Friday, November 25, 2011

Metro Trains Melbourne

My employer made news earlier in the year for all the wrong reasons. The headlines were damning, not only for Metro and its CEO Andrew Lezala, but also for the State Government because, try as it might, it can never divorce itself from Melbourne’s railways. More specifically, The Hon Terry Mulder will be committing political suicide if strategy resorts to merely accepting that Metro and train unions will sort things out. After all, the Transport Ministers job is well defined:

As Minister for Public Transport, Mr Mulder oversees the effective delivery and management of Victoria's public transport services.
Recall former Minister of Transport Lynne Kosky's greatest mistake was to think that Connex would sort its own, well, the rest is history.

When MTR successfully bid to run Melbourne's trains in 2009, it understandably used its overseas record of accomplishment as inspiration for rebuilding Melbourne’s system, but has it gone right yet?

Essentially, it is nothing new, Victorian political culture, old guard bureaucracy, and above all, the … (I dare not write it) have all but guaranteed that Metro will struggle to implement the change it seeks to improve our metropolitan train system.

I suspect that past events covered in the media about slow drivers may escalate further before resulting in a “band aid” fix of sorts; hence, the underlying or root cause of Metro’s problems will remain; hindrances that have little to do with infrastructure, timetable and train maintenance issues.

As I wrote here, and in relation to what is truly amiss with our train system, I point you to an insightful piece taken from The Age on January 22, Taken for a ride: how Metro 'inherited a dog.

This article revealed the core problems of our metropolitan train services. It would be a brave person, be it the CEO, a politician or uncommon bureaucrat that attempts to tackle such issues directly, nonetheless it can be done.

Given the Hong Kong-based consortium's successful overseas record, if MTR cannot provide Melbournians with a better metropolitan rail network, then it is accurate to suggest that there is something fundamentally wrong with our system but more concerning, is that it appears nobody is willing, or able to address it.

I hasten to add, why might I have linked this blog entry to the collectivism, individualism and more significantly the ___________ labels?


Is Metro trying to compromise passenger safety by relaxing safety rules pertaining to the running of trains? On the bases of another recent article in The Age, one would think so.

Take the poll question that accompanies the article: Would you feel safe travelling on trains if Metro changed the fault-reporting criteria? Now let’s be clear, this question is calculating and represents a form of classic cognitive favouritism known as response bias due to the wording of the question. That's why it is hardly extraordinary that a question which reads, “Would you feel safe travelling on trains if Metro changed the fault-reporting criteria?” would yield the response it has, as 59% answered no compared to 41% with a yes.

So is Metro trains Melbourne really attempting to relax safety standards in a manner that compromises passenger safety? The straightforward answer is no, more accurately, Metro is engaging in common sense risk management designed to raise the operating efficiency of our metropolitan rail network.

Should senior managers at Metro be made to feel culpable for seeking greater efficiency? The piece seems to suggest that they should and this is wrong. The 4 faults cited as examples, while not minor would hardly be tantamount to “critical” in terms of train running.

The articles author, Clay Lucas, would be advised to interview Metro and seek their logic for the proposed changes to existing fault reporting systems. Or otherwise, the latter should put out its own press release detailing their argument.

On present course, Metro is losing the PR battle and needless to add, its spokespeople need to up the ante.

Up the ante you ask? Yes, take for example an email I received not so long ago from Aliyah Stotyn, who is unknown to me but apparently claims to understand me. He wrote:

My name's Aliyah and I'm a Journalism student writing a feature article on Metro Trains Melbourne.

The focus of my article is basically an exposé on Andrew Lezala's false accusations on train drivers, so I'm trying to get information on other things MTM are doing like tracking drivers work phones whilst on sick leave, and anything else I can find.

I stumbled across your blog and I was wondering if it would be possible to meet up for a chat when you're free?

I understand that drivers are bound by Metro's contract not to speak to the media regarding Metro matters, so if you prefer you can remain totally anonymous.

My interest is only in having the drivers' voices heard so that the public aren't brainwashed by Metro's accusations.

Even if you prefer not to meet, an email interview would be fine too.

Let me know A.S.A.P.

Aliyah S.

You will agree that the email was not exactly partisan to the interests of senior Metro Trains Management. Needless to add, my being bound to my companies directions prevented me from replying to the email, even though I would have had much to say. The line, "My interest is only in having the drivers' voices heard so that the public aren't brainwashed by Metro's accusations" is telling, and indicates that the author has concluded that Metro is the enemy.

This is clearly representative of the challenge facing Metro's media liaison team.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Elements of Leadership ... and Management

Recently I had a friend over who just happens to be the Group General Manager of a medium sized national company. During the ensuing discussions, we ventured down the path of critical management appraisal from a practical point of view. He was having some challenges, which obviously cannot be disclosed, and though definitive solutions evaded both of us, we both took heart from ideas generated by our general discussion of both management and its important cousin, leadership.

In today’s workplace, management per se, means so much more than simply giving directives in accordance with the rules of the organisation, it may have worked yesteryear but not so today. Contemporary management though perpetually evolving, entails the creative, as well as a systematic flow of knowledge that can be applied to produce results by using human as well as other resources in an effective way. Management is no longer limited to managing human resource; today, it encompasses financial management, strategic management, operations management, time management, crisis management, and in some cases, marketing management. Little wonder leadership comes into play.

Accordingly, for today’s progressive organisation, management has become increasingly important for developing and executing business policies and strategies to maximize profits or, in the case of service centred organisations, service excellence through a complex process that engages the direction of subordinates in order to adhere to a set of prescribed rules, systems and/ regulations.

At first, my friend failed to grasp the relevance or our broadly based discussion as did I however, by evenings ends he, more than I felt energised to explore different avenues for addressing the business challenges that lay before him.

During the exchange, reference was made to a 1999 article I posted on my original personal website on the subject of leadership. To my surprise; its content was also the subject of a recent meeting at my friends workplace.

The following day, I revisited the article myself and found it as interesting today as when I initially penned it in 1999. Thus, given it is no longer online, I want to share it on this site and hope that its astuteness will resonate with readers today just as it continues to do so with me all these years later.

Enjoy the learning and do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Otto Marasco

Elements of Leadership - "Calling all Current and Aspiring Leaders...Managers...Listen Up"!

In just over 21 years, I have worked in numerous roles across several industries. To be perfectly candid I have come across some very poor managers and the odd exceptional one. What roles you ask? There was Sales Consultant, Manager, 2IC, Territory Manager, Business Development Consultant, Advertising Representative, Shop Proprietor, Staff Training Advisor, State coordinator - Cellular Phones and not forgetting plain old (and hackneyed) Sales Representative role.

The industries included Retail, Government, Print Media, HR and currently Public Transport.

Incidentally, I feel compelled to point out that Management and Leadership are not the same, management says, "What can I/we do to best accomplish things, whilst Leadership says, "What needs to be accomplished"? If you want to explore this further yourself, check out chapter two, sub-heading ‘Leadership and management - The two creations in Stephen Covey's, "7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Moving on, several years ago someone (I honestly cannot recall whom) handed me an article on the Leadership subject. Now being an avid sort of reader, I think oh yea yet another path down "Drake Review" lane. However, this was different, a treasure in fact. It was written by Dr. Oren Harari whom (I had since found out) was a public speaker, business consultant and professor at the University of San Francisco.

In the piece, the author presents lessons derived directly from Colin Powell's book "My American Journey". For those who do not know, Colin Powell is both a former U.S. General and Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs (Late 1980's -Early 1990's) and most recently (December 2000) appointed as the next Secretary of State replacing Madeleine Albright. In the context of its subject - Effective Leadership, Ms. Harari refers to Mr. Powell's work as "marvellous" and "a gem of wisdom". Readers are able to share the former General's advice presented in the form of quotations from the book after which she provides commentary. There are 18 lessons of which I will introduce you to my favourites. I present each exactly as written by the articles author; for me this is not a writing exercise, I simply wish to deliver a message and the good professor delivers it superlatively.

Management and leadership lesson 1

"Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off."

Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions. It's inevitable - if your honourable. Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity: You will avoid the tough decisions, you will avoid confronting the people that need to be confronted, and you will avoid offering differential rewards based on differential performance because some people might get upset. Ironically, by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying not to get anyone mad, and treating everyone equally nice regardless of their contributions , you will simply ensure that the only people you wind up are the most creative and productive in the organization.

Management and leadership lesson 2

"The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership."

If this were a litmus test the majority of CEO's would fail. One, they build so many barriers to upward communication that the very idea of someone lower in the hierarchy looking up to the leader for help is ludicrous. Secondly, the corporate culture they foster often defines asking for help as weakness or failure, so people cover up their gaps, and the organization suffers accordingly. Real leaders make themselves available. They show concern for the efforts and challenges faced by underlings - even as they demand high standards, Accordingly, they are more likely to create an environment where problem analysis replaces blame.

Management and leadership lesson 3

"Don't be afraid to challenge the pros, even in their own backyard".

Learn from the pros, observe them, seek them out as mentors and partners. But remember that even the pros may have levelled out in terms of skills and learning. Sometimes even the pros can become complacent and lazy. Leadership does not emerge from blind obedience to anyone. Xerox's Barry Rand was right on target when he warned his people that if you have a yes man working for you, one of you is redundant, Good leadership encourages everyone's evolution.

Management and leadership lesson 4

"You don't know what you can get away with until you try."

Good leaders don't wait for official blessings before trying things out. They're prudent not reckless. But they also realize a fact of life in most organizations: If you ask enough people for permission, you will inevitably find someone who thinks his job is to say "no." The moral is, do not ask. Less effective managers endorsed the sentiment , "If I have not explicitly been told yes, I cannot do it, whereas good one's believed "If I have not explicitly been told no, I can. There's a world of difference between these two points of view.

Management and leadership lesson 5

"Keep looking beneath surface appearances. Don't shrink from doing so because you might not like what you find."

"If it isn't broke don't fix it" is the slogan of the complacent , the arrogant or the scared. It's an excuse for inaction, a call to non -arms. It's a mind-set that assumes that today's realities will continue tomorrow in a tidy, linear and predictable fashion. Pure fantasy. In this sort of culture, you won't find people who proactively take steps to solve problems as they emerge.

Management and leadership lesson 6

"Organization doesn't really accomplish anything. Plans don't accomplish anything, either. Theories of management don't much matter. Endeavours succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great things."

In a brain based economy, your best assets are your people. We've heard this expression so often that it's become trite. But how many leaders really "walk the talk" with this stuff? Too often, people are assumed to be empty chess pieces to be moved around by grand viziers, which may explain why so many top managers immerse their calendar time in deal making, restructuring and the latest management fad. How many (Leaders) immerse themselves in the goal of creating an environment where the best, the brightest, the most creative are attracted, retained and - most importantly - unleashed?

Management and leadership lesson 7

"Organization charts and fancy titles count for next to nothing".

Organization charts are frozen, anachronistic photos in a workplace that ought to be as dynamic as the external environment around you. If people really followed organization charts, companies would collapse. In a well run company, titles are also pretty meaningless. At best, they advertise some authority - an official status confirming the ability to give orders and induce obedience. But titles mean little in terms of real power, which is the capacity to influence and inspire. Have you ever noticed that people will personally commit to certain individuals who on paper possess little authority - but instead possess pizzazz, drive, expertise and genuine caring for team-mates and products? On the flip side non-leaders have little influence on others, apart from heir ability to extract minimal compliance to minimal standards.

Management and leadership lesson 8

"Never let your ego get so close to your position that when your position goes, your ego goes with it".

"To often, change is stifled by people who cling to familiar turfs and job descriptions. One reason that even large organizations wither is that managers won't challenge old, comfortable ways of doing things. But real leaders understand that, nowadays, every one of our jobs is becoming obsolete. The proper response is to obsolete our activities before someone else does. Effective leaders create a climate where people's worth is determined by their willingness to learn new skills and grab new responsibilities, thus perpetually reinventing their jobs.

Management and leadership lesson 9

"Fit no stereotypes. Don't chase the latest management fads. The situation dictates which approach best accomplishes the team's mission."

Fitting from fad to fad creates team confusion, reduces the leaders credibility and drains the organizations coffers. Blindly following a particular fad generates rigidity in thought and action. Sometimes speed to market is more important then total quality. Sometimes an unapologetic directive is more appropriate than participatory discussion. To quote Powell, some situations require the leader to hover closely; others require long, loose leashes. Leaders honour their core values, but they are flexible in how they execute them. They understand that management techniques are not magic mantras but simply tools to be reached for at the right times.

Management and leadership lesson 10

"Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier."

The ripple effect of a leaders enthusiasm and optimism is awesome. So is the impact of cynicism and pessimism. Leaders who whine and blame engender those same behaviours among their colleagues. I am not talking about stoically accepting organizational stupidity and performance incompetence with a "what, me worry?" smile. I am talking about a gung ho attitude that says " we can change things here, we can achieve awesome goals, we can be the best. Spare me the grim litany of the realist; give me the unrealistic aspirations of the optimist any day.

Management and leadership lesson 11

"Powell's Rules for Picking People"

Look for intelligence and judgment and , most critically, a capacity to anticipate, to see around corners. also look for loyalty, integrity, a high energy drive, a balanced ego and the drive to get things done."

How often do our recruitment and hiring processes tap into these attributes? More often than not, we ignore them in favour of length of resume, degrees and prior titles. A string of job descriptions a recruit held yesterday seem to be more important than who one is today, what she can contribute tomorrow or how well his values mesh with those of the organization. You can train a bright, willing novice in the fundamentals of your business fairly readily, but its a lot harder to train someone to have integrity, judgment, energy, balance and the drive to get things done. Good leaders stack the deck in their favour right in the recruitment phase.

Management and leadership lesson 12

Part 1: "Use the P=40 to 70, in which P stands for the probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information required."
Part 2: "Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut."

Powell's advice is don't take action if you have only enough information to give you less than a 40% chance of being right, but don't wait until you have enough facts to be 100% sure, because by then it is almost too late. His instinct is right:
Procrastination in the name of reducing risk actually increases risk.

Management and leadership lesson 13

Have fun in command. Don’t always run at breakneck speed. Take leave when you've earned it: Spend time with your families. "Corollary: "Surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves, those who work hard and play."

The late Anita Roddick of The Body Shop would agree:

Seek people who have some balance in their lives, who are fun to hang out with, who like to laugh at themselves and who have some non-job priorities that they approach with the same passion that they do their work. Spare me the grim workaholic or the pompous "professional"; I will help them find jobs with my competitor.

Copyright © 1999 Otto Marasco all rights reserved

Monday, September 05, 2011

Julia Gillard will be our Prime Minister at next election: Rudd

I firmly believe Julia is still in lots of trouble but this should ease some nerves, albeit temporarily.

Noboby should be in doubt about who will lead the Labor Party to the next election says Kevin Rudd. In a statement that should provide some provisional and much needed respite to Julia Gillard, the Foreign Minister firmly rejected any suggestion that he was once again seeking the Prime Minister’s job. Julia Gillard being one of the toughest women in politics will continue to lead us effectively with the full, unconditional and unequivocal support of the caucus, Mr Rudd told reporters this afternoon. Rudd joins other past and present Labor figures including Wayne Swan, Chris Bowen, Peter Garrett, Bob Carr, Peter Beattie and Bill Shorten who have previously publically backed Julia Gillard.
Now moreover, if you believe anything you have just read you will believe anything … OJ

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Was Germany’s Nuclear Power Decision Hasty?

Fukushima certainly raised alarm bells in Germany, so much so that they have declared to phase out nuclear power altogether by 2022. Given that in the West power consumption continues to rise and, given also the concern about CO2 emissions one is compelled to ask, did the Germans think this through?

They have done well to reduce emissions since Kyoto, but what will replace energy production after 2022? As Dina Esfandiary explains below, ending nuclear power so soon is bad news for the environment.
Germany Says Goodbye Nuclear

Dina Esfandiary is a Research Analyst and Project Coordinator within the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

The triple meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant has caused many governments to re-examine their own nuclear power programmes - not simply to ensure their plants’ safety, but to ask whether nuclear power in general is a safe source of energy. Two European countries have declared that they now plan to phase out their nuclear plants altogether: Germany by 2022 and Switzerland by 2034. Fukushima was a terrible event, but eliminating nuclear power is a knee-jerk response – and the wrong one.

Our energy consumption is on the increase, and the power has to come from somewhere. In Germany and Switzerland, nuclear power accounts for 33% and 40% of supply respectively. It is worth asking ourselves: if we stop using nuclear power, where will we get it from?

Renewable energy sources will not fill the gap any time soon. Yes, the accompanying initiative for the development of other renewable sources of energy is a good one, but installing the infrastructure for it will take time and money. At the moment, despite investments in wind power, turbines only produce 3% of Germany’s energy needs. A spokesperson for Lenz Energy in Berlin said: “If the (German) nuclear plants are missing, solar power can compensate for some of it but the question is can renewables really cope with all scenarios?" Energy produced from existing renewable technologies is also difficult to store, and provides a less reliable flow of energy. This means that more energy needs to be generated to account for the potential spikes in demand from the same number of consumers.

So what will fill the gap? Coal and possibly gas. Germany, famous for its efforts in implementing the Kyoto Protocol and aiming to reduce emissions by 40% by 2020, will undo much of its commendable work when it abandons nuclear power. Although the natural gas market has developed recently, it is still expensive and more importantly, a fossil fuel, which will not help reduce emissions. According to the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, Nobuo Tanaka, gas is not a “panacea for climate change”. In the short term, Germany’s energy needs can only be met by a greater reliance on coal, which already accounts for about half of its energy supply. One industry professional explained that “In a year, in Germany we save 170 million tonnes of CO2 by using nuclear power plants. If we shut down the nuclear power plants, the only alternative is coal."

Germany will try to avoid an over-reliance on coal by importing its energy from abroad. In March 2011, electricity imports from its neighbours France and the Czech Republic doubled, and exports slowed considerably. According to the German Association of Energy and Water Industries, Germany now imports approximately 50 gigawatt hours (the capacity equivalent to one-and-a-half nuclear reactors) a day from both countries.

How do these countries produce their electricity? Both are nuclear-reliant: France produces about 75% of its energy by nuclear power, while the Czech Republic produces a little less than 40%. Should an accident occur in either of these countries, the effects of radiation would be unlikely to stop at their borders. Depending on the direction of the winds, both Germany and Switzerland could expect to be affected by radioactivity from such a disaster, as would the rest of Europe.

Fukushima was a terrible disaster, one that was caused by the force of nature disrupting power to the plant and impeding its cooling system. That is not likely in Europe where plants are built in areas that are much more tectonically stable. In the wake of Fukushima, ensuring a constant flow of power and cooling water to the power plants should be investigated. Nuclear accidents are terrible, because they are destructive, sudden, and scary. But rather than abruptly ending programmes that have been heavily invested in, governments should further secure them by updating plants and working with the IAEA to ensure that safety standards are implemented and respected. Bringing nuclear power to an end is bad for the environment, bad for energy security and bad economics.

The original version of this post was featured in french, in Le Temps.

The article above appeared at Pnyx ... a forum for comment on global security and politics. It aims to provide concise and productive insight, and focuses on a broad range of issues which reflect the research interests of the contributors.
What about Australia?

As a case in point, France with a population five times that of Australia emits less CO2 than us Australians. The reason is simple as it uses nuclear power to meet its electricity demands. Now given that 36% of Australia’s emissions are generated by producing electricity it might be time we at least begin talking; debating the nuclear option.

Click here and here and here for my previous posts about nuclear power.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Bob Brown's World Government

From the Institute of Public Affairs

Bob Brown's global 'people's assembly' continues to intrigue. There's soon to be 7 billion people in the world.

Brown says it should be 'one person, one vote, one value'. So if 10 million people each got a representative in a 700 member world parliament the votes would look like this:

Are you laughing yet? Well don't, apparantly they're serious about it.

Imagine if you will the parliament, it would probably resemble the galactic senate in Revenge of the Sith ...

Wonder what other silly thoughts our tax on breathing Bob harbours?

Friday, July 01, 2011

A warning for the United States

From A Breitbart's Big Government site:

British MEP Daniel Hannan, who gained international recognition several years ago for his passionate denunciation of Keynesian economics in general and then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown in particular, visited The Heritage Foundation last week to discuss his new book. Provocatively titled “The New Road to Serfdom: A Letter of Warning to America”, it does not disappoint. Armed with firsthand experience with the failures of socialism in Europe, Hannan’s message to America is simple: Don’t repeat our mistakes.

Before his speech, he sat down with Heritage for an “In The Green Room” interview to discuss his warning to America. But despite Hannan’s deep concerns, he was clear that we have not yet reached the tipping point and remained optimistic that Americans can right the ship.

With a nod to the Tea Party, Hannan said, “The policies being pursued by this Administration all trend in that direction—European healthcare, European social security, European defense, European green taxes—but these things are reversible. … And from what I can tell looking at this country, you are doing something about it.”

Quality of Life thanks to Economic Freedom

The Charles Koch Foundation has released a great video that underscores the importance of economic freedom. Milton Friedman long-ago argued that, without economic freedom, all other freedoms are vulnerable.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Plain packaging for cigarettes: Which company would stand for this?

Think about it...

The ad reads:

The Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill could destroy brands that are worth millions, if not billions, of dollars.

No company would stand for having its brands taken away and we’re no different. And it may infringe international trademark and intellectual property law.

The (Australian) Government could also end up spending millions in legal fees defending and idea unproven anywhere in the world.

Don’t let the taxpayer foot the bill for a bad bill.
Plain packaging is going too far!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Kevin Rudd will survive

I think I'd better rouse my Rudd watch label ...

Does anyone know anyone who was invited to Rudd's assassination anniversary party?

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Australian efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are superfluous

$20 – 25 per tonne does it matter? There are several factors that will see our efforts to cool the globe become completely superfluous. What you ask? Is that why we’re doing it? Yes, we are taxing Carbon as part of an effort to cool the world by a factor of 0.00 “something” per cent by 2100. You have heard it before; that Australia emits zilch Carbon by world standards and this is true. Permit me, in non-technical language to provide reasons why that “zilch” will become even more insignificant, with the passage of time.

The economic poles are reverting back to pre industrial revolution positions, out with Europe in with China and India - the East. In 20 short years, these two nations alone will account for up to 35% of the worlds GDP and by 2050, we can only speculate. It is not directly population growth that is driving this, rather, urbanisation and industrialisation will lead to an unprecedented rise in the number of aspirational and upwardly mobile middle class citizens with lots of money to spend. Imagine just 50% of China and India’s population with standards of living approaching that of our own. The numbers are mind blowing; India’s population hit over 1.20 billion recently, a rise of over 180 million since the previous census, which is equivalent to roughly nine times Australia’s entire population between two census counts.

It is not extreme to put forward that the number of middle-class consumers in Asia could increase by more than 3 billion people by 2050. The environmental implications of such a large increase in the middle class market alone should be cause for alarm, even panic for some. Think in terms of ecosystems, think power generation requirements, and think general pollution and landfill pressures, think number of cars on the world’s roads increasing by 1.5 to 2 billion units in Asia alone. The economic activity generated by such a larger consumer base would make today’s emission levels appear diminutive; the implications are of titanic proportions.

For these reasons alone, the mind numbing debate about imposing a Carbon tax in Australia is a joke. According to climate commissioner, Will Steffen the world is going to get hotter regardless, that is, irrespective of a 5 per cent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Moreover, he would argue, even with complete decarbonisation leading up to 2050, it is still going to get 2 degrees warmer by then anyway. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us that trying to keep global temperature rises down to 2 degrees would require an 80 per cent cut in global emissions by mid-century.

What do you think are the chances of actually cutting emissions down so far by 2050 given the aforementioned urbanisation and industrialisation set to sweep Asia?

We Australians can do nothing to stop or even slow what is coming. The larger world will generate our climate conditions, case in point; all predictions tell us that China alone will increase its emissions by 25 per cent by 2020. Does Julia Gillard realise what this figure alone represents when compared to present day Australian emission levels? Allow me; a 25 per cent increase in China’s emissions is equivalent to roughly 18 times our total emissions today. In addition, we have not even considered India and the rest of Asia or the developing world in this figure.

By all means let us invest in R&D to develop alternative cleaner energy sources, let us too, educate consumers to become increasingly environmentally savvy, let us protect our precious universal bubble but let us accept that the world may get hotter and stop dealing in fantasies about decarbonisation to stop it. Adaptation is the only logical response to something we cannot and will not control. The world will never commit to effectively reducing emissions while demographics continue to change. It makes no sense for Australia to be acting ahead of the rest of the world because we do not lead the world, not even close.

I reject the notion that climate change action is really about tax redistribution or, old-fashioned class war actions dressed up as environmentalism. It is not about that at all; rather the government actually wants to reduce Australian carbon emissions to stop sea levels rising and reduce global temperatures but it is not going to happen, it is dealing in pure fantasy. Passing the Carbon tax legislation is a farcically exercise that will land the government an extra $10bn per year (depending on the price per tonne set) which it will mostly pass on to families as compensation for rising costs of living and other trade exposed industries and do nothing for the environment. In the end we will be left with nothing more than a form of tax re-distribution albeit, for the wrong reasons.

A vote of confidence for Tony Abbott who saves the Speaker, the Parliament and perhaps even, Julia Gillard ...

... An opportunist would have encouraged this; a statesman would not and did not ...

It was the day the Opposition leader moved a motion in support of a Labor MP and quite possibly saved Gillard. Make no mistake, a crises it was, one that saw an unscripted Tony Abbott act first and, for just over 7 minutes, spoke with a good measure of noble authority, statesmanship and praiseworthy forbearance. As it turned out, he might just have saved the Government when without hesitation, he rose and announced:
"Mr speaker I move that this house has confidence in your speakership"

Of course, a shaken Gillard had to second the motion to save the Speaker and perhaps, her government.

The extraordinary incident and Tony Abbotts unequivocal response showed a highly professional side to Opposition leader, one which would come as a revelation to mainstream electorate. This would suggest that there is far more substance to Abbott than he is credited for.

The video is worth a look at.

As Professor David Flint noted:
But for the quick action of Tony Abbott, the Leader of the Opposition, we could have entered into a period of potential instability, with the possibility that the government could have lost its majority. An opportunist would have encouraged this; a statesman would not and did not ... No doubt to the delight of the government, and the reassurance of the Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Tony Abbott, without hesitation, moved a vote of confidence in the Speaker. Read more here

Said Harry Jenkins after declaring that he would not resign.
"The Speaker recognises the very generous vote of confidence in the chair by the house and will leave the matter at that …"

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Carbon Tax ads are coming ... Say No

Said Terri Kelleher, from The Australian Families Association

"It's nice to have a multi-millionaire who won't be impacted by it telling you how great it is"
By my reckoning even this is beside the point. In a couple of days I will post on why Australia's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are altogether, superfluous ... Your reason to Say No.


The threshold that discriminates hardworking Australians from the rich, somewhere between $150,000 and actor Cate Blanchett

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Broadly speaking: Was Howard’s WorkChoices so bad?

It was 2007, the ALP was about to be swept into power and while many issues were the order of the day, and of which climate change was arguably at the top, industrial relations and the highly polemic workchoices probably defined the campaign most and allowed Rudd to line up with unions on key policy initiatives.

Because much of the criticism aimed at workchoices and Howard was over the top, permit me to recite a number of thoughts I have entertained about the legislation since that fateful election.

In point form:

  • Many journalists, unions, employees and pundits had little real knowledge of IR issues and wage fixing and yet, pronounced themselves as specialists who assured all that Howard did indeed preside over what Rudd proclaimed to be “Howard’s Brutopia”   
  • It was incorrectly assumed that all workers would have zero bargaining power – the worst case in all cases.
  • It was incorrectly assumed that all bosses were capitalist bastards who did not give a squat about employees, and would in all cases impose exorbitant individual contracts upon them. 
  • It was incorrectly assumed that business owners employing highly unionised labour would rather engage in a lengthy battle with unions rather than running the business and getting on with the delivery of goods and services for which they were in business. 
  • Did anyone bother to highlight the fact that Australian Workplace Agreements were around for many years prior, and that almost 2% of workers had signed up… shock horror. In fact, by scrapping workchoices we surrendered a law that had been operative for nearly 15 years, a law made possible by the Keating government when it preferenced enterprise bargaining over arbitrated wage settlements. Thus, the new legislation, Fair Work Australia can now make binding rulings to settle disputes hence, a hybrid version of compulsory arbitration - a return to yesteryear. 
  • Effectively negotiated, Workchoices individual contract provisions made AWA’s less bureaucratic and offered greater flexibility.
  • Unlike the exaggerated notions put forward by unions, ALP scaremongers and even church groups, it would have been unlikely that workchoices would have led to reduced wages in minimum dollar terms or even real terms because the gap between minimum wage and the dole cannot be narrowed. Thus, minimum wage was always going to keep abreast with CPI changes.
  • During the time in which workchoices was operative nearly half a million jobs were created and over 80% of them were full time compared to a much lover full time figure during the preceding government.
WorkChoices committed to the power of the individual, this in my view should be paramount though it run contrary to ALP values about the latter’s capacity to successfully negotiate their own contracts with penny pinching business owners and management. Consequently, individuals were individuals no more. To to shield them from ‘unscrupulous’ employers, unions (the collective) would negotiate on their behalf. If any individual did not conform, they faced intimidation, and bullying and even perhaps physical abuse. David Larkin would not be amused.

In the end, the individual was the loser, much to the detriment of company, the business and the economy.

Workchoices was a political folly not an economic one nonetheless, the former is only true because it could have been sold far better.

Related reading:

Howard and Costello’s Moral Consequences of Wealth & Prosperity

Work Choices is radical; and that's a good thing

Monday, May 16, 2011

The problem with unions and consequences for the ALP

I doubt that I could ever be a proponent for unions; it’s the way I’m wired, sure they had place in the past but today? I find the arguments in favour of them old; that unions help ensure that workers are treated fairly and equally, that unions also give workers a voice in workplace decisions that affect their lives through negotiating a contract with their employer, that unions give working people a real sense of their own power and so on.

I am perfectly adept to negotiating on my own behalf in preference to a collective agreement that brings me down to a lower more common denominator. Cast me aside though, unions cost a company both directly and indirectly, through slower work processes, lower productivity and poor employee relations. As the Heritage Foundation put it some time ago:

Unions and the economy

... unions function as labor cartels. A labor cartel restricts the number of workers in a company or industry to drive up the remaining workers' wages..... Companies pass on those higher wages to consumers through higher prices, and often they also earn lower profits. Economic research finds that unions benefit their members but hurt consumers generally, and especially workers who are denied job opportunities.

... The average union member earns more than the average non-union worker. However, that does not mean that expanding union membership will raise wages: Few workers who join a union today get a pay raise ... Economists consistently find that unions decrease the number of jobs available in the economy. The vast majority of manufacturing jobs lost over the past three decades have been among union members--non-union manufacturing employment has risen. Research also shows that widespread unionization delays recovery from economic downturns.

Some unions win higher wages for their members, though many do not. But with these higher wages, unions bring less investment, fewer jobs and higher prices. Economic theory consequently suggests that unions raise the wages of their members at the cost of lower profits and fewer jobs, that lower profits cause businesses to invest less ...

... unions contracts compress wages: They suppress the wages of more productive workers and raise the wages of the less competent. Unions redistribute wealth between workers. Everyone gets the same seniority-based raise regardless of how much or little he/she contributes, and this reduces wage inequality in unionized companies... But this increased equality comes at a cost to employers. Often, the best workers will not work under union contracts that put a cap on their wages, so union firms have difficulty attracting and retaining top employees ...
The good news is that union density in Australia peaked in the late 1940’s and today it’s a shadow of itself with less than 20% of the workforce belonging to unions in the public sector while over in the private sector the figure is less than 10%.

Blue collar to aspirational and consequences for the ALP

What factors have driven this decline? You may be surprised to learn that it has little to do with big business or the corporate sector or in fact, conservative politics.

Instead those that refer to themselves as blue collar or working class have declined in numbers over the past 50 years and with this, the values that come to define this group has also declined.

Think about how many manufacturing jobs have been lost since the early 70’s in addition to the impact of IR and economic reforms over the past 20 years - reforms set in motion by economic and IR changes initiated by the Hawke-Keating Labor government in 1983.

With the economy changing, blue collar workers have also changed having become increasingly more aspirational. This change is most evident in their behaviour. In my own unionised workplace I often here my colleagues refer to their rental properties and share market activities, these being just two behaviours normally associated with the professional middle. With the latter group now becoming the numeric majority, it is little wonder Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan are having difficulties selling their latest budget with surveys showing that nearly 50% rejecting the notion that a family on $150,000 is rich.

This cultural change alone has adversely impacted on the ALP’s fortunes as firstly, the party was founded on this disappearing blue collar voter and secondly, the union movement has historically been the ALP’s ideological and financial base.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Very cool air force ad

Displaying real life technology that we thought was the stuff of Hollywood ...

World military spending 2010

I found this interesting

The increase in 2010 is almost entirely down to the United States, which accounted for $19.6 billion of the $20.6 billion real-terms increase. Excluding the USA, the total in the ‘rest of the world’ barely changed in 2010, increasing by a statistically insignificant 0.1 per cent.

Greg Scoblete from The Compass RCW blog summarizes the rest of the world.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The importance of teaching and learning Western history and civilization

The West has a rich heritage of faith and reason that we want our students to understand.
Historian, author, and engineer Clayton Cramer on teaching western civilisation.
Why do most colleges require students to take a semester (sometimes two) of Western civilization? We want students to know about the history of our civilization because, amazingly enough, humans keep making the same stupid mistakes. The historian’s hope — well, at least this historian’s hope — is that students will recognize the stupidity of first century BC Rome, and fourth century BC Greece, and Weimar Republic Germany, and about nine zillion other moments in time — and not do it again! It’s probably a hopeless task, but I try.

But there is another reason as well. The West has a rich heritage of faith and reason that we want our students to understand. There are so many historical and cultural references contained in our books and literature that will be utterly mystifying if you do not know from whence they came. My students (well, most of them) now know why “Spartan” as an adjective refers to very primitive or basic services or provisions. They know what “crossing the Rubicon” means — and whose crossing of that river meant that “the die is cast.” They understand the importance of channelization in warfare, because of how the Greeks used it to defeat the Persians at Marathon, Thermopylae, and Salamis. They know why “Praetorian Guard” often means someone who is as much in charge as the person or institution that they are supposed to be protecting.

A recent week was devoted to a discussion of the conflict between centralization and localism in the medieval period. King Alfred the Great, the Danish invasion of England, and Afred’s efforts to drive the Danes out of the land inevitably led to a discussion of the Danegeld. The Danegeld was the tribute that the Danes required of the English to avoid further depredations — and England’s decision to no longer pay the Danegeld is part of the war that drives the Danes out.

During the cultural connection part of the class, I pulled out Rudyard Kipling’s 1911 poem called “The Dane-geld.” Shortly after 9/11, throughout the Western world, this marvelous poem was briefly in vogue again — until it became fashionable to hate and fear George Bush more than Osama bin Laden. I had thought of reading the poem myself, but decided to look for a dramatic reading instead.

After a little digging around, I found someone reading it, all right. It was not a particularly dramatic reading. But it was who read it, and where, and when that grabbed my attention quite powerfully.

Reagan’s willingness to stand firm against the Soviet Union, and bluff them with SDI into bankruptcy, is a powerful reminder of what Kipling meant when he ended that poem:
Imagine going through life knowing little or nothing of the civilisation you reside in, sadly I suspect that’s the case with so many today.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The highly secret mission to kill Bin Laden

The National Journals Mark Ambinder files this interesting report about America's secret warriors mission to get Obama.
From Ghazi Air Base in Pakistan, the modified MH-60 helicopters made their way to the garrison suburb of Abbottabad, about 70 miles from the center of Islamabad. Aboard were Navy SEALs, flown across the border from Afghanistan, along with tactical signals, intelligence collectors, and navigators using highly classified hyperspectral imagers.

After bursts of fire over 40 minutes, 22 people were killed or captured. One of the dead was Osama bin Laden, done in by a double tap -- boom, boom -- to the left side of his face. His body was aboard the choppers that made the trip back. One had experienced mechanical failure and was destroyed by U.S. forces, military and White House officials tell National Journal.

Were it not for this high-value target, it might have been a routine mission for the specially trained and highly mythologized SEAL Team Six, officially called the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, but known even to the locals at their home base Dam Neck in Virginia as just DevGru.

This HVT was special, and the raids required practice, so they replicated the one-acre compound. Trial runs were held in early April.
Continue reading The Secret Team That Killed bin Laden

Related links:

Navy Seals & SWCC Official site

United States Army Special Operations Command

Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU)

Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Magnificent and Royal Wedding and Britains licence to thrill

There are those who suggest that the glorious spectacle witnessed last night is no indicator of acceptance or interest for the constitutional monarchy, republicans were already howling prior to the wedding and will no doubt dismiss the wedding as Hollywood style primitive and medieval nonsense.

In light of the interest shown by media organisations, I would advise critics of the royals to go back in their closet for a while.
There were marvellous things bestowed upon viewers of the wedding last night. The splendid pageantry, the music, the colour and the civility of established noble order, as Bolt put it:

Better still was the honour paid to Britain’s institutions and values—the holding up to the mob of virtues glittering with the magnificence of the setting and hallowed by the glad attention of countless millions.

The princes of the churches, more used to being lambasted in the media, were this time seen in full state glory, as were the military in the ceremonial uniforms that Britain does best.

William himself was in the splendidly red tunic of the Irish Guards, brother Harry in a Household Cavalry uniform, and their father in an admiral’s rig.

Here were the churches and the military, along with the statesmen and the dignitaries from an admiring world, gathered at the most brilliant celebration of a family which serves as the living symbol of a nation.

It would be wise to have respect for Britain and its “institutions and values”. In the latter part of the nineteenth century Great Britain, was the globes chief nation builder, embracing the need to spread democracy (self-government) and civility in lands far from its shores; lands that were under their safe control. The British have always had a healthy self-conscious pride in their institutions. Like Americans, they saw their government as a wonderful and wisely evolved system, worth spreading to less-fortunate lands. It was the British who many generations ago, were leaders in nation building (no easy feat). Their far-flung empire was presumed to have given them a wealth of experience in firstly democratic instruction and secondly, guidance.

However, back to the wedding, yes I loved the pomp and circumstance of the occasion. It was what the world needed, some levity in the face of what has been a bad news year to date. Best wishes to the young couple who I am certain will provide a fresh and inspiring face to British royalty.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Is China's growth good for Australia?

I found a couple of articles about China in this morning papers interesting. From The Age, Tim Colebatch writes that the International Monetary Fund projects that within 5 to 10 years, China will overtake the US in real economic output. This is not surprising; however the article also features an, on-line poll which asks: Is China's growth good for Australia? Of the 2900 votes received by mid-morning 72% of participants voted “yes”. In and of itself, this is not extraordinary but then moments later, I stumble across another article about China in the Herald Sun. In it, Matt Johnston writes that a recent Lowy Institute poll found that 72% of over 1000 Australians polled earlier this year fear the threat of war with China.

I found myself confounded or in the least, bemused by the different findings. Here we have one poll showing most of us welcoming China’s overtaking the U.S. economically while roughly the same number of us fears a war with China?

I would have thought that your economic strength also drives a nation’s military strength. The higher government revenue from for example taxes, the more money is available to train soldiers, buy military hardware and develop defensive and offensive capabilities. At one stage the Soviet Union was spending nearly 50% of GNP on its military; the rest is history however the U.S. even now, spends a relatively sum of its total economic output on its military. China and the U.S. rely on economic prosperity to finance military might. Contrariwise the Soviet Union and North Korea relied on military measures to build economic power with little success. This shows that economic power is the necessary state attribute to potential military might.

So why would polls show that we welcome China's economic growth but in unison fear a war with China, ignorance perhaps? Australia has been getting away with spending a paltry 1.8per cent of GDP on defence because we have enjoyed the benefits of stability provided by the United States in the western Pacific. Eventually, Australian governments will have to fill some of that US-less strategic vacuum with an enhanced Australian Defence Force. That means much more money for the ADF and less for other programs? Personally, I haven't a problem with the latter, but I am betting many of those who answered "yes" to the question, "Is China's growth good for Australia?" do not fully appreciate the consequences of China's continued growth.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

One suspects Vic Police boss Simon Overland will be relieved of duty anytime now ...

The star of last year’s gay pride March, Simon Overland is in deep water over his performance as Victorian Police Commissioner. Government concerns include:

$100 million blowout in the cost of a new police crime database … Alleged manipulation of crime statistics … An Ombudsman's report blaming police for leaving a child in the hands of a known sex offender ... A botched attempt to attract failed recruits from the NSW police and wrangling over the training of 5500 new police recruits.

I’m guessing that when asked about the highlight of his career, he’ll point to last year’s support for the GLBTI (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex) community when he lead the police unit in the gay pride march.
Hundreds of supporters cheered and wolf whistled as Mr Overland, joined by members of Victoria Police, marched down Fitzroy St, St Kilda. "Never in my life have I experienced the sort of reception and the sort of welcome that we got walking down the street to Catani Gardens today, it was just unbelievable," Mr Overland said. "If I had any hair on the back of my head it would have been standing up."
Said Overland at the time
“It’s a message to the broader community about tolerance and inclusivity,” he said. “It’s really important that we come to events like this to engage directly with this fabulous, vibrant part of our diverse community in Victoria.”
Tolerance and diversity? At the time, I wanted to ask the Police Commissioner how being photographed with men dressed up as nun’s shows great tolerance towards the Catholic community. I also wondered if he would show the same level of tolerance towards the Islamic community by being photographed with gay men wearing hijabs or burqas?

Disgraced ex-Police Commissioner Christine Nixon, also made a scene over the same event when she led the unit on at least two occasions in years past.

At the time she was criticised by former Liberal leader Dennis Napthine and National leader Peter Ryan for partaking in the event. Said Napthine at the time.
"The police commissioner should be above these sort of activities”… “It undermines the value of the police uniform as a sign of authority and respect."

I could help but agree.


The police get it wrong on new crime database but The Age covers it, as if mismanaged by the State Government
Police database 'would have cut crime'

THE proposed new Victoria Police crime database - which has been shelved by the Baillieu government due to soaring costs - would have cut crime and generated up to $258 million in benefits ...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

U.S. declinism theories are nothing new

From a Reuters article from several months back:

Leading thinkers in the dismal science speaking at an annual convention offered varying visions of U.S. economic decline, in the short, medium and long term. This year, the recovery may bog down as government stimulus measures dry up … The age of American predominance is over …
America’s critics can be naively ostentatious. The Obama victory, a ballooning deficit, and the financial crises are leading many a foreign policy and economic pundits to assume that America is finished. For those like me, proponents for, and advocates of a strong and decisive America such events though concerning, beckon for a little perspective.

Interesting term declinism, first coined by Samuel P. Huntington in a winter of ’88 response to Paul Kennedy’s ideas, in which the author deduced that:
“… although US predominance in world affairs is not so secure as it was, "the ultimate test of a great power is in its ability to renew its power..."
Though this was written 20 years ago, even today I believe America shall remain powerful, because of its capacity to turn the corner and regenerate itself in spite of politics and economics of the day, this is her greatest strength. Needless to add, the likes of Fareed Zakaria will persist with their version of The Post-American World. But the U.S. is far from the ‘enfeebled superpower’ that Zakaria purports to. The endless stream of negativity coming from many a public intellectual, think tank theorists, and media elite is both unconstructive and damaging. No my friends, we are not Waving Goodbye to Hegemony just yet, nor are we ready to proclaim The End of the American Era. Even Obama is far removed from the declinist specialists; his view of America though not to the liking of us conservatives remains comparitively positive, to this end Kagan it seems, is right.
Obama, it should be said, has done little to deserve the praise of these declinists. His view of America's future, at least as expressed in this campaign, has been appropriately optimistic ... If he sounded anything like Zakaria and Fukuyama say he does, he'd be out of business by now. It (declinism) seems to come along every 10 years or so. In the late 1970s, the foreign policy establishment was seized with what Cyrus Vance called "the limits of our power". In the late '80s, scholar Paul Kennedy predicted the imminent collapse of American power due to "imperial overstretch". In the late '80s, Samuel P. Huntington warned of American isolation as the "lonely superpower". Now we have the "post-American world"... Sober analysts such as Richard Haass acknowledge that the U.S. remains the single most powerful entity in the world. But he warns: "The United States cannot dominate, much less dictate, and expect that others will follow." That is true. But when was it not? Was there ever a time when the US could dominate, dictate and always have its way? Many declinists imagine a mythical past when the world danced to the US's tune.
Hence there is nothing new about U.S. declinism theories. Since the attack on 9/11, we have been presented with a virtual plethora of books, and online commentary and opinion pieces assertively predicting the decline of America. Too numerous to mention here, they include Johnson’s Blowback, Ferguson’s Colossus: The price of America’s empire, the writings of Chomsky and Fisk, in addition to an army of lefties opposed to U.S. foreign policy and what they refer to “cultural imperialism”.

The anti-americanist overtures dwell on familiar, now hackneyed themes and are driven by former president Bush’s unilateralist policies and pre-emptive military action that, according to the writers had stretched “imperial capabilities so much that America will go down the same path as Persia, Rome, and the Soviet Union. What they term, classic errors of empire, that will not exempt (America) from the decrees of history.

In spite of volumes literature predicting its fall, the fundamental foundations of U.S. power and hegemony remain rock solid and, compared to its nearest rivals and including the EU, there remains vast gaps in education quality, military spending, technology, and economic activity.

Here are some well-published and current facts set to dishearten those who thought America’s fall was well underway:

... Of its 300 million people, it has the largest group of middle class citizens with excellent life expectancy outcomes by world standards ...

... America has the best and largest higher education schools in the globe (17 of the worlds top universities are in the U.S.)...

... Its percentage of world GDP is just short of 30% ...

... Of all the top Fortune 500 companies, 170 are American, which is more than double that of Japan in 2nd place and way ahead of Britain and China...

... In terms of total market capitalization, the New York Stock Exchange is vastly larger than all other nations ...

... National debt is high but as a percentage of GDP is not unmanageable ...

.. Military spending is still 50% of the world total with the technological gap still growing...
No, U.S Declinism theories are nothing new. As early as 1970, Andrew Hacker a political scientist published a book titled, “The end of the American Era", in it he confidently predicted American decline citing poor fiscal policies, excessive individualism, and imperial overstretch. Sound familiar?

Fast forward to 2009 and in defence of America, Josef Joffe article The Default Power, The False Prophecy of America’s Decline argues that, "every ten years, it is decline time in the United States".

In the late 1950s, it was the Sputnik shock, followed by the “missile gap” trumpeted by John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential campaign. A decade later, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger sounded the dirge over bipolarity, predicting a world of five, rather than two, global powers. At the end of the 1970s, Jimmy Carter’s “malaise” speech invoked “a crisis of confidence” that struck “at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will.”

A decade later, academics such as the Yale historian Paul Kennedy predicted the ruin of the United States, driven by over extension abroad and profligacy at home. The United States was at risk of “imperial overstretch,” Kennedy wrote in 1987, arguing that “the sum total of the United States’ global interests and obligations is nowadays far larger than the country’s power to defend them all simultaneously.” But three years later, Washington dispatched 600,000 soldiers to fight the first Iraq war—without reinstating the draft or raising taxes. The only price of “overstretch” turned out to be the mild recession of 1991.

Declinism took a break in the 1990s. The United States was enjoying a nice run after the suicide of the Soviet Union, and Japan, the economic powerhouse of the 1980s, was stuck in its “lost decade” of stagnation and so no longer stirred U.S. paranoia with its takeover of national treasures such as Pebble Beach and Rockefeller Center. The United States had moved into the longest economic expansion in history, which, apart from eight down months in 2001, continued until 2008.
Routinely such dim predictions also stem from antagonism toward its culture and values and/or simply a desire to see it fail as a result of contrasting ideologies and beliefs. To what end eludes this writer. Will the world be better off if the USA fails? Will the world be more secure, will our children be better off?

Josef Joffe concludes:

As the twenty-first century unfolds, the United States will be younger and more dynamic than its competitors. And as a liberal empire, it can work the international system with fewer costs than yesterday’s behemoths, which depended on territorial possessions and had to conduct endless wars against natives and rivals. A Tyrannosaurus rex faces costlier resistance than the bumbling bull that is the United States. A final point to ponder: Who would actually want to live in a world dominated by China, India, Japan, Russia, or even Europe, which for all its enormous appeal cannot take care of its own backyard? Not even those who have been trading in glee and gloom decade after decade would prefer any of them to take over as housekeeper of the world.
For doubters, it remains in our greater interests that U.S. primacy be preserved. We must ask, what kind of comprehensive global strategy would preserve primacy most effectively in the face of Americas challenges.

Primacy provides scores of benefits for the United States and the world, it would not be practical for it to sit back and permit other states to catch up thus surrendering the many rewards of its international influence as sourced through its massive ideological, military, and economic capacity.

There are some clear considerations in light of this. U.S. military power although robust, should not be wasted needlessly, and its economy requires prudent management to enhance its long-term strength since its global power is also dependant on economic output. This is especially important given that both the Chinese and Indian economies are set to be in the same league by around 2050, whilst declining and ageing populations will adversely affect the output of Japan, Russia, and the European Union. Also of concern, is that both China and India are well placed to bite into America’s technological advantages, to keep its edge, the U.S. must fashion a new evolving international economic architecture, that seeks to maintain stability and growth. U.S. vulnerability also stems through its considerable dependency on oil, with competition for natural resources is likely to peak well before 2050.

In terms of foreign policy issues, there is nothing improper about the U.S. supporting states that embrace liberal democratic processes, nor is there anything wrong intervening in global affairs to encourage forms of regional balancing in favour of U.S. interests. To achieve this and safeguard primacy, a stratagem that primarily employs America’s traditional approach, by which it deploys its power in no uncertain terms, is called for however, only where there exists a direct threat to its interests. Offshore balancing which utilises and assists friendly regional powers (its allies, including Israel) to curb the rise of potential hostile nation states ought be an option.

This approach logically engages other nation states but it is does not segregate. One must not assume that such a policy would render the U.S. inactive, more exactly; it would intervene, even militarily, but only when friendly regional powers are unable to act decisively on their own. Instead of trying to be the global police officer, the United States adopts a selective, restrained foreign policy with rules that concentrate on defending America's expansive array of vital interests. Because it limits military intervention overseas, offshore balancing makes it less burdensome to intervene when genocide or other vital interests are threatened by rogue states, such as Iran or in the case of the 90's, Bosnia.

Regretably, American global pre-eminence is not a permanent arrangement but attempts to extend it through doctrines build resentment and resistance, history has demonstrated this. Military power must be upheld, even augmented but used more judiciously. The effects of such a strategy will filter through to other elements of U.S. relations and promote its economy, expand flows of information, technology, capital, goods and services. While terrorism and nuclear proliferation complicates matters it is through consensus coupled with military muscle that best results can be achieved. Continued engagement becomes paramount to U.S. interests if America wants to retain its position of primacy for the foreseeable future. It’s a way of telling the world (not just convincing) that its dominance is preferable to any alternatives. As a final point, it will also assist the United States through the enhancement of "soft power" - winning hearts and minds - and respond effectively to competing worldviews, such as Chinese non-interference measures, Islamism, and European social democracy.

See also: Foundations of power

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What's happened to common sense

It may be an oldie but worth publishing here ... It seems common sense is no longer all that common; from an unknown author: Obituary - Common Sense

My parents told me about Mr. Common Sense early in my life and told me I would do well to call on him when making decisions. It seems he was always around in my early years but less and less as time passed by. Today I read his obituary. Please join me in a moment of silence in remembrance, for Common Sense had served us all so well for so many generations.

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, life isn't always fair, and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you earn) and reliable parenting strategies (adults, not children are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job they themselves failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer Aspirin, sun lotion or a Bandaid to a student, but could not inform the parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live when religions became businesses and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar can sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason. He is survived by three stepbrothers; I Know my Rights, Someone Else is to Blame, and I'm a Victim.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.
Do we really need experts (in various fields) and bureaucrats to tell us what is good for us? Do we really have to believe in their esoteric theories and definitions and problem solutions?

See also: The Death of Common Sense by Lori Borgman

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Images of Federal Labor - It's Kevin 11

Who needs words? Seriously though, Rudd's 2011 ascendancy gives new life to my old "Rudd watch" label. The former PM is going about his business and in doing so, willingly contributing to labor's implosion. One wonders who Kevin 11 dislikes most, Julia or Tony? Now tell me that's not a fair and valid question. While I doubt whether there is any move to dump Gillard within the caucus, Rudd is priming himself but for what?

Is it not a bit like changing captains on the Titanic after hitting the iceberg?

Illustration by Bill Leak. Source: The Australian

Source: ABC Thinkstock

Source: HWT Image

Illustration by Jon Kudelka. Source: The Australian

And remember this one

Now now Kevin, let's just get the party over the line then we'll give you the foreign gig. But was that enough?

Source: ABC

Source: HWT

Source: SMH

Related reading:

Kevin-11 gnaws into PM's authority

A Truce is crucial to ALP's future

Rudd for the naughty corner? The PM can't risk it

Labor faces disaster if Julia Gillard is to continue as Prime Minister

PM boxed in by Rudd on the rebound

Why it's safer having Kevin inside the tent

Haunted by the ghost of PM past

Rudd recovers his TV mojo, but appearance ain't reality


The Herald Sun's Samantha Maiden reports that Kevin is back on deck as Kevin 11:
KEVIN 11 is on the job. And there's not much Julia Gillard can do about it.

His ambition is there for all to see.

But he's hardly organising the numbers for a leadership challenge. Instead, the Foreign Affairs Minister is performing strongly in his portfolio, which is more than some of his Cabinet critics can say.

Colleagues say Rudd returned from his international campaign for a No Fly Zone over Libya a "changed man".

Rudd has got his groove back. Even his signature "magic hands" gesticulations are back in action.
One wonders whether his signature colloquialism will also make a comeback?

Kevin ascendancy is gaining some extraordinary momentum in print media! Julia must be cringing.

More links:

Hi, I'm Kevin Rudd and I'm here to help

One final image

I'll be back ... in due course...

Friday, April 08, 2011

Western culture being the superior one ...

Western civilization and the ideas that underscore it, things like personal freedom, equality, democracy, responsible government, the rule of law, human rights, science and technology, R&D, religious tolerance (which in itself can be attributed to Christianity) and self-determination suggests that the western experience, has been prodigiously fruitful.

Not surprisingly then I found the following more than merely interesting.

Many people strongly disagree with the belief that a culture can be considered better than others. They do so because they view a culture’s level of development as a product of race. As a result, they view any claim of cultural superiority as a claim of racial superiority—and, accordingly, condemn the idea of cultural superiority as racist. However, as we have seen, a culture’s level of development is not a product of race.
People also object to the idea of cultural supremacy because they do not believe that culture can be judged objectively. This, too, is incorrect. The proper standard for objectively evaluating a culture is by the degree to which its core values are for or against human life. A pro-human life culture recognizes the requirements of proper human survival, namely the values of reason, individualism, happiness, rights and capitalism.
In other words, pro-human life culture is Western culture. And the extent to which a nation embraces Western culture is the extent to which it is free, prosperous, modern and peaceful—that is, supportive of human life. One need only look at life expectancies around the world to see that this is true.

Life expectancy in nations where Western culture dominates (abbreviated list)

Australia 81
United States 78
Japan 81
Israel 79
Italy 80

Life expectancy in nations where nonwestern culture dominates but Western culture still has modest presence (abbreviated list)

Philippines 70
Russia 67
Honduras 69
Pakistan 63
Senegal 59

Life expectancy in nations where nonwestern culture overwhelmingly dominates and Western culture has little or no presence (abbreviated list)

Liberia 40
Nigeria 47
Angola 39
Zimbabwe 40
Laos 55

Source: CIA World Factbook 2006

Objectively judging cultures is not only legitimate and possible; it is ultimately a life and death issue. And when cultures are judged, it is clear that Western culture, with its life-giving and life-sustaining magnificence, is the greatest culture—deserving universal admiration and praise.
Western culture and all that it implies remains as contentious as ever, but nobody can deny its success; it is worth defending and even fighting for.

Niall Ferguson asks, why did the West rise to such prominence. He refers to six “Killer Applications”, Competition, Science, Democracy, Medicine, Consumerism and the Work Ethic. Presenting Pt 1 for your enjoyment...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Why Labor is heading for the scrapheap

How can one begin to describe the rout that took place in NSW politics on the weekend? I have heard a few descriptors including, “a shift of tectonic proportions,” “a voter paradigm shift”, “a shift in political gravity”, but whatever the explanation or ultimate narrative, one would have to agree, the implications for the Labor brand may be profound. Moreover, do not be fooled by Labor figures who claim it has no federal implications. You will clearly recall, just eight (8) short months ago, Labor experienced a crushing defeat in the Penrith by-election. So spooked were some in Labor’s NSW right, that Penrith was the catalyst that saw them install a new federal leader, out with Kevin Rudd in with Julia Gillard. So please, do not suggest to me that the 2011 NSW state election is of no consequence to federal Labor.

The shift in “political gravity” may provide another catalyst of sorts, the final about-face of the Green-Left-Labor cultural drift. One that has presided but more accurately, increased as a result of the Rudd-Gillard governments pompous support of those leftist morally self-righteous, cultural, religious and institutionally detached hare-brainers and there related inner city green cohorts – a sea change that would do the Labor much good.

Speaking of Labor, I recently found myself defending the Labor brand suggesting that it is unfair to judge the party of the basis of the Rudd-Gillard era. Though I will never identify with the ALP’s collectivist values, in terms of governance, and historically speaking, the federal ALP is a better outfit than these past 3-4 years would indicate. That said, I could not ever identify with what the ALP stands for, just as Labor would never equate itself with the words of William J. H. Boetcker.

Suggested reading:

Party rout a work of genius

The death of politics, Richo-style

Monday, March 28, 2011

MPs told to embrace the Carbon script

With the Gillard government’s climate campaign barely begun, MPs have been directed to warn constituencies that left unchecked; climate change would wreak havoc on us. From this alone, it is clear that government scaremongering will far overshadow the oppositions scare overtures about the proposed Carbon tax.

The reality remains that impending government warnings about imminent climate mayhem for failing to adopt a Carbon tax are based on a host of falsehoods whereas the opposition’s warnings are true and correct in anyone’s language. Prices will rise because of the tax, its purported purpose, while the impact of a Carbon price will drive up prices and have zero impact on the environment.

Among the dire warnings:

"If we don't act then we will see more extreme weather events like bushfires and droughts. We will have more days of extreme heat and we will see our coastline flooded as sea levels rise.”

"People in northern NSW will feel like they live in Cairns. That will affect the crops we grow, it will affect our native animals, and it will affect our lifestyles."

"Sea levels could rise by up to a metre and possibly even more by the end of the century … "Up to 250,000 existing homes are at risk of inundation.”

"Climate change will see the average snow season contract by between 85 per cent and 96 per cent by 2050, and disappear by the end of the century."

“Tony Abbott does not care about climate change."

MPs are also urged to warn that extreme weather leads to associated additional deaths.

All the warnings are false and simply based or the most dire warming predictions that in turn, are based on poor models that to date, have failed to predict anything even remotely accurate about the weather.

Truth is, even the notable Flannery does not give his preachers any confidence:

If the world as a whole cut all emissions, tomorrow the average temperature of the planet is not going to drop in several hundred years, perhaps as much as a thousand years.

Therefore, Flannery tells us that even if the “world as a whole cut all emissions” nothing will change, thus, any intelligent person would ask, what would be achieved with a Carbon tax just here in Australia in terms of the stated goal; to cut emissions through behavioural changes associated with consumers.

As for Tony Abbott, he does believe in climate change though he is sceptical, whereas Tim Flannery needs a crash course on sales technique.

Further reading: Click the Climate Change or Environment label below.