Friday 25 December 2020

Operation Christmas (Updated).


(source)

In June 2016 FARC (Spanish acronym for Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the long-running Marxist-Leninist guerrilla insurgency, signed a ceasefire with the Government of Juan Manuel Santos. A year later FARC handed over its weapons to the United Nations, in accordance with the ceasefire agreement.

After fighting on the losing side of a 50 odd year revolutionary war, the writing had been on the wall for FARC for a while. FARC’s surrender was an admission a strategy that had once looked so promising to then young, New Left-inspired, would-be revolutionaries all over Latin America, had failed.

Saturday 12 December 2020

The UBI in Australia?

(source)

 

Before talking about something, it’s always a good idea to understand what is it one is talking about. That applies to everything, the much-talked about UBI included.

It’s not clear, however, that people talking about the UBI really understand what it is.

So, let’s try that.

UBI stands for Universal Basic Income. “Basic income” refers to “a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement”.

“Universal” highlights something present in that definition: all members of a community are entitled to the UBI. In Australia that would mean that the Government regularly pays every citizen/resident an amount of money – presumably equal – no strings attached.

Last but not least, implicit is the idea that the UBI is permanent.

By itself this definition raises some evident questions (for example: How much money those individuals would be paid? Where is that money coming from?). They are important but the answers to them depend on many things, including what money is. So, we’ll bypass them.

Thursday 10 December 2020

Industrial Relations Surprises?

 

(source)

To be honest, I can’t say I’m surprised to find now that all the talk about all of us being in this together – which we heard repeated as a mantra during the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis – was just bullshit, but that doesn’t mean much. As a feeling, it speaks well of those uttering those words honestly. As a statement of fact, it was hopelessly naive for me to believe Morrison.

So, I was kind of expecting something like this.

You see, scepticism about Scott Morrison’s good faith doesn’t show that one is particularly farsighted: anyone with a moderately functional brain and a minimum of memory could see the truth behind his act.

What does me some credit is that I wasn’t impressed either by all the comparisons between the Prices and Income Accord of Bob Hawke (starting in 1983) and Christian Porter’s roundtables including bosses and their representatives and the union movement. On this I have to say Michele O’Neil and Sally McManus, by far the best union leaders in decades, were sadly wrong (as is wrong Jim Stanford)

(source)

Sold at the time as political wisdom, the Labor’s Accord – inspired by liberal/leftish ideas – was ultimately damaging to the union movement and to workers. If back then that medicine was poisonous, is there any reason to believe it would now be benign?

----------

These last two weeks Porter, federal Minister for Industrial Relations and Attorney General, announced a raft of measures agreed behind the union representative’s backs to further impoverish workers, under the pretext of reducing unemployment.

And, in the same spirit of honesty, this is where I have to confess I was surprised: the variety of measures included in the COALition’s Industrial Relations Omnibus Bill.

Without further ado:

So much for consensus: Morrison government's industrial relations bill is a business wish list

Jim Stanford, University of Sydney

Friday 27 November 2020

Where all Aussie Talking Heads go to Die.


Australian housing is the subject confounding all and sundry would-be economic prophets, particularly those presenting themselves as mavericks. And after the GFC the population of econo-mavericks exploded.

The prototype of that creature would be Steve Keen, the wannabe-Copernicus cum Chicken Little old bloke whose repeated and repeatedly failed prophecies of housing market doom inspired countless jokes.

There are other, however, less known examples. Say, the Unconventional Economist (aka Leith van Onselen) and the Macrobusiness crew.

Saturday 21 November 2020

Follow the Experts’ Advice, David Lipson.

What is it we’ve been told endlessly before reporting sensational news? Why, that we need to make sure we get the facts straight, before reporting them.

David Lipson and a team of ABC journos have been reporting from the US. So far, I’m satisfied – as I’m sure the wider Australian public is – they’ve done a good job, under difficult circumstances. ABC journos have a well-earned reputation for that.

Having said that, Lipson’s latest op-ed/analysis (“Donald Trump’s Current Strategy isn’t About Winning in Court. It’s about Disrupting the Process in the Hope of Winning the US Election by Default”, November 20) contained this bit:

(source)

Monday 16 November 2020

First as Tragedy, Then as Farce?

(source)

November 2008, Barack H. Obama II was elected POTUS, amidst enormous popular good will. The first black American elected to that office, Obama inherited the top job as the United States was experiencing the first stages of the Great Recession (or Second Great Depression, depending on your perspective).

Thursday 5 November 2020

How do Latinos for Trump Look Like? (Updated)

Although you won’t find a single word about Latinos for Trump in some quarters of the internet if your life depended on it, a part of the American media seems to have realised – shock! horror! – that not all Latinos look like Speedy González.

Yes, dear identitarian Leftists in the US and Australia: not all Latinos felt insulted when the Pussy Grabber in Chief called illegal immigrants rapists, nor did they all support the Black Lives Matter protests or see themselves as targets of racism; not all Latinos want minimum wages, for these Latinos aren’t working poor. Not all Latinos oppose American imperialism in America’s back yard.

Tuesday 3 November 2020

So, How About Latino Voters?

(source)

It’s about 1530 AEST (November 14). According to the ABC coverage of the US elections, things in Florida don’t seem to be going the way the Biden/Harris campaign would have liked. And it seems, too, it all boils down to the Latino vote.

Monday 2 November 2020

Make America Clean Again!

You see why I think American politics is entertaining:

(source)
 

So, what do you say? "Can a Trump toilet brush predict the election result?"
 


Friday 30 October 2020

American Muslims in These Elections.


As an Australian, I can’t say that American politics, although often entertaining, is really my cup of tea.

Still, American political fashion sometimes find its way to the Antipodes.

Take, for example, the notion of “peoples of colour” – POC – currently trending among Aussie identitarian Leftists. The idea is that a coalition of the oppressed non-white (i.e. POC) is the agent of change: a potential majority assembled out of minorities. More realistically, for Left-leaning pundits POC are the natural constituency of the Democratic Party in the US (and, monkey see monkey do, the same is the conclusion of Left-leaning pundits elsewhere).

That seems to be good news for the Dems: over there that coalition is increasing in size and that seems to be working just fine in these elections.

Now, as the POC coalition remains numerically a minority, it would, of course, need to be supplemented by other progressive forces – including feminists and the LGB+ movement and, to the extent they can be cajoled or strong-armed, socialists and quasi-socialists and the union movement – and sundry progressive whites as “allies” (another closely associated term).

Evidently, the need and feasibility of this POC-“Others” (another popular umbrella term) alliance may change as the POC coalition increases in size and as the oppression POC suffer is lifted. With this one lands squarely on long-term considerations about the stability, not only of this POC-Others alliance, but of the concept of POC itself.

Without further ado, what I consider a case-study of one identity within POC, of interest for American identitarian Leftists in these elections. I’d love to see similar analyses for other identities, chiefly Latinos, and Americans of Asian background:

Who will Muslim Americans vote for in the US elections?

Shutterstock
Mehmet Ozalp, Charles Sturt University

Tuesday 27 October 2020

The Most Important Election in Our Lifetime.


I suppose there’s no need to explain to Democratic Party supporters at home – and sympathisers and well-wishers further afield – why these presidential and Congress elections are the most important in their lifetimes.

But the thing is that Trump supporters also believe these elections are the most important in their lifetimes. Why? Well, suffice it to say that a Biden/Harris victory, God forbid, will usher in socialism. It’s in the Bible, people!



Tuesday 20 October 2020

How About a Green Green New Deal?

The Australian Greens have been asking for a local version of the Green New Deal.

 

After SmoKo's budget, people may have started listening:

 

You’ve probably heard of the Green New Deal in the US — is it time for one in Australia?

Kate Crowley, University of Tasmania

Thursday 8 October 2020

The Budget: How About Wildlife?

The Federal Budget has generated a lot of comments. It is certainly based on an unprecedented fiscal expansion; but there are fiscal expansions and then there are fiscal expansions. Annabel Crabb put it this way: "It recognises the people it wants to help, and screw the rest." She's right.

After that, the few who won biggly and the many who were left out in the cold made their voices heard. In the cacophony resulting, even Morrison's gas-fueled technology roadmap, designed to make Australia forever dependent on fossil fuels, was forgotten. You see, whether by accident or by design, it was announced before the budget, almost as if to make it sure people would be too worried about their own livelihoods to care about climate change.

And yet, as terrible as all that is, there is yet another piece of bad news people have overlooked:

Sunday 4 October 2020

The Ecological Marx and Engels.


MECW. [A]


Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote a lot. To give you an idea: the Marx and Engels Complete Works (MECW) the most complete  – in the sense of collecting their discovered writings between 1835 and 1895) –  compilation of their written opus, numbers 50 volumes, each one between 600 and 800 pages long.

Even excluding introductions, content pages, appendices and endnotes, that’s plenty of writing: published and unpublished books and pamphlets, drafts and research notes for future work, newspaper analyses, public addresses, private and official letters to family, friends and associates, political or otherwise, communiqués. The variety of subjects they treated in those documents at least matches the variety in the kind of documents they produced: from philosophy, history, economics, sociology, politics, down to the kind of news one sends to one’s relatives and friends.

Much more importantly, however, is that scholars and academics in all those fields – plus many others –  have found inspiration and insight there.

But Marx and Engels not only wrote a lot, they also read a lot. An amusingly ironic anecdote, told by the late Christopher Hitchens, illustrates: “Oh Mr. Marx, yes, to be sure. Gave us a lot of work ’e did, with all ’is calls for books and papers …” – a retired British Museum’s reading room librarian reminisced for the BBC, early 20th century. After that, the librarian added, nobody ever heard of Mr Marx again.

They – on top – not only thought long and hard about what they read, they also observed the world they lived in (modern opinion-makers – or opinionators, depending on your perspective – would be sensible to follow their example: we know you can write, the doubt is whether you can read). 

Marx and Engels, in other words, did their homework: they learnt.

So much so, in fact, that careful readers, approaching their writings from different backgrounds, can identify insights surprisingly relevant to our own times.

And although Marx and Engels were not scientists in the modern sense of the word – nor did they ever claim otherwise – they read about science as well … (something economists and opinion-makers alike, negatives notwithstanding, seldom do nowadays).

Image Credits:
[A] Marx and Engels Collected Works. Author: Ben Sutherland. Source: WikiMedia. File licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. My usage of the file in no way suggests any endorsement from the file's author.

Without further ado

Wednesday 30 September 2020

Port Botany: Point and Counterpoint.

 
The Point.

Peter van Duyn – formerly General Manager Container Terminals, Patrick Corporation (1989-2000) and currently maritime logistics expert, Centre for Supply Chain and Logistics at Deakin University – purports to explain what the dispute between the Maritime Union of Australia and Patrick Terminals is all about.

That is an admirable purpose, to be sure. And one can wholeheartedly agree with him that cool heads are required.

Unfortunately, having spent 20 years as a boss at Patrick – including the dramatic year 1998 he evidently remembers well – Van Duyn seems only able of seeing the world through boss’ eyes.

In his latest piece for The Conversation Australia, Van Duyn starts by claiming that the union “initially asked for a 6% annual pay increase”. Readers will surely feel that sounds exorbitant, yes? I myself would. Australia is going through a recession, after all. 

Tuesday 29 September 2020

MUA Press Release on Port Botany.

In view of the hysterical misinformation Scott Morrison and Christian Porter have been peddling so as to justify their siding with management and against workers in the dispute between the Maritime Union of Australia and Patricks Terminals, I think I can do no better than to present the other side in this story:

(source)

Saturday 19 September 2020

The Year of Fire.


Wildfires in the western states of the American Union have received considerable attention in Australian media, perhaps because the story looks a lot like what we witnessed here a few months back and because Australian firefighters were sent there to help in the effort to contain the fires.

Much less coverage has been given to fires in the Pantanal in the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul currently affected by a drought. The Pantanal (a Portuguese word whose literal translation is “swamp”), as Brazilians call that area, is a wetland, thus, the numerous pictures of carbonised “jacarés” (i.e. alligators). Readers may remember that last year forest fires had already visited the Amazon rainforest, a little to the north/northeast of the Pantanal.

But it is the wildfires in Siberia (also for the second year in a row) which have received next to no mention in Australian media.

Arctic warming: are record temperatures and fires arriving earlier than scientists predicted?

LuYago/Shutterstock
Christopher J White, University of Strathclyde

Thursday 10 September 2020

Can we Trust the Public Service? (Updated)


No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon – Matthew 6:24, KJV

In representative liberal democracies, educational/professional qualifications are not required of candidates to public office. Take an aspirant to the Prime Ministership or the Presidency. There are neither schools offering “Prime Minister 101” courses nor licensing requirements, as there are for would-be plumbers or lawyers.

Sometimes candidates may have somewhat related experience: say, a former state Premier could wind up in the top job. But generally that experience is neither fully compatible (say, a Premier must prioritise public health, a PM focuses on the economy) nor, as far as I can tell, is that the usual situation (how many premiers do you know went on to become PMs?).

In countries under a parliamentary system, unlike those under a presidential system, that extends to Cabinet members: health ministers don’t need to be doctors, say.

That’s why the public service is important: public servants are supposed to provide the expertise their political masters lack. (No doubt readers have heard about the “checks and balances” included in the institutional design of liberal democracies to prevent dysfunction. Arguably, the bureaucracy is another such check and balance.)

Wednesday 2 September 2020

So, Where do Profits Come From?


There we go! Geronimooooo! (source)

For the first time since 1991 Australia registered two consecutive falls in its quarterly GDP figures: we’re officially in recession.

Today ABS released national accounts data corresponding to the June-August quarter and the picture ain’t pretty: GDP growth of -7.0%, the largest quarterly fall on record.

Those interested in those numbers can go here:

(source)

Saturday 29 August 2020

Workers’ Mail: Climate Change, COVID-19 and Wage Theft.

“As we reconstruct our economy after the pandemic we have an opportunity to build a stronger, fairer economic framework that includes a credible and coherent plan on climate change and energy. In rebuilding our economy from the COVID crisis it is critical that job creation efforts also reduce emissions and keep Australians safe from the devastating impacts of bushfires and climate change.” - Michele O'Neil, President, Australian Council of Trade Unions
The ACTU, as part of the Australian Climate Roundtable, has issued the statement “Far-Reaching Climate Change Risks to Australia Must be Reduced and Managed”, among other things, calling the Morrison Government to adopt a net-zero emissions target for 2050.

Comrades O'Neil and McManus, keep up the good work!

Wednesday 26 August 2020

Identity Politics in Pictures.



Have a good, detailed look at that picture. It represents capitalist society as a pyramid. Think critically about what you see. Take your time.

Friday 21 August 2020

Believe it or Not: the Season of Fire.


(source)

It’s August and Australian winter is almost over. The 2020 fire season has already started. So far, however, we haven’t had any bushfires. Moreover, after an ominously dry July, this month considerable rain has fallen over the southern part of the continent and there’s even talk of a La Niña.

That is extremely lucky. With international borders closed/restrictions to travel and interstate borders closed due to COVID19, it’s dubious state’s rural fire services could receive any firefighting resources from overseas or even share such resources among themselves. That’s particularly true of heavy water bombers: the Commonwealth leases those aircraft from American and Canadian firms.

Wednesday 19 August 2020

This is How Madness Looks Like.


A flashback: a week ago, Prof. Adolph Reed was forced to cancel his speech before a Democratic Socialists of America event in New York.

If allowed to speak, it was expected that Reed would have argued that the American Left’s laser-like focus on identity politics (currently the emphasis is on racial identity) was counterproductive. It seems many within DSA – especially many blacks – disagree with Reed’s position. Instead, they opposed, to change that emphasis in pursuit of class solidarity was preposterous. Apparently Reed’s stance was “reactionary, class reductionist and at best, tone deaf”.

His stance was, in other words, anathema. And so they gagged him.

The thing is Adolph Reed (a well-known Marxist, in a country where it takes guts to call oneself a Marxist) is not only a distinguished academic, socialist, and long-time civil rights activist, he is also black.

Tuesday 11 August 2020

The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions.


Source: The Saturday Paper.

Imagine a capitalist who, needing two new workers, publishes an advertisement asking for applications. After receiving 470 applications for the two positions, the capitalist feels disappointed. Unemployment benefits are to blame, the capitalist says, because they are too generous. More people should have applied.

What would you say about that person? Would it make any difference if the capitalist were skinny or bald?

Let’s add details. Although the capitalist pays the wage rates prevailing in the labour market for the two positions, that industry pays the lowest wage rates. Say, the legal, prevailing median and  average weekly wages in that industry are the lowest in the land. Would that explain why many other workers, perhaps less desperate than those 470, did not apply for those two positions?

Further suppose one were to reduce unemployment benefits or even eliminate them altogether, so as to increase the number of applicants, in accordance with the capitalist’s wishes. Would that improve in any way the situation of the 470 original and more desperate applicants?

That capitalist needed two additional staff. Let’s say another 470 applicants were pushed to apply for those two positions. Would him/her hire any more employees because the number of applicants doubled?

Let’s stop here. Think well your answers to those questions before going any further. Take your time.

Wednesday 5 August 2020

As Seen on the Internet.


You’ve gotta love the level of commentary from former Toyota production engineers.
“Marx may be surprised to now learn that ownership of the means of production is not the path to riches in an internationally competitive market place at least when that production is located in the developed world. Off-shoring of production to developing world ‘work houses’ can however be very profitable.”

Tuesday 28 July 2020

So, I Actually Hate the JG, Who Knew?

This is not rocket science, Brian (see also).

A recent exchange I had with online MMTer Brian Romanchuk -- from Canada -- about one of Chris Dillow’s posts turned out to be full of unsuspected revelations. Readers may find it as enlightening as I did.

Dillow, following Michal Kalecki’s famous 1943 essay “The Political Aspects of Full Employment”, argued that full employment (therefore a Job Guarantee) is unlikely in democratic capitalism.

(Arguably, the priority for so-called Keynesian economics should go to Kalecki and not to Keynes, at least if one believes Joan Robinson – probably the second name in the pantheon of “Keynesian” economists and contemporary of both men – and Prof. Bill Mitchell, one of MMT’s founders.)

Bear with me.

Saturday 25 July 2020

The Week that Was.


The talk of the week was the Economic and Fiscal Update delivered jointly last Thursday by federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and federal Minister for Finances Mathias Cormann.

The main figures? Here goes, courtesy of The New Daily:

(source)

And this:

(source)

Sunday 12 July 2020

A Good News Story.

(source)

Amid the public health and economic crisis, occasionally something happens to make an old socialist worker feel proud. You nurses are legends.

----------


According to ABS (6302.0 - Average Weekly Earnings), last November full-time adult average weekly ordinary time earnings in Australia was $1,658.40 ($86K a year). Those working in the health care and social assistance industry, however, were paid less than that: $1,590.00 ($82K).

By comparison, the Australian Prime Minister’s annual salary was $540K.

Thursday 9 July 2020

Bits and Pieces: The Ghosts of Bushfires Past and Future (Updated)


Hopefully, the next and upcoming fire season in Australia will not be as devastating as the last one: there isn’t much left to burn.

That will not last, however.

In fact, those fires are still affecting many.


Meet the Firefighters Left Homeless After Battling Last Season’s Bushfires
By Vanessa Milton, Rosie King and Kerrin Thomas (ABC), June 4.


Burnt Out
By Stephanie March and Sashka Koloff with photography by Harriet Tatham (ABC). July 7.

Saturday 27 June 2020

What’s in a Name?

Dedicated to Tahlea Aualiitia.

(source)

I seldom write about myself. I suppose you can say I’m a fairly private person (either that, or I’m a boring old bloke; take your pick).

Let me give you an idea what I mean. Blogger tells me that, since my first post (November 11, 2009), I have published 908 posts in this blog, over a variety of topics. Out of that number, only 11 contain personal references (this is the eleventh).

So, here goes. I am among the 49% of all Australians who, according to the 2016 Census, are either born overseas or have at least one parent born there. Coming from continental Europe, my surname, as you might suspect, is not common in Australia. Suffice it to say it is one of those family names full of unusual combinations of consonants, oddly arranged :-)

Tuesday 23 June 2020

The IPA and Per Capita: Two Peas in a Pod.


Yesterday Alan Kohler published a piece calling to end the debt and deficit fallacy. He is -- as I am -- worried about all the talk of paying the debt. Not just that, in that column he makes a positive reference to MMT and to Stephanie Kelton’s new book “The Deficit Myth”. And, get this, that appeared in the pages of The Australian, flagship of the Murdoch presstitute.

The panic scorn from COALition bigwigs was as predictable as it was quick to come. First in order of seniority in the federal Government was Mathias Cormann (the Arnie Schwarzenegger soundalike, who is -- or might have been -- a lawyer in his native Belgium):


Saturday 20 June 2020

Birth of the Frankfurt School.


April 1964: Horkheimer (front left), Adorno (front right),
Habermas (background, right), Landshut (background left). [A]

In the last few years -- much to my surprise -- the Frankfurt School has become a hot topic of discussion.

Those discussions, however, often lack in understanding of the subject being discussed. I find the extended excerpt the Internet Marxists Archive offers of Prof. Martin Jay’s 1973 book “The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923-1950” invaluable to fill that void.

Friday 12 June 2020

Know Your Cleaners.


Once upon a time I kept close contact with commercial cleaning firms’ staff. If you are an office worker in Australia -- whether in the public or private sector -- and you often burn the midnight oil, you might have seen those cleaners. They come after 5:00-6:00 pm, Monday to Friday, once most of your co-workers have left.

After all that time, of course, my memory may need an urgent update. To give you an idea: the union covering cleaners at the time was the LHMU (Liquour, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers’ Union).

With that in mind, the piece by Associate Professor Shelley Marshall (Director of the RMIT Business and Human Rights Centre,  RMIT University) for The Conversation matches well what I remember, although Marshall doesn’t go into the endless -- and ultimately justified -- complains by building administrators, with the consequent endless harassment of cleaners by their foremen.

What really doesn’t fit at all is the opening picture in Marshall’s article. The one below seems much closer to my recollection of how such cleaners look like (which could be an important point, I would have thought):

(source)
Compare to the picture below:

You better hope your work cleaner is one of the few who has time to do a thorough job






Shutterstock
Shelley Marshall, RMIT University

Sunday 7 June 2020

Welcome to Summer.


Source: SBS and http://www.krskstate.ru

The media have been reporting a large fuel spill in Norilsk, Russia. The fuel was intended for power generation by a subsidiary of mining giant Norilsk Nickel operating in the industrial Siberian town. Norilsk is located above the Arctic Circle.

Source: Google Maps.

Friday 5 June 2020

On Today’s BLM Sydney March (Updated).



Whoever sheds his blood with me today shall be my brother.

Last night the NSW Supreme Court banned the Sydney-wide march “Stop All Black Deaths in Custody: Rally and Vigil for George Floyd and David Dungay”, scheduled for today (1500 AEST, Town Hall). The courts’ decision upheld concerns from both state and federal CMOs, Kerry Chant and Brendan Murphy respectively, and political authorities over COVID-19 transmission.

Sunday 31 May 2020

President Xi, Please Liberate Minneapolis (Updated).



Dear President Xi Jinping, please liberate Minneapolis.

Westerners say that you are a dictator, but after months of protests, you didn’t send the People’s Liberation Army to the streets of Hong Kong.

They also claim that Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong, sent the Triads to fight demonstrators. President Donald Trump demonstrably twitted asking the alt-right to fight demonstrators.

Hong Kong protesters say the Hong Kong police is brutal, but at least Hong Kong cops do not murder unarmed people by kneeling on their necks.

Dear President Xi, is there a way you can declare the Minneapolis Police Department a terrorist organisation? Could you send Chinese police officers to train their American counterparts in human rights, discipline, and restrain?

Thank you.

----------

I am sure Tim Wilson, the fearless libertarian freedom fighter, gay rights activist and MP, is already packing his pink T-shirt to join the protesters in the US.

----------

Update (02/06/2020):

PS

President Xi,

Westerners also say press freedom is not respected in authoritarian China. These images, however, were not captured in Hong Kong, but in Washington DC, metres away from the White House, where the American President and leader of the free world, lives.
(source)
04/06/2020.

Today worrying news came that reporting crews from Nine Network (whose chairman is former COALition politician Peter Costello) were assaulted in London, in two separate incidents, as they covered the local protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd.

Go here to see their horrifying footage not showing the assaults.

Muslim protesters may have been involved. The reporters and their cameramen were unhurt.

Saturday 16 May 2020

Why Banks as Intermediaries?


Last time we saw that banks act as intermediaries between the Morrison Government and the Reserve Bank of Australia, Australia’s central bank. Although banks acquire the bonds the Government issues, the RBA is their ultimate purchaser. The banks, however, get interests for that.

The RBA could have chosen a different scheme. For instance, it could have funded the Government. But that’s not on, as David Taylor adds. Why not? What service those banks provide?

Let’s try to understand that.

Tuesday 12 May 2020

Sometimes Consistency is Costly.


In the previous post we discussed how COVID-19 changed the economic discourse about fiscal deficit spending. Here we’ll attempt to gain a deeper insight from that.

As argued previously, last March politicians, experts, journalists, and businesspeople muted their usual objections to large fiscal deficit spending. No argy bargy, no talking heads on TV formulating Very Serious (™) warnings. It’s almost as if the notions of inflation, crowding out and free markets had been magically forgotten.

Another usual stumbling block laid on the way of fiscal spending (namely the question “how will you pay for that?”) fared better, but only slightly. That I am aware, nobody seem to have asked that question when the measures were announced or when they were presented and approved in Parliament. Nevertheless, soon afterwards commentators began asking that.

Those commentators, I suppose, decided for belated consistency. Just like gloating sometimes can be justified, consistency can be fatally costly.

Wednesday 6 May 2020

Sometimes Gloating is Justified.


“Long-term unemployed NewStart recipients have been telling us how interesting it is that now that wealthier people — the people who are not ‘meant’ to be unemployed — are unemployed, that they’re getting all these concessions.
“That the Government can click their fingers and double the NewStart rate and waive now a lot of the punitive eligibility requirements.” — Jeremy Poxon, from the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union, as quoted by the ABC’s Daniel Ziffer.

Although the sentence “I told you so” leaves the sweetest taste in the mouths uttering it, gloating is frowned upon. Too bad, for current events warrant MMTers the right to gloat.

More importantly, as Poxon’s example suggests, events seem to provide common people some of the insights MMT offers. In particular, that the zero-sum game of “responsible budget management”, where one’s gain necessarily comes from another’s loss, is a scam.

Sunday 26 April 2020

Why the Right Wing is Victorious?


Memoirs, I suspect, are likely tainted by subjectivity. A driver inevitably remembers the car crash from her own personal perspective, not from that of the other driver. She is quick to recollect the things she did right and how reckless the other guy was. Self-justification fills autobiographies.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that driver is wrong, only that one should exercise some skepticism. Stories have many sides.

Malcolm Turnbull has been reminiscing about the car crash that was his Prime Ministership (September 2015 to August 2018) and has been telling anyone ready to listen.

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane. Leftists may find that surprisingly instructive.

Tuesday 21 April 2020

COVID-19 App? Thanks, but no, Thanks. (Updated)


This is where I draw the line.

I’ve been complying with everything the Government has asked us to do to slow down COVID-19. And no, I don’t sympathise with the crazies in the US.

I’ve done everything, from avoiding panic shopping to coughing/sneezing into the crook of my elbow to washing my hands endlessly. It was easy to comply with that.

Sunday 19 April 2020

Short & Simple: JobKeeper Wage Subsidy.



The JobKeeper Wage Subsidy scheme PM Scott Morrison announced a few weeks ago has generated many comments, some positive, some less enthusiastic.

The article below, from The Conversation, offers a first evaluation. It raises many interesting questions, but it is not exhaustive.

JobKeeper payment: how will it work, who will miss out and how to get it?





@shotsoflouis/Upplash, CC BY-NC
Rebecca Cassells, Curtin University and Alan Duncan, Curtin University

The A$130 billion $1,500-per-fortnight JobKeeper payment will benefit six million Australians for six months, with payments expected from May 1.

Thursday 2 April 2020

Two Peas in a Pod.


These words were uttered today (13:17 AEDT) by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a conservative leader in the “centre-right, libertarian, conservative” Liberal Party of Australia and the first Evangelical to hold that job:
There are no more unions or bosses. There are just Australians now. That is all that matters. An Australian national interest and all Australians working together and I thank all of those who are coming together in that spirit and that will be very important as we move to put in place the arrangements that we are for this jobseeker program and the many things that relate to that.”
While this was Neil Wilson, a well-known MMT enthusiast and self-described leftist, a few days back (March 29, 2020 at 14:06):
Always worth remembering that bankers and capitalists are workers too. They work, earn and consume. And they also save a lot – which is part of the problem.”
You’ve heard the phrase “like two peas in a pod”, I trust.

Sunday 29 March 2020

Did Michael Gunner Lose his Mind? (Updated)

Was he feverish when he said that? [A]

Up to now, I thought COVID-19 affected the respiratory system only. After reading the latest statement by Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner (Labor) I’ve come to suspect it may induce madness as well (read the whole thing):
“Right now, it is Territory first. And if that means putting the other states last, we’ll do that.”
Will Gunner remember that after the next Hurricane Tracy?

Update:
30-03-2020. Local readers may have many questions about the Morrison COVID-19 packages (the latest tranche of which amounts to $AU 130 billion): Commonwealth Treasury Department factsheets for households and individuals. For other related factsheets, please go to the Treasury homepage.

Image Credit:
[A] Michael Gunner in 2016. Author: Ntlabor. Source: Wikimedia. File licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Although I hope NTLabor endorsed the use I make of this file, I find it extremely unlikely.

Tuesday 10 March 2020

Naming and Shaming the Trolls.


Be honest, you always wanted to know what kind of poisonous creature would write something like this:
“She [Greta Thunberg, that is] should be burnt at the stake!”
Comments like that (not the worst, btw) followed Greta Thunberg and the Climate Kids during her late February visit to Bristol.

Well, BristolLive exhibits a small bestiary, with names and photos:

(source)

Wednesday 4 March 2020

Reds Under Dutton’s Bed.


“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that's all.

Call me paranoid, but I feel something disturbing is going on.










Saturday 22 February 2020

Climate Change Protests: Out of Sight Out of Mind (Updated).


(photo credits: mine)

You wouldn’t know it by the media coverage, but last Saturday 22 a rally for climate change action took place in Sydney.

The protest was coordinated by unionists, School Strike 4 Climate Australia, Extinction Rebellion and First Nations representatives. Protesters gathered in the early afternoon, in the large open area between Sydney City Town Hall and St. Andrew’s Cathedral, to march later to Hyde Park.

Sunday 16 February 2020

Losing Sight of the Forest for the Trees.


To follow the daily stream of news has a risk: by focusing on minutiae -- as I tend to do -- one loses perspective of the totality. A bit the cliché of losing sight of the forest for the trees.

These last few days, as the avalanche of terrible bushfire news reduces now to a trickle, I again felt that.

Take for instance the sports rorts scandal.

Sunday 9 February 2020

Unprecedented Fires AND Unprecedented Idiocy.


Reality defies my imagination. Personally, I couldn’t make this up.

(Image credit: NASA/EOSDIS)

That is how the state of New South Wales looked like from space last December 9, 2019.

As I write this (February 9, 1039 AEDT), eight weeks later, there were still 38 bush/grass fires active all over NSW at “advice” level. That figure does not include 22 “not applicable” category fires.

Those fires are still active in spite of the best efforts of firefighters, who, in the last two weeks or so have been aided by nature. As it happens, we’ve had copious rain over southeast Queensland, extending now southwards along the NSW coast.


(The Bureau of Meteorology call that an “east coast low”.)

Sunday 26 January 2020

Australia from Space: Before and After.

'This crisis has been unfolding for years': 4 photos of Australia from space, before and after the bushfires




Use the slider tool in the images below to see before and after NASA satellite images of Australia’s fire and drought effects. NASA
Molly Glassey, The Conversation; Sunanda Creagh, The Conversation, and Wes Mountain, The Conversation
Editor’s note: We pulled four before-and-after-images from NASA’s Worldview application, and asked bushfire researcher Grant Williamson to reflect on the story they tell. Here’s what he told us:

Sunday 19 January 2020

Nature and Carbon Pricing.


(source)

Almost a year ago to the date, two large Menindee mass fish kills shocked Australia and the world. Water no longer flowing through the Darling River caused those deaths.

Last week another mass fish kill (said to be in the hundreds of thousands) on the Macleay River went all but unnoticed. Ironically, this time the cause was the rain, adding water to the river bed.

Rain falling over Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria these last few days (justifiably welcome by firefighters and farmers alike) carried bushfire ash to the river. The fish suffocated in the thick sludge. According to witnesses, between 60 and 100 kilometers of river dead.

Nature is not a trivial thing. That’s why there are tertiary and post-graduate courses covering biology, ecology, Earth Science, meteorology, oceanography and many, many others. It takes time, smarts, and hard work to study those subjects, let alone to master them.

With all due respect, I am not sure economists are equipped for that.

Monday 13 January 2020

The Interview (Updated).


(source)

That journalists love a scoop is a fact so well-known it has become a commonplace.

So, when last Sunday ABC journos were given an unscheduled opportunity to interview Scott Morrison (no doubt with little notice and by someone close enough to the man himself), it is understandable that they were eager to seize the opportunity.

And, given the tragedy of apocalyptic proportions that has hit Australia (and indeed how unusual the situation appears to an outsider like yours truly) it was reasonable to expect not only a big announcement, but The Big Announcement.

Thursday 9 January 2020

Fire: Light and Fury.


(source)

Scott Connolly, ACTU Assistant Secretary, writes
Many of you have been asking how we can help. Right now, the best way that we can assist is by donating money to the Australian Red Cross, Victorian Bushfire Appeal or the ACTU Bushfire Relief Fund. The ACTU Bushfire Relief fund has been established to especially provide support to union members who may need support beyond that available generally.
DONATE TO RED CROSS
or
DONATE TO ACTU BUSHFIRE RELIEF
For members in Victoria, please also consider donating to the Victorian Government Bushfire Disaster Appeal.
Additionally, union members can volunteer their skills.

Saturday 4 January 2020

Unsung Heroes.


It’s a commonplace that extreme situations bring out the best and the worst in people. It’s also true.

The twin disasters of Scott Morrison and environmental catastrophe wrecking Australia are no exception. The list of those going above and beyond the call of duty for the common good is long and largely anonymous: volunteer and professional firefighters, paramedics, charity volunteers, neighbours.

I believe these are doing their best. As a member of the public, I speak on my behalf only. Still, I suspect many would agree with me on this.

Friday 3 January 2020

“The Township Will Not be Defendable”.


That’s part of the advice the NSW Rural Fire Service delivered to Batlow residents and visitors yesterday. “If you are in this area, particularly in the general area from Batlow north to Wondalga and west of Blowering Dam, you need to leave before tomorrow.”

A number of areas where residents and locals are urged to leave were identified around southeast NSW and eastern Victoria.

More generally, emergency authorities in both states have highlighted the seriousness of the situation in their frequent media appearances.