Monthly Archives: June 2019

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 29, 2019

Week-end Wrap - Political Economy - June 29, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Strategic Political Economy

Jan Fichtner, Eelke Heemskerk, Javier Garcia-Bernardo, May 11, 2017 [The Conversation, via Alternet]

Disrupting mainstream economics

The new left economics: how a network of thinkers is transforming capitalism
[The Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 6-27-19]
There is a dawning recognition that a new kind of economy is needed: fairer, more inclusive, less exploitative, less destructive of society and the planet. “We’re in a time when people are much more open to radical economic ideas,” says Michael Jacobs, a former prime ministerial adviser to Gordon Brown. “The voters have revolted against neoliberalism. 

Climate and environmental crises

Mark Sumner, June 28, 2019 [DailyKos]
The five hottest European summers in the last 600 years have all come in the last twenty years. And 2019 is looking like it may provide not just the hottest day, but the hottest week, month, and year as the radically destabilized weather system continues to draw scalding air farther and farther north. Germany is experiencing it’s hottest June ever. Temperatures in Italy have turned deadly. And records have been shattered across at least six nations. The wave of hot air is also bringing up dust from the Sahara, prompting health warnings because of both temperatures and air quality.

[Weather Underground via Naked Capitalism 6-26-19] 
“When low wind shear occurs in summer or fall in the Atlantic’s main development region (MDR), from the coast of Africa through the Caribbean, an active period for major hurricane activity often results. But the major hurricanes that form in the MDR during these situations often have trouble maintaining their intensity when they reach the Southeast U.S. coast, since low wind shear in the MDR is typically accompanied by high wind shear along the Southeast U.S. coast. This high shear, typically associated with strong upper-level winds from the mid-latitude jet stream, helps protect the U.S. East Coast against strikes by full-strength major hurricanes. But research published last month led by Mingfang Ting of Colombia University, Past and Future Hurricane Intensity Change along the U.S. East Coast, found that the Southeast U.S. protective barrier of high wind shear is likely to weaken in coming decades due to global warming. Using multiple climate computer models, the researchers found that global warming is likely to cause wind shear along the Southeast U.S. coast to decline significantly, mostly due to the northward migration of the mid-latitude jet stream that would accompany the expansion of the tropics (in meteorological lingo, we call this the expansion of the Hadley Cell).”
“Heat waves and climate change: Is there a connection?” 
[Yale Climate Connection, via Naked Capitalism 6-28-19]  
“Extreme heat may not trigger the same visceral fear as a tornado, but according to NOAA’s natural hazard statistics, it causes nearly twice as many fatalities in the United States each year – more than any other weather hazard…. Extreme heat occurred very rarely 50 years ago in the United States…. But as a result of climate change, the [graph of temperatures plotted on a] bell curve has already shifted by one standard deviation interval – a measure that tells you how spread out the values are – according to a 2016 paper by climate scientist James Hansen. As a result, extreme summer heat now occurs about 7% of the time.”
Sunrise Sits In at DNC Headquarters, Demanding Climate Debate
[Real News Network 6-26-19]
The day before the first Democratic debate in Miami, dozens gathered at the DNC to demand a climate debate. They say they plan to stay until the DNC meets their demands

[Kate Aronoff, Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-19] 
“[A]fter decades of spreading disinformation, fossil fuel interests the world are shifting into a different strategy: carving out a greener, friendlier image for themselves and appearing to embrace a progressive climate stance — as they continue to try to shape legislation to their benefit. The London-based think tank InfluenceMap found the world’s five largest oil companies have spent $1 billion rebranding themselves as ‘green’ since the Paris Agreement, all the while pushing aggressively to access new supplies of oil and undermine climate rules and regulations.”
New York Passes Nation’s Most Comprehensive Clean Energy Legislation
[Real News Network 6-26-19]
Adrien Salazar, who fought for the bill discusses how this bill, which calls for no fossil fuel energy by 2050, will affect poor communities hardest hit by the climate crisis
“The global transition to clean energy, explained in 12 charts” 
[David Roberts, Vox, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-19]  Summary of the “Renewables Global Status Report.”
“[A] few background facts. First, we’re still moving in the wrong direction. Global carbon emissions aren’t falling fast enough. In fact, they aren’t falling at all; they were up 1.7 percent in 2018. Second, we’re still pushing in the wrong direction. Globally, subsidies to fossil fuels were up 11 percent between 2016 and 2017, reaching $300 billion a year. And third, the effort to clean up is flagging. Total investment in renewable energy (not including hydropower) was $288.9 billion in 2018 — less than fossil fuel subsidies and an 11 percent decrease from 2017. This is all bad news. The public seems to have the impression that while things are bad, they are finally accelerating toward something better. It’s not true. Collectively, we haven’t even succeeded in reversing direction yet. Despite all the progress described below, we’re still struggling to get ahold of the emergency brake.”

 GND - An opportunity too big to miss

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-19]  
“Deep declines in wind, solar and battery technology costs will result in a grid nearly half-powered by the two fast-growing renewable energy sources by 2050, according to the latest projections from BloombergNEF (BNEF). In its New Energy Outlook 2019 (NEO), BNEF sees these technologies ensuring that – at least until 2030 – the power sector contributes its share toward keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius.”
“How to design a Green New Deal that really works, for every industry in the U.S.” 
[Fast Company, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-19] A series. 
“Though [the AOC/Markey] resolution lacks specific mandates, the concept of a Green New Deal is firm in its goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions in the next decade, creating millions of high-paying jobs for all, providing equal access to necessities like affordable housing and healthy food, and promoting justice for the historically marginalized people in the transition to a new economy. ‘Climate change is the greatest challenge we face,’ Markey tells Fast Company. ‘Every industry and every business will be compelled to respond.'”
Sustainable cost accounting – the change needed to make business take the Green New Deal seriously[Tax Research UK, via Mike Norman Economics 6-27-19]
Until markets correctly evaluate true price based on true costs, negative externalities will continue to be socialized and the public, which now included everyone in the world, will pay the difference. This won't happen without institutional changes, including legal....
In contrast natural capital accounting has a very different capital maintenance concept inherent within it. Focusing on the world as a whole, its logic is that that natural capital of the planet must be maintained. I have interpreted this as meaning that the natural capital that might be utilised in a period is that stock of natural resources that might be used by humans at that point in time to support their material needs without prejudicing the opportunity of those in future periods to meet their needs in similar fashion. As is apparent, this is very different from the capital maintenance concept of financial accounting, and in my opinion this is one of the many frontiers in the management of the economy that the climate crisis creates, but which have hardly been touched upon as yet.
[Treehugger, via Naked Capitalism 6-26-19]

Disrupting mainstream economics

"Bernie Sanders' plan to empower workers could revolutionise Britain's economy:
[Guardian, via Avedon's Sideshow 6-19-19]
Giving employees a stake in firms would reshape power: this could be the start of a transatlantic challenge to neoliberalism.
[Southfront, via Mike Norman Economics 6-27-19]

A lost century in economics: Three theories of banking and the conclusive evidence
[International Review of Financial Analysis, via Naked Capitalism 6-23-19] 
From 2016, still germane.

Disrupting mainstream economics - Modern Monetary Theory

Lars P. Syll — The weird absence of money and finance in economic theory
[Lars Syll, via Mike Norman Economics 6-27-19]
It is indeed strange since "money" as a unit of account is basic for quantitative measurement in economics and finance. Moreover, economic activity involving production, distribution and consumption of real good is dependent of finance in the creation of "money" in a monetary production economy.

"Money" and finance are hidden assumptions in economics that constitute foundations of the framework for economic activity and therefore economics. They are for the most part unexamined, and where they are examined much of the investigation is either wrong or confused.

Economics in the real world

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 6-24-19]

[Dissent, via Naked Capitalism 6-27-19] . 
“As the data show, among high-school-educated white voters, it is the richer members of that group who most dismiss the salience of racial discrimination. The poorest white people are the only income group where a majority believes racism drives the racial economic gap—undercutting the idea that racism is the result of economic suffering. The denial of racism is strongest among high-school grads making $90,000 or more a year. The same is true of college grads and those with graduate degrees: those with higher incomes generally deny the prominence of racism at higher rates than lower-income members of the same educational level. Rather than racism being driven by personal economic pressure, far more compelling are theories that see white racism as stemming from voters justifying their own relative economic success, and their “fear of falling” (as Barbara Ehrenreich put it) if society became more equal.” 
The brutal psychological toll of erratic work schedulesUnpredictable hours and variable pay may cause even more distress than low wages.
[Washington Post, via NC AFL-CIO 6-28-19]

12 Facts You Need to Know from the 2019 AFL-CIO Executive Paywatch Report
[AFL-CIO, via NC AFL-CIO 6-28-19]
Even with that extra cash, wages are not keeping up with inflation. The average worker isn’t making enough to cover rent for a two-bedroom apartment in 15 of the largest cities across the country! Meanwhile, 40% of hourly workers have nothing saved up for an emergency, while 75% have less than $500. 
We know this equality gap isn’t new. Over the past decade, the average S&P 500 CEO’s pay increased by more than $5 million, while the average worker only saw an increase of less than $800 a year. Not surprisingly, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio remains high: 287 to 1.
Matt Stoller and Lucas Kunce [The American Conservative, via Naked Capitalism 6-28-19]
Wall Street's short-term incentives have decimated our defense industrial base and undermined our national security. 
[Seattle Times, via Naked Capitalism 6-24-19]
The Old Japan Disaster Horror Story Dean Baker [Counterpunch, via Naked Capitalism 6-26-19]
...the OECD reports that life expectancy at birth in Japan increased from 75.9 years in 1990 to 81.0 years in 2016 (the last year for which data are available). In the United States it increased from 71.8 years in 1990 to 76.1 years in 2016. This means that the gap in life expectancy between Japan and the United States has increased from 4.1 years in 1990 to 4.9 years in 2016. 
There is an even more dramatic difference in life expectancy at age 65. In Japan, this went from 20.0 years to 24.4 years in 2016. In the U.S., life expectancy at age 65 increased by just 1.7 years over this period, from 18.9 years in 1990 to 20.6 years in 2016. 
If we look at unemployment rates, most of us are happy to see that the unemployment rate in the United States has fallen to 3.6 percent, a fifty-year low. By comparison, the unemployment rate in Japan is just 2.4 percent.
I posted this in March 2010 on What really caused Japan's Lost Decade?

Predatory Finance

Banks reward shareholders with billions in buybacks, dividend hikes after Fed approval
[Mike Norman Economics 6-29-19]

The 10 Most Powerful Hedge Fund Managers This Year
[Worth, via The Big Picture 6-27-19]
In the mythology of economic neoliberalism, these guys get paid the billions they do because they are the smartest, most talented managers skilled at allocating capital. But how much "value" do they actually create? I hope someone takes a list of top hedge fund managers like this and looks up how many patents they have been rewarded for some useful scientific or technological development. Do the same for the "private equity" crowd. These people are all billionaires. (For how much these people get paid yearly, see The Highest-Earning Hedge Fund Managers And Traders.)

Now think of people like James Watson and Francis Crick, the molecular biologists who hypothesized the double helix structure of the DNA molecule. Or Admiral Grace Hopper, who pioneered the profession of computer programming and the idea of machine-independent programming languages, and was a conmsultant to the research team that developed COBOL, one of the first high-level programming languages, and which is still in use today.Why didn't they become billionaires? Now who of all these actually did something to improve the human condition? 

Lloyds freezes 8,000 offshore bank accounts after money laundering crackdown 
[Independent, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-19]

One In Six Migrant Children In The U.S. Are Staying At A Shelter Operated By A Private Equity Tycoon
[Forbes, via Naked Capitalism 6-23-19]

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

[Science Daily, via Naked Capitalism 6-28-19]

Our oceans provide…
[World Economic Forum, via The Big Picture 6-23-19]

Desalination plants are here, but they’re not solving the water crisis yet 
[Boing Boing, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-19]

UK adopts net-zero by 2050 goal for GHGs
[Thomson Reuters Foundation, via American Wind Energy Association 6-27-19] 
The UK has passed new legislation calling for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. "Today we're leading the world yet again in becoming the first major economy to pass new laws to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050," says energy minister Chris Skidmore.
The country also went two whole weeks without burning coal for electricity.
[Vox, 6-27-19]

Global offshore wind capacity poised to hit 190 GW by 2030
[S&P Global Platts (free registration), via American Wind Energy Association 6-27-19]
The world currently has an installed offshore wind capacity of 23 gigawatts and that figure could increase to 190 GW by 2030, says the Global Wind Energy Council. "We are standing within reach of a truly global offshore wind industry," says Director of Market Intelligence Karin Ohlenforst.
EIA: US clean energy surpassed coal in April
[Bloomberg (tiered subscription model), via American Wind Energy Association 6-27-19] 
The US sourced more of its electrical needs from clean energy than coal for the first time in April, says the Energy Information Administration. The report says the trend will likely continue as more wind and solar projects come online.
Sandia National Labs' new robot designed for turbine inspections
[TechCrunch, via American Wind Energy Association 6-25-19] 
Sandra National Labs has developed a crawling robot that inspects turbine blades both visually and using ultrasonic imaging. The technology improves safety for human workers and can detect internal issues before surface damage appears.

Ship carrying nearly 200 Vestas blades nears PacifiCorp repowering project
[The Daily Astorian (Astoria, Ore.), via American Wind Energy Association 6-25-19]
Vestas turbine blades for a PacifiCorp repowering project in Washington are heading through Astoria, Ore., and up the Columbia River. The blades, which were manufactured in Taranto, Italy, are bound for the Marengo Wind Project near Dayton, Wash.

Editorial: Military-wind bill threatens the future of N.C. wind
[The News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.), via American Wind Energy Association 6-24-19]
The Military Base Protection Act threatens the future of wind in North Carolina, potentially preventing the state and its rural communities from reaping the benefits of wind, writes the editorial board of the Greensboro News & Record. "The military has a process in place for reviewing wind farm proposals and recommending any needed changes, and it's handling it just fine without this kind of help from North Carolina's legislators," the board write.
Top 5 OEMs to control 68% of wind market by 2020
[CleanTechnica, via American Wind Energy Association 6-21-19]
Original equipment manufacturers Vestas, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, General Electric, Goldwind and Envision are on track to control 68% of the global wind market by 2020, according to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. The top three will account for more than 50% of the market in 2019.

SNCF aims for zero emissions by 2035
[Railway Age 6-27-19]
French National Railways (SNCF) has announced a plan to eliminate emissions – both greenhouse gases and particulates – by 2035 as part of its contribution to achieving France’s zero net emissions target in 2050. This is despite a 20% forecast increase in passenger and freight traffic in France by 2050.
ION Light Rail Transit launched in Ontario, Canada
[Railway Age 6-24-19]
The first of the two phases of the ION Light Rail Transit (LRT), the region of Waterloo’s new rapid transit system in Ontario, Canada, was launched June 21 at Kitchener’s Fairway station.

Quantum Squeezing Lets Researchers Measure Sub-Nanoscale Motion
[Machine Design Today 6-24-19]
Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have harnessed the phenomenon of “quantum squeezing” to amplify and measure the motion of a magnesium ion as it travelled a few trillionths of a meter.
Airliner Concepts: A Step Change In Efficiency
Graham Warwick [Aviation Week & Space Technology 6-28-19]
The rising clamor over aviation’s carbon emissions could offer a step change in efficiency beyond that possible with just improvements in engine technology. Here are some of the novel concepts being considered.
The Flying-V is an unconventional configuration for an ultra-efficient Airbus A350-class long-haul aircraft. The concept was originally designed inside Airbus’ advanced projects office in Germany, but is now being pursued by the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands with support from Dutch airline KLM.
 International Federation of Robotics - Annual President's Report
[International Federation of Robotics 6-26-19]
With over 384,000 industrial robots installed globally in 2018, we again face another record year – according to our preliminary data presented in April. But the growth has slowed down significantly in 2018, compared to the high growth rates of the previous years. This slowdown is caused by several factors: uncertainties over the transition from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles, declining smartphone sales and certain geo-political trends.
[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 6-26-19]  
“The rail link beneath the Hudson River is critical for commuters on New Jersey Transit and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, the busiest and most profitable U.S. route with more than 800,000 daily passengers. It sustained severe structural and electrical-system damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and must be shut for repairs. The states are trying to delay that closing until Gateway, a second tunnel, opens.”
Lambert Strether adds: "We can’t even build a tunnel under the goddamned Hudson when we know the existing tunnel is going to fail. Elites to each other, on America: 'It’s a tear-down.' "

Information Age Dystopia

Worldwide Traffic: Top 10 Websites
Barry Ritholtz [The Big Picture 6-26-19]

“Amazon gets U.S. patent to use delivery drones for surveillance service” 
[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-19] 
“ Inc is exploring using drones not just to deliver packages but also to provide surveillance as a service to its customers, according to a patent granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office…. The delivery drones can be used to record video of consented user’s property to gather data that can be analyzed to look out, say for example, a broken window, or a fire or if a garage door was left open during the day, the patent described.
“Comcast broke consumer protection law nearly half a million times, Washington state judge rules”
[Inquirer, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-19]  
“Comcast must pay a $9.1 million fine and refund thousands of customers for breaking Washington state’s consumer protection law more than 445,000 times, a judge ruled last week…. Comcast charged $5.99 per month for the plan that allowed customers to avoid charges for certain service visits. Between 2011 and mid-2016, Comcast earned more than $85 million in gross revenue from Washington alone in monthly fees for the protection plan, according to the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. More than a third of Washington customers enrolled in the plan by phone were signed up without consent between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2016, the judge found.”
Boeing’s Software Fix For The 737 MAX Problem Overwhelms The Plane’s Computer 
[Moon of Alabama, via Naked Capitalism 6-28-19] 

Disrupting mainstream politics

'An existential threat': Bernie Sanders faces mounting opposition from moderate Democrats
[The Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-19]

The legal fight over North Carolina gerrymandering isn’t over. How we got here, and what’s next.
[Raleigh News and Observer, via NC AFL-CIO 6-28-19]

Enemy Actions

Conservative Philanthropy in Higher Education (pdf)
[Urban Institute, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-19]
This literature review sheds light on conservative philanthropic efforts to transform American higher education by promoting free market ideology. It also offers insights into the mechanics behind the conservative, pro–free market philanthropic movement’s success, and is organized into a series of “case studies” of specific efforts and organizations. 
How a radical legal ideology gave rise to economic inequality in the US 
[Scroll, via Naked Capitalism 6-26-19] 

Restoring balance to the economy

UAW, AFL-CIO Hold Workers’ Bill of Rights Town Hall in Statesville
[NC AFL-CIO 6-26-19]
United Auto Workers Local 3520 teamed up with the NC State AFL-CIO to host a “Workers’ Bill of Rights” Town Hall in Statesville last week. The topic of the town hall was the AFL-CIO’s 9-point Workers’ Bill of Rights. Workers, union and community members, and elected officials, including Salisbury Mayor Al Heggins, came together to share personal stories of victories and challenges in the workplace and in public policy and to declare that working together, especially in unions, is the best way for working people to reclaim our freedoms. The town hall also featured the first-ever Piedmont exhibition of “North Carolina Labor History Revealed,” which presents the rich history of worker organizing in our state.
Last Call to Enroll in Carolina Labor School!
Carolina Labor School will return Sunday, July 21 for 6 days of labor education, skill building, and solidarity bonding at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

Australian Politics 2019-06-30 15:48:00


Dumped from the Writer's Festival

Bettina Arndt

Writer's festivals have long been a joke in this country - well known as lovefests of ideologues preaching feminist and leftist claptrap to their rapt devotees. Even Germaine Greer found herself banned from a writer's festival last year for daring to challenge the party line on rape.

 Imagine my surprise when I received an invitation recently to appear at this year's Canberra Writer's Festival, to speak about my new book #MenToo. I happily agreed to take part in two panels, one on "Women, Men and the Whole Damn Thing" - supposedly on the consequences of #MeToo - and the other on women over 50.

Yesterday, Michaela Bolzan, the Artistic Director of the CWF wrote excitedly informing me of the "super" panel they'd put together for the first women/men panel:

* There's self-described "card-carrying feminist", our former Human Rights Commissioner, Gillian Triggs.
 * Domestic violence campaigner and journalist Jane Gilmore, known for her anti- male bile.
* LGBTIQ activist, advocate for Safe Schools, and former GetUp campaign director, Sally Rugg, currently embroiled in a campaign to take down rugby player Israel Folau for posting his religious views on social media.
* And writer David Leser whose virtue-signalling article (and forthcoming book) produced the title for this panel. "Why is it that men have killed, enslaved, scarred, diminished and silenced women of every age, race and class, on every continent, for so long?" Leser ponders. I advise you to read the rest and marvel at the stupidity and misandry of this man.

So that was the "super" panel now proposed to talk about women and men in the age of #MeToo. There was no longer any pretence of including balance in this proposed orgy of male-bashing - I was dropped from the panel and asked to moderate the session. Ditto the panel on women over 50, where I was asked to moderate a panel which included - wait for it - the dreaded Jane Caro, now notorious for her foul-mouthed election night tweet accusing "truculent turds" of sending Australia backwards by voting conservative. Her anti-male tirades are equally well known.

Unsurprisingly, I have pulled out of the event, pointing out I have no interest in being a punching bag for this line up of loonies and their followers. But it says a great deal about the huge waste of government funding supporting this divisive rubbish. The Canberra Writers Festival is supported by the ACT Government, ACT Libraries and ABC Radio Canberra plus there's an annual grant from ACT Labor of $125,000.  How about some of you lobbying these organisations to provide more balanced discussion at these events?

Via email

Nothing but downsides in demand-driven education

I have never been a fan of demand-driven university enrolment, a system that involves “qualified” students being guaranteed a subsidised place in higher education.

For years the universities called for its introduction — and why wouldn’t they? — while making reference to dodgy estimates of “unmet demand”, defined as those “qualified” students who were unable to secure a place at university.

You might ask why I put qualified in inverted commas. The reason is that what constitutes qualification for entry to univer­sity is a movable feast.

Some may think a very decent Year 12 score is the least that should be expected. But, these days, passing the final year as measured by an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank of over 50 is optional when it comes to getting into uni.

In my view, it is entirely appropriate for taxpayers to place limits on the amount of money that should be allocated to subsidise undergraduate students. In other words, the spending should be capped and adjusted only to accommodate predetermined factors such as population growth.

Obviously there are opportunity costs associated with spending more on higher education tuition subsidies (and, of course, all types of government spending).

The additional spending could be directed to other activities that yield higher social benefits or it could be returned to put-upon taxpayers.

In this context, higher education advocates will point to the evidence, which is not beyond dispute, that spending on universities generates high rates of return, with some estimates above $10 for every $1 spent.

But here’s the point: these estimates are for average returns, and what we are interested in, in the context of this discussion, are marginal returns — the additional benefits that flow from spending more money on undergraduate tuition subsidies.

It’s worth looking at the figures here. Between 2009 and 2017, the period during which demand-driven enrolment operated, the number of domestic bachelor degree students rose by about one-third. Government spending increased, in real terms, from $6.4 billion in 2009 to $9.3bn in 2017, an increase of 45 per cent.

The Productivity Commission recently has assessed the demand-driven system and has issued a mixed report card.

But reading through the analysis, it’s actually hard to see very many upsides, only downsides, particularly in the context of the amount of spending involved and the outcomes for the students themselves.

Some of the most important findings include the fact universities have accepted much less qualified students as a result of the new funding system.

The additional students who were accepted into the system had much lower levels of literacy and numeracy than the cohort as a whole and most of them had ATARs below 70. (And, as noted, some had ATARs below 50 and were accepted into teacher education courses!)

And here’s a very depressing but unsurprising finding: the additional students had much higher dropout rates than other students. According to the Productivity Commission, “by age 23 years, 21 per cent of the additional students had left university without receiving a qualification compared with 12 per cent of other students”.

Surely the appropriate response is “what a waste” and note that many of these young people will have collected some Higher Education Loan Program (the old HECS) debt in the meantime, to be paid off during their working lives or written off.

To be sure, there was some increase in the participation of “first in family” students whom the Productivity Commission deemed to be disadvantaged. But for young people living in rural and regional areas and young indigenous people, there was no change in their participation.

It’s worth considering what has been happening in the graduate ­labour market in response to the expansion in the number of ­subsidised undergraduate places.

In short, there has been a ­collapse in graduate salaries as well as a marked deterioration in the employment prospects of graduates.

Consider median graduate starting salaries. Before the introduction of the demand-driven enrolment, these salaries were about 80 per cent to 82 per cent of male average weekly earnings. They are now closer to 75 per cent.

And when we look at employment outcomes, we observe a sharp fall in the proportion of graduates securing full-time work — from about 85 per cent to 70 to 75 per cent. Note also that a higher proportion of graduates report that their degrees are largely irrelevant to their work.

It is also worth noting that the HELP loan book is valued at $46bn and is expected to grow to $53.2bn by 2022, an increase of more than 15 per cent. There is little doubt that a reasonable proportion of this debt — perhaps up to 20 per cent — eventually will be written off.

That the Coalition government decided to pull the plug on demand-driven enrolment was not entirely surprising, although the reasons for this, as well as the replacement arrangements, do not exude much confidence in terms of rational decision-making.

The refusal by the Senate to pass measures to reduce certain spending on higher education forced the government to use non-legislated means of achieving the same outcome while putting in place a complex deal for universities, pending a review in a few years.

The clear message that the Education Minister should be giving university administrators is that there will be no return to the open-ended and wasteful demand-driven enrolment.

The Productivity Commission concludes that “while universities will be the best option for many, ­viable alternatives in employment and vocational education and training will ensure more young people succeed”. This point was always obvious, notwithstanding the universities’ spiel about the need for problem-solving, cognitive skills in the future.

Given the content of the cour­ses into which many of these additional students were accepted and the dismal record on economy-wide productivity during the period in which the number of graduates has swelled, the jig is surely up on this line of argument.


‘Harm' getting out of hand

No one likes to harm others. But today the call to ‘avoid harm’ is getting out of hand. And more often than not, begs the question.

Back in the nineteenth century, John Stuart Mill saw the of prevention of harm as setting the limit on the coercive power of the state when he wrote “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others” (On Liberty 1859). Mill was seeking to increase human freedom with his harm principle.

Today saying something is harmful is increasingly the one-stop shop to attempt to criticise and shut down, be it, for example, NAPLAN testing, the same-sex marriage plebiscite, the recent Vatican statement on gender, or much that goes on in schools and universities. The inflation of what is considered ‘harmful’ — however well intentioned — is having the effect of decreasing human freedom.

It is not a simple issue. On the one hand, there can be real harm, and our society is rightly far less blasé about many dangers than in the past. Think of such disparate areas as industrial safety and child abuse.

On the other hand, one of the reasons for the popularity of talking about harm is that it seems to provide a common ground and a simple test in a society otherwise lacking an agreed moral framework.

However, that is an illusion. What counts as harmful is rarely objective or straightforward, but depends on a wider, often unacknowledged, context. For example, not all distress or pain is harmful. Is it harmful to me to be told by you that I have cancer? Or that I should repent? That depends whether you are an oncologist. Or whether divine judgment is a real thing.

And it is so with many of the appeals to harm. They so easily beg the question by subtly importing hidden claims about human life and society as to be practically useless.

Saying something harmful is not the end, but the beginning of a conversation.


University bans mention of how long Aborigines have been in Autralia

Science lecturers at the University of New South Wales have been told to stop telling students that Indigenous people's arrived in Australia 40,000 years ago.

In a letter sent to staff the lecturers were told that it is 'inappropriate' to teach dates and they should say Aboriginals have been here 'since the beginning of the Dreamings' because that is what indigenous people believe.

A set of classroom guidelines were circulated in the science faculty this month which alerted the scientists to the existing language advice, according to The Weekend Australian.

Aboriginal people are thought to have arrived in Australia via land bridges from the north about 50,000 years ago. 

It is generally accepted among scientists, however, that Indigenous people, like the rest of the world's human population, migrated from the African continent.

In 2018, a UNSW research centre in the science faculty said Indigenous Australians 'arrived soon after 50,000 years ago, effectively forever, given that modern human populations only moved out of ­Africa 50,000-55,000 years ago.'

The inclusivity language guidelines were approved by a working group involving dean Emma Johnston.

The guidelines say teaching a date for the arrival of Indigenous people 'tends to lend support to migration theories and anthropological assumptions.'

Many indigenous Australians see this sort of measurement as inappropriate the guidelines claim.

'The Aboriginal people I've worked with are enormously interested in the scientific evidence,' University of Wollongong ­archaeologist Richard Fullagar told the publication.

He did, however, also say that Aboriginal people he has worked with have sometimes told him that it is their cultural belief they have been here forever.


Labor’s tax stance depends on crossbench: Gallagher

The Morrison government has demanded Labor stop its “verbal gymnastics” and support its flagship $158 billion personal income tax cuts plan, as opposition finance spokeswoman Katy Gallagher suggests her party will not finalise a position until it knows how the crossbench will vote.

In a messy interview on Sky News today, Senator Gallagher was unable to say if Labor’s caucus — which meets tomorrow — would formalise its position on the tax cuts legislation, due to be debated when federal parliament returns this week.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said Labor’s failure to support the Coalition’s full tax cut package would be a lasting “stain on the Labor Party”.

“Labor ought to come clear, come clean tomorrow and make sure they declare that ultimately they will pass this tax relief agenda because the failure to deliver tax relief for hardworking Australians will be a stain that will haunt Labor and Anthony Albanese all the way to the next election if they block this agenda,” Senator Birmingham said.

“I heard they might even wait to see what the position of the crossbench are until Labor makes up their mind about whether or not they’ll support our tax cuts. Well come on let’s be real. The Australian people may have decided that Labor weren’t fit for government but now they’re showing they’re not even fit to be the opposition.”

Senator Gallagher this morning conceded Australians earning $200,000 were not the “top end of town” but insists the parliament should reject the final stage of the government’s personal income tax cuts because they do not stimulate the economy now and are too generous for high-income earners.

Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg will this week try and ensure low and middle income earners quickly receive the $1080 tax cut they were promised in the April budget.

Senator Gallagher suggested Labor would wait to see what support the government received from the Senate crossbench before deciding how to vote on the full package.

“If and when the government is able to get a deal with the crossbench, and that’s not for certain at this point in time, we would have to take decisions based on what was happening at the time,” Senator Gallagher told Sky News.

“We have to be able to make decisions in the parliament as situations unfold, sometimes that doesn’t mean you can bring the whole caucus back together.

“Around stage three we’re worried on a couple of fronts. One is the affordability of it, can the budget actually afford this in four or five years’ time? We don’t know what will be happening. The situation has already changed from the election in terms of the economic outlook.

“We do wonder whether that allocation, it’s a huge part particularly of the second unlegislated lot of tax cuts, going to the highest income earners which would show they’re the group that are less likely to spend it in the economy.”

Asked if Australians earning $200,000 should be characterised as the “top end of town”, Senator Gallagher said: “No I don’t, I think a lot of my constituents would be earning incomes of that.

“Let’s have an argument around affordability of tax cuts in the near future, not the medium future, which is what we’re being asked to do.”

Australians earning more than $180,000 will receive less than a third of the Turnbull and Morrison governments’ $324.6 billion personal income tax cuts, according to Parliamentary Budget Office modelling.

Labor supports stage one of the plan to deliver the $1080 tax cuts and wants to speed up stage two to bring forward benefits for Australians earning more than $90,000 from 2022-23 to 2019-20.

It is unsuccessfully trying to convince the government to defer a decision on stage three, which from 2024-25 lowers the tax rate from 32.5 per cent to 30 per cent for Australians earning between $45,000 and $200,000, because it does not have “the same impact on the economy now”.

“It’s a lot of money where it’s not clear about how it’s going to be paid for and when you look at it in those individual years in 2024-25, that stage three is about $19bn a year,” Senator Gallagher said.

“That is a lot more than we pay for a whole range of services … (and) it certainly has no stimulatory effect on the budget … I don’t think the government is trying to explain it as a stimulus on the economy then (in five years), they’re talking about it as addressing bracket creep.”

Josh Frydenberg declared Senator Gallagher had confirmed “what we already about the Labor Party”.  “They are instinctively opposed to tax relief for hardworking Australians, even after the Australian people sent them an unequivocal message at the election,” the Treasurer said.

“Anthony Albanese should drop Bill Shorten’s losing strategy, cut his losses and stop denying the Australian people the tax cuts they voted for.”

Labor and the Greens are opposed to the entire package but the government is edging closer to a deal with the Senate crossbenchers.

The Coalition, which requires the backing of four out of six crossbenchers when it does not have the support of Labor or the Greens, has locked in South Australian senator Cory Bernardi’s vote and is set to have two votes from Centre Alliance but it will also need Jacqui Lambie’s support to legislate the package.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has repeatedly said she will oppose the full plan.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

Australian Politics 2019-06-29 15:43:00


No forgiveness for Folau’s sins against the PC church

The take-home message of the Israel Folau scandal is as clear as it is terrifying: Christians are no longer welcome in public life.

If you adhere to core Christian beliefs about sin, hell and damnation, you will be purged from polite society.

If you think St Paul was right to argue in his Epistle to the Romans that it is sinful for men to neglect “the natural use of the female” and instead to become “inflamed by their lust for one another”, you will be cast out of the community. If you agree with the word of God — that man “shall not lie with mankind as with womankind”, as Leviticus puts it — you will be branded a moral transgressor.

The irony is almost too much to bear: critics of Christianity now use the tactics Christianity itself once used in its darker moments in history. They demonise certain ideas as heretical, rage against those who holds these ideas and subject these sinful creatures to a PC inquisition.

“Are you now or have you ever been an adherent to the Bible’s beliefs on homosexuality…?”

Answer yes and you’re out, packed off to the moral wilderness, with a metaphorical placard saying “homophobe” — a modern word for evil — hanging around your neck.

Folau’s crime, his sin against political correctness, is to believe that people who have gay sex are destined for hell.

He expressed this belief in a meme he shared on his Instagram page, which said “hell awaits” certain wicked people, including drunks, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters and homosexuals.

As an atheist who has engaged in boozing, fornication and idolatry at various times in his life, I guess I’d better prep for an eternity of fire and torture. I don’t share Folau’s beliefs. I was brought up a Catholic, so I know there are many people who genuinely believe homosexuality is a sin. But I’m a lapsed Catholic now, and godless too, and it bothers me not one iota who people choose to have sexual intercourse with. Knock yourselves out. Wear a condom!

Yet I find the persecution of Folau repulsive and an alarming sign of the times.

It demonstrates how far PC intolerance has gone and how thoroughly anyone who doesn’t slavishly subscribe to contemporary orthodoxy can expect to be punished.

It doesn’t matter if you are a Christian or an atheist, straight or gay, uptight about sex or a cheerleader for sexual debauchery — you should still be deeply concerned that a man can be persecuted simply for what he believes, for the convictions that reside in his head and his heart.

Persecution is not too strong a word for it. The dictionary definition of persecution is “hostility or ill-treatment” especially because of one’s “race or political or religious beliefs”.

This aptly describes what Folau has faced. He has had hostility heaped upon him because of his religious beliefs. He has been ill-treated because of his faith.

First, in April, he was dumped by the rugby world. Rugby Australia and NSW Rugby — which oversees the team Folau played for, the Waratahs — issued a joint statement announcing the termination of his contract.

The statement was perverse. It will surely be studied by future generations who want to understand the moral contortionism of the early years of the 21st century.

It claimed Rugby Australia is keen to create an environment in which everyone can feel “safe and welcome” and in which there is “no vilification based on race, gender, religion or sexuality”. And so, because of his Instagram post, Folau had to be cast out.

It is testament to the blinkered arrogance of political correctness, and of those who do its bidding, that these people could not see the profound moral contradiction at the heart of their chilling statement. In the name of preventing “vilification based on race, gender, religion or sexuality”, they vilified Folau on the basis of his religion. In the name of creating a safe environment where everyone can feel “welcome”, they made it clear that Folau — because of his religion — is not welcome.

This Orwellian statement translates as follows: “We will not tolerate vilification on the basis of religion — unless your religion is traditional Christianity, in which case we will vilify you. And we are welcoming of everyone — except people who believe the words of the Bible, whom we will sack and shame.”

This repugnant statement summed up what is the first and last commandment of the ideology of political correctness: “We love and accept everyone. Except anyone we disagree with. We hate those people and we will destroy them.”

Authoritarianism dressed up as acceptance. Intolerance under the guise of tolerance. This is the Newspeak of the PC era, and it is horrifying.

Even worse, Folau’s opponents then sought to make it more difficult for him to defend himself. The sports world effectively made him a moral reprobate; then the capitalist class decided he should not be allowed to raise money for his own defence in his case of unlawful termination against Rugby Australia.

GoFundMe Australia shut down his fundraising page. It did so because we do not “tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion”, it said.

Again with the Orwellianism. We do not tolerate discrimination or exclusion, so we will discriminate against a biblical Christian and exclude him from our services — that is essentially what GoFundMe is saying. Shameless self-contradiction.

Thankfully, the Australian Christian Lobby stepped in, keeping open the possibility of charity for Folau after others almost closed that possibility down. It is testament to the strength of feeling around this issue that the ACL raised $2 million in the first day. Huge numbers of ordinary Aussies clearly want to take a stand for religious freedom and freedom of speech — good on ’em.

This terrible spectacle, this hounding of one man over his beliefs, reveals so much about the culture wars of the early 21st century.

First, it confirms that PC is the new religion. Political correctness now does what pointy-hatted priests used to do: seeks out thought criminals and moral transgressors and punishes them for their wicked beliefs.

No, nobody has been burned at the stake. Folau’s life is not at risk. But there is nonetheless an inquisitorial feeling to the witch-hunting of this rugby player whose only offence is that he thinks differently from the PC crowd.

The second thing revealed by this hounding is that the left will turn a blind eye to the use and abuse of capitalist power if it serves their purposes. So, just as leftists have cheered Silicon Valley oligarchs as they have expelled from social media anyone who has an anti-PC point of view, so they have applauded GoFundMe’s shunning of Folau. It’s a private company, they say, and private companies can decide for themselves who to host and who to ban.

Let’s break this down: what they’re really saying is that the speech rights of a “horrible” Christian come a poor second to the property rights of corporations. So, all their anti-capitalist bluster is stuff and nonsense. When push comes to shove, they will back the internet elites and online Big Business over those who they deem to be morally wicked.

This is a celebration of corporate power over individual speech rights. That’s the kind of thing you would expect from the libertarian right, but not from the supposedly socially conscious left.

And the third thing confirmed by this dispiriting affair is that Christianity is one religion it is acceptable to mock and persecute these days.

If you were to criticise Islam, you would be branded an “Islamophobe”. You would be accused of stirring up racist sentiment. You would be denounced and harassed and censured.

Yet the Koran also attacks homosexuality. It says any man who “practises your lusts on men” deserves to be driven “out of your city”. They should be visited by a “shower of brimstone” — that is, kill them.

I find these views of homosexuals as dreadful as the Leviticus view. But I support the right of Muslims and Christians alike to hold these views and to think that men who lie with men will be punished in the afterlife.

When did we forget this key principle of civilised, enlightened, democratic society — that people should be free to hold even difficult and disagreeable views, and should never be punished for what they think?

Folau should be free to think and say whatever he likes, and he should face no sanction whatsoever.


The Australian constitution is on Folau's side

Section 116 of The Australian Constitution states: “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth”.

Where there is reference to industrial law, it relates only to the public service and it must be said the ultimate phrase of Section 116 was honoured more in the breach than in the observance.

In the bad old days of sectarian Australia, no Catholic could get a job working for Treasury. Likewise, Protestants looking to get a gig in the Tax Office.

But at least religious freedoms get a mention. All other freedoms are merely implied and that means they are open to being trampled regularly by government.

If dealt with in isolation, the question of religious freedom will be pushed into the murk of a politico-legal world grappling awkwardly with black letter diktats on the nature of religion. It rarely ends well.

In 1983, the High Court had to determine the basic question of what constitutes a religion in Australia. It was a vexed business and once handed down, the judgment revealed the discomfiture of the Full Bench in dealing with such a slippery issue.

The Victorian Supreme Court had labelled Scientology a sham religion, a mockery of established religious observance and determined the State of Victoria was within its rights to claim payroll tax from the group.

When the scientologists took the matter to the High Court, the Supreme Court ruling was overturned. The High Court determined that an organisation that believes it is a religion is a religion, or more properly, if a group of people who associate with a particular organisation believe it is a religion then that is what it is. Thus, Scientology became the Church of Scientology in Australia and got to enjoy all the tax-free goodies.

Far be it for me to say, but the Victoria Supreme Court probably got it right in respect of Scientology but the High Court’s prevailing judgment was one driven by the sensible view that despite their considerable legal expertise, men and women in horsehair wigs, had no business providing a legal checklist for matters of faith and religious belief.

It was the right call, but it led to poor results where a cult like Scientology enjoyed tax free status and further emboldened more cults and sects in Australia to do likewise.

We should be thankful to Folau and to Rugby Australia, too. It is an unpleasant business for him, and others directly involved but in the greater public forum it can lead to very healthy discussions, a renewed focus on our rights and our freedoms, why so many have gone missing and how to get them back.

We need to broaden the argument that sprang from the great sense that Folau has been dealt with disgracefully.

The best and fairest response is to enshrine freedoms of expression, movement and association equally across the board as the foundations for the way people work and live in Australia.

We need to establish where we stand in this country. A bill of rights would make the Australia even noisier and a good deal messier than it is today but I’d suggest in a complex modern society that is no bad thing.


Another man victimized by false allegations

Bettina Arndt

We are fast reaching the point where men won't dare work with children. The vigilantism and community hysteria surrounding sexual abuse accusations combined with our anti-male culture means all men are vulnerable to false accusations which can end their careers.

Over the decades I've been writing about these issues I have talked to so many men in this situation. In this week's video I interview a respected music teacher and school band conductor who is currently banned from teaching in NSW schools. He was subject to false accusations by a number of students which were properly investigated by police and the Department of Community Services and found to have no substance.

It's over a year since the accusations first surfaced and were then investigated, yet the Education Department's secretive investigation unit refuses to remove him from the list banning him from teaching in schools. His career is ruined, his reputation trashed by malicious social media campaigns labelling him as a pederast.

Please watch my video and help me circulate it. People need to know what's happening to some of our most experienced and trusted male teachers.

Via email from Bettina

The plight of boys in a misandrist world

The poison of revenge feminism

I worry more for my 19-year-old son than for my daughters, both in their early 20s. At a dinner party recently, a young woman told me that my son’s school was teeming with rape culture. That’s not true. I tried to explain why — that one bad boy, even a few, does not make a rape culture. But she didn’t seem to be interested in listening to this.

My son’s school has swallowed the fabrication hook, line and sinker. That is the wretched power of misguided accusations and outright lies. Repeat them enough and people believe them.

The confected panic became so ridiculous that at one assembly senior boys were told not to use the word moist as it might offend girls. The boys responded rationally. They muttered for the rest of the day about moist sandwiches, moist weather and so on. Some teachers joined in because, as a rule, overreach is rarely taken seriously.

Now I read that if my son, or one of his gorgeous and clever friends, studies medicine and becomes an obstetrician and gynaecologist, motives need to be checked. Are they in it for power? To enjoy watching women in pain? To perve at women’s private parts?

This is serious. Seriously wrong. I wouldn’t normally respond to another writer in this newspaper. We are a broad church, despite the claims of some ideologically blind critics that we all lean one way. Live and let write, I say. Sometimes their arguments sharpen mine.

Nikki Gemmell’s piece two weeks back needs addressing, not to sharpen opposing views given her claims are so easily sliced and diced. They need to be positioned as part and parcel of a wicked movement that seeks to punish men en masse, even smearing boys for the past deeds of some men.

Gemmell may not have meant to join this miserable movement. Maybe she was naive. But her claim that we should question the motives of why a man would want to be an obstetrician gives cover to others who choose gender as a determination of good or bad motives. Think of the obsessions about the white patriarchy and toxic masculinity. Rather than ­encourage more of these mindless accusations, can’t we agree that this genre of revenge feminism deserves no helpers? And that men should not have to defend themselves against inchoate claims about bad motives?

Revenge feminism is one part of a larger body of grievance politics, each offshoot with its own misguided postmodernist pursuit.

Post-Marxists assert power imbalances, regard objective knowledge as a construct of power, assume bad motives from those who have power, and then they prop up those deemed to be oppressed and punish those assumed to be oppressors. Many are so consumed with finding power imbalances, they do not stop to check whether they have found a real one, or whether they are making sense even when they have found the locus of power.

The redeeming feature of the postmodernist movement is that it is increasingly incoherent. Hence, it will not likely enjoy the same longevity of past, more comprehensible political movements. ­Rational people simply cannot, and will not, abide by the increasingly outlandish claims that emanate from the many parts of postmodernism.

From identity politics more broadly to narrower agendas of intersectional feminism and queer theory, along with their absolutist claims about cultural appropriation, unconscious bias, toxic masculinity, cisgender privilege, heteronormativity, and so on, more people recognise these as ­regressive, not progressive. All are aimed at judging people, not as individuals but as members of assumed oppressed and oppressor classes according to race, sexuality, culture and more.

Revenge feminism that reflexively impugns the motives of men is just another incoherent part of the mother ship of 1960s postmodernism that reworked itself in the 80s. But before each bit is ­finally dumped as part of modernity’s biggest political con, clumsy assumptions about power and gender are exceedingly unfair to men and do nothing good for women either.

My own experience points to the pointlessness of using gender to judge doctors. Three children. Two obstetricians. The first, a woman, was dreadful. Rough, rude, dismissive, she had many complaints against her I learned later. My second obstetrician was gentle and caring and he listened too. I judged both of them not by gender but by their individual skills, or lack of them.

My former father-in-law, a more decent man you could not find, was a GP in country NSW for many years in an era when the local doctor did all manner of things. He delivered so many ­babies that his family frequently bumps into those babies or the mothers and fathers, all much older now. This gentle man does not deserve to have his motives questioned for bringing babies into the world.

Gender stereotypes can blow back on women, too. Working as a young lawyer at a large law firm in Sydney more than two decades ago, I noticed that a higher proportion of senior female lawyers, partners in particular, were rude and dismissive. Kind of like that ­female obstetrician I would encounter some years later.

What was their beef? Maybe some thought young female lawyers had slid too easily into our chosen profession compared with their harder road. But why punish us for their trials and tribulations? Others didn’t discriminate on the basis of sex; they were equally awful to young men and women. The point is that some of us grew wary of older female lawyers and preferred to work for men. The men weren’t necessarily caring or gentle but they were fair.

Today, the pendulum has swung even further. In our biggest companies, in government bureaucracies and at universities too, gender is more prominent than ever. The way it is panning out, with quotas and special privileges for women, we are focusing less on people as individuals.

Today, if you want a genuine equal opportunity employer, your best bet may be a small business that is mercifully free of gender rules, and HR departments that enforce them.

Postmodern quests by social justice warriors have made us more sexist, and more racist, too.

Think of frequent accusations about toxic masculinity, not to mention bogus claims against white privilege. It is not corrective justice to smear all men with bad motives or to claim all white people are privileged. It is not justice of any kind. And it is not good for any of us.

There have always been sporadic contests over the core idea of the West that we treat people equally, as individuals who should be neither punished nor promoted by reason of their race, creed, ­gender or sexuality.

But today there is an escalating drive, under the auspices of identity politics, to divide people into smaller and smaller groups, starting from clumsy assumptions about power, replacing objective knowledge with unverified claims, ascribing bad motives to one class and good motives to another, punishing some, promoting others. It is driving people apart, creating default settings of distrust. Intersectional feminism, for example, is at war with itself, different groups of women laying claim to be the biggest victims.

In the victimhood sweepstakes, a woman of colour beats a white woman hands down, a lesbian woman of colour beats a lesbian white woman, and a trans woman beats a lesbian woman of colour. And a trans woman of colour? That is intersectional bingo. Meanwhile, trans activists in general are at war with biological women, and none of these groups is listening to the other. It is a shouting race to the top of a wonky ladder of victimhood.

It is no wonder then that identity politics is more morose and divisive, infantilising and illiberal now compared with, say, a decade ago. Given that we do not know where this ends or what the point of no return looks like, each of us should surely commit to being living, breathing examples of the great liberal mission.

Respecting and judging people as individuals is the road to genuine and enduring equality. If we start from this first principle, real empowerment and human flourishing will follow too. And a new social justice movement can better judge who holds power, who abuses it and how best to protect those at the mercy of real oppression.

We have to start somewhere. Not impugning the motives of male obstetricians is as good a place as any.


EcoFascists:  The new totalitarians

Melbourne University’s new vice-chancellor, Duncan Maskell, wants to “reach out” and “build partnerships” with the business sector. It may be harder than he thinks. Potential donors might catch up with what the university’s Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (MSSI) is advocating. MSSI Director, Professor Brendan Gleeson, has just co-authored with staffer Dr Sam Alexander a book Degrowth in the Suburbs: A Radical Urban Imaginary.[1]

The book calls for the overthrow of capitalism en route to a mightily shrunken non–consumerist “eco-socialism”. MSSI cites reviews of the book as a “beacon of hope” for a “a tantalizing and realistic suburban future”, as the authors guide us “through the calamities of the Anthropocene”. MSSI last March also published an update by the Gleeson/Alexander duo, “showcasing new and exciting sustainability knowledge”.[2] The authors respectfully quote Karl Marx and the Communist Manifesto of 1848. But they argue for a decarbonised Australia which for radicalism makes Marx and Engels seem mild as maiden aunts:

Attempting to take control of the state may not necessarily be the best way to initiate the transition to a just and sustainable degrowth economy, for even a socialist state may find itself locked into unsustainable growth just as capitalism is.


A revolutionary consciousness must precede the revolution. If governments will not lead this process, it arguably follows that social movements might have to change the world without (at first) taking state power… [3]

The authors note that Australian householders to the 1950s did a lot of backyard food-growing, dress-making and furniture-making, and DIY building:

This ‘urban peasantry’ declined however in the Post-War Boom, as the rise of mass consumer capitalism enabled households to purchase goods previously produced within the household. We contend that any degrowth or post-capitalist transition may well see the re-emergence of an ‘urban peasantry’ in this sense, albeit one shaped by different times and concerns.

The more pain for citizens the better, apparently, to “shake people awake”:

In our view, it is better that citizens are not in fact protected from every disruptive situation, given that encounter with crisis can play an essential consciousness-raising role. (175).

They say,

Ultimately, the solution to crisis is crisis: a massive suspension of capitalism as prelude to a new economic and social dispensation…To liberate human prospect, we must cast down not defend the burning barricades of a dying modernity. (15-16)

They extol Cubans for food production in backyards, turning “crisis into opportunity”. The post-2007 Greek debt crisis also furnishes them insights “into ways of dealing positively with challenging and turbulent times”. I’m surprised they haven‘t also cited socialist Venezuela’s shining example of degrowth. They say that living standards, despite degrowth, can be propped up by voluntary sharing and gifting. But they caution the middle classes that “access to expensive handbags through sharing schemes is not progressive if it merely entrenches consumer culture.”

Richard di Natale’s Green’s Party, they say, “has begun to recognize the need for a post-growth economy, even though it treads very carefully knowing that it must not alienate a voting constituency that is still developing a post-growth consciousness” (180). I don’t think di Natale will thank them for that insight.

In one of the sickening clichés of the Gleeson/Alexander academic style – dating back eight years to Alexander’s Ph.D. thesis — the authors time-travel to 2038 and discover what a success their policies have been (145).[4] Large fossil-fuel companies are nationalized in a near “war time mobilization” and their workers handed a job guarantee in renewables (167).

Graffiti daubers in 2038 instead write inspirational slogans: “Graffiti art sprayed all over Melbourne captured the spirit best: ‘I have a little; you have nothing; therefore, we have a little’” (154). Suburbanites share food from their vegie plots, eschew distant holidays (local trips show “hidden delights” within reach of a borrowed electric car), mend their own clothes, eat vegetarian and fertilise their backyard plots with nutrients from their composting toilets. “As old attitudes die, it is now broadly accepted that a civilized society in an era of water scarcity should not defecate into potable water…” they write (158).

“Tiny houses” on wheels proliferate on idle driveways and spare rooms are opened to boarders. Homesteaders enjoy sewing, baking bread and brewing beer. (Home-brewed cider and port feature in Alexander’s previous yurts-and-jam-jar imaginings). People spend their leisure on “low-impact creative activity like music or art, home-based production, or sport. (164)”. But many sport fields get converted to cropping, which is tough on the likes of AFL fans who initially create “instances of social conflict” until won over by Gleeson and Alexander’s insights (159).

The elderly purr along on electric bikes, and neighborhoods share ‘electric cargo bikes” capable of dropping multiple kids at school. The ‘vast majority’ of city people do some food-growing and bee-keeping in their welcome new roles as “urban peasantry”. They convert train-line verges to chicken and goat farms and former car parks to aquaculture. With so much  physical work, people need less public health care, “freeing up more of the public purse for the energy transition” (160).

The ambience at MSSI hasn’t changed much since I last checked them out four years ago. Those earlier pieces — The joy of yurts and jam-jar glassware, Melbourne Uni’s watermelon patch, and A book without peer — can be read by following the links.

MSSI is now running a whole project on eco-socialism’s “Great Resettlement” of the suburbs after we cut loose from our “fatal addiction” to oil, gas and coal. Just for starters, Gleeson/Alexander are now agitating for a top marginal tax rate of “90 per cent or more”,[5] wealth taxes “to systematically transfer 3 per cent of private wealth [do they mean per annum?] from the richest to the poorest” and estate taxes of 90 per cent or more “to ensure the laws of inheritance and bequest do not create a class system of entrenched wealth and entrenched poverty.” In their view, Australia should give a guaranteed living wage to every permanent resident and a “job guarantee” involving the state as employer of last resort (193-4).

The book says the “working class struggle” (91) should involve, of course, a giant increase in State control for a “wholesale eco-socialist transition” (174). There would be “vastly increased democratic planning and perhaps even some rationing of key resources to ensure distributive equity” (195). State and community banks would monopolise most mortgages and use the profits to fund a guaranteed right to public housing (191), with socialization of property per se likely later down the track (190).

To prepare the masses for this Gleesonian world of degrowth, grassroots education campaigns would get special importance and the arts sector would weave “emotionally convincing” narratives about anti-consumerism (195) – — except maybe for climate tragic Cate Blanchett; her portfolio includes a $6m Sussex mansion.

In the book’s sole flash of common sense, the authors say, “Electric cars are still on the rise, but progress is slow as few households can afford them, and their ecological credentials remain dubious in many respects” (164-65).

You may be wondering about this Sustainable Society Institute. It’s not some rogue element of the campus in a reefer-strewn Carlton hideaway but an interdisciplinary Melbourne University standard-bearer. It has a “diverse and vibrant  Advisory Board of experts, leaders and champions of sustainability.” They include Nobelist Peter Doherty and the president, no less, of the university’s professorial board, Rachel Webster.

Housed in the architecture faculty , it has a staff of 21 including four professors, 6-7 PhDs and 10 administrators. There goes about $3m salaries a year in tax and fees, let alone costs of MSSI delegations to annual UN climate gabfests. MSSI purports to produce high impact publications, post-grad research and public debate – although the only debates there are among green-leftists. MSSI has staff exchanges with Germany’s far-left Potsdam Climate Impact Institute, which has helped lure Germany into a crippling energy shortage.

Check out MSSI’s “diverse and vibrant advisory board of experts, leaders and champions of sustainability.” Chair is Melbourne’s deputy mayor Arron Wood, a graduate of the Climate Leadership program run by globe-trotting, CO2-belching Al Gore. Other members include John Bradley, State Environment Department head and previously CEO of power distributor Energy Networks; and various green group leaders like Katerina Gaita, CEO of “Climate for Change”. She’s a fellow Al Gore graduate and daughter of Romulus My Father author Raimond Gaita with whom she shared the jolliest green family chinwags at the Wheeler Centre (below).

The MSSI board, apart from some vested interests, also bulges with corporate high-flyers of the capitalist imperium targeted for destruction by MSSI. These barons and duchesses of a dying order include Rosemary Bissett, sustainability head of National Australia Bank; Gerard Brown, corporate affairs head of ANZ Bank; and Victoria McKenzie-McHarg, strategy manager at Bank Australia. She boasts of leading the campaign to replace Hazelwood power station and stopping another Victorian coal-fired power project going ahead, plus there was her role in the women-in-climate change seminar. Then there’s Adam Fennessy, EY consultancies’ government strategy partner and ex-head of Victoria’s Environment Department. No green lobby would be replete without big emitter Qantas, and MSSI has Megan Flynn, listed as Qantas group environment and carbon strategy manager.[3] Sadly for Qantas, Gleeson’s post-capitalist and climate-friendly world will be a no-fly zone.

Last week Melbourne University’s council and its academics combined to put out an improved free speech policy, not before time as the Institute of Public Affairs audit last year cited some nasty incidents:

Conservative students launched a membership drive and a posse of Melbourne University academics cried ‘Racists!’ and had the conservative students thrown off campus. Former Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella was shouted down and physically confronted during a guest lecture at the University of Melbourne.

The Gleeson-Alexander “array of revolutionary reforms” includes a scenario “to create (or re-create) a ‘free press’” (p194-5). I hope they don’t have a tax or fee-financed bunyip version of Pravda in mind.

Associate Professor (climate politics) Peter Christoff is a long-time MSSI executive committee member. He’s publicly called for legislation imposing “substantial fines” and “bans” to silence conservative commentators of the Andrew Bolt/Alan Jones ilk. This was a contrast to last week’s university policy to promote “critical and free enquiry, informed intellectual discourse and public debate within the University and in the wider society”. Christoff was addressing a 2012 university seminar aptly titled Law vs Desire: Will Force or Obedience Save the Planet? His draconian sanctions were, as per my transcribing from 20 minutes in,

based on the fact that unchecked climate denialism over time would cause loss of freedom and rights, the death of thousands of humans, the loss of entire cultures, effectively genocide , extinctions…

The legislation to be contemplated might be roughly framed around things like Holocaust Denial legislation which already exists in 17 countries, focused on the criminalisation of those who public condone, deny or trivialise crimes of genocide or crimes against humanity…

“The [fifth] objection [to his proposal] is that this is simply unworkable, inquisitorial, having the perverse effect of increased attraction to banned ideas and their martyrs. It will depend on the application of such law. If it is selective and well focused, with substantial fines and perhaps bans on certain broadcasters and individuals whom I will not name, who stray from the dominant science without any defensible cause, it would have a disciplinary effect on public debate. There still would be plenty of room for peer reviewed scientific revisionism and public debate around it, but the trivial confusion that is being deliberately generated would be done away with, and that is a very important thing at the moment.

His proposal was heard with equanimity by the panel comprising Professor Helen Sullivan, Director of the University’s Centre for Public Policy (introducer); MSSI’s Professor Robyn Eckersley; activist Dave Kerin and Professor of Rhetoric Marianne Constable (University California, Berkeley). The young audience showed no negative reaction. Compere was the university’s Dr Juliet Rogers, now a Senior Lecturer in Criminology. (Her Melbourne Law School PhD was on ‘Fantasies of Female Circumcision: Flesh, Law and Freedom Through Psychoanalysis’).

Professor Sullivan, summing up at 1.54.20, says Christoff’s contribution is useful

“just about how you might start to use the law and possibility of the law, to generate a sense of resistance and generate people out of a passivity. I would not want to think Peter’s contribution was off the point; it is ‘in there’ and may be part of the mix and something we need to be thinking about.”

One of three comments on the youtube seminar page reads: “A highly distinguished, diverse group of intelligent human beings openly discussing hard topics to help humanity navigate our way through these hard times with a sense of justice, democracy and reason.” Another begs to differ: “Just listened here to a group of academic Eco-[authoritarians] who all are embracing the biggest scientific swindle of all time. Fascinating insight into lunatics.”

Christoff and Eckersley in 2014 co-wrote a chapter in the Christoff-edited book “Four Degrees of Global Warming, Australia in a Hot World”.[6] They reached the following “Conclusion” (p201):

 The American political scientist Chalmers Johnston called 9/11 and the continuing War on Terror ‘blowback’, caused by United States’ imperial foreign and defence policies from the 1950s to the start of the century. If we do realise a Four Degree World…we will have cause to call the results for Australia ‘climate’ blowback or ‘carbon’ blowback.

It seems disrespectful to 3000 murdered Americans to suggest that the attack was America’s fault, or “blowback”.

Here’s more Gleeson/Alexander book extracts, free speech indeed (Trigger warning for snowflakes):

# “A massive, disruptive adjustment to the human world is inevitable. The next world is already dawning. Humanity will surely survive to see it…capitalism will not…it will collapse under the weight of its internal contradictions. (15)

# Their recipe for suburban reform is for “radicals and progressives – indeed all who experience a sense of care and responsibility for viable human futures – to loudly indict a dying but still lethal capitalism for its crimes against human and natural prospects.” (204)

# Eco-warrior David Holmgren, writing in the book’s Foreword: “The global economy is a Ponzi scheme of fake wealth that will inevitably follow the trajectory of previous bubbles in the history of capitalism – but this time, the tightening grip of resource depletion and other limits will make this boom cycle the final one for global capitalism.’ Holmgren says he found the Mad Max movie the “primary intellectual reference point” about the energy-scarce future. (vi)

The co-authors argue that we should not “callously close borders”, as we need to take in not just (so far mythical) climate refugees but invite the world’s poor in general for reasons of “solidarity and compassion”.

“We must oppose the tide of scapegoat racism that seems to be driving the wave of populist nationalism that today calls for the closing of borders at a time when we must be opening our hearts” (18-19).

Concurrently, somehow, the state should enforce constantly reducing resource availability, such as 3 per cent a year, to ensure degrowth plus justice and sustainability (184).

They quote Slavoj Zizek, their oft-cited Slovenian philosopher, describing the capitalist economy as “a beast that can not be controlled”. It must, however, be brought to heel before it propels humanity, and all we presume to govern, into the abyss, they add (9). Zizek is a particularly odd fish.[7]

Their war-cry: “We should raise an infernal racket about the narcosis that has settled in the dying hours of capitalism. Sleepers awake! We have the right to imagine and create a more enlightened world. To work…in the suburbs, now.” (205-6)

Back in the real world, bike and vegetable-friendly co-author Alexander, who lives gas-free, says he has draped his home with solar panels to  produce six times more electricity than he draws from the grid (1kWh per person per day). His annual bill is zero. “None of this has required wearing hairshirts of living in a cave without lights,” he says (120), overlooking how much his free electricity is subsidized by taxpayers, renters and non-solar householders.

Maybe the authors will win the 2020 economics Nobel with their proposal for suburban currencies.[8] Puckle Street forex traders ought to give my Flemington dollars a good rate against their Moonee Ponds buck.

I’ve visited some nice universities like Oxford, Cambridge, Chicago, Bologna and Padua. But maybe tourists should give Melbourne University’s Sustainability Institute a miss — unless, like visitors to Hogarth’s Bedlam, they enjoy observing lunatics going about their strange business.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

Court Upholds Math Order of Operations

Last week, the Caribbean Court of Justice upheld the order of operations from mathematics and, in doing so, caused the government of Guyana to fall. TTT News describes the aftermath of the appellate court's decision.

The case on which the CCJ ruled goes back to 21 December 2018, when in an extraordinary effort to survive a no-confidence motion and remain in power, Guyanese President David Granger attempted to legally redefine how a valid majority of votes in the 65-seat Guyanese Parliament should be calculated, raising the threshold from 33 votes to 34, which would allow his party to dismiss the results of the body's 33-32 no-confidence vote that went against them.

The case had gone to the CCJ after a judicial panel in Guyana ruled in favor of the government's bad math.

The President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the Honorable Mr. Justice Adrian Saunders, delivered the opinion of the court regarding the no-confidence vote held in the Guyanese Parliament on December 21, 2018, which the court held to be valid under the Constitution of Guyana. The Court’s decision upholds the decision of the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland that the motion was carried by a majority of 33 votes. The contention between the parties was whether 33 or 34 votes constituted a majority. The Attorney General, Mr. Basil Williams, contended that the formula for achieving a majority, as like in other Parliamentary systems with an odd number of representatives, that the majority constitutes one half of the members plus one, which would hold that 34 votes are required to form a majority....

The resulting no-confidence vote by a majority of the 65 member National Assembly against the coalition government requires the government, including the President and his cabinet, to resign immediately and to hold new elections within three months.

The ruling party's position depended upon erroneously applying the order of operations from mathematics. In a 29 March 2019 letter to the Guyana Times, economics and statistics professor Dev Rawana explained why the lower judicial panel's ruling was wrong:

The controversial Appeal Court’s ruling against the No Confidence Motion (NCM) resolves around the meaning of the word “majority” as intended by Article (106). No one in the Appellate disagrees that the greater number in the National Assembly constitutes a majority. The median or the 50th percentile of a set of numbers, by statistical and mathematical reasoning, is half the sum of all numbers plus one, or equivalently ½(n+1).

In the case of the fifty (52) Members of Parliament of the Republic of Vanuatu, one half of 53 (26.5) and then rounded up yield 27 as the majority. In the case of Guyana with 65 sitting Members of Parliament, one half 66 (65+1) is 33, the number that constitutes the majority as in the case of the Republic of Vanuatu.

However, in the Guyana case, the median was not applied. Instead, Chancellor Cummings-Edwards and Justice Gregory disaggregated the median formula into two overlapping stages to define the majority by taking one-half, rounded-up and then plus one to yield a majority of 34. This two-stage hybrid is mathematically and statistically flawed by international standards.

Why? In the first stage, the number is rounded-up, and again the rounded value is added to one to overstate the majority by one. Therefore, based on the median principles in determining the 50th percentile, 33 is the majority of 32 in the 65-Member Parliament; and, reflects the true effect of the constitution.

The correct application of the order of operations in calculating what constitutes a majority in the Guyanese Parliament that Professor Rawana describes is what the Caribbean Court of Justice upheld in its ruling confirming the success of the no-confidence motion. Guyana's next government will now be determined by the outcome of elections to be held in the next three months.

Previously on Political Calculations