Gay Alcorn:

As a citizen, nobody has been able to explain to me clearly why Melbourne, and Australia for that matter, should be absorbing so many new people every year, at a rate far higher than the OECD average, faster than other developed nations, with no feasible plan to cope with it. …

Dear old Melbourne added a quarter of its population in just 10 years to 2016. At this rate – and projecting population growth is a wobbly science – it will be home to nearly 8 million by mid-century, overtaking Sydney as the country’s largest city.

I’m one of these newcomers, although “new” is increasingly a stretch: we moved here this week ten years ago.

My dad moved to Hobart recently, and was interviewed by Good Weekend last month because he is leading a community campaign to preserve his new home’s character. I’m the opposite, pretty much. I love Melbourne’s growth, I love new buildings and tall buildings and more and more people.

I think Alcorn’s concern that Melbourne is growing “with no feasible plan to cope with it” sounds reasonable, except that I think there is probably no plan that would satisfy her.

Because here’s the thrust of her complaint:

What is immigration for? Who is it for? The most curious argument in favour of large population growth is that, somehow, Australians – those here for generations and those recently settled – owe it to the rest of the world to populate quickly. … Really? Says who?

That’s the nub of it: you either believe we should share what we have to improve the lives of everyone we can, or you pull up the drawbridge with a grunt of “says who?”

Alcorn claims “The case for easing immigration is compelling“, but doesn’t make it out. She offers two complaints. The first, that “We are stuck in traffic”, is rubbish, based on tabloid spin.

The second, that there are too few schools available, is more legitimate — but it’s the result of deliberate decisions. The Kennett government closed public schools for ideological reasons, and sold off the land to make them hard to reopen.

Alcorn’s “says who?” mentality is the other side of Kennett’s coin. He responds to the challenge of planning by denying responsibility, she responds by turning away migrants. They are both superficially appealing, but short-sighted and harmful.

I’m not on Kennett’s side, but I’m not on Alcorn’s either. Of course governments should invest in infrastructure and schools — but we shouldn’t scapegoat our new neighbours when our governments let us down.

We should instead welcome them, and make them our allies in our demands for a better city.

I couldn’t agree more: I love RSS feeds. They are fundamental to my internet experience. I subscribe to Feedbin to manage my feeds, and I use Reeder to read them. If I come across an interesting site that doesn’t have an RSS feed — *cough* Tim — it’s really frustrating. In short: use RSS.

Happy St Patrick’s Day! Celebrate by subscribing to Motherfoclóir, a podcast that is ostensibly about the Irish language but is actually about history and culture and society and politics and everything, because that’s how language works.

American kids continue to put their parents to shame, with students from 3000 schools walking out to protest for gun control:

At an elementary school in Alexandria, Virginia, children synchronized their watches and a captain in each room led students outside two minutes before the planned 10am protest start time. …

Another student, Henry Gibbs, 10, said: “Just the sensation that we are going to make a difference makes me feel proud.”


A teacher at a California high school accidentally fired a gun in a classroom on Tuesday afternoon during a lecture on “public safety awareness,” authorities said.

Dennis Alexander, who also serves as a reserve police officer with Sand City, discharged the weapon at Seaside High School about 1:20pm, according to police.

A male student was reported to have sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

St Patrick’s Day is coming up, and this 10 things listicle made me realise how hand-wavey my knowledge of Ireland’s patron is:

Patrick made his way to Ireland’s east coast and sought passage on a ship bound for Britain. The captain, a pagan, didn’t like the look of him and demanded that Patrick “suck his breasts,” a ritual gesture symbolizing acceptance of the captain’s authority. Patrick refused – instead he tried to convert the crew.

For some reason, the captain still took him aboard.

It’s probably not surprising that the church glosses over things like his mythical magical duels with druids, though.

My gaming enablers Ben and Mike wore me down and convinced me to try Stardew Valley, and they were right.

Richard Denniss:

The term ‘sovereign risk’ is the kind of econobabble bullshit that is destroying public debate, and indeed democracy, in Australia. Like the words competitiveness and productivity the phrase sovereign risk has been stripped of any real meaning and is simply used to dress up the self-interest of powerful groups as being in the national interest.

Take the Adani coal mine for example.

Charles Waterstreet (previously) may declare bankruptcy, after being found to owe the ATO over $400,000 because he “failed to pay income tax in the financial years of 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, and did not pay subsequent penalties”.

The judgment is quite something. Waterstreet failed to turn up in court, and tried to withdraw his defence “without prejudice”. The judge couldn’t understand what this meant, so went ahead and considered his defence anyway:

Looking through the file, the defendant did serve two affidavits in these proceedings, but neither of those addresses substantive issues in the case… A statement that a party can neither confirm nor deny the allegations is not a form of pleading that is generally accepted.

But the most scathing judicial deadpan was this:

I note the explanation of believing the hearing was tomorrow and not today. While this is a two day hearing, and that may perhaps be a part of the explanation for his thinking it was on tomorrow, he had not only legal representation but his own experience to draw upon to know that when a hearing is listed for two days it commences on the first day, and not on the second.


The surprising consequence of lowering the voting age:

There are two good reasons to reduce the voting age. First, it is likely to help young people establish the habit of voting lifelong. Second, as my recently published research shows, it makes their parents more likely to vote as well.

Listen to this interesting Wheeler Centre panel on writing celebrity profiles, and read Matthew Knott’s excellent, deadpan profile of Kimberley Kitching. (And when you’re finished, see if you have any idea what she actually believes in other than winning preselection ballots.)

“Do you know who I am? I’m the Lego boy”… an anecdote about restorative justice, from Andrew Leigh’s new book about randomised trials:

A house in suburban Canberra had been the target of multiple burglaries. For the sixth time, someone had broken in through a window and stolen items from the bedroom of the family’s nine-year-old son. But this time the culprit had been caught in the act. It was the nine-year-old boy from next door – nabbed with a pillowcase full of Lego.

When police officer Rudi Lammers was called to the scene, he decided not to simply follow the usual processes for dealing with young offenders. Instead, he sat down with the two nine-year-olds and asked the victim, “What do you think we should do?”

The reply surprised him.

“A science-fiction narrative imagining an alternate universe in which Donald Trump never became President: he’s just a regular guy in New York City.” These are good cartoons.

New Statesman asked novelist Mohsin Hamid, “Are we all doomed?”

Individually, yes. As a species, no. All of us, individually, are going to die. That is horrifying. But it opens up the potential for compassion. We can see that every other human being faces the same terrible fate as we do. And we can begin to treat each other accordingly. With greater sympathy. Human history is likely to be a slow, sometimes appalling, often faltering march towards a world where people treat each other better than in the past. Death can do us that one service. So have hope.

Just one person does five
Fencing, shooting, riding, running, and swimming
There are five, just for one person
But we’re guessing you don’t know much about
Modern pentathlon

Nissin, a company that famously produces cup noodles and even more famously produces bizarre advertisements for cup noodles, has created a monster mascot for Modern Pentathlon at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics: meet Pentaurus-kun.

If you miss Lucky Peach, the nearest available thing is Chang and Meehan’s documentary series about food culture, Ugly Delicious. I’ve only seen the pizza episode so far, but the New Yorker’s review has me looking forward to “Chang and a researcher feed[ing] Doritos to an assembled group of people who claim to have adverse reactions to the MSG in Chinese food”.

(Interestingly, in explaining Lucky Peach’s demise, Meehan blamed “friction” with Chang: “I think we just kind of collided in the last six months”; Chang refused to talk about it. I gather this was filmed before their collision.)

Facing a grilling about her staff — who are under investigation by the AFP over a hamfisted attempt to smear Bill Shorten — Michaelia Cash flipped out and made a hamfisted attempt to smear Bill Shorten’s female staff. Penny Wong heard about it, marched into the committee room, unloaded on Cash, and forced her to withdraw. (You need to see the video to fully appreciate how fearsome Wong can be.)

But what about the rumours Cash threatened to spread? The Guardian was baffled:

No one I have spoken to, or anyone in this office has spoken to, has any idea who or what she was talking about.

Over at the AFR, they had heard something:

As a minister in the former government, Mr Shorten was the subject of rumours spread by the Coalition that he had had an affair with a staffer called Shannon who became pregnant. The rumours persisted even though Shannon was male.

Samantha Maiden confirmed that the “rumour that Bill Shorten had impregnanted a man was truly one of the great Parliamentary world exclusives”. Perhaps spreading it will be the end of Cash’s career.

Liberty Victoria’s Rights Advocacy Project has launched Confident Commuter, a step-by-step guide to help you deal with public transport ticket inspectors and infringement notices.

(I’m pleased to see it includes, “Ticket inspectors cannot: … Take your phone”. I ended up on radio complaining about this last year — and subsequently in the Chinese-language media as “kind-hearted Corr” / “好心的corr”, so that’s nice.)

Alto’s Odyssey is here! Beautiful design, a satisfying difficulty curve, and the one-touch gameplay is perfect for straphangers like me.

It looks like a mysterious Bulgarian user set up a dodgy playlist and a thousand Spotify accounts, and scammed them into paying huge royalties for a few months. Clever, but while the article says “technically this person needn’t have broken any laws”, it would definitely be treated as fraud if you tried to pull this scam off in Australia.

If you’ve seen The Good Place, you’ll be familiar with its premise: in the afterlife, all of your actions will be assigned a moral score (ending slavery — good; telling a woman to ‘smile’ — bad), and you will be rewarded or punished according to your tally. China wants to make this a reality, but with immediate carrots and sticks:

[T]he State Council, the chief administrative authority of the People’s Republic of China, proposed the creation of a vast system of surveillance in which every citizen would be given a numerical score that indicated their trustworthiness. This system would be based on wide-reaching tracking of online and offline actions, all purchases, media engagement and social relations. All the information scraped off by this surveillance process would be centralised in a database and groomed by algorithms looking to extract patterns. These patterns would then be interpreted in a strongly normative way. Taken together, the algorithms would settle on a single number: the ‘Citizen Score’. This score will have massive impacts on people’s lives, with punishments and rewards once the system becomes operational. The State Council wants to make the Social Credit System compulsory for all citizens by 2020.

You’ve probably guessed where this is headed (paying your debts — good; criticising the Party — bad). Hell on Earth.

I’m quite willing to judge a book by its cover, and the logotype in the Recently Added list on Netflix was enough to convince me to give Babylon Berlin a try. After one episode I’m prepared to recommend it: trams, hats, flappers, architecture, and a noir plot that revolves around the vice squad and a theremin-playing Trotskyite. So far, so good.

A while ago, I linked to the absurdist anime Pop Team Epic with no comment, mostly because it defies explanation. This interview with its producer, Kotaro Sudo, reveals the freedom afforded to its segments’ creators, and its commitment to experimentation. For instance:

Q: Going back to episode 1, how did that French segment come about? I feel like I saw a lot of viewers at the advance screening and the TV broadcast who were left dumbfounded…

A: That was Kamikaze Douga’s idea. There’s a French person who works at Kamikaze Douga, you see.

Q: You mean the one who shows up on camera.

A: That’s him. He doesn’t speak Japanese, and communicates at work with English, so Kamikaze Douga said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we gave him the manga and let him do as he pleased?” So we ended up going with that suggestion. Since he doesn’t understand Japanese, he made the segment by looking at the art and imagining what was going on. That’s why it ignores the canon and has Popuko and Pipimi going to Paris, and makes self-deprecating French jokes. Also, he creates those as a one-man team, which is why it’s animated more like a Western cartoon. We also hired French voice actresses, so the footage is sent over there for voice-over recording. I was shocked to hear how much it actually cost to do all that… (laughs).

It’s available in Japanese or English — watch it.

Last month I mentioned the ABC’s appalling decision to invite Charles Waterstreet on to a panel discussion about sexual assault. Happily, he has withdrawn after being asked to do so by the NSW Bar Association:

“Arthur Moses SC wrote to Mr Waterstreet informing him that it was his firm view that it was neither appropriate or prudent for him to appear on the Q and A television program to discuss issues concerning the #Me Too anti-sexual harassment movement.” said a spokesman. “The reasons for that view being expressed by the President were communicated to Mr Waterstreet and it is not appropriate that those reasons be disclosed by the Bar Association.”

The Japanese figure skating team at Pyeonchang performed to a song from figure skating anime Yuri!!! on ICE. It’s hard to find a video of it because the IOC copyright cops are so aggressive, but here’s a previous performance. While you’re at it, here’s the opening to the show, and you can and should watch it on Crunchyroll.

It’s hard to choose just one quotation from Puzhong Yao’s hilarious memoir, The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective, so I’ll stick with the one used in the tweet that alerted me to it:

One class was about strategy. It focused on how corporate mottos and logos could inspire employees. Many of the students had worked for nonprofits or health care or tech companies, all of which had mottos about changing the world, saving lives, saving the planet, etc. The professor seemed to like these mottos. I told him that at Goldman our motto was “be long-term greedy.” The professor couldn’t understand this motto or why it was inspiring. I explained to him that everyone else in the market was short-term greedy and, as a result, we took all their money. Since traders like money, this was inspiring. He asked if perhaps there was another motto or logo that my other classmates might connect with. I told him about the black swan I kept on my desk as a reminder that low probability events happen with high frequency. He didn’t like that motto either and decided to call on another student, who had worked at Pfizer. Their motto was “all people deserve to live healthy lives.” The professor thought this was much better. I didn’t understand how it would motivate employees, but this was exactly why I had come to Stanford: to learn the key lessons of interpersonal communication and leadership.

The Blues Brothers (1980):

Jake: Hey, what’s going on?!

Cop: Ah, those bums won their court case, so they’re marching today.

Jake: What bums?

Cop: The fucking Nazi party.

Elwood: Illinois Nazis.

Jake: I hate Illinois Nazis!

The Republican Party (2017):

Illinois Republicans should have paid closer attention to the state’s third district… Arthur Jones, a notorious neo-Nazi, will almost certainly win the Republican primary for the third district’s seat in the House of Representatives on March 20th because he is unopposed by any other Republican candidate. Mr Jones is a former member of the National Socialist White People’s Party and a variety of other Nazi groupings. He calls the Holocaust an “international extortion racket” and proudly displays racist and anti-Semitic bile on his website and blog.

New Socialist is running a fascinating series on Radical TV, and this anecdote about the genesis of Bill Brand is too good. On the night of the 1974 election, which resulted in a hung parliament and subsequently a minority Labour government, writer Trevor Griffiths and producer Stella Richmond were in a restaurant

… full of those reactionary showbiz people, who’d all had a bet on the Tories pulling it off. And, as the evening progressed and the results came out, it was amazing to watch these fuckers break down in tears and begin wailing.

They decided to make “something on politics”, about a left-wing MP torn between his socialism and his support for a Labour government. (You can watch Bill Brand on YouTube.)

Celeste began as an impressive game jam entry that became a flagship for PICO-8; now that it’s been fleshed out and ported to various consoles, it’s being hailed as a masterpiece.

Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit:

Industrial capitalism has fostered an extremely rapid rate of scientific advance and technological innovation—one with no parallel in previous human history. Even capitalism’s greatest detractors, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, celebrated its unleashing of the “productive forces.” Marx and Engels also believed that capitalism’s continual need to revolutionize the means of industrial production would be its undoing. Marx argued that, for certain technical reasons, value—and therefore profits—can be extracted only from human labor. Competition forces factory owners to mechanize production, to reduce labor costs, but while this is to the short-term advantage of the firm, mechanization’s effect is to drive down the general rate of profit.

For 150 years, economists have debated whether all this is true. But if it is true, then the decision by industrialists not to pour research funds into the invention of the robot factories that everyone was anticipating in the sixties, and instead to relocate their factories to labor-intensive, low-tech facilities in China or the Global South makes a great deal of sense.

I would have missed David Graeber’s excellent 2012 essay if it hadn’t been discussed on General Intellect Unit, “Podcast of the Cybernetic Marxists”.

George Calombaris says he lost $750,000 in “ambassadorship” payments after punching a critic of his business practices. That is a fraction of the millions he made by ripping off his staff, many of whom are still waiting to be paid. It’s enough to make you sick

Uh oh.

It begins at a second-hand shop in Canberra, where ex-government furniture is sold off cheaply.

The deals can be even cheaper when the items in question are two heavy filing cabinets to which no-one can find the keys.

They were purchased for small change and sat unopened for some months until the locks were attacked with a drill.

Inside was the trove of documents now known as The Cabinet Files.

‘People are starting to understand’: huge Invasion Day protest stuns Melbourne:

Before 2015, the Invasion Day rally was seen as just a group of hardcore activists; they didn’t register in the minds of the flag-waving crowd that turned out to watch the official proceedings.

That was then. On Friday, when the Invasion Day march reached the barricades that had been pushed aside after the parade moved on, it significantly outnumbered the Australia Day event.

Crowd estimates were between 40,000 and 60,000 people. It stretched the length of four city blocks…

A police officer, one of the dozens flanking the marchers, gave a speculative look down the street when asked to guess the size of the crowd, which had disappeared around a bend.

“More than was expected, that’s for sure,” he says.

Calla Wahluist’s write-up gives a good summary of the day. In a nutshell:

It’s sweaty and friendly and polite. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are here to talk. Non-Indigenous people are here to listen.

We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.

That’s what I want — to hear you erupting. You young Mount St. Helenses who don’t know the power in you — I want to hear you. I want to listen to you talking to each other and to us all: whether you’re writing an article or a poem or a letter or teaching a class or talking with friends or reading a novel or making a speech or proposing a law or giving a judgment or singing the baby to sleep or discussing the fate of nations, I want to hear you. Speak with a woman’s tongue.

Ursula K Le Guin, 1929-2018

School goes back next week. I’m going to blow up this quotation and display it in my classroom.

This Melbourne teenager is awesome, partly for her impressive polar skiing feat, but mostly because of how she handles misogynist trolls:

Jade [Hameister]’s facebook photo from the South Pole shows her holding a ham sandwich. That’s a delayed response to commenters on her Ted Talk from 2016, where she discussed her then-incomplete quest; unfortunately, her video saw several trolls posting the message “shut up and make me a sandwich”.

Jade drily notes in the caption to her photo: “I made you a sandwich (ham & cheese), now ski 37 days and 600km to the South Pole and you can eat it.”

The ABC’s Q&A has long been an embarrassment, but the decision to invite Charles Waterstreet to participate in a panel discussion of sexual harrassment — presumably to provide “balance” — is an absolute disgrace. Since New Matilda began publishing a series of allegations against Waterstreet, the police have commenced an investigation, the star of Rake has distanced him from the show, the University of Sydney has banned him from advertising clerkships to its students, and his response has been… well, whatever this is.

Nina Funnell, one of the journalists who has been investigating Waterstreet’s behaviour, has been invited to sit in the audience. She should be on the panel, and he should be punted.

(As Richard Ackland noted in 2015, when a story making similar claims about an unnamed barrister was published, Waterstreet left an unusual comment. The story has since disappeared, but can be accessed with a little help from the Wayback Machine.)

Why does the NBN suck? Well…

The government’s objective for the national broadband network was not to give Australians a world-class internet with speeds and prices equivalent or better than the rest of the world, which in turn would provide the country with infrastructure that would set us up for the next 100 years.

As the NBN’s own corporate plan puts it, “nbn’s key objective is to ensure all Australians have access to fast broadband as soon as possible, at affordable prices, and at least cost”.

But what is fast? Well, [Communications Minister] Fifield made it clear that it was 25Mps, as that was the speed recommended to download Netflix. … When your objective is only to provide everyone with an internet that allows them to download Netflix, then that is what you deliver. …

If your objective is an internet that is good enough to download Netflix in 2018, you can ignore what the requirements will be in 10, 20 or 50 years’ time…

Since bitcoins are not useful as a medium of exchange, or desirable in themselves, their true value is zero.

John Quiggin explains why.

The Mapping of Massacres:

[Historian Lyndall] Ryan is based at the Centre for the History of Violence at Newcastle University, up the coast from Sydney. A few years ago, she applied for a research grant to embark on a hugely ambitious undertaking: to map the site of every Australian colonial frontier massacre on an interactive Web site. Ryan defines a massacre, in this context, as the indiscriminate killing of six or more undefended people. Since Aboriginal communities tended to live together in camps of about twenty people, losing six or more people in one killing—a “fractal” massacre—usually led to the whole community collapsing.

Four years of painstaking research later, with the grant depleted, Ryan’s map is nowhere near finished. So far, it includes more than a hundred and seventy massacres of Indigenous people in eastern Australia, as well as six recorded massacres of settlers, from the period of 1788 to 1872. She estimates that there were more than five hundred massacres of Indigenous people over all, and that massacres of settlers numbered fewer than ten. (Ryan has not yet researched any massacres of Torres Strait Islander people, who are culturally distinct from mainland Aboriginal groups but share their history of colonization.) In July, Ryan and her tiny team decided it was time to release the partially completed map online.

It’s time to change the date, establish an Indigenous voice to parliament, and negotiate treaties — which has already begun in Victoria.

The Attack on Titan Humble Bundle gives you 22 volumes for just over $1 each. The current volume is number 23, so this is a great way to catch up without breaking the bank — I hope it becomes a standard model for other long-running series.