Q & A Forum: July 21, 2014

Posted in Open Forum | 256 Comments

If only 18c allowed us to speak as frankly in Australia …

(via JB and Kae)

Posted in International | 217 Comments

Monday Forum: July 21, 2014

Posted in Open Forum | 1,284 Comments

Will Gina buy out Fairfax?

From The Australian:

FAIRFAX Media’s largest shareholder and Australia’s richest person Gina Rinehart is believed to be considering buying Fairfax if she can find the right leaders to run it.

The Australian can reveal Mrs Rinehart has approached business associates for suggestions on who could better manage or sit on the board of the newspaper publisher in the event that she did decide to launch a takeover bid for Fairfax.

The Australian understands Mrs Rinehart, who is worth $20.01 billion, would be more likely to buy Fairfax if she could find someone who had a strong vision to improve its future earnings.

Fairfax monthly share price over the past 10 years:

Fairfax share price 1

It’s a very interesting issue – buy out now, replace management and deal with the recalcitrant staff at The Age and SMH (the AFR continues to perform well) or buy the whole thing from the receivers in due course? The trade-off must be along the lines of the relative restructuring costs of each option, and permanent value loss from delaying any takeover.

Posted in Economics and economy, Media | 76 Comments

So how’s The New Daily going?

Recall the kerfuffle about AustralianSuper, Cbus and some others ‘investing’ in a new website, The New Daily.  AustralianSuper is using funds from the service fee that all members must pay to finance this highly dubious venture.

Recall also that The New Daily website contains mainly repackaged material from the ABC (so: taxpayers fund the News and Current Affairs service of the ABC and then the ABC on-sells some of the product: does this sound right?)

So how’s The New Daily going, apart from providing well paid employment to Bruce Guthrie and some of his mates.

The short answer is not well: It is ranked 1,480th most visited site in Australia.  And if you take a look at the traffic, which is pretty much insignficant from zero on most days, there are some blips, which are probably just click-throughs from other sites.

When will AustralianSuper trustees declare the investment a dud and pull the plug?

(It’s heartening to see quite a few views for The New Daily site are the result of searching for Boxing Day sales!)

Site Overview

How is this site ranked relative to other sites?

Global Rank 

Global rank icon98,364 10,487

Rank in Australia 

Australia Flag1,480

Visitors by Country

Country Percent of Visitors Rank in Country
Australia Flag  Australia 71.3% 1,480
United States Flag  United States 5.5% 274,751
United Kingdom Flag  United Kingdom 4.4% 77,637

Search Traffic

What percentage of visits to this site come from a search engine?

Search Visits

11.80% 36.00%

Top Keywords from Search Engines

Which search keywords send traffic to this site?

Keyword Percent of Search Traffic
  1.  the new daily 42.32%
  2.  boxing day sales 2013 13.25%
  3.  new daily 9.55%
  4.  boxing day sales sydney 6.19%
  5.  boxing day sales 4.88%
Posted in Uncategorized | 35 Comments

Will the Grattan Institute get Georgist hate mail?

The AFR has a report on the latest offering from the tax-payer financed Grattan Institute (courtesy of the ALP and surprisingly labelled “independent Melbourne-based advisers”). I haven’t read the actual paper – but I do agree with the premise as reported by the AFR:

… 80¢ of every dollar from goods and services is generated on just 0.2 per cent of the country’s land mass.

A new report from independent Melbourne-based advisers the Grattan Institute has found Sydney and Melbourne’s central business districts, which measure 7.1 square kilometres combined, generate 10 per cent of all goods and services – three times more than the agricultural sector.

The findings challenge local and state government planning policy, which has encouraged businesses and government offices to relocate to non-CBD areas to spread employment opportunities, reduce congestion and enable more people to live near their workplace, as cities generate higher ­levels of productivity per hour worked.

Economic prosperity is not a return to “land” but rather the return to human ingenuity, trade, and the size of the market. Policies that make it harder to access the CBD – like parking taxes – restrain economic prosperity.

Posted in Economics and economy | 45 Comments

Two statists and me

So this morning I was on the Outsiders segment on Radio National. Two topics came up, abolition of the carbon tax, and increased ASIO powers.

Remarkably I was the only person concerned by the increase in the surveillance state. Statist 1 argued that ASIO powers hadn’t been updated in 30 odd years and that this was necessary and we needed to think about appropriate checks and balances. Perhaps more time was necessary for the appropriate checks and balances. Statist 2 argued that the ATO should be given the same surveillance power as ASIO to clamp down on tax evasion.* Simply remarkable – no doubt that is where we will end up.

My view on this are informed by Schumpeter (emphasis added):

In capitalist society—or in a society that contains a capitalist element of decisive importance—any attack on the intellectuals must run up against the private fortresses of bourgeois business which, or some of which, will shelter the quarry. Moreover such an attack must proceed according to bourgeois principles of legislative and administrative practice which no doubt may be stretched and bent but will checkmate prosecution beyond a certain point. Lawless violence the bourgeois stratum may accept or even applaud when thoroughly roused or frightened, but only temporarily. In a purely bourgeois regime like that of Louis Philippe, troops may fire on strikers, but the police cannot round up intellectuals or must release them forthwith; otherwise the bourgeois stratum, however strongly disapproving some of their doings, will rally behind them because the freedom it disapproves cannot be crushed without also crushing the freedom it approves.

So we start with the notion that Australia faces an increased risk of terrorism. Then we increase the surveillance power of the state to listen in on phone calls, read emails, check out everyone’s selfies and, if Edward Snowden is to be believed, their porn collections too.

Surprisingly (/sarc) the government doesn’t seem to be increasing the penalties associated with acts of terrorism. Rather it is increasing the power of the state to spy on citizens at home and abroad.

This is an area where politicians are especially gutless – few seem willing to stand up and ask the tough questions like, “How precisely will this improve national security?” or “Will those public servants who abuse this increased authority be sent to prison?” and so on.

* To be fair – he might have meant that this extension of ATO powers would galvanise the business community to speak up against the expansion of ASIO powers – but perhaps I’m being too generous.

Posted in Hypocrisy of progressives, Take Nanny down, Tough on Crime, tough on criminals | 211 Comments

The rhetoric of the left

You think America has no further distance to fall. These are Elizabeth Warren’s 11 Commandments of Progressivism. Who’s Elizabeth Warren? Senator from Massachusetts and if Hillary doesn’t get the nomination, then she will. The only question is how long before we hear Bill Shorten saying the same:

- “We believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement, and we’re willing to fight for it.”

- “We believe in science, and that means that we have a responsibility to protect this Earth.”

- “We believe that the Internet shouldn’t be rigged to benefit big corporations, and that means real net neutrality.”

- “We believe that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty, and that means raising the minimum wage.”

- “We believe that fast-food workers deserve a livable wage, and that means that when they take to the picket line, we are proud to fight alongside them.”

- “We believe that students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt.”

- “We believe that after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means protecting Social Security, Medicare, and pensions.”

- “We believe—I can’t believe I have to say this in 2014—we believe in equal pay for equal work.”

- “We believe that equal means equal, and that’s true in marriage, it’s true in the workplace, it’s true in all of America.”

- “We believe that immigration has made this country strong and vibrant, and that means reform.”

- “And we believe that corporations are not people, that women have a right to their bodies. We will overturn Hobby Lobby and we will fight for it. We will fight for it!”

And the main tenet of conservatives’ philosophy, according to Warren? “I got mine. The rest of you are on your own.”

This kind of rhetoric is like catnip to the perpetually uninformed which in the US is now well beyond 50% of the voting population and climbing. That things only get worse when people like this are elected is just one of those things that defy explanation for those who nevertheless vote this way.

Posted in Hypocrisy of progressives, International | 112 Comments

Guest Post: B.P. Terpstra – Gay domestic violence: the hatred that dare not speak its name

I’m halfway through The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith by Joan Schenkar – a disturbing read.

For the record, I’m a big fan of Pat’s psychological thrillers, but her personal life was the ultimate psychological thriller.

In one disturbing passage, for example, Pat picks a fight with some “late girl callers” and comes off second best with a chest so thoroughly bruised she needs an X-ray.

Sadly, Highsmith seemed to be attracted to toxic relationships. Indeed, many of her lesbian relationships looked like ready-to-go explosives.

But what’s changed in 2014?

To be clear, in America’s polite upper-middleclass circles, gay domestic violence is the hatred that dare not speak its name. Ditto “progressive” Australia.

For the media class, at least, would prefer to talk about white picket fences, rainbow flags and same-sex wedding cakes.

The message: Think pretty things.

Still, even MSNBC can’t wish away ugliness. As one underreported UCLA study found:

Although reported incidences of intimate partner violence, or IPV, are widespread, especially among women and certain ethnic groups, reported IPV was surprisingly high among lesbians, gays and bisexuals in California, who are almost twice as likely to experience violence as heterosexual adults, researchers said.

Specifically, 27.9 percent of all lesbian or gay adults reported experiencing IPV in their adult lives. The rate of reported IPV is even higher among bisexual adults, at 40.6 percent. In contrast, only 16.7 percent of heterosexual adults reported incidences of IPV.

Yes, even in “progressive” California.

The toxicity of violent GLBT relationships can’t be ignored. As the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey also found, bisexual women are far more likely to be victimized through stalking than their heterosexual sisters too – more than double the rate, in fact.

So leaving an abusive partner is not always the solution.

Here in Australia too, I’ve observed the scars of victims of same-sex IPV and they look just as deep, just as confronting.

In one small but important study of 390 Victorian GLBT respondents, a significant minority claimed that they were abused by their partner.

Interestingly, lesbians were more likely than gay men to report such abuse (41% vs 29%).

Moreover, even when campaigning journalists recognise domestic violence in the “GLBT community”, an abuse-excuse is often just around the corner.

As one tired argument goes: If only communities were more accepting, abuse victims would be more likely to seek help. Maybe in some cases. But given that GLBT IPV is so widespread in relatively “progressive” liberal nations that’s not my central concern.

Moreover, journalists also have a duty to highlight GLBT suicides, but I believe it’s inexcusable to downplay the many ways in which domestic violence can contribute to mental health issues and even GLBT deaths.

Indeed, violent homosexuals and marriage-centric activists in denial are very much part of the IPV problem, not the solution.

In another memorable Highsmith story, the novelist recommended suicide to hurting women. As one written response concerning her friend’s suicidal roommate put it: “Let her jump!”

But don’t expect our watchdog media to take up the cause. After all, physical and emotional female-on-female violence is problematic for campaigning journalists bent on portraying domestic violence as a symptom of patriarchy.

Even today, journalists aren’t ready to acknowledge that the greatest threats facing GLBT folks aren’t conservative commentators, religious leaders with politically-incorrect views on sexuality, or even Chick-fil-A family restaurant menus.

The real threats: domestic violence and community silence.

As Highsmith’s psychological thrillers and chaotic life taught us, sometimes our greatest threats are living with us.

Posted in Guest Post | 136 Comments

Say’s Law the movie

A while back I posted Say’s Law as Literature about a book of the name Waffle Street written by James Adams. The book is now being turned into a movie, and the story is now out in the open as they have now signed Danny Glover to play the lead role of Edward Collins. This is from the press release:

Legendary actor Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon 1-4, The Color Purple, Dreamgirls) has signed on to star in the upcoming feature film, Waffle Street. The drama-comedy tells the story of James Adams, a VP of a $30 billion hedge fund who lost his job in the recent market crash and wound up working as a waiter in a waffle shop. Amid the greasy madness of the 24-hour diner, Adams befriends ex-con grill master Edward Collins (played by Glover), who serves up hard lessons about finance, life, and grits.

Waffle Streets riches-to-rags tale is an adaptation of James Adams 2010 memoir of the same name (published by Sourced Media Books), which chronicles the financiers foray into the food industry. After being laid off at the hedge fund where he worked, and further jaded by his culpability in the crisis, Adams chose to work at a popular 24-hour diner where he claims most of his financial knowledge has been gleaned. Offering a fresh take on the fallout of corporate greed, Adams is a tale of the redemption and unlikely friendship found under the tutelage of Glover’s character Edward, the best short-order cook in town.

The story is a story of redemption for both the author, James Adams and for Edward Collins, who has found himself in productive work. How this relates to Say’s Law is through the “lessons about finance, life and grits” which includes experiencing the core understanding of economic life that the law of markets provides. This is from the review of the book by the President of the Mises Institute, Doug French:

But Adams does scrap with John Maynard Keynes in the pages of Waffle Street, lamenting, “How far we’ve fallen” in the area of economics education. Pointing out that Say’s Treatise was once the top economics textbook in America, he explains that now, “Instead of learning sound doctrine, today’s undergraduates are inundated with principles that will not bear the scrutiny of common sense and experience.”

I am still waiting to hear who will play Jimmy and then his wife. An amazing story. I’ve never been to a Hollywood premier before, but this is one I do not intend to miss. Meanwhile, you should read the book.

Posted in Classical Economics, Cultural Issues | 15 Comments