James’ Picks Archive

Just How Expensive is Bottled Water?

In 2014, for the cost of one bottle of Mt Franklin from Woolworths, you can refill your bottle nearly 1900 times, and hydrate yourself for 5 years 73 days.

Quadrant Online – Our Trite and Tawdry Political Class

I have a new piece up at Quadrant Online on how the emptiness of political communication is driving a mutual contempt between the political class and the electorate it is trying to reach. Read it here.

Who Else Said ‘Gloves Off’ for the Media?

Our Prime Minister and her caucus are putting themselves in dubious company with the demand that it is time for "gloves off" in dealing with the media

Housing: Look First At Councils

Michael Koziol has called out both Leichhardt Council and its minority of nay-saying residents in a long overdue Sydney Morning Herald article. God knows how the only paying reader of the SMH will take this: Sydney’s housing crisis is substantially the fault of “narrow-minded, self-interested individuals who oppose the building of any new homes in […]

Yes, There’s a Left Wing In The Greens – And They Want To Run Leichhardt

As hard as it is to conceive for those of us labouring under the Green yoke, we’re probably lucky. Because as Hall Greenland recently wrote, […]   the federal Greens leadership, not to mention the Greens membership as a whole, are veering to the right, driven by electoralism and an attachment to neoliberalism. They are, […]

Hard Truths About Public Sector IT

Despite the major changes to Information Communications Technology (ICT) strategy in the NSW public sector, everywhere I turn lately I’ve been hit with the great unstated barrier: lousy execution. Changes to strategy are great: common platforms, sensible IT architecture planning, decent systems to eliminate duplicated projects and so on are an absolute must. But a […]

Neither A Monarchist Nor A Republican Be

It’s a sad fact that in politics sometimes people can be right for the wrong reasons. I struggle with this frequently when I find myself agreeing with people whose reasoning is very different from mine. As it is with the monarchy, the republic, and the Queen’s Jubilee. I have no feelings of emotional attachment to […]

Political Tribes, Institutions and Democratic Failure

Arnold King at American.com reviews two books examining how a successful liberal democracy emerges. What jumps out: In order to have the rule of law, a society must have cultural institutions that promote rules and norms that cannot be overturned by autocrats… The basic problem… is that humans evolved to reward close relatives, to appreciate […]

MPs as Lobbyists and the Mendicant Society

Local MPs do just as much lobbying for vested interests as all those industry associations, NGOs and Hawker-esque consulting firms.  It’s just that they’re lobbyists for a geographic vested interest group – their electorate. I used to see lobbying as an unwelcome attempt to influence ‘independent’ policy professionals and MPs when they try to create […]

Departing on Budget Night is a Blessed Relief

Like watching Q&A, experiencing a Swannie budget night is necessary but painful beyond belief. But this time things are different. I have the good fortune to flying out of the country early tomorrow morning. I can tell myself that I’m not being slack for avoiding the speech and Budget Papers till after I take off; […]

Political Class Gets It Wrong Again

The members of the political class control communications and campaigns on both sides of politics. Unless they reform to minimise their isolation and arrogance, they will drive further voter disillusion. The NY Times’ David Brooks  raised this recently. He suggested four metaphors for political campaigns: seduction, talent contest, tradesman’s pitch, and warfare. The hard, negative […]

Anzac Day Needs A Dose of Reality

The festival of cliché that is Anzac Day lets down people like my Dad and my uncle. Make it all real. It's the least we can do.

How To Set Fire To A Dinner Party

Engage a tableful of thirty-something single women friends in banter. Ask why a man should pay for a date when the only difference between a date and non-date dinner with a man is the possibility of sex at the end of the night. Make the link between sex and money more explicit than you should. […]

What Not To Say If You Want A Future In Politics 1

Fellow Earthians… I’ve got cash…no wait, I’ll use my HSU card Gareth, your beard looks quite fetching from across the chamber Programmatic specificity I’ll be staying in the city tonight, Belinda I don’t care what Robbo says, I’m going to sell the poles and wires It depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is Vladimir, […]

Defining Oneself as ‘More Informed’

After writing about the wanker-class I am reminded of a conversation I had with a middle-aged environmental activist at a fundraising function – yes, for an environmental cause. At one point, concerned about how dismissive she was about the views of ordinary people, I commented: “Your position does depend on the fact that you are […]