Terrorism, bikies and secret evidence

cheng murder

Could the High Court employ EU/UK/Canadian structured proportionality analysis recently embraced in McCloy v NSW  to achieve a viable constitutional resolution of the dilemma posed by the need to protect secret  national security information in anti-terrorism matters while at the same time affording a fair hearing to terrorism suspects?

UNSW’s George Williams argues that “now is the worst time for making new laws”, given shock, anger and consequent possibilities of overreaction which could undermine “the very freedoms we are seeking to preserve from terrorism”.

Obviously Williams was referring to last Friday’s dreadful terrorist attacks in Paris, and to the citizenship-stripping bill currently being considered by Parliament. However he might just as well have been talking about the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2015 (Cth) which was also introduced into Parliament last week by Attorney-General George Brandis.  It was clearly triggered at least in part by the murder of NSW police accountant Curtis Cheng by a 15 year old radicalised Muslim fanatic at Parramatta just seven weeks ago.  As Tamara Tulich and Jessie Blackbourn explain in an excellent article at The Conversation:

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Posted in Law, Politics - national | Leave a comment

Social middleware: another installment – another app

In an earlier post I argued the case for the ‘middleware of democracy’ arguing for the inculcation of the (largely social) skills that help constitute collective intelligence. Skills like having some small inkling of how ignorant we all are, listening to those with different opinions as if they might have something to say, being good at retaining the respect of those who don’t agree with you while you try to persuade them of your point of view.

We occasionally pay homage to the importance of these skills, but we haven’t in my experience thought hard or taken any strong action in the direction of seeking to build them except by rhetorical emphasis – and words are cheap. That’s why I thought Tim Van Gelder’s YourView was a great initiative. It runs debates online but all the while in the background it’s ranking the ‘epistemic virtues’ of the participants in the conversation. He might have chosen a more compelling term than ‘epistemic virtue’ but then Tim’s a philosopher.

In any event I thought YourView constituted the middleware of democracy in an age in which virtually everyone hates what our democracy has become. In the same spirit here’s an educational initiative and educational software that monitors, and so offers a way to teach collaboration. I must admit my heart sank when I read this:

By working with real teachers and real students the ATC21S™ team have developed an assessment tool to provide real data to teachers and parents about students’ collaborative problem solving skills.

Real teachers, real students – real data. A bit tough on those of us who like to pretend. Anyway this is a small tick in what looks like a great initiative.

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Posted in Cultural Critique, Economics and public policy, Education, Philosophy | 4 Comments

Another one for the robots: they’re better at hiring low skill workers

Discretion in Hiring
by Mitchell Hoffman, Lisa B. Kahn, Danielle Li – #21709 (LS)

Who should make hiring decisions? We propose an empirical test for assessing whether firms should rely on hard metrics such as job test scores or grant managers discretion in making hiring decisions. We implement our test in the context of the introduction of a valuable job test across 15 firms employing low-skill service sector workers. Our results suggest that firms can improve worker quality by limiting managerial discretion. This is because, when faced with similar applicant pools, managers who exercise more discretion (as measured by their likelihood of overruling job test recommendations) systematically end up with worse hires

Posted in Economics and public policy | 3 Comments

Jewish Film Festival Guide to Good Films: better late than never

At least according to our sleuthing, there are lots of films, but only six could reasonably be called Troppolicious, if indeed it is reasonable to call anything Troppolicious

Top Picks

Nat is an old Jewish baker who reluctantly hires Ayyash, a young Muslim refugee from Darfur, to help out his failing bakery. Ayyash, who sells cannabis on the side to help his struggling mother, drops his stash into Nat’s dough. Suddenly, the customers can’t get enough of his challah, and Nat discovers that his dwindling shop has customers lining up around the block. It’s a change of fortune that’s noticed by local business rivals and drug lords alike, none of whom are happy with Nat’s success.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆☆ The Film Corner

The Israeli Defense Force operates special undercover units in the West Bank and Gaza. The Mista’arvim blend into the Palestinian population, speaking fluent Arabic and carrying out anti-terror operations. When a notorious Hamas operative re-emerges, Doron comes out of retirement to lead a unit in search of the man he believed to be dead. This tense, gripping show is the biggest Israeli TV series of the year, showing all sides of the conflict from the Israeli soldiers to the Arab civilians caught up in the crossfire.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB

The hit TV series that explores the life of an ultra-Orthodox family in Jerusalem returns. The second season of Shtisel centres on father and son, Shulem and Akiva Shtisel, who share the same apartment in ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim. It features the same cynical humour and the same search for love that made the first season one of Israel’s biggest TV shows.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB

Sylvain’s mother is 95 and the doctors have given her only weeks to live. But she’s not giving up easily: an eternal optimist, she refuses to accept the result, and ‘decides’ to hang around for a while longer. Sylvain visits her every day, and she spends those visits imparting her wealth of knowledge and inspirational teachings on life upon her devoted son.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB

The one-panel cartoons in the New Yorker magazine are the stuff of legend: hilarious, inspiring and occasionally baffling artworks that reflect and comment on the world we live in. Now, director Leah Wolchok takes us behind the scenes to experience the successes, rejections, and processes of the madcap geniuses-many of whom are Jewish-who create them. An offbeat look at one of journalism’s most enduring institutions.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB

In the 1950s, the most popular children’s books in Israel were from the series Children of the World. The books, which remain in print over six decades later, featured heroes and beloved characters who were depicted by actual children in real photographs. But who were these children, and what became of them?
☆☆☆☆ IMDB

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Alfred Marshall: Founding theorist of Corporate Social Responsibility/Shared Value and social enterprise

Who knew that Alfred Marshall published an essay entitled “The Social Possibilities of Economic Chivalry” (1907) (pdf)? I didn’t until I came upon it the other day. Having now read it, it’s thoroughly Marshallian – very much of a piece with his dissenting meliorism which I discussed here and which runs like a thread through mainstream economics from Smith through Mill to Marshall and (at a pinch) to Keynes, with economics staying true to its roots in enlightenment moral philosophy.


In any event, the way Marshall couches his case is very dated, as indeed is his choice of the idea of chivalry to convey his meaning. I was rather taken with it as a rhetorical or linguistic stratagem. There’s something to be said for ideas and terms that have some history behind them. There’s nothing much that’s all that new in the world and it’s healthy to remind ourselves that human history, even Western history, even modern Western history is long. Within that tradition, there’s nothing much new under the sun, though there are new takes on things, new interpretations of circumstances.

In any event, he takes chivalry rather further – rather more seriously:

War is more cruel even than competition to oust rivals from their work and living; but there grew up around it a chivalry which brought out the noble, emulative side of war, and even something of the finer sympathies. If in the Elysian fields a mediaeval warrior be now discussing with late inhabitants of worlds many billions of miles away from our own the experiences of his old world, he may hold up his head as he speaks of the chivalry of war, the thing that occupied people’s imagination most in that age.

As the Duke of Wellington, upon being greeted as “Mr Brown I believe” once said “If you believe that, you’ll believe anything”. Continue reading

Posted in Economics and public policy, Education, Ethics, Innovation | 1 Comment

The Economic Costs of Organised Crime

I examine the post-war economic development of two regions in southern Italy exposed to mafia activity after the 1970s and apply synthetic control methods to estimate their economic performance in the absence of organised crime. The comparison of actual and counterfactual development shows that the presence of mafia lowers GDP per capita by 16%.

Paolo Pinotti, 2015, “The Economic Costs of Organised Crime: Evidence from Southern Italy”,The Economic Journal, 125 (August)

Posted in Economics and public policy, Law | 1 Comment

The perils of penal reform

horrellThe effective sacking of NT Corrective Services Commissioner Ken Middlebrook is sad but politically inevitable.  It came in the wake of the escape and subsequent voluntary surrender of axe murder and rapist Edward Horrell from a Sentenced to a Job work gang near Nhulunbuy.

Minister John Elferink had emphasised after some earlier Sentenced to a Job escapes that only low security prisoners were permitted to participate in the program and that sexual assault offenders were absolutely banned.  In view of that promise, Horrell should not have been on the program and it was appropriate that Middlebrook as the Commissioner should tender his resignation in those circumstances.  A Prison Officers’ Association spokesperson asserted that Horrell’s admission to the program could only have been personally approved by the Commissioner.

Some have suggested that Minister Elferink should also have resigned or been sacked as a result.  However that does not reflect the modern Australian concept of Ministerial responsibility unless Elferink knew Horrell or other sex offenders were being allowed to participate, or unless personal not just organisational organisational responsibility could be sheeted home to him for some other reason.  As Richard Mulgan explains:

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Posted in Politics - Northern Territory | 10 Comments