Monday, October 31, 2011

Getting real about Kings Cross nightlife

Police arrest a male in Roslyn St after he randomly
smashed his bag into a passing girl and
knocked her over, according to a witness. (File pic)
There seems to be a new wind blowing in Sydney, and it's a pleasant one. Good street art is staying on walls longer, new live venues are proliferating, and this: After years of we locals saying the best solution to violence in Kings Cross (or anywhere) is to arrest the thugs, not shut the place down, it seems that's what's happening:

I've reported on this as it developed, and while the move seems to be a good one, there are reservations about privatising policing. We'll see how it travels.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hard data backing the Occupy Wall Street movement in Australia

The following is my paraphrase of an analysis by Andrew Cornell that appears in today's Australian Financial Review, Perspective section, page 50 under the headline 'Arab Spring, American Fall'. As the AFR paywalls its website I can't link directly to the full story. But given the shrill, near-moronic critiques of the Occupy Wall Street movement coming from conservative apologists for the rich, I thought it important to spread this information. 
A parallel can be argued between the cosying-up of right-wing shock-jock Alan Jones with Greens Leader Bob Brown over coal-seam gas, and traits shared between the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement and the Tea Party in the US. While both movements are political opposites, they are both internally contradictory and unfocused, but so was the Arab Spring a year ago, showing that is no barrier to effectiveness.

Australia’s OWS movement might have less to complain about than its US parent but the distortion of executive remuneration at the expense of workers and shareholders (ie our superannuation) is a common cause.

Here, the annual general meeting of GUD Holdings has already seen its remuneration report voted down by shareholders, while Wesfarmers has been linking remuneration more strongly to performance targets and ANZ Banking Group’s Mike Smith has frozen executive salaries, recognising that “the market is on springs”.

The weak empirical data underpinning executive pay rises is causing anxiety among those who receive them and those who award them, two groups that are joined at the hip as demonstrated by Lucian Bebchuck and Jesse Fried’s Pay Without Performance: the Unfulfilled Promise of Executive Compensation. Harvard-qualified economist Diane Coyle uses orthodox economics to justify similar conclusions in her work The Economics of Enough.

When a shareholder raised OWS concerns about executive pay at Thursday’s Amcor AGM, chairman Chris Roberts responded with a flawed argument, urging the questioner to do some “serious study”, then referring him to an opinion piece by the rabid right that agreed with his views. But he ignored the rigorous works cited above, indicating it is perhaps he who needs to do some "serious study".

Ann Byrne, chief executive of the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, says the past ten years have been far better for CEOs of the top 100 companies than for investors when remuneration is compared to share value. Australian Bureau of Statistics data show wages equated to nearly 57 percent of economic output in 2001 but have now dropped to just under 37 percent.

Meanwhile, management typically looks at tightening labour conditions to make productivity gains without applying the same criteria to itself. But productivity is more closely linked to quality of management, concludes Roy Green, dean of the faculty of business at the University of Technology, in Management Matters in Australia: Just How Productive Are We? He notes Australia’s productivity has fallen since 2009 compared to OECD countries. Ernst & Young support this conclusion in the firm’s “Australian productivity pulse”.
And here's another interesting take from the God's politics blog:
"From 1973 to 1985, the financial sector peaked at 16 percent of domestic corporate profits. In the 1990s it reached postwar period highs by going between 21 and 30 percent. But this decade it hit 41 percent. These profits weren’t from products, and weren’t always from finding the best use for capital, but from money making more money for a new class of super-rich financial traders. And now, when their risk taking, greed, and selfishness created a mess for so many others, we bailed them out and left everyone else to suffer in the economic wilderness of unemployment, home foreclosures, pension losses, deep middle-class insecurity, and rising poverty rates."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Prohibition makes drugs easier for kids to get

Just as drug law reformers have been saying all along, these figures appear to show that prohibited cannabis is indeed easier for kids to get than legal and regulated alcohol. Medical consensus agrees that young teenagers are the most vulnerable to cannabis-related harms, so it seems that prohibitionists are responsible for an increased level of harm to kids. I hope they are proud.

From the Brisbane Courier Mail:
Alarming figures obtained by The Sunday Mail show almost 3500 charges laid against children aged between 10 and 15 over drug-related offences in the three years to June 2010, with a 26 per cent spike between 2009 and 2010.
In contrast, 1100 liquor offences by children in the same age range were recorded during the same period.
Police and health experts are worried children are increasingly taking a casual approach to drugs, especially dope, because it is cheaper and more accessible than grog. 

Monday, October 03, 2011

How conservatives equate free speech with telling lies

News Ltd columnist Andrew Bolt's recent conviction under the Racial Discrimination Act unleashed a perfect storm of conservative backlash which was remarkable in the similarity of its line from many different quarters. All of them relied on the same serious omissions and misinterpretations of the judgement, each commentator precisely mirroring Bolt's original crime. This has polarised the press, with News Ltd backing Bolt while other outlets report the judgement in a more balanced way. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott even wants to amend the Act to allow this sort of deception.

Typically the conservative commentators do not mention the serious errors of fact and distortions by Bolt that underpin the judgement. They all claim his free speech was curtailed ("gagged") because of political correctness and simply ignore that the judge explained this was not the case, because had the complaint been brought under defamation laws Bolt also would have lost.

The sheer scale of this misinformation will be effective because of the tremendous reach of Rupert Murdoch's press - he owns 70% of Australian titles. Many of his readers do not also read other more reputable titles and so will never hear the full story, with the result that voters, for instance in marginal seats in Sydney's western suburbs, are seriously misinformed on many issues News Ltd campaigns on, such as climate change. This has the power to tip elections and change history based on, effectively, lies.

Below is a typical defence of Bolt from the right, this one from Adam Creighton, a research fellow with the Centre for Independent Studies. I emailed Creighton pointing out his errors but he has not replied, apparently ignoring my analysis. Life would be so simple if you could just ignore inconvenient realities. But then that's the conservative outlook.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Rockin' friends at Toy's birthday

Rockin' at Danny's La Bussola

Toy & Mie

Mie, Toy and guest in the frame

Mie + Toy, mine hosts