Cine Latino Film Festival

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Trailer Icon 03 Neruda (Opening Night)
Neruda is a lavishly-mounted re-imagining of the Nobel Prize-winning poet’s pursuit into political exile. It’s 1948, and the Cold War has reached Chile. In Congress, Neruda accuses the left-wing government of betraying the Communist Party and is swiftly impeached. The bumbling Police prefect Oscar Peluchonneau is appointed to arrest him. Neruda tries to flee the country with his wife Delia, but they are forced into hiding. Yet the poet is somehow inspired by the dramatic events of his new life as a fugitive, and uses this struggle as an opportunity to reinvent his work and life, leaving clues for his nemesis designed to make their game of cat and mouse more dangerous, more intimate. Indeed in this ingeniously-crafted tale of the persecuted poet and his implacable adversary, Neruda discovers his own heroic possibilities: a chance to become both a symbol for liberty, and a literary legend.
☆☆☆☆☆ Cine Vue
☆☆☆☆ IMDB

In this clever road movie about road movies, Wendy, Diego, Rodrigo and Alberto are four thirty somethings who travel through the lush Peruvian jungle from village to village to show a film in the open air. We don’t get to find out what the film is, nor is it clear why hardly anybody comes to watch the free shows. Between villages they chat, meet local people, and generally sort out the world’s problems (or at least their own). Alberto is stuck in a dead-end job that pays too well for him to leave. Wendy can’t get her love-life together. While Diego and Rodrigo struggle to make ends meet as full time artists. The largely improvised dialogue between them is smart and snappy, with refined nonsense shifting seamlessly into the major questions of life.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB

The 1950 World Cup Final is the most famous match in football history known simply as the ‘Maracanazo’. Host Brazil faced Uruguay in the newly constructed Maracaná mega-stadium in front of 200,000 fans needing only to draw to win the Cup for the first time. Using carefully restored footage and interviews with the few surviving players, Maracanazo is the definitive account of a unique moment in football history that would shape these two nations and their players forever.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB

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Posted in Films and TV | 1 Comment

Choice, competition, markets and human services: Some thoughts

The PC has a two stage reference on increasing the application of competition, contestability and informed user choice in the provision of human services. The first stage will identify the most prospective areas for the application of such principles whilst the second will tell us all How to Do It.  Its origins I presume are in the Harper Competition Review’s tacking on human services to its remit. It’s odd that such a large change should be proposed by the four people comprising the Harper Review all of whom (I am assuming from their CVs) have had pretty minimal involvement with human services. I’m not sure Plato had quite this in mind, but there you go – the economic reformer as philosopher king.

I recall attending a two day seminar on the subject put on by the Harper Review and it was fairly clear that the panel itself was a bit bemused by it all. I thought that they’d got the idea for this departure in competition policy inquiries from their terms of reference, but on inspecting them further in writing this post, I can’t find evidence of this. Perhaps there was an exchange of correspondence between the inquiry and the Government.

In any event, I recall Gary Sturgess admonishing the policy elite that had turned out to the two day conference “stop it or you’ll go blind”. Gary was unimpressed with the Procrustean way in which the report rehearsed the advantages of competition and choice concluding that if it’s good for shopping centres it must be good for human services without any real understanding of the difficulties of delivery. You’ll get some insight into his thinking if you read this speech he gave to British Services Association in London earlier this year.

Here’s a central passage:

I have always been uncomfortable with the terms ‘contracting out’ and ‘outsourcing’ because they imply a denial of responsibility that is, I believe, embedded in the use of the word ‘out’. Governments cannot outsource the responsibility for delivering public value, and yet all too often, the process of organising a procurement and negotiating the terms of a contract seems to encourage this very mindset.

There is no necessary connection between contracting and outsourcing. But the frequency with which one is accompanied by the other, in the private sector as well as the public sector, suggests that we need to be extremely careful in how these tools are used. The way in which some government agencies have sought to maximise risk transfer is evidence of an outsourcing mindset, the frequency with which price becomes the principal driver in contracting, the manner in which questions of quality and flexibility are so often sacrificed.

I have the same concerns when politicians and policymakers speak of ‘public service markets’ – the use of this term seems to carry with it an underlying assumption of ‘laissez faire’ – simple consumer markets of the kind that are studied in first-year economics. I have battled this repeatedly in my home country [Australia], where our national government is constructing a massive voucher scheme for disability support services.

It is a reform that has bipartisan support – it was initiated by a Labor government – and the prospect of choice has been warmly embraced by people with a disability and their carers. But until very recently, when questions concerning the design and stewardship of the supply side were raised, policymakers responded: ‘oh, the market will fix that’. The problem is that there is no market – that is the challenge that policymakers have set. And there is no reason why the market will address supplier failure in a timeframe that will be relevant to a person with a severe disability. …

I think many so-called public service markets are much more like corporate supply chains than commodity markets. If Ford mismanages its supply chain, so that its vehicles burst into flames, there is no point blaming their suppliers. It is Ford that will face the cost of recall. It is Ford’s brand that will be trashed. It is Ford’s share price that will suffer. And while Ford may lay off some of the blame on its suppliers, it is Ford that will bear the vast majority of the reputational and financial cost. Continue reading

Posted in Economics and public policy, Inequality, Philosophy, Political theory, Public and Private Goods, Society | 10 Comments

Bullshit: some more tidbits

Apropos of my general theory of bullshit – outlined here – here are a few more straws in the wind. Consistent with the theory, the the signal to ideological noise ratio in political speeches has been falling precipitously lately – at least in the US. This has been interpreted as ‘polarisation’. Certainly in US politics, on account of one of the mainstream parties having taken complete leave of their senses, there is more polarisation. But people are everywhere pretty despairing of their mainstream politics, even when it’s not been becoming more partisan (in many ways Australian political debate has been less partisan lately with two neoliberal parties battling it out for the consent of the governed.

Then there’s this bizarre and intriguing story about a court deciding whether or not an artist’s word that he didn’t paint a painting is to be believed. Further:

Deborah R Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina school of law, said the case points to how closely the value of a work is connected to the artist’s name.

“This case represents what I think is a very interesting trend in the art wold: so much of the value of art turns on the brand name of the artist and artists really like to control the quality that their names are associated with,” she said.

I’d be very interested to know if this claim – that more and more of the economic value of painting is tied up in the ‘brand’ of the artist’s name. It rings true to me. In many arts the craft of creating the art is such a strong precondition of good art that if some great work that there’s plenty left if you discover the author was someone other than whom you thought.

Likewise to fake a great artist from pre-modern times, one would have to have sufficient skill to paint something that was nevertheless a considerable achievement. Today arts like music performance and ballet remain in this category. To use an old slogan of Edison’s, they’re 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Today a lot of visual art is ‘conceptual’. And a lot of the reception conceptual art is in the packaging. When I was cartooning I remember thinking that I could have done up my cartoons as large canvasses and sold them as conceptual art. Likewise, often when I see conceptual art in an art gallery, I think that its essential content could be conveyed just as easily in an op ed illustration – for instance by Spooner. But then that makes less money – and less splash.

All in all, we’re in love with the big stuff, whether or not that makes sense.

Posted in Art and Architecture, Cultural Critique | 11 Comments

Higher inequality and comparison effects on welfare

Income inequality is associated with stronger social comparison effects: The effect of relative income on life satisfaction, Cheung, Felix; Lucas, Richard E.

Abstract

Previous research has shown that having rich neighbors is associated with reduced levels of subjective well-being, an effect that is likely due to social comparison. The current study examined the role of income inequality as a moderator of this relative income effect. Multilevel analyses were conducted on a sample of more than 1.7 million people from 2,425 counties in the United States. Results showed that higher income inequality was associated with stronger relative income effects. In other words, people were more strongly influenced by the income of their neighbors when income inequality was high. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 110(2), Feb 2016, 332-341.

I’m shocked, shocked that greater inequality produces all this envy. It’s almost as if those promoting inequality are practicing class war!

Posted in Economics and public policy | 6 Comments

Some recent papers of interest

Persistent Social Networks: Civil War Veterans who Fought Together Co-Locate in Later Life

by Dora L. Costa, Matthew E. Kahn, Christopher Roudiez, Sven Wilson  –  #22397 (AG DAE HE)

Abstract:

At the end of the U.S Civil War, veterans had to choose whether to

return to their prewar communities or move to new areas.  The late

19th Century was a time of sharp urban growth as workers sought out

the economic opportunities offered by cities.  By estimating discrete

choice migration models, we quantify the tradeoffs that veterans

faced. Veterans were less likely to move far from their origin and

avoided urban immigrant areas and high mortality risk areas.  They

also avoided areas that opposed the Civil War. Veterans were more

likely to move to a neighborhood or a county where men from their

same war company lived.  This co-location evidence highlights the

existence of persistent social networks.  Such social networks had

long-term consequences:  veterans living close to war time friends

enjoyed a longer life. Continue reading

Posted in Best From Elsewhere, Economics and public policy | 3 Comments

Yes Minister: hilarious, truthful, too good to be true.

Here at Troppo we have referred to the ‘Yes Minister series’ many times because of its brilliant commentary on the timeless issues of government, exemplified in the skit above. I have gone through three phases with the series: when it first aired in the 1980s, I was a teenager and thought it was a brilliant and humorous satire, depicting a grossly exaggerated view of how naive politicians were and how powerful the bureaucrats. I was laughing because I thought things were not that bad.

In my early 30s and after a few years in Canberra, I reached a different view. I thought the series depicted a world that was roughly true, with more or less amateur politicians controlled by civil servants who were a bit up themselves and elitist but at least had a joint mission and kept the lobbyists at bay.

In the last 5 years I have reached yet another take on the series: if only things were this good! If only we had such a united group at the heart of the state system that was looking out for a shared notion of the public good! I now look at sir Humphrey and think of how we can create more of him and put them in charge, rather than how to stop them. In my estimation, he has gone from evil villain to utopian hero!

Posted in Cultural Critique, Democracy, Economics and public policy, Ethics, Geeky Musings, Humour, Journalism, Libertarian Musings, Life, Philosophy, Political theory, Review, Society | 9 Comments

A meaningless sentence

The following is a guest post by David Morris, Principal Lawyer of the Environmental Defenders Office (NT).

The Northern Territory already carries a 1 billion dollar burden for legacy mines. These are mine sites where the company has walked away and left ongoing environmental degradation for the taxpayer to repair. We’d like to think that this is a thing of the past, but recent events show that this not the case. The recent demise of Western Desert Resources (WDR) is a good example. WDR illegally cleared 175km of native vegetation, the company went into administration and, with no likely buyers of the mine, the taxpayer is left to manage the erosion issues and to remove illegal waterway crossings. The fine for the director of the company? $7500! (See ABC article when the decision was handed down in April).

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Posted in Environment, Law | 9 Comments