Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Australian Disease

Daniel Petre has pretty much nailed the Australian Disease here.

One of the best bits is this quote from Warren Buffet.

"My luck was accentuated by my living in a market system that sometimes produces distorted results, though overall it services our country well ... I've worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions. In short, fate's distribution of long straws is wildly capricious".

Read the story and weep - and see why our culture needs all the help it can get.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Things to do

Memo to Julia - here is something to add to your To-Do list for after August 21st.

When allocating your ministry you will need to put someone with experience, balls and brains in charge of communications.

And the first thing the new Minister should do is junk that internet filter - it was never going to fly and is a relic from Rudd's and Conroy's pandering to the religious right.

Job number two will be to speed up and bulletproof the rollout of the National Broadband Network to ensure that it can never again be jeopardised by the wowsers, the conservatives and those who seek to dumb down our nation.

Job number three will be to deal with our completely dysfunctional, biased and partisan media. Get on the phone to the moguls and their boards and read them the riot act. Tell them that you will legislate unless they fix up their game and give them six months to get their sh*t together.

And tell Rupert to start disposing of his Australian assets because he is not welcome here anymore.

And then get the ABC's Maurice Newman in for a cup of tea and tell him the same thing. Present him with a carrot as well as a big stick. If he puts his house in order then he will get some more funding - if he continues to play silly buggers then he will lose dollars - lots of them. That will focus the minds of the ABC Board and Management.

Job number four will be to claw back those license fee rebates that Rudd and Conroy used to *accommodate* the television moguls - because it clearly didn't work.

And when your new Minister has done these things then he or she should have a couple of years to relax a bit, sit back and monitor progress.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A question or two for you

So why do you think that Rupert's little plaything - "The Australian" would peddle a newspaper full of lies all designed to discredit Labor and our PM Julia?

Lies that are easily demonstrated I might add - if we were to apply a little brainwork and some rigor and maths based analysis.

Do you think it is because the monk is doing so badly that he needs a bit of a *leg up* from Australia's most powerful ex-citizen - to help him get back in the game?

Or is Rupert so partisan and one eyed that he can't see the forest for the trees?

Perhaps the Sun King just doesn't like women?

Or do you think that if he manages to get the monk over the line that there might be a little *payola* at the end of it all?

I don't know either - but it is becoming rather tiresome.

If Rupert does succeed then this will probably be the first time that a political media campaign has successfully "fooled most of the people - most of the time".

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Consensus Building

Quite a few commentators have berated Julia for her plan to establish a community consultation forum involving 150 *ordinary* Australians - to help gain consensus on what to do about the carbon problem.

Those who are against the idea point out that we already have such a forum in the Australian Federal Parliament. And the rest of us point out the obvious - those people can't agree on anything.

The Federal parliament is particularly ineffective - why? Because 150 odd years of *party* politics means that it is impossible to gain real consensus on anything much at all.

You want consensus? Get rid of the political parties and revert back to individuals representing their electorates.

But I do like Julia's idea. It is an attempt to remove the political puppeteers and bias from the process and it will also allow a real engagement with the Australian people over this "diabolical problem". It is a neat way of reducing the influence of the vested interests - and negating the lies that they have been peddling.

Plus the simple truth is that the power of Government is limited these days. We saw how vested interests combined to reduce the impact of the mining tax - big business is now much more powerful than our elected Government. So if the nation needs to introduce significant change - like a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme - then the *only* way to go about it is by gaining community consensus.

And this is especially so because many of our people either can't or won't inform themselves. If Australian's would only read the Stern and Garnaut reports then they would understand the problem and realise that early action is necessary. If they were to do that then they would be insisting our MP's take early action - but instead they seem to be more interested in MasterChef.

Now lets sit back and watch as every interest group attempts to subvert the process and impose *their* views on the forum.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Monk and his sloppy Joe

The only reason the monk and sloppy Joe are talking BS about Australia's public debt is because many of their constituents - aka rusted on Liberal voters - are apparently not smart enough to know that it is BS.

Why else would they rave on about something that is not at all significant? Why else would they *pretend* that our Government debt is both a problem and a bad thing?

It's simple really, they obviously don't have anything of substance to contribute and they think that their own constituency are too stupid to know any better. Now maybe the monk and Joe aren't that clever but I'll bet at least some Liberals voters can see through their smoke and mirrors.

There is a debt problem in Australia Virginia, but it has nothing to do with Government debt - as outlined here.

It is amazingly clear - even after 4 days of the campaign that the coalition leadership have no clue about the big issues facing the nation. Even their rusted on’s must have similar feelings and many of them will be wishing they had kept Malcolm in the top job.

But that's what happens people when you let the far right rule the roost and dictate terms to the rest of you.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Only one choice

Joshua Gans is a brave man. And I am in complete agreement with him.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Project Plan

Project Plans are the bane of my life. Just about everything that I do is in response to a series of milestones that are documented in one or more project plans. But most of the people that I deal with have zero knowledge about what a project plan is - or how to create and interpret one.

And my main problem is that I deal with a lot of people who should know.

A project plan is just that. It is essentially a mixture of tasks, resources, dates and milestones that document the sequence of activities that are needed to complete the project.

It does usually require some specialised software to create but only needs an open mind to understand. But open minds are sometimes hard to find in this neck of the woods.

I often work with people who are required to provide the resources to complete the tasks to the timeline that is agreed in the plan. And that is sometimes too much for them.

Hey Virginia, I do understand that corporate life has a huge range of existing pressures and we can't always respond to a new one without a few months worth of navel gazing ;-)

What I usually find is that if people are encouraged to educate themselves then they will - and they will work out what a project plan is - mostly these people then become enthusiastic supporters.

But if there is no pressure to learn then usually they won't. And the boss will then complain bitterly because his project goes off the rails. Management is often the problem - and not always the solution.

I could write a book about this - and perhaps one day I will.

Christopher Hitchens

I have just finished reading Hitch22 - Christopher Hitchens latest book of memoirs.

It is a fantastic series of personal stories on the pathway through his life and I recommend it to anyone.

But the really interesting thing is that when I am out and about with the book under my arm - it generates a lot of comment and questions. Last evening I was asked by four people on different occasions if it was as good as the reviews they had read. And two others wanted me to summarise it for them.

All I can say is go buy it and read it for yourself. It is a great read and Hitch is a class act. I hope his health improves soon because the planet needs more people like him.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Worst Job

Surely the worst job in the country is the "news reader" on any Australian television station.

This is a job where the only criteria for success are your good looks from the waist up - and your ability to convince the boss of same.

It does help if you have some slight abnormality - like big boobs, big eyes, large teeth, big ears, a wide smile or even big hair. Because a slight abnormality tends to attract and *mesmerise* the viewer. A bit like exotic cheese in a mouse trap ;-)

Smart people need not apply - because there is zero discretion allowed when reading the news. Actually the dumber the better - because all you need to do is sit there and look pretty while speaking the words as they roll past on the autocue - with an irregular nod and flick of the hair to reassure the viewer that they are still awake.

There are some news readers who have spent a lifetime doing it for goodness sake - and they are proud of the fact!

Now there are a few news readers who also get involved in behind the scenes activity - and then at the allotted time they sit down and "read" it. And some of them also get to interview outsiders and engage in real two-way conversations. Those people have a much more interesting job.

But surely we have gone way beyond the need for a pretty, highly made up younger person with a slight abnormality to sit in front of a camera and "read" the news to us each evening?

Or do you think there might be another reason why they do this?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Difference

It's weird how Australians seem unable or unwilling to understand the motivators of the major political actors. Most people seem to select a political party at voting time either because - that is how their parents voted - or because they like or dislike the look of one or other of the available candidates.

I am amazed by the rather large number of working people and small business people who are inclined to support the Liberals - usually for one of these reasons.

Heaven forbid that these actual voters would bother to dig deep and understand what a) The Party or b) The Candidate actually stands for.

Workers and small business people are the very last people who ought to be supporting the party that is now so obviously anti-worker and anti-small business.

Once upon a time, the Liberals were actually a moderate, middle of the road party. Prior to the Howard era they looked out for the people of the nation and tried to ensure that fairness prevailed. This was once the party of small business - whose interests are closely aligned with working folk because they both need each other to survive and prosper.

But since the 1990's the Liberal party has lost its way. Big business now pulls its levers, drives its agenda and tells its leaders what to do. Both small business and working folks are way down the list of priorities.

How else to explain some of the things that Howard and Co. did? Like.

* Defunded and dumbed down the tertiary education system - seriously impacting our supply of skilled workers.
* Defunded the state education systems - with the same result.
* Got rid of the worker training guarantee scheme - ensuring a further reduction of skills in the workplace.
* Seriously expanded the 457 visa scam - used to import cheap labour and displace Australian workers.
* Allowed foreign students to buy citizenship with a 3 year education visa and work for peanuts while they studied.
* Introduced WorkChoices - all designed to reduce job security and remuneration for Australian workers.

This raft of anti worker programmes were designed to dumb down the Australian workforce and reduce their pay and conditions.

And it all worked spectacularly well - because rates of pay in 2010 are pretty much what they were in the 1990's across most industries. In my own industry for example, incomes are currently about 30% of what they were in 2000 - largely due to a surplus of imported workers. It's an absolute disgrace that in 2010 Australian adults can be paid as little as $15/hour for their effort.

And it’s even more of a disgrace that the same people who have been thoroughly done over by previous Liberal governments will happily vote Liberal at the coming election.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fluff and Bubble

Have you noticed how the right wing pundits are asserting themselves a little more forcibly these days?

We have Alan Kohler with his usual rant about our government and the RSPT - featured in Crikey today. And I just renewed my subscription ;-( And the usual suspects telling us what a great thing the monk's promise to spend $1.5 billion on mental health is. Plus the picture perfect mental dwarf's who front the idiot box each night and "read" the news that has been "made up" by Rupert's faceless people. Aren't there rules about cross media stuff?

Excuse me! What short memories these people have. For those who won't or can't remember let me just remind you that the monk was "Health Minister" in the Howard Government when that miserable lot were turfed out for being incompetent in November 2007.

Yes Abbott was the *actual health minister* with constitutional responsibility for all of health - including mental health. And what did he do about mental health when he was last dispensing the money and pulling the levers? Let me summarise with a short acronym - SFA.

And now as "opposition leader" he has published a grand plan to spend $1.5 billion to fix the thing that he couldn't manage to fix when he was the responsible minister?

The monk may one day become Prime Minister - but I hope that I am not around to see it because it is clear to me that he is a charlatan - and a first class one at that.

He will say and do and be anything that he thinks it is appropriate to say and do and be - to get our people to vote for him and his crew of misfits. And he knows that the vast majority of us don't have even a small understanding of his Machiavellian manipulation and scheming - or even care about it. He knows that most of us aren't smart enough or interested enough to understand how and why we are being manipulated by a combination of his party, big business and an ugly right wing media.

And if that isn't a charlatan then I don't know what is?

But you know - if we as a nation have allowed ourselves to be placed in this position then we probably only have ourselves to blame.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

On the Road

Most of my time is spent on the road. I work out of cafes and hotels and restaurants and railway stations and airline lounges and other places and attempt to adapt to the particular circumstances and environment that I find myself in each day. I must confess that it is sometimes a bit of a struggle.

Few Australian’s know what all this means because most of them who do have jobs have both a home base and a work place and never the twain shall meet. It's usually all very nice and compartmentalised at $17/hour.

Now there are a few things that I have come across in my travels that cause me much mirth and humour. And I want to share some of those with you - Virginia. Because we all need a good laugh.

* Giggling Gertie. Have you ever been in a public place and had your ears and eyes assaulted by "Giggling Gertie"? The usually fat, dumb arsed, loud mouth who is sitting down with her mates and regularly cacking herself at a volume and tone that causes the entire establishment to cringe. No - you should get out more! Yes - well it is happening to me right now and I am glaring at her - but it seems not to be making any difference ;-)

* Loud Cafe Music. How many times have I walked into a cafe, sat down and fired up my laptop to check my email - to have the smart arsed Gen-Y attendant wind up the volume - and think that I will be impressed by his dexterity? Are they dumb - yes? Do they understand why I am there - No? They think they are value adding! And telling them doesn't work - because they already *know* everything.

* Sports Bars. Or worse to wander into a sports bar at the precise moment that the dogs at Dapto are about to jump and be confronted by every loud, illiterate and innumerate punter for miles around who is going to make his fortune in the sixth. Because they are all males - few females inhabit sports bars. The few females there are under sufferance and because their *man* has a habit to look after.

* Shitty Service is my favourite. Have you ever wandered into a *so called* 5 star establishment and been confronted by a wait person who looks you in the eye and says sweetly - "I won't be a moment" and then proceeds to spend 20 minutes talking with their mates, picking their date, working on the crossword or faffing about. What is especially annoying is when all the staff do it - all the time. I have learnt that "I won't be a moment" is code for "I am a dumb-arse and this establishment doesn't care about you". These establishments used to be 2 star but they spent buckets of someone else’s money and that automatically upgraded them to 5 - or not.

Ah the life of a *roadie*.

Dumb and Dumber

One of the main reasons that Australian's aren't properly informed about things is because we have a very average media. OK we also have a mediocre education system but at least Julia is dealing with that - after a decade of wilful neglect.

Last night was an example of how average our television media is. Now I have zero interest in OZ television but occasionally I do watch the ABC - and when I got home last night the "New Inventors" was screening.

And of the usual three inventions - two were "tradies" inventions. This is the ongoing theme of the show - introduce a bunch of low level and lightweight things as "new inventions" because the host has no clue and the producers have obviously worked out that the audience can't absorb anything that is even mildly high tech.

So we end up with a bunch of "inventions" that are more at home in a Bogan workshop than a high brow ABC show. It's a real shame. Fortunately one of the inventions was hi-tech - and it actually won - despite the best efforts of the host who is probably still wondering why. This show is mostly junk.

But over on SBS we had a great BBC program featuring James May and his worldwide pursuit of "robot" technology. Fantastic stuff - despite the fact that the most advanced robot there was actually designed and built in the 1980's.

It just goes to show how we are faring in the global "intellectual capability" stakes - pretty average actually with no prospect of any improvement soon.