Sunday, April 29, 2012

They have us by the short and curly's

The most distressing thing about our polity is the knowledge that it is a failure.

And the most obvious feature of that failure is how a few people who are bereft of a moral compass get to play at being leader.  While a few dozen others stand behind them bleating away like the sheep that they so obviously are.

Our current Labor Government is such a big disappointment on a number of levels.  Leaving aside the issues around the leadership and the personalities involved - what about the rest of the parliamentary members?  Most are invisible and they seem destined to stay that way - right up until the moment when they get moved on at the next election.

I don't want to pick on anyone but where has the *passion and drive* gone - with people like Peter Garrett and Craig Emerson and Simon Crean?

Why aren't they rampaging through their Departments and the Parliament, rooting out the bad policy and standing up for the people and the nation?  They had some passion once - but that seems to have gone the way of the dodo.

How is it possible for seemingly intelligent people to sit back and allow their party and the Parliament to degenerate into a bad circus?  And to be a part of it?

That tells you what is wrong with our polity.

And then we have the Liberals and Nationals.  The conservatives never seem to attract many smart or capable thinkers - but what have their members been doing to prepare themselves for government since 2007?

Short answer - nothing.

And the worst thing about all this - none of us can change it.  They have us by the short and curly's.

Friday, April 20, 2012

You can pick em #auspol

There are at least two types of people who are running riot in the Twitterverse.

The "Truth Tellers" and the "A*se Lickers". At first glance, it's sometimes difficult to work out who is in which camp.

The TT's are often quite strident and most of them aren't too concerned with what the establishment think. They understand the big issues that they write about and they try to educate and inform the rest of us who hang-out on the fringes of the Twitterverse. These are the people who are passionate about improving the place. They are living treasures. I notice that Phillip Adams has recently joined this camp.

The AL's are quite the opposite. Their agenda is to suck up to authority and to the establishment - they choose their topic based on what is currently fashionable or what the politico/media complex are flatulating about today. They are all about furthering their own agenda and feathering their own nests. They try to *appear* strident and knowledgeable - but they are mostly lightweight. I won't name any AL's - because that would be libellous.

And the AL's outnumber the TT's by about 100:1.

Now I only mention this because of the bunfight that is about to happen around the Gillard Government's determination to procure a budget surplus next year. The Prime Minister knows that her surplus fetish will push the nation further toward *recession* but she is going to do it anyway. She knows that if she doesn't do it - that The Coalition will brand her and Labor as being *bad* economic managers.

If she were to acquire that handle - it would ensure that she would never win another election - ever.

And the only reason that any of this would or could resonate with the electorate is because they aren't paying attention.

At a rough guess, I would say that ~60% of voters *think* that a budget surplus is *good* and a budget deficit is *bad*. No context, no understanding, no interest and certainly no idea. Actually most voters have NFI about fiscal policy. The conservatives designed it that way.

So if she fails to conjure the surplus then ~60% of the voters will probably punish her and her party. Virginia, this is what is completely broken about our polity - politicians pandering to people who have No F*cking Idea.

This is the main reason why she is going to send the nation into recession.

You might want to bear all this in mind when you see all those smart a*sed tweets from economists supporting the PM's approach.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Politics trumps reality down there in Canberra #auspol

Our Government is going full steam ahead in its quest to produce a *surplus* next year. This surplus fetish will be the defining action of their short lived reign. And why they won't get back into the big seats anytime soon. Perhaps even for a decade or more - or at least until after the current crop of seat warmers have retired to tend their tomato plants and watch replays of themselves on QandA ;-)

The main problem is that they think *politics* is a profession - on or about the same level as *Medico* or *Engineer*. I was going to include *economist* in that list - but that is clearly not a profession either. Because if it was then those drones would understand how the economy actually works.

But they don't - and neither do their mates the politicians. And unfortunately after decades of being force fed bumpf and BS by Mr Murdoch - neither do many of the voters.

We now have this farcical situation where our Government is chasing a *surplus* because the opposition has cornered them AND because most voters wouldn't know sh*t from sugar about what it takes to run a country.

And still our citizens don't value a quality education - that's the biggest tragedy.

The standard news story that voters capture on the car radio is that a budget *surplus* is good and a *deficit* is bad and nothing else matters - as they head down to Harvey Norman to put more shiny stuff on the credit card. FFS.

That's politics for you.

OK I do have a bit of sympathy for our Government. They have been thoroughly set-up - and done over by a wingnut opposition, a right wing media, big business, the mining industry and even some opportunistic State Premiers.

But really - that's politics. Deal with it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

We don't *do* politics here #auspol

Australian's don’t *do* politics - which is the main reason why we have allowed a bunch of highwaymen and their hangers-on to take control of our Parliament.

In 2001 Junior Bush started a war in Afghanistan and Little Johnny sent our troops off to fight the good fight there. The decision was Little Johnny's alone - he didn't consult or seek the approval of our Parliament or the people - he just did it.

Nevertheless most Australian's were happy to support his decision - we were determined to go after Bin Laden.

But fast forward a decade and things look decidedly different. Two wars and countless thousands of dead later and the US is just another right wing warmonger trying to keep its Military/Industrial Complex alive.

And we look like the fools that we are - having followed the US into these conflicts - we have no easy way out. It's Vietnam all over again and again - complete with blood on our hands and billions in lost treasure.

Has any politician paid any *real* price for these disasters? Lost a child or a spouse in the war is my definition of a *real* price Virginia.

Of course not - politicians start wars - they don't participate in them. Or end them. Silly me.

Just another day in the life of our politics. Essentially there is no difference between the conservatives and the progressives - both sides suck like a well used Hoover.

And today the PM held a press conference announcing something or other about the war in Afghanistan - and continued to mumble about a withdrawal in 2014 or whenever. Whatever.

I am surprised that she didn't hold up a shiny trinket to distract us. Because we would have fallen for that as well.

The reason they do it is because we let them. The reason we let them is because we simply don't care aren't smart enough to stop them.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Time to Start a Revolution #auspol

I talk a lot about *revolution* as a way of fixing our politics - because something radical needs to be done to lift the standard and the performance and the quality of our parliament and it's members.

I am strongly of the view that the political system is broken and that we need to revert to a non-party based Parliament - where members are elected and remain elected based on their merit - not on their allegiance to a particular party.

In fact this was how the founding fathers envisioned that our Parliament would work. Unfortunately they weren't prescriptive enough and the place has been subverted and corrupted by a partisan party process that has inserted itself between the people and their Parliament.

We currently have the Blue team and the Red team - the so-called conservatives and progressives. Both are legends in their own lunchtimes - and both try to ensure we view them as our only political options. They usually share access to the big seats and take turns in screwing us over. If one of them is on the nose then we give the other a go. But what are we supposed to do when they are both on the nose? The system is broken - we need a fallback.

Ideally we would elect 150 individuals every three years and give them a week or two after the poll is declared to form a government. The smartest 75 or so would get together to select a leadership team and to allocate portfolios and responsibilities amongst and between themselves. There are plenty of jobs for 75 or more smart people in our Federal Parliament - even for 150 people. At least we wouldn't need so many minders, advisers and other hangers-on. And it would kill the make-believe blue/red contest stone dead. I suppose the rusted-ons would need a bit of help to adapt to the new paradigm ;-)

And they could then get on with the big issues facing the nation. Starting with a "Defence of the nation strategy". I read today how Defence has no idea how many new aircraft, submarines and warships it needs - because they have no strategy - because their political masters have no clue how to build one - because... FFS.

Removing the political parties from our politics would just be a start - we also need to remove the corrupting influence of large donations and political patronage. We taxpayers ought to fund our politicians and their election campaigns via the Treasury - with no external funny money allowed. That way we get to *own* them - not the Clive Palmer's and Twiggy Forrest's of this world.

I don't claim to know all the details about how this new political system would operate - but I do know that we need one that is different from the one that we have today.

And there is no better time than the present to start putting it in place. Are we up to it?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Gratuitous Advice #auspol

The blogosphere is full of commentary about why our government is on the nose and what they/we can do about it.

Gratuitous advice is my speciality - so here is my contribution about what has gone wrong.

The PM's first speech in the job was the highlight of her reign - she was looking good for an hour or two - but things have gone downhill ever since.

This small list of failure is in no particular order - merely what has emerged from my head after a glass or two of lubricant.

* The Afghanistan adventure was always going to be trouble for whoever occupied the Lodge. Little Johnny made commitments that he shouldn't have and when he was flicked we expected Kevin and then Julia to pull the troops out. But they didn't and they won't. Because it's Uncle Sam pulling the strings - and deciding which of their wars we participate in - not our government or PM.

* Julian Assange is in strife and under house arrest in the UK and we expect our government to support and stand up for him - because he is an Australian citizen. But our PM and AG won't do that. They appear to be actively working against his interests. This generates a very clear signal to all Australians about what they can expect if they happen to find themselves in political trouble while abroad.

* Our PM made the most cringe-worthy speech to the US Congress - so bad that we are still embarrassed to talk about it. If ever there was a point where she lost the thinkers - this was it. Just appalling.

* One of the architects of the putsch that resulted in the current PM deposing her predecessor has been exposed as a serial leaker of Australian secrets to the US Administration. Bit of a step up from when he was a fast-food cook I suppose. And he was one of the party power brokers ;-)

* The PM also made a silly speech to the business elite - about how unemployed Australian's need to get off their bums and get back to work. Someone should tell her that it’s never very clever to blame the victims for their plight. Especially if they are looking to you for some help.

* And the PM and her Treasurer have been suckered into getting the budget back into surplus next financial year - all because they have been done over by a slightly more politically astute opposition. The social cost of this particular failure will be enormous.

* The PM has allowed/encouraged the US to establish a military base on Australian soil near Darwin - and told Australian's about it after the event. And she and the NT Administration think that is a good thing because of the *greenbacks* it will inject into the community. Which dimwit thought it was a good idea to abandon our sovereignty for a few pieces of silver and some trinkets? Isn't that what the original Australian's did on the arrival of the first fleet in 1788? That turned out well for them didn't it? FFS.

And on it goes - seemingly never ending.

Some folks think that the carbon tax is the reason for Labor's unpopularity - but that's unlikely. Australians are a practical and pragmatic people - they know that there is an environmental price to be paid for decades of fossil fuel burning. They want the climate fixed and our planet to be habitable and will be prepared to make personal sacrifices to ensure that. Relatively few Australian's are stupid enough to think there is no cost or that it’s easy.

For a government that develops its policy around focus group polling they have done some remarkably dumb things which annoy a lot of people - and it looks like it is going to come back to bite them next year.

The real reason that Labor is on the nose - is because they stopped looking out for the people - and have been captured by a belligerent foreign power. It's also particularly galling that the foreign power in question is the world's most aggressive warmonger.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Austerity - will anyone notice #auspol

With austerity rampaging across Europe and the US and increasingly in Australia - I often wonder where the deep analysis is - and when the sheep are going to wake up and say "hang on a minute".

The answer to both questions is - never.

There is no deep analysis because no-one wants you to know what the austerity game is all about. The sheep can't wake up because they don't even know that anything is going on - they have been distracted with football and shiny stuff from Harvey Norman. And a broken media.

But what is going on is really quite simple.

The ultra-right wing now *control* the governments and economies of Europe, the US and Australia. Maybe not always directly via the parliament - often indirectly via the rating agencies, the think tanks, the media and the commentariat.

And in reality - it's not even that they *control* these things - it's more that our *politicians* don't have the intellectual capability to compete. And anyway they are in it for the perks - not the battle of ideas.

Austerity is ALL about dismantling government services and reducing the long term government programme down to a few core things - perhaps only defence and policing. Why do you think policing is always in the mix?

The various austerity programmes are about making citizens take a big personal hit - and getting rid of as many of our core social services as possible. Medicare, Pensions, Unemployment benefits, Childcare, all the safety net things that we rely on as a society are under serious threat. Which is why President Obama's Medicare like health programme gets so much attention from wing nuts. And why Australia's unemployment benefit badly lags the age pension.

It's not even remotely about the money - it's all about ideology. You probably already know my views about ideology, Rufus.

This little game is about going as far down the dismantling path as possible before anyone notices - and can do anything to stop it. Which is why sheep are not even remotely up to date.

Europe and the UK are in deep sh*t - we are seeing 10%+ unemployment and 50%+ youth unemployment. The US is not far behind. Australia lags a bit due to the smart thinking of Kevin Rudd in 2008. But it is just a lag - nothing else.

One thing is very clear - we will get our dose of austerity - either this year or next - with Gillard or Abbott - both will try to take our government back to a small subset of what we are used to. Because they are beholden to people other than the voters.

And the sheep won't even notice until after it has happened. Then we might get a small but quite useless *bleat* out of them.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Australian Cafe Culture

I have inadvertently become a bit of an expert on Australian cafe culture.

Each time I front up to an Australian cafe - regardless of the city that I find myself in - it is half full of old white people who are being served by young beautiful and mainly white people. Go figure.

I inhabit these cafes because they are usually the only places where I can find a hot-spot when I am on the road. And my day job and technology stack - often depends on access to the internet. Don't even ask.

I really don't know why the other old people are there - but I see quite a few of them leafing through the Murdoch dailies. It must be a terrible thing being so bored that you have to read that trash. Sheep I suppose.

And I don't know why the young people are there either. Shouldn't they be at University? Or perhaps they are working at the cafe in order to fund their way through the local University. I sure hope so.

But the thing that is very obvious about these people is that neither the old nor the young people want to be there.

The old people would rather be doing something else - but they have been pushed off into retirement - because they aren't valued citizens anymore. What a fate - destined to spend your remaining days reading Murdoch trash at the local cafe. I guess in the afternoons they go down to the local pokies venue.

And clearly the young people would rather be doing something else. I only know that because of their attitude to their job. It's sad but true that the *art* of customer service is missing in action in our cafe's.

The *muppets* who own these cafe's are so greedy that they can't even be bothered to train their staff in how to deal with people or how to serve them food and coffee.

*Money* versus *Customer satisfaction* - it's a tough one Virginia.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Teach me a language - but which one?

There has been quite a lot of discussion - in our education system and the community generally about languages. Or more specifically about making sure that our kids and grandkids learn languages that will be useful to them during their lifetime.

Many have been proposed - Bahasa Indonesia, Mandarin or one of the other dozen or so Chinese languages, perhaps even something interesting from Korea or Japan or Mongolia. There are plenty of spoken languages to choose from. And if you are good enough and work hard enough then you may eventually become a diplomatic translator. Woo Hoo.

But what is almost never considered are the *other* languages - these are the ones that will help your child grow and become a respected international citizen. It will also give them status and serious money - if they are any good.

These are the languages that you have probably never heard of - Ruby, Python, Java, Perl, and Lua - there are dozens to choose from.

And expertise in them is desperately needed for the next generation of software that is being built to control our cars, ships, aircraft, buildings and the tooling needed to make these things. Software is going to end up controlling just about everything - even if you haven't noticed Virginia.

It even seems as though an experimental - if buggy - version of this software has been controlling the Republican Presidential candidates in the US - which is why they are going to end up with a robot nominee called Mitt Romney. Just kidding.

The beautiful thing is that it is no harder to learn a programming language than it is to learn a spoken language - the resulting jobs are more plentiful and they pay more - a lot more.

So let’s get into it. Only problem is that few of our adults - either inside or outside of the education system - have even a vague blue clue about where to start.

Big hurdles to overcome with parents and politicians everywhere across the nation - because we have spent the past 30 years patting ourselves on the back for living in the Lucky Country.

Too bad our luck is about to run out.