Recent blog entries

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).


Time for the ‘reform’ mantra to be modernised: My AFR column of yesterday

Club Troppo - 3 hours 33 min ago

The Hawke LegacyBy the time economic reform matured as a political project – let’s date it from Paul Keating’s announcement about its popularity with the resident galah in every pet shop – it was already on the slide into the kind of ideological formula of mercantilism that Ken Henry so powerfully critiqued earlier this week.

Australia was a standard-bearer in areas like trade and agricultural protection, the two airline policy and shopping hours. There, with the stroke of a pen, we swept away the detritus of a century’s ad hoc political favouritism. And unlike our peers in the Anglosphere, we also expanded funding for the safety net – bolstering equity.

But beyond that, as we’ve learned (or have we?), considering policy alternatives against a criterion as crude as how ‘free market’ they are doesn’t work so well. In infrastructure, utility and financial reform, where monopoly and asymmetric information problems abound, regulation remains inevitable and new rent seeking political pathologies lie in wait for those unpicking the old ones. Here our reform efforts brought forth excessively priced toll-ways, desalination plants and airports with the political and official insiders championing the changes parachuting into lucrative careers with the corporate beneficiaries of their reforms to lobby their successors. We’ve seen massive over-investment in electricity transmission and under-investment in other infrastructure.

And yet our policy elite speak as if ‘reform’ is well articulated and will take us back to the glory days of the 1990s Australian ‘reform boom’ that preceded the subsequent resources boom. “Gary Banks’ List” assembled by the former Productivity Commission (PC) chairman – is a canonical PC endorsed reform ‘to do’ list. It was – tellingly enough – cobbled together some months after Glenn Stevens assured a Parliamentary Committee of its existence. John Edwards recently suggested, only slightly exaggerating, that its adoption wouldn’t make a measureable difference to growth.

With national income falling in the most recent national accounts, here are some contemporary challenges and opportunities absent from the list – all of which escape prevailing reform formulas:

  • Policy discussion typically conceives of markets as comprising competitive firms subject to state regulation. In areas like education, health, aged care, city planning, research and legal services, output is better thought of as the joint product of competitive and collective (collaborative and regulatory) activity. Each sector requires the evolution of quite different institutions in which public and private, competitive and collaborative considerations concatenate at every level from high policy down to the life world of workplaces.
  • While wealth management fits well into the previous paragraph, the public private partnership that is banking is a special case. It remains not just profoundly pro-cyclical but unstable and will remain so under all likely post crisis reforms.
  • How do we deliver useful professional knowledge while ensuring that that knowledge serves the interests of consumers. How to we minimise the typical abuses of professional power including restricting entry? What institutions could help consumers identify the best professional services?
  • How do we optimise the free-rider opportunities to which modern ICT gives rise? Lateral Economics recently published a report suggesting large economic gains (around $16 billion annually) with few losers from more thoroughgoing and insightful open data policies.
  • Personal information management services (PIMS) will generate similar gains. The UK leads the world with legislation vouchsafing citizen rights to the data firms collect on them and with numerous corporates like Google, Mastercard and Lloyds Bank partnering with government agencies like the Office of Fair Trading to pioneer the necessary infrastructure. First mover advantages will enable UK businesses’ to roll out PIMS to the world. What are we doing? No so much.
  • More generally, how might the internet and its epiphenomena (peer production, social media, big data, mobile computing, the internet of things, wearables, ‘nearables’ and so on) reshape the public policy of infrastructure and public goods?
  • How can we incubate the skills and relationships necessary (perhaps outside government) to rebuild damaged social capital in communities with mores and perspectives different to those within dominant institutions?
  • With our polity increasingly distracted and immobilised by the populist alarums and excursions delivering eyeballs to screens and clicks on links, how can we evolve democratic institutions within which real civic deliberation might be encouraged as it is in juries?

Economists have identified a “middle income trap” into which many countries have fallen like most in South America. Industrialisation gives them the institutional ‘arteries’ of a functioning modern political economy, but not the ‘capillaries’ if you will – traditions of social trust, peaceable dispute resolution, property rights, competent, non-partisan officials and strong anti-corruption institutions. Perhaps we’re in our own trap in which we can’t escape the mental world of the glory days of 1980s reform.

We have only glimmerings of the answers to the questions posed above. But that’s what finding one’s way to the future is always like. And building on those glimmerings is our only way to build on our proud legacy as a standard bearer for neoliberal reform – by moving beyond it.

Article in AFR (behind paywall) here.


Categories: Community

Catalonia and the Spanish state on collision course

Links International - 4 hours 22 min ago

More than 1.8 million people (25% of the population of Catalonia), took part in this year’s September 11 Diada demonstration. More pictures HERE.

Click for more on political developments in Catalonia and the Spanish state.

By Dick Nichols

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Categories: Community

Scottish independence: a good idea or a bad idea?

Club Troppo - 14 hours 5 min ago

Today the people residing in Scotland can decide whether they want to see an independent Scotland or to have Scotland remain in the UK. The betting markets concur with the opinion polls and favour the status quo: the markets give roughly 20% chance that the ‘yes’ vote will win and that Scotland will become independent.

The majority of economists talking about the referendum have focused on whether or not the Scots would be financially better off with their own country, debating things like North Sea oil revenues and currency unions. I think that is a distraction: looking at small and large countries in Europe, you would have to say there is no noticeable advantage or disadvantage to being a small country and that the Scots are hence unlikely to be materially affected in the long run by independence.
Independence is more about self-image and identity than it is about money. Even though the push for independence might well come from politicians and bureaucracies that gain prestige and income if they ruled an independent country, the population deciding on the vote will probably vote on emotional grounds, not economic. Young male Scots appear overwhelmingly in favour of independence; females and old people prefer to keep things the way they are. The latter groups are bigger and are expected to sway the day.

Personally, I have two related reasons to oppose the breaking up of larger countries in Europe into smaller ethnically defined states, not just Scotland, but also Catalonia, the Basque region, the Frisian province, Bavaria, and all the other regions of Europe:

  1. These independence movements are ethnic and hence by definition exclusionary. This is a big concern: large nation states have slowly moved away from the story that they exist for people of the ‘right’ bloodlines and with ancestors who lived in the ‘right’ place. The UK, the US, France, Australia, and even Germany and Spain have moved towards an identity based on stories about what it means to be British, American, French, Australian, etc., rather than a ‘blood and earth’ ethnic nation state story. Speaking tongue-in-cheek, the Brits have an upper lip story, the Americans have an exceptionalism story, the French have been convinced they like reading Proust, the new Australians are told in their citizenship exams that they believe in a fair go, etc. These stories contain treasured national stereotypes, complete with imagined histories. The key thing is that are inclusive, ie any newcomer from another place can participate in such stories. The Australian national anthem is a beautiful example of this super-inclusive attitude as it, almost uniquely, mentions neither ethnicity nor religion as a basis for being Australian. The ethnic stories of the independence movements are, in contrast, exclusionary and hence harmful to the self-image of any migrant. It is a move to a past that we have little reason to be proud of, as it marginalises current and future migrants. The story surrounding Scottish independence is thus not that the Scots are people who like to wear kilts and enjoy haggis, but that they make up the people who have suffered 700 years of oppression by the English. What is a recent newcomer from, say, Poland to do with such a self-image but conclude that they do not really belong there?
  2. The mixing of populations inside the UK due to factors like work, marriage, and retirement, now means that large parts of the ‘Scots’ live elsewhere and large parts of the population living in Scotland come from elsewhere. So there are reportedly close to a million Scottish-born people living elsewhere in the UK, and half a million people living in Scotland who were in fact born in England. Becoming independent from those ‘evil English that oppressed us for 700 years’ means marginalising both the 10% of the resident Scottish population actually born in England and putting a traitorous label on the million that decided the supposed oppressors were people you could marry and work with. If we consider the fractional heritage that nearly every UK citizen has, with some ancestors from Scotland and some from elsewhere, nearly every UK citizen will then almost arbitrarily be ‘forced to choose’ whether their fractional Scottishness counts as 1 or as 0. This is a problem: the roughly 5% of my ancestry that is probably Scottish does not want to be alienated from the 45% that comes from other parts of the British Isles!

These two reasons amplify each other: the damage that an ethnic-story based independence movement does gets amplified if the mixing is very large and is somewhat less of a factor when there is very little mixing.

What goes for Scotland goes doubly for many other regions in Europe: for instance, I believe some 40% of the people living in Catalonia are born outside of Catalonia and in other Spanish regions. The population mixing between regions of France and Germany is similarly large. The reality of a joint national economy is that the populations have internally mixed and artificially going ‘back’ to supposedly ethnically pure groups that define themselves in terms of adversity to the others is a regression.

It is of course these mixed populations that provide a counter-weight to any break-away movement, and they provide clear policy prescriptions for those who want to keep their countries intact: mix the population around to emasculate those who want to pull any geographic ethnicity card.

So I will be hoping that the betting markets are right, that mixing populations over the last few decades has done its integrative job, and that the ‘No’ vote wins.


Categories: Community

'Democratise the land!': Brazil’s Landless Rural Workers' Movement's letter to presidential and state governor candidates

Links International - 14 hours 7 min ago

For more on Brazil, click HERE.

By the National Direction of the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, São Paulo

Posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

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Categories: Community

Brazil: Marina Silva’s rise is a result of the left’s failures, not success

Links International - 14 hours 40 min ago

Marina Silva.

For more on Brazil, click HERE.

By Federico Fuentes

September 16, 2014 -- TeleSUR English, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- A fortnight out from Brazil’s October 5 national election, the big news has been the significant surge in support for Marina Silva, a former Workers’ Party (PT) government minister and environmental activist, with some polls predicting she could end up winning the presidential race.

Incumbent president and PT candidate Dilma Rousseff maintains a narrow lead over Silva, but the elections will almost certainly go to a second round run-off on October 26. 

If this occurs, current indications are that Marina Silva has a chance of winning, a remarkable feat given that a little over a month ago she was not even a presidential candidate.

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Categories: Community

Iraq: 10 things that seem to be true

Club Troppo - 15 hours 33 min ago

As we head back to Iraq, I’m struck by the way in which those making the case both for and against are avoiding certain ideas which seem to me to be true:

This is not 2003 all over again. At least on a moral level, and at least as far as action in Iraq goes. We have been invited in by the Iraqi government, giving the military campaign a legal and moral basis for action that the 2003 war lacked, and IS is thoroughly dominated by murderous zealots. Tony Abbott has been careful to say that attacking IS in Syria would be very different to what we’ve signed up for so far, which it would, and he deserves credit for that.

IS is not an existential threat to Australia. No kudos to George Brandis, who claimed this week that IS “represents or seeks to be an existential threat to us”. Brandis’s statement avoids outright lying only by his addition of the phrase “or seeks to be”. This has strong echoes of the 2003 b.s. about how Saddam could threaten the world with nuclear weapons, It is not quite as stupid now as it was then, but that’s not saying much. Lots of loony zealots seek to be an existential threat to the Australian state. There’s a world of difference between the wish and the capability. IS currently appears weak on capability, though that could change. There’s more chance of Australia being seriously damaged by a mutated Ebola virus, and we react to that threat with a few million dollars every so often.

We have some responsibility to help make Iraqis’ lives better. In 2003 we invaded their country and failed to do what we said we’d do. The military did its best, but we needed other tools in the kit, didn’t have them, and like some blundering amateur, didn’t even know we needed them. We helped make their country vulnerable to the violent zealots. Those violent zealots are now trying to impose upon millions of Iraqis a particularly nasty brand of theocracy. We seem to have alarmingly little national shame about this, and remarkably little sense that by creating the mess, we created a lasting responsibility to fix it. This is what Colin Powell once explained to George W. Bush as the “Pottery Barn principle” – you broke it, you own it.

We will run into unintended consequences. The idea of unintended consequences is hard enough to keep in people’s minds in the economic debate. But in the foreign policy debate people seem ready to discard it at a moment’s notice. And when things go wrong, instead of reassessing, they defend the purity of their motivations. Chris Berg of the IPA has dubbed this the “it’s the thought that counts” school of humanitarian intervention. It is probably too much to expect, but we ought to conduct this debate with an honest acknowledgement that things are not likely to go to plan. To use Donald Rumsfeld’s admirable observation, we face both known and unknown unknowns.

Our involvement will harm innocent people. This one we know about. One of the most shameful aspects of the 2003 war was the downplaying of Iraqi casualty figures, which almost all sources agree topped 100,000 just in direct deaths. There will be more civilian casualties now: IS is in towns and cities. In wars, civilians die a lot – caught in crossfires, misunderstanding soldiers’ shouted demands, walking past the wrong building as the missile hits. Recent technological advances really do seem to have improved our ability to target only the people we actually want to kill. But they have not eliminated “collateral damage”. Just ask the Pakistanis in the drone strike zones. If we are morally serious, we have an obligation to explain why success is worth this cost.

We still do not know how to turn Middle Eastern countries into successful states. Thus far our efforts in Iraq have brought remarkably poor outcomes. We said we would make Iraq better, and yet it is in a worse state than it has been for many a year. And we ended up without a great outcome in Libya – the action which this intended action most closely resembles. Yemen and Somalia have not been triumphs either. The US has spent an estimated $US1.6 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan. Time for some realism about our capabilities to win hearts and minds with missiles and F88s.

We should beware “mowing the lawn”. Every time western forces take military action in the Middle East, they provide advertising material for extremist Islamic groups. Dead grandmothers and kids with missing limbs tend to affect people emotionally, and while our nightly news doesn’t show those things, the Internet and Middle East media will do so. Hence the term “mowing the lawn”: we cut down one bunch of extremists in the sure knowledge that the next lot will quickly take their place. As former John Howard media adviser Paula Matthewson more elegantly puts it, ”it makes little sense to participate in a military campaign similar to the one that caused home-grown extremists to arise in the first place.”

IS will head for the houses. IS will likely adopt the strategy of Hamas, which blended in with the civilian population when the Israelis counter-attacked. This is indeed the logical, if horrific, response to the arrival of “smart” weapons and smartphones: melt into the towns and cities, and video-stream the civilian damage if your opponents’ smart weapons still seek you out. At that stage, this action may start to look a lot like the Israel-Hamas exchange, and an exercise in mowing the lawn. Right now we don’t seem to have any more of a plan for this than the Israelis did.

We should aim no higher than degrading and containing IS – and not aim to destroy it. No-one seems to want to use the “c” word – containment – since we decided back in 2003 that successfully containing Saddam Hussein was not enough. John Kerry declared “there is no contain policy”. Whatever; “degrade”, the first new term of this episode, will do nicely. Degradation and containment are aims which bring a chance of success, whereas the destruction of IS is unlikely. We simply do not know how to destroy an insurgency, and IS is in part an insurgency. (We should be looking for innovations in the art of degrading the power of such groups.) Kudos to Tony Abbott for emphasising degradation over destruction in at least some of his public statements.

We can act even if it makes Australia more dangerous. Notice how no-one is putting this case: that our involvement will make all Australians a little less safe, but we should involve ourselves anyway. No-one will say this because they think it would be political poison. There nevertheless seems a strong case that it is true: by acting, we can make ourselves a bigger target for non-Australians, and stir a few more home-grown extremists in the direction of violent action. But that would just mean that involvement is not painless for us. It could still be the right thing to do.

Categories: Community

Three Sea Shepherd Crewmembers Arrested in Faroe Islands for Protecting Hundreds of Dolphins

Sea Shepherd - 17 hours 24 min ago
Three Sea Shepherd Crewmembers Arrested in Faroe Islands for Protecting Hundreds of Dolphins Sea Shepherd Volunteers and Small Boat Have Been Released Tonight; Volunteers Face Deportation from the Faroes by Denmark

 Barbara VeigaSea Shepherd crew of the Spitfire: Celine Le Diouron and Marion Selighini, both from France, and Jessie Treverton of the UK. Photo: Barbara VeigaThree volunteer members of Sea Shepherd’s pilot whale and small cetacean defense campaign Operation GrindStop 2014 were arrested today just outside the Faroese capital of Torshavn for protecting a large pod of hundreds of Atlantic white-sided dolphins, preventing them from approaching the dangerous killing shores of the Faroe Islands.

The Danish Navy chased, boarded and seized Sea Shepherd’s UK-registered boat, the Spitfire, and arrested its three crewmembers — Jessie Treverton of the UK and Celine Le Diouron and Marion Selighini, both from France.

Though it is against Faroese law to interfere with the mass cetacean slaughter known as the “grindadrap” or “grind,” no grind had been called when Sea Shepherd prevented the dolphins from reaching shore. Moreover, white-sided dolphins are a protected species and are not to be killed. The Danish Police, however, have charged the Sea Shepherd volunteers with failure to report the dolphin sightings to the grind master and police and, ironically, with “harassing dolphins.”

Sea Shepherd Founder Captain Paul Watson responded, “Apparently in the Faroe Islands it is perfectly legal to kill a protected species, but it is illegal to push them back out to sea in order to keep them from harm’s way because that is considered ‘harassment.’ So these three Sea Shepherd women can proudly say that they successfully ‘harassed’ the dolphins for the purpose of saving their lives.”

“The good news is, however, that a pod of hundreds of white-sided dolphins were successfully ‘harassed’ away from the vicious knives of the whalers. Last year, in August 2013, 450 white-sided dolphins fell to the cruel knives of these cetacean-slaughtering thugs. Fortunately the hundreds spotted today remain safe at sea,” added Captain Watson.

Sea Shepherd currently has an attorney involved. The crew and the Spitfire were released late this evening in the Faroes. They were escorted to the Spitfire and permitted to leave. The crew is to appear in court tomorrow at 2 pm Faroes time. However, the volunteers face deportation from the Faroe Islands by Denmark, and if deported, would not be allowed to return to the Faroes for at least one year.

Despite being an anti-whaling member nation of the European Union, subject to laws prohibiting the slaughter of cetaceans, Denmark continues to show its support and even collaboration with the Faroese whalers to kill small cetaceans.

 Sea ShepherdThe Danish Navy chases Sea Shepherd UK's Spitfire.
Photo: Sea ShepherdThe Spitfire is the fourth vessel seized by the Danish Navy in the Faroe Islands during Operation GrindStop 2014, as Sea Shepherd’s three small boats — the Loki, the Mike Galesi and the B.S. Sheen (sponsored by actor Charlie Sheen) were seized on August 30th. They are being held as evidence awaiting the trial of eight Sea Shepherd crew from those boats. Along with the small boat crew, 6 members of Sea Shepherd’s onshore team were also arrested for attempting to prevent the brutal slaughter of a pod of 33 pilot whales on August 30.

“Though three volunteers have been arrested and the Danish Navy has once again acted in defense of the brutal grind by seizing one of our boats, Sea Shepherd considers this a victory. Hundreds of dolphins are still swimming safely as a family because of our brave volunteers, and Sea Shepherd will continue to act in defense of its clients,” said Lamya Essemlali, President of Sea Shepherd France and GrindStop 2014 Offshore Leader.

There are two Sea Shepherd vessels currently operating in the Faroes — the Spitfire, and the Clementine, from France. Thor had to be removed from the water earlier today, as foreign vessels can only be in Faroese waters for a maximum of three months.

Sea Shepherd has led the opposition to the mass slaughter of cetaceans in the Faroe Islands since the 1980s. Operation GrindStop 2014 is Sea Shepherd’s largest Faroese campaign to date, and a multi-national team of Sea Shepherd volunteers has been patrolling land and sea in the islands since mid-June. Sea Shepherd will remain in the Faroes until the beginning of October. The campaign spans the typically bloodiest months of the grindadrap hunt season, in an effort to save as many lives as possible.

Operation GrindStop Visit our
Operation GrindStop 2014
site for more information.
Categories: Community

Escocia: Dossier sobre el referéndum de septiembre por la independencia

Links International - Wed, 17/09/2014 - 07:02

[English (first item) at]

11 de septiembre -- -- Después de la gran manifestación popular del 11 de septiembre en Cataluña que centró el interés de los grandes medios de comunicación, el 18 de septiembre la atención de gran parte del mundo estará puesta en Escocia. Este dossier sobre el referéndum que el próximo 18 de septiembre se realizará en esta nación sobre la independencia o no del Reino Unido, consta de varios artículos y entrevistas de los siguientes autores: Alister Black, William Black, George Monbiot, Owen Jones, Andy Robinson.

Descarga aquí o leer en la pantalla de abajo.

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Categories: Community

Labor pledges to grade-separate #Bentleigh level crossing #SpringSt

Daniel Bowen - Wed, 17/09/2014 - 04:42

As I walked to the station this morning there seemed to be an unusually long tailback of cars approaching the level crossing.

I found a gaggle of reporters at the station, and shortly afterwards state opposition leader Dan(iel) Andrews showed up, with public transport spokesperson Jill Hennessy and local Bentleigh candidate Nick Staikos, to announce Labor will grade separate the Centre Road crossing if elected.

Labor pledges Bentleigh level crossing grade separation

It’s part of Labor’s scheme to remove 50 level crossings over 8 years (two terms). They had announced 40 based on the official ALCAM (Australian Level Crossing Assessment Model) risk ratings, and said they’d announce another 10 in due course… closer to the election.

Evidently the first of those ten is Bentleigh, which is slap bang in a marginal seat, though this doesn’t mean it’s not deserving — in the 2008 ALCAM list (it appears this is the most up-to-date one that has been completed), it sat at number 60. Since then, numerous others in the top 50 have been completed or funded, and there are many more still are in Labor’s first 40 — though I haven’t yet checked if they are all included.

I couldn’t stay for the full press conference (alas, I had a train to catch), but Daniel Andrews said they wouldn’t comment on costings for individual crossings, as they didn’t want to flag to contractors how much they’d be willing to pay. Costings are a hot issue — St Albans has set a record at an estimated $200 million, but some other recent, less complex, crossings have been much much cheaper — for example Middleborough Road (including a new Laburnum station) was $66 million in 2007. And the Springvale and Blackburn crossings completed earlier this year were three for $350 million, or an average of $117 million each — and you’d expect economies of scale to drive prices down if you were doing 50.

I think most locals will welcome this pledge. It’s not just traffic (including buses and cyclists) which is frequently delayed — people walking to and from the station often have to wait… though the programming of the gates sometimes sees long delays for distant approaching trains, and some people lose patience and skip around the gates.

And though it’s not as big a problem as it is at Clayton, it’s not unknown to see emergency vehicles having to wait as well.

Bentleigh also has a less than stellar record for safety, with a number of fatal accidents over the years — though fewer since the pedestrian gates were upgraded. Here’s an interactive timeline created by Amy Foyster:

But the pledge raises a question: given North Road is funded to be grade separated, would Labor propose to do Mckinnon Road as well? It’s midway between them, only 800 metres from North Road, and 800 metres from Centre Road. Unless all three are done (preferably as one project, to save money and minimise disruptions) the line could resemble a roller coaster, and play havoc with the freight trains, which already have problems getting up the hill northbound into Ormond.

The local Leader newspaper is seeking comment from sitting Liberal member Elizabeth Miller on the crossing. Nothing yet.

Categories: Community

Sea Shepherd Creates 'Living Photo Exhibit' Outside SeaWorld During IMATA Protest

Sea Shepherd - Wed, 17/09/2014 - 00:10
Sea Shepherd Creates “Living Photo Exhibit” Outside SeaWorld During IMATA Protest Sea Shepherd Orlando Volunteers and Supporters Displayed the Link Between Taiji and Captivity

Sea Shepherd Orlando and supporters in front of SeaWorldSea Shepherd Orlando and supporters in front of SeaWorld

On Sunday, September 14, 2014, more than 100 volunteers joined forces to stand in front of SeaWorld, representing the dolphins and whales held captive in tanks, as members of the International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association gathered at the marine park for their largest conference. In 94-degree weather, with little to no shade, Sea Shepherd Onshore Volunteers stood side-by-side with dedicated supporters who traveled to Orlando from as far as Minnesota.

The demonstrators created a “living gallery” of Sea Shepherd’s “From the Cove to Captivity” photo exhibit as they stood in front of SeaWorld, displaying the inextricable link between the slaughter of dolphins and small whales in Taiji, Japan and the global marine mammal captivity industry. The exhibit features powerful photographs taken by Sea Shepherd’s volunteer Cove Guardians who stand watch over Taiji’s infamous cove during Operation Infinite Patience, now in its fifth consecutive season. Entire pods of cetaceans face captivity or slaughter once driven into the cove.

In 2006 IMATA issued a statement that condemned the inhumane killing of cetaceans in Japanese drive fisheries. However, IMATA continues to support, train and certify businesses that profit from the annual drive hunt and slaughter of dolphins and small whales in Taiji.

A young Sea Shepherd supporter speaks up for captive whalesA young Sea Shepherd supporter speaks up for captive whalesAlong with the photo exhibit, volunteers from 10-years-old and up showed their support for an end to the slaughters that are driven by the captive industry, in which SeaWorld plays a large part. Facts on orca and dolphin captivity — including lifespan, diet, and inbreeding — were given to those waiting to enterSeaWorld. With the words “you may say you don’t care, but now you can’t say you didn’t know” ringing in their heads, visitors to the park were met face-to-face with the reality of what they are supporting as paying customers of SeaWorld.

The Cove Guardians live streamed to the world yesterday, September 16, as the first pod of the 2014-2015 Taiji drive hunt season was driven into the cove and slaughtered, following 15 days of blue cove days. The panicked group of approximately 8-9 Risso’s dolphins huddled together in their final moments as a family, before being taken under the tarps that hide the murdering ways of the dolphin killers.

Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians are the only group on the ground in Taiji throughout the entire six-month hunt season, live streaming every capture and every slaughter for the world to see. Providing a window to Taiji, the Cove Guardians ensure that not one dolphin or whale is killed unseen, and they will not stop until the waters of the cove no longer run red with blood.

The brutality of Taiji’s cetacean slaughter will once again be shown to a large audience when Sea Shepherd’s exhibit, “Taiji Dolphins: The Truth Behind the Tarps” comes to Encore at Wynn Las Vegas this weekend. Please join Sea Shepherd for this special event, free and open to the public September 19-21, featuring M/Y Steve Irwin Chief Engineer, Erwin Vermeulen, who was jailed in Taiji in 2011, and Scott West, former Cove Guardian leader and Sea Shepherd USA's Director of Intelligence & Investigations. More event info can be found here

Volunteers form a "living exhibit" of Sea Shepherd's "From the Cove to Captivity"Volunteers form a "living exhibit" of Sea Shepherd's "From the Cove to Captivity"

Sea Shepherd Orlando was joined by a great turnout - despite the heat!Sea Shepherd Orlando was joined by a great turnout - despite the heat!

Demonstrators show the other side of SeaWorld and cetacean captivityDemonstrators show the other side of SeaWorld and cetacean captivity

Categories: Community

Why does the government want to kill Community TV?

Daniel Bowen - Tue, 16/09/2014 - 23:31

It takes a special kind of cunning to first nobble the National Broadband Network, that if fully implemented might have been able to reliably deliver realtime high-definition video into homes…

…and then cancel community television licences, and demand those stations go online instead.

Obsolescence, sculpture in Bourke St Mall

This seems like a bad idea in many ways, not the least of which is that many of the disenfranchised and elderly members of our society who might use community TV may be less likely to have good quality internet connections.

Community TV doesn’t just broadcast programmes and issues that can’t get an airing on mainstream channels, it’s also a training ground for talent, and to help that happen, the broadcasts need to be easily found. Having them on free-to-air helps achieve this. Even fewer would watch if they were a hidden needle in the YouTube haystack.

It’d be a crying shame if these stations around the country could no longer broadcast, while the apparently precious broadcast spectrum is used for multiple stations which just play ads all day every day (SpreeTV, TVSN, Fresh Ideas, Extra, Extra 2).

One proposal was that community TV could take over unused SBS channel 31. Great idea! Nope — the Government says No. Why on earth are they so keen to get these channels off air?!

Commit To Community TV campaign

Categories: Community

United States: Marxists and the lost Labor Party of 1923

Links International - Tue, 16/09/2014 - 15:38

1919 US Labor Party convention.

By Eric Blanc

September 10, 2014 --, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by the author -- Discussions on how to break working people from the hold of the Democratic Party have acquired a new immediacy as a result of the recent electoral victories of independent working-class candidates in Seattle, Washington, and Lorraine, Ohio, as well as the campaign for Chicago union leader Karen Lewis to run as an independent for mayor. Those interested in promoting independent politics today may benefit from studying the rich experience of the labor party movement in the United States of the early 1920s.

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Categories: Community

Sea Shepherd Launches Operation Pacuare: Sea Turtle Anti-Poaching Campaign

Sea Shepherd - Tue, 16/09/2014 - 08:48
Sea Shepherd Launches Operation Pacuare: Sea Turtle Anti-Poaching Campaign in Costa Rica

Newly hatched sea turtles make their way safely to the seaNewly hatched sea turtles make their way safely
to the seaSea Shepherd Conservation Society Costa Rica and Latin American Sea Turtles (LAST) Association have launched Operation Pacuare, an anti-poaching campaign to protect sea turtles on Pacuare Beach in Costa Rica’s Limón province. Marine biologists predict that September is likely to be the peak nesting month for green sea turtles; thus, they suspect an increase in poaching activity to occur during this time.

LAST, a member of WIDECAST, an international scientific network with coordinators in more than 40 countries, has been spearheading the sea turtle protection project on Pacuare Island. With volunteer numbers steadily declining, LAST called upon Sea Shepherd to become an international partner to increase awareness of the local crises and recruit volunteers from its vast network of dedicated activists to protect green, hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles, which all frequent the small island to nest on a yearly basis.

Sea Shepherd and LAST volunteers are actively patrolling Pacuare Island’s coastline to locate and protect sea turtle nests, as well as the turtles. Eggs laid by these endangered animals — already facing a list of human-induced threats, including entanglement in fishing gear, by-catch and ocean pollution — can fall into the hands of poachers, a crisis that is driving sea turtles further toward the brink of extinction. Some species targeted by poachers are already nearly extinct.

An unspoken law exists in this area, where the first person to approach a turtle gets the nest. This rather primitive law is generally respected and reduces the chance of disputes. Therefore, the basic strategy to protect these turtles is a game of numbers —the more volunteers patrolling the beaches and laying claim to turtles before poachers, the fewer eggs poached and resulting dead turtles. Preliminary field reports show one volunteer to every three poachers; thus, more volunteer recruits are desperately needed to keep the nesting turtles out of harm’s way.

Sea Shepherd crewmembers on patrolSea Shepherd crewmembers on patrolThe unofficial population of the undeveloped island of Pacuare is only about two hundred residents, so there are few ways to make a living aside from fishing and selling coconuts. Therefore, some people turn to poaching eggs and killing turtles for meat and souvenirs as income. However, if given an alternative source of income, such as ecotourism, the locals would prefer to protect instead of exploit the turtles.

“Economic desperation is not a valid excuse to murder these gentle creatures and export their eggs to foreign markets. A sea turtle is worth far more alive than dead to all of us, poachers included. Poaching and other human activities are wiping out sea turtles at alarming rates. Many species are close to permanently vanishing from the oceans.

The time to protect them is now, and Sea Shepherd is committed to doing just that in Costa Rica and other nesting habitats around the world,” said Sea Shepherd USA Executive Director Susan Hartland.

Despite the fact that activist Jairo Mora Sandoval was killed by poachers on nearby Moín Beach in 2013, turtle slaughter and egg poaching remain relatively unexposed by the media as Costa Rica is often portrayed as an eco-touristic safe haven for animal species. Turtle slaughter and egg poaching is just the tip of the iceberg on Moín Beach, which is a hotbed for crime and illegal drug-trafficking activities. Despite its natural beauty and wildlife, this 17-kilometer stretch of coastline is unsafe without police escorts and thus, more risky to protect.

“Sea Shepherd named a vessel after devoted sea turtle conservationist Jairo Mora Sandoval, who was killed in Costa Rica while protecting sea turtle nests from poachers. Our plan is to expand patrols to Moin Beach next year to honor Jairo’s memory by carrying on his important work in Costa Rica. The sea turtles have many who wish to exploit them, but they also have determined defenders,” said Sea Shepherd Executive Director, Susan Hartland.

Sea Shepherd has additional sea turtle defense campaigns currently underway in turtle-poaching hotspots including Honduras and Cape Verde.

Newly hatched sea turtles make their way safely to the seaNewly hatched sea turtles make their way safely
to the sea Sea Shepherd and LAST crewmembers of Operation Picaure on patrolSea Shepherd and LAST crewmembers of Operation Picaure on patrol
Categories: Community

On the cost of foreign exchange: Scottish independence edition

Club Troppo - Mon, 15/09/2014 - 09:59

artiste_207Well gentle readers, it’s come to this. Scottish independence is going down to the wire. It is hanging by a thread, though if you are concerned that I am mixing my metaphors, I think you’re flogging a dead horse after it’s bolted.

In any event, in the question of Scottish independence the question of what currency it will use is the elephant in the room – the sporran on the kilt. If you’ve not been paying attention, the Scottish separatists have been insisting that they can pick up someone else’s currency – the Euro or the Pound – and otherwise enjoy independence.

Paul Krugman is horrified that so soon after the debacle of the Euro the Scots could contemplate this. He’s studiedly agnostic as to whether it might be worthwhile if they had their own currency and focuses on the prospect that they might repeat the disaster of the Euro, or imaging that a monetary union might be a Good Idea outside of a political union. I’m in broad agreement though I think he might be overdoing it a bit.

Meanwhile Joe Stiglitz fancies the idea of Scottish independence if it can help carve out of the British Isles a more egalitarian nation leading him to rather downplay the significance of leaving a political union without also leaving its monetary union. I’m sympathetic to his deprecation of economies of scale as being a big part of the decision. Firstly if you want to be a nation, if you incur a few costs in doing so, that shouldn’t be a big deal in your decision. Further, quite a lot of Scottish governance is already different to British governance so the costs are already there. (As Adam Smith thought in the area of education, some Scottish governance may well be superior. When I was in law school my Evidence teacher was very much enamoured of the Scottish legal institution of the Procurator Fiscal [which is nothing to do with fiscal policy by the way]. But I digress.)

Anyway, one thought that seems largely absent from the debate is that, in this age of the internet, it might well be possible to run a separate currency at a tiny fraction of its current economic cost at least as far as access to foreign exchange (FX) in the spot market is concerned.

A large corporate spends around 7 to 15 basis points on exchanging foreign currency. One might ask why it isn’t a lot lower than this. With over $4 trillion a day in trading, and trading simply being the swapping of liabilities and assets on a leger with your bank’s bots talking to another bank’s bots, 7-15 basis points seems like an awful lot. After all, to write this post, my bots talked to a bunch of other bots, and they did it all for free. But what’s really amazing is that this is the tip of the iceberg. Most transactions – even relatively substantial business transactions - generate spreads that are at least an order of magnitude higher than this. More commonly they’re around double that, and some FX transactions like remittances for those on low incomes are around two orders of magnitude or one hundred times higher!

In the age of the internet, I’m not sure why the economics of this can’t be made similar to the economics of the internet which would enable such transactions more or less freely providing people meet any fixed costs of attaching themselves to the network. The internet is the only perfectly competitive bit of infrastructure I can think of. But banking is monopolistically competitive and so suffers from pricing that is in some regards radically at odds with costs, as is the case with the pricing of text messages or ‘international roaming’ in telcos. (If you’re interested, this fascinating article argues that the situation is much worse than the simple inefficiencies of monopolistic competition.)

So the Scots could establish a separate currency. They could then task their central bank or other agency with appropriate backing, with getting cost reflective foreign exchange to their businesses, citizens and to as many of those who trade with the Scottish as possible. I’m thinking aloud here, so would be happy to be corrected and/or to receive better suggestions, but the way I think this might be done would be something like this.

  • The Central bank, or a nationally owned bank or a private bank which contracts with the government to do so, purchases foreign exchange with Scottish Sporrans (the new currency). It cuts in anyone who wants to participate and who pays some cost reflective set up fee to be part of the system whatever  brokerage it takes to sell them the foreign exchange without making a loss.
  • It can quote two prices – one which is a price which includes some risk margin because the bank is guaranteeing a set rate for the transaction. The other can be without any risk margin to the bank, because the price will be determined in the market in the next few nano-seconds. It imposes cost reflective charges for each kind of transaction.
  • There are two important limitations.
    • The futures market is a major part of the workings of the foreign exchange market and I have no particularly bright ideas here. However it may well suffer from inefficiencies derived from the spot market which might be moderated by a more efficient spot market or might be alleviated in ways which are similar to the measures I’ve proposed in the spot market. Ideas and comments welcome.
    • The aim is to reduce the FX margin on Sporrans for Scots and non-Scots in both directions. This might be enough for businesses to efficiently transact Sporran FX but there’s more work to be done to get these prices to everyone in the market. I’m thinking of my own FX arrangements when travelling which are delegated to credit card providers. They run platforms which have considerable pricing power, not just because there aren’t many of them and they’re hard to replicate, but also because even though they price way above the costs of delivery, their charges are still very low as a percentage of the transactions – and so price elasticity of demand is low. (Economists’ mental models, accustomed as they are to abstracting from transactions costs tend to airbrush this out of their intuition. They should pay much more attention to de minimis phenomena.)  It should be possible to think of some worthwhile actions here, but we’ll leave that for another day – or for comments below.

So O Troppodillians, I ask ye, what is there not to like?

Oh and of course if this reasoning is on the right track, it raises the broader question of why we don’t do this more broadly.

Categories: Community

The Social State in Australia - An analysis by Eric Aarons

Left Focus - Mon, 15/09/2014 - 03:09
 In this new 'Left Focus' article former Australian Communist leader Eric Aarons provides an analysis based on Thomas Piketty's influential new book 'Capital in the Twenty-First Century'.  In particular Aarons defends Piketty's notion of a 'Social State' as a project for progressives in today's world.

by Eric Aarons             

In his fine and successful book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, ThomasPiketty uses the term ‘the Social State’ to describe a form of government that  controls the capitalism of our day sufficiently to ensure that every citizen gets an adequate mix in  quantity, quality and kind  of the goods and services necessary to live a civilized life in today’s conditions.

This was never achieved in the socialism of the 20th century by those who tried the hardest – the Russians, then the Chinese, Vietnamese and Yugoslavs. Nor were their political formations suited to winning lasting popular support.  

But that period witnessed the two biggest and worst wars ever.
The first, ‘The Great War’ against Germany, is presently being ‘celebrated’ for its hundredth anniversary (because We won it) though a major feature of it was a struggle to possess the most colonies with the most people and resources.
 The Second World War, fought against German and Japanese fascism, which was an extremely reactionary ideology based on grounds of racial superiority and revenge, which could not be permitted to succeed.

 I was born in 1919, so did not see any of the first war, though I was moved in observing some of the human wreckage that came through it. Then I saw and felt the Great Depression that followed it for a decade. By the time the second broke out I was politically aware, and on the basis of the facts then prevailing,   thought that socialism was the only possible solution.
 I could literally ‘feel’ the sentiment around me then. It was: that we will fight to the end against German and Japanese fascism; but ‘never again’ will we put up with the sacrifices of wars, in which capitalists always do well, but make few, if any,

  Radical social changes for the better.

 I am sure that pro-capitalist forces knew quite well that they were then very much on the defensive and had to suitably respond. The same note was struck by the extensive postwar planning agenda which included plans for doing away with the dilapidated and bug-ridden city shacks in which the majority of working people had to live, while wide-ranging plans were made for the future with the great Snowy-mountains project and other plans put in place near war’s end.

 New thinking was encouraged, and practiced enthusiastically – not like today, where it is demanded to get out of the hole capital has dug itself into

All this, and the influx of refugees from shattered European countries who immediately found jobs, created the three decades of unprecedented prosperity that followed, showing what could be done by a socially engaged government that still respected private property rights, but was prepared to act outside the usual bounds, to correct or mitigate the faults in the capitalist system and respond to glaring economic and social needs.
 Many important products went into mass production for the first time, such as synthetic plastics (on a scale in which we are near to burying ourselves). And in 1947 were invented the now truly universally present ‘transistors’ using rare ‘semi-conducting minerals, and now essential in all our electronic appliances and especially the miniaturised ones.

 It was, in fact, a practical response to the over-theoretical and rather rambling ideology of the neo-Liberalism developed by Friedrich Hayek that made valid criticisms of socialism as practiced, but failed to make a compelling case in favour of permanent adherence to a capitalism that had in major respects run amok ,with no alternative yet in sight.

 Three decades of prosperity and peace
 For three decades there was virtually full employment; it was easy to leave a job and find another better one, while profits were also booming.  I noticed all this when I returned at the end my three year study period in China, and was somewhat taken aback by the scale of spending that was clearly now the norm. The Social State had arrived, though we didn’t yet have the name for it.

 War torn Europe had to spend some years repairing colossal damage, and couldn’t therefore immediately take on this initiating task, while the US was more occupied with Senator Joseph McCarthy’s campaign to drive out of the country all artists, writers and activists deemed to be ‘leftist’.

 So I feel justified in claiming that the first examples of the Social State appeared in Australia and New Zealand, and we should now exert ourselves to contribute to the development and renewal that Piketty prescribes.

 Government’s role today embraces efforts to regulate capitalism’s inherent cycles, irregularities and periodical crises; and in the financial sector, its increasingly deliberately illegal activities that have incurred multi-billion dollar fines from an Obama Presidency.

 We, in Australia, though relatively well-placed economically, are faced with a new conservative government trying to foist on us an austerity regime, while at the same time giving open slather to environmental damage from our massive coal deposits and the money-making plans of ruthless so-called ‘developers’.
 Capital Fights Back

 But capital does not welcome, or even recognize, the word ‘sufficient’, especially in regard to profit, which is its lifeblood. It worked away in the ideological field with attacks on trade unions, cries of ‘nanny’, concerning the new State, ‘living off the public teat’, ‘not standing on your own two feet’, and the like. Then came the outbreak of an escalating bout of inflation in the mid-1970’s when, particularly with his theory of neo-Liberalism and winning the Nobel Prize, Friedrich Hayek turned the ideological tide which, along with the mantra ‘success is the sure sign of merit’ (literally, where money is concerned, the assertion that ‘might is right’, worked in favour of a capital on the offensive.

 Regrettably the left, with its own concerns from even worse socialist failures and accompanying fragmentation, was not up to the task of waging the essential ideological struggle against neo-liberalism. But now, Thomas Piketty, with his new approach and forcefulness has given the left a second chance. We must not waste it this time!

                                                      This, if properly and persistently used along with a renewed and refurbished Social State, can break neo-liberalism’s present ideological hegemony and undermine the present political dominance of the mega-rich, who dictate in various ways the direction of society’s (indeed, humanity’s) development.
 Certain unusual or misunderstood aspects of neo-Liberalism have to be grasped if this struggle is to be won. For instance:

Neo-Liberalism describes itself as something that was not, and could not be created by human beings. It is a self-generated, self-organized combination of elements that, spontaneously welded themselves into the system that we now call capitalism.

 Because of that supposed ‘fact’, no individual or group of individuals can be blamed for shortcomings:  these are more likely to be caused by government,   union or leftist interference. This system has evolved, and we cannot control evolution. Indeed, to try to do so can only make things worse than they may presently be. And nothing like ‘Social justice’ can exist, for ‘society’ is not an entity that can be studied or managed as a whole.
 Humanity’s now outdated old instincts are the main problem, always holding us back. Rather than inbuilt ‘human instincts’ and ‘fellow-feeling’, we now have to  control ourselves by a set of abstract rules. Hayek proclaims: ‘I believe that an atavistic longing after the life of the noble savage is the main source of the collectivist tradition.’(The Fatal Conceit, page 19). The one exception concerns our intimate companions:  Because, ‘if we were always to apply the rules of the extended order [capitalism] to our more intimate groupings, we would crush them.’ (ibid. page 18).

 The rest can go hang, he is saying; but with the sweetener for some                     ‘that such a system gives to those who already have [which is] its merit rather than its defect.’ (Law, Legislation and Liberty, vol. 2, page 123)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

    Hayek has devised what would be a legally binding constitution to guarantee that it will survive even the demise of the above supports for the inner nature of the system.

 Personally, for some years, I and others had hoped, rather, to do away with capitalism altogether. While capitalism was still in full control, it was the social democrats of various kinds in Australia and worldwide who, to their credit,    worked hardest to abolish the sordid slums where the majority of working men, women, and children were forced to live. These were replaced with decent habitation, and many of their progeny showed through their abilities that higher education should no longer be be confined to the wealthy – a principle now under a new threat from the Abbott government and its education minister, Christopher Pyne.
 Feelings were intense, ‘post-war reconstruction’ had to heed – and did – modern concerns with new social problems, complexities and to a degree our relation with nature itself and other species began to appear. Capitalists and their ideologists were very much on the defensive, and  the conservative Robert Menzies presented himself as a spokesman for the developing middle class.

 It was a period when really full employment existed, and I can remember a  time early in Menzies reign when a  2 percent rate of official unemployment caused anger and concern.

 The State

 People realised that only democratically elected governments could have the power to obtain the money now required to solve new tasks, and thereby had both the right and duty to step in – not to take over the lives of individuals and families, but to help all citizens cope with the increasing complexity of modern living. 

 This expressed the conviction that a civilized society required not only the piecemeal reforms already set in place, but an undertaking that the state itself would work more broadly, as in fact it did. This was significantly and particularly in the three unprecedentedly prosperous decades (a whole generation!) that followed the victorious end of the Second World War.

 Some possibilities occur to me that could make a significant difference, without repeating the socialist mistake of advancing to foremost requirement the abolition, essentially by confiscation, of all significant private property in the means of production.

 Johnathan Sperber, in his important recent book Karl Marx: a nineteenth-century life, includes from a new edition of Marx’s collected works, the fact that Marx had some second thoughts about private property.

 Reading a copy of Rousseau’s Social Contract, Marx had heavily penciled in the margins that ‘a genuine democracy would be the “true unity of the universal and particular”, where the state would be a “particular form of the people’s existence.” Sperber then publishes comments holding that this structure would not be the same as anarchism but the ‘creation of circumstances in which the  state ‘no longer count[s] as the totality’ that is, was no longer opposed to the private interests of civil society. (Karl Marx: a nineteenth Century Life, pages 113-4) 

 Taking notice of Piketty’s view that the Social State, now 60 or more years old, is in need of renovation and renewal, I believe, with him, that ‘civil society’ needs a boost. Philosopher John Gray writes of this concept that: ‘this is a complex structure of practices and institutions, embracing a system of private or several property, the rule of law, constitutional or traditional limitations on government authority, and a legal and moral tradition of individualism, which is the matrix of moral tradition of individualism, which is the matrix of moral and political life as we know it.’ (Liberalisms: Essays in political philosophy, page 262).

 It is also related to to the concept of ‘self-management’,which I have  personally and positively experienced in a cooperative printery.
 The one thing that I would like to add to any set of changes, is that it be made   clear that ‘ownership’ is not absolute, but includes also the concept of custodianship, implying that possession includes some responsibility to preserve, where possible, the value of an asset – and particularly of our wonderful natural assets.                                                                               

 viewing a DVD of Ken Loach’s film The Spirit of ’45(the end of the Second World War) I realized that, despite extensive damage, the British nation and people had not only been moved like everybody else by the spirit of ‘never again’ without changes for the better, would they fight for a defective and unfair social system.

 They had immediately set about ensuring it was actually done. Many of the demands developed after WW1 by the left, labour, and progressive movements, but rejected by the dominant rich and aristocratic forces were, dusted off and refurbished by radical intellectuals and socialists, and actually put in place by the first post-war government.
Winston Churchill, a prominent hereditary aristocrat, had played a major part in defeating a movement to do a deal with Hitler, peopled by some prominent aristocrats, including some close to the royal family. And, succeeding, when war actually broke out rose to the top and played a leading part with inspiring speeches and, mainly good, military and political decisions.
 When the first postwar election was held, he stood as a candidate to lead the new government, but was defeated by Labour.                                                                                                                                                                                             
Categories: Community

Four minutes? Impossible!

Daniel Bowen - Sun, 14/09/2014 - 23:57

I can’t help noticing that when traffic is relatively light, this sign on Kings Way always it’s 4 minutes to Williamstown Road.

4 minutes to Williamstown Road

This seems as optimistically unlikely as those old Citylink travel time promises. Google Maps reckons it’s 7.7 kilometres, and estimates a travel time without traffic of 6 minutes.

The speed limit along the freeway and over the Westgate bridge is 80 km/h, which by my calculations makes it just under 6 minutes if you were able to consistently do the speed limit for the whole distance. To do it in 4 minutes you’d need to be zooming along at about 115 km/h.

The estimate to get to the Western Ring Road seems a little more accurate.

Of course the very reason these signs are needed is because travel times on the roads can vary widely. In peak hour they are crowded and slow… in a city the size of Melbourne, this is inevitable, because it’s simply not efficient to move people in ones and twos in their cars.

Vicroads figures just released show that traffic continues to get slower… and that’s despite a multitude of motorways having been built, extended or widened over the last decade. This graphic from the PTUA:

Despite billions spent on roads, traffic is still getting slower.

In a big city I contend that it’s probably not possible to fix road congestion. But is it possible to reduce overall average travel times for everyone (not just motorists) in a big city?

Well yes it is. Vancouver’s managing to do it. How? By not building motorways, but upgrading public transport instead. The more people are off the road, the better.

Categories: Community

Sea Shepherd at the International Whaling Commission Meeting in Slovenia

Sea Shepherd - Sun, 14/09/2014 - 20:42
Sea Shepherd at the International Whaling Commission Meeting in Slovenia

 Marianna BaldoSea Shepherd sailboat cruising outside hotel
photo: Marianna BaldoFor the first time since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague passed its landmark ruling against the Government of Japan, condemning so-called research whaling in the Southern Ocean, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has convened in Portoroz, Slovenia for its 65th biennial meeting.

Since the ICJ, declared an immediate revocation of all Japanese “scientific” whaling permits, the Japanese delegation is expected to propose a revised commercial whaling initiative under the guise of science. Sea Shepherd suspects that fin and humpback whales will be removed from the Japanese Government’s self-allocated quota, while the quota for minke whales will be drastically reduced.

The Government of Japan has declared its plans to continue whaling in the Southern Ocean during the 2015/16 Austral summer season and is expected to reveal more details during the IWC meeting.

Sea Shepherd is maintaining a presence at the IWC meeting to make clear Sea Shepherd’s ongoing commitment to stopping illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean.

A sailboat with Sea Shepherd Italy is cruising outside of the Grand Hotel Bernardin, where the meeting is taking place, in full view of the IWC delegations; while Captain Alex Cornelissen and Captain Peter Hammarstedt are staying as guests at that same hotel. A press conference will be held at the Hotel on Monday morning.

 Marianna BaldoCaptains Alex Cornelissen and Peter Hammarstedt at the hotel. Photo: Marianna BaldoAt the meeting, New Zealand is expected to table a resolution, supported by the United States and Australia, that the judgment of the ICJ must be taken into account before any new scientific permits can be issued by the IWC. The effect of which would be that Japan not be able to resume Antarctic whaling for the next two years until the subsequent commission meeting (as these meetings are held every other year).

Although Sea Shepherd applauds the efforts of New Zealand to prolong Japan’s whaling hiatus, Sea Shepherd is concerned that the resolution could have a potential negative effect – namely that scientific whaling be further legitimized.

The ruling of the ICJ unfortunately does not prevent all kinds of research whaling, only the current research program by Japan. The real risk to the success of the ruling, is that the whaling arm of the Japanese Government, the Institute for Cetacean Research, will simply reword its research program to circumvent the spirit of the ruling.

Commercial whaling in the Antarctic has continued under the guise of research since the Moratorium on Commercial Whaling of 1986 through the exploitation of loopholes. It is likely to continue through those same loopholes despite the best intentions of New Zealand.

Sea Shepherd’s position is that the Southern Whale Sanctuary must remain unequivocally closed to all forms of whaling and that any attempt by Japan to violate the ICJ ruling must be viewed as criminal intent.

Further to that, whaling is unlawful under Australian law. Sea Shepherd is committed to the continued defense of the Australian Whale Sanctuary and the upholding of a 2008 Australian Federal Court ruling that bans whaling in the Australian Antarctic Territory, where most of the whaling takes place.

Sea Shepherd will continue to be the unofficial enforcement arm of the IWC’s Moratorium on Commercial Whaling, and is prepared to intercept, obstruct and shut down the Japanese whaling fleet, should whaling proceed commercially under the bogus pretense of science.

Categories: Community

Pamphlet: The case for an independent socialist Scotland

Links International - Sun, 14/09/2014 - 10:19

Download the full pamphlet HERE or read on screen below.

By Colin Fox, Scottish Socialist Party national co-spokesperson and Yes Scotland advisory board member

September 14, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- On September 18, 2014, Scotland will go to the polls to decide whether to remain part of the 300-year-old political union that is the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" or become the world’s newest independent country. The decision will have far reaching consequences either way.

For the British state, Scottish independence represents a huge threat, a profound loss of economic and political power and influence at home and abroad. Consequently, it is dead-set against it and it will do its utmost to stop that from happening.

For the independence movement, the stakes are equally high. The referendum offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to secure self-determination for Scotland, to establish a left-of-centre social-democratic state and free 5 million Scots from the yoke of British imperialism.

read more

Categories: Community

Institutional innovation and ‘demarketising’ economic bads

Club Troppo - Sun, 14/09/2014 - 10:05

institutional innovationMiles Kimball, for the uninitiated a sensible centrist commentator on economic policy is also an admirer of John Stuart Mill and has supported the case for decriminalising drugs.  At the same time, since he thinks drugs – certainly recreational drugs or the new ones – are bad news or likely to have substantial social downsides - he wants to hem in the damage they can do with all sorts of legal restrictions.

[We should] do whatever we can to drive down the usage of dangerous drugs consistent with taking the drug trade out of the hands of criminals:

  • Taxes on dangerous drugs as high as possible without encouraging large-scale smuggling;
  • Age limits on drug purchases as strict as consistent with keeping the drug trade out of the hands of illegal gangs;
  • Free drug treatment, financed by those taxes;
  • Evidence-based public education campaigns against drug use, financed by those taxes;
  • Demonization in the media and in polite company of those who (now legally) sell dangerous drugs;
  • Mandatory, gruesome warnings like those we have for cigarettes;
  • Widespread mandatory drug testing and penalties for use of dangerous drugs—but not for drug possession;
  • Strict penalties for driving under the influence of drugs.

I don’t know enough to have a primary view about whether or not drugs should be legalised – or if I do it’s a pretty tentative one that they should be – but if we were to do so, while I’m OK with Kimball’s list I think it doesn’t go far enough. He presumably agrees with plain paper packaging though he’d extend it to nasty pictures and warnings which is all good. But I’d do more. As I wrote on his blog post (I’ve slightly edited what I wrote there): 

I’d introduce some regime for trying to remove to the extent practicable the ability to profit from the trade. So drugs would have to be marketed and distributed (and perhaps produced, though one might want to ring fence production as it’s more efficient to allow the most efficiently production and then impose taxes on it) in a not for profit way. I realise that this is easy to say and difficult to do. To market drugs not for profit, one would need to set out a regime to prevent profits being creamed off disguised as non profit – for instance not for profits paying their workers above market wages. If this introduced some economic inefficiencies – though one might argue that if we conceptualise economic efficiency as the generation of utility from given economic resources then greater economic inefficiency in the delivery of a social ‘bad’ increases economic efficiency.

Put in another way, if well functioning markets often provide a very efficient means of making, marketing and distributing economic ‘goods’ then one might want to degrade that market’s efficiency when it’s producing economic ‘bads’. But in fact the main objectives here in my mind are social ones – I want to maintain the social stigma for being part of the drug economy. And I also want to maximise the extent to which the consumption of drugs is the product of a deliberate decision to do so, rather than as it often is, the product of boredom and taking the line of least resistance. Also one might argue that distributing drug taking should occur in the way we distribute opportunities to participate in choirs. One wants them to be done by and for people who have made a positive decision that they want to do this rather than people who spend their days trying to optimise strategies for manipulating people to maximise their consumption.

One might put such an idea down to institutional innovation. Often we debate the merits or otherwise of centralised or decentralised solutions to problems as if the former were government solutions and the latter involved free markets.  But just as Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews recently endorsed the idea of public service mutuals, so one might argue that one wants markets out of the (recreational) drug trade – or out of important bits of them which do harm – without giving away the principle of decentralised decision making.

Anyway, O Troppodillians, what thinkest thou?

Categories: Community

Sea Shepherd Orlando to Hold Gathering Outside IMATA Conference

Sea Shepherd - Fri, 12/09/2014 - 17:59
Sea Shepherd Orlando to Hold Gathering Outside IMATA Conference to Protest Their Involvement in the Captive Trade in Cetaceans

Attendees are invited to view Sea Shepherd’s “From the Cove to Captivity” Photo Exhibit

Captain Paul Watson speaking at New York's "From the Cove to Captivity" photo exhibitCaptain Paul Watson speaking at New York's
"From the Cove to Captivity" photo exhibit
Photo: Sea Shepherd / Sam SielenAnimal captivity enthusiasts are descending upon Orlando, Florida for this year’s IMATA (International Marine Animal Trainers Association) conference. Held between September 14th-18th, attendees will be made to feel at home by one of the major hosts, SeaWorld Orlando. Animal trainers, aquarium and zoo managers, and other individuals in the business of keeping animals captive for big bucks will be in attendance.

Luckily for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s clients, Orlando is also home to one of our newest Onshore Volunteer chapters. Our crew at Sea Shepherd Orlando will be leading a public gathering to show IMATA conference attendees the other side of the story for whales and dolphins in captivity. If you are in the area, please join Sea Shepherd Orlando’s demonstration on September 14th at 10:30am at the SeaWorld Gate, found at the intersection of Central Florida Parkway and Discovery Cove Way. You can find regularly updated details of the event here: Sea Shepherd Orlando's event page.






Download and print these posters to take to the demonstration outside SeaWorld Orlando.

In 2006 IMATA issued a statement that condemned the inhumane killing of dolphins and other cetaceans in the Japanese drive fisheries. However, IMATA continues to support, train and certify businesses that profit from the annual drive hunt and slaughter of dolphins and small whales in the infamous Cove of Taiji, Japan.

"From the Cove to Captivity" photographic exhibit"From the Cove to Captivity" photographic exhibit
Photo: Sea Shepherd / Sam SielenMore than ever, it is important for us to maintain the pressure on organizations like IMATA to denounce the capture of wild dolphins and whales for sale into lives of captivity and breeding. They must stop supporting businesses that engage in this brutal and cruel practice.

Sea Shepherd’s volunteer Cove Guardians are currently in Taiji, standing watch over the cove. The Cove Guardians are the only group on the ground in Taiji throughout the entire six-month hunting season – from September 1st until March – documenting and live streaming every capture and every kill for the world to see. Though many of the dolphins and whales driven into the Cove are slaughtered for human consumption, many others are selected for captivity in aquariums and marine parks in Taiji and around the world – the most profitable aspect of the hunt, as a single captive dolphin can be sold for $100,000 or more. Taiji is ground zero for the international trade in captive cetaceans.

This is the 5th year Sea Shepherd has been on the ground in Taiji for Operation Infinite Patience. You can keep up-to-date and support the campaign on our Cove Guardian website and on Facebook and Twitter.

The work of Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians has been touring the U.S. over the past year, with our Onshore Volunteer chapters exhibiting the “From the Cove To Captivity” photographic exhibit from Seattle to New York City, and many cities in between. The exhibit consists of a series of powerful photos taken by our volunteers in Taiji, presenting an opportunity to see the Cove through the eyes of the Cove Guardians.

At their demonstration at the IMATA conference, Sea Shepherd Orlando volunteers will be holding photographs in a “living exhibit” of “From the Cove to Captivity,” powerfully displaying the brutal side of the whale and dolphin captivity industry most often hidden from public view.





Cove Guardians Visit our
Cove Guardians
site for more information.
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