Sunday, March 15, 2009

Round the blogs - Neil Whitfield, Lynne Sanders-Braithwaite, Gordon Smith, Michael Pettis, Niar and the scepticslawyers

Neil's Google Reader was an absolute godsend while my on-line access was so limited. It gave me at least the illusion of staying in touch. Now with on-line access and a working computer again, I have begun the slow process of catching up. To that end, I thought that I would devote this post to a review of other people's thoughts and writing in our immediate blogging world.

Neil himself has been suffering from depression. If my own experience is any guide, I went through a very depressed period a few years ago, it becomes harder to do things. This then feeds back into the depression. I hope that Neil will maintain the blogs - they are very important to many of us, and also fight the feeling of isolation that can be associated with depression.

I will start this blogging tour in New England. There I see that Lynne Sanders-Braithwaite in CENTRELINK PONDERINGS has adopted my pet peeves approach. In this case, Lynne's pet peeve was triggered by a Centrelink experience.

For the benefit of international readers, Centrelink is the national agency responsible for the majority of payments such as pensions, for monitoring and enforcing compliance with payment conditions. It is a very large organisation.

The difficulty that Lynne refers to in her post is the way in which a "one size fits all" approach - in this case action to help people find work - makes it hard for people who are not in fact of the right size, whose needs are different.

This is a particular problem for older people - really any one over fifty - with experience. Approaches designed for younger job seekers on welfare really don't work.

There is something very mechanistic about modern Government and indeed nearly every modern organisation. They are computer based, not just in reliance on centralised computer based systems for operations, but in the very thinking that underpins activities. This involves increasingly complex decision rules with very little scope for human discretion.

20090307-12-05-21-cunnawarra-national-park-georges-creek Still in New England, I have really missed Gordon's lookANDSee.This photo shows Georges Creek in the Gorge country to the south east of Armidale.

It is a pretty and very familiar scene.

In his caption to the photo, Gordon notes that the Creek at this point is on the edge of the Cunnawarra National Park. So much of New England is now tied up in national parks that I am beginning to lose track. I had to check where this park was.

The map below shows the location of the park. It actually occupies what was state forest country that I knew very well linking the New England and Oxley Wild Rivers National Parks.

For those who do not know this area at all, the coast lies to the right of the map. At the top of the map is the road linking Armidale with Grafton, Dorrigo and the coast. The road running to the bottom right of the map links Armidale with Kempsey. The bottom two thirds of the map covers the headwaters of the Macleay River. At the top of the map, you are entering the Clarence River catchment area.

The map covers some very beautiful country that is far less known now than it was forty or fifty years ago. Cunnawarra National Park

Turning now to economics, there have been some times recently when I have felt like a pollyanna in a world of gloom and doom. I have just not had the time nor the on-line access that I needed to write what I wanted to.

During the week Michael Pettis had what i thought was a remarkably good post, Trade, CPI and other numbers came in this week, on the latest Chinese economic data. The post is very relevant because it coincided with the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), as well as the forthcoming G20 summit.  

In general, I try to avoid making detailed economic forecasts; they are bound to be wrong and I also don't think that they are very helpful. Instead, I try as best I can to look at relationships and patterns.

I think it helpful in considering current problems to remember that the world had entered an economic slowdown prior to the global financial crisis. This is part of the reason why the crisis had such an impact on the real economy. It reinforced existing trends.

I also think it helpful to remember the importance of lags and links. To a degree, we live in a see problem, fix problem world. We expect instant responses. Here I have tried to make the point that the various global stimulus initiatives will just take time to work.

Accepting my reluctance to make forecasts, my feeling at the moment is that we are close to if not at the bottom of the downturn. If I am right, there will still be more bad economic news from what economists call lagging indicators, unemployment is one, but we are now going to see an increasing number of neutral to positive statistics.

As a simple example, last year I had not realised until I went to China in September that Chinese car sales (among other indicators) were falling. This is important because I came out of Australia where national reporting presented an unremittingly positive view on the Chinese economy. Now Michael reports that Chinese car sales have recorded a monthly increase.

By the way, and on a different topic, I could not help noticing that the People's Daily  is presently featuring "Tibet sets Serfs Emancipation Day." 

Eight o'clock. I am running out of time!

In Indonesia, Niar had an interesting post, the Running of Human Rights Condition Over South East Asia Nations, on human rights in ASEAN.

I noticed that Australian comment on the Burmese refugee tragedy in Thailand was very muted. Not putting too fine a point on it, the actions of sections of the Thai military, if correctly reported, amounted to murder.

I remember the period of the Vietnamese boat people and somewhat similar actions in certain ASEAN countries. There was a degree of outrage in Australia.

This was a different world.  I quote from the introduction to the 1977 Cabinet records:

In May Cabinet considered the plight of Indo-Chinese refugees in Thailand, Malaysia and on boats, noting that there had been some criticism of Australia’s ‘inadequate’ and ‘ad hoc’ response to the issue. Refugees, like Aboriginals, were a group that Fraser believed strongly the Government had an obligation to assist. Cabinet affirmed that Australia recognised a humanitarian commitment to assist refugees to resettle in Australia or elsewhere. By November 17 boats had arrived with 647 people and it was believed that another 4000 people were at sea.

11403409-650_tcm2-9538The photo from Australian Archives shows two of several small wooden fishing vessels in Darwin harbour on 2 November 1977. These vessels brought 259 Vietnamese refugees to Australia – 126 men, 44 women and 89 children.

One of the things that I find hard to forgive the Howard Government for is its coarsening of the Australian spirit that came about through its inhumane treatment of refugees.

8.33. Mmm! 

In Ozymandias or, when a city dies, Skepticlawer looks at the decline of Detroit. Do read the post and then click through to the Time photo essay on which Helen bases her post. There is something hauntingly sad about the photos.

While both Helen and Katy have praised the standard of some of my own writing, and my thanks for that, the consistent standard of some of the writing on scepticslawyer gives me something of an inferiority complex!

I have barely scratched the surface, but am out of time. More in another post.    

1 comment:

Jim Belshaw said...
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