31 August 2010

Uni degrees never sleep, and leave sharemarket in the shade

A uni degree is one of the best investments around:

AGED 18 and looking for an investment that will return far more than the sharemarket or real estate? Enrol at university and stay there for four years.

An analysis of a quarter of a century of census data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals extraordinary rates of return for the lost wages and expenses involved in obtaining a four-year degree: all the more so if you are a woman.

For a man graduating in 1981 the resulting higher lifetime income was likely to produce a return on investment of 13 per cent a year. A woman would expect 18 per cent.

By 2001, a fresh graduate could expect even more: a lifetime rate of return of 20 per cent a year for men and 19 per cent for women.

And then the return turned down. In a paper posted on the bureau's website yesterday, researcher Hui Wei said that by 2006 the return had fallen back to 15 per cent for men and 17 per cent for women.


"But the return on a university degree is still huge compared to the rate of interest."...

It's also super-secure: it can't be stolen from you, except by killing you, in which case you won't need it any more anyway.

30 August 2010


I have Kindle for PC downloaded on my PC.

What some others have said about backlighting is right: for the first time in my life, my eyes are really feeling the effect of looking at a computer screen. I can only look at a computer screen a few hours a day now, and it's really cramping my style. So the idea that you can have a Kindle-style un-backlit screen is very appealing, so much so that I'm thinking of actually buying a Kindle.

Also, I like downloading the free sample before buying the book.

The instant access to a book is great - especially when you're writing an essay that's due in a few days and you find the motherlode on Amazon - you can download it instantly instead of waiting 6 weeks for it to arrive.

The savings are pleasing too, but not crucial.

What I absolutely hate about Kindle is this:

1. Any scrolling you try to do means jumping to the next page.

2. Worst of all, especially for writers of uni assignments - you have no idea what page you're on! There are no page numbers! Totally defeats the purpose of getting a book. I am so furious about this I want to strangle Jeff Bezos. How much of a no-brainer is that? So simple and obvious yet they can't get it right. This is a reason NOT to go Kindle.

3. Annoyingly, you can't cut-and-paste, meaning you have to manually retype any quotes you want to put into your essay.

29 August 2010

Quote of the Day

Surrender is a perfectly acceptable alternative in extreme circumstances.

- I believe C3PO in The Empire Strikes Back

27 August 2010

Dutch disease

I've just learnt about this important concept. It was first described when the Netherlands oil industry boomed.

What happens is that you discover, say, oil and develop your oil industry. The price of oil then skyrockets. As a result, your currency gets bid up and up and up. This makes your other export industries uncompetitive and they get wiped out. The price of oil then inevitably at some point falls...

What kind of war to prepare for?

Some people, including many I admire such as Martin van Creveld, argue that the modern armies of Western states are preparing for the wrong kind of war: state-on-state war rather than low-intensity conflict (LIC). They are...right. But what springs to my mind is the an army that was prepared for and extremely experienced in LIC - the British Army in 1914, which of course then suddenly found itself in the mother of all state-on-state wars, for which I suspect it was unprepared.

The solution might be something along the lines of what Thomas Barnett is proposing. I see a state-on-state war army, from which veterans are drawn into a LIC army. The beauty of this is that it offers a career path (40 years as a private rifleman is not a particularly appealing prospect), an outlet for talent, and promotions all round.

24 August 2010

Lesson from the Weimar Republic

Walt on how he became an academic:

The lesson I took from [Professor Gordon] Craig's lecture was that when intellectuals abandon liberal principles, disengage from politics, and generally abdicate their role as "truth-tellers" for society at large, it is easy for demagogues to play upon human fears and lead a society over the brink to disaster.


In order to try to avoid procrastination, I will be putting a lot of stuff here which is actually for me to come back to once uni is finished. Please feel free to read anything I put here, but don't feel you have to read everything. As usual, I will be putting stuff here that I think is of general Toutie interest rather than emailing it, but there will be more of it than usual for the same reason.

23 August 2010

Norman Doidge On The Brain That Changes Itself - Science and Technology - Browse - Big Ideas - ABC TV

What Makes a Creative Entrepreneur? - Business - Browse - Big Ideas - ABC TV

America on the Edge of Chaos - History - Browse - Big Ideas - ABC TV

America on the Edge of Chaos - History - Browse - Big Ideas - ABC TV

Niall Ferguson on the fragility of America's prosperity.

What is the world worth? - Environment - Browse - Big Ideas - ABC TV

Growing up fast: Vietnam discovers the consumer society


The Crisis Down Under

I wish I'd posted this before the 2010 federal election.

A piece by Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel Prizewinner for Economics.

Kevin Rudd, who was prime minister when the crisis struck, put in place one of the best-designed Keynesian stimulus packages of any country in the world. He realized that it was important to act early, with money that would be spent quickly, but that there was a risk that the crisis would not be over soon. So the first part of the stimulus was cash grants, followed by investments, which would take longer to put into place.

Rudd’s stimulus worked: Australia had the shortest and shallowest of recessions of the advanced industrial countries. But, ironically, attention has focused on the fact that some of the investment money was not spent as well as it might have been, and on the fiscal deficit that the downturn and the government’s response created.

Hat-tip to Tyler Cowen.

Hat-tip to Chris Blattman for introducing me to Tyler Cowen.

22 August 2010

Merchant of Death to stand trial in the US

Short article complete with book plug (it worked - it's gone onto my Amazon wishlist) here.

Hoist on their own petard - literally

This news item from Reuters.

MOGADISHU Aug 21 (Reuters) - Eleven insurgent militiamen were killed by their own bombs when they went off prematurely in Somalia's capital, the government said on Saturday.


"They are three Pakistanis, two Indians, one Afghani, one Algerian, and two Somalis, (and) a leader who was in charge of praying for suicide bombers before they were dispatched," the ministry said in a statement.


Allah has spoken.

Hat tip to the All Things Counter Terrorism blog for the tip.

From Timid To Tiger

Seabright, P.: The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life (Revised Edition).

Syria, Iran: Estranged Allies Collide in Lebanon | STRATFOR

Escalating Violence From the Animal Liberation Front | STRATFOR

Moldova: Russia's Next Target? | STRATFOR

Serbia, Kosovo: Rising Tensions and Pristina's Plans | STRATFOR

Palestinian Territories: A Shift in Hamas' Militant Posture? | STRATFOR

21 August 2010

Google movie coming soon

The story of how Google went from a garage start-up to earning almost $US25 billion a year is heading to Hollywood, hot on the heels of a feature film about the tortuous early days of Facebook.

Groundswell Productions has teamed with producer John Morris to acquire the movie rights to Googled: The End of the World As We Know It, which was written by New Yorker media columnist Ken Auletta.


20 August 2010

Secretary Gates

Because he arrived with little time and a narrow mission, he felt no need or obligation to play the role of steward. He looked around as an inside-outsider, and he was appalled by what he saw.

U.S. troops were fighting and dying in two foreign wars, but the Pentagon bureaucracy was shuffling through its peacetime paces. The Army and the Marines, for example, had a new armored vehicle, the MRAP, which could provide greater protection against Iraqi roadside bombs and save many troops' lives. But the brass were doing nothing to accelerate production. Similarly, the Air Force had a new generation of unmanned aerial vehicles, "drones" equipped with real-time video cameras and remote-control-fired missiles; troops in the field were clamoring for more, but Air Force leaders were not stepping up deployment.


19 August 2010

Labor deserves some credit, not death at the ballot box

Ross Gittins:

Perhaps in an effort to raise Australians' economic literacy, the Economic Society recently sponsored a national tour by Professor Joe Stiglitz, a Nobel prize winner and one of the world's most illustrious economists.

Some brave soul asked him if he'd learnt anything while he was here. Well, he said politely, there were a few things that had puzzled him. He couldn't understand why we didn't know the success of the Rudd government's budgetary stimulus - explained by its size, timing and design - was the envy of the other G20 countries.

He couldn't understand why we were so worried about budget deficits and debt when our accumulated federal government debt was about 5 per cent of gross domestic product, whereas just one year's budget deficit in the US was 10 per cent of its GDP. And he couldn't understand why so many people were opposed to requiring the mining companies to pay a fair price for the use of our resources.

Pricing tricks

CHOICE tells you how to spot the everyday pricing tricks you face as a consumer.

18 August 2010

Reconcile Australia

A Senate ticket for a positive reconciliation.

Quote of the Day

If Israel is going to do anything against Bushehr it has to move in the next eight days.

--Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, asserting that a strike on Iran's nuclear power plant would have to occur before it is loaded with nuclear fuel.

17 August 2010

Home - Hamish for the Senate

Senate election

OK, I'm looking at my voting options.

Here are some interesting choices.

Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)

One for Edwardo. A little too blinkered for me, but I'll still give them a fairly up-there vote.

Senator On-Line

Brilliant idea. Subscribers vote on issues and the senators then vote (one hopes) as their subscribers voted for them to vote, if you get what I mean.

Citizens Electoral Council of Australia

LaRouchean wackos, but they might provide some entertainment. I know they're wackos because I looked into LaRouche a few years ago: Fascinating but wacky.

Secular Party of Australia

Skeptics Society etc. types.

Shooters and Fishers

Still have a wingnut flavour, but I think this is because of their general ingrained defensiveness more than anything. Shooting circles are basically dominated by pragmatists or even sincere idealists who are big on 'green hunting' (my term) - i.e. an emphasis on hunting feral species plus the sustainable hunting of native species.

Australian Sex Party

My favourite. Not much more to say, really.

Current Events

Senator Online - Our People

16 August 2010

Writing worth reading

Check out The Browser.

The Power Trip

The Power Trip

Contrary to the Machiavellian cliché, nice people are more likely to rise to power. Then something strange happens: Authority atrophies the very talents that got them there.

Reader ripostes: China & Henry VIII

Freakonomics: The Movie

See the trailer.

13 August 2010

Scientists find new superbug spreading from India

Surprise, surprise.

(Reuters) - A new superbug from India could spread around the world -- in part because of medical tourism -- and scientists say there are almost no drugs to treat it.

12 August 2010

BBC Mossad doco

Listen to the BBC documentary on the Mossad here.

The Taliban Must Be Defeated, Not Accommodated

Comment from Max Boot:

Too often these days we hear the voices of supposed realism suggesting that a Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan wouldn’t be so bad — that it would be possible to live with a Taliban state. Try telling that to the people of Afghanistan and the dedicated charity workers who try to help them.

Video From an Embed With the Taliban

A video of Taliban fighters shot last October by a Norwegian journalist in eastern Afghanistan offers a rare glimpse of the war from the perspective of the Afghan insurgents.

Hat tip to the Small Wars Journal Weekly Round-up.

Darwin Awards

It must be that time of the year again...

Is the media as instantaneous as it thinks?

SWJ picked up this interesting point from an article in USA Today.

"For the most part, the news media missed the entire story as it unfolded.

For all the hype of today's 24/7 instantaneous news, the media were consistently about six months behind important developments on the ground in Iraq. Newspaper readers in 1876 got more timely information about the Battle of the Little Big Horn."

11 August 2010

Suggestions for Google

Why doesn't there seem to be a way I can make suggestions to Google?

The same goes for Amazon.

Preah Vihear Temple dispute

The fight between Thailand and Cambodia over the Preah Vihear Temple complex I always imagined was over a temple in the middle of rice paddies. Not so. Look at what an important (and defensible) position it is here and here.

Combating Procrastination

From same site featured in my previous blog post, I found this great site with a list of strategies for combating procrastination, aimed specifically at academics. Brilliant.

Check out especially LeechBlock for Firefox (the only problem is I use Chrome): it lets you control when you can access certain sites (i.e. your favourite timewasters).

Now - stop wasting my time!


10 August 2010

The illustrated guide to a PhD

The meaning of PhD in a nutshell.

Thanks to Chris Blattman.

Quotes of the Day

Some crackers from Logan Pearsall Smith.

My favourites:

The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves.

The old know what they want; the young are sad and bewildered.

What joy can the years bring half so sweet as the unhappiness they've taken away?

That we should practise what we preach is generally admitted; but anyone who preaches what he and his hearers practise must incur the gravest moral disapprobation.



09 August 2010

Rare Earths

Rare earths are going to become an issue if they're not already. This article is as good a place as any to start.

Walt Rant on Top Secret America

Stephen Walt, an international relations rockstar, goes on a rant about the Top Secret America series. Worth a read for an overview of the whole thing and the issues involved.

08 August 2010

Tyranny of distance

Australia's distance from the world costs it, according to this article.

Top Secret America

The Washington Post has created a splash recently with a series of articles by two respected journalists about the massive and out-of-control intelligence bureaucracies called Top Secret America.

There's a whole webpage dedicated to the series.

Markus does maths

Green Zone

The Hurt Locker

Human Terrain (the movie)

Human Terrain

War becomes academic.


07 August 2010

Quote of the Day

'They gave me a very detailed explanation about the sanctions on Iran, about their legitimacy and about how they are going to be implemented. So I replied "thank you."'

--South Korean Finance Ministry International Finance Bureau Director Kim Ik-ju, describing his meeting with U.S. officials seeking Seoul's cooperation on new sanctions targeting Iran.

- Global Security Newswire

Attempt on Ronald Reagan

Read the blow-by-blow account of the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in Just 2 Seconds (you can get the Kindle sample for free - you can get Kindle for your PC, you don't actually need a Kindle)

then watch the actual assassination attempt watch it (you don't have to watch the whole thing)

then comment below (where it says 'Comments') on your response.

Now, that was a distraction, albeit one leading from PICT801 Theories of Political Violence discussion questions. Now I need to get back on track. As you were.


Hezbollah Spies via Facebook

Hezbollah Spies via Facebook
By Aaron Mannes


This is not a hypothetical concern – Hezbollah (long a terrorism pioneer) has already employed this strategy. According to the Israeli news site MySay:

The Hizbullah agent pretended she was an Israeli girl named “Reut Zukerman”, “Reut” succeeded during several weeks to engage more then 200 reserve and active personnel...


06 August 2010

How Does Stoning Work in Iran?

How Does Stoning Work in Iran?
From the size of the stones to who gets first throw.
By Christopher Beam

04 August 2010

Digital Diplomacy

On Twitter, Cohen, who is 28, and Ross, who is 38, are among the most followed of anyone working for the U.S. government, coming in third and fourth after Barack Obama and John McCain. This didn’t happen by chance. Their Twitter posts have become an integral part of a new State Department effort to bring diplomacy into the digital age, by using widely available technologies to reach out to citizens, companies and other nonstate actors. Ross and Cohen’s style of engagement — perhaps best described as a cross between social-networking culture and foreign-policy arcana — reflects the hybrid nature of this approach.


02 August 2010

Who Gets a State, and Why?

Summary: Sovereignty is the ultimate prize in international relations. But it is not an objective term -- increasingly, it is awarded and defined by powerful actors whose interests are at stake.

STEPHEN D. KRASNER is Graham H. Stuart Professor of International Relations at Stanford University, a Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. From 2005 to 2007, he served as Director of the Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State.

01 August 2010

What to Read on Fascism

Summary: An annotated Foreign Affairs syllabus on fascism.

DAVID ART is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Tufts University.


What to Read on State Building

Summary: An annotated Foreign Affairs syllabus on state building.

HILLEL SOIFER is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Temple University.


What to Read on Fighting Insurgencies

Summary: An annotated Foreign Affairs syllabus on fighting insurgencies.

ELIOT A. COHEN is Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies at the Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.


The Federalist No. 10

The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection (continued) - the most famous of the Federalist papers.

Thanks to Aunty Nicky for the original tip and to Foreign Policy for the link.

What to Read on Lobbying

Summary: An annotated Foreign Affairs syllabus on lobbying.

ROBERT C. LIEBERMAN is Professor of Political Science and Public Affairs at Columbia University.


What to read on states and markets

Summary: An annotated Foreign Affairs syllabus on states and markets.

MARK BLYTH is Professor of International Political Economy
at Brown University.