Fast Forward News #2

Straight On
Creative Commons License photo credit: sendung

David Pecotic

Wow – what a vital source of news, varied angles on most current issues – thanks David

As Arctic Ocean warms, megatonnes of methane bubble up
[More detailed analysis about the increase in the release of methane that had been frozen beneath the Arctic: over 250 plumes of gas have been discovered bubbling up from the sea floor to the west of the Svalbard archipelago, which lies north of Norway. The entire hydrate deposit around Svalbard could be releasing 20 megatonnes a year, a greenhouse gas much more powerful than carbon dioxide.]

Gorgon no threat to environment: govt
[There's "no way" the $50 billion Gorgon LNG project off the West Australian coast poses any threat to the environment, federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson says. But he also admits it's not really his place to make that call, with Environment Minister Peter Garrett officially in charge of environmental approval.

Fav line: Mr Ferguson told Network Ten on Sunday ... "the environmental considerations are not my considerations". Indeed ...\
Also stories are that the $50bn price tag is really $27bn at best]

Cities could deliver greater emissions reduction than the CPRS
[Australian cities could halve their greenhouse gas emissions over the next 20 years by implementing a targeted strategy similar to the City of Sydney’s Sustainable Sydney 2030 plan, a new study has found.]

Former treasurer defends role in CBus and property sale
[FORMER Keating government treasurer Ralph Willis has defended in court his stewardship of superannuation giant CBus and his role in overseeing the sale of a Whitsundays development to property developer David Marriner. The construction industry's superannuation fund is taking civil action against Mr Marriner in the Victorian Supreme Court, alleging that he misappropriated about $850,000 from a property development and investment business connected to CBus.]

Property avoids the plunge, at a cost
[The Government's chief adviser on housing affordability, Julian Disney, says these grants have caused a housing bubble and reduced affordability. "We are paying too much for housing and people are getting much too overcommitted," Professor Disney said. He agrees with the IMF assertion that Australian homes are overpriced by up to 20 per cent. "Housing affordability will continue to get worse, but the problem is it is already very bad ... It's an overinflated balloon and we need to gradually deflate it." Yet federal Housing Minister Tanya Plibersek said the Government was pleased with the success of the first home buyers' grant because "a strong housing market is critical for underpinning confidence and supporting jobs in the Australian economy".

The Australian economy isn't the only institution giving pundits mixed signals these days ...]

In effect Pliberseck is hereby admitting that the FHOG is an economic stimulus package, not a housing affordability policy. Will young home buyers understand this nuance?

Houses of cards
[From the UK Spectator Australia: The latest house price data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics is a little embarrassing - from October to June the number of dwellings purchased with borrowed money each month increased by about 15,000, to 65,000 — a level similar to the heady days of 2007. More than two thirds of this increase arose from the purchase of already-constructed dwellings; only 2,400 of these purchases entailed any new building. The cause, the FHOG; the main policy impact of which appears to have been an increase house prices, which ultimately helps the banks out no end ...]

Revealed: The Housing Shortage Lie
[Money Morning Australia demonstrate that the numbers (derived from FACSIA's National Housing Supply Council State of Supply Report 2008) which represent the entire basis for the ‘chronic’ housing shortage just don’t add up. Regular readers will already be aware of this, thanks to the work of Earthsharing and Prosper Australia.]

LVRG Blog: Stimulus without deficits
Land Values Research Group’s Gavin R. Putland, whose analysis often appears here, writes that prominent critics of deficit-financed stimulus measures have nothing to offer as an alternative but deficit-financed stimulus measures.

In other words, to quote the piece, whereas the Right has nothing to offer but more private debt, the Left has nothing to offer but more public debt. All seem to accept the assumption that governments can stimulate demand only by increasing expenditure and/or reducing revenue.]

Sucking the RENT out of RET
[Crikey on the capacity of the Australian Parliament to bastardise good policy and turn it into a feeding trough for rentseekers: as noted earlier in The Australian, the industries eligible for “interim assistance” under the RET bill were initially only a small number with an electricity intensity above a certain threshold of megawatt‑hours per $million revenue: only the aluminium smelting, silicon production and newsprint manufacturing sectors.

Under the deal with the Coalition everyone who is getting a handout of free CPRS permits will now be getting assistance under the RET bill, at the same thresholds, for the cost of Renewable Energy Certificates. And if the price of price of RECs goes above $40, there’ll be additional assistance for big electricity users for complying not just with the RET but with the current renewable energy target of 5%.

And those big electricity users are going to enjoy a fall in the cost of wholesale electricity as a consequence of the RET, because it will bring renewable energy sources online that big users won’t have to pay for, increasing overall generation capacity. That will go straight onto the bottom line of big electricity users, at everyone else’s expense.

And that's just the big end of town that are at the head of the queue ...]

Net scammers step up attacks on taxpayers
[INTERNET scammers have stepped up their attacks on the personal details of Australian taxpayers, with the tax office reporting a 31 per cent increase in cyber security incidents. The simplicity and transparency of LVT would mitigate this.]

NSW National Parks slated for development
[The Rees government wants to change laws protecting national parks from development. New plans have been adopted for developer-friendly leasing arrangements in our parks, identification of “investor ready” sites and even the commercialisation of wilderness areas - readying the war chest for an election year, perhaps ...?]

LGA questions Tax Office proposal
[Could this make LVT easier to implement? ABC News reports that Federal Assistant Treasurer Nick Sherry has proposed for the Tax Office to collect all taxes, fees and charges imposed by state, territory and local governments and has raised the idea with the head of the Federal Government's tax review. Local councils want more detail.]

Indigenous housing program head sacked
[There is some justice left in this world after all: Jim Davidson was sacked as the head of the Northern Territory’s Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) on August 18. Davidson was fired after revelations that SIHIP’s administration costs would absorb a great deal of the program’s $672 million budget. The program was launched 18 months ago with the promise to build 750 houses for remote Aboriginal communities. So far, no houses have been built.]

Indigenous housing to blaze new trails
[Perhaps ... a discussion paper has been released on possible amendments to the Native Title Act (Native Title Act 1993) aimed at speeding up public housing construction and infrastructure in remote Indigenous communities. It proposed a specific process to ensure housing and infrastructure could be built quickly following consultation with native title parties, without adversely impacting any native title rights.]

Community rallies against “thief Bligh”
[100 people marched to Queensland Premier Anna Bligh's West End office on August 15 to protest the State Labor government's planned sale of Queensland’s publicly-owned non-passenger rail, ports, forestry and motorways - as little as that? Unless the general public at large is educated to understand their stake in this, then we have failed to prevent the continued enclosure of the commons ...]

The renewable energy scheme that isn’t
[Give with the one hand and take with the other: Under the plan, companies that produce energy from renewable sources — such as wind, solar and geothermal — will receive credits for each unit of energy. The credits — officially called Renewable Energy Certificates — can be bought and sold on the market. At issue for us should be the tradable nature of the credits themselves. The government says the price of the credits will vary according to market conditions. The credits can be cashed in straight away. They can also be held on to and sold to a buyer at a later date. This opens the door to artificial manipulation of the new credit market by speculators. Another questionable element arises from the ‘Solar Credits scheme’ which is supposed to encourage solar PV. As detailed over at the Greenpeace Pacific blog, of the five REC’s for every unit of electricity produced by solar panels only one is for actual renewable energy produced. The other 4 are just pretend REC’s that create a financial incentive for people to install solar panels. So if all of the Renewable Energy Target was met through solar PV, Australia would only be producing 4% of our total energy from renewables, not 20% as promised.]

Can’t just add water
[Thorough policy reforms and major investments are needed to keep water flowing - an important editorial piece from The Canberra Times by Colin Chartres, director general of the International Water Management Institute, headquartered in Colombo, Sri Lanka and former chief science advisor to Australia's National Water Commission.

Current governance arrangements were designed around the middle of the last century, based on now absurdly inappropriate colonial models, in which water was viewed as an unlimited free good. This means that societies must start to pay for the environmental and other benefits that water brings, although people should not be deprived of their basic human right to clean water: drinking and sanitation amounts to only about 10 per cent of total water use. The rest goes to a wide variety of equally beneficial uses, the biggest of which is agriculture.

The central challenge for governments is to make agricultural use of water more productive and efficient. Two ways of doing this are to refurbish irrigation systems and improve rain-fed agriculture through better soil management and expanded use of water harvesting and supplemental irrigation. New crop varieties that tolerate extreme conditions, like drought and flooding, can also help. What is getting in the way are the strong vested interests of the water and agricultural sectors.]

America’s housing market | Where it all began
[Signs of stabilisation should not obscure the big problems still ahead: mortgage credit is hard to come by, there is a glut of supply from repossessions, a rise in negative equity, a considerable overhang of unsold homes and impending house sales once the market perks up. Unfortunately, analysts at Goldman Sachs, no fools when it comes to housing, hint at several years of stagnation.]

Blackwater’s dark heart
[The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had once hired Blackwater, a private-security contractor, in connection with a plots to assassinate al-Qaeda operatives - what happens when we begin to forget what should be public and what privatised ...

Blackwater no longer has an operating licence in Iraq—local officials refused to renew it—and the firm has lost a big contract to defend diplomats. But many former employees of Blackwater are now working for the new holder of that contract, Triple Canopy. And Blackwater has rebranded itself as Xe Services.

And As the number of contractors in Afghanistan grows, the mistakes of Iraq may be repeated.]

Italian banks may take ham and wine as collateral
[Luca Zaia, the Italian agriculture minister, backs plan advocated by Gianni Zonin, chairman of the Banca Popolare di Vicenza and head of wine producer Zonin to accept high-quality wines and prosciutto from struggling producers - an EU economic indicator or the lineaments of a good idea ...?]

Slow Money
[On the mission of Woody Tasch, the chairman and president of Slow Money, the next step in the logical progression from the Slow Food movement. It is based on a set of principles, the first three of which set the stage. First, we must bring money back down to earth. Second, we must bring our money home and put it back into local economies. And third, we must invest as if food, farms and fertility mattered, to support small food enterprises, more community supported agriculture initiatives (CSAs), and family and organic farms.]

New Venezuelan Law Turns Unused Urban Land Into Public Land
[The ideal is sound: the law significantly declares that "unused urban land is at the service of the public" and regulates the use of such land with the aim of combating the massive housing deficit in the Venezuela. The execution however is lacking. There is a simpler way: LVT - moreover, as land nationalisations around the world have shown time and again, eventually there will again be winners and losers from this process.]

Poverty in Venezuela Decreased by 22.6% over Past Decade
[Assuming this is accurate (we only have the Venezuelans word for it at the moment), it would be due in large part by the Bolivarian program of socialising the rents accruing to the countries massive oil and mineral resources - through, unfortunately, nationalisation rather than by taxation.]

Tear gas, water cannon used in Venezuelan protest
[On the other hand ...]

Indian Consumers Buying Levi’s Jeans on Installment Plans: Signs of Credit Bubbles to Come?
[The Financial Times reports that Levi Strauss & Co. will be offering its jeans on an installment plan to Indian consumers - HS Dent provides analysis.]

Why is the African continent poor?
[The paradox of rich resources and poor people: Africans as a people may be poor, but Africa as a place is fantastically rich - in minerals, land, labour and sunshine - which is why outsiders have been going there for hundreds of years, to invade, occupy, convert, plunder and trade.

But the concurrence of progress and poverty is not as mysterious as it seems. The BBC report highlights the success of the Eastleigh area of Nairobi, where traders have created a booming economy despite the place being almost completely abandoned by the government (or is that because of, given endemic corruption...?). Eastleigh is a filthy part of the city where rubbish lies uncollected, the potholes in the roads are the size of swimming pools, and the drains have collapsed. But it has a high per-square-foot rents. Says one prominent Kenyan interviewed: "You'll be surprised to note that Eastleigh is the most expensive real estate in Nairobi." Georgists would not be as surprised as you might think.]

News from 1930: Favorites of the week August 18-August 23, 1930
[August 21: J. Barringer, National Cash Register GM, optimistic on foreign sales, and on general business outlook in Europe. “Germany, in my belief, is recovering from the world-wide depression, and France seems to be entirely over it.” Believes US depression has hit bottom and “we are slowly but surely on the upward trend.”]

David Bollier on the (Entrepreneurial) Value of Sharing | GOOD
[A succinct piece (also available as a podcast) that captures a great deal about why the commons is a solution to many problems (including land monopolisation) by David Bollier, co-founder of Public Knowledge, author of Silent Theft: The Private Plunder of Our Common Wealth and most recently of Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own, and the editor of OntheCommons.org.]

William Peirce on Henry George’s Single Tax
[A podcast of a talk by William S. Peirce about the attempt to establish a single tax in Ohio, entitled "Who Killed Land Value Taxation in Ohio? Will the Killer Strike Again Elsewhere?" given at the 53rd Summer Fellowship Program at the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER).

AIER is one of the oldest economic research organizations in the United States. It publishes Econ Journal Watch triannually, providing commentary on the inappropriate assumptions, weak chains of argument, phony claims of relevance, and omissions of pertinent truths appearing in economics journals and serves as a forum about economics research and the economics profession.]

Muse return with new album The Resistance
[An interview with lead singer, guitarist and principal songwriter, Matt Bellamy, describes him giving "a passion­ate soliloquy about Geoism (the land-tax movement inspired by the 19th-century political econo­mist Henry George), bemoaned the stranglehold of the whipping system on parliamentary demo­cracy, taken aim at banking bonuses ..." Who knew ...? Perhaps readers who are fans of the band could shed light on whether any of this has made it's way into the songs.]

FlatChat
[Brought to you via your tax dollars by NICTA: a virtual world for everyone to join, share, and create, designed to showcase the features of Badumna, a decentralised network engine for massively scalable virtual worlds.

By using decentralised architecture they have been able to scale the application to unlimited number of users. There is no practical limit as to how large the world size can be. The more users we have in the world, the bigger the world can grow. Having a decentralised architecture also make its more robust as there is no dependence on servers for game state synchronisation.

The more time you spend in FlatChat, the more credits you will accrue. The more credits you have, the more you can build. At the moment, you will receive $200 for every day you spend in FlatChat.

A Georgist parable in game format ...? Either way, unlike land, at least its free! Unfortunately the supply of land is not infinitely expandable.]

One thought on “Fast Forward News #2”

  1. I read with disgust your article headed “Indigenous Housing Program Head Sacked”, in particular your lead comment that “… there is some justice in this world after all …”.

    I am surprised at the profound naivety in this comment. Mr Davidson had been in this job a mere 10 weeks, and was engaged to get the project moving, which he is exceptionally well qualified to do with a long and distinguished civil engineering career.

    Davidson’s only flaw was to honestly and frankly brief the NT Indigenous Affairs Minister Alison Anderson; scarcely a flaw in my book. Anderson’s subsequent tantrum and change of party were well documented in the press.

    I think you should look more closely at the facts at play here and not jump on to the bandwagon of making Mr Davidson a political scapegoat. The problem/delays were well advanced before Davidson was engaged to fix them.

    Davidson has now been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. It would be a brave, perhaps naive, engineer that would now take on this highly politically charged role, leading no doubt to further delays for which politicians will need to shift blame.

    The baby has been thrown out with the bath water. If there is any justice in this world, you should focus on the real cause of the problem and not so blindly sign-on to ill-informed populist sentiment.

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