV series, has won a landslide victory in Ukraine’s presidential election, with near-complete counting showing he has won over 70% of the vote.

Continue reading Weekly salon 28/4

Is religion good or bad for us?

Over Easter, apart from wondering Where is heaven? I read an article in the New Scientist Is religion good or bad for humanity? Epic analysis delivers an answer

    A scientific review of 10,000 years of history is finally revealing the unexpected truth behind religion’s role in human civilisation

The author is Harvey Whitehouse, who is chair of social anthropology and director of the Centre for the Study of Social Cohesion at the University of Oxford. Back in 2015 I took a look at Karen Armstrong, ‘the myth of religious violence’ and the secular state. Whitehouse claims his investigation is ‘scientific’. It is certainly impressive. Continue reading Is religion good or bad for us?

Where is heaven?

When I was really young there were no Easter bunnies around our place. The idea was introduced by the teacher of the small Lutheran Day School at Downfall Creak, near Guluguba, north of Miles, west of Toowoomba, when I was about seven or eight. We did have hens eggs coloured with dye, but no chocolate at all, let alone as eggs.

However, that’s not what Easter is about. It’s about the risen Christ, right? He conquered death and rose to heaven in a cloud, to sit at the right hand of God the Almighty, with a promise to return some day. So I was interested in an article What and where is heaven? The answers are at the heart of the Easter story. Continue reading Where is heaven?

Brexit crunch coming

Everyone knows that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit would be a very bad idea, except a cabal of very determined MPs. I’ll come back to that.

Everyone also agrees that Theresa May has done a staggeringly bad job at negotiating Brexit, but she’s still there. I’ll come back to that also.

Her latest speech telling the people that she’s on their side, but the other politicians are to blame has really upset everyone. Apparently the anger with politicians in Britain is real, and May has just made it worse.

Stephen Bush, political editor of the New Statesman, sends out a morning call. His last Friday effort is a good explainer. Continue reading Brexit crunch coming

Weekly salon 23/3

1. Jacinda Adern stars as PM

And just a top human being.

Jacinda Adern wears a headscarf in the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks Photograph: Kirk Hargreaves/Christchurch City Council

Ambigulous drew our attention to the New York Times editorial America Deserves a Leader as Good as Jacinda Ardern largely repeated in the NZ Herald. Continue reading Weekly salon 23/3

The Pell case breaks new ground


In his sermon last Sunday the Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, urged parishioners don’t be ‘too quick to judge’ Pell. I found what the Archbishop said appropriate, except that Pell has been judged and found guilty. That is his present status. He is guilty as charged on five counts of sexual abuse. For the third most senior Catholic official on the planet, that is breathtaking. Continue reading The Pell case breaks new ground

Weekly salon 2/3

1. Politics and the mood of the people

Mark David cartoon

To me the Morrison government has brought politics to a new low in Australia. Angela Merkel’s flipping through her briefing notes to see who is PM in Australia this week spoke volumes. Continue reading Weekly salon 2/3

Dividend imputation reform vs a dishonest scare campaign

The Coalition government is calling Labor’s proposals to end cash payments by the taxation office for excess share dividend imputation credits a “retiree tax” and an attack on pensioners. In fact:

  • No pensioners or part pensioners will be affected at all.
  • Exemptions include individuals receiving the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment, Parenting Payment, Newstart and Sickness Allowance.
  • Self managed super funds (SMSFs) can have up to six members. Where one of a couple is receiving a part pension the exemption will apply to the fund.
  • Martin also pointed out that it is possible to receive a part pension with an income of up to $78,000 pa.
  • Currently under the existing rules it would be theoretically possible to receive a superannuation income of $80,000 pa, and then in addition receive a cash cheque from the taxation office of about $34,000.
  • These benefits flow to one in every 25 Australians, the rest of us in effect pay for them.
  • When cash payments were introduced in 2001 the rule change cost the budget $550 million. The current cost is about $5 billion, $8 billion next year. It is simply unsustainable. Peter Martin says the current scheme is as Australian as the echidna. No other country in the world does it.

Continue reading Dividend imputation reform vs a dishonest scare campaign

Cashing in on refugees at Manus Island

As the crossbench celebrated passing a vote to medivac refugees from offshore detention camps at doctors discretion:

Scott Morrison did not seem to be unduly perturbed:

I am sure he likes having refugees mired at Manus and Nauru, so he can scare Australian voters about the danger of letting Bill Shorten anywhere near The Lodge and the treasury benches. There are some other people who also cash in big time – for example Paladin Group, one of the biggest government contractors in Australia, having won tenders worth $423 million for its 22 months work on Manus. Continue reading Cashing in on refugees at Manus Island