Sunday, November 27, 2011

Grumpy Old Man #auspol

My distaste for our political class may simply be because I am a grumpy old man. Or because I haven't slurped down enough of the kool aid. Who knows?

But the more I see and hear of our Prime Minister - the less impressed I am. She started out a year ago as a novice but has quickly adopted those quirky characteristics of the political bovver boys. Some might use that as evidence of a fast learner. I would suggest that it's more likely evidence of a slow thinker.

During her reign she has vigorously pursued the bogan - as though this cultural icon will be her political saviour. When all it has done is further alienate thinking Australians.

She has sucked up to the American president and congress and military industrial complex - so now we are part of the US too whether we want to be or not. No debate, no discussion and no consideration of alternatives - all very democratic.

She has even made speeches to the corporate class about how those Australians on welfare need to get off their bums and get back to work. Presumably to fill all those imaginary jobs that are only visible from Canberra.

And she and her Treasurer are pursuing neo-liberal policies that are more aligned with her political foes than a compassionate Labor Government. The economy is slowing, unemployment is growing and yet they are madly in pursuit of a budget surplus. Clever politics. Not.

But the most distressing thing is how she has responded to our citizens who are in trouble abroad.

Julian Assange has been under house arrest in the UK for a year and is about to be sent to Sweden to answer imaginary charges. And once there he will be despatched to the US where a grand jury is waiting to lock him away forever - or worse. For what? Because he dared to tell the truth and expose the hypocrisy of US foreign policy.

All the while our Prime Minister says and does nothing to support him. She is being puppeted by her new best friend Obama.

But closer to home we have a 14 year old boy in jail in Bali - who was caught buying drugs.

And she is all over him like a rash. Calling him on the phone, sending our Ambassador out to negotiate, speaking to the Indonesian President about him and generally lobbying to get the dope back home again.

This pantomime might appeal to her new bogan constituents who will be comforted that she will go into bat for them when they get caught with drugs in Bali - but it doesn't do anything for the rest of us.

Assange is a national hero - and the boy is a bogan dope. And who does our Prime Minister support?

PS An update here.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Australian

It's not very often that I agree with the position taken by an editorial writer at "The Australian".

Too many of their opinion pieces have been incoherent, just plain wrong or self serving. But today is different.

I am in almost complete agreement with this.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Border Protection #auspol

When our politicians eventually get over themselves and realise that they have been taken for a ride by Obama then Australia will need to put in place some real border protection.

Abbott keeps on waffling about how Gillard has lost control of our borders. That is true - but not in the way he thinks.

A few unarmed asylum seekers are no threat at all - but 2,500 heavily armed marines are a huge threat. Again not in the way that people may think. The real issue is how this little enclave will be perceived across our region - and if PM Gillard had any understanding - she would already know the answer.

How is it that our politicians will rant and rave about boat people and the shock jock and tabloid press crowd will spend years demonising them - but a US military invasion of our homeland wins their almighty praise? Answer me that Virginia?

Apparently, dark skinned people in boats who have been displaced by US warmongering in the Middle East are very bad - while US forces in uniform coming here to wage war across our region are very good.

I am just gobsmacked by the hypocrisy. It's pathetic. And not only that but it shows our political actors up as the lightweights they are.

It is obvious to even the most disinterested observer that our political leadership has no real clue. They appear to have no ability to consider the national interest and seem to be dazzled by a US military that creates a bloody mess wherever it goes.

Clearly our politicians don't trust the people enough to engage with them - so why would the people trust our politicians? It looks like becoming a Mexican standoff.

We don't just need to change the political party that gets to exercise power every three years - we need to change the system that gives them unfettered power and allows them to abuse it.

A US military base on Australian soil? That should require a referendum - if not a general election.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How the World Works #auspol

Imagine for a moment that you are the President of a nation that has created the world's largest and most belligerent military force. And you regularly use it to get your own way.

You have found a new best friend - who is the "Bogan in Chief" of a piddling little nation half a world a way - but geographically close to your only real rival in the global power game.

And your Generals and their puppeteers are looking for the next little adventure to keep your Military Industrial Complex on track - while building missiles and bombs and employing quite a few of your people.

So you hatch an ingenious plan.

Both you and your friend are in a bit of trouble domestically and need a "good news" story to improve your prospects of getting through the next election cycle. What to do?

Well the first thing you do is create a new Pacific Regional Trade Organisation and try to involve as many small and insignificant nations as possible - all to obfuscate around your real intent. You hold press conferences and announce the news that this new organisation will make the world great again - and other blah blah blah.

Which brings me back to your new best friend?

You were clever enough some months ago to let her think that the *idea* of the regional trade thingy was hers alone. And then over time in her earnest way, she has managed to *convince* you of its merit. But you never give in easily and need an *incentive* to sway your people and get them behind the deal.

So the trade off was that you would get ready access to a military base in your new best friend's homeland - as a condition of your support.

And as they say - the rest is history.

I suppose we should be used to it by now - it's been going on for around 60 years.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Reality bites Politician and Friend #auspol

These are dangerous times for our political class and their hangers on. Especially those who treat their constituents like mushrooms. But most of them haven't worked it out yet. They will soon enough.

Greece has a new Prime Minister - because the old one wanted to hold a referendum on the "austerity measures" that are being imposed on his country by the European Union. The power elite didn't like that idea.

And now Italy's Berlusconi has gone. One minute he is top of his game - hosting bunga bunga parties with Italian starlets - and the next he is toast. Just shows how important it is to keep one's eye on the ball - Silvio.

And James Murdoch gets arrested - someone really is paying attention.

The Arab spring was just the beginning. Now we are seeing a new wave of semi democratic leaders stumble. My guess is that many of the nations that have been pretending democracy will end up in similar crisis. Because when it comes to the crunch they aren't.

Pretty soon a whole raft of pseudo regimes will start to crumble. Why? Because the people are sick of being lied to and ridden roughshod over. The young in particular have become politically active because they feel downtrodden with many being jobless and living in poverty. Pseudo democracy hasn't done much for them.

The rise in social networking - along with Wikileaks - has opened the kimono and exposed the big lie that is democracy. It isn't about the people - it's all about protecting the capitalist elite. In the eyes of the 1% *capitalism* equals *democracy* - end of story.

That's why the US, UK and AU governments are working so hard to neutralise Julian Assange and take down Wikileaks. Because you can often buy a bit more time by shooting the messenger.

So if I were in power in one of these pseudo democracies - I would be rushing to do a couple of things.

* I would be engaging furiously with the people to demonstrate my democratic credentials - all to buy some time.

* While I was working overtime to transition my propaganda machine into one that embraces and exploits social media.

Because it is only then that things will start to look a little less dangerous for our political class.

You think I am joking - don't you Virginia ;-)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hang On a Minute #auspol

Everything that is proposed by the Gillard government gets a *no*, *non*, *nein* shout down from the Abbott opposition. Except for one thing - the nasty little war in Afghanistan. Amazingly this gets a resounding *yes*, *oui*, *ja*.

Isn't that one of the dumbest things about Australian politics? I am sure that many Australian's are shaking their heads and thinking - WTF?

Most Australian's don't want us to continue with this shitty little war. We are unhappy that 32 of our young men have been killed fighting there - because we believe that it is a sham with no real purpose. Or no purpose that benefits Australia anyway.

And yet both major political parties are falling over themselves to demonstrate their support for it. Clearly both our government and opposition have been captured by the US war mongers. How did that happen - Virginia?

The real reason the US is still conducting this ugly war in Afghanistan is because they have a "military/industrial complex" to support. If it wasn't Afghanistan then it would be somewhere else. When the troops leave that conflict then the wingnuts in congress will find a way to start another war with Iran or North Korea or maybe even Mexico.

All so their military hardware manufacturers can keep their deadly production going while their hands are buried deep inside the US taxpayer's pocket.

It's a disgrace that the US now relies on war mongering to keep their economy alive. And it's an even bigger disgrace that our government - and opposition - are cheering them on while putting young Australian lives at risk.

And this morning I hear that US marines are going to have a base in Darwin. Is it coincidence that this was announced on Remembrance Day? WTF is that about?

Australia is supposed to be a sovereign nation. We shouldn't be kowtowing to the US or anyone else. If our government and opposition want to suck up to the US military then let them explain that to the people and then let’s have a vote on whether we want to do it. Or not.

Or that's what we would do if we had a real democracy.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

#Qantas - Their Mad Ideology

The biggest cost of the Qantas "own goal" last Saturday will be in attempting to retain their customer base - which is turning away in droves.

And as usual Qantas are doing it the only way that works - with bribes. It looks like their customer retention activities are going to cost $20 million over the near term. The spinners will be ecstatic - what about the shareholders?

So if you are a traveller who was inconvenienced last week - you can look forward to a *free* ticket. And if you are a Qantas frequent flyer then you can look forward to some *free* points.

The only thing is that Qantas *free* stuff needs to be paid for somehow. My guess is that the rest of the Qantas customer base and the staff will be funding this largesse. It probably won't be coming out of the CEO's pay packet - Virginia.

But the bigger issue is this;

According to his own testimony, the CEO took this decision on his own. He decided to ground the fleet alone and then informed the board - who cheered him on. So the cost of this action is due to his exceptionally high quality "business judgement".

I wonder if his "business judgement" will be viewed so exceptionally when the next profit results are released? And when the share price tanks and the customer and staff satisfaction metrics are next revealed.

That's the thing about ideology - it makes people stupid.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Why I Support GetUp #auspol

Dear Roger,

I wasn’t planning on emailing you today, but you should know what Senator Ian McDonald just said about you during the Senate debate on climate legislation.

Twice, in our Parliament, he called you and other GetUp members “the Hitler Youth wing of the Greens' political movement.”

GetUp member Andrew's response says it all:

I am a 47 year old Australian citizen, retired Police Officer and a member of GetUp. Your comments in Parliament were not only offensive to me personally but offend the office of Senator. Organisations like Getup exist only because political parties, including the Greens, do not adequately represent our interests. We are many and we will be heard.
- Proud GetUp Member, Andrew

Let's clarify something for Senator MacDonald: movements like GetUp are how ordinary Australians respond to out-of-touch politicians like him.

And then this, from Senator MacDonald's colleague Bronwyn Bishop scorning GetUp donors in a committee hearing. When told the average donation to GetUp is just $27, she scoffed: “$27 doesn’t add up to much.”

But we know what it adds up to: a movement of over half a million Australians trying to make our nation a better place. Of 69,087 people so far this year who have donated to make it all possible. Of progress on the issues we care about and bind us together.

Well Senator MacDonald, I'm proud to be a part of that. Those small donations, each week, create the change politicians like this never will.

It's easy to just laugh at Senator McDonald's comments -- until we remember that he could very well be running the country soon.

Come Tuesday, Australia will finally have a bill to start tackling dangerous climate change… but people like Senator McDonald are hell-bent on derailing climate action and overturning the progress we've made.

I joined GetUp because alone, my voice could never be heard. Alone, my spare change could never match the wealth of those Ms Bishop prefers to have influence. But together, we have something extraordinary.

Senator MacDonald can feel free to attack me personally if he disagrees with me, but it is of no place for any elected official to attack everyday Australians who take part in GetUp for daring to play a part in our democracy. Whatever he calls our movement, I'm so proud to be a part of it.

Thanks Andrew, for saying it better than I could, and thanks Senator MacDonald for reminding us why this movement exists in the first place.

Simon Sheikh,
National Director,

#Qantas - Another Thing

Qantas is so dominant across Australia that I am having difficulty organising trips without using them. I know that the Australian way is to foster and encourage monopoly businesses and to throw in a few minnows as window dressing - but this mob has become too big, too powerful and far too arrogant.

I suppose that is why the far right have manoeuvred to stack the board and management with industrial relations ideologues. As our governments pretend not to have noticed.

And the rest of the airline industry has not been agile enough to exploit the opportunity that now exists. OK they've only had a week to do some strategic thinking - but are they up to it?

I will give them a bit more time to get their act together. But in the meantime I am delaying travel and scheduling trips using "anyone but Qantas".

Intercity bus and train travel and video conferencing is even starting to look attractive. I really do miss the fast, comfortable and convenient Eurostar - but that is half a world away. Nearly 40 years of dithering means that we still don't have a high speed train service between our major cities.

And there is a bit of predatory pricing happening with the current alternatives - but if they were clever then they will use this period to acquire market share and change the intercity travel dynamic - permanently.

If they were clever.

There is a huge opportunity for a travel entrepreneur to acquire a high value customer base using a convenient schedule, quality service and reasonable pricing.

All they have to do is discard the dingbat ideology.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Joyce is a Fool

Like many Qantas frequent flyers I received a letter from Alan Joyce last night.

Two things pissed me off about it.

* The complete bullshit that is masquerading as content. Clearly Joyce thinks that Qantas customers are morons who will lap up his feeble attempt at re-writing history. His is a one sided and belligerent letter. Here is a piece of it.

Our focus now is on our customers. We want to restore your faith by returning our on-time performance to its normal high levels, continuing to invest in new aircraft and lounges and ensuring the best possible in-flight experience.

* No ability to respond. So confident is Joyce of his position that there is no mechanism to respond or reply to his letter. He won't publish his email address and contacting Qantas by any electronic means is impossible.

He is a dinosaur - and he thinks that we are too stupid to notice. I think that he and his Board are going to learn a very painful lesson.