Recent blog entries

Spanish Ebola nurse: infected others in holiday swimming pool?

English news reports of Teresa Romero, the Spanish nurse infected with Ebola mention that she had been on holiday when she first started experiencing the symptoms of Ebola.

As most people know by now, a patient becomes infectious the moment that they start to exhibit symptoms.

Abbott may kill more Australians than Putin

Australians are the third biggest group of casualties in the MH17 tragedy this week. Australia's leader, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is already calling Mr Putin to account before the facts have even been confirmed.

The startling reality is, OECD research already suggests that Mr Abbott's own policies have the potential to kill more Australians.

Balancing a budget with sex work?

Tony Abbott has attracted worldwide ridicule for himself and our country (not for the first time of course) with his infamous wink incident this week.

In fact, people repeatedly sharing this incident on social media are not really adding much to the national debate. Anybody who's opinion actually matters already knew Tony Abbott is not fit to even lead a scout group, let alone a whole country.

Why I hope Craig Thomson avoids jail

Craig Thomson has finally been convicted of all those fraud charges that everybody has been talking about throughout the years of Rudd/Gillard Government.

It is worth remembering how Gillard deflected all the questions about Thomson:

"Everybody is innocent until proven guilty"

Well, unless you are a refugee or a coloured person (or both).


Marta Harnecker: Decentralised participatory planning based on experiences of Brazil, Venezuela and the state of Kerala, India

Links International - 12 hours 10 min ago

Marta Harnecker.

For more by or about Marta Harnecker and her ideas, click HERE.

By Marta Harnecker

[Paper presented at the International Scientific Academic Meeting on Methodology and Experiences in Socio-environmental Participatory processes, Cuenca University, November 13-15, 2014.*]

December 19, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- These words are aimed at those who want to build a humanist and solidarity-based society. A society based on the complete participation of all people. A society focused on a model of sustainable development that satisfies people's genuine needs in a just manner, and not the artificial wants created by capitalism in its irrational drive to obtain more profits. A society that does all this while ensuring that humanity’s future in not put at risk. A society where the organized people are the ones who decide what and how to produce. A society we have referred to as Twenty-First Century Socialism, Good Living or Life in Plenitude.

read more

Categories: Community

Alemania: un gobierno rojo-rojo-verde en Turingia

Links International - 13 hours 7 min ago

[English at "Germany: Red-red-green government in Thuringia",]

Por Victor Grossman , traducción para Sinpermiso: Enrique García

read more

Categories: Community

Luckily most people don’t bring their cars to central Melbourne

Daniel Bowen - 14 hours 35 min ago

Sometimes in the city, it’s a bit like a Where’s Wally book.

Bourke Street Mall, lunchtime

City of Melbourne figures indicate the average daily population for the CBD and surrounding council area is 844,000.

But Christmas shopping is a very busy time of year.

City of Melbourne has some very clever pedestrian monitoring systems, which can tell us just how busy different parts of the city are. They have sensors around the place, including in the Bourke Street Mall — on both sides, though the northern side one is currently not working, which is a shame as I suspect it’s a bit busier. The southern side one shows pedestrian numbers peaked yesterday around lunchtime (when the photo was taken) at about 5000 per hour — about 45% higher than the 52 week average, showing how the nice weather and Christmas shopping has a huge effect.

Pedestrian count, Bourke Street Mall - south - 18/12/2014 (City of Melbourne)

How do people get to the city? The Census has very good data on travel for work (and this appears to include study) which shows about 65% of people working in the city centre (or thereabouts) come in by public transport as their main mode. About 25% are by motor vehicle. The rest are by other means including walking and cycling.

 Mode to city

City of Melbourne has a smaller survey (the Central Melbourne travel survey) that captures all city visitors (not just workers). It shows a slightly lower public transport share — 59% — and also lower for walking and cycling, but higher for motor vehicles — 37%.

 mode to city

They also have a survey showing trips around areas of the city. Unsurprisingly, this is dominated by walking and trams.

 Mode around city

It’s lucky most of people coming into the City don’t bring their cars with them.

Well, they can’t really — parking supply for them all thankfully isn’t provided. If it was, it wouldn’t be the dense inner area that we know it, but dispersed by lots of space taken for car parks — a completely different city centre that I dare say wouldn’t attract the booming daily population of residents, workers and visitors that come now.

Categories: Community

South Africa: Zwelinzima Vavi's open letter to the SACP

Links International - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 08:10

December 17, 2014 -- COSATU, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- A response to comrade Jeremy Cronin and an open letter to leaders and members of the South African Communist Party (SACP), by Zwelinzima Vavi (pictured), general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).

Read more about recent developments in South Africa HERE.

* * *

Dear comrades

After reading Comrade Jeremy Cronin's public response to my address on 21 November 2014 at the ceremony to mark the 40 years of the South African Labour Bulletin on the topic "Is the labour movement at the turning point?", I was convinced that a public debate was necessary, not just with comrade Jeremy but with the entire leadership and membership of the SACP. I am doing this not just as a General Secretary of COSATU but also as a member of the SACP.

read more

Categories: Community

Cuban Five now all free! Will the US blockade of Cuba now end?

Links International - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 06:05

Click HERE for background on the Cuban Five.

By Julie Webb-Pullman

December 18, 2014 -- Scoop -- Cubans and many others around the world are jubilantly celebrating the return to Cuba on December 17 of Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero, the final three members of the Cuban Five to be released from US prisons, in a prisoner swap for US spy Alan Gross.

Cuba's President Raul Castro said in Havana that the release of the Cuban anti-terrorist fighters was the culmination of a respectful and reciprocal dialogue, without detriment to Cuba's national independence and sovereignty.

In a simultaneous address in the United States, President Barack Obama announced the release of Alan Gross, who arrived back in the United States on December 17 morning with his wife.

At the same time, both leaders announced a normalisation of relations, including re-establishment of diplomatic relations and an easing of US economic and travel restrictions on Cuba.

However, the complete lifting of the 50-year blockade requires US Congress approval.

In his announcement, Obama said that isolation has not worked, and it is time to try a new approach.

read more

Categories: Community

Belgium: Towards a major confrontation after successful general strike

Links International - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 04:25

Strikers march on December 15, 2014.

[For more on Belgium, click HERE.]

By Daniel Tanuro

December 17, 2014 -- International Viewpoint, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The 24-hour strike that mobilised the Belgian working class on December 15 was an enormous success. The country was completely paralysed: in Flanders, in Wallonia and in Brussels, in the private and public sectors, in industry and the services, transport and the trade, the big and small companies. Such a massive movement has not been seen since the strike of November 1993 but, unlike that one, the strike of December 15 should not remain uncompleted.

read more

Categories: Community

Lenin y Kautsky: El extraño caso de Lenin en el armario

Links International - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 03:41

[English at "Lars Lih on Lenin and Kautsky: 'The strange case of the closeted Lenin'",]

Por Lars Lih, traducción para Gustavo Buster

14/12/14 -- -- En primer lugar, permítanme decir que es muy elogioso tener dos críticas - una sustancial, la otra no - a mis puntos de vista sobre Lenin publicados recientemente. La primera es de Kevin Corr y Gareth Jenkins, del SWP[1]) y la segunda está escrita por Peter Taaffe del Socialist Party in England and Wales[2].

En mi opinión, la crítica de Taaffe no tiene que ver con mis puntos de vista y no le interesa realmente lo que defiendo. Peter Taaffe simplemente afirma que escribo frases pretenciosas, románticas y después expone sus propios puntos de vista. No es una polémica seria digna de una respuesta. Por su parte, sin embargo, Corr y Jenkins en su artículo, "El caso de la desaparición de Lenin”, pretenden refutar mis puntos de vista reales y en su mayor parte su crítica hace un buen trabajo a la hora de resumir cuales son..

Solía existir en la izquierda una narrativa lineal, indiscutible, que era algo como:

read more

Categories: Community

Sea Shepherd Intercepts Toothfish Poachers in the Southern Ocean

Sea Shepherd - Wed, 17/12/2014 - 23:52
Sea Shepherd Intercepts Toothfish Poachers in the Southern Ocean

Thunder is a CCAMLR black-listed vessel and has been issued with an Interpol Purple Notice.Thunder is a CCAMLR black-listed vessel and has been issued with an Interpol Purple Notice.Yesterday, at approximately 2152 AEDT, the Sea Shepherd conservation ship, Bob Barker, intercepted the illegal fishing vessel Thunder, at 62˚ 15’ South, 81˚ 24’ East, inside the CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) region of management.

Fishing gear, marked by the presence of three orange buoys, was also located in close proximity to the Thunder.

A known poaching vessel, the Nigerian flagged Thunder was issued with an Interpol Purple Notice following a joint effort by New Zealand, Australia and Norway. Thunder is also on CCAMLR’s black list of illegal operators, and is known to utilise gillnets in its poaching operations – a method of fishing that is outlawed by CCAMLR.

In the 2006/07 Austral summer, the Australian Customs and Fisheries patrol vessel, Oceanic Viking and the Australia research vessel Aurora Australis, sighted the vessel – then named Typhoon - within the CCAMLR area. In 2013, Australian Fisheries Management Authority reported that regional strike force denied Thunder port access in Penang, Malaysia, and Bali after it tried to offload millions of dollars worth of illegal catch.

Captain of the Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt, immediately ordered the Thunder to Fremantle, Australia, to report to Australian law enforcement authorities.

GPS coordinates confirm Thunder’s location within the CCAMLR area.GPS coordinates confirm Thunder’s location within the CCAMLR area.“I have notified the Captain of the Thunder and his crew that they have been placed under citizen’s arrest; that they must cease their illegal fishing activities immediately and report to the Australian authorities. Should they ignore this order, I have notified the Thunder that Sea Shepherd has no choice but to directly intervene in order to obstruct their continued illegal activities.”

Captain Hammarstedt then notified CCAMLR authorities, the Australian Federal Police and Australian Fisheries Management Authority that the vessel had been located within the CCAMLR region.

Captain Hammarstedt has urged Australian authorities to take action against the poachers. “Australia is an integral member of CCAMLR, and has dedicated much time and many resources to combat IUU fishing that targets toothfish in the Southern Ocean. We call on them now to uphold this reputation and take action against these criminal operators.”

Thunder is currently heading in a westerly direction. The Bob Barker is in pursuit.

IUU (Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported) fishing of toothfish continues inside the CCAMLR region, despite the Commission’s efforts to eliminate this threat to the Antarctic ecosystem. Currently six operators are known to be involved in IUU fishing of toothfish inside the area.

Operation Icefish is Sea Shepherd’s 11th Southern Ocean Defence Campaign, and the first to target IUU toothfish fishing operators in the waters of Antarctica.

BUSTED! Capt. Peter Hammarstedt catches toothfish-poaching vessel, Thunder, inside CCAMLR region.BUSTED! Capt. Peter Hammarstedt catches toothfish-poaching vessel, Thunder, inside CCAMLR region. 3 buoys mark fishing gear in close proximity to the poaching vessel, Thunder.3 buoys mark fishing gear in close proximity to the poaching vessel, Thunder.

all photos: Simon Ager / Sea Shepherd

Categories: Community

South Africa: Was 2014 the year of 'radical transformation'?

Links International - Wed, 17/12/2014 - 13:16

For more on South Africa, click HERE.

By Dale McKinley, Johannesburg

December 10, 2014 --, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- Breaking news! In case you missed it, 2014 was the first full year of South Africa’s "radical second phase" of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR).

Apparently, we are now well into a nation-wide process of "radical transformation" that is definitively putting the country on a "new growth and development path".

For a moment at least, forget about the return of rolling blackouts, the record-breaking wealth and conspicuous consumption of the rich, the ongoing crisis of local government service delivery, the palpable intensification of racial discord, the invasions of parliament by armed riot police, the split within the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the continuing epidemic of corruption and fraud within both the public and private sectors, the increasingly out-of-control conduct of our police force and many of the other defining features and events of 2014.

read more

Categories: Community

How socialists of Lenin’s time responded to colonialism

Links International - Wed, 17/12/2014 - 12:21
Manabendra Nath Roy

Manabendra Nath Roy.

For more discussion on the Communist International, click HERE. Click for more by John Riddell.

By John Riddell

[This text was first presented at the Ideas Left Outside conference on Elbow Lake, Ontario, August 2, 2014.]

December 14, 2014 --, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- As the 19th century neared its close, revolutionary socialists were hostile to the world’s imperial powers and to their colonial empires, which then encircled the globe. They foresaw the overthrow of colonialism as a by-product of socialist revolution in the industrialised capitalist countries.

They had little knowledge, however, of the anti-colonial freedom movements that began to emerge at that time. It was not until the Russian Revolution of 1917 that an alliance was forged between revolutionary socialism and the colonial freedom movement.

read more

Categories: Community

Sea Shepherd Attorney in Japan Files Formal Grievance Against Japanese Police

Sea Shepherd - Wed, 17/12/2014 - 01:39
Sea Shepherd Attorney in Japan Files Formal Grievance Against Japanese Police

The Formal Letter is the Beginning of Legal Action by Sea Shepherd to Protect the Rights of Volunteers on the Ground in Taiji to Document the Capture and Slaughter of Dolphins and Small Whales

news-141216-1-cove-guardian-logo-black-400wA Japanese attorney based in Tokyo has sent a formal letter, on behalf of his client Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, to the Shingu and Wakayama City Police, countering accusations from the police departments that Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardian volunteers violated Japanese law by following a truck on public roads and taking photographs to document the transportation of dolphins for captivity. The formal letter is the beginning of legal action to protect the basic constitutional rights of Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardian volunteers on the ground in Japan.

On December 8 (Japan time), Cove Guardian volunteers followed a truck holding dolphins in crates, as the cetaceans captured in Taiji’s brutal drive hunt were being transferred for captivity at an aquarium or marine park. As they have always done before, the Cove Guardians complied with Japanese law to ensure the safety of all involved. However, police told the volunteers that following the truck is an offense under “minor offense law” and that photographs were taken in violation of Wakayama city ordinance. The police warned the Sea Shepherd volunteers that if they attempt this activity again, they will face arrest.

Sea Shepherd’s attorney has notified the police departments that the Cove Guardians acted within the basic rights guaranteed by Japan’s constitution. The formal letter states (translated into English), “These activities are to investigate the truth and to record it, as it is guaranteed by our constitution article 21-1 ‘Freedom of Expression’ and it is not at all ‘illegal.’ Therefore we demand that you notify us, which actions would apply to which law, the number of articles, etc. in a precise manner within two weeks after receiving this letter. If we do not receive your reply, then we will conclude that you have admitted that you did an illegal action of impeding their freedom of expression.”

Each year since the beginning of Sea Shepherd’s Operation Infinite Patience campaign in 2010, the Cove Guardians have been on the ground in Taiji throughout the entire six-month annual hunt season, documenting the capture and slaughter of dolphins and small whales, and live streaming these atrocities for the world to see. In keeping with a promise made to Japanese authorities, the Cove Guardians and Sea Shepherd have abided by Japanese laws while on campaign in Taiji.

Sea Shepherd Senior Cove Guardian Campaign Leader, Melissa Sehgal was denied entry into Japan this month to document the slaughter, despite never violating the law during her four seasons in Taiji. “Sea Shepherd promised that our Cove Guardian volunteers will always act in accordance with Japanese law, and we have continued to honor that promise. We want to ensure that the Cove Guardians are able to return to Taiji until the slaughter ends,” said Sehgal. “I am hopeful that this beginning of legal action will not only protect the rights of our volunteers on the ground, but also help us to be even more effective in our efforts for the dolphins and whales.”

Since the beginning of the 2014-2015 hunt season on September 1, the dolphin hunters have driven in a total of 21 family units, or pods, of cetaceans. The majority of the season’s victims have been Risso’s dolphins, with a total of 18 Risso’s pods slaughtered thus far. The remainder of the pods driven in have been one bottlenose dolphin pod, one pilot whale pod and two pods of striped dolphins.

For six months of each year – day in and day out, from September until March – entire pods of dolphins and small whales are driven into Taiji’s killing cove. Banger poles are hit against the side of the hunting boats to create a “wall of sound,” disorienting the sound-sensitive marine mammals and making it nearly impossible for them to escape the drive. Once netted into the cove, the dolphins and whales face brutal slaughter or a lifetime in captivity. In a drive just as stressful as the drive into the cove, remaining pod members — usually juveniles and infants — are driven back out to sea with little hope of survival on their own.

Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians are the only group on the ground in Taiji every day throughout the entire six-month hunting season, documenting and live streaming every capture and every slaughter for the world to see. The 2014-2015 season marks the fifth year of Operation Infinite Patience, and the Cove Guardians will not stop shining a spotlight on this atrocity until the slaughter ends.

Cove Guardians Visit our
Cove Guardians
site for more information.
Categories: Community

An MYEFO mystery: what’s with the resource tax?

Club Troppo - Wed, 17/12/2014 - 01:06

It’s the time of the mid-year Economic Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) and we’re told that we’re about 11 billion deeper in the red this financial year than we thought, with the treasurer blaming the dropping iron price and the reduced wage growth. I have gone over the MYEFO documents (which are an exercise in obfuscation if ever I saw one), found that wage growth and the dropped iron ore price would ‘only’ cost us 2.3 billion each in this financial year (2014-2015), noted that this was far short of the 11 billion headline, and thus went looking for the ‘real story’.

This threw up the mystery of the resource tax. Here is what it says on table 3.2:

Table 3.2: Impact of Senate on the Budget (underlying cash balance) Estimates Projections 2014‑15 2015‑16 2016‑17 2017‑18 Total $m $m $m $m $m Impact of decision taken as part of Senate negotiations(a) Repeal of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax and related measures -1,684 -2,334 -1,670 -947 -6,634

which means that the failure to so far abolish the minerals resource rent tax (and related measures) is costing us around 2 billion per year. Indeed, in the ‘Overview Part’, the MYEFO says “The repeal of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax and other related measures will save the budget over $10 billion over the forward estimates and around $50 billion over the next decade.”.

The repeal of a TAX would SAVE us 50 billion dollars??????

So this mineral resource rent tax, touted as dipping into the extraordinary resource boom enjoyed by the foreign owned mining companies operating in Australia (Rio, BHP, Xstrata, etc.), is actually costing us money? The outcome of the famed secret Gillard-mining negotiations were always a bit of a mystery to me and I always suspected that nearly all of the budget troubles Australia has had in the last 5 years were related to the outcome of those negotiations, but did we negotiate so badly with the mining companies that this Tax is in fact a huge financial drain on us compared to just not having it? I can understand why the treasury would want to keep such a debacle quiet since they were doing the negotiating, but why would the current government keep it quiet? Does the Treasurer even know the inside story of the Mining Tax?

The MYEFO doesnt explain this issue anywhere, with the mercurial writer of this budget update keen to blame other things (basically the Senate and the resource prices), but it is clear that this ‘Tax’ is an enormous drain on us. Does anyone know what is going on? Am I missing something? Is it about the ‘related measures’?

Categories: Community

Tips and tricks, or ‘tips and tricks of the iceberg’: Going meta on behavioural economics

Club Troppo - Tue, 16/12/2014 - 06:57

Standard economics’ traditional penchant for focusing on problems that are chosen for their formal tractability rather than their resemblance to real world problems squeezed non-monetary incentives and ‘irrational’ motives from economists’ purview. At the same time bureaucracies are very good at doing the same thing – of ignoring the specific nature of the life world of those they serve. (Of course ‘cultural incentives’ and if you like ‘irrational’ motives are at the heart of what makes bureaucracies work at all, but that’s internally. Those very conditions create fertile ground in which the organisation will make presumptions on the rationality of those whom they serve. But I digress.)

There are two potential ‘narratives’ as we say these days about behavioural economics as an antidote to this state of affairs. The first – exemplified, for instance in this blog post from behavioural economics consultancy 42 ideas - is that behavioural economics and the policies that emerge from it provide an example of economics’ taking upon itself the injunction “Physician health thyself”. Thus in the place of homo economicus - a simplified but unrealistic view of human nature – behavioural economics investigates the way this model is wrong and policy inspired by it takes those things into account in proposing new policy.

Thus the nudge unit in the UK (we have a small clone of it in NSW) does AB testing on government correspondence – discovering and exploiting the fact that taxpayers show stronger compliance to an arrears letter from the tax authorities if it contains a sentence like “over 90% of taxpayers pay their taxes on time” and the response is a bit higher still if the sentence makes the comparison more personal still “Over 90.5% of your neighbours in Notting Hill pay their tax on time”. These are ‘nudges’ in the vernacular of this field and so too is attention to trying to set the most benign possible defaults to take into account the power of inertia. The classic example – used around the world in both government and business these days is setting people’s savings plans to save higher proportions of their income (often by diverting any pay rise they have received into savings) unless they make a conscious decision not to go along, in which case it’s as easy as ticking a box on a form and they can (consciously) choose some alternative. This is behavioural economics as a box of tips and tricks to be added on to neoclassical economics. The physician, if he hasn’t healed himself, has introduced some routines that are better suited to the world.

But there’s another way to look at these tips and tricks – to look at them as ‘tips and tricks of the iceberg’. Ultimately people must be encountered as such. The tips and tricks of behavioural economics are no more or less than a summary of rules that have been gleaned that have the generality necessary to find their way relatively straightforwardly into the learned journal literature. But there’s a whole life world out there. That’s what needs to be encountered and that’s what is always in danger of being given insufficient weight. As Hayek put it

Today it is almost heresy to suggest that scientific knowledge is not the sum of all knowledge. But a little reflection will show that there is . . . a body of very important but unorganized knowledge: . . . the knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place. [In this] respect . . . practically every individual has some advantage over all others because he possesses unique information of which beneficial use might be made, but of which use can be made only if the decisions depending on it are left to him or are made with his active coöperation.

Hayek only ever paid any attention to one particularisation of this general proposition – he’s thinking of the value the trader adds in a market to the knowhow of the scientist, the accountant, the engineer, the boss. But the observation is a much wider one. Yet the very tyranny of central planning against which he set himself is alive and well inside organisations, not least government organisations and those that deliver their services.


Their penchant for ignoring the life world it is their job to serve is often quite striking – indeed chilling. These are the words of a girl I’ve quoted before on this blog who was in care from aged three. She’s now 21.

It happened so quickly. Once I turned 18, they sort of kicked me on my arse. They said ‘here’s $750, see you later, thank you’. And I’m just like ‘what the hell?’. A book and $750. That’s for being in care all your life.   Actually it makes you feel like an outsider. It makes you feel non existent on this earth. Like you are an alien. It does. It affects when you go to school too. You’re so used to being called ‘client’ and stuff that you start looking at yourself different to everyone else.

They didn’t just do that to her. They forbade her from contacting any of the people she’d got to know in the system after she was 18 – she was now a ‘risk’ to be managed.   So it turns out, for complicated reasons that have to do with the sociology of work, and the need to routinise and generate lines of accountability and so on, that organisations tend to be very bad at encountering those outside them and understanding them in order to better interact with them. (This is also true of commercial organisations. Why do they go on and on about the importance of knowing their customers? Because it’s a much harder slog to get an organisation to attend to the needs of those outside it than you might think. Just saying it doesn’t seem to do much.)

So I see behavioural economics as one end of a larger continuum which is about organisations and systems learning to engage ‘the other’ – as if that’s an absolutely fundamental part of their operations which if it fails can be as destructive of their purposes as inadequate funding or huge managerial errors. Behavioural economics uses psych and its own research to do that, and it’s usually interested in relatively easily scalable engagement with ‘the other’ – like AB testing communications strategies, which, once they’ve been optimised can be scaled easily and immediately. Business has been doing this for eons so it’s a testimony to the imperviousness of our institutions that it’s such a Cool New Thing within government.

Nudge Unit and TACSI

By contrast with the Nudge Unit, the Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) is about the ‘deep engagement’ end of the same continuum of encountering ‘the other – as illustrated in this slide from some recent presentations of mine. If you’re going to help a family or a community, there’s a lot more work to be done engaging the other than some AB testing. Family by Family completely rearranges the usual structure of social policy interventions to attempt to put the families – and particularly the family seeking help – at the centre of the program. (Yes, I know everyone claims that their ‘customers/clients’ and the community are at the centre of everything they do – it’s on all the visions and missions and corporate catechisms – but some knowledge of what is necessary to even get close to such an aspiration shows you how hollow such claims are.)

So for me the Nudge Unit and TACSI are each fundamentally about the same thing – the surprisingly difficult business of engaging ‘the other’. If disciplines, or new departures in disciplines offer a bunch of tips and tricks with which to improve existing operations, well and good. But for me both behavioural economics and TACSI’s approach to co-design are at their best as subversions of entrenched complacency. And the Nudge Unit, from what I know of it both in the UK and in NSW is broadly sympathetic to this view as demonstrated by its embrace of co-design – which I’ve argued is used in these contexts as a kind of ‘counter-narrative’. It’s a counter-narrative to the usual top down sensibilities of hierarchies - so that instead of everyone looking up the hierarchy for approval, all nerves are strained to try to bring in users’ perspectives – as well as the sensibilities of professions – both within such organisations and also in the academy.

The Nudge Unit and TACSI are strongly ‘evidence based’, but when it comes to evidence, the academic literature is often like a moon buggy or a Formula One racer when one needs a golf buggy or lots of them to address specific issues as and when they arise – in precisely the way that good businesses, are ‘evidence based’ but don’t spend much of their time reading the academic literature – even if they’re relatively technical, and often even within their R&D activities. Of course there are plenty of superficial applications of design. But there’s a growing zeitgeist, that it can be used more ambitiously – to really make some deeper progress. If some of those ambitions can be realised, behavioural economics will come to be seen as the tips and tricks of the iceberg.


Categories: Community

The propaganda war over Crimea’s break from Ukraine

Links International - Tue, 16/12/2014 - 03:05

Celebrations in Lenin Square, in the Crimean capital of Simferopol, after the Crimean people voted to make the peninsula a part of Russia. More pictures at

More on the political situation in Ukraine.

By Roger Annis

December 17, 2014 -- submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by the author, first published on Truthout, December 10, 2014 -- In the propaganda campaign being waged by the NATO countries and the government of Ukraine against Russia and in support of Kiev’s war in the east of the country, the events in Crimea of the past nine months occupy a pivotal place.

The secession from Ukraine that followed the March 16 referendum vote in Crimea is the number one pretext to justify the war as well as NATO’s rising aggression in Eastern Europe.

read more

Categories: Community

South Africa: Radical NUMSA-backed United Front declares 'Enough is enough'!

Links International - Tue, 16/12/2014 - 03:04

The long-awaited process of building a new united front of radical forces in South Africa proposed and supported by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) has kicked off with a meeting on December 13-14, 2014. Below is the declaration issued by the meeting. Read more about recent developments in South Africa HERE.

* * *

Declaration of the Preparatory Assembly of the United Front, Johannesburg

December 14, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Globally we are experiencing the gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s. Wars and counter-revolutions stretch from the Middle East to the far-east to Africa and the Americas. Imperialism knows no constraint. The devastating ecological and climate crises are caused by a predatory capitalist system that is endangering the very existence of humanity.

read more

Categories: Community

GMOs, pesticides, climate, nuclear energy: How capitalism controls science

Links International - Tue, 16/12/2014 - 03:02

By Don Fitz

December 11, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, submitted by the author; a version of this article first appeared at -- Did you ever think that investigation of the potential dangers of putting genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into food would be based on objective research? Or that unbiased reviews of research by academic journals would chart a steady march toward scientific truth? If so, you would be very wrong. Through all of its phases, scientific research is subject to repression, manipulation and more insidious forms of control that push it toward a profit-based consensus.

Three well-known GMO studies form a pattern of authors' being harassed, intimidated and even having their findings "retracted" or withdrawn by a scientific journal after being published.

Suppression of GMO research

read more

Categories: Community

How citizens’ revolt in Burkina Faso unfolded

Links International - Mon, 15/12/2014 - 13:31

For more on Burkina Faso, click HERE.

By Ernest Harsch

December 9, 2014 -- African Futures, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by the author -- Even the long months of demonstrations and strikes that came before did not fully prepare the people of Burkina Faso for what they would accomplish during the last week of October 2014. In Ouagadougou, the capital, hundreds of thousands—organisers claimed a million—packed the central square on Tuesday, October 28, to protest President Blaise Compaoré’s “constitutional coup”, as they called his plan to force through an amendment enabling him to run for reelection yet again, after more than a quarter century in power.

read more

Categories: Community

Lima climate agreement fails humanity and the Earth

Links International - Mon, 15/12/2014 - 13:12

Protesters at the People's Climate March in Lima.

December 14, 2014 -- Climate & Capitalism, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Late in the night, 194 countries of the UN framework convention on climate change finally reached agreement. Far from satisfactory, this deal jeopardises any “historic agreement” in Paris. The climate justice NGOs and movements, including Attac France and the Friends of the Earth France, have released this first analysis.

* * *

No justice in Lima outcome

The world faces a planetary emergency: climate change, caused by a system that puts the pursuit of profit above the needs of people and the limits of nature. It is already devastating millions of people across the planet. Climate science predicts we will soon breach critical tipping points and could be locked in to 4-5°c of warming with catastrophic impacts for us all.

The Lima Conference should have been a milestone that marked out how governments will take urgent action to tackle climate change and to support vulnerable people across the world to adapt to its locked in impacts.

read more

Categories: Community

Scotland: Labour Party leadership vote confirms entrenched right-wing politics, opens way for left

Links International - Mon, 15/12/2014 - 02:43

Jim Murphy campaigns against independence for Scotland.

For more on Scotland and independence, click HERE.

By Ken Ferguson

December 13, 2014 -- Scottish Left Project, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The election of arch Blairite Jim Murphy – by a 20% margin – as Scottish Labour Party leader is surely final confirmation that the former working-class party is now a wholly owned tool of the Westminster establishment and its role as servants of the neoliberal speculation policies of the City of London.

That Labour Party members elected Murphy in the belief that he is the new Messiah tells us just how out of touch with Scottish opinion both they and their party have become.

Faced with the mass radicalisation and ferment of progressive ideas developed by the Yes campaign, which has gone way beyond the independence issue into areas as diverse as land reform, poverty pay and building a just sustainable Scotland they repeated their September reaction and said No thanks.

read more

Categories: Community