Saturday, 21 April 2018

Australian economist John Quiggin on "Hackery or Heresy" with an endorsement from Paul Krugman plus other news and views

Hackery or Heresy - John Quiggin in Crooked Timber
There was a time when free-market economists like Milton Friedman saw defense spending as the exemplar of the rent-seeking “iron triangle” (interest groups, bureaucrats and politicians) ensuring that public expenditure is always wasteful. I Don’t suppose that Boskin and the rest have looked at the evidence and concluded that Friedman was wrong. Rather they’ve correctly calculated that heresy on defense spending would see them cast into the outer darkness of irrelevance.

The Chinese Communist Party Is Setting Up Cells at Universities Across America - Foreign Policy

It’s a strategy to tighten ideological control. And it’s happening around the world.
Amid Backlash, Natalie Portman Says She Can Protest Netanyahu Policies Without Boycotting Israel - Haaretz

'The mistreatment of those suffering from today's atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values. Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality and abuse of power.'

Republicans Now Believe James Comey Used the Pee Tape to Set a Trap for Trump - New York Magazine
What if Trump, an innocent family business operator, na├»ve to the ways of Washington, had been accosted by a scheming, predatory deep state operator? And what if Comey’s firing was a defensive measure against his nefarious trap? This is the scenario Trump’s defenders now envision, and have laid out in columns by The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway and the Washington Examiner’s Byron York. 
Ramaphosa calls for calm in Mahikeng - SABC News
President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged residents of Mahikeng in the North West to remain calm. This as violent protests have engulfed the town, as residents call for Premier Supra Mahumaphelo to resign.
Speaking to the media after calling an urgent meeting of the ANC leadership to address the violence, Ramaphosa has given the assurance that the issues of the North West will be dealt with the urgency that they deserve.
“I want to assure everyone that we are going to act speedily on this matter. We are not able to give the exact time-frame now, but we are going to act as speedily as possible to address each of the issues that have been raised with us.”
The President gave indications that the party will consult various stakeholders before pronouncing on Mahumaphelo.
A Debt Crisis Seems To Have Come Out Of Nowhere - NPR
It's a problem that has come seemingly out of nowhere. Over the last five years a worrisome number of low-income countries have racked up so much debt they are now at high risk of being unable to pay it back — with potentially devastating consequences not just for their economies but for their citizens, many of whom are already living in extreme poverty.
That's the sobering finding of a report by the IMF. And it's got some prominent experts calling for urgent action.

What the papers reckon 21 April 2018 - comment from Australia and abroad

The new Vietnamese - Houston Chronicle, USA

If Trump truly wants to help the people of Syria, he has an option that can bring more safety and healing than any military armament. He can address the country’s refugee crisis and resettle families here. Texas specifically has a long history of welcoming refugees from many conflicts and has benefited from the contributions these displaced families bring. ... The United States has a checkered history with coming to the aid of the world’s refugees, especially during those times when Americans embraced the kind of isolationism that Trump has promoted. But to see an example of a successful refugee resettlement effort, Houstonians need to look no further than our own Vietnamese-American neighborhoods.

Net gain for consumers - San Francisco, USA 

Sacramento isn’t the ideal perch for regulating the Internet. Then again, neither is Boise, Idaho, or Lincoln, Neb. Lawmakers in these state capitals and more are nevertheless working on their own rules for a network that knows no state or national boundaries. It’s an unfortunate necessity given the federal government’s abdication of its more appropriate role in regulating online access. ... That would be a persuasive argument if the relevant federal regulations had not been dismantled at the behest of the same corporate interests. The emerging patchwork of state regulations being lamented by the industry is a direct result of its successful lobbying to undo FCC rules that applied nationwide. With online abuse and manipulation coming under ever more scrutiny, the federal retreat looks even more unacceptable in retrospect.

We Must Deal With the Nakba - Haaretz, Israel

Israel marked its 70th Independence Day Wednesday with a mixture of official ceremonies and open events. Israel has cause for celebration, and the joy was appropriate. But the festival can only be incomplete, so long as the state ignores the feelings of around one-fifth of the population — the Arabs of Israel — and even attacks them over these feelings and attempts to prohibit them from expressing them publicly.

Syria crisis calls for clearer strategy - The Straits Times, Singapore

Last week’s missile attacks on Syria by the United States, Britain and France represented a coordinated response to the ruling regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons in Douma. ... The targeted action was therefore both warranted and justifiable, given the horror of chemical attacks. ... The big question now is: What next? So far, the US has tried to both stay out of the Syrian civil war as well as stay in the fight against the Islamic State. Given the complexities of the West Asian situation, this is an enormous challenge. Russian and Iranian adventurism, the region’s longstanding fissures and terrorists’ ambitions mean that the West must have a clear, strategic plan to move forward. Shooting in the dark is not an option.

Zero tolerance for our culture of secrecy - The Advertiser, Adelaide

SECRECY is a deeply corrosive force in public life. If we are to properly organise ourselves as a state and make informed democratic decisions, we need access to the best and fullest information there is to bust through spin and get truth. It won’t end all disagreement and dispute, but will ensure we are arguing about the right things in the most enlightened way possible. On many measures, SA is now regularly held up as a case study for being the most secretive state in the nation. ... Today, The Advertiser continues its campaign focused on “Your Right to Know” that aims to open up the corridors of power and shine a much brighter light on what is being done by the powerful in your name. But, with a change of government, this must now move from rhetoric to reality.

Promoting summit - Moon holds timely meeting with media leaders - The Korea Times,

President Moon Jae-in held a meeting with CEOs of local media outlets Thursday at Cheong Wa Dae ahead of the April 27 inter-Korean summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
It was the first time for the President to host media CEOs at Cheong Wa Dae in 18 years. The last was on June 19, 2000, shortly after the first inter-Korean summit between former President Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il, the incumbent North Korean leader’s father.
The timely meeting reflects Moon’s willingness to exchange ideas with the media on the upcoming summit which is hugely different from the previous ones held in 2000 and 2007. The summit will take place at Panmunjeom, where the 1953 armistice was signed. Previous summits took place in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.
Calling the media a “partner” in the upcoming summit, President Moon asked for the media’s advice and cooperation in informing people within and outside Korea about the summit’s achievements.

Adieu, amazing Arsene - London Evening Standard

ARSENE Wenger is a revolutionary. He changed the nature of the Premier League. The difficult past few seasons should not obscure the reality that the Frenchman is one of the most important figures in English football history. When he arrived at Arsenal in 1996, the game was still stuck in a different age. Many people regard the creation of the Premier League as a watershed for the sport; arguably, Wenger’s arrival was the real turning point. ... The glamour of Wenger’s teams made for an attractive package. The English game became more outward looking because of the Arsenal manager. There were trophies, too. He took on the football powerhouses of Manchester and Liverpool and, for a spell, dominated them. Even in his supposed decline, Arsenal have continued to win trophies. Wenger’s greatness should never be doubted. London salutes you, and bids you adieu.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Does Scott Morrison real think voters are stupid? and other news and views

Does royal commission turncoat Scott Morrison really think the public is so dim? - Fairfax
As a clearly panicked Scott Morrison announced on Friday a stream of eye-watering new penalties for serious misconduct by banks and financial services firms, it’s instructive to look back at his zealous efforts over two years to protect the banks from a royal commission currently uncovering just that sort of misbehaviour.

Why is unemployment still so high - Inside Story
But the single biggest reason why high jobs growth has not reduced unemployment significantly is that it’s not meant to. It was touched on in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it paragraph in this week’s Treasury/Department of Home Affairs report, Shaping a Nation.

The report’s starting point and conclusion is that immigration is always good for us, whatever the circumstances. Yet in a paragraph that appears to have been missed by all the media reporting its findings, it notes:
Recent migrants accounted for two-thirds (64.5 per cent) of the approximately 850,000 net jobs created in the past five years. For full-time employment, the impact is even more pronounced, with recent migrants accounting for 72.4 per cent of new jobs created.
Let those numbers sink in. Almost two-thirds of all jobs created in the past five years have gone to recent migrants, leaving just over a third for Australian jobseekers. In round figures, that means that of the 850,000 net jobs created, 550,000 went to recent migrants, and only 300,000 — that’s 60,000 jobs a year — to Australians looking for work.

Rodrigo Duterte, Who Bristles at Foreign Critics, Has Begun Deporting Them - New York Times
President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who has chafed at overseas criticism of his strongman style since he was elected to office in 2016, has overseen the deportation or detention of two foreign critics in recent days, taking personal responsibility for the arrest of a 71-year-old Australian nun.
“It was not the military who arrested this nun, the Catholic nun from Australia,” Mr. Duterte told an audience of soldiers on Wednesday. “It was upon my orders, implemented by the Bureau of Immigration. And I take full responsibility, legal or otherwise, for this incident.”
Telegraph loses bid to sue Sydney Theatre Company over Rush defamation claim - Fairfax
A Federal Court judge has thrown out an attempt by The Daily Telegraph to bring court action against the Sydney Theatre Company for issuing a quote about actor Geoffrey Rush.
More people to sue state over sterilizations under eugenics law  - Japan Times
The government may soon face more lawsuits over the forced sterilization of people with disabilities as a group of lawyers said Friday that preparations are under way following the first such lawsuit, which was filed by a Miyagi woman earlier this year.
The group, led by lawyer Koji Niisato. said three or four people in Tokyo and in Hokkaido and Miyagi prefectures are planning to sue around mid-May for their sterilizations under the now-defunct eugenics protection law. They said more could follow because they plan to create a group covering victims nationwide by early June.

Singalong with Barnaby at home. The Owl salutes a legend

The government's worst fears about the banking Royal Commission are being realised

Grattan on Friday: Government's misjudgement on banking royal commission comes back to bite it

File 20180419 163991 1y4wm8w.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

In light of what is coming out the government should be ashamed of its past performance.
Flickr, CC BY-SA

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

If you are a politician, what do you do when your bad judgement – or worse – has been dramatically called out for all to see?

That’s the question which has faced the government as appalling behaviour by the Commonwealth Bank, AMP and Westpac has been revealed this week at the royal commission into misconduct in the banking, superannuation and financial services industry.

Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce went the full-monty confession. “In the past I argued against a Royal Commission into banking. I was wrong. What I have heard … so far is beyond disturbing”, he tweeted.

Joyce is now a backbencher, and free with his opinions. It’s another story with current ministers. They continue trying to score political points over Labor, which had been agitating for a royal commission long before it was set up.

The ministers claim the government laid down terms of reference that took the inquiry beyond what Labor was proposing. But although Labor never released terms of reference, it flagged in April 2016 a broad inquiry into “misconduct in the banking and financial services industry”.

The real difference between the government and the opposition was the emphasis on superannuation. While Labor’s inquiry would have covered it, the government wrote in a specific term of reference, hoping evidence about industry funds might embarrass the unions and therefore the ALP. The commission has yet to reach those funds.

Revenue Minister Kelly O'Dwyer, pressed about her refusal to admit the government had erred in opposing a commission, told the ABC on Thursday, “Initially, the government said that it didn’t feel that there was enough need for a royal commission. And we re-evaluated our position and we introduced one”.

Well, that’s the short version. In fact, the government was forced to drop its resistance when Nationals rebels threatened to revolt. Take a bow, Queensland Nationals backbenchers Barry O'Sullivan, George Christensen and Llew O'Brien. You did everyone a service.

Indeed, the Nationals were on the case of the banks very early. Nationals senator John “Wacka” Williams for years pursued the rorts, through Senate committee investigations.

The government’s resistance to the royal commission was bad enough but remember its earlier record on consumer protections in the financial services area.

When the Coalition came to power it was determined to weaken measures Labor had introduced. Eventually, it was thwarted by the Senate crossbench, with the upper house disallowing its changes.

Just why the government was so keen to shield an industry where wrongdoing had been obvious is not entirely clear. It appears to have been a mix of free market ideology, a let-the-buyer-beware philosophy, and some close ministerial ties with the banking sector.

In light of what is coming out, the government should be ashamed of its past performance.

This week, the commission heard about AMP, which provides a wide range of financial products and advice, charging for services it didn’t deliver, and deliberately misleading the regulator, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), about its behaviour. By week’s end, AMP Chief Executive Craig Meller had quit.

It also heard how the Commonwealth Bank’s financial planning business charged customers it knew had died, including in one case for more than a decade. Linda Elkins, from CBA’s wealth management arm Colonial First State, agreed with the proposition put to her that the CBA would “be the gold medallist if ASIC was handing out medals for fee for no service.”

A nurse told of the financial disaster after she and her husband, aspiring to set up a B&B, received advice from a Westpac financial planner, including to sell the family home.

Seasoned journalist Janine Perrett, who now works for Sky, tweeted, “I thought nothing could shock me anymore, but in my forty years as a journo, most of it covering business, I have never seen anything as appalling as what we are witnessing at the banking RC. And I covered the 80’s crooks including Bond and Skase.”

The commission’s interim report is due September 30 and its final report by February 1, not long before the expected time of the election. There is speculation over whether the reporting date will be extended. Bill Shorten says the inquiry should be given longer if needed; Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has indicated the government would do what Commissioner Kenneth Hayne wanted.

Those in the government who think the original timetable should be adequate note that, unlike for example the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, this inquiry is not undertaking deep dives into everything, but exposing the general problems.

From the opposition’s point of view, it would be desirable for the inquiry to run on. That would keep the banks a live debate, and leave it for Labor, if elected, to deal with the commission’s outcome. Shorten is already paving the way for a compensation scheme financed by the industry. Given the poisonous unpopularity of the banks, the Coalition could hardly run a scare about what a Shorten government might do.

Ideally, the government needs the issue squared away before the election.

The government insists it has already put in train a good deal to clean up the industry including a one-stop-shop for complaints, higher standards for financial advisers, beefing up ASIC, and a tougher penalty regime.

Treasurer Scott Morrison and O'Dwyer on Friday announced the detail of hefty new penalties for corporate and financial misconduct, including ASIC being able to ban people from the financial services sector.

One argument the government made against a royal commission was that it would just delay action. But of course if it had been held much earlier, by now we might have in place a full suite of reforms.

The ConversationMost immediately, the shocking stories from the commission are adding to the government’s problems in trying to sell its company tax cuts for big business to key crossbench senators and to the public.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

What the papers reckon 20 April 2018 - comment from Australia and abroad

A Higher Sanctimony - The Wall Street Journal, USA

Now comes Mr. Comey’s memoir, “A Higher Loyalty,” which is an attempt at revenge and vindication. With the help of special counsel Robert Mueller, Mr. Comey may succeed at the former. He fails utterly at the latter. The main lesson from Mr. Comey’s book is that Mr. Trump’s abuse of political norms has driven his enemies to violate norms themselves.
The most notable fact in the book is how little we learn that is new about Mr. Trump. The tales of Mr. Comey’s meetings with the President were leaked long ago, and on the specific facts they are plausible. Mr. Trump is preoccupied with his critics and the validation of his presidential victory. He is clueless that his bullying and flattery would repel Mr. Comey, who thinks of himself as Eliot Ness as written by David Mamet in “The Untouchables.”
The book mainly adds Mr. Comey’s moral and aesthetic contempt for Mr. Trump. This may be catnip for the press, but it isn’t new and doesn’t amount to an impeachable offense. Mr. Comey’s comparison of Mr. Trump to a “mafia” boss is hilariously overstated. Don’t they call it “organized” crime? And what about that code of silence known as omerta? The Trump White House can’t keep anything secret.

Privacy laws should apply to parties, too - The Globe and Mail, Canada

On Tuesday, backbench Liberal MP Frank Baylis described Canada’s current legal framework governing online platforms like Facebook as the “Wild West.” He’s right. … But at the same time, there is also nothing to control how Canadian political parties collect and use the vast amounts of data they gather to target, sway and mobilize voters. The good news is there is a simple solution to that particular problem. Both Liberal and Conservative members of the Commons privacy committee expressed support this week for calls to subject political parties to federal privacy laws. That’s a good idea. Making parties play by the same datacollection and protection rules as banks and airlines – and subjecting them to the possibility of being investigated by the privacy commissioner’s office – holds both practical and symbolic value.

Costly failure - Daily Mirror, London

WORKERS being an average £1,773 a year worse off by 2021 underlines how Tory austerity is hitting living standards.Falling wage growth and relatively high inflation, before we even include benefit cuts, are eating into household budgets, cheating those in work as well as out of it.
Conservative claims that the real value of pay packets is finally rising are not true when matched against Retail Prices Index inflation, which includes housing costs.
Tory austerity has failed, the so-called longterm economic plan has failed and the longest squeeze in wages in history is failing workers.

Responsibility lies with Chief - NT News, Darwin

ENSURING the implementation of the fracking recommendations are followed to the letter of law could make or break Chief Minister Michael Gunner’s political career.
The decision to lift the fracking moratorium was the right call for business which was desperate for a new injection of cash and jobs from a new industry.
But making the decision to allow fracking in the Territory also made Mr Gunner the face of the industry, whether it is positive or negative news.
Any environmental disaster which may come from any of the recommendations not being correctly carried out will have his name branded all over it.
Given fracking is such a divisive topic, any kind of failing in this area could be enough to turn voters who were not completely sold on the decision to turn.
It would also give another voice to the passionate anti-fracking lobbyists who held protests outside Parliament House this week and justify their concerns.

Protecting India - The Times of India 

In a significant defence reform, a new integrated institutional mechanism called the Defence Planning Committee has been set up under the chairmanship of the national security adviser. It is tasked with preparing a national military and security strategy, assessing external security risks and defining security priorities. ... Realisation seems to be finally dawning that defence preparedness isn’t solely about buying the most advanced aircraft or warship. It also entails strategic diplomacy and prudent resource allocation based on available financial capacity. The new committee should get all stakeholders in India’s defence to pull in one direction.

Welcome voices in Folau saga - The Press, New Zealand

At a time when rugby hierarchies around the world have been keeping their heads tamely beneath the parapet, it should come as no surprise that the first ones to break cover were a couple of halfbacks – a breed not best known for keeping their mouths shut. Brad Weber and TJ Perenara should be applauded for speaking up against Australian back Israel Folau’s view that God’s plan for homosexuals is that they are bound for hell unless they ‘‘repent of their sins’’.
Folau has every right to hold the opinions he does, however archaic they might be. But others have a right to reject them just as strongly. For too long, Folau’s employer, Rugby Australia, has been reluctant to take a stance on the issue, and many others in the game have been only too happy to follow its timorous lead.
So it is to the enormous credit of Weber and Perenara, along with respected referee Nigel Owens, that they have been willing to add their voices to the debate

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Singalong to a summary of the Australian banking Royal Commission

For the AMP's Jack Regan and the CBA's Marianne (Gold, gold, gold) Perkovic this seems to say it all: