Saturday, December 26, 2009

Understand Climate Change - a radical concept

Now I am no climate scientist - sometimes I struggle with differential and integral calculus :-) but I do think our people need to at least try to understand what is happening around the climate problem. If only to be able to understand and assess the risks that their families are increasingly being exposed to.

A side benefit of this knowledge will be the ability to judge which of the various political parties are doing anything to manage these risks for their constituents.

And when voters (a) understand the risks and (b) work out which politicians are doing something about them - they will surely need to take account of that when next they vote.

There are many places where you can find reliable information but a good starting point is wikipedia.

This image from wikipedia shows the instrumental record of global average temperatures as compiled by the NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Even blind freddy can work out that something has been going on - and the climate scientists call it "Global Warming".

This image from wikipedia shows eight climate model predictions for global warming under the A2 scenario relative to global average temperatures in 2000.

Even the most innumerate amongst us should recognise a problem here.

And finally, this image shows the impact on Australia as assessed by the Garnaut review. Click the image to read.

So what about this is hard to understand?

It's not like Bernie Madoff is producing the data.

And finally a smallish question to ponder.

"Why do you think it is that your local newspaper, your local commercial radio stations and television channels and other so-called mainstream media have not been informing you about these things"?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

High Risk Strategy

The events of yesterday indicate that any politician who is running around denying *climate change* will need to be very careful about understanding and managing the risks of their approach.

If you can see these early effects of *climate change* being serious enough that people actually get hurt and lose property - then you will be wanting to make sure that your political brand is not too closely associated with *denial*.

Otherwise you run the risk of being branded a total *numbnut*. A political party that is in *denial* will very quickly alienate the people that it purports to be looking after.

But I guess the Australian political parties that are in denial are not too interested in looking as though they have a credible position - just yet. Unlike the Chinese and the Indians - where almost no-one is in denial.

I have always thought that the Liberals, the Nationals and the Family First political movements were lightweight with respect to the climate change issue that they would end up looking like "wind vanes" and having to dodge and weave around this issue. Malcolm had the right idea but the *numbnuts* made it clear in early December that they wanted none of that.

It looks increasingly like they will need to quickly develop credible policy - just to save themselves from being branded *irrelevant* - by their own constituents. The very people who are now seriously at risk from these early adverse effects of climate change.

They could start by reading the Garnaut Report - which clearly outlines the risks of inaction and details some of what needs to be done to insulate Australian's from the worst effects.

But like the Republicans in the United States - the local conservatives and their cheer squad in the Murdoch press are looking into the wrong mirror. They think that anything done by our government is bad - and their denial alternatives are just great. I suspect their intellectual processes need a little bit of a cut and polish.

The problem is that their constituents are going to become very unhappy about risking their life, limb and property for a *numbnut* fantasy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Climate science & bushfires - clearly no relationship

Today there was a serious bushfire event - obviously unrelated to climate change.

When I wrote this article - I was sitting in a cafe in Port Lincoln after having had a robust conversation with some of the folks that I mentioned in the article. They shall remain nameless to protect the innocent - and me.

"No - climate change is not apparent to us they said - and if it were then we would know about it and be onto it".

"Absolutely not - they said. Climate change is a beat-up by the Rudd government all designed to impose a massive new tax on us poor unsuspecting country folk - they said".

"Look - they said - all we want is to be able to get on with our lives and run our businesses without any interference from Canberra - they said".

"We farmers create the real wealth in this nation - and all the Rudd government wants to do is tax us to death - and they invent things like climate change and emission trading schemes to try to justify what they are doing. But we can see through that - they said".

I wonder if they will be expressing similar views when they front up for the relief money that they will be expecting from the "Federal Government".

And you lot wonder why I am such a cynic.

Ian Harper has nailed it

For the third time in as many months I have listened to this speech by Ian Harper on the economic history of Australia.

I needed to hear it three times to absorb all the detail and to pick up on all the nuanced content. This is a fantastic speech - clear, simple and well argued - even if I am a little slow in absorbing it. It should be compulsory listening for all Australian's - but particularly for those who are thinking about leaving school early.

His message is simple. As a nation, we can't rely into the future on the three great industries that have sustained us in the past - we must develop our intellectual capabilities and educate our future workers to do business in the "information economy".

The three great industries are of course - grazing, mining and agriculture. These have formed the basis for our national wealth and well being - and have done so since first settlement - because of the natural advantage that they enjoy in our part of the world.

We are blessed with good weather and abundant sunshine which has favoured grazing and agriculture and we are lucky enough to have enormous mineral wealth which has facilitated the establishment of a world class mining industry.

The problem is that none of these industries employ great numbers of people.

The main theme of Ian Harper's message is that like many nations we need to build and develop an economy that provides jobs for our people. And those jobs won't be in the three great industries - they will be in the services sector and the information economy.

To prosper in this "brave new world" we need workers who are educated and able to take advantage of the opportunities on offer. We need to apply "brain power" instead of "muscle power". We need "thinkers" and "doers". And we need to value them.

It's a great message and in my view it is absolutely correct. But there are enormous barriers to implementation - firstly, we must convince our people that they need a quality education and secondly we must make it easier for them to acquire one.

And the cynic in me says that both tasks are way too difficult. But perhaps that will change as the low skilled jobs disappear or at least as their pay rates continue to reduce. And with the neglect of the previous 30 years it will take a generation to rebuild our education infrastructure and systems.

All providing we get a move on and start doing something NOW. The real question is "Are the State Government's" listening.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dumb and Dumber

It might be Christmas but all I have heard for the past few days is how Kevin is all at sea because the Copenhagen conference was apparently a failure.

Not that anyone actually making those comments knows dip sh*t about climate politics or how the world works - its just that they read the Murdoch press, watch the farce that is commercial television and form opinions based on a *numbnut* view of the world that is pushed by the extreme right wing view ports.

This is a sad and sorry situation. It seems that our entire population can't work out for themselves that they are being fed BS. And so they parrot the last thing that they heard or read or observed - from our media.

If there was one thing that I would change about our nation it is the rubbish media. Aside from the fact that it has adopted a blatant right wing agenda that masquerades as news and information - It is simply a poor informer and entertainer.

I try to ignore it but many Australian's live for the crap that appears on commercial television after 9pm. What is that about?

Mostly it's because they don't understand why or how they are being manipulated.

And the reality is that it all boils down to the fact that our State Governments have neglected their various education systems for 30+ years.

if the state based education system worked as advertised then our people would have mostly progressed beyond year 10 and be able to understand what is going on around them. They would be able to question the rubbish that is pushed at them and be curious about the world - they would have the capacity to do things other than point a remote control at the idiot box.

But that is a conversation that we should have had 30+ years ago - sorry but it's now far too late to fix the problem.

Friday, December 18, 2009

They ask the hard questions down in Adelaide

I sometimes go on about the quality of the media in Adelaide and how the local journalists are usually under Media Mike's thumb.

Well Crikey has nailed it with this expose on what really happened at the old Mitsubishi site - I hope they won't mind me re-posting it here.

Read it and weep South Australian's - and then you might like to ask Mr Foley and Mr Rann to "please explain".

"You've got to hand it to Adelaide's political media (well not really, because that's how the state government runs them) with their coverage of Wednesday's sale of Mitsubishi's old assembly plant at Tonsley Park. According to the media release from state Treasurer Kevin Foley, the state has bought the site for $32 million and will turn it into a hi-tech dreamland for businesses that don't exist yet. This will create thousands of jobs, apparently.

But here's the truth; Mitsubishi was required as land owner to remediate the site and was also required under federal law to provide and store 10 years of spare parts for the cars they built there. Part of the state government purchase deal is free rent at the site for Mitsubishi's corporate headquarters and free rent for the storage of spare parts. Because they are still on the site (now as a lessee) and it is still zoned industrial, there are no clean-up costs.

The value of this bonus to Mitsubishi is $20 million. That value was not included in the purchase price announced by the Treasurer on Wednesday. If a company tried to hide such arrangements when declaring sale prices of commercial property, it would be prosecuted for evading stamp duty. So, why the secrecy? Why does Mitsubishi, who sacked several thousand workers a couple of years ago, get such a great deal from the state?

Wheels within wheels, my friends. And how is it that at a press conference to discuss this deal not one Adelaide journo asked about the value of the free rent and storage deal? Because all you have to do is *hand it to them*".

Conroy's Folly

There is a huge amount of noise being generated by Conroy's Folly - which is of course the communications minister's misguided attempt to impose an internet filter on us all.

And those who apparently know about these things are talking about how politically it will be a win for the government amongst the over 50's (or those who don't use the internet) with a loss amongst the under 35's (or those who use it extensively). The net effect is supposed to be zero or so close that it doesn't matter.

But I don't know about that. I am well over 50 and so are a number of my friends and we all think Senator Conroy's plan stinks. In fact some of my friends are so annoyed that they have been moved to write to the good Senator expressing their concern. This issue is BIG for them.

A typical missive from my friend Peter is reproduced below.

Dear Senator Conroy

I am writing to express my alarm at your proposed internet censorship legislation.

Firstly, I am outraged that you consider it a political entity's prerogative to interfere with and constrain the great public property that is the Internet. This is the People's Internet Senator, not your political play thing.

It appears very clear to me that your motivations are based on political ambition and expediencies and have much more to do with back-room deal making than with a reflection of the majority will of the Australian People.

In fact, there seems to be very little popular support for your project and almost none at all from informed sources who are qualified to comment on its practicality and likelihood of success. That you have refused to engage in a meaningful debate on these types of topics further supports the view that you are determined to carry this initiative forward in the face of popular opposition and sensible, practical objections.

Beyond issues of principle, I am very concerned about the harm you may actually do. Qualified, independent technical commentators are generally sceptical about the possibility of creating an effective filter of the type you propose.

Whatever you do implement will undoubtedly result in a reduction in Australia's general network performance and user quality of experience, adding to the disadvantages we already experience with high bandwidth costs and poor overseas connectivity speeds.

The impost on ISPs will inevitably drive our already high service costs up. Innocent content will inevitably get caught up in the filtering. Senator, you really should consult with some experts on these issues, and not just those on your payroll or belonging to the religious right.

Of perhaps greatest alarm is your blacklist idea. I find this extremely disconcerting and sinister. How can you imagine that such a list can be maintained with guarantees that legal content will not be caught up? How can victims of this process seek redress if the list itself is censored? Why should a citizen of this country face the prospect of losing their basic right to do business on the People's Internet without any visibility of how and why?

In conclusion Senator, and to be quite blunt, your "trial" really fooled nobody. It is widely seen for what it is; a foil that attempts to make your stubborn and determined march forward with this ill-advised legislation appear considered, consultative and fair-minded.

We're just not buying it.



So there you have it. Will it and the hundreds of others expressing similar concern make a difference? Probably not but what it will do is cause all of us old techies to reconsider our support for this minister at the next election.

PS: Conroy is a Labor Senator from Victoria - and a right wing catholic - and the only chance we will get to move him on at the next election is if we end up with a Double Dissolution - when the whole Senate gets to open their kimono.

PPS: Actually I think he is up for re-election in 2010 anyway - if I can count correctly. And if he gets the gig again then he will be back for six more years of Senate bliss. And he even looks a little like that other Victorian right wing Senator - Steve Fielding. Maybe they are related?

Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, once famously described Australia’s Senate as "unrepresentative swill". I will leave it up to you dear reader to work out if that is true.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fraud and Flatulence

Just watched the Tony Jones, Ian Plimer and George Monbiot jousting match - here.

And the amazing thing is that one of them has built an academic career based on fraud and flatulence.

I will let you work out which one.

Not that it matters much - it's all somewhat academic because ordinary Australian's will have turned off after about 30 seconds and won't have seen the full extent of this very flatulent performance. Only the hard core who are interested in climate change and politics will have bothered to watch it through to it's conclusion.

I am still shaking my head - quite amazing stuff from Plimer.

What do you think would cause an ageing - over the hill professor of mining geology to go into bat for the anti climate change *numbnuts*? Let me guess.

* Could it be for the book royalties?

* Does he need a higher profile with the dipsticks?

* Possibly for the directorships handed out by the mining industry?

* Is it about fame or fortune?

* Possibly he wants to be friends with Barney Rubble?

* Maybe he is just thick?

* Or perhaps just a stirrer?

My guess is that he is just another doddery and delusional right wing *numbnut* with time on his hands - and with an ego that needs massaging. The University of Adelaide should be looking to increase his workload to keep him out of any more trouble.

PS: I should point you here - where the folks who know the real questions and answers to climate science have comprehensively demolished Professor Plimer's story. Would be hilarious if it wasn't so serious.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ignorance is bliss

As I travel throughout this country I am continually amazed by the incredible ignorance that is on display around the *climate change* problem.

Particularly in rural and regional Australia we find a collection of politicians, local functionaries, small business people and so-called community leaders who have more in common with Barney Rubble than with a modern and educated community. How did we ever get to this point? Ignorance seems to be the new black - and apparently they are proud of it?

I am now more convinced than ever that we won't be able to do anything about this problem before we experience serious and major disaster. Even then I am not sure it will be enough to wake up a population that is living in dreamland.

The nub of the problem is that a large subset of our population doesn’t have the education or the curiosity to discover for themselves what the issue is about. Many of them are flip-flopping around between alternative *numbnut* views - simply because they have no ability to "search for the truth". Don't mention science - that is as foreign a concept as travelling to mars.

Mostly these folk rely on their local newspaper, radio, commercial television or the test pattern for their news and information. Not to mention lapping up the disinformation campaign that is being pushed heavily by the ultra right wing conservatives and their fellow travelers’.

It's easy to see how they are misled - all you have to do is spend an hour or two looking at the Murdoch press, commercial television and the antics of the federal opposition.

And it's easy to understand why they are being misled - it's simply politics with the *numbnuts* trying to regain the treasury benches - after all they were "born to rule".

And as we all know Australian's are as well informed about politics as they are about science.

So we know why and how they are being misled - what I don't understand is why they won't make the effort to search out the truth - because there is plenty of information and many sources that are reliable and trustworthy.

My suspicion is that they don't care. And they won't care until they experience a personal physical impact - by which time it will be far too late. Frogs and boiling water - how apt.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Jobs and Skills - again

It has recently been suggested that some people may not appreciate what I am on about when I suggest that the bulk of the hype about "Skills Shortages" is mostly BS.

I don't mean to suggest that there are no "perceived" shortages of skills in the workplace - clearly there are.

The small businessperson who wants to find a particular skillset and has expectations about what the person will look like, what their cultural background is, what they will cost and all the other pieces of the equation - may indeed find it difficult to find the *right* person.

This is because there is often a serious mismatch between the expectations of the *employer* and those of the potential *employee*.

Especially in the domain of the traditional "small business person". Now I don't want to be rude to anyone but my personal experience with Australian small business is rather sad.

Mostly the jobs they provide are fairly basic and are often low-level. These jobs are focussed around the retail, services, agriculture and manufacturing industries.

One of the unfortunate characteristics of small business in this country is that there are few modern businesses employing many people and there is a lot of rearview focus by employers. Unfortunately, innovative science and technology businesses are few and far between - courtesy of decades of a "she'll be right mate" - attitude.

Which doesn't bode well for the future - because we will need to maximise science as we mitigate against the effects of *climate change*.

And the rewards are always poor - I have yet to find an employee of an Australian small business who is happy with their reward - and an employer who is happy with their costs. Why would anyone imagine that AU$20 bucks an hour is a reasonable reward for effort?

But to suggest (as some people do) that there is a major skills shortage is just plain wrong. What exists is a mismatch of expectations.

Often a small business employer wants a young, flexible, experienced, cheap and compliant employee. And usually the available candidates are older, less flexible, very experienced, more expensive and not at all compliant.

This is the mismatch - and which usually gets mis-represented as "skills shortages".

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A big new broom is needed

Anyone who is even remotely interested in the administrative performance of the Australian States will know they are failing dismally - on just about every important measure.

The state based political leadership and administrative management processes are so badly broken that I wonder why the responsible people even bother to front up each day. Actually I do know - they like their enormous salaries and they will tell you that "It's not my fault".

Yesterday we discovered that the Victorian Police DNA system is seriously broken and today we find out that evidence in drug cases is unreliable. Systems don't work, people aren't accountable and the Police service seems to be out-of-control - yet again.

And so various witch hunts are underway - spin is out of control and the identified individuals blame "a lack of resourcing". It's not my fault they say.

I don't know what is wrong in these particular cases but I do know what is wrong - across our state administrations generally.

We have a mindset in this country that allows state governments to fail regularly - without penalty. What has happened to the concept of accountability?

The states seem unable to deal with bushfires, crime and policing, health and mental health, education, transport, utilities, water and any number of other important services that are state responsibilities. They get elected - put their mates in power - pay them too much - they then stuff up - and then we ought to tell them to bugger off.

In this case we need both the *Police Commissioner* and the *Police Minister* to be moved aside and to be replaced by professionals who can deliver a quality outcome for the people of Victoria. No debate necessary.

And if their replacements fail then they should also get the boot - until we can discover individuals who are capable and smart enough to deliver.

And the great thing about doing this in Victoria - is that it will wake the other states up - because they are probably worse. Some are much worse.

But it won't happen - this will blow over in a few days and the people responsible will go on a nice little holiday for a few weeks and be back in their offices next year - all ready to *fu_k* it up again in 2010.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Barney Rubble - slightly confused

Barney Rubble is confused - he thinks that he is the Finance Minister in the Federal Cabinet!

Or at least that is what he has told the ABC - here.

No Barney - apparently what you are is the "shadow spokesperson on Finance" in the "Coalition" - which is not in government but is in *Opposition*.

This is a role that has absolutely *no power* whatsoever - regardless of what you and Tony Abbott might think. Zero, nada, null.

Either Barney knows that and he is playing games - or he doesn't know it and he is trying to audition for the role ;-)

I will leave it up to you dear reader to work out which is true.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

No Shrinking Violet

Thank goodness Malcolm is no shrinking violet.

Minchin, Abbott and the rest of the *new blues* white anted him throughout his term of leadership and now he is paying them back. He certainly has balls as well as brains.

But it is clear that the *blues* supporters are hopelessly divided. This analysis by Possum shows some of the early "net effect" of the Abbott ascendency.

So in answer to the question:

"Does the election of Tony Abbott as leader of the Liberal Party make you *More Likely* or *Less Likely* to vote Liberal?"

According to the poll result - 21% thought "More Likely" and 33% "Less Likely". So the net Abbott effect is (33 - 21) or negative 12%!

So the surveyed people think that Abbott is less attractive as a leader than Turnbull by a substantial 12% of the people who were polled.

And if you are a Labor voter then apparently you find him 32% less attractive and Greens voters find him 57% less attractive. Not many votes for the Abbott team to be found here then.

Lets see the *blues* right wing suck on that little gem for a while and see if they can spin those numbers into a Kevin beating margin.

The truth is that most thinking Australian's won't tolerate another *numbnut* right wing government - beating up on workers, foreigners, the environment and anyone else who threatens their "born to rule" mindset - especially while the memory of the Howard Government is still fresh.

Abbott and Co can look forward to a 35% - or thereabouts primary vote. Because there are about 35% of the voting population who are naturally sympathetic or can be coerced into supporting their *numbnut* view of the world. And if they are smart - they might be able to parlay that into a 45% two party preferred vote. Note the word "smart".

Fortunately in our version of democracy - they will need to find 50% plus to win an election.

Go Tony - you are clearly doing the right thing maaate ;-)

Friday, December 4, 2009


There is a term that I am very familiar with but which a lot of people may not know at all - it's called FUD.

Which is an acronym for "Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt" and as best I can determine was invented - or at least came into the mainstream lexicon - when IBM started to see lots of smaller competitors trying to pick off pieces of it's then lucrative computer hardware business - way back in the 1960's.

And as a result, there was once a raft of companies who offered *big iron* - and now there is one.

So the context is that a big monopoly company was being nibbled at by lots of small and technically competent companies. And FUD was invented as a way of helping to keep IBM's customers loyal and making them *beware* the offerings of the small fry. If the customer was not certain about the way forward - then feed them some more FUD!

It was a bit like feeding monkeys - or sheep.

And it worked very well. But what it also did was spawn a whole new industry - which is now known as the *spin* industry. It probably worked a little too well.

What happened since those early days is that the charlatans and the politicians - noticed how well it worked and how successful the big corporate was at keeping the small fry at bay - and so they replicated it.

They built a FUD machine in the *political* world that replicated it's success in the *corporate* world. And ever since it has worked spectacularly well.

To the extent that most people who are uncertain about the way forward - in other words they don't know enough about the *big issues* to make valid choices - are now bombarded with lots of FUD.

Firstly the charlatans make sure that folks are kept in the dark - "we can't have the voters being exposed to the facts - can we". And then we must run campaigns to inundate them with FUD. All designed to manipulate the poor souls.

It's how in 2009 we now have a substantial subset of the rusted on *blues* team thinking that "Climate Change" is a communist plot.

The *spin* doctors and their brand of *FUD* have replaced reality - especially for those people who have difficulty in working it out for themselves.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Skill Shortages - Honestly its BS

From time to time I get to rail against people in the mainstream media who write and bleat about "skill shortages".

The reason that I do is because IMO Australian employers have gone way past the point where they feel obliged to take *any* responsibility for their own workforce or individual workers.

And ten + years of the conservatives and their hidden - "exploit the workers agenda" seems now to become the *blues* actual "out-in-the-open" policy.

Which is quite amazing when you think about it. For ten years in government, the Liberals and Nationals put in place programs and policies designed to dud the poor old aussie worker. THey didn't tell them of course - but that was the effect and still they kept getting re-elected! No wonder Tony feels as though he can BS his way back onto the Treasury benches - no-one on their side is listening - or thinking.

However, mutual obligation was such a *last century* concept. These days - with a few notable exceptions big and small business alike expect that "the government" will create a skilled and capable pool of workers - who are ready and able to be exploited.

How on earth did we get to this point?

The way that I see it is:

* There is bugger all loyalty between employers and employees.
* There is an ongoing campaign by employers to reduce hourly rates and salaries and claw back previously hard won working conditions.
* Workers are being asked to do more - and are often paid less - sometimes a lot less.
* Working conditions are often shocking and sometimes dangerous.
* Cheaper workers are always valued over experienced workers - regardless of the job.
* Older workers are often treated very poorly and are at the bottom of the heap.
* Many migrant workers are seriously exploited - why do we still have that 457 visa scam?
* The *game* appears to be a serious "race to the bottom". $5 bucks an hour anyone?

Except for one class of worker - "The Executive CEO" where all of these things are reversed. And perhaps another - that curious beast "The state and federal politician".

Now I only mention this because I have had some recent experiences that demonstrate how bad things have become.

I can't tell you about it ;-) One day soon I will.

But I can suggest that it wouldn't be a bad idea to get back to a concept of "mutual obligation" between employers and employees. A mutual obligation based on that old fashioned concept - "truth and honesty". Now there is a novel concept.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What a day

Well it's been an interesting day - so far.

* Tony Abbott became the *blues* leader in a 42/41 result - and started in the gig by telling everyone that he wants to reintroduce a "WorkChoices" style IR system. Clever move.

* Can't wait to see Tone's *top quality* front bench. Suspect that Kevin Andrews will get to choose between Industrial Relations and Immigration ;-)

* Malcolm takes a breather on the back bench - but what is to become of him and the other 40 who supported him? He will work it out over the next couple of days.

* Joe trips over his own bootlace - and loses again. Dumb strategic move Joe. He is far too nice to be Liberal leader - which is probably why the Doctor's wives take pity on him at election time. Joe is my local member - I really wish he would make the effort to upgrade his software to v2.1.

* The *black* team led by Barney Rubble are ecstatic - they are now "bestest buddies" again - with their coalition friends in the *blue* team and will now jointly rampage against those dreaded *socialists*.

* The 35 *numbnuts* and 7 *opportunists* who pushed Tony over the line are now trying to work out who will get what spoils. Will take them a while - first they must learn to read and write.

* Labor MP's are grinning from "ear to ear". Can't believe their luck.

* Kevin is working out how to adjust his strategy - he already has upgraded to v2.1. Of course the *blues* will just drop their dummy again if Kevin gets the upper hand - worked last time.

* A double dissolution is on the cards - but first Kevin needs to let Tony make a complete goose of himself.

* I think I need to reboot now.