GOOD READING AND LISTENING FOR THE WEEKEND

A regular collection of links to writings and broadcasts covered in other media.

On ABC’s Saturday Extra this weekend (in case you missed it):

  • Andrew West (filling in for Geraldine Doogue) discusses the US midterm elections with political analyst David Mark.
  • The housing crisis: it’s not just about buying but also about renting with Peter Mares, who has just written a book, No Place Like Home: Repairing Australia’s Housing Crisis.
  • The suffocation of democracy with Christopher Brown, Professor Emeritus of history at the University of Carolina.
  • The role Latin America played during World War Two and the tussle between both sides to win over the southern nations with journalist, and author Mary Jo McConahay, who has written The Tango War: The Struggle for the Hearts, Minds and Riches of Latin America During World War II .
  • Adam Smith: what he thought and why it matters with Jesse Norman, philosopher and British Conservative MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire, author of the modestly-titled book Adam Smith.

Other commentary

Some of the most insightful commentary on the US-China relationship lies behind paywalls, but you can get one free download (“first click free”) of Martin Wolf’s article The US must avoid a new cold war with China published in the Financial Times. Kevin Rudd, writing in Foreign Affairs, has a similar message in his article “How to avoid an avoidable war”. (Foreign Affairs has more open but limited access for non-subscribers.) Both Rudd and Wolf warn of the risk of America US using the 1947-1989 Cold War metaphor in handling the China-US relationship, both urge a path between capitulation and confrontation, and both call for clear-thinking free from partisan perspectives.

In Malaysia earlier this year a surprise election outcome saw Mahathir Mohamad defeat UMNO, the party that had held office for more than 60 years, with Mahathir’s informal deal to hand over the office of Prime Minister to Anwar Ibrahim. Now that Anwar has won a seat in Parliament might that transition take place sooner? Will an Anwar government weaken the provisions that have granted political and economic privileges to the country’s ethnic Malays (the Bumiputera) ever since federation. On the ABC’s Rear Vision Keri Phillips leads a discussion with three experts on Malaysian politics.

“Australian households are facing a collective $700 billion cut to their wealth” reads an article by Stephen Letts on the ABC News website. He’s referring to a recent Morgan Stanley survey on debt, warning of the effect of falling house prices on heavily-indebted Australian households. The language is extravagant, implying that on average each of our 11 million households will be poorer by $64 000, but that’s a journalistic confusion of wealth with market values: a fall in market values will have no material effect on our houses. But it does have serious implications for those who, encouraged by banks and irresponsible government policies on capital gains and negative gearing, have become heavily indebted. As those with heavy debt and zero or negative equity in their real-estate tighten their belts (“deleveraging”) the real economy could suffer recessionary pressure.

Investment in clean energy is surging, but in the absence of a government energy policy it is likely to fall. Adam Morton’s article in the Guardian has an impressive list of large-scale projects in the investment pipeline and figures on the growth of household solar. The prices at which these large projects can sell energy are substantially lower than those which would be available from expanding or re-furbishing existing coal-fired stations, and are much lower than the price needed to justify a new coal-fired station. But without an energy policy Australia faces a period of chaotic disruption.

In the unlikely event that anyone needs confirmation about the distress faced by asylum-seekers on Nauru the ABC’s Background Briefing has a two-part series on the plight of ill and distressed children and their families. Part 1 was broadcast last Sunday. Part 2 will be broadcast tomorrow, Sunday 4 November. (Some of the accounts of children’s suffering are confronting.)

Worldwide, terrorism is falling, but not in the US, where most attacks seem to be motivated by right-wing ideologies, including anti-Semitism. Some explanation may be provided by Pankaj Mishra, author of The Age of Anger: A History of the Present. He is interviewed by Phillip Adamsprior to his participation in Sydney’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas. He suggests that liberal democracies have failed to provide the equality, stability and opportunity that people hope for and need, and that people are enraged by the corruption of the ruling classes, leading to a global outbreak of resentement.

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