30 August 2010

Dirty Development Mechanism

I reckon that if a bunch of well meaning central planning ideologues can choose to brand their artifical process for the global reduction of the main chemical element in all known life forms, carbon, the "Clean Development Mechanism", without recognising the hubristic over-reach and irony of such aspiration, they deserve to have this happen to them.


There is something dangerously seductive about the idea of being able to deliberately plant an idea, cut down to its simplest form, so that it can take hold in the human psyche and self propagate like a virus. Whilst bravely putting to one side the whole of the advertising and marketing industries, I have recently been prompted to ponder the genesis and success of some quite influential ideas:
But what if an idea is bad? Do we have choices about the ideas we propagate? Are we responsible for the ideas we foster? Or is it all just a Darwinian contest and to the victor goes the spoils? Can there be a meta-context, a higher perspective, from which it is legitimate to form a judgment on the merits of an idea, independently of its mere success in propagating itself?

Needless to say I saw Christopher Nolan's movie Inception for the first time yesterday. It was the inception for these musings, as it no doubt has been and will be for countless millions of other meanderings. It provides an opportunity to again posit the threalmic heuristic of this website, as one possible pathway to resolving such imponderables:

Truth beats Justice;
Justice beats Freedom;
Freedom beats Truth.
But Inception has now potentially given birth to another "scissors, paper, rock"  heuristic trilogy:

Dreams conquer Reality;
Reality conquers Desire;
Desire conquers Dreams;

Nah. It doesn't seem to work quite as well as our existing threalmic trilogy, but there is still pleasure in experimenting with such ideas, even with this newly perceived risk of inadvertent bad idea inception.

Inception is a cinematic masterpiece; a surpassingly well executed rendition of a seductively illusive idea.

* * * * *
5 Threalmic jelly starbursts.

10 August 2010

Questioning Mother Julia

I watched Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard with compere Tony Jones and a studio audience in Adelaide, on ABC1's Q&A program last night, 9 August 2010.

She's certainly a clever and accomplished politician, with a plenty of negative schtick for her opponents. My abiding impression however was that it was like watching an over-confident suburban school principal dealing with questions in assembly. No one dared challenge her on her display of well honed defensiveness about her ruthlessness, although there was the occasional cheeky little boy who tried to play it for some laughs.

It was not a debate and there was little policy substance.  She returned whenever she could to her saintly parents, sacrificing themselves, emigrating from Wales and doing it tough in suburban Adelaide for the sake of the children, Julia and her sister. This stuff clearly must poll well in focus groups. And I must not be very focused. My mind wandered back to when another sentimental would be Welsh miner, US VP Joe Biden, plagiarised the UK's Neil Kinnock stump speech harping on about mine shafts and the boyos in the valleyos. The anglosphere seems to be rich lode for leftists seeking political colour. But I digress.

The most interesting observation of the night was a comment in the, mostly irritating, continuous Twitter feed at the bottom of screen during the show. Someone observed there that she had a very good technique in affirming a question and the questioner. Yes. You got the sense that she is very practised and carefully schooled in one-on-one inter-personal political combat, not just the politics of public affairs. If this was the real Julia, then she is one scary and calculating mother.

When cornered, like nearly all politicians, she goes to enormous lengths to avoid directly answering an awkward question. And, what's more intriguing, she seems to get a pass on this from her interlocutors, even when called on it. Tony Jones pressed her a number of times on whether she had apologised to Kevin Rudd. She couldn't bring herself to say that she had not, even on the third try. We just had to take it that her repeatedly reconfigured non-answer, essentially that she felt that what she did to him was necessary in the circumstances, meant both that she didn't think an apology was necessary and that she therefore hadn't given him one. But that's not what she said. Gillard's persistent lack of grace about her shortcomings requires us to draw the negative inferences about her conduct ourselves.  By doing so she seeks to exploit to her own political advantage the generousity of spirit of many Australians. This deceptive trait could well bite her her on the bum one day. That's the day when the voting public (like Lindsay Tanner and John Faulkner before them) finally have had a gutful of her constantly holding herself out as a woman of conviction, when she is so clearly a purely pragmatic political animal.

I also continue to be mildly bemused by her brazen attacks on Tony Abbott over Work Choices and his economic competence.

It beggars belief for me that she gets a free pass from the media when claiming that Abbott's promise not to tamper with her Fair Work laws 'til the next election, should not be believed because he is ideologically opposed to the rigidities of her new labour laws.

How can this line of argument have any credibility coming from a politician who has been in the Left faction of the Labor Party all her adult life (she was even on the management committee of the Socialist Forum at Uni and was still a member of that quasi-communist front body as recently as 2002), but who now is spruiking herself in this election campaign as a fiscal conservative who believes in strong border protection and who doesn't have an agenda for pricing carbon. If, as she would have it, Abbott can't be believed on a clear promise to leave the existing labour laws in place for one more three year term, just because he's always been in favour of liberalising the labour market, where does that leave her promise to put the Budget into surplus within three years and not raise taxes, when 'til now she's always been a working class Union warrior reflexively sprouting all the usual big government pieties of the progressive Left ?

The commentariat have also negligently avoided challenging this Prime Minister on this line she is selling about an increase in the company tax rate for big business under Abbott's plan to fund his parental leave scheme, inevitably leading to higher grocery prices at Woollies and Coles. This argument of hers is misleading political voodoo economics. Commentators should be calling a foul on her.

Just a few short weeks ago Ken Henry, the Government's own Treasury Secretary, testified on national television before a Senate Committee, that the proposition that an increase in a tax on company profits increases the price of goods sold by the company, is a fallacy anyone interested in economics learns in High school. So why haven't the press pressed the Prime Minister on this?

Our friends at the taxpayer-funded ABC were delighted at the time to be able to embarrass the Liberal Party senators questioning Mr Henry on this, by broadcasting his testimony on their 7pm national news bulletin.  So why are the ABC now being silent about this intellectual neanderthalism when the Prime Minister openly sprouts such economically illiterate bull for political point scoring in an election campaign?

Amazingly there was even the hint of a suggestion at one point, initiated by Tony Jones putting Abbott's re-opening of the Henry Report to her and the PM's somewhat ambivalent answer, that the time might be becoming ripe during the next parliamentary term for a genuine flat tax debate. Now that would be a debate with some true policy substance to it.

The Prime Minister's answer to the last question of the show from Lowitja O'Donoghue pretty much summed up the emptiness and hypocrisy of an old leftist, reformed from the folly of pursuing ideals,  now that she has obtained power. Lois asked Julia why all the parties were silent on indigenous issues in the campaign.  Julia answered that Labor has not been silent on indigenous issues in this campaign.  She in effect said:

 "..look; Kevin has apologised, my education policies are helping and Jenny Macklin is looking into constitutional recognition...".
There lies a politician.

It seems however that because she survived this "test", didn't look uncomfortable and there were no "gotcha" moments, that the media now think the populace is more likely to elect her.  We really do set a low bar for public leadership these days. It's not about the quality of the political vision or the soundness of the policy proposals under analysis.  Mere survival without major embarrassment through the glare of an intense public spotlight is all that is now required to be considered fit for leadership.

All the anodyne stuff you're required to say and do is just so much colour and movement for the cameras. It seems that if you risk getting in front of current perceptions of popular sentiment, then you will be humiliated publicly, so any opinion leadership on matters moral, strategic or cultural, is now considered too treacherous for an aspiring leadership candidate.

02 August 2010

Slimy local leaders

 ..Whitlam, Fraser, HawkeKeatingHoward, Rudd, Gillard & ...Abbott ?
The election news in Australia over the weekend was more than usually depressing.

Yeah, I know it's just another election campaign and it is as always pitched at people who aren't interested in politics or policy: swinging voters in marginal seats. I'm not in that target audience.

And I know that this is, due to the absence of any actual leadership, a Seinfeld election; about nothing, other than the identities of the leaders. And yeah, the Labor Party has recently and unexpectedly taken a potentially election losing hit in the polls, which, as usual, none of the Fairfax or ABC experts foreshadowed (now why might that be?)   But that's not why for me it's been so depressing.

It's because of what we've now learnt, from people who actually knew him, about our former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.  It seems he was a seriously morally deficient little creep.

Mark Latham, Alexander Downer and David Penberthy are only the latest observers who are now piling onto the growing band wagon, along with the Union heavies who knifed him like Mark Arbib and Bill Shorten.  It is giving us all a pretty clear picture that our former Prime Minister was a self absorbed, manipulative and untrustworthy back- stabber with a vile temper and a serious case of adult interpersonal immaturity.

He was also the leader of our nation.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but it is still depressing to have your worst, most cynical, fears confirmed. This seems to be an all too common case of how manipulative, over ambitious, morally challenged individuals who are prepared to actively undermine perceived rivals, are the ones who reach the top, and thereby have the most influence over our lives. Good does not out in the end. Evil is too seductively attractive to be resisted by the ambitious. Nice guys finish last. Only the nasty succeed in politics.

Prime Minister Gillard has also now decided to play catch up in the polls by actively targeting Abbott the man rather than the ball of policy. This is a shameful tactic, and it should be called as such by the public punditry, but they are just salivating at the prospect of the campaign getting interesting now that it is to become openly personal.  This just reinforces the deeply depressing nature of this campaign.

Can it really be that this power seeking, gender exploiting politician, who rose through the party ranks to the top job on a wave of sanctimonious leftist purity and identity politics, is now so predictably showing us that all her idealistic puffery in getting there was just that, a clever bluff?  She seems to be now living out the same ugly truth about the powerful as her predecessor, whom she so brutally eliminated to get there.

I didn't think I particularly liked Tony Abbott's brand of moral politics, especially his alleged inclination to want to dabble in social engineering, but at least he seems to be who he says he is, including admitting that, like all of us, he lies at times. I like also that he at least seems to be talking, in this election anyway, about the limitations of government intervention, as if that is an OK thing.

The crumbs of comfort to be found in all this are in seeing that our politicians aren't really all that powerful, even if they can sometimes be pretty scary when wielding their huge taxation and regulation levers.  But there's also the increasingly palpable feeling that the putative glory that is sought by these miserable shits is merely transitory. Ozymandias anyone?

For all its sub-optimal failings in so often putting the wrong people in power, democracy seldom seems to allow these self promoting moral cripples to stay in power for too long.  Churchill was right. Democracy is the worst form of government. It's just the least worst form of government that humanity has so far been able to conceive.

I guess the flesh crawling sliminess of these politicians must come from the greasiness of the pole they've had to climb to get to the top. They can't have been like that from birth can they? Otherwise no-one would have fed them.