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Tuesday, 02 February

01:16

Where is all the US aid money in Afghanistan? Antony Loewenstein

My investigative feature in UAE newspaper The National:

The human cost of the Afghan war has been devastating. The United Nations estimates that at least 20,000 Afghan civilians have been killed since 2001 and violence is worsening across the country.

United States president Barack Obama, fearing an Iraq-style state collapse after withdrawing the bulk of US forces from there in 2011, has pledged to maintain an indefinite presence of 10,000 soldiers, tens of thousands of contractors (the Pentagon claims up to 30,000) and an unknown number of special forces. Foreign occupation is seemingly permanent.

Former head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and commander of US special operations command, General David Petraeus, argued in a recent Washington Post opinion piece that Washington should step up its bombing campaign to halt a resurgent Taliban. There’s no evidence that this failed strategy, advanced in Iraq and Afghanistan over more than a decade, would be any more successful this time.

Afghan resources, estimated to be worth billions of dollars, have provided very little money to the general population.

During my time in Afghanistan last year whilst investigating the mineral, oil and gas industries, I witnessed the suffering of local people around proposed mining sites, such as Mes Aynak in Logar province. They were kicked off their lands, without jobs, and were attacked by the Taliban, ISIL and the Afghan military.

Countless western and Afghan corporations have made a killing in the country since 2001, often replacing functions once undertaken by the state, and with little accountability. This policy has been pursued by both the Bush and Obama administrations.

A 2010 US Congressional report, Warlord, Inc, found that the U...

00:18

Are we in the first years of a global tax war? North Coast Voices


Tax evasion and avoidance has been called a trillion dollar evil and right now in Australia the corporate fight-back has begun as big business and wealthy individuals decide that they want to hold on to every single dollar of their share of this trillion.

Expect a national public relations campaign explaining why business and industry pay their fair share of Australian taxes if the Tax Advisory Panel (and the industry sectors it represents) gets its wish.

I suspect that they are all watching what is going down in Europe with a great deal of interest……..

Financial Times UK, 27 January 2016:

The uproar about Google paying £130m in back taxes and raising the amount it pays in the UK by just £10m a year is merely a little local difficulty compared with what comes next. ...

00:16

Will Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull explain to voters why it has only been Mal Brough who has stood aside from his ministerial position during this Australian Federal Police investigation? North Coast Voices


Liberal-National Party MP for Longman Wyatt Roy has been federal Assistant Minister for Innovation since 21 September 2015.

It has been alleged that he is a parliamentarian who sometime in 2012 (along with Mal Brough) requested a member of the Speaker’s staff, James Ashby, to make a copy of sections of then Independent MP for Fisher and Speaker of the House of Representatives Peter Slipper’s official diary for a political purpose.

In 2013 Peter Slipper lost his seat and Mal Brough was elected to federal parliament as the Member for Fisher.

In September 2015 Mal Brough (along with Liberal MP for Stuart and now Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science  Christopher Pyne & Wyatt Roy) supported the sacking of Tony Abbott as prime minister and the installation of Malcolm Turnbull in his place

...

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Monday, 01 February

23:24

The ploys are back in town as Parliament resumes Drag0nista's Blog

The first stanza of this election year will be characterised by political parties trialling election strategies to see which have traction with voters and which are a waste of precious campaign funds.

18:11

Family violence and the middle class part two No Place For Sheep

  Yesterday’s post on family violence and the middle class drew some criticism, in one instance culminating in me being described as a troll, and my point of view as “stupid, sigh” by the male who didn’t agree with it, or the fact that I wouldn’t back down from it. I find that patronising sigh […]

17:30

Forget the NBN! What Australia needs is a new palace for Lord Malcolm Independent Australia

Forget the NBN! What Australia needs is a new palace for Lord MalcolmDon't worry about the GST, or Ashbygate, or the Coalition wrecking the NBN and then gagging the ABC, what Australia really needs to talk about is building a new lakeside mansion for PM Turnbull. read now...

16:56

Treasury stuffs up … again Catallaxy Files

Here we go again – another edition of the complete load of drivel, the Tax Expenditure Statement.  I had thought that new Treasury Secretary, John Fraser, might have devoted some energy to cleaning up this appalling and misleading document, but no.

And this is notwithstanding a Parliamentary Committee looking into the way in which the tax expenditures associated with superannuation tax concessions are estimated and the majority of the submissions calling for a change (to using the GST as the benchmark), it is same old, same old.

But there is a twist.  The delta between the 2014 statement and the 2015 statement on the figures related to the estimates of the tax expenditures associated with the concessional taxation of superannuation entity earnings are just extraordinary.

Last year, the TE for 2016-17 was $21.6 billion.  This year, the figure has miraculously fallen to $14.1 billion.  That’s $7.5 billion that has just disappeared.

But it gets even better.  Last year for 2017-18, the estimate was $26.8 billion.  It has now been revised to $15.35 billion.  In this case a massive $11.45 billion has just disappeared.

So for all those bleating on about doing something about the excessive superannuation tax concessions, the problem has been solved with close to $20 billion shaved off the future tax expenditures.

WHAT A COMPLETE JOKE.

Of course, the Treasury admits that the reliability of their estimates is low. That is way too kind.  They should not be published.

And as for that blather in Appendix A about using income tax as the benchmark because it is used for other savings income (which it shouldn’t be, by the way), the point that superannuation funds are LOCKED UP until preservation age is completely missed.  And that’s the key.

ANOTHER PATHETIC EFFORT (AND THEY STILL WORK OUT THE TAX EXPENDITURE ASSOCIATED WITH T...

16:40

The Budget Troubadour Catallaxy Files

For those that missed it, earlier this year, James Twyman, an author and musician based in Portland, Oregon, USA announced he was planning a trip to ISIS-held territory in Syria to

help bring peace to the region through the power of a musical-prayer concert ‘Peace Troubadour,’ is embarking on ‘the most important and dangerous peace mission’ of his life—to the Israel-Syria border and beyond, wielding his classical guitar.

Read more here.

If James is successful, can we the Cats take up a collection to bring James to Canberra to perform the budget balance prayers.  Nothing else seems to be working.

13:43

Heydon Royal Commission Secret Volumes: PM must step in to stop Senator Cash looking shifty Senator Jacqui Lambie - PUTTING TASMANIA FIRST

JLN Independent Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has called on Prime Minister Turnbull to personally intervene in a dispute that has developed regarding the viewing of the Heydon Royal Commission secret volumes.

“Senator Michaelia Cash is not acting in a reasonable manner. She comes across as shifty. By stopping proper oversight of these secret volumes, she’s obviously trying to pick a fight with the Senate. I don’t want to fight with her, I want to talk to a fair and reasonable person. And the Prime Minister has a reputation as a fair person. So that’s why I’ll put my case directly to Mr Turnbull in person or in a letter.

“This is too important an issue to let Senator Cash play petty politics. Commissioner Heydon said he discovered grave threats (note: plural) to the power and authority of the Australian state. The Senate must be able to satisfy itself that the Government is properly addressing, mitigating, and remedying those grave threats. How can we do that without accessing the secret volumes?

“Can we trust the government to act on all the recommendations and information in those secret volumes?” said Senator Lambie.

“Senator Cash has admitted, in a letter, a couple of important facts to me – which proves she’s behaving in an unreasonable, illogical and shifty manner.

“Firstly, she’s admitted that all the Labor Premiers and their chosen staff have been given full access to the Royal Commissions secret reports, so why is Senator Cash trying to stop Labor Senators from accessing the same information?  She’s behaving in a way that suggests that Commissioner Heydon has found corruption on the Liberal side of politics and buried it in his secret volumes,” said Senator Lambie.

“Secondly, Senator Cash has admitted that government ministers have been allowed a...

12:29

"The TPP is too important for democracy" No Right Turn

That's what Fran O'Sullivan seems to be arguing in her bitter little rant in Saturday's Herald against Labour's opposition to the TPP:

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is too important to New Zealand's economic future for Andrew Little to turn it into a partisan political football.

[...]

It is difficult to understand why Little prefers the judgment of NGO activists over that of a former NZ Trade Minister who not only negotiated the ground-breaking bilateral China free trade deal but also finalised the Asean deal with New Zealand and Australia.

Frankly there is nothing responsible in Little's positioning.


Labour, of course, is representing its constituents, many of whom have significant doubts about the TPP or its benefits to New Zealand (or to them). That's what political parties should do in a democratic country. O'Sullivan calls this "turn[ing trade] into a partisan political football". I call it "offering voters a democratic choice on trade policy". And it speaks volumes that O'Sullivan thinks this is a bad thing. Its a perfect example of the sniffy, anti-democratic attitudes of the MFAT deep state, that trade and foreign policy is something to be conducted over our heads and in secret, by "adults" who "know" what our interests are (and stick their fingers in their ears whenever we tell them they're wrong), rather than openly and in accordance with our wishes. And the sooner we end that attitude, by requiring Parliamentary and/or public consent to any international deal, the better.

12:22

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose ... or once a dumb dog botherer, always a dumb dog botherer ... loon pond


Thanks to a correspondent, the pond was reminded of this aspirational role model ...

But it was only a temporary high, because then thoughts had to turn to Mark "got a taxi driver who needs his arm broken?" Latham, and the reptiles' determined desire to see him maintain steady employment ...

A little while ago they tried to fix him up with Fairfax ...



Now that's failed, the reptiles have decided to help the bully boy out ...


Spiking copy is tantamoun...

12:00

What’s left? Anthony Albanese and the redbaiting of Jim Casey Independent Australia

What’s left? Anthony Albanese and the redbaiting of Jim CaseyWith Anthony Albanese declaring he will recontest Grayndler, then launching a vicious attack on an opposing 'socialist' candidate, the left should be worried, writes Alex Jones. read now...

11:01

The Morrison/Turnbull parallel Independent Australia

The Morrison/Turnbull parallelThe trouble brewing round General Morrison, the Australian of the Year, parallels the trouble brewing round Turnbull, writes Bob Ellis. read now...

09:41

A good start No Right Turn

Labour leader Andrew Little gave his state of the nation speech in Auckland yesterday, and announced a policy of three free years of tertiary education. It will be introduced gradually, with full implementation delayed until 2025, but the net result will be to let people get their first qualification - a degree, apprenticeship or training - or retrain mid-career, without being saddled with a lifetime of debt.

Its a great idea, its affordable, it will be a huge benefit to people. But its worth remembering that Labour is offering us less than we once had. Before Phil Goff's tenure as Minister of Education, tertiary study was free. Goff stole that from us, so he and his boomer mates (all of whom had enjoyed free tertiary education) could get themselves tax cuts and avoid paying to support the society that had supported them. So, pretty obviously, I want more. And I want it sooner, and I want it coupled with student loan forgiveness, so those punished by Goff's (and later National's) shifting of the costs of tertiary education onto individuals will no longer be saddled with the burden of that terrible policy mistake. But this is a good start, and another welcome shift away from NeoLiberalism by Labour.

09:40

We conservatives are not going away any time soon Catallaxy Files

The fact remains that we conservatives have yet to be impressed with Malcolm as PM who is still to achieve anything of any use other than to end the political instability at the top of the party which he himself was the sole cause of. So far he has held on because he has not done a thing to reverse any of the policies put in place by Abbott. For example, I noted in a post of my own yesterday that:

If conservative means to preserve what is good while allowing positive change to occur, the Donald may well be the most conservative candidate in this election. It is also what I liked about Tony Abbott even though no two people may be farther apart personally than he and Donald Trump.

And then John Comnenus, in a guest post that followed mine, made the following suggestion to Barnaby Joyce to ensure that Malcolm listens to the conservatives among his Parliamentary party:

Upon becoming the Nationals leader you should immediately go to Bill Shorten and ask him what the ALP is happy to offer the Nationals if it were a junior Coalition parter. Think about the potential power of such a move.

And then there is Merv Bendle, in an article at Quadrant Online, The Coming Conservative Revolt, in which he wrote:

Ultimately, history will reveal that it is not conservatism but progressivism that is in crisis. What this nation needs are politicians able to comprehend the ominous trajectory of global events and articulate a conservative response for the Australian people.

...

08:00

Corruption under Turnbull: An international embarrassment Independent Australia

Corruption under Turnbull: An international embarrassmentJanuary has been another bad month for corruption in Australia. Alan Austin reports, in what is now becoming an embarrassingly regular series. read now...

07:27

This year over summer, he put science in its place, and laughed and danced and laughed with glee ... loon pond


It's a new month, a new era, a new world ... 

Which is why the pond clings so devotedly to the dinosaurs, those brave souls determined to provide continuity and ongoing awareness of conspiracies afoot, and ever willing to laugh at the fools for thinking they might get away with it, when a sharp-footed, top notch, world class climate scientist is hot on their tails ...

Yes, thanks be unto the reptiles, because once more this day we are blessed by a visitation from Maurice ...

However, you cut it ... reptile splash ...


Or google splash ...

...

06:51

Anthony John "Tony" Abbott has decided that contrary to popular belief he is still Australia's prime minister North Coast Voices


This is the very arrogant MP for Warringah backgrounding mainstream media……

Sky News, 1 February 2016:

Tony Abbott has met US President Barack Obama privately in Washington, it's been reported.

The former prime minister also held secret talks with the president's spy chief, News Corp reported on Monday, noting that the meetings could irk Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Abbott and Mr Obama met at an exclusive banquet on Saturday night, with sources saying the two had a very warm and intimate discussion.

A day earlier, Mr Abbott reportedly held secret talks with the US director of National Intelligence James Clapper - it's believed they discussed the war effort against Islamic State as well as broader global threats….

...

00:22

Former Australian defence minister Kevin Andrews skips first week of parliament to address Koch Brothers' funded U.S. Heritage Foundation event North Coast Voices


Former prime minister Tony Abbott was a guest speaker at an Alliance Defending Freedom dinner on 28 January 2016 and now his political ally former defence minister Kevin Andrews is scheduled to deliver a speech at a Heritage Foundation event being held in the Allison Auditorium, Washington DC.

This speech can be watched live online from 3am AEDT (Sydney) on 3 February 2016 at http://www.heritage.org/events/2016/02/australia .

Like Alliance Defending Freedom, the Heritage Foundation is a far-right American organisation which seeks to influence federal and state elections, as well as politicians and government policy.

It is a pro-gun, pro-coal, pro-deregulation, anti-universal health care, anti-gay marri...

00:15

In the hope of winning back the highest political office in the land is Tony Abbott committing a cardinal sin against gender equality and Australian democracy? North Coast Voices


Did anyone really think that American hard-right religious extremism was confined to U.S. shores and missionary outposts in third world countries?

Does anyone really believe that former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott is currently courting the misogynistic, homophobic, religious extremist group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) simply to support the notion of Christian family ideals?

The reality is very different.

Religious extremism USA-style is already in this country and it appears that Tony Abbott may be intent on tapping its influence and money in order to rebuild his personal political power.

Indeed, in The Guardian on 27 January 2016, a phone conversation between a journalist and an ADF representative is quoted which seems to indicate that Abbott may be doing just that:

...

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Sunday, 31 January

22:41

Did no-one on Australian Prime Minister Turnbull's staff check that 'homeless' app before he fronted media singing its praises? North Coast Voices



But there was Malcolm Turnbull, fresh from describing the latest initiative to help Australia's army of homeless as an "act of love", striding up what the well-heeled like to call the Paris end of Collins Street, Melbourne, where he discovered Mr Kerswell sitting on the footpath.
The Prime Minister stopped, squatted on his haunches and told Mr Kerswell about Ask Izzi, a new website designed to grant Australia's homeless instant access to an array of help, such as food, shelter and legal assistance. [The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 January 2016]...

22:00

Guest Post: John Comnenus – An Open Letter to the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP Catallaxy Files

Dear Barnaby,

There has been some chatter that you might soon become the National Party leader. If so, allow me make a suggestion to more effectively use the electoral power of the National Party and to wrench policy back in a more conservative direction.

Upon becoming the Nationals leader you should immediately go to Bill Shorten and ask him what the ALP is happy to offer the Nationals if it were a junior Coalition parter. Think about the potential power of such a move.

The biggest threats to Bill Shorten’s leadership are Albanese and Plibersek who are both from the Left and in seats vulnerable to the Greens. The biggest block to the ALP being more centrist and electorally popular is the need to placate the Green leaning voters in a handfull of inner city seats in the major cities.

Shorten might be happy to lose a couple of inner city seats if it means he disposes of his leadership rivals and can regain some more centrist outer suburban and regional seats that are currently held by the Liberals. These types of seats in places like Surfers, the Central Coast, Mandurah and the like might vote ALP if they knew Labor will be moderated by the Nationals as a junior partner.

After speaking with Shorten you should speak with Malcolm Turnbull and advise him that the Nationals are no longer going to be a doormat for a left wing Liberal party. Advise him that the Nationals will decide who forms Government after the next election and that the support from the Nationals is up for grabs. Let him know that you have already spoken to Shorten and are expecting the ALP’s pitch. Let him know you will compare offers, put it to a vote of the National Party room and act accordingly.

You might just get Turnbull to actually take conservatives seriously. Of course if you are not supporting the Liberals you can contest a number of three cornered contest, get ALP preferences to win a swag of regional seats off the Liberals. You would m...

21:08

Is Trump a “conservative”? Catallaxy Files

I don’t vote according to labels but there is no doubt that so far as modern political labels go, conservative is the closest it gets. This is from an article on Why I Support Donald Trump and Not Ted Cruz which begins by addressing what does it mean to be a “conservative”:

“Conservatism,” as [Russell] Kirk explained it, encompassed an inherent distrust of liberal democracy, staunch opposition to egalitarianism, and an extreme reluctance to commit the United States to global “crusades” to impose American “values” on “unenlightened” countries around the world. Conservatives should celebrate local traditions, customs, and the inherited legacies of other peoples, and not attempt to destroy them. America, Kirk insisted, was not founded on a democratic, hegemonic ideology, but as an expression and continuation of European traditions and strong localist, familial and religious belief. Indeed, Kirk authored a profound biography of Senator Robert Taft, “Mr. Conservative,” who embodied those principles.

It’s a long article and well worth reading through. Here, however, is the core point on why Trump is preferred to Cruz:

What is needed in this nation now is dramatic, even radical change. What is needed is not someone who will simply raise Hell, but someone who will be more like a bull loosed in a terrified china shop. Half measures and regular politicians, “mainstream conservatives” like Ted Cruz, I don’t think can pull it off. Trump, I believe, just maybe can.

“Just maybe can” is a better probability statement than is attached to any other candidate at the present time. Interestingly, and by no means a coincidence since this is a central issue in this election, Byron York has asked Trump...

20:54

Don’t just watch; listen and learn. Catallaxy Files

Paul Kelly in the Weekend Australian:

Turnbull needs to watch the populists and intellectuals on the Right. They dispute his strategy, oppose GST reform and demand deeper and faster spending cuts, a stance unlikely to translate into a viable position for the election year.

20:09

Family violence and the middle class No Place For Sheep

  I’ve just read yet another white, middle-class journalist, female this time, assert that there are forces other than misogyny and gender inequality that are accountable for family violence, and that this type of violence is perpetrated in predominantly low-income families. This view is also held by Miranda Devine. I wrote about this last year when […]

20:08

From Zero Hedge – Some of the Crazy Laws on the Books in US Catallaxy Files

Granted these are “odd”, but I venture there are some equally odd laws in the books in Australia.

My personal favourite is Minnesota where it is illegal to cross the state line with a duck atop your head.

Close second, Alabama where it is illegal to wear a fake mustache that causes laughter in a church.

If you think these are crazy, I can imagine what might happen if the Greens are ever given a legislative mandate …

download

Saturday, 09 January

16:23

Against Austrian business cycle theory Skepticlawyer

Former Austrian school economist Bryan Caplan recently won a bet against Austrian school economist Bob Murphy on the path of US inflation. Caplan won by betting with the key market indicator (TIPS), Murphy lost by betting against it.

At first glance, that the ex-Austrian won by following the market while the Austrian lost by not doing so might seem strange, but it instances why I am deeply unpersuaded by Austrian Business Cycle theory–that it is an analysis from a tradition that very strongly favours taking markets seriously (particularly their information revealing qualities) yet strikingly stops doing so to get a congenial theoretical outcome.

Austrian Business Cycle Theory (ABCT) is a theory of the unsustainable boom. It notes that capital is highly varied (or, economist say, is heterogeneous)–in particular, has a range of durations until completion. Interest rates coordinate current expenditure versus future income expectations.

If the central bank, in order to foster economic expansion, sets the key interest rate “too low”–that is, below the level that will create a stable level of succe...

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