31 January 2009
Can everybody just get it through their heads that the extent of systemic failure of the world's financial systems means that before we do anything, we need to take a deep breath and realise that simple answers to complex questions are invariably wrong.
One would hope that the world learned a lot from the Depression and you wouldn't do the same things again. So while I get a bit thing when I hear "we must not fall into protectionism", it's a correct thing to say. It's just that I've been hearing it a lot for the last 20 years.
However, we we may have learnt from the Depression the fact is that the global trade and financial architecture is very different now than it was in 1929. You can start with the establishment of the Bretton Woods institutions if you like but abandonment of the gold standard, floating of currencies and subsequent substantial liberalisation of trade and investment (both direct and indirect) have yielded an interconnected world unlike anything we've seen before (I think, anyway).
Economics is not a science and it barely qualifies as an art so the shrill (and online at least, offensive) objections to anything that Kevin Rudd and Barack Obama have done or might be thinking are off the mark by a long way.
Most people think their governments are there to do something for them and at times like this with jobs and savings being lost, that expectation rises and not unreasonably so.
In most cases whatever the question, the answer is somewhere in the middle so I doubt that all the Christmas handouts got spent at the pub, TAB and on the poker machines. Some would have, some would gone onto the mortgage, some would have paid off other debts, some on Christmas presents and some saved. Treasury would have done some numbers but - like I said - economics is not a science.
It may be populism for Barack Obama to lay into the Wall Street bosses for paying mega-bonuses even as the firms went under, but those multiples of ordinary wages were, like the price earnings multiples of many companies, patently unsustainable.
A government should be governing for the whole country and unless everyone was happy to head into a "let them eat cake" moment, when many Americans were working two and three jobs just to stay afloat and someone's on $20m a year - then something's got to give. It's just not feasible for any government to sit back and watch its society splinter so dramatically.
Right, what was my point? Governments need to act. There are various responses including cash handouts, repairing or building infrastructure as well as tax cuts. Each intervention has positive and negative aspects and no single aspect will solve the problem in either the short or long term.
The global capitalist system hasn't failed (IMHO) so I'm out of step with the PM on that at least it would seem but, inevitably in my view, the whole shebang got out of kilter. In any case, we've yet to see the whole article that the PM has written so flying off the handle at any excerpt seems a bit premature.
Self-regulation, "light" regulation, and abolition of regulation was eventually going to lead to the situation we now find ourselves in.
One specific area where the so-called "neo-liberal" model did fail was in infrastructure and that's where I would hope a good proportion of the restorative spending goes. Many of Australia's cities were growing too fast for infrastructure to be provided, let alone maintain was was already existing. Add to that the belief that there were markets for public goods and failure was inevitable. PPPs were too-clever-by-half ways for governments of all persuasions to attempt to provide infrastructure while abiding by the neoliberal holy grail of budget surpluses and triple-A ratings. How anybody ever expected that to work I don't know.
(end of rant)
No not quite: it'll take more than tax cuts, OK?
On another and far more pleasant subject, I am about to go and bottle the latest batch, a Coopers Australian Pale Ale. It seems to have fermented according to the book and the last batch (Coopers Canadian Blonde) ended up being a very drinkable brew indeed.
Here's to the global recovery, step by step!
30 January 2009
Well here's a song that had a good stompy break. Over Christmas I bought a CD of 60s Aussie hits and I reckon this might even be the standout track amongst them all, although it's got all the big names: Twilights; Masters Apprentices; The Groop; Ray Brown and the Whispers (they were one of my favourites in those days); Billy Thorpe; Somebody's Image; Lobby Loyde and on it goes. I reckon if you are of that generation you'll love to hear this again.
The go-go dancers were always in cages: why was that? Very subliminal (or maybe not so). Seems a bit creepy now.
Anyway, enough of da woids: enjoy!
I also lashed out on the first decent pair of speakers since 1986. They're Monitor Audio Silver RS6's. I've owned Monitor Audios before (MA3, see the link, these were monsters weighing 28kg each). Anyway it's great to have good sound again. And this track has lots of bass - good for stomping!
29 January 2009
Performed by rabbits.
As I've never been a big movie goer there weren't many where the cultural references made sense, but I'm sure all of you (hah! yes, all...) will find plenty.
If nothing else, it's an astoundingly weird concept.
Make sure you watch the 5 word haiku Webby award acceptance speech.
24 January 2009
Anyway Batman, to the Batads:
There is the new flavour of Ben 'n' Jerry's ice-cream: "Yes Pecan!"
Rival newspapers contained a simply worded advertisement for Veet, the hair removal company: "Goodbye Bush."
The advertising is bolstered with Obama-sounding slogans such as "Yes You Can" and "Choose Change", in a campaign with "a consistent theme of optimism that mirrors the current social climate". Last night, Pepsi denied any links with Obama, suggesting parallels were coincidental.
But if there is no particular reason for a brand to be connected to Obama, then people will see through that, and superficial marketing strategies don't work. They can backfire." That much was clear yesterday when the makers of the popular Beanie Babies dolls, Ty Inc was forced onto the back foot after Michelle Obama expressed her dissatisfaction at its promotion of two new dolls, named "Sweet Sasha" and "Marvelous Malia". Somewhat improbably, the company said yesterday the $9.99 dolls, introduced this month, are not supposed to refer to President Obama's daughters, seven-year-old Sasha and 10-year-old Malia.
More than improbable, I would dare to suggest. You know, I've often wondered whether I shouldn't have gone into advertising. You make lots of money and any vestige of intelligence certainly doesn't seem to be a prerequisite. It would have suited me down to the ground, I think.
Here in the good old 52nd State, we have Chrysler advertising its products with a "yes we can" theme and "(price) change you can believe in."
'scuse me, got to go brush up my CV.
Then again, it's just the youth branch of the Liberals trying to be clever so as to appear relevant to each other. I also particularly liked this:
"almost (note, almost) every President i can remember of the NSW YLs has been aHe must be in retail.
complete loser with no social skills. And Mr McCoy is a backstabbing arsehole anyway, so i wouldnt expect any less from him. "
All this is about the Young Libs' plan for a new version of national service - well actually petty slavery as the author of the above article quite rightly points out. So much for free enterprise and liberty, these evidently aren't core Liberal values any more (as if we should be surprised)any more.
Here's the story - born in Bondi, moved to the US (and seems to have picked up an accent very quickly), got recognition equally quickly, soon playing with rock and jazz greats such as Chick Corea and the Allman Brothers Band. (More here) .
Then got a gig backing Jeff Beck at the Crossroads Festival in 2007, a DVD of which I happened to acquire in a brown paper bag a couple of weeks ago.
Girls can do anything indeed. Will be interesting to watch her career - jazz bass players aren't usually the stuff of front page news.
22 January 2009
21 January 2009
You'll love this (via Bookforum): the role of violence in Canadian professional ice hockey. A very telling excerpt:
Last week, countless fans went online to defend fighting in the wake of news
stories about Sanderson's death. More than one dismissed violence-haters as "women," "Europeans," "weaklings" or "immigrants" who clearly don't "get" what
hockey's all about.
Honestly, where do you start with someone holding those sorts of views?And this from a commenter:
Get rid of the orchestrated, goon on goon fighting, and let fighting come about
naturally as it does in other sports.
20 January 2009
Down in the mouth
I was heartened to learn from the Australian Dental Association's newspaper
advertisement that "mouthwashes are proud of their long history of advancing oral health". Either my mouthwash is modest or it knows something the association does not. When I asked if it felt proud, it remained green and silent. I hope this isn't a case of pride coming before a fall.
Peter Campbell Potts Point
18 January 2009
Mouthwashes are proud of their long history of advancing oral health.So I went into the bathroom and said to the bottle of Listerine that it was time we had a deep and meaningful. Did it stand by the statement? Was there any evidence? Could a bottle of mouthwash actually demonstrate human characteristics even if, sadly, it was one of the seven deadly sins?
Rather disappointingly, and although I expended some time on this effort, I received no response from the Listerine. On reflection, I could not recall a single time when the Listerine has communicated with me, whether to defend its role in the maintenance of oral health at VVB or indeed to pass comment some other pressing issue, whether health-related or in some other field of endeavour. Even on such a fraught issue as the invasion of Iraq, the Listerine had kept it counsel.
You can imagine my frustration. However, it then occurred to me this was in fact the first time that, for my part, I had attempted any form of communication with a bottle of Listerine and it was probably an endeavour doomed to futility from the word go. Why hadn't I seen this coming?
My distress is acute and, in my hour of need, I can do nothing save blame the Sunday Mail for inducing such abnormal behaviour.
Stands to reason, doesn't it?
15 January 2009
It's all a little much to expect, though, innit? Go back to the first post: there will be no changing of this leopard's spots, whether considered or quite, quite, arbitrary.
That aside, anyone who can name a blog clusterfuck nation bears a little scrutiny, so I invite you to go ahead and scrute to your little heart's content. Note you are still singular, I just don't know which one of you you are, if you follow me.
Articles like Kunstler's can make you feel all superior if you so desire: apocalyptic visions tend to have that sort of effect, nicht war? But the more apocalyptic, the more unremitting the vision, the less force the argument has. Lots of the ideas seem eminently sensible: alternative energy sources, mix of energy, more local production, far less consumerist advertising (Madison Avenue references), re-learn self sufficiency skills and so on.
But the impact of technological advances is either ignored or treated as a 'bad': GMOs and so on. That's plain silly as any short gaze around your current environment will demonstrate. Technological advance does not need to be always equated with "growth at all costs."
The article and comments contain some interesting bons mots: the tattooed lumpenproletariat (and aren't there lots of THOSE about nowadays?); the people who are going to grow yams (they should do a little research first).
It's also very very American centric, although one commenter makes the point that most Americans don't understand that other countries and their citizens' lifestyles and ways of doing things are very different. I've never been to the States but I read that the media is very US-centric with little overseas news or programs that would allow people to better understand the rest of the world?
Anyway, give us your views on the apocalypse or not.
I came to that article via this blog that I have referenced previously. I don't know anything about architecture (but I know what I like, as the saying goes) but a couple of years ago I was involved in a project to do with regional and town planning. It was my introduction to the subject so I learnt a lot of very simple things very quickly, I got an earful (perhaps an eyeful is more appropriate) of contemporary thought and practice without gaining any deep appreciation of the basics. Very dangerous but fortunately my little part was not imbued with the risk of any dire consequences should I have got it not quite right. However my experience on that project did result in my interest in "Sit down man etc etc" and I find it a good occasional read (with nice pictures) and links to fabulously named blogs (with more nice pictures). These blog names: people's ingenuity always blows me away.
We have yet to succeed fully with the new AV gear. I have picture, I do not have sound. It has been suggested to me that the only thing standing between me and my understanding of the technology is my age, and what I need is a 14 year old boy, who will walk into the room, snort, twiddle some buttons and lo! there will be sound. I have been offered the loan of such an animal (and as we've had a male offspring pass through that age, we know all about them)
It's all very frustrating, fortunately we haven't finished all the Christmas wine yet. I also have a brew of ginger beer fermenting nicely downstairs. That's very old technology, but all will be well. I'll get some expert help with the sound.
Finally, while sorting papers downstairs I ran across a hard copy of a George Soros article printed in The Age in December 1998 as the world started to deal with and emerge from the Asian economic crisis. Some nicely selective excerpts:
"A key feature of fundamentalist beliefs is that they rely on either/or judgements. If a proposition is wrong, its opposite is claimed to be right. This logical incoherence lies at the heart of market fundamentalism. State intervention in the economy has always produced some negative results. This has been true not only of central planning but also of the welfare state and of Keynesian demand management. From this banal observation, market fundamentalists jump to a totally illogical conclusion: if state intervention is faulty, free markets must be perfect. Therefore, the state must not be allowed to intervene in the economy. It hardly needs pointing out that the logic of this argument is faulty."
"Market fundamentalism plays a crucial role in the global capitalist system. It provides the ideology that not only motivates many of the most successful participants but also drives policy."
"Another source of potential instability comes from the mutual funds. Fund managers are judged on the basis of their performance relative to other fund managers, not on the grounds of absolute performance."
"If the global capitalist system survives the present period of testing, this period will be followed by a period of further acceleration that will carry the system into far-from-equilibrium territory - if it is not there already."
Hmm, yep, that happened.
*Good for the economy - I'd never heard of it, rather apocalyptic isn't it? Appropriate for the post, then.
13 January 2009
12 January 2009
This must have been the busiest holiday season we've had for a while. Both offsprings were with us as well as some Brisbane friends for New Year's eve. Last week I spent in Brisbane doing stuff of different kinds including buying some new hi fi gear - whacko!
Actually, only whacko up to a point as I have signally failed to hook it all up so it does the things it's supposed to. As I complained to the bloke in the electronics shop on whose mercy I cast myself this arvo, you used to be able to buy a gramophone and all the wiring was on the inside. Now you have HDMI and optical video and optical audio and who knows what else and you have to set up the equipment, trying to follow instructions where the individual words are in English but their sequencing and arrangement are such that it may as well be Greek, and when you fo reckon you've figured it out and try to program the machine, it's all in some arcane menu formula so that you're never quite sure if the bloody thing has done what it was you thought you had programmed it to do.
We'll try again tomorrow but if still no luck, we'll have to swallow that stupid male pride that overcomes us every time we fail to perform some task which, although contemporary in nature, takes us right back to the ability to kill a marauding beast with our bare hands and drag it back to the cave to feed the family, and go and pay an expert to do it. If you don't think this is distressingly repugnant to us, you must be female. Or possibly Gen Y.
I did manage - eventually - to get the new speakers hooked up and they (Monitor Audio Silver RS6's) are just brilliant, even though I have just now read on some hi fi forums about their alleged shortcomings. I can't hear no damn shortcomings and I paid $400 under RRP, so I'm pretty pleased. Now if I can just get the bloody DVD to play through the receiver and onto the TV, I can listen to all the Pink Floyd/David Gilmour DVDs I have in glorious proper stereo with lots of bass and watch them doing it at the same time. And the Eric Clapton DVDs that were slipped to me in a brown paper bag last week, to the bemusement of my fellow coffeeholics.
And I can listen to tennis players grunting, shrieking and moaning their way through the Australian Open. Back in the days when they had gramophones, top ranked tennis players used to be able to play without all this audible exertion. Lazy buggers.
The economic slowdown/crisis/insert appropriate noun here hit the VVB family today as offspring no2 lost her job. That she had only got the quals to do in December. Fortunately she has a second string to the bow but it brings it home how deep the crisis is hitting.
And now it's all about confidence, I keep reading. Surely someone's got a truckload of that somewhere? I need it to help me get through
02 January 2009
No wait, let me start that again. To those of you who feel that...
Actually, that's not quite right either. On reflection, it's evident that when I say either "us" or "you", I actually mean "other people".
OK then. For those people who feel that the...etc etc etc...has resulted in too much choice, this article, (via Bookforum) while hardly a model of scientific method and you (no, I really mean "you" this time) get the feeling it's not really, utterly, completely serious....well you can read it for yourselves, eh?
The author delegates, or outsources, or actually renounces his ability to choose, a whole series of everyday decisions to a random bunch of strangers. He gets some predictable and some less predictable responses but it certainly seems to confirm the saying about always giving a new or urgent project to a busy person because they will always take it seriously and get it completed.
VVBSea has felt overwhelmed by choice for a quite some time now. Insurance, banks, at the supermarket...far too much of it all around. The size of the Australian economy seems to push us into only semi-competitive duopolies in any sector where major investments are a barrier to entry. Of course some government policy settings, ie the Trade Practices Act and how it gets interpreted, are also barriers to entry and it'd take someone else to discuss whether the TPA is the prime culprit.
Just to clarify the observation being made here, my principal objection is that too much choice is cost-shifting. I've usually got better things to do on my Saturdays than compare, say, medical insurance offerings. The offering companies go to immense lengths - of course - to obfuscate their offerings so that they can't be compared readily.
There are services I can use to help me make the decision. If they're free to the user, and therefore paid by the insurance companies, then often it seems that not all will subscribe so the service isn't comprehensive. If the consumer has to pay, then this consumer asks "why the bloody hell should I?" which, if nothing else, should tell you not to let me anywhere near a tourism advertising campaign: rather like these coves.