The Sydney Shove is an economics and politics discussion group which had its first embryonic meeting around April 2004. Unlike most other discussion groups, which have a particular left or right lean, we try to have people from over the political spectrum. It's a combination which has impressed many people used to the usual 'lefty' gatherings, for the stimulating ideas which are discussed and examined. There's a bit more on the history here. There's bit more on the motivation behind the Sydney Shove here.
My name is John August, and I convene the Sydney Shove. I've a science background, and on radio 2SER Sydney's (107.3) "Diffusion" science program. Some recent radio work appears at Feedburner. This includes a talk I gave on "Alternative Economic Theories" last year. Additional segments from the Tuesday and Wednesday daily programs are archived at www.archive.org (see here).
You'll find links to these archives, and other material on my web page (including articles on Oil & the Future, Nuclear Power, Light Pollution, Voting and Abortions) here.
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We've uncovered some material on the web that, well ... we find interesting. Here's some of it.
"13 Days" is a dramatisation of the Cuban Missile Crisis, while "Fog of War" is a documentary on Robert McNamara, US Secretary of Defence during the Cold War - including the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam.
"13 Days" is a remarkable film - while you know it was resolved peacefully, you can feel the world edging towards nuclear war - and it is terrifying.
6pm for dinner at Duck Inn, 74 Rose Street Chippendale, not far away
7pm Movie - Humanist House, 10 Shepherd Street, Chippendale. Suggested donation to cover space - $3 to $5
Dr. Gerald Bull sought to fire projectiles into space from guns - if the projectiles had a rocket motor, the gun was effectively the first stage of a rocket.
In his pursuit of more powerful guns towards this goal, he contracted to build the so called "Super Gun" for Saddam Hussein, but was killed before he was able to complete it.
This is a story of international politics, dictators and how Dr. Bull led his team to conquer a series of engineering challenges in building the most powerful gun the world has yet seen.
I discussed affordability in the property market with Brad Row, free market advocate, looking at the ethics and players in the market more carefully, where it seems to me the advocates for the property market use some rather spurious arguments. Considering how the the market for accomodation happens in Australia, negative gearing, rent control, public housing, regulation and market intervention.
I spoke on the subject of Secular issues - what is the influence of religion in Australia ? How much is unhealthy, and what should be done about it ?
In times past, Peter Saunders ( the one affiliated with the CIS ) critiqued ideas about poverty where you set people earning a given fraction of the average wage and call that poverty. I'm sympathetic to those critiques - you certainly need more to analyse poverty. However, I'm less fond of his broader positive assertions about how things should be.
More recently, in the book "The Spirit Level", Wilkinson and Pickett claim correlations between equality and prosperity; they're claims I'm sympathetic to with Saunders critical of them.
Conversely, Brad favours Saunders' viewpoint. That's something we'll discuss at the next Shove.
To be clear, Peter Saunders is not expected to turn up, Brad and myself will be debating his views (and perhaps others) on poverty.
David Campbell, President of the Pirate Party of Australia, reports on Intellectual Property and how it affects us - from copyright and the internet, the attempt to redefine civil interactions as crimes, and also patents on Genes, something in the media at present.
Importantly, our freedoms are being limited through international agreement like the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, SOPA, ACTA and so on - and are passed at closed meetings, far removed from public scrutiny. Not to mention narky things like copyright being extended to protect the interests of Disney.
David will also outline the policies of the Pirate Party, where it came from and its objectives.
Nick Cowdery, Director of Public Prosecutions from 1994 to 2011, has been an enthusiastic supporter for both drug law reform and voluntary euthanasia.
Nick commenced practising as a public defender in Papua New Guinea in 1971 after admission as a barrister in the same year. He entered private practice in 1975 where he concentrated in criminal law, common law, administrative law and some commercial law.
Nick wrote "Getting Justice Wrong: myths, media and crime" in 2001, in an attempt to set the record straight agains the shock jocks and columnists who mangle statistics and see "crime waves" surrounding us with the need to "get tough on crime".
He has spoken previously on Drug Law Reform at the Potts Point Chamber of Commerce, and Voluntary Euthanasia (or "Voluntary Assisted Suicde" as he prefers to call it) at a previous "Your Last Right" event at NSW Parliament House.
Ian McLean, is a longtime number 96 fan, who appeared on the Steve Vizard Show as the "Number 96 Historian".
Number 96 was a controversial and provocative program in its time. Ian looks back - what was going on back then ? What were our values and concerns, the backdrop against which Number 96 was set ? What impact did Number 96 make ? What was driving the writers ? Were they just being provocative - or was there something deeper at work ? And - we'll also hear from Ian - the impact it had on him, and why he finds it so memorable and fascinating.
Spokesperson for Jews against the Occupation Sydney. Vivienne's goal is a just peace in Israel/Palestine where Palestinians and Jews can live side by side in security and mutual respect.
Graham has completed postgraduate Middle Eastern Studies and has travelled to the middle east many times. He has a Bachelor of Theology and a long interest in Muslim / Christian relations.
Interested in Social Justice issues, was and is a self-anointed defender of underdogs and a devil's advocate. Paul sees himself as an agnostic, who is genetically and neurotically Jewish. He is on a journey, learning what it means for him to unashamedly be a member of the diverse and ever-evolving Jewish People.
I see Israel having the perogative to do some things and not others, in a combination I see few others putting forward. I have my inclinations, but rather than being fired up about injustices on either side, am more intrigued with the passion of the debate and the torrent of false arguments eminating from both sides.
Martin will look at stopping security and crime concerns from overriding basic liberties like freedom of movement, association and speech, and also privacy.
In particular Martin will look at refugees who have an adverse ASIO security assessement. As there are no grounds for appeal, these people face life in captivity, the result of what I (JA) call "legal slippage", something MB sees as contrary to the basic requirements of a liberal democracy.
Martin is a member of the Executive and of the Council of the NSWCCL, and convenes the civil and indegenous rights and criminal justice subcommittee.
Martin is a former senior lecturer at the University of NSW, involved in the teaching of professional ethics and social philosophy, predominantly to teachers.
He spoke for us in 2011. If you've been watching the news, you'll know the Food Standards Australia New Zealand have approved Hemp Seeds for use in food - (including ice cream, cake and beer). See the article here
Dr. Katelaris has also made some progress in using Hemp as a building material, and he reviewed some recent medical developments, and reviewed Industrial Hemp.
Terry, an energetic activist with Beyond Zero Emissions and 440ppm, spoke on climate change, the economy and the goal of a zero carbon economy.
Graham Hoskin will be in conversation with Angela Drury and John August (me) on the subject of the US religious right (including the "Tea Party") and his trips to the Middle East - and, probably, plenty of other topics too. Those who have turned up to previous Graham Hoskin talks will know just how broad ranging his knowledge is, and how interesting and entertaining he is.
Graham Hoskin has completed postgraduate Middle Eastern Studies and has travelled to the middle east many times. He has a Bachelor of Theology and a long interest in Muslim / Christian relations.
Islam's view of causality has changed throughout history. Nowadays there's the view that action is determined by God and there is no such thing as causality in the world.
This was not always the case; there have been alternative views in the past, with associated theological conflicts. Islamic cultures have also in the past been inovators in mathematics, astronomy and medicine; it's interesting to consider the relationship between these innovations and the theological history of Islam.
Brad Row and Ian Bryce debate economic growth. Will improving technology mean we can have continued improvement in our quality of life while the impact on the environment is reduced ? Or will it mean consumption and the impact on the environment increase, reducing our quality of life and the environment around us, perhaps ultimately resulting in an economic and environmental "crash" ?
Brad Row is a longtime free market advocate; Ian Bryce is a member of the Secular Party with a longtime concern for the environment and the state of the planet.
With Gillard settling into a minority Government, there's been a lot of discussion about the nature of democracy and what goes on in Parliament.
Jon Shapiro is a host of East Side Radio's "Friday Drive" program (89.7 FM, a community station which broadcasts out of Paddington Town Hall).
Jon Shapiro has a strong interest in participatory democracy, and his position on "Democracy Without Politics" has been cited in several publications relating to democracy, along with various internet forums.
The following quote gives an idea of where Jon is coming from :
Democracy and politics are different things. Democracy is hard to define with any precision, and therefore it may take a variety of forms; there seems to be general agreement it means something like ordinary people being able, to some extent, to determine the laws that govern them. Politics is a broad term encompassing the range of interactions between individual members of a community, and is mainly directed at ordering social hierarchies. The strong correlation between politics and lawmaking is indicated by the term politics being uniformly applied to lawmaking. However, this application distracts us from the possibility of quarantining politics from lawmaking; and, further, the necessity of doing so if we want democracy to function properly.
All systems of national lawmaking have so far been political, in that politics is used to select an elite of decision-makers (elected politicians, in nominal democracies) to make laws for the rest of us. The interference of politics with lawmaking is not only frustrating for ordinary citizens, but also leads to lacklustre laws being made.
Vivienne Porzsolt is spokesperson for Jews against the Occupation Sydney, living in Darlinghurst. She has worked for over 20 years for a just peace in Israel/Palestine where Palestinians and Jews can live side by side in security and mutual respect.
She is a secular Jew born in New Zealand of Czechoslovak Jews who managed to get out of Prague the day Hitler marched in. She identifies with the secular Jewish tradition, identified by the Marxist historian Isaac Deutscher as that of the 'non-Jewish Jew' - critical, internationalist and rationalist.
The Holocaust background is central to Vivienne's values of social justice and inclusion. For her, 'Never again' means 'Never again' for anyone, not just Jews. She cannot abide what the State of Israel is doing in the name of all Jews, using the trauma of her people to mobilise so many Jews into uncritical support of the actions of the State.
Her talk will be about her experiences on the Gaza Freedom March earlier this year and her activities with the various activists of the Israeli peace movement.
The Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, or MSIC at Kings Cross was an outcome from the 1999 Drug Summit. The MSIC supervises injecting episodes, aiming to reduce the harm that might otherwise occur in less safe circumstances such as public places or alone - in particular, harm from overdoses and the transmission of blood borne infections.
Dr. Marianne Jauncey, Medical Director and Jennifer Holmes, Clinical Services Manager, will speak on the activities of the MSIC, harm minimisation and the political context.
I will be opening the event with a recitation of the poem, "My Love For My Lady Sin". It was written by "Toby", when he was 16 years old and a local resident at the time.
Margaret Hogge, President of the Non-Smoker's Movement, talks about smoking, society and the law. What is the significance of the new packaging laws and recent changes to taxation ? What about "second hand" smoke and the right to clean air ?
Margaret will also about the NSMA's current campaigns - smoke free music venues, al fresco dining, controlled smoking in the CBD and smoke-free multi unit housing.
Graham Long, pastor, wayside chapel, deals with drug addiction, mental illness and homelessness on a daily basis. But his views on the legality of drugs are quite progressive, much as shock jocks love to mouth off without any real world experience.
Waratah Gillespie is a Human Rights Activist who was previously sending reports from Bougainville, challenging the outright lies which were being promoted by the Government of the time in a deliberately induced media vacuum. Waratah was shot at by the PNG Army and took testimony regarding the many atrocities committed by PNG Army and local militia while in Bougainville, whose reality was evaded by the Australian Government, with the whole debacle eventually imploding in the Sandline affair.
Domestically, Waratah became the focus of Australia's Foreign Affairs Establishment, and was targetted by Australia's Police Departments - including the infamous NSW Special Branch.
Hear Waratah's experiences in Bougainville - and importantly, her experiences with agents of the Australian Government, as they tried by various means to obstruct her, silence and finally arrest her on spurious charges which then blew up in the Government's face.
For the most part, we lead our lives focusing on private concerns and the other members of social and the economy we have dealings with, without affecting, and unaffected by, Australian Government foreign policy. But, for some individuals, their actions come to the attention of the highest levels of Government, and they are treated as individuals of concern by that same Government. It is a rare phenomenon - were it to happen too often, it would be common currency and obvious to all of us. Rather, it is rare, so we only hear about it at sporadic public forums such as the Shove provides.
Michael has a diverse range of "at the coalface" experience in Local Government, and gives us the opportunity of hearing a unique, directly informed perspective. You'll find his talk here
Michael's focus will be waste from over-government, starting with a look at the consequences of the past failure to restructure at General Motors and its new direction after bankruptcy. This will be followed by a look at the consequences and scale of waste for Australian governments in failing to restucture, finishing with a discussion about the evolving direct relationship between local government and the national government and how success may lead to the winding down of the states role and their eventual demise.
Michael describes his background :
"I am the Governance Officer at Blacktown City Council. I graduated at UTS with a Bachelor of Public Administration and have worked in the following NSW councils: Warringah, Leichhardt, Waverley and Blacktown for the past 11 years. My role at Blacktown has been to develop electronic tendering, review policies, write procedure and training manuals and develop training programs for staff in codes of conduct, procurement and meeting practice.
"My most challenging job was that of Deputy Shire Clerk at Mornington Shire Council in the Gulf of Carpenteria, Queensland. This small aboriginal council proved to me what tremendous achievements can be made when a community is empowered and motivated to achieve their visions.
"I am a member of the Governance Network Group of the Local Government Managers Association and co-convenor of the beyond federation Group.
I'll be speaking at 7pm on this topic - looking at how we try to influence the market to change overall environmental impact, and the equity of those changes which have been made.
Aaron's introduction :
"Financial Markets have shocked us all in the last year and one writer who foreshadowed much of what occurred was Nassim Nicholas Taleeb (Fooled by Randomness & The Black Swan).
"I plan to review some of the modern fallacies put forward by Taleeb which bear much of the brunt for these occurrences. Greed and fraud are of course important in the market driven disaster, but I'll being looking at more subtle factors.
"I will lead in talking about some of the evergreen fallacies that Shove attendees might recognise and then engage in Talleb's ideas from this point of departure.
Originally from New Zealand Aaron left as an Economic Refugee with Psychology and Computer Science degrees to Japan in the early 90's. After a few years teaching English he began offering software development service to multinationals in Tokyo falling by accident into the world of finance and investment banking along the way.
After working for JP Morgan in Japan he then went east to the USA in 1999 joining an American trading firm Susquehanna International Group who Then expatriated him to Ireland and Australia over the next several years. In 2006 he went back to school in NZ and Canada gaining an MBA from Otago/Ivey. Joining Challenger Financial in Mid 2007 in a cross over technology / business role has offered another interesting perspective on markets and life.
Along the way Aaron has managed to be the only non US player ever to win the tournament "ASLOK Oktoberfest" generally regarded as the world championship in what is considered the worlds most demanding and complex board-wargames "Advanced Squad Leader" after making the journey to the wilds of Cleveland 8 times between 1996 an 2004 and showing (Top 5) on three other occasions in a weeklong marathon tournament with around 150 players.
There has been endless conflict between the needs of the economy and the environment. Does more jobs have to mean less forests? No, says Dr Andrew Katelaris, after a comprehensive look at what's happening in industrial agriculture in Europe and elsewhere. This talk will outline the political forces in the 1930's which changed the world from a carbohydrate, plant based economy to one overwhelmingly supplied by petrochemical hydrocarbons and will then move to cover recent developments from around the world. Tree-free paper, chemical free fabrics, non-toxic biodegradable plastics and health promoting nutrition - all without harmful effects on the environment. Too good to be true or too good to be ignored?
Antony Loewenstein, Jewish-Australian political activist, journalist, author and blogger, author of "My Israel Question" and "The Blogging Revolution", outlined his perspective on Israel.
Marcus Strom, editor of Labor Tribune ( www.labortribune.org ) spoke on the contemporary significance of Marxism.
John Furedy is an Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of Toronto, Canada, and will report on what he calls "Velvet Totalitarianism" - Government suppression of free speech at universities through a combination of grants with restrictions and public comment protocols.
The full title is : "Academic Freedom Versus the Velvet Totalitarian Culture of Comfort on Current Canadian Campuses: Some Fundamental Terms and Distinctions "
An Abstract :
I'll begin with an elaboration of the terms in the title, for which I claim accuracy, though no comfort. Academic freedom is defined for all members of the academic community (students and faculty) as the right to be evaluated only in terms of performance (merit), and not at all in terms of opinions (comfort). The current contrasting culture of comfort on Canadian campuses is a velvet totalitarian one, where, except for the severity of punishments, the following five salient features of real totalitarian regimes are present: the presence of uninterruptable laws; the presence and power of unqualified pseudo experts; freezing fear of engaging in public discussion of controversial but fundamental issues; status-defined ethics; demonization of dissidents. Distinctions that are clear in principle (though difficult to make in practice, under some circumstances) are asserted to hold between: acts and opinions; opinions and performance; academic freedom and power; symmetrical and asymmetrical power relationships; issue- and person-directed opinions. In the final part of my talk, I shall raise the question, through a discussion of the case of Andrew Fraser's treatment by Macquarie University, of whether the Canadian velvet totalitarian administrative disease is starting to infect Australian university administrators.
Brad Row, longtime free-market advocate, argued that the current financial crisis is the result of ill-conceived attempts to regulate the market, while Joffre Balce, past consultant at Institute for People Power & Development, argued that market failure, a lack of appropriate regulation - has been the cause of the crisis
A retrospective evening on the political and folk music associations of the Sydney Push, with presentations and music from John Somerville and John Dengate
Mark Diesendorf from UNSW spoke on sustainable electricity production, and Jaan Boersma on Hot Dry Rock energy.
Mark Diesendorf teaches, researches and consults at the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of NSW. His interests are in the interdisciplinary fields of sustainable energy, sustainable urban transport, theory of sustainability and ecological economics
Jaan Boersma is a retired physicist from the University of NSW, with a longtime interest in geothermal energy.
This discussion was originally advertised with John Kaye. Due to an unavoidable conflict, John has had to substitute himself with Lee Rhiannon.
I wrote a brief review of the evening
Here's Brad Row's talk. It was originally directed at articles and comments by John Kaye. Material from John Kaye is available here.
Margaret outlined the position of the Non Smoker's Movement Australia, together with part history of the group and changes to regulations in Australia, together with current challenges.
See The Non Smokers' Movement of Australia
Jim Young, professional engineer and member of the Institution of Engineers Nuclear Panel will outline his case for Nuclear Power. Jim is an interested enthusiast and non-expert in the Nuclear field. See here for some brief comments and references from Jim's talk.
Nola Fraser, one of the nurses who criticised the administration of Camden and Campbelltown hospitals in south-western Sydney in 2002, spoke on her experiences and outline her views on the health system.
Nola also stood as the Liberal Party candidate for the electorate of Macquarie Fields for elections in 2005 and 2007.
Danny Yee, Vice-Chairman of Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA), talks about Privacy and Censorship in the electronic age, particularly the internet, together with an outline of the EFA, recent campaigns and the impact of Government legislation.
Shan Ali of the Grameen Foundation Australia (a group providing micro-credit loans, associated with Professor Muhammad Yunus who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize), gave a presentation.
See more about the Grameen Foundation Australia here
Associate Professor Eileen Baldry, spokesperson for "Beyond Bars" and Associate Dean (Education) Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at UNSW, spoke on myths around justice and punishment - "crime waves" and media beat ups vs. taking crime seriously, the cost effectiveness of prisons, alternatives to incarceration and the rising rate of those with mental health disorders and intellectual disability in prison.
A significant trend in sentencing and management of offenders is based on risk assessment which has emerged from the dominance of the risk aversion paradigm and the belief that psychometric testing can predict accurately who will offend and reoffend: shades of the movie "Minority Report", where people are incarcerated before they commit crimes.
Ideally, incarceration should be based in a commitment to justice being done and being seen to be done. Eileen questioned whether incarceration should reduce further crimes, reform the individual, deter others, and punish the offender
Eileen has provided two pages of related material in pdf : Social Factors Post Release, and Throughcare Policy. There are also some papers at AHURI on ex-prisoners and homelessness.
Here's an independent report, put together by one attendee.
This was an EWB Bookworms book discussion group on climate change. See here
Ian Spring detailed his case for increased infrastructure in Australia. See his website
We discussed the book Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures See here for more information
Ian Woolf spoke on the identity card. See here for a link to a radio show Ian and others did on the topic.
Peter Bowden turned up to our forum on the law, and is involved in Whistleblowers Australia. Peter spoke on improving organisational behaviour, whistleblowing and problems with whistleblower protection law in Australia.
This was held at the Royal Exhibition Hotel. Here's my presentation, Brad's presentation, my comment after the meeting, and a comment by Chris.
I delivered a talk on Abolishing the States, partly drawing from work by and in consultation with Mark Drumond. Mark Drummond who will soon complete a PhD at the University of Canberra. The emphasised the cost of the states, along with some reference to previous estimates of the costs and observations on the recent High Court decision. Klaas Woldring, former professor of the Southern Cross University, made a presentation on "Maximal Replicanism", including Abolishing the States.
This was combined with the launch of the First Beyond Federation Commentary. Another previous presentation is available here. Other material is available on the web sites www.beyondfederation.org.au and www.asc.org.au
This was held at the Asfield Hotel beer garden. see here
This was a joint meeting between the Sydney Mechanics' School of the Arts, the Australian Science Communicators, and the Sydney Shove, and was held at the Sydney Mechanics' School of the Arts
Speakers were : Associate Professor Ronald Ripple, Department of Economics Macquarie University, David Ellyard (winner of the Eureka Awards Science Book Prize 2004), John August (me), Convenor Sydney Shove and David Kilsby from the Australian Association for the Study for Peak Oil. We considered the ramifications the ever-diminishing supply of oil will have on the world: economically, ethically and environmentally.
Here's a more detailed flyer
Speakers were Arthur Chesterfield-Evans from the Democrats and Allen Thomas from the Austrlian Medical Association.
We were asking : How are we to relate to the increasing demand for health care, and the increasing expense of health care ? Is a market based or Government based system the best way do it ? How might we change the current system ? How do we deal with problems and their rectification in the health system ?
Here's my report; You'll also find Arthur's piece on fixing the health system on his webpage here
Problems, Effectiveness and Fairness in the Legal System had the following presenters :
John Bentley gave a talk on the nature of growth, and we also discussed some issues emerging from Bjorn Lomborg's book "The Skeptical Environmentalist". see here
Nick Turnbull was our guest speaker. Nick is a co-author of the chapter "Have Australians Embraced Economic Reform ?" in the book "Australian Social Attitudes : The First Report" from UNSW press. It was a fascinating meeting. You should have been there
James Murray chaired the meeting. David Bofinger gave a mostly pro-globalisation presentation and I (John August) gave a mostly anti-globalisation presentation
Here's my report. Peter Kriesler spoke on full employment, John Bentley spoke on full unemployment - here's a link to an earlier talk presented by John at Philorum. Ian Woolf spoke on welfare, and Brad Row spoke on laissez faire.
We have a report, my introduction, Brad Row's talk, David Bofinger's talk, Danielle Celermajer's Earlier Position Paper. Here's some comments on the talk, and some comments on Just War theory and Realpolitik from Graham Hoskin.
We run a mailing list for announcements, let me know if you'd to be on it or otherwise get in touch. My email : firstname.lastname@example.org (delete 'nospam' to get the email). My mobile : 0419 683 353.
You'll sometimes see a few shove members at Philorum where I've given a few presentations.
See the Sydney Philosophy Wikia