Archive for the 'Politics' Category

52/30/5 Week 38

October 16th, 2009

The photos for week 38 were taken in central Canberra.


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I was mainly focusing on public sculpture around the Civic area. A strange bird statue on top of a poster stand:

Bird on Posters

Some grafitti that appears to be taken from Where the Wild Things Are:

Wild Graffiti

A metal sheep:

Metal Sheep

Another more abstract sculpture:

Sculpture

And a building that has a few Government departments in it, including the Department of Resources Energy and Tourism:

DRET Building

The full set can be found on Flickr.


52/30/5 Week 6

February 22nd, 2009

Week 6 takes us to Black Mountain Peninsula.


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An interesting looking tree:

Lake tree

Some benches:

Benches

Australia’s Parliament House on the other side of the lake:

Parliament House

After that we moved on to Mt Ainslie.


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Canberra Airport, which is quite close to the mountain:

Airport

And a railing to the lookup at the top:

Railing

As always, find the full set on Flickr.


Hillary versus Obama: The continuing saga

February 12th, 2008

I honestly thought we’d be done by now…

Wasn’t Super Tuesday going to be the killer blow for the Democrats?

Well, I suppose it’s almost over for the Republicans, although John McCain really could still lose it from here.

But Hillary versus Obama, that’s going to be with us for a while.

I don’t have a brilliant idea about who’s going to win. I think it comes down to whether the American electorate is more sexist or racist.

That’s a pretty close call, so it’ll be interesting to see.

My guess is that Obama will win the day. But at least it’s a fun battle to watch. And whichever way the Democrats go, I think they’re looking pretty good for November.


Why can’t we all just get along.

January 6th, 2008

In case you hadn’t noticed, the TV and film writers in the US are on strike. It’s been about 9 weeks now since they went on strike in November.

The economics side of this is the question of ‘why’? The standard theory suggests that you should never see strikes, because the simple threat of one should be all that the unions need in order to achieve the best outcome they could. What this ignores is the problem of asymmetric information – not everyone knows the same pieces of information, and some (like how committed the membership of the union is to the strike) are very hard for any side to know perfectly.

But even given that history, strikes in Hollywood tend to be long and vicious. I think that’s probably because the studios can stockpile a lot of finished product, especially in film, and that protects them from the immediate economic consequences. It’s probably also because the personality factors are going to be exaggerated in the environment they all live and work in.

So what are they fighting for?

They’re ultimately fighting over who gets a piece of the pie, and who gets to be treated as a hired player. There’s a strange line drawn in business between the people who are entitled to a share of the profits they create (authors, hedge fund managers), and those who are simple employees who have no rights to a share of profits.

Writers are currently in the first group, getting a (small) share of the profits that come from DVD, video and TV screenings of the things they write. The studios would like to put them into the first group.

Who’s right? It’s hard to say.

The best economic answer to the question of whether you should get a share comes down to bargaining power, and in particular of whether your characteristics (be they creative or simple marquee value) will boost the project more than the next available worker. In Hollywood some writers clearly have that cachet, and some do not. But they all bargain together, and so the value of the top writers gets pushed down to the whole pool to some extent.

So the pure answer would be ‘if they’ll give it to you, then you deserve it’.

Hence the strike.

I just wish they’d get back to it. I’m starting to miss TV, and I’ve finished half my computer game pile…


The Coming Storm

July 23rd, 2007

Sometime in the next six months there will be a Federal election in Australia.

Between now and then, expect things to get a little nutty.

I’m sure that some might argue that we’re seeing it already: terrorist plots on the Gold Coast, hysteria over changes to industrial relations, pointless name calling over cimate change, and above all endless personal attacks.

But mark my words – this is nothing compared to how it’s going to get. John Howard’s options for calling the election are getting pretty slim now. In particular, there’s now pretty much no way to have before the 13th of October.

In case the number doesn’t spring easily to mind, that’s 82 days. Now the election may get called a bit after that (especially if the polls don’t look good). But at 82 days we’re already looking at a campaign a full fortnight longer than the 10 week campaign of 1984. But every day between today and the eventual election is being treated as a precious resource by both the Government and the opposition.

The net result for the general public is that we’re going to get far more politics than we want. A good example is the current fuss over every single polling result, where the opinion polls are getting tremendous amounts of attention every single release. Which, given that opinion polls are volatile, and this far out from an election effectively meaningless, leaves a lot of journalists trying to fill a lot of space with very little information.

The politicians are just as responsible, of course, with a compressed schedule causing each new issue to be elevated to the highest level. This ‘hurry up’ poltics means that issues get left behind as the press and political pack moves on to the next issue of the day.

So the level of political silliness on display is reaching new records for Australia. And we still have APEC to look forward to, as well as the actual official campaign.

It’s going to be a very long few months.


Is the US more sexist or racist

April 1st, 2007

The US presidential nomination season seems to be starting really early this year. Mainly due, of course,

to the fact that over half the primaries (by votes) will happen by the first week of February.

So far the race on the Democrat side is down to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Neither of them is

a ‘typical’ candidate – one is a woman, and one is black. Which has led me to speculate a few times

about which one of those two has the smallest disadvantage. Or, to put it another way, is the United

States more sexist or more racist?

A friend of mine pointed out another good way of thinking about it on these lines – which Star Trek

captain was accepted more easily? The black captain (Sisko, in Deep Space 9), or the female captain

(Janeway, in Voyager). For those of you who aren’t Star Trek nerds, the answer is that the black

captain was far less controversial at the time.

To be more scientific, a recent Gallup poll found that

women and african americans were equally palatable (around 60%) as a president. Interestingly, though,

Republican voters were far more likely to vote for an african american than a woman (67 to 54). And

another recent poll looking at the head-to-head

support of Clinton and Obama is also interesting: Obama’s race was a reason to prefer Clinton for only

2 per cent of those who chose Clinton over Obama, but 7 per cent of those who chose Obama over Clinton

mentioned her gender as a reason.

My personal guess is that the sexism overrides the racism, and so I expect that Obama will win

the nomination. But it’ll be an interesting race to follow.


The best eight word summary of the Iraq war plan

February 15th, 2007

The US National Security Archive (not an official body)

has just obtained the PowerPoint briefing on the Iraq war plan from 2002.

There’s lots of great stuff in this, but I was particularly struck by one sentence from the

second slide in the pack

Thinking “outside the box”, but “inside a compartment”

When they come to write the book on this war, that should be the title…


What the???!!!

January 16th, 2007

Via Washington Monthly is this unbelievably strange story in the Guardian:

Britain and France talked about a “union” in the 1950s, even discussing the possibility of the Queen becoming the French head of state, it was reported today.

[…]

When Mr Mollet’s request for a union failed, he quickly responded with another plan – that France be allowed to join the British commonwealth – which was said to have been met more warmly by Sir Anthony.

What the hell? Strangest thing I’ve seen in months.


Stupid, stupid policy

January 8th, 2007

From ABC News is this brain dead bit of policy:

Australian Young Labor is calling on the ALP to adopt a policy of not taxing people under 18.

Young Labor president Sam Crosby says it is unfair that those aged under 18 have to pay tax even though they cannot vote.

OK, let’s ignore the ‘taxing people under 18’ bit. Let’s just think about the ‘cannot vote’ thing and what that implies:

  • only citizens have to pay taxes;

  • people who don’t pay tax can’t vote; and

  • people who don’t live in Australia don’t have to pay tax.

Stupid, stupid justification for the policy. If you’re going to advocate new policy (and it’s an idea interesting enough to debate), please don’t try to justify it using this fairness argument that a 3-year-old could see through.


Year of the Election

January 8th, 2007

2007 will be, almost certainly, the year we see the next Federal Election.

According to the timetable published by the AEC the election has to occur between 4 August 2007 and 19 January 2008. A double dissolution can occur any time, but those are the only dates that avoid a half-senate election too, something we can be pretty certain no one wants to see1.

There’s never been an election in January, so we can safely rule it out. Since 1950 there’ve been none in August or September, 4 in October, 4 in November and 5 in December (none later than 13 December). So we’re now down to 10 possible dates. My guess would be that the PM might call an election shortly after APEC ends on September 9. The minimum time between issue of writs and the election is 33 days, which would put the election on October 13 or 20, probably more likely the 20th, which would require the PM to call the election by Monday 17 September.


  1. The last half-senate election was held in 1970, and resulted in severe losses for the Government of the time.