Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Quick Shots -19/Apr/2014

What I Lie Awake Thinking

I was thinking in my half-waking sleep dream mode this morning that the world’s free market could be understood very clearly as this giant chaotic mass of fear and greed. The bears and bulls are exactly that, animal spirits of fear for the market and greed for the market. It then occurred to me that Karl Marx could see the logical ramification of this capitalist system as a giant train wreck and that somehow human beings with our superior rational intellect would want to add rationality in to the mix.

Of course the communist experiment of the Twentieth Century ended up being mostly fear: fear of Stalin, fear of Mao; fear of counter-revolutionaries; fear of freedom and the corrupting influence of capitalism and so on. But you look at something like the post-Soviet economy of Russia and it is clear that the logical outcome of capitalism is the kind of oligarchic Kleptocracy and all that inequality that comes with such structures. China has similarly headed straight to the income inequality and disparity between the oligarchs and the ever-suffering peasants.

The most worrying aspect of free market capitalism isn’t even this disparity in income or the mis-valuing of labour or the reification of money or the degradation of government and public finnances or the emergence of these oligarchs. It’s that the more we commit to it, the more extreme our reliance becomes, upon a system that is essentially held up by our collective fear and greed. Think about the fact that we are 72hours away from starvation and riots. All that fear and greed has taken us to the ledge and here we are thinking this is the best deal going on how to distribute goods and services.

I’m not about to go become a communist but you’ll pardon me if some mornings I think to myself there must be a much better way than what we’ve got.

Is QE Really Working?

This is what makes me ponder each and every day. It seems that the most successful thing Quantitative Easing has done is shore up the prices of equities and risk assets. The second most successful thing it has done is gone out of the first world into emerging markets in the carry trade – which is another way of saying it didn’t really go to the places in the economy for which it was intended. This is disturbing because the ramification of this is that the economies that most propped up asset prices did so by shipping inflation out to the emerging markets.

I don’t know about you, but I imagine this is having an effect on commodity prices because frankly, you can’t print that much money and not have inflation showing up somewhere.  It sure hasn’t been appearing in America or Australia or the UK, but lately the price of food staples have gone up steadily. The last time this happened it prompted the Arab Spring so we may be headed for even more instability around the globe.

Just to make things a little tricky, Bernanke’s successor Yellen has announced the taper will progress at a constant rate and this is sending investment money back to America, but you have to wonder if the emerging markets are going to be able to handle the drop in liquidity and the rise in commodity prices for food staples.

Then there is the little issue of moral hazards associated with the bail outs. It seems the people who benefited the most from QE and TARP and all the socialised losses governments have taken on around the world as debt (and bad debt at that), were not the people on ‘main street’ as they are called but the top echelon of the wealthy. Not the 1%, but in fact the top 0.1% have made the most wealth out of this exercise. If you lost your house and job in the GFC, I think you’d be entitled to feel quite duped by all of this stuff. The data coming out of the USA saying there’s a recovery going on seems to betray the fact that a lot o the jobs created since the GFC are lower in value than the jobs lost. If the Fed and the US Government worked so hard for this outcome, then surely there’s a problem in reflexively thinking that the bail outs were a success. Thus,  seven years on from when the GFC started to happen, we should be asking just who is benefiting from all this Quantitative Easing?

Ukraine, The Ugly

It’s one of those situations that won’t go away. Russia has essentially taken the opportunity of the instability to annex Crimea back into Russia. While there has been much tub thumping condemnation of Russia by the first world, it seems the other nations in the BRICS have tacitly moved behind Russia. NATO i making noises about moving troops in to Ukraine while the interim government in Kiev has declared the Russia-sympathisers as terrorists. You can see that this is not going to go in any direction of pretty.

Putin and his government have been saying this week that Ukraine is on the brink of a civil war. They may well be heading in that direction right now. All the while I’m a little curious as to what exactly the Obama Administration thinks it is going to accomplish in Ukraine. There is a growing bit of incredulity every time the White House announces it’s going to send a ship through the Bosphorus into the Black Sea. This lone vessel encountered (or rather, got buzzed by) a Russian jet that came within 1000yeards.

It’s enough to make you wonder if Obama and Putin want to repreise the Cuban missile crisis. Unlike Kennedy ad Khrushchev who had to work through elaborate diplomatic channels. Obama and Putin have been on the phone 6 times with very little to show for it. Putin being an ex-KGB man makes it immensely difficult to read, let alone game for advantage, while Obama has a record of drawing lines in the sand and letting people walk all over them.  If all of this ends up as a hot war in Ukraine with NATO troops on the ground, I think that would be the day things have gone incredibly wrong.

Leave a comment

Filed under General

News That’s Fit To Punt – 17/Mar/2014

Why So Quiet?

Oh boy. I’ve just spent a week in snot hell and cough purgatory. This series of ‘flus I’ve been hit with one after another has just flayed me and slain me. it sucks to be laid out like this. The number of days one loses to this sort of thing makes one a little more than cranky.

Anyway, I’m slowly on the mend and I am merely in cough purgatory right now.

I Crane, You Crane, We All Crane Our Necks For Ukraine

All that rubber necking and neck-craning is about Ukraine and Crimea this week. It’s a weird story in that none of the participants are attractive and all of them could be accused of having ugly agendas. Underneath all of the rhetorical flourishes is a country that’s basically going backward with neglect and I do have a few things to say about this because like the Baltic states, Ukraine is probably owed something a bit more from the West than mere lip service. I won’t go into the horrible history of collectivisation in Ukraine under Stalin, which preceded the horrors of the German invasion, followed by the USSR sitting on the country like so much exploitative deadweight, and this was followed by the post-Soviet disintegration of what little economy existed in the place. Oh, and let’s not forget Chernobyl which also sits somewhere in that time line. For a nation of 50-odd million folks, it’s hardly had the sort of self-determination that other nations have had. It has arguably had much less than Poland, Czech Republic, and Hungary – and we know how those states fared under the Soviets.

And so this nation is cleft into two. The Ukrainians desperately want to join the West. The ethnic Russians want to stay close to Mother Russia. But the economy of Ukraine is a basket case. It is going to run out of its foreign reserves at some point this year and when it does it’s going to default. So the West would prefer not to have to let Ukraine into its club at the EU, having struggled through the issues of staving off Greece and the rest of the PIIGS defaulting on their bonds. Germany has been particularly conciliatory towards Russia because it buys gas from Russia as well as a fairly obvious desire not to have to bail out an impending financial crisis in Ukraine. After all, why adopt a stray dog with rabies?

Still, from the Ukrainian point of view, you can understand that they want to join the West, join NATO, rid themselves of Russian influence. The youth protesting in Kiev clearly want to join the EU so they can leave Ukraine and go live in Paris or London with an EU passport. And can one really blame them? And you can just hear them asking, why won’t the Americans come rescue us?

Just why won’t the Americans come and rescue them? The truth, is always historic. The Baltic States hoped beyond hope that the West would come rescue them from the yoke of the Soviets and that never happened during the Cold War for obvious nuclear reasons. The eastern marches beyond Poland are really distant places. It’s no place to be sending armies and every field rests upon the legacies of Napoleon and Hitler’s marches deep into Russia. You wouldn’t try it if you’ve war-gamed it, and if you’ve war-gamed it, you’ll know how hard that distance gets. So the Baltic States and Ukraine sit just outside the embrace of Europe, a sort of grey zone that fades from a civilised, cultured Europe into something more blunt, crude and Rus.

Naturally, the Obama Administration has threatened Putin with harsh language (much like Hans Blix in Team America threatens to do) and it’s had about as much effect as you can imagine. The Americans have no stomach for a war, they certainly have no stomach for a nuclear exchange with Russia and so they keep wagging their index finger on the grand stage. A Lithuanian tells me this is appeasement and the best thing Obama can do is to just nuke Crimea.

“Just nuke it!” he said.

“What about Mutually Assured Destruction?” I asked.

“What you don’t understand is that this isn’t the 1960s any more. All those Russian missiles are rusted in their silos. They can’t fly. The Americans can just blow them up and they won’t come back with anything!”

I share this, just so you know how the people from the Grey zone of the Eastern marches feel about all this. It’s very simple. To them, only a nuked Russian is a good Russian.

Obama might look like he’s losing this diplomatic stoush, but that’s the point. There’s no winning on the Eastern Marches against the Russians and at least this way, American casualties are limited. Shame about all those Ukrainians.

4K TV – Not Enough Content, Too Much Detail

Somewhere along the way I forgot to post this, but while we’re on the subject of Russians I thought of this.The gab this week is that 4k TV is too soon and not likely to reward Australian consumers because there’s simply no 4k content around. they would be correct. Nobody is broadcasting 4k (it’s hard enough getting1080p content regularly) and Blu-Ray isn’t coming out on 4k until later this year. You can’t download 4k content for the sheer size of the files and so 4k TV is just not well-endowed right now.

But there are unlikely things about the 4kTV format that’s quite surprising.

I was watching a 4kTV broadcast a little while ago in a shop. It was during Wimbledon and they were showing women’s tennis. Now, I’ve watched a lot of tennis in my lifetime so I can tell you if I’m seeing more or not. On screen at the Sony store, I was watching Maria Sharapova return serve, crouched, racquet at the ready, bouncing around on the balls of her feet, and white panties peeping from under the short skirt, which is the classic pervy shot you get in women’s tennis.

And here’s the thing. 4k TV is so good I could see her dimpled cellulite on the back of her thighs.

And I thought to myself, do I really need this much detail?

One Of Our Submarines

Without a doubt the weirdest sequence of news this week was the disappearance of flight MH370. It went from a straight up, “plane is missing, must have crashed” narrative to a convoluted narrative of mobile phone calls and engine pings to satellites to radar readings, hours after the plane went off view. they still don’t know what happened or where the plane is, and if it crashed somewhere int he South Indian Ocean, it might never be found because the depths there can go down to 7000m.

It’s all a little creepy because all kinds of scenarios have been tossed around including 2 stolen passports and a possible politically motivated hijacking, but the bottom line is that plane has gone missing with a big load of people, and nobody can explain it well.  In the absence of any kind of solid explanation all kinds of theories have flourished and they have been perversely interesting if only because the Malaysian Authorities have looked totally hapless in their search for this plane.

One thing is for sure. From here on in, this story is only going to get weirder and weirder.

Protesting Abbott

The March in March thing came and went and lots of people went and marched against the misgovernment of Tony Abbott. Being sick as a dog I missed it entirely, which is a bit of pattern with me. I think the last time there was a big protest thing against APEC, I was sick in bed and watched the whole thing from the couch. Anyway, I’m actually not a good protester type. I’m liable to do something crazy and who knows where that would land me? So it’s good to watch it far away from where the adrenaline could drive me to lunacy. 🙂

Jokes aside, it seems the placards presented at the marches have offended a number of people saying they’re much worse than ‘Ditch the Witch’ levelled at Julia Gillard. There are several thing that need to be said about that.

1. Not a single Federal ALP member was photographed making speeches next to a sign like this. It’s not so much that the sign said ‘Ditch the Witch’, it’s that Tony Abbott was willing to be photographed with such a sign, lending it credibility with his office of Opposition Leader.

2. It’s hard to take serious the offense taken by people who are looking to take offence. I mean, really. Those complainers are being wowsers, and nobody respects a wowser.

3. Yes, Tony is copping worse insults than than did Julia but that’s because he’s doing worse than Julia – That’s why the sobriquets are worse. Live with it. Tony does.

Ian Roberts, Champion Of Causes

Ian Roberts has been a remarkable man. Having competed at the top level in his sport – a very macho sport at that – he came out as gay. He then turned to acting, and he’s gone to NIDA and pushed ahead bravely with that. This month, he’s basically come out and said he is brain damaged, and that this damage was a result of all the concussions he suffered as a Rugby League player.

Even Matty “Bring-back-the-biff” Johns has recanted his denial of the concussion issue. In the face of the frank, unapologetic moral authority of Ian Roberts’ admission, what else can any sensible man do but put down the gauntlets and arms? It’s a landmark moment in a sport that’s been in denial about concussions for the last three years, if not the last 3 decades. Not only has Roberts forced the sport once to confront gender issues, he has now forced it to confront the occupational hazard of playing Rugby League.

He has to be one of the bravest people around. I am in awe.

China, Defaults, 2014

This week a solar company called Chaori defaulted on its bonds in Shanghai. The remarkable bit might have been that the Chinese government let it happen, because up until now, they’ve defended all these dodgy-bond moments by swooping in and making sure the bonds were paid out. This time, they simply let the company default. Ouch.

Get ready, there are going to be a whole bunch of these. The Chinese Communist Party narrative is that they’re going to let some of these companies default so that it sends a bit of realism back to the investors. If you think such a process can be controlled, then good luck. I think we’re beginning to see where China’s over-reach is going to bring down markets. This could get ugly folks.

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Generation Change

The ALP’s Gen-X Crew

The Herald was making the point today that the ALP have gone Gen-X with their choice of frontbench. When you think about it, Bill Shorten is 46 going on 47 so that puts him at the older range of Gen-X, and Tanya Plibersek at 44, it’s true that the ALP have indeed gone Gen-X. I have a late Boomer friend who tells me that all this demographic stuff is just a construct not worthy of analysis, except I’ve been writing here under the banner of ‘Gen-X View Of The Universe’ for a good 5 years now. It obviously means something.

What could it mean?

The Generation X politician in Australia would have arrived at Tertiary education after the AUS was disintegrated by the likes of Peter Costello and Tony Abbott in 1983, Interestingly enough, Julia Gillard was the last President of the AUS when it collapsed in 1983. If you anted a model to the fractious politics of the Julia Gillard Prime Mininster-ship, you would have found it in the demise of the Australian Union of Students, with the same cast of late Baby Boomers thrashing and trashing institutions to make their political mark. What’s scary is that they’re still around aplenty in the Liberal and National party ranks, and they probably still don’t think much of indulging in that sort of ratbag behaviour. This explains the histrionic opposition style Tony Abbott chose to work with – because it is the method he used in his youth to destroy the AUS , headed up by Julia Gillard. Worse still, it worked again, so that may be why he’s so convinced he has some kind of mandate.

The demise of the AUS and the years where there was no student lobby until the NUS got up in the late 1980s allowed HECS to be brought in. Unlike the Baby Boomers, most of the Gen-X politician would have had to pay HECS. When they say education and the opportunities it affords are important, they know what they are saying. All these things are intimately entwined.

If there is one thing that I do think is encouraging about the Gen X ALP politicos is that they are of the generation that had to put back together the NUS and have the experience of rebuilding institutions. If the ALP under Rudd-Gillard looked positively fractured, then I think the current group might be able to start from scratch and build a proper agenda that suits the time. As I wrote the other day, I’m feeling fairly optimistic about the Shorten-Plibersek team, much more so than I felt about the Rudd-Gillard team when they first rose to the level of Opposition leader and deputy back in 2006. They’re not perfect human beings and they will make their mistakes. I just don’t think they’re as fractious and crazy as the generation of politicians who were forged in the dying days of the AUS.

Right now, the Coalition are the party of the Baby Boomers much more than Gen-X or Gen-Y by dint of the ageing population and makeup of the Liberal and National Party demographic. The fissure hasn’t been more stark than any other time since Mark Latham as late Baby Boomer was taking on John Howard who was born before the Boomers. That fissure sort of leaves the current ALP firmly in the Gen-X camp with the hope of picking up a big portion of support from Gen-Y.  The question then is whether Gen-X+Gen-Y interest is a big enough voting constituency to overcome the Baby Boomers’ interests in their twilight years.

Demographically speaking, Gen-X is small and shorter than either the Boomers before or the Gen-Y that follows. That being the case the duo may never make it. And if they did, they may be seen off by a Gen-Y politician. Consider the American experience. Bill Clinton was the first Boomer President, who was followed by George W. Bush who was followed by Barack Obama, all of whom are Boomers. All three Presidents won two terms, so the Baby Boomer reign will last 24years. If a Gen-X candidate won 2 terms after Obama, the next election after that will likely see a pair of Gen-Y candidates. It’s entirely possible there will never be a Gen X President of the United States.

Similarly, I don’t see any Gen-Xers knocking on the door in the Coalition ranks. If Abbott is replaced for some reason, it’s possible the leadership reverts to Malcolm Turnbull or goes to Joe Hockey – both of whom are Boomers. The longer the Coalition stay in power, the less chance there will be of a government of Gen-Xers in Australia.

So when you look at it through the demographic filter, that’s what we have with Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek: The one and only shot at Gen-X forming Government in Australia.

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Forgetting Romnesia?

Mr. Romney’s Ready For His Close Up, Mr. Spielberg

Here’s something interesting out at the Economist about how the republicans are scapegoating Mitt Romney after his defeat.

Yet fair or unfair, the trashing of Mr Romney should be welcomed, because it shows signs of reflection among those now vying to lead the party. Mr Romney faces two main charges. First, he allowed the Republicans to be seen as a party of the rich. Second, he seemed to scorn social mobility. Exhibit A for both charges is the moment when Mr Romney was secretly filmed at a dinner with donors asserting that 47% of Americans are Democratic voters “no matter what” because they are dependent on government largesse, pay no federal income tax and are thus deaf to arguments about low taxes or personal responsibility.

In recent days, a string of grandees have singled out those comments for attack. Mitch Daniels, the outgoing governor of Indiana, calls the 47% incident a “self-inflicted fatal blow”, compounded shortly after the election when Mr Romney blamed defeat on voters greedy for government “gifts”. Ted Cruz, a senator-elect from Texas, claims (rather implausibly) that the 47% comments—rather than Republican hostility to immigration—explain Mr Romney’s dire showing among Latinos. Mr Romney’s running-mate, Paul Ryan, has let it be known that he “seethed” about his boss’s blunder.

The 47% incident pretty much sums up Romney campaign at this point in history, now that it’s all said and done. It was a colossal ‘blunder’ – or moment of frankness – because the Democrats were working pretty hard to paint Romney as a plutocrat, and he essentially served up his own credo to be put in stocks and be pelted.

This all got me to be thinking about the Obama Campaign’s campaign director Jim Messina and how he drew from a wide range of sources for his plan. The most inttersting bit in is that he consulted none other than Steven Spielberg:

Messina spent time with filmmaker Steven Spielberg, who briefed him on what messages got the attention of audience, and reportedly had input into a advertisement against Mitt Romney that highlighted his time at Bain Capital, a private equity firm that he co-founded.

“Romney had run on this business record of, ‘I’m a manager, I know how to turn things around’. And the Obama strategy over the summer was to turn that positive into a negative by running these ads in states like Ohio, talking about Romney’s record at Bain Capital – outsourcing, jobs, laying off workers,” Mr Freedman said.

While the negative ad was slammed and described as many commentators as unsuccessful, Mr Freedman said the campaign against the Republican challenger, who was at that time still pre-occupied with the primary, ultimately appeared to be effective in the swing states.

Obviously that bit stuck in my mind for months because it shows that in going for the jugular, they picked the mind of the man who was most attuned to putting an emotive message across, and the advice was decisive. When you consider the Republicans got Clint Eastwood to turn up at their convention to talk to a chair, you get the feeling that the Republicans were more than a little behind in how messages are put out to the public. The Democrats were making ads with Spielberg’s input to get the nuance exactly right while the Republicans were essentially waving symbols around – “Look, we got Clint Eastwood who used to be Dirty Harry!”. The level of abstraction and sophistication is so low it beggars belief.

It was certainly an interesting moment in history because the Democratic machine was coming at them with what can only be described as ‘applied Marshall McLuhan Communication Theory’ and the Republicans were essentially doing things that weren’t far removed from semaphore and cave paintings. Even if you don’t take into account the demographic shift going against the white establishment, you seriously wonder if the Republicans are going to be able to get their heads around this problem, because it’s not just who you talk to, but it’s how you talk to them and what you tell them in order to persuade them.

They can scapegoat Mitt Romney all they like, but it seems to me they had much deeper problems than Mitt Romney being a gaff-prone plutocrat.

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Obama Wins

Not Even Close

Keep Calm

For some weeks we’ve been hearing that the race was neck and neck and that the popular vote reflected a deeply divided America. Of course, I’ve been following Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com for a long while and it’s been clear for some time that Obama’s actually been ahead.

The little dip you see is after the first debate where Romney beat Obama, but even then the electoral college count never went below 285.

Nate Silver’s tracking of polls

As you can see in the third graph, the popular vote was tight, but then that’s been what most pundits have been focusing on, saying it’s neck and neck. If anything, Nate Silver’s charts clearly show that Romney was doing a bang up job securing his base without making any headway into the crucial swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

That brings me to this bit in this coverage here:

The Republican failure to topple a president who was perceived as weak and divisive is expected to provoke a blood letting in the party.

The battle lines between those who say the party became too moderate and those who believe it is too radical are already drawn.

“If I hear anybody say it was because Romney wasn’t conservative enough I’m going to go nuts. We’re not losing 95% of African-Americans and two-thirds of Hispanics and voters under 30 because we’re not being hard-ass enough, ” the Republican senator Lindsey Graham told Politico, last week.

That’s really interesting right there. If the Republicans thought they were in it since the moment they nominated Romney, then they were very misguided; and the reason they were misguided is because they took the popular vote to be more important than what the distribution of the electoral colleges were going to be.

It’s surprising that these people who are in a political party and therefore should understand how the election works, should have looked at the numbers Nate Silver was looking at. Silver had Obama beating Romney in a fluctuating zone of 59%-91%. Amazingly, some people thought Silver was pumping for the Democrats but right now as of this writing, Obama has 302 of the college votes, which means Silver has been as accurate as he was last time in 2008.

Which leads me to the point. How can these Republican types even be in politics if they don’t understand how their own system works? It’s not the raw popular vote. It’s how the votes are distributed across electorates that matters.

Which leads me to the next thing in the live coverage that got my interest:

If you want to get a strong feel for the demographic current underlying this election I strongly recommend Ron Brownstein from the National Journal who has been reminding readers for months that this will be the last election that the Republicans can attempt to win with a majority of white votes alone. It was a big risk that Obama took when he decided to embrace gay marriage, push back hard on efforts to restrict abortion and contraception (including a very public stoush with the Catholic Church) offer up a partial amnesty to young illegal immigrants and effectively concede non-college educated white men to the GOP. Instead of a coherent national message, the Obama campaign has stitched together a rainbow coalition.

So far tonight, it is looking like the risk paid off.

That’s a really interesting point about the demographic right there. It goes hand in hand with Bill O’Reilly – he of the awful, awful, awful, spin-ful Fox News – having a whine about the death of the White Establishment. The 2008 election was a watershed because there were more urban voters than rural voters for the first time. This time, it became the election that could not be won by appealing to the White voters’ racism alone.

And so the Republican Party clearly is at at the crossroads. They’ve got the wrong end of the demographic and going harder to the right and more conservative and more ideological is not going to get it done for them in coming elections. The curiosity now is how long they are going to persist with their dalliance with the irrational, Ayn-Rand-ist, racist, retrograde, ignorant and fearful Tea Party.

Judging from the number of Senate seats lost by Tea Party, it seems clear that the Tea Party is not going to come out of the 2012 election with any amount of credibility within the Republican Party. This is where it gets interesting. Fox News was already denouncing the Tea Party blaming them for Romney’s loss – which is ironic because they’re the very same people who gave so much air time to these crazies. Fox News may have successfully polarised the electorate through misinformation and propagandeering and generally misrepresenting arguments; but this has not translated one bit in to votes that mattered. If the way the swing states voted for Obama is any representation, then it is clear the biggest disservice done to the Republican Party might have been the blatant partisan-ship of Fox News. And if the demographic shift says anything, it is clear that Fox News’ own viewership is a shrinking demographic. I wonder how Rupert likes the sting in that tail.

UPDATE: Obama finished up with Florida, winning 332 electoral votes in the end.

Leave a comment

Filed under Baseball, General

News That’s Fit To Punt – 23/Jun/2011

Champion climate change denier Lord Monckton likened Professor Ross Garnaut to the Nazis over night.

The climate sceptic Christopher Monckton has accused Ross Garnaut of having a ”fascist point of view” because the adviser to the government on climate change said he accepted that on ”the balance of probabilities” mainstream global warming scientists were right. In an address to the American Freedom Alliance aired on Seven News last night, Lord Monckton used PowerPoint slides decorated with swastikas and put on a mock German accent as he quoted experts from around the world who he claimed ”accepted the authority” of climate scientists without question. After quoting Professor Garnaut, who he said was an ”eco-fascist”, Lord Monckton said ”Heil Hitler”.

Well, there’s Godwin’s law in action for you. I guess Lord Monckton is finding it harder to convince his listening public that he is on the right side of the argument against overwhelming evidence. All the cherry picking of his stats and facts isn’t enough, he has to call his opponents fascist Nazis.

Last I looked, I notice that he’s some kind of lord with peerage with a distinct laissez faire view on the changing environment and its impact on the economy. I told you he was an idiot. Of course Tony Abbott denounced the statement but he’s still willing to share the stage with this man because deep down (in whatever shallow depth he can call depth) Tony’s a climate change denier as well. I guess it’s a good sign that at least he can make the proper distinction to see likening Professor Ross Garnaut to Nazis is beyond the pail.

Here’s another article on the matter:

Liberal MP and climate-change supporter Malcolm Turnbull said Lord Monckton was a “sensationalist” and he didn’t think Professor Garnaut would lose any sleep over the matter.

“He is increasingly a rather sick, vaudeville character who makes more and more outlandish charges in order to get attention for himself,” Mr Turnbull told Sky News.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the comments were “offensive and grossly inappropriate” but the decision to attend the conference lay with Mr Abbott.

Labor backbencher Michelle Rowland was less reserved. “The fact that Tony Abbott aligns himself so closely with Lord Monckton is absolutely repugnant,” she said.

Greens leader Bob Brown said he believed in free speech but there were limits. He said Mr Abbott should ‘‘reconsider’’ his attendance and called on AMEC to take action. “I think the mining hosts of Mr Monckton should demand an apology before their sponsorship of his trip continues,” Senator Brown said.

And so it goes. Anyway, I think this just about disqualifies Monckton from being taken seriously but Andrew Forest seems to think he’s worth inviting. Why is it that it’s always these super rich fat cats that have the money to throw around who get behind these kinds of crackpots? As for Tony Abbott, even if he decided not to go, he’s not convincing anybody that he *isn’t* a climate change denier, so he may as well go and we’d all be secure in the knowledge that he has head firmly in the sand on this issue.

Out Of Afghanistan

No, that’s not a new Meryl Streep movie. It’s President Obama laying down a plan for a draw down from Afghanistan.

The US will pull 33,000 troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the next northern summer, sooner than previously anticipated.

The first 10,000 troops will leave this year, starting next month.

The drawdown was announced today by US President Barack Obama, 18 months after he ordered the so-called “surge” in troop numbers in a bid to defeat al-Qaeda and Taliban forces and hasten an end to the conflict.

I guess discretion really is the better part of valor. Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, it is arguable that the main mission to Afghanistan has been fulfilled. The rest of worrying about how the polity of Afghanistan survives – or not as the case may be- can be decoupled from the cipher that started at 9/11.

Doubtless it’s going to leave everything in the lurch over in Kabul but in many ways it’s probably for the best if the Allies  pull out. Maybe Afghanis will be able to put together a proper government for once. I doubt it, but it’s worth trying after 10 years of war.

Peter Parker Dies

Spidey’s dead, long live Spiderman, apparently.

In the comic, Parker is killed by his nemesis the Green Goblin, dying in the arms of Mary Jane following a valiant battle.

Writer Brian Michael Bendis told USA Today that he wrote the story “with tears in my eyes like a big baby”.

“I went upstairs to my wife, and I go, ‘I am so embarrassed. I think I’ve literally been crying for 45 minutes.’ I’ve had real things happen in my life I didn’t cry about, and yet I’m crying about this,” said the author.

According to Marvel.com, the death of Peter Parker sets the stage for the upcoming debut of an all-new Spider-Man.

“We’ve never seen a world without Spider-Man, a world without Peter Parker, so his death is a significant event for the Ultimate Comics Universe and we’re going to see how quickly it changes everything,” said Marvel Entertainment editor-in-chief Axel Alonso.

“But Peter’s death doesn’t signal the end …. it’s the start of one of the most ambitious stories you’ve ever read in comics.”

I note this with interest because when the writers of ‘Star Trek Generations’ reported a similar lancunae of emotion after they wrote the death of Captain Kirk. I remember thinking, if you’re going to cry about it and get all emotional about it, why do it? I guess some of these beloved characters need to find an end, much as Robin Hood or King Arthur in ‘Le Morte  d’Arthur’; the dying bit is all part of the tapestry of life-likeness of the fiction. Otherwise the fiction is one long denial of death and that”s never really going to be a mature kind of fiction. It may even be why comic books are seen to be such low level fiction.

In which case it makes sense to kill off these characters. A good death is always better than a bad life in fiction. Sequels suck because authorial voices invariably get sentimentally attached to their characters and so they become impervious to the risks and obstacles. This is typified by the ennui of Bond movies after successfully changing actors. I’m not sure I’m comfortable that Peter Parker dies, but within that discomfort is a sense that maybe, just maybe, the spiderman comic book can rise to art. It would be interesting to see.

Leave a comment

Filed under General, Uncategorized

Mars Direct Is Back

Spacefreak Moment For Mr. Obama

Back in the day when this blog’s predecessor was the ‘Spacefreaks Weblog‘, and shared writers – yes it wasn’t just me writing stuff – the big topic in 2004 was whether the space program should be looking to Mars or not and whether the Shuttle program should be continued in light of the Columbia disaster. There are a lot of pros and cons to both these ideas but the most important thing to come out of those discussions was how direct flight to Mars was probably going to yield far more knowledge than space stations and shuttle programs whose operations were always limited in scope.

So it’s good to find today that President Obama has scrapped the Lunar missions for a Mars mission.

US President Barack Obama says he is aiming to send US astronauts into Mars orbit in the mid-2030s as he seeks to quell protests over his earlier space policies.

“By 2025 we expect new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first ever crew missions beyond the moon into deep space,” Obama told an audience at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

“So, we’ll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history. By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to earth, and a landing on Mars will follow.”

Obama, who was accompanied on his trip by astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the moon, vowed he was “100 per cent committed” to NASA’s mission as he sought to set a new course for future US space travel.

The US president was making a whirlwind trip to the heart of the US space industry after he was hit with stinging criticism for dropping the costly Constellation project which had aimed to put Americans back on the moon.

“We should attempt a return to the surface of the moon first, as previously planned. But I just have to say, pretty bluntly here, we’ve been there before. Buzz has been there,” Obama said.

“There’s a lot more of space to explore and a lot more to learn when we do,” the president said, as he unveiled a plan to increase NASA’s budget by $US6 billion ($6.4 billion) over the next five years.

His plan includes ramping up “robotic exploration of the solar system, including a probe of the sun’s atmosphere, new scouting missions to Mars and other destinations, and an advanced telescope to follow Hubble”, he said.

“As president, I believe that space exploration is not a luxury, it’s not an afterthought in America’s quest for a brighter future. It is an essential part of that quest,” he said at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

“I am 100 per cent committed to the mission of NASA and its future.”

Which is great. Back when George W Bush put forward his space project, the feeling was overwhelmingly, “why are we going back to the moon? Why are we wasting our money re-doing that trip?” At least this plan makes sense.

That being said I do sort of wonder what he means by “…new spacecraft designed…” The beauty of the Mars Direct plan is that it doesn’t really need too much new in the way of new spacecraft.

Leave a comment

Filed under General, Science, Space