Saturday, December 7, 2013

Escaping the next Murdoch domination

Has been a bit of twitter traffic recently about how to ensure that we don't get stuck with Murdoch's FoxTel in the same way that we have been stuck with his newspapers.

To my mind it is all about ensuring independence and diversity.  We will be royally f*cked if we allow ourselves to be controlled by the man again.  Our aim should be to have multiple sources of supply.  Unfortunately signing up to FoxTel isn't good for that.

So I have been thinking about what I want in a alternative interface between my loungeroom and its devices and the outside world - some initial thoughts follow.

* I want to control the key inputs of my video and internet signals.  All inputs (free to air TV, internet, hard drives, memory sticks, anything else) are identified, tagged and secured with appropriate protection.

* I want to see what is happening in any of these input streams by double clicking them and having them maximise in a windowing environment displayed on my TV - that responds in the normal fashion.

* I want to be able to re-direct, store, transcribe, translate or otherwise modify any of these incoming video streams - for re-play later or perhaps even to save internally or externally and play on a different device.

* I want the whole thing to be *open* - or at least open in the sense that we can hack into it to see what is actually going on internally.  Plus I want to be able to add features and reconfigure things as my wants and needs change over time.

Am guessing this may already exist - and all that is needed is some more brainpower and capital to turn it into a top little consumer device - that also gives us freedom from the mogul.

What do you reckon?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Napoleon has landed

For four years he has been getting himself ready to run the country.

First he entered into an "unholy alliance" with Murdoch - for Ruperts' media to promote Tony and diss those opposite at every opportunity.

More recently he has done a secret deal with the ABC and SBS - "to not cut their funding" - presumably in exchange for their favourable on-air treatment of him and the Libs.

I can only guess that he has done similar deals with "free to air TV and Pay TV".  All designed to make our new Prime Minister - look Napoleonic in the eyes of their audiences.

It looks to me that he is starting a bit of a look and feel makeover to create a right little Napoleon.

His Cabinet is comprised mainly of old white male has-beens left over from the Howard implosion of six years ago and he has abandoned a raft of important things that governments ought to do.  Too many to list - but for example there is no science minister.  No friggin science minister fer chrissakes.

Not to mention that there is just one female in his Cabinet.  Where will the voices of reason come from?

Doesn't he appreciate that most of our basic services rely on heavy duty science.  Health for example can't function in the 21st century without serious science underpinning its technology.  Building roads and bridges requires serious science in the form of proven structural design and integrity.  Even a node terminated NBN requires science to make it work.  Everything in a modern community relies on science.

Does he even know that?

Not to mention his obsession with removing the carbon price - This is a criminal act - and shows just how deep this new government is in the pocket of big coal.

All this has only just started - but I fear that these few examples are just the tip of the iceberg of what we are going to have to get used to over the next three years.

It will probably get worse as the luddites wade through their "Commission of Audit" - looking for their pet hates to defund or abandon.  Lookout "Medicare, Public Schools, Universities, Pensions" - these are the things that Napoleonesque has-beens despise.

I suppose that this is the price you pay Mr and Ms Australia for not being engaged with politics.  Good luck.

France managed to get rid of theirs way back in February 1821 - I suspect we have a whole population to educate before we can get rid of ours.

And Tim Dunlop says it all much better than I ever could.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Federal Election 2013 - Electorate of Grey

Next Saturday - 7th September Australians are voting to elect a new Government.

There are actually two different elections - one for the "House of Representatives" and one for "The Senate".

In the "House of Representatives" voters are required to award their preference from 1 to (potentially) 8 against the names of the candidates whom they prefer.  We must place a number alongside every candidate on the Green coloured Ballot Paper.

There are some interesting characteristics about the "House of Representatives" vote.

* No matter who you actually vote for and who you want to win, usually one of the candidates from the two major parties will get elected - due to our preferential voting system and;

* If any party gets more than 4% of the vote then they will collect $2.48 for every first preference vote that they receive.

I don't like either of these characteristics and will be voting to minimise the effect.  Usually Grey is won by the Liberal Party - last election they got over 55% of the distributed vote and that resulted in Rowan Ramsey being elected.

Here is how I propose to vote in the "Electorate of Grey" - there are 6 candidates - so I need 6 numbers ;-)

 3   Ben Browne - Australian Labor Party
 1   Kristian Rees - Palmer United Party
 5   Cheryl Kaminski - Family First
 2   Alison Sentance - Australian Greens
 6   Rowan Ramsey - Liberal Party
 4   Greg Fidge - Independent

My three key considerations are: first preference to Palmer United Party - because they will be "lucky" to get 4% of the vote - this protects my $2.48.  Put Liberal Party last - because they will win the seat - but not with my help they won't.  And I can't stand Family First - they have no prospect of winning but get my second last spot.

"The Senate" is a different story and it's a difficult ballot to understand - almost as though it was designed to confuse.

The white Senate ballot paper is large and unweildy - with a range of characters trying to become a Senator.  Remember that each state elects 12 Senators for six years with half of those (a Half Senate Election) each 3 years.

There are 2 Liberal, 2 Labor, 1 Independent and 1 Green Senators up for election in 2013.  Of particular interest to me is that Cory Bernardi is one of the Liberal Senators seeking re-election.  This guy is a first class wingnut and shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a parliament - and that will be guiding my decision.

Because the Liberal Party will likely win the "House of Representatives" election - I am looking for a party who can work with "The Senate" to stop the Liberals from destroying the joint.  There are essentially two approaches - firstly try to elect as many independents as possible - or secondly to go with The Greens.

I am wary of independents - because we have seen what the Liberals did to them last time.  Should they dominate in the Senate then the Liberals will attempt either to destroy them or to buy them off.  I don't want that - so I will be going with "The Greens in the Senate".  Ok it will cost me $2.48 - but that will be worth it ;-)

So that is my voting strategy on September 7th.  I encourage you all to think about yours and adopt a similar approach - or at least one that makes sense to you.

Good luck to you all.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Spanish Dancer

I first met "The Spanish Dancer" in 1999 - after my GP ordered an ultrasound and discovered that she had a firm grasp of my left testicle.  I quickly got myself up to the Royal North Shore Hospital - where various experts pushed and probed and tested and investigated - until they could confirm that she had taken up residence and that they had to cut her free with some radical surgery.  A few days later I stumbled out of there in great pain and with much humility.

And then we started a multi-year programme of X-rays, CT-scans, blood tests and other things to detect if she was still around.

My next encounter was in 2005 - when after an excellent meal of fish and chips at a little seaside village - I ended up in hospital with furious abdominal pain.  After a few days and more tests and X-rays and CT-scans and probing fingers and a colonoscopy - the doctors discovered that she was back and had invaded my bowel.  Fortunately the local hospital and surgeons and staff were excellent, well prepared and equipped - and they soon had her on her way again.

And so started another programme of tests - mainly colonoscopy and CT-scans and blood tests.

Until one day in 2011 I awoke to discover blood on my sheet from a small mole-like growth on my back.  A quick visit to my GP had it removed and sent to the lab for analysis.  A few days later we heard back that it was Melanoma.

She was back - and in a new and deadly guise.

And now I am in the Royal Adelaide Hospital after five surgery events in 2 years, a forgotten number of X-rays, CT-scans, MRI's, PET scans and blood tests - and she is still stalking me.  My lungs have numerous spots and my brain has at least one.  The doctors are talking about some more surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy starting Tuesday next week.  In the meantime I have a leave pass for the weekend and intend to take full advantage of it ;-)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Glenn Greenwald discusses stories on NSA leaks

I think that Glenn Greenwald just demonstrated that much of the media is the propaganda arm of the US Government.  Things are getting serious folks.

And here is the video.

For the Australians reading this post - I am sorry but Glenn has nothing to say about house prices, 4WD's, football or beer - so you have nothing to be concerned about - this macrobusiness article might be more to your taste ;-)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Letter to a Prime Minister

Was reminiscing the other day about another election and another Prime Ministerial adventure - here are the tweets - direct from Twitter - with minor changes to make it readable.

* Given that Abbott started it with his bad behaviour - will he be concerned if someone finishes it with a trigger?

* Reminds me of the 2004 election.  Howard ended up with about double the number on his bodyguard brigade - on the morning Kirribilli walk.

* Am assuming it was because of the *doubling* of death threats during that campaign.

* On his morning walk along the boardwalk he had about 6 big bastards with guns minding him - plus a couple of AFP cruisers nearby.

* One particularly nasty *helper* was a big muscly gun-toting female bodyguard who used to elbow we other boardwalkers out of the way.

* One memorable morning - the big dyke muscled a North Sydney resident who had a habit of calling little Johnny *Sir Johnny*.  Still LMAO.

* Most of we boardwalkers were just relieved when *Sir Johnny* got the flick in 2007 - because we didn't have to put up with his bodyguard brigade.

* Am curious to know if the big dyke is riding shotgun with Tony on his pollie pedal these days?  And where she hides her gun?

* My neighbor used to say in a very loud voice as the man and his entourage passed us "Mornin Sir Johnny" - and then we would cack ourselves.

* But one morning - dorothy dyke thought we were being "you know disrespectful".  And she proceeded to *elbow* my walking mate.

* And we didn't know what to do - because she was the one with the gun.  A big thing strapped to her back.

* So we did what any self respecting citizens would do - early one morning we delivered a big brown turd to the Prime Ministerial letterbox.

* Given that Abbott started it with his bad behaviour - will he be concerned if someone finishes it with a trigger?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


According to the experts, the political contest this September is between Julia Gillard and the Australian Labor Party (ALP) on the one side and Tony Abbott and a coalition of the Liberal Party and the National Party (LNP) on the other.

With a host of small parties fighting for the scraps.  Incidentaly this is where the real contest will be - watch the Senate.  And independents will shine everywhere ;-)

The current polls show that the voters are seriously in favour of the LNP coalition - and that the ALP - our current government will be decimated come election day.  I have no reason to doubt them.

I had my political knowledge enhanced yesterday about what the Australian voter is up to.  Have they "parked" their vote with Tony until they can make a real decision about who to vote for closer to the election?

And have they done this because the Labor Party is in turmoil over its leadershit?  Recall that Kevin Rudd was leader until 2010 when he was deposed by the faceless men who installed Julia Gillard in the top job.  But she has failed to impress and the people have stopped listening to her - hence the poor polls.  Apparently the "parked" voters are awaiting a Rudd resurrection.

Now the political assassination of Rudd has never been properly explained but it was essentially a "coup" by the right wing unions to re-take control of the ALP.  Rudd was never a union chap and the bovver boys couldn't tolerate an "outsider" leading "their" party - especially when he showed some independence - so they boned him and installed Gillard.  The ALP was once a broad based party - including "progressives, moderates, social democrats and unionists".  Now it is  run by and for the unions.

Of course no-one knows any of that because it hasn't been advertised - and it won't be because they still want to hang onto as many of those "progressive, moderate and social democratic" votes as they can get at the coming election.  Remember that votes equal money paid by you and me.

All of which is why the leadershit is just that.  Those who now control the ALP will never let Rudd back into the top job.  They will keep Gillard because she is one of them.  They intend to go to the election with Gillard leading the charge - because when they come out the other side all those pesky "progressives, moderates and social democrats" will have been purged.  And the right wing unions will then have their beloved ALP all to themselves.

Won't that be fun Virginia?

Sunday, June 16, 2013


For more than 40 years Australian's have been "conditioned" by an ugly right wing media that promotes racist, sexist and other bogan behaviour as being "normal".  Uncle Rupert's little empire is responsible for much of it but all of our media participate - because it was once a profitable game for them.

But some people are starting to rebel - in the past week we have seen the head of Army vent at the most recent military sex outrage and others express their disgust at the treatment dished out to PM Gillard by shockjock Howard Sattler.

Of course, none of this is new.  It might be that the volume has been turned up a bit because it is an election year - but frankly and embarrassingly - it's been part of Australian culture for decades.  It was certainly there when I was in the Army 40 years ago.

The really sad thing is that few Australians want to discuss it - we pretend that it doesn't exist.  And that's the real problem.

But now we have a new and even more disturbing element that helps fan the flames of bogan behaviour.  Our so-called leaders.

Once upon a time our political leaders recognised their responsibility to not incite fear and hatred.  Every political leader up to and including Kevin Rudd knew about this unwritten rule.

But since the Liberal party installed Abbott and adopted the US Republican party play book back in 2009 - things have gotten worse.  A lot worse.

For four years Abbott has been lying to the Australian people and stirring up enormous fear and hatred.  His non-stop chanting of the word "illegal" around asylum seekers has cruelled any sympathy that we have for their plight.  He has used the Nazi Goebbels fear and hatred techniques to demonise asylum seekers, berate the carbon price, beat up the unemployed, talk down the economy, pick on the prime minister and her ministers and generally shit stir.  And he has been aided and abetted by other nasty bastards on his front bench.

And that was always the plan.  Rupert and friends have spent a lifetime "conditioning" us - Abbott is now supposed to be reaping the benefits.  The puppeteer did all the work - and now the puppet is supposed to get him a result.

And it seems to be working a treat - because the Liberals have a commanding lead in the polls and most pundits expect them to form the next Australian government after we vote in mid September.

A large part of their polling success is driven by bogans who have supposedly risen up in a booze fuelled outrage.  Much of the time they sit in their undies in front of the TV or the PC and vent at it using the remote - or a beer can ;-)

But since 2009 their spiritual leader Abbott has shown that he is prepared to say what he thinks in public - and that is the signal for them to follow suit.

So now we have every half-arsed bogan saying what they think in public - and it aint a good look.

At least Murdoch and Abbott have a plan - few of their followers have a clue.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

My List

Here is my personal list of reasons why I won't be voting for Ms Gillard and the ALP in the coming election.

* US Military Bases - here and here
* Prism - here
* James Clapper OA - here
* Suppressing dole payment - here
* Demonising unemployed - here and here and here and here
* Asylum seeker nightmare - here and here
* US suck up - here and here
* Foreign policy - here and here
* Fiscal austerity - here and here
* Industry policy - here and here and here
* Iraq war inquiry - here and here
* Fuel subsidy to miners - here
* Julian Assange - here and here
* Faulkner reforms - here

And Mr Abbott and the LNP are worse, I can't be bothered making a list for them - it would take weeks.

The ALP have become the political arm of the right wing union movement and the LNP are busy re-creating the mad hatter's tea party.  Neither offer anything of interest to me.

I haven't yet decided who to vote for but it will likely be an Independent or a small party - an individual and/or an organisation that is concerned for the national interest - not their own personal interest or even the interest of a belligerent foreign power.

I will let you know who I choose.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Politician - your use-by date has expired

Professor Bill Mitchell is a prolific writer and always has some valuable insight about what is going on behind the scenes - I have pinched the following quote from this post.

"In Australia, the Treasury tell the government to engage in fiscal austerity, which kills growth and forces the central bank to then lower interest rates to salvage the situation".

"But the relative effectiveness of the two arms of policy are different (fiscal policy is more effective) and so growth still suffers. The government strategy has the logical conclusion – that RBA rates go to zero and the economy enters recession – and then their tax base collapses (even more than now) and they fail to achieve their surplus anyway. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs".

How could this be good for the nation?

The reason why the Labor government is doing it is to keep some bragging rights when next they are in opposition.  Plus they think they will trap the current opposition - which is likely to be our government - when the nation enters recession in 2014.

They think that Messrs Abbott, Hockey and Robb will be so locked into their crazy ideology that they won't be able to respond adequately - (and they're not the only ones).  And if they did respond then they would have to abandon the cult of austerity that now defines them.  An interesting dilemma and quite a clever political strategy - except we the people have become the pawns.

When the political contest resumes after the coming election, Labor will loudly declare - that they were the "lowest spending government since blah" and that "interest rates were lower under their watch - and other blah and faux bullshit".

And the worst thing is that many of us will believe it to be a good thing - because we want to believe it.  Never mind the thousands of unemployed.

Seriously, "How is it good for the nation for the government of the day to slash government spending - in pursuit of a magical surplus - thus forcing the RBA to lower interest rates to keep the place growing" - all to salvage some bragging rights and to trap the opposition?  And to try to appeal to the vast numbers of stupid people who have bought into the "government debt is bad" myth?

When did this become the main game, Virginia?

If our polity has become so bad that our government has to revert to myths, games and other bullshit - all to *appear* to be good economic managers - then it is time we ditched it and found an alternative.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Red vs Blue

The problems of Ford and Labor are eerily similar.

Ford has demonstrated poor management and a business as usual mindset while admitting that they haven't been paying attention as their customers needs changed.

Their failure is mostly a result of an inability to re-invent themselves as their markets evolved.  All compounded by the fact that headquarters was in another country, another hemisphere and another timezone - with the bosses there more concerned with dealing with bigger problems.  If Ford AU had a local management team and some autonomy then things *might* have been different.

But this is actually a very common problem with Australian companies and is the main reason why you won't find much creativity or innovation happening here.  Even our locally owned and managed corporations don't innovate - because they don't need to when their competition is operating like Ford.

It's why we have a corporate class that has evolved into rent-seekers.  It pains me to say it but our corporate management is pretty much a joke.

So what is Labor's excuse?

They have also demonstrated poor management and a business as usual mindset while admitting that they haven't been paying attention as their customers needs changed.

Their failure is also because they haven't been able to re-invent themselves.  They thought that voters wouldn't evolve and the same-old "Red vs Blue" contest would last forever.  They wasted the decade they had in opposition and didn't bother to renew.  Now they are facing another decade in the wilderness.  I suspect that the very few thinkers left in the Labor party have worked it out - but the bulk of them won't until after September 14th.

There are lots of failures - but the one that demonstrates for me the head in the sand attitude that got them into the current mess is their failure to properly deal with the Henry Tax review.  The rot set in when they mistook their own interests for the national interest - without properly understanding either.

And now they will pay the price.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Who is responsible?

Given that Tony and his team of Howard has-beens and tea-party apprentices will likely romp it in later this year - I am curious about who is responsible for the distorted and lop-sided nature of our politics.  Who created this mess - and who owns it?

* Is it our Labor politicians who seem unable to engage and communicate effectively?

* Is it our Coalition politicians who's fantasy and imagination might sometimes appear believable?

* Is it our "world class media" - who think that stroking the right wingers while "making shit up" will keep them relevant?

* Or is it the actual voters themselves?

Well it might even be a combination of all these things - but in my view the biggest culprit is us.  As Julia once famously said - "We are Us" ;-)

Yes we the voters are so remote, so disengaged, so uninformed and so uncurious about what is going on with our polity that we are likely to make some very poor choices when next we push a pencil in a polling booth.

Howard taught us to go for greed when he expanded middle class welfare - all funded by windfall revenues from the first act of the mining boom.  The only thing that mattered during his period in office was how much we could personally extract from these programmes.  The "baby bonus" symbolises how out of control this was - a $5000 lump sum paid to anyone who managed to produce a baby - just surreal!  The nation now has a fleet of 4wd's on the never-never, roaming around carrying mums and their babies as a result.  Unintended consequences - not very many ;-)

The beneficiaries of this largesse now have great difficulty in understanding the "National Interest".  For a decade the only thing that mattered was their "Personal Interest" and they knew that it was closely aligned with the Coalition and little Johnny.  Naturally they are leaning toward Tony and the Coalition in 2013.  They don't much like him but they think he will resurrect the handouts that rusted them on to his predecessor.  Little do they know.

All of which is why the Labor government has had a difficult time over the past 5 years.  The "National Interest" is a foreign concept to many voters -  and important challenges like climate change are just not things that they worry about.

We know this because Tony has become brave enough to stand up on national television and promise to abolish the "carbon tax" when he becomes PM.  It says a lot about Australians that they will happily vote for a man who puts their short term personal interests ahead of the biggest and most dangerous threat to humanity ever.

His ignorance of the climate threat and his resulting inability to deal with it is the main reason why he should never be allowed near the levers.

And it seems like I am not the only one who thinks he is unsuitable for office.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

It's Not Often

It's not very often that a big technology opportunity presents itself - but there is one right in front of our noses.

Over nearly 40 years Microsoft has grown from a small, focussed and innovative company to a huge technology monopoly.  And like all such beasts it has become arrogant and uncaring.  The "Windows" and "Office" franchises are cash cows that Ballmer and friends seem intent on milking to death.

And in my view that death isn't very far away.  If you doubt me then you haven't been paying attention to what is going on with Windows 8.  It is basically just another layer of complexity on top of an already unnecessarily complex system.

And it has become unusable.

But there's more - it's not just Windows that is a mangy dog - our friends at Intel have been fiddling with the BIOS (basic input output system) that every PC uses to manage the boot process.  They have introduced a thing called UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface).  And Microsoft have added a thing called Secure Boot - which can secure the boot process by preventing the loading of drivers or OS loaders that are not signed with an "acceptable" digital signature.

Sounds good doesn't it.  Extensible Firmware Interface and Secure Boot - these things are there to protect us right?  Or they would be if their implementations weren't broken, buggy and flawed - and if those bugs and flaws weren't exploited by the folks at Redmond and elsewhere to keep their competition at bay.

Which is what has happened.  I bought a new low-end notebook recently that came pre-installed with Windows 8.  It took 2 days of seemingly non-stop disk activity to update itself.  When I got sick of that and tried to install Linux - I soon realised the folly of UEFI and Secure Boot - which *almost* thwarted my every move.  Fortunately I know some people ;-)

And now I have a small, lightweight notebook running Linux (Kubuntu) and it is fantastic.  At least ten times more responsive than the monolithic Windows 8 and no incessant disk thrashing.

So what's the opportunity?

Well there are two actually - the first is to build some clever software tools to diagnose and deal with the craziness of UEFI and Secure Boot - because these things are going to become much more widespread.  Eventually all new PC's will have them - and that will effectively stop you and me from installing our operating system of choice.  Perhaps this is worth a look?

And the second is to help the folks at Wine - and in particular Winelib - so we can run our existing windows applications (that we have already paid the Microsoft tax on) on our non Microsoft operating system of choice.

Of course these opportunities assume that we do still have some technology skills in the nation and that we have enough curious people to exploit them.  Do we?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

ANZAC Biscuits

My lightbulb moment happened when I collected the post.  Six glossy pages about ANZAC Day from Rowan Ramsay - the Liberal Member for the seat of Grey.  He sends something similar each year - to re-enforce his personal commitment to the British colonial view of our history.  At least he hasn't yet erected a billboard.

It's a six page glossy brochure with "must have" information - like how to make an ANZAC biscuit and the history of "The Dawn Service".  It will have cost a pretty penny - but nothing is too good for the people of Grey.

Not for him the alternative view of our history.  Like many Liberals Rowan chooses to emphasise our nation's colonial roots rather than those of our Aboriginal heritage.  And an unnatural and extreme Liberal focus on ANZAC Day is all part of that little charade.

It's surprising really - given that Grey has such a large population of indigenous Australian's.  Perhaps they already know how to make ANZAC biscuits.

There are important things happening on the other side of politics that far outweigh these feeble attempts by the conservatives to re-activate the history wars and to distract us.

In my view - nothing is more important for the nation - than the education of our children - and that is why Gonski is special.  The Gonski Review was the most comprehensive investigation of the way schools are funded in Australia in almost 40 years.

David Gonski found Australia is investing far too little in education and in particular in public schools.

As a consequence, too many students are missing out on the resources they need and there are growing gaps in the achievements of students from different backgrounds.

Now I know that many Liberals don't get it - which is why they prefer to glorify failed battles from 100 years ago - but if you want a real future for your kids and for the nation then you should support the Gonski recommendations.

A big first step was taken today with Liberal Premier Barry O'Farrell getting on board.  Congratulations NSW.

And recently I had a mate tell me a story about how he tests school leavers for apprenticeships.  One of his maths tests is to calculate the noggin length between two wall studs - each of 35mm width and spaced on 600mm centres.  Simple mental arithmetic produces 565mm - but that was unable to be calculated by most in a recent test of 5 kids.

And that Virginia is a practical example of why Gonski is so important.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

There was a time

There was a time when I thought that we would end up as the *clever country*.

Back in the 1970's and 1980's there was a heap of innovation and creativity going on across many of our enterprises. My experience is with civil engineering but I know of lots of other industries that were "going for it" at top speed.

The thing that drove much of this was information technology. This was the dawn of the IT arena and many of us could see that being creative with software would reap enormous benefit across our enterprises and for the nation generally.

And fortunately we had access to all the computing hardware that we needed - most of these brand names are now long gone. Does anyone else remember Data General, Prime, Cromemco and Osborne?

Many of my colleagues and I invested untold hours in software systems that were used to design, document, construct and manage large infrastructure projects both here in Australia and overseas. Roads, bridges, housing subdivisions, ports and even entire towns were on the list. The productivity gains of our systems enabled efficiency across many of these areas.

We all thought there was no stopping us and that this would certainly lead to the *clever country*. How naive we were?

But in the early 1990's here in Australia it all stopped - suddenly. We didn't realise what was going on at the time but it appeared as though the nation had entered a time warp where many projects just disappeared into the Tardis.

Of course it was the Tricontinental and State Bank and related disasters in Victoria and South Australia and elsewhere that disappeared them. And aside from all the financial hardship it caused, I reckon it also killed off much creativity and innovation.

Because as we recovered from those disasters, everyone started looking at how to minimise risk - and that led the nation to start its multi decade long fascination with housing.

So the opportunity to become the *clever country* was lost back there in the 1990's - and now we just buy houses from each other and dig up minerals and send them to China.

And old blokes like me who still work with software get weird glances when we are sitting in cafes staring at our laptops - because these days apparently no-one else does that. Most people think a job is something that involves a shovel or a ute or a noisy power tool of some sort.

I have lost count of the number of times that someone berates me because they think I am playing games or watching porn or checking the tatts numbers or some other endeavour that they disapprove of. No-one thinks that anyone in AU could possibly make a living using an actual computer.

And to think that I was naive enough to imagine that we could ever become the *clever country*.

I think I will join Opus Dei and get the brothers to regularly remind me of my stupidity.

Monday, February 25, 2013

News to me

Labor waltzed into Government at the end of 2007 - because little Johnny had overstayed his welcome.

The nation welcomed the change - which was widely viewed as the beginnings of a moderate, progressive and social democratic - Labor government.  It was a refreshing change after 11 long years of conservative class-war, fear and war-mongering and other nonsense.  Kevin and the people seemed to get on famously.  I suspect they still do.

But Kevin and his colleagues didn't get on quite so-well, which is why Labor's "faceless men" boned him and replaced him with Julia in 2010.  That worked OK for about a day and a half and has been seen as a big mistake ever since.  Most of us still don't know why it happened and no-one "in the know" seems interested enough to enlighten us.

All of which is why Labor is headed for the knackers yard on September 14th.  Now I know that none of this is news.

But this is - or at least it is news to me.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has recently addressed the National Conference of the Australian Workers’ Union in Brisbane - and here is some of what she had to say.

I come here to this union’s gathering as a Labor leader.
I’m not the leader of a party called the progressive party.
I’m not the leader of a party called the moderate party.
I’m not the leader of a party even called the socialist democratic party.
I’m a leader of the party called the Labor Party deliberately because that is what we come from.
That is what we believe in and that is who we are.

As I said - news to me and I suspect news to a lot of other Australians.

By my reckoning those six sentences have probably alienated more than a quarter of what was once known as the Labor base.  It's not every day that you will find a political leader who will go out of their way to tell many of their supporters to piss off that they are no longer welcome.  It just boggles the mind.

Where are the Democrats and the Greens when you need them?

PS - Another take here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Trivial Pursuit

I personally find the *whole* national conversation around our polity to be incredibly lightweight and full of bullshit.

We already know that our "world class media" trivialise and distort everything - their main job is to get us to focus on celebrity and sport and if that doesn't work then they amplify the most god awful crap that goes on in and around our polity.  I mean, how does pap like QandA add value to the national conversation?

The politicians themselves are all about obfuscation and diversion and illusion.  They pretend to be dealing with the big issues but they never mention them  or ask our opinion at voting time.  All the real issues are decided in secret behind closed doors -  because they don't trust us to have an adult conversation about them - or because we might insist on doing something that is in the national interest instead of the interest of some corrupt political party.

Just about all voter interaction with politicians involves trivia.  Meanwhile having successfully diverted our attention, they are up to their ears in this nonsense.

And I don't think that anyone should imagine that it is just one side of politics that is corrupt.  Just because one side is being exposed this week doesn't mean that the other is squeaky clean

We have a unique opportunity this year to fix it once and for all.  It's simple really - all it requires is a little bit of thought followed by some action.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Apparent wind

Apparent wind is the wind "experienced" by people when they are situated on a moving object.  It's calculation is complicated and error prone - details here.

In a similar manner apparent popularity of a political party is that "experienced" by people in close proximity to a marketing bubble.  It's calculation is also complicated and error prone.

And the apparent popularity of a political party - is readily manipulated by those folks who are self interested in capturing eyeballs or inserting their hands into your wallet.

Which is why this is the best source for political analysis.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The marketeers are winning

Australians are very susceptible to marketing.  If something has flashing lights, is shiny and new and makes a lot of noise - then we will usually lust after it.  Particularly if it costs too much and the bloke down the road has one.

I only know this by looking at the vast numbers of new vehicles on the road and the proliferation of McMansions out there in suburbia.

Oh and the apparent popularity of the Liberal Party.

Just about the only thing going for the Liberals is their marketing message.  Their chief marketeer gets on the idiot box every day and tells us all what a broken government we have and how his government will be so much better ;-)

No facts of course - just marketing and BS and a leg up from our complicit media.  And it works a treat.

Yesterday the Liberals environment marketeer got a free pass on ABC 24.  I am pretty sure that not one actual fact managed to escape his lips - as the pretty talking head who was supposed to be moderating - looked on and nodded and nodded and nodded with approval.  FFS.

And on Twitter and elsewhere there is a raging debate about the economic credentials of our government and the opposition.  Andrew Leigh outlines the facts here.

But none of that matters a zloty because the rusted-on conservatives just *know* that our government is no good with money.

When the conservative marketeers say "Labor is high taxing" - that is what the rusted-ons believe - no matter what the facts show.

And if the *facts* are pointed out to them - then they avoid referencing them at all.

If forced to read or listen to those *facts* - then they denounce them as fraudulent or otherwise unreliable.

Because this little game has nothing to do with *truth* or *facts* - it is all about a "batshit crazy" belief that has been created by the marketeers.

Which is why I have a bridge to sell you.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Here's the deal

OK Australian politicians and your media acolytes - here's the deal.

If you lot run a clean campaign and tell the truth to the Australian people - ensuring that the best team wins on September 14th - then we the people will accept the result and recognise the legitimacy of the next government.

But if you keep up with the lies and deceit and manipulation that has been characteristic of the past three years then you should expect a different outcome.

Now I can't speak for everyone - but there are many Australians who are very disappointed with your behaviour and attempts at manipulation of the "Low Information Voter" - particularly around the following issues;

* Asylum seekers are not illegals and they are entitled to our protection.  We don't want you to spend billions incarcerating them overseas.

* Climate Change is real and a market based "emissions trading scheme" is the best way to deal with it.  That debate is done.

* Households are not governments - and your personal debt and currency use is not the same as that of a currency issuer.  Get used to it.

* Australia is a low taxing nation - relative to our peers - and you can't disguise that fact.

* Australia's economic performance has been pretty good relative to the rest of the world - for at least the past 5 years.  Acknowledge it.

* Most Australians are not racist, bigoted or pig ignorant - and we resent you depicting us as such with your approach to politics.

So at the very least you can expect some "civil disobedience" if you persist.  Who knows where that could lead.

It is all in your hands Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott.  Don't say you weren't warned.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Housing Futz

The real estate commentary in Australia is all about how house prices are not rising as they once did - and isn't it just appalling?

Because as we all know, Peter and Pamela Punter are not happy unless their housing investments are increasing in value.  They have been conditioned to believe that real estate is the best investment - ever.  And they never let anyone tell them otherwise.  They refuse to look at or listen to contrary stories - and always find opportunities to talk up the value of the property they own in joint-venture with the banks.

Except it is all a mirage.  They got conned into paying too much and they justify that by living in a parallel universe - where life is just bliss - and house prices are always rising ;-)

It will come as a bit of a shock when it all goes pear shaped.  The only thing that is not yet clear - is when.

The bigger problem is related and it's "housing affordability" - for all those mostly younger people who don't yet own a house.  They would adopt the same attitude as Peter and Pamela - should they ever get on the housing bandwagon - but in the meantime they are locked out because it is all so unaffordable.

And they are locked out because they don't have the income or the job prospects to generate the cash flow that is needed to get them on the bandwagon.  So one of two things will need to happen to change that.

* House prices will need to reduce substantially - in order to make them affordable to the millions of Australian's who aren't yet on the bandwagon or;

* Incomes will need to substantially increase to generate sufficient cash flow to justify current prices.

What do you think is more likely Virginia?

There is another scenario of course.

If the current situation were to remain for an extended period then many smart young Australians will vote with their feet and move overseas where real jobs are more plentiful and housing is affordable.  Many of them will never return.

And the nation can't afford to lose these bright young things - the place is already enough of a retirement village.  Our leaders need to address this issue soon - I reckon they have about 8 months to sort it out.  Will they?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A short history of Adelaide

I am in Adelaide for a few weeks - sucking up the atmospherics and other things.  My transport is my trusty Strida boat bike.

Am not a big fan of the place but I am in awe of the marketing guru's who have so successfully managed to insert their hands into the wallets of the locals.

Back in the 1990's the locals were consumed by football.  Crows and Port Power players were local hero's - and their supporters spent thousands on merchandise, local games and trips to away games.  Football is an industry that was created by marketing.

Ex Premier Mike Rann once famously said that the collective IQ of both Adelaide and Melbourne increased when Port played in Melbourne and their fans followed them to the away game ;-)  And all the sages nodded and pocketed the proceeds.

But things have changed a bit - these days football doesn't have quite the same cachet - anything to do with the scandals?  The locals have found a new passion - cycling.

Actually it looks and feels like cycling - but its not cycling as many of us know it.  This is cycling that is built around the "Tour Down Under".  Cycling that involves big brands, expensive carbon bikes, heaps of padded lycra and cripple boots.  And it has all been created by the marketing guru's.

All because ex Premier Ranny paid his mate Lance Armstrong about $9 million to front up and be the Adelaide "Tour Down Under" poster boy.  Lance was once a hero in this town.

And it's become spectacularly successful.  So successful that most locals between the ages of 18 and 35 now own an expensive bike and kit with all the trimmings.  The local bike shops have become big and profitable as a result.  One of the very obvious changes since I last paid attention is that many more females have joined the ride.

And what a ride it is - Adelaide is now cycle town.  A great demonstration of the power of marketing.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Claytons Choice

It's scary that our politicians don't seem to *get* one of the main rules of politics.  Which is - "Don't piss off your constituents".

Or if you are going to do that then you had better make sure that your opponents are "pissing off their constituents" much, much more than you are.

Because the only way that an unpopular political leader and political party can get anywhere near the big seats - is if they are "much less unpopular" than their opponents.

And if no-one who votes is paying attention.

In the Australian version of pseudo democracy we have been reduced to claytons choice - the choice that you have when you don't have a choice.

At the next election - apparently we will get to choose between "Ms Gillard and the Labor Party" and "Mr Abbott and the Liberal Party".  That ain't a choice that I am happy about Virginia.  And judging by recent opinion polls - I am not alone.

One leader is hugely unpopular - the other is seriously unpopular.  Are we really going to install one of these characters as our next Prime Minister later in 2013?  I don't think so.

IMHO neither are up to the standard that we require of our leaders.  Both are consumed by power and both have put the interests of their party ahead of the interests of the nation and the people.  Post 2013, both will continue to pursue a crazy neoliberal ideology and a discredited austerity agenda and suck up to a foreign warmonger - along with other dingbattery.

Do Australian's really want this?  What are we going to do about it?

It really is way past time that we cleaned up our polity and discarded the rubbish that has accumulated across the political spectrum.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Our polity is failing

Knowledge of our polity is pretty atrocious - plus we don't have much of an idea about "the constitution" or the roles of "the house of representatives and the senate" and the role that "the states" play in our federation.  Don't even ask about a "half senate" or "double dissolution" election or how you get to be a senator.

These things are just not well known or understood by our people.  Nowhere near as well known as the latest AFL Premiership team - or who bagged the most gold medals at the London Olympics - or the price of a McMansion in any capital city - or the name of the latest 4wd of the year.  All of which have been etched onto a Bogan brain cell.

Call me a cynic but I am pretty sure that things have been designed this way.  Our political system is broken and unrepresentative and as a result our *polity is failing* - simply because so few of us are informed enough to ensure that we get "good outcomes" when we vote.  Mostly we don't know what a good democratic outcome would even look like - all we care about is that "our team" wins the confected race called "an election".

I think our politicians actually like it this way.  For example, despite all the available evidence the Opposition Leader can insist that "climate change is crap" - and his teams' vote goes up.  What is that if not evidence of a "poor outcome"?

If our politicians actually viewed any of this as a problem then they would have done more, much more years ago - to ensure that the people who were being asked to vote were properly informed.

My sense of it is that this is one of main reasons why they won't change "compulsory voting".  Because by focussing on the *compulsory* nature of voting there is less opportunity to question the *quality* nature of that voting.  And that is clearly the problem.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Poacher and Gamekeeper

One of the greatest failures of our polity is that we have let our politicians become both "poacher" and "gamekeeper".

By that I mean that our politicians have maneuvered themselves into position where they "set the rules by which they play the game".  Citizens and voters have become mere bystanders.

Take the question of "compulsory voting" - or more correctly compulsory attendance at a polling booth - which surfaced during the past week.

The Queensland Premier was doing a bit of stirring by starting a discussion around "voluntary voting" - as a way of diverting attention from his many failures.  But did you notice what happened in the Federal Parliament?

Everyone from the Prime Minister down commented and tweeted about how "voluntary voting" is so bad and will corrupt our polity and allow the dominance of big money and vested interests - and produce bad outcomes.  No evidence mind you - just lots of politicians telling us how "voluntary voting" is a really bad idea.  As one junior politician suggested - "voluntary voting" is somehow less fair than "compulsory voting" ;-)

My standard reaction is this - "If politicians are so quick to rush in and say that something is bad - then there must be something good about it".

Does anyone else see the problem here?  The politicians who are voted into parliament on a system of "compulsory voting" - are keen to keep that system in place - because they use it to ensure the best outcomes for themselves.

Whereas what is needed is an "Independent Commissioner" to study voting processes - and other things that distort our polity -  and to regularly "initiate referendum" to help ensure that we voters are being properly served by our politicians.  This is the job of the Electoral Commission - but they seem to be missing in action.

We the voters are the ones getting poor outcomes - because the poacher is also the gamekeeper.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Some questions

News today that Melbourne real estate is down 2.9% over the past year made me chuckle.  Because for prices to get back to any reasonable level of affordability - they will need to drop a further 25% to 35%.  Vendor fear is about the only thing that is keeping them from going off the cliff.

Question #1 - "Will real estate affordability ratios revert to the long run average - in the short term or the long term"?

If short term - then lots of people will go bankrupt and probably take a couple of banks with them.

If long term  - then the future will look much like what Japan has endured for the past couple of decades.

Either way -  it won't be a lot of fun getting there.

Question #2 - "Why are we so susceptible to marketing hype and irrational purchasing behaviour"?

What is it about the human condition that causes us to pay way too much for stuff?  How is it that we ignore inherent value and get carried away with hype and marketing and end up outbidding our neighbors?  Is it just about competitive spirit?

I am wondering if this is an inbuilt human genetic trait - or something that is more a learned thing that has been developed and tweaked over time by the marketing gurus?

Actually it probably doesn't much matter - because the end result is the same.

PS - this provides some explanation.