Posts categorised ‘News and Politics’

“Freedom Day”

It’s “freedom day” in Melbourne today – after something like four months in lockdown, we no longer are. From what I’ve seen, a lot of people actually held or attended midnight parties (of no more than 10 people indoors or 15 outdoors, as per the new rules, I hope 😜) to celebrate the milestone, but Viv and I are clearly old and we were asleep at the time 🤣

I have mixed …

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Link: “One percent of the world’s population accounts for more than half of flying emissions”

Original post found at: https://www.lunduniversity.lu.se/article/one-percent-worlds-population-accounts-more-half-flying-emissions

I can’t say I’m surprised; it’s always seemed like those to blame for aviation-related emissions are not really ordinary people who jet off for the occasional holiday,1 but business travellers who fly multiple times a week (and as this article says, especially those with private planes).

Of course, I think wherever possible, high-speed trains should be used ins­tead of planes, being considerably less polluting as well as way more pleasant to travel on. Australia could eliminate the need for sooooo much flying if we had a high-speed line connecting every city from Adelaide around to Bris­bane. But not everywhere is easily accessible without flying (think about islands, or relatively isolated cities like Perth…). Sometimes I see “environmentalists” online basically arguing to abolish aviation, but it’s not really a huge problem if people occasionally take a long-haul flight, or a flight to one of these isolated/island places. The bulk of the emissions are from frequent flyers, who are predominantly concentrated on short-haul routes like Mel­bourne-Syd­ney that could easily be replaced with trains.

  1. Although note, the article also says that only 11% of the world’s population flew at all in 2018 (as a representative, recent pre-Covid year), so this definition of “ordinary people” is definitely skewed towards the “ordinary people” of relatively affluent, developed countries. But still. ↩︎

Link: “Lift the minimum wage and employment still rises? How to anger the establishment and win a Nobel Prize”

Original post found at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-13/nobel-prize-in-economics-2021-david-card-minimum-wage/100531994

Quite an article. By observing and comparing fast food joints in neighbouring areas in Pennsylvania and New Jersey when the latter increased the minimum wage in the 1990s, two economists found that raising the minimum wage did not increase unemployment – in fact, if anything it did the opposite. In so doing, they incurred the wrath of “mainstream economists” who were incensed to have experimental data disproving their irrationally-held article of faith that higher wages somehow raise unemployment 😆

As an aside, I’ve never understood how economists have ever been able to get away with claiming that lower wages = more jobs… employers don’t hire people just because they have room in the budget, because that’d be lost profit! They only ever hire (or schedule) the absolute bare minimum of people who are required for the amount of work that needs to get done. cf. when penalty rates were cut here a few years ago – workers did not get any more shifts to compensate for those lost wages; all the money companies no longer had to pay in penalty rates went straight to their profits. TBH literally every single time one of those talking monkeys from the small business council or whatever rattles off these dishonest talking points I would like journalists to take them to task over it.

Link: “The world’s ‘most liveable city’ title isn’t a measure of the things most of us actually care about”

Original post found at: https://theconversation.com/the-worlds-most-liveable-city-title-isnt-a-measure-of-the-things-most-of-us-actually-care-about-101525

…the tool was actually designed to help companies decide how much “hardship” allowance they would need to pay employees who relocate. So, The Economist suggests that none of the top cities – including Melbourne, Vienna and other Australian cities – need a hardship allowance at all. But it recommends a 20% allowance for cities at the bottom of the ranking like Port Moresby, Tripoli and Karachi.

Despite the hype, the Global Liveability Index focuses on things that matter to expats, not citizens. This is different to what is important to the average person living in Vienna, Melbourne or any other city – such as housing affordability, walkability, access to public transport and education, and the number of bike paths.

With (some) Melburnians today indignant that we’ve been beaten in this year’s rankings by cities like Adelaide, Perth and Auckland, it seems like a good time to remind ourselves that these stupid “liveability” rankings are designed only to rank the lifestyles of ultra-wealthy expatriates, and not normal city residents. This is why, for example, they assess only private schools and not public ones, or why they only evaluate the infrastructure in inner-city/rich-people areas. I would be very happy never to hear about this list again 😛

Link: “A Prayer for Our Next COVID Era”

Original post found at: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/10/covid-serenity-prayer/620343/

For me, the key take-home messages in this article and this other one that it links to(external link) are these:

  • The rate of break-through infections in fully vaccinated people is about 0.2%, or 1 in 5001
  • The chance that a break-through infection will require hospitalisation is about 4%
  • The chance that someone will die from a break-through infection is about 1%
  • If fully vaccinated, your risk of a Covid-19 infection developing into “Long Covid” seems to be halved, to about 10%

The article is also very big on individual measures you can take to reduce your personal risk, like masking up, avoiding large social gatherings, etc.. It also makes the remark that people who are sick should stay home and there needs to be more social support (like paid sick leave) to enable that to happen, and that realistically this should have been in place long before the pandemic, which is totally true. But overall it’s definitely pushing the “open up faster sooner, and if you’re scared, you take precautions” line, which I find unsatisfying, because the laziness of indifferent people affects others. I would like to see our vaccination rate much higher before I would really feel comfortable, like 90%+ of everybody (not just those aged 16+, and why are we even measuring our vaccination rate by only those aged 16+?).

See, what the article does not really go into, which is a very big concern for us here in Australia, is the health system’s capacity to cope with ongoing infections in unvaccinated people (which, after all, currently includes many disabled people who our government deprioritised for vaccination(external link), everyone under the age of 12, and 12–15 year olds haven’t been eligible for long enough to be fully vaccinated yet either). After years on end of “efficiency dividends”, our hospital system was basically running at 100%+ capacity at all times even before the pandemic – you can see the crisis at work in states like WA and SA which are virtually Covid-free, and still seeing ambulances ramping for hours and hours because there are zero beds available in emergency rooms. If we reopen now, yeah my personal risk of contracting Covid and needing hospitalisation is extremely low because I’m doub­le-vac­cin­at­ed (two weeks since my second dose today, baby!). However, if a fucking car runs a red light and mows me down while I’m walking to the supermarket, will a local hospital actually have a bed to treat me or will they all be occupied by Covid patients?

  1. The Atlantic article describes the rate as 1 in 5,000, but then goes on to say that the risk of hospitalisation is 0.008%, which sounds off because that’d mean a full 40% of break-through infections require hospitalisation. (Now, it could well be that 40% of all break-through infections that the CDC knows about require hospitalisation…) At any rate, the NIH article linked to from the Atlantic article instead describes the rate of break-through infections as 0.2%. ↩︎

Link: “Robert Menzies wouldn’t recognise the Liberal Party's employment policies today”

Original post found at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-03/robert-menzies-wouldnt-recognise-the-liberal-partys-policies/100509358

I’m no fan of Menzies, nor of the Liberal Party. But it’s always worth noting how things we take for granted today as “sad facts of life” like high unemployment, insecure work, low taxes = inadequate funding for the public services we depend upon like healthcare, education and infrastructure, were simply not taken for granted at all prior to 1975. The Overton window has shrunk so much that not even the so-called progressive parties are willing to challenge this orthodoxy now, and yet two generations ago it was the right-wing party presiding over an economic system that’d be denounced as loony left fantasism today! (Also, the right-wing party actually believed in and funded science at that time, too.) Australia in the 1950s was plagued by many other social ills (nationalism, racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, etc.) but it’s not like the manifestly better economic policies we had then were predicated on that bigotry. And it’s depressing that, as inadequate as those policies were (many marginalised people slipping through the cracks), they were still so much better than what we have now.

Link: “Was Julie Amero wrongly convicted?”

Original post found at: https://www.theregister.com/2007/02/14/julie_amero_case/

There are few things scarier than the intersection of technology and legal proceedings… and this case from the mid-2000s illustrates why. A substitute teacher was convicted of “impairing the morals of a child” because a mal­ware-­rid­den, non-updated school computer started spouting porn pop-ups during a seventh-grade English class 🤯 Apparently the defence was not allowed to point out that it was malware, either, because they missed some deadline for notifying the court that that was their defence. Then the prosecution bamboozled the jury with “expert witnesses” who had NFI what they were talking about. Worth noting that according to Wikipedia(external link), even once a higher court threw out her conviction, she was still pressured into taking a plea deal for “disorderly conduct” and required to give up her teaching licence…

Link: “Women Casual Sex Studies”

Original post found at: https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2014/02/62017/theory-of-hookups

While evolutionary psychology suggests that women pass on casual sex due to an inherent lack of sexual desire, Conley says there’s an entirely different reason. She posits that women say “thanks, but no thanks” for fear of being judged. She also says that women have serious reservations about whether a one-night stand would be enjoyable with a new partner. She tries to explain to men, “The reason women are turning you down for casual sex seems to be that, for one thing, a lot of you are calling them sluts afterward.” Also, “A lot of you aren’t bothering to try to be good in bed.” Preach.

Link: “Public Housing For All”

Original post found at: https://www.noemamag.com/public-housing-for-all/

I have long thought that public housing for all is the only way, long-term, to ensure a decent standard of living for all while current economic trends (automation, etc.) continue on their current trajectory. And similar to other “welfare state” features, like public healthcare – the best way to ensure it’ll be high-quality is to make it something rich people use, too 😊

Link: “Larrikins, bogans and bullshit artists: is Australia ripe for a blue-collar revolution?”

Original post found at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/sep/18/larrikins-bogans-and-bullshit-artists-is-australia-ripe-for-a-blue-collar-revolution

A reasonable demonstration of the dead-endedness of small-l liberal “progressive” politics, imo. Like many other social democratic parties around the world, the ALP has abandoned all notion of the working class, wealth redistribution, or economic justice. And it’s definitely A Thing that university-educated progressives have a real distaste for everything “bogan” (I have to try to resist that instinct, myself!). The Coalition are a bunch of con artists and grifters who are no more real bogans than they are in politics out of a genuine interest in the public good, but that doesn’t change the fact that Labor has basically abandoned them. We need a real working-class progressive movement, like the Victorian Socialists perhaps.

a cartoony avatar of Jessica Smith is a left-wing feminist who loves animals, books, gaming, and cooking; she’s also very interested in linguistics, history, technology and society.