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?