All posts by Noel Turnbull

Remember the Alamo, the Maine etc etc etc

Remember the Alamo, remember the Maine, remember the Gulf of Tonkin, remember the weapons of mass destruction and now remember the Kokuka Sangyo tanker.

For a country such as the US, which has been at war for 226 years (93% of the time) in the 243 years since its independence in 1776, it’s remarkable that it has resorted so often to manufacturing excuses to go to war instead just doing it as it usually does. Of course, the manufacturing is partly a result of the abiding ignorance, misremembering, malevolent intent, propaganda and fundamental belief in the nation’s peace loving nature which infect its population and many of its political leaders. read more

A remarkable life in remarkable times

Life and times memoirs are often lives leavened with some tangential nods to times. In Iola Mathews’ book, Winning for Women: A Personal Story, a remarkable life is inextricably linked with the remarkable times which she did much to shape.

It is the story of a feminist, the Australian feminist movement and the hard slog involved in achieving political, legal, workplace and community change in an era in which transformational social and economic changes were driven by Iola and many other committed women. read more

When you think of Twitter what do you think of first?

The automatic response when you hear the word Tweet is to associate it with Trump. Yet some recent Pew Research Center suggests the Tweeter in chief is out of step with most other Tweeters

In a paper, Sizing up Twitter Users, Stefan Wojcik and Adam Hughes find that “US adult Twitter users are younger and more likely to be Democrats than the general public. Most users rarely tweet, but the most prolific 10% create 80% of tweets from adult US users.” The study was based on a nationally representative survey of 2791 US adult Twitter users. read more

WTF happened?

Well, after a couple of weeks’ consideration, just another Steven Bradbury phenomenon, something else altogether, or perhaps just a re-run in more virulent form of the fake news and social media negative campaigns seen in the 2016 Presidential election.

The range of explanations is wide. The first, and most obvious, is that it’s hard for someone like Bill Shorten, who is neither liked nor trusted to sell a big agenda. The second – the success yet again of negative campaigning. In this case part of the evidence for this explanation is reminiscent of the Bush campaign, magnified here by social media,  in which the Democrats were accused of planning a ‘death tax’ – a US focus group tested concept the Liberals stole holus bolus. This influenced people who would never be affected by inheritance taxes even if they were reintroduced. The same applied with franking credit and tax policies where the 20% who would have been affected were successful in terrifying the 80% who wouldn’t have been. read more

Another case study on how not to do community consultation

The City of Port Phillip, the blog’s local council, is yet again trying to establish new benchmarks in world’s worst practice community consultation.

This time it is a variation on one of its previous efforts – consultation over its budget. The last time the Council tried such a consultation it announced it with a multi-coloured leaflet letterboxed to all properties. Sadly it so closely resembled junk mail that many, including the blog, put it out in the recycling bin. read more

Taking a break part 3

Cost benefit analysis

Scott Morrison and elements of the media are demanding that Bill Shorten release cost estimates for his climate action program.

The demands are an indication of their ignorance of both the issue and elementary accounting and economics. What is required in simultaneously assessing the costs of addressing climate change and the benefits of doing so is simple – conventional cost benefit analysis. read more

Taking a break part 2

Policy debates

While it is difficult to imagine that there is a deep policy debate going on in Australia given the current election campaign there actually is one.

Indeed – while we are waiting for ScoMo to announce that if people vote Labor God will send a great plague, fires and damnation to the nation – the Grattan Institute continues to produce high quality work over a wide range of policy areas. Most importantly, they regularly evaluate their impact and report back on it the public. read more

Taking a break part 1

The blog is taking a break – but in the meantime (over the next couple of days) here are some odds and sods.

Western civilisation

It is ironic that those spruiking loudest for the virtues of Western civilisation include not only the Ramsay Foundation, Tony Abbott and John Howard but also America’s far-right ideologues. In a recent book, Not all Dead White Men, Donna Zuckerberg describes how groups from the alt-right to misogynistic men (frequently the same) drawing on the classics for inspiration and justification. read more

Myths, myths and more myths

As Anzac Day approaches are you getting ready to remember afresh how Anzac defines Australian culture and history and why we fought; how the French will never forget Australia and its role in WWI; and, how our Vietnam veterans were spat upon, reviled and denied welcome home marches?

Well, if you are, you probably shouldn’t read Mark Dapin’s Australia’s Vietnam Myth vs History; Romain Fathi’s Conversation essay about whether the French care about Anzac; Peter Cochrane’s Best We Forget; or the blog’s Anzac Day memorial address in 2017. On the other hand, what have you got to lose but some illusions shared by many of your fellow Australians? read more