By Patrick Bond
Will the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) bloc ever really challenge the world financial order?
March 30, 2017 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Climate & Capitalism – The Indian website Ecologise recently published John Bellamy Foster’s Foreword to my book Facing the Anthropocene. Commenting on Foster’s article, journalist and activist Saral Sarkar, who describes his views as eco-socialist, raised questions that challenge the usefulness of Marxist analysis in understanding the global ecological crisis. Foster’s reply was posted by Ecologise on March 26.
By: Carlos Sanz (Banco de España)
Direct democracy is spreading across the world, but little is known about its effects on policy. I provide evidence from a unique scenario. In Spain, national law determines that municipalities follow either direct or representative democracy, depending on their population. Regression discontinuity estimates indicate that direct democracy leads to smaller government, reducing public spending by around 8%. Public revenue decreases by a similar amount and, therefore, there is no effect on budget defi cits. These fi ndings can be explained by a model in which direct democracy allows voters to enforce lower specialinterest spending.
By Nick Fredman
March 28, 2017 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal – Sharply different opinions have developed among the radical left in recent years towards the Syrian radical democratic movement led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) — an initially Kurdish-based force which through a series of political and military struggles and alliances has recently formed the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, as a model for a multi-ethnic, non-sectarian, federal and socially just alternative for the nation and the region. Some on the international left have accused this movement of human rights abuses, political repression and collaboration with the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad.
I was prompted to write the present notes in response to two articles by Roy Gutman in the US Nation magazine (here and here). But as these articles both sum up and are fairly extreme examples of the left criticisms of the PYD-led movement, it makes sense to discuss some background and previous articles before taking up Gutman.
By Kavita Krishnan
March 28, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Liberation, central organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation — In a recent trial court judgement on 10 March 2017, 117 workers of the automobile company Maruti Suzuki’s factory in Manesar, Gurgaon, India were acquitted of a murder charge. 18 workers were convicted of minor offences while 13 – all leaders of the Maruti union – have been convicted of murder and await the quantum of punishment, to be declared on March 17, 2017.
The Maruti workers plan to challenge the convictions of their comrades in higher courts. Why are automobile workers being jailed for murder? The story at Maruti is a familiar one in India’s industrial scene.
It might be cruel to call TOSAW a one-hit wonder, though none of their efforts charted as well as Happy Birthday Helen. But the song was on an album called “The Yearning” (1993) which I really really liked back in the day… perhaps apart from the title track, which seemed overly earnest and solemn. I liked it so much I had both the album on CD, and the EP of the single. Listening to the album today, it’s still terrific.
Friday night’s concert was a full performance of “The Yearning”, a near 25th anniversary performance. I admit, the last two concerts I’d been to were similar setups: Ocean Colour Scene’s Moseley Shoals, and Deborah Conway’s String Of Pearls.
A nostalgic Gen X-er and his money are easily parted.
M and I made our way to Northcote and met up with Tony and Elizabeth. We found some dinner and as we chatted over some food, which gave Elizabeth and I a chance to hear Tony and M’s tale of being shushed for talking at a concert many moons ago by a fan of the support act. Don’t talk over Dave Graney!
A notice in the window of the Northcote Social Club gave us the running times of each act (and a song lyric on the sign above), and we opted for dessert over Rick Hart (sorry Rick).
We headed into the club at about 9:30 and found a spot close to the stage.
Club Hoy came on, and were really good, despite two blokes behind us talking incessantly about the other concerts they’d been to (and presumably talked through).
After a few songs, another bloke trying intently to listen to the band turned around. “Shhhh!”
“Sorry mate”. They disappeared. I laughed and laughed (quietly). Thank you, defenders of support acts everywhere.
They finished up, and suddenly from nowhere, TOSAW fans filled the room, with the two biggest blokes in the place crowding out some of our view. Alas, Tony and Elizabeth bailed at this point to return home to their respective families before it got too late (it was about 10:30pm), which was a great pity because I think they missed a great show. (But I would say that; I accept I’m a Club Hoy newbie and a TOSAW fan.)
Lead singer Greg Arnold doesn’t look a day older – his long hair, beard and moustache probably help, and I was left wondering if he’s had them since 1993 or if he just grew everything out for the anniversary tour.
No matter. They rocked. It was a great show, with TOSAW tragics singing every word, but everyone present in the sold-out club seemed to enjoy it. And let’s face it, a good deal of what makes a great show is whether the crowd gets into it.
There was some nice band repartee as well. They seemed genuinely delighted to be there in front of such an appreciative crowd, and don’t seem to mind being known popularly just for Happy Birthday Helen (“it took us around the world”).
They answered something I’d long wondered: was The Yearning (track 7) meant to lead straight into Single Perfect Raindrop (track 8)? Why yes! But due to a miscalculation of sorts, on the cassette the effect was ruined, because you had to turn the tape over. No such problem on the CD.
After the 14 tracks of the album, they went on to play a few later songs, including one that sounded very familiar when I heard it: Wildflowers — which they remarked is unfortunately relevant again.
…as well as the B-side “She Will Survive”, with its very memorable lyrics about Jane Austen.
And then it was over. What a great show, and a great night out for $40.
If you remember them from back in the day, and have a chance to catch them (that show was sold out, but they’re on in Geelong this weekend), I can thoroughly recommend TOSAW.
Cross-posted from the Mandarin
We do have a few advantages, perhaps the greatest being that we don’t have a strategic plan
It’s a common lament that, within organisations whether in the public, private or not-for-profit sector, boards and/or senior management don’t get enough time to talk strategy, that they get caught up in the weeds. Another common refrain after time is made is that it wasn’t well spent and that any conclusions it came to were useless and/or ignored come Monday morning. What’s going on here?
In the most glamorous parts of the economy – in start-up land – strategic questions like what the organisation’s value prop really is/should be and to whom and whether and when the organisation should ‘pivot’ are often crucial and top of mind, though even here, big strategic decisions are very occasional, made on very inadequate information and then it’s down to execution.
Why the hankering for strategy? I think it comes from an inchoate mix of things – good and bad. Firstly ‘ops’ reports and their discussion aren’t usually taken as invitations to wider strategic discussion. And if they were, departures into strategic questions need to be well structured/managed and responses to ops reports might not be the best place for them. Secondly, for many senior management and board members, frustrations abound. Organisations perform and coordinate a range of activities that can be highly skilled and governing that is rarely done well – because it’s inherently very difficult. Of course, bad organisations have frustrations, but only dull organisations don’t have frustrations. So senior managers are groping to find ideas and tools to fix those frustrations – because they’re often connected with each other. Do we need a different culture? Why don’t we spend more time focusing on where we’re going rather than how we’re going? Are we too hierarchical – surely if we were less hierarchical communications would be a lot better between marketing and finance, manufacturing and HR or policy and implementation.
Finally one of the big drivers is status and upward flattery. Deliberating on strategy is a performance of senior management’s responsibility and so, importance. Note, in this context, the way strategic thinking can legitimate endless do-loops in which those with the greatest power and prestige in the system rehearse their power and prestige which is a critical part of the problem. Thus as Mike Bracken writes in defence of the slogan “The strategy is delivery” about his period in the UK’s Government Digital Service:
One of the many lessons in my 18 months in Government has been to watch the endless policy cycles and revisions accrue – revision upon revision of carefully controlled Word documents, replete with disastrous styling. Subs to Ministers, private office communications, correspondence across departments and occasional harvesting of consultation feedback all go into this mix.
Rarely, if ever, does user need [ie a low status consideration] get a look-in. User need, if referenced at all, is self-reinforcing, in that the internal user needs dominate those of users of public services. I’ve lost count of the times when, in attempting to explain a poorly performing transaction or service, an explanation comes back along the lines of ‘Well, the department needs are different…’ How the needs of a department or an agency can so often trump the needs of the users of public services is beyond me.
Consider our friend illustrated above who, judging by the photo, could not be said to lack intent.
I am surprisingly well-connected in the world of elite tennis. So, whenever I’m watching Wimbledon – whether from my private box or on the box – I’ve always got a lot of highly strategic observations about how each of the players could improve. It’s a wonder the place isn’t bugged right? But who’s to say, in this day and age, it’s not? Certainly, I’ve been going on about Federer’s need to improve his backhand against Nadal, and what do you know? Two big wins in a few weeks.
In any event, a few years ago Andy went on a strategy retreat. After the first morning with his team and a facilitator from BCG, a vision was agreed. “My mission is to be No. 1 in the universe”. On further reflection over the afternoon, everyone agreed that not just Andy, but the entire team could do with more focus. For Andy’s team, you really can’t get enough focus.1 So this was narrowed down to “My mission is to be No 1 tennis player on planet earth“. See how we were able to narrow down Andy’s task – by orders of magnitude.
The rest of the retreat was dedicated to ‘driving down’ this mission into a concrete business plan. With the hard decisions out of the way, and the time-consuming wordsmithing largely dealt with, it took only another half day to come up with these goals (which were then sent off to corporate to be mapped onto KPIs offline).
This is the beginning of the list anyway. There was plenty more. Andy felt a bit daunted by it all of course – and that’s before taking into account the fact that it usually takes him several days to get over his migraines. And the next half day was taken up debating which of these goals was the most strategically important. Anyway, the team agreed that they’d benchmark Andy’s performance regarding each of these goals and then come up with a plan to get him to the goal.
What’s the point of my story? Let me count the ways:
In this case, I can imagine only one question which requires some decision to be made which then structures other decisions and so, arguably requires ‘higher’ or ‘strategic’ thinking. That’s the question of whether Andy should serve and volley more or less. If he’s going to vary that, then that has implications for other goal setting rather than simply being sorted out on the training track and weekly scheduling where Andy and his coach, sports psychologist, masseur, physio, photographer, life coach, biographer, nutritionist and publicist can deliberate in a commonsensical way on how Andy’s going in improving some aspect of his game and how that affects his priorities ‘going forward’ which, is an expression his team started using a lot more since the strategy retreat.4
Note that, even here, if the one decision we’ve identified as properly strategic is to be made well, it will depend on the quality with which the insights at the coalface find their way into the strategic decision. So getting the right intel from within and without an organisation into strategic decision making will often be a central challenge. Both Andy’s physio and masseur have confidentially told me that the extra work beefing up the second serve and rushing the net will involve further stress on already stressed parts of Andy’s body.5 Moreover, his sports psychologist says that Andy’s confidence doesn’t hold up when he fluffs early volleys, so that would need to be taken into account in both deciding whether or not to bring on Andy’s power game and, if the decision were made, in its execution.6
Today organisations outsource a lot of their high level ‘strategic’ thinking to consultants. The upside is that, being more highly paid, consultants are often more competent than those who’d do the same strategy work in many organisations. The downsides are considerable, however. Let me count (some of) the ways. Firstly, they’re less invested in their clients’ success than insiders. Secondly, they’re typically largely bereft of corporate memory (though this is offset, or even outweighed, by their ability to generalise from experience in other organisations). But the big problems I think are that their schtick is so well attuned to flattering those who hire them – those at the top. So they’re very good at simulating insight. As I wrote recently, there are lots of charts, recognised ‘frameworks’, proven means of engaging those who preside at the apex of decision making in the organisation – quadrants with animals on them for instance. You know the kind with Cash Cows, Dogs, Bulls and Naked Mole Rats – that kind of thing.
And here’s the thing. Those ideas are handy, often compelling ‘one-size-fits-all’ heuristics. If that’s the upside, and it is an upside, it’s a bit like inspiration porn. High arousal, material which, in asserting the obvious might be useful, because it’s easy to forget the obvious. But I worry about the downside. These heuristics don’t encourage – indeed my guess is that they suppress – critique. And yet, as I think I’ve illustrated with my list of Andy’s goals, simply going through a process of goal setting will be a trap. It is likely to give birth to a list of Very Serious Decisions made by Very Serious People that are either carefully expressed to be vague, ambiguous and/or all things to all people (AKA mission, vision and other theological statements) or which run the risk of being foolish on their face once thought about by those unlucky enough to deliver on strategic decisions in practice.7
It’s critical thinking that gets us to the insight that prioritising Andy’s goals one goal at a time is foolish. It’s critical thinking that suggests that, however much fun, entertainment and self-flattery we get from seeing the charts that benchmark each aspect of Andy’s play, they don’t themselves embody careful, disciplined, and imaginative thought about the problem. Without critical thinking, all that priority setting at Andy’s strategy retreat seemed like the acme of commonsense. It’s certainly not a surprise that it could have come out of a process in which people were arranged into teams at tables with little bowls of Cool Mints, who then reported back to the larger group which then boiled those reports down to the lowest common denominators – to all those conclusions simple enough to survive the winnowing process and sufficiently commonsensical seeming to become the landing point of a long day’s journey into strategic outputs.
So here’s my bottom line: The most important strategic question for the organisation – and the most difficult managerial task – is to have good lines of communication, mutual critique and feedback up and down and throughout the organisation – and indeed beyond it to customers and suppliers.
Yes, there are classic strategic questions to be deliberated at the ‘top’. Organisations need to make large and often difficult choices. Should we refurbish our stores or spend more on marketing? Should we burn our existing source of finance and move to a cheaper supplier. Should head office be in the CBD or closer to our users? But making those choices as well as possible will very often involve being able to access the collective intelligence of the organisation at every level, and that is the hardest thing to bring off well. It was appreciating that that was one secret of Toyota’s success. (As I recall the CEO of Ford saying to me in 1983, the ‘secret’ of Toyota’s success was “meticulous attention to the fundamentals”.) No doubt people thought about ‘strategy’ as in Grand Strategy. If and when do we go into the American market and how do we do it? Should we go after luxury cars and if so how?
However, the most important strategic thing Toyota did was to come up with a response to the dysfunctions of central planning which, as the famous pro-market philosopher Friedrich Hayek had pointed out since the 1920s (I presume unbeknown to the boffins at Toyota) related to the need to access distributed intelligence.
Hayek’s answer was always readymade – to embrace the way markets can harness distributed information. But by the late 1940s Hayek had wrapped his argument for the indispensability of markets in a larger story about the way in which systematic knowledge taught in universities – the knowledge of the scientist, engineer or accountant – came to dominate the more mundane knowledge of context and place at the ‘coalface’. This was a story about the hubris of the professional classes, if anything amplified by the groupthink and routines of bureaucracy.
However, though the foibles of bureaucracy and central planning were a problem for Toyota, there was no readymade deus ex machina that could be accessed to solve the problem because firms are necessarily centrally planned. Toyota had to imagine how one might tame bureaucratic hubris to access the collective intelligence distributed throughout Toyota’s workforce on the production line and even the intelligence of suppliers and customers. It then did the harder and more painstaking work of building a system that accessed it for decision making throughout the company. And that required applied humility – rather as I’m arguing cultivating and accessing critical thinking throughout an organisation does.8
Finally, a story I love which, for me, sums up the importance of critical thinking and applied humility. It’s told by Edwards Demming, the American musician and process control statistician who helped conceive and build the Toyota production system. Once it was proving its power the Americans from whom Toyota had originally learned and whose ideas on driving down waste they’d taken much further started making a beeline for Toyota’s factories in Japan. As I understand it the Japanese were quite open in demonstrating their operations, their production ideas and culture. As Demming said, they come they watch and they go home and they copy. “But they never know what to copy”.
Petrograd Soviet meets at the Taurida Palace, Petrograd, March 1917
March 27, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal / John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — One hundred years ago today, on March 27 (14), 1917, the Petrograd Soviet issued the following appeal “To the Peoples of the World,” calling for a restoration of workers’ unity in the cause of peace.
The moderate socialists who dominated the Petrograd Soviet until September 1917 pursued a policy of “revolutionary defensism,” which advocated defending Russia and its revolution against German aggression while calling upon European socialists to pressure their governments to bring about peace.
This policy toward the war would not be consistently defined until the return from Siberian exile of Tsereteli and other Menshevik leaders on April 2 (March 20), 1917. Therefore, the document below reflects the views in the Soviet at a time when moderate socialists were still open to making concessions to their radical counterparts regarding the Soviet’s position on the war and other issues. Discussions in the Soviet were crucial to the realignment of leftist forces that occurred in the wake of the February Revolution.
The particular process I’d like to see around the Snowy announcement is an independent and structured assessment of its benefits and costs.
More broadly, the column takes up a theme that Nick Gruen has pursued frequently over the years, at the Business Council, at Troppo and elsewhere: given the complicated decisions we must make, there’s a good case that we will benefit from independent bodies advising on matters like infrastructure, economic regulation and fiscal policy.
The One model here is the Reserve Bank of Australia, which not only independently advises but independently implements. Not every independent body needs to loom as large as the RBA. The argument rather is that all these bodies should be empowered to do broad, deep and honest reviews of major proposals. They will also need to have some of the sort of respect the Reserve Bank has earned.
We have bodies for regulation (the Productivity Commission) and infrastructure (Infrastructure Australia) that could eventually become equivalents of the RBA. But they’re a long way from being there right now, and governments don’t seem inclined to help them.
Announcements like the Snowy proposal and the apparent arrangements around it aren’t helping either, by ignoring arrangements for proper review. But such events do underline how unsatisfactory are our current arrangements.
I’ve weighed in previously on the relentless emphasis on symbolism in the political prosecution of aboriginal issues in Australia. This isn’t necessarily a criticism of aboriginal activists because, as I argued, they’re working within the rules of memefication. I can add that, where there was virtually no aboriginal history for me at school, my kids got nothing but. Pretty much every year of their schooling they did some classes in aboriginal history. But the teachers were never engaged and they learned very little other than to dislike such fare for its vacuity, sentimentalism, it’s lack of imagination or interest. And, of course, its repetitiveness.
In any event, for some reasons – perhaps explicated to some extent here – I think quite a lot about the tragic relationship between Europeans and aboriginal people, though I have no well thought out ideas about what should be done today. I’ve read various books like Inga Clendinnen’s marvellous Dancing with Strangers and Peter Sutton’s sad meditation The Politics of Suffering. I’ve read Watkin Tench and various others. And yet SBS’s show First Australians, has been a complete eye-opener for me. Turns out the program is quite old – going back to the year of the apology – 2008.
In any event it’s must viewing for all Troppo readers. Yes this means YOU!
I’ve now watched the first five episodes all of which are riveting. It is also the case that it’s written from a largely aboriginal perspective – it doesn’t get into the culture war argy-bargy of Keith Windshuttle or Peter Howson’s argument that the stolen generations were really the ‘rescued generations’. If one is seeking to apportion blame then there is probably a something to be said for injecting a somewhat more understanding explanation of some of the white conduct that shocks us the most today. Many of the crimes of empathy committed against aboriginal – or particularly ‘half-caste’ children were committed against ‘disadvantaged’ children all round the world and were part of a very different attitude to children. But it’s a small thing in a program that is seeking to present the aboriginal experience.
I knew the bones of first contact – the first episode – from Clendinnen’s book and other reading, but it was compelling nevertheless. I knew of the destruction of the Tasmanian Aborigines but only barely, having picked up this nineteenth century excuse for their destruction – that they were the most primitive people on earth – listless. You’d be a tad on the listless side if what happened to them happened to you – trust me.
The fourth and fifth episodes are about the logical consequence of economically developing the ‘outback’ without the slightest regard for the native inhabitants’ prior occupation. As the cattle routes were opened up they destroyed the aboriginal water holes and their way of life and the indigenes hit back with violent resistance – which was brutally crushed. (I kept thinking it wouldn’t have been that hard – probably would have been cheaper – to have engaged with the indigenous people to figure out how to protect what they wanted protected and go on with the cattle trade. I don’t know enough to know if something like that might have been possible by fully acknowledging an aboriginal veto right to development – I suspect it might have been, but if that wasn’t possible then it would have had to have been a heavier handed affair – but still not one that led to the agonies of the destruction of whole peoples that set in then and continue today.)
But the episode that moved me the most was the one with the least violence – just as I Daniel Blake, where the poor and the weak in society end up being done in by bureaucracy rather than anything as straightforward as physical intimidation or poverty. Episode three presents the story of Coranderrk – a story in which aborigines did everything humanly possible to succeed in the new circumstances – and did – only to be done in by the indifference of white society to their achievement and the relentless small-mindedness of bureaucrats charged with ‘aboriginal protection’.
Turns out I spent quite a bit of time at Coranderrk as a kid without knowing it – whenever I visited Healesville Sanctuary. It was built by two succeeding ngurungaeta – principal elders – of their community of great vision and humanity. They accepted European ways right down to adopting European clothing, names – Simon Wonga and William Barak and the Christian religion. They had the help of a remarkable Scottish man of the cloth and together they built their land into a thriving and highly profitable agricultural community. Coranderrk’s success became an embarrassment to those in charge of other aboriginal settlements and so it was gradually closed down in the most callous way.
The community was lied to, promises made to it to allow it to spend the surpluses from its agricultural production on social goods like a hospital completely disregarded and eventually set upon with genocidal intent (of the nicest kind mind you – no death camps for us). From Wikipedia:
As a result of the Aborigines Protection Act of 1886, around 60 residents were ejected from Coranderrk on the eve of the 1890s Depression. Their forced departure crippled Coranderrk as an enterprise, with only around 15 able-bodied men left to work the hitherto successful hop gardens. Almost half the land was reclaimed by government in 1893, and by 1924 orders came for its closure as an Aboriginal Station, despite protests from Wurundjeri returned servicemen who had fought in World War I. The reserve was formally closed in 1924, with most residents moved to Lake Tyers Mission in Gippsland in eastern Victoria. Five older people refused to move and continued living at Coranderrk until they died. The last known Aboriginal woman to live at Coranderrk was Elizabeth (Lizzie) Davis, who died in 1956, aged 104. She was denied permission to be buried at Coranderrk alongside her husband and siblings.
Sounds like a story worth telling. Yet it took till 2011 for a plaque to be erected at Healesville Sanctuary. Thanks guys. Anyway, that could have been taught to my kids. I was lamenting this to a friend recently on a walk to the MCG one day when he noticed we were working on the William Barak bridge – the walkway from Fed Square to the G. So some people are trying. Barak himself was a truly remarkable person. A diplomat he worked away to get what he could from the authorities. The Governor was quite well disposed but the Board for the aborigines Protection were relentless once they moved to diminish Coranderrk. The Governor asked William Barak if he could see a corroboree which Barak wanted him to see, but the Board wouldn’t hear of it. The Governor eventually got a painting of a corroboree by Barak. All this time while he wore western clothes and participated in Christian religion, he’d been painting his old life. His paintings, now much sought after, are a remarkable affair in their hybridism between European and indigenous sensibilities. I’m no expert – perhaps this kind of thing wasn’t that rare in the 19th Century – but I’m unaware of anything similar until the paintings that emerged a century later at Papunya.
Here’s an extract from the The Australasian towards the turn of the twentieth century (1897) and six years before Barak’s life ended – as a noble leader of his people, as diplomat between them and the people who spoke of protection but who showed in their actions a criminal disregard for such a thing, and as a brave but broken man spending his final days recording the world he had known as it passed into oblivion.
It’s a terrible, terrible story to make you weep at our small mindedness in the face of the grandeur and the potential we set our faces against at every turn. And I wandered around Coranderrk as a kid looking at the platypuses and other critters. We didn’t really have to do any favours to the people of Coranderrk for them to have succeeded at least for a time and in so doing show us things we could never have known. And now we never will know. Instead we actively destroyed William Barak and his people. And we live with the consequences with very little clue about how we might make amends for such crimes.
Having written the last sentence last night I’ve just discovered more Barakiana hiding in plain sight and towering over most of Melbourne! Another huge demonstration of my own ignorance – a veritable terra nullius in my own tiny mind. In 2015 there was a 32 story apartment block unveiled (they covered it up until finished – Christo eat your heart out!) with Barak’s portrait etched into the articulation of the balconies. It sits subversively behind the Anglican Cathedral in the line of sight down Swanston St from the Shrine of Remembrance and of course I’ve seen it plenty of times without noticing or thinking.In any event, First Australians is a magnificent series of documentaries which I can’t recommend highly enough.
The NT News’ front page on Saturday is a vintage piece of Murdoch tabloid journalism – aggressively funny but without any meaningful regard for fact or fairness. Of course portraying any politicians as “bastards” is bound to meet with general public approval, especially when Messrs Turnbull, Morrison and Scullion are identified as the culprits who just unfairly robbed the Territory of $2 billion over the next four years. Moreover, the journos who write this stuff might even believe it; after all quite a few usually thoughtful local pundits have made similar noises.
The truth is that the national system for distributing GST revenue between the states and territories IS badly broken, but the decisions aren’t in a practical sense made by the federal government politicians so they aren’t “bastards” at least for that reason. More importantly, the system will be devilishly difficult to fix. However, explaining that in a way people can understand or be bothered reading is a tall order, because the system is also mind-blowingly complex. But I’ll have a go at it anyway. Read more at The Summit.
By Kevin Young
March 26, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Against the Current — In November 2016 the Colombian Congress approved a peace deal between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, potentially ending a 50-year armed conflict that has killed at least 220,000 people--82 percent civilians--and displaced almost seven million. The accord includes mechanisms for disarmament and reintegration of guerrilla fighters, lenient sentencing for those who confess to committing acts of violence, and an allotment of ten congressional seats for FARC politicians for eight years. Separate peace talks with the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla force are now underway.
I wrote these words just before we nearly threw away the 2010 Premiership.
[I]t’s hard to figure out what exactly the plan is up forward. In the case of virtually any other club, if a mid-fielder gets the ball and their side has control, there’ll be a dangerous lead up forward and that and an accurate pass will make it damn difficult for the opposition to stop a dangerous shot on goal. As I explained in this post, we don’t seem to do that. In fact though we’ve got a lot better than we were when I wrote that post I just linked to, the lack of strategy up forward remains. If they kept stats on it, I think we’d have one of the least number of shots at goal from a good spot within the forward 50 from marks to leads.
We take the ball laboriously round the wing and then pass to someone leading into a pocket for a lousy chance to score. Or we fart around at the fifty metre mark waiting for an opportunity to go into the forward line. But where that seems to work well for other clubs – with leads and also mid-fielders streaming down, when things are not going well for us it just seems to hold things up until the other side has packed its defence. Our style of kicking goals up forward seems to be to just look like we might attack and then kick the ball in and hope that things turn out. Usually they don’t but we have such control of the ball in the midfield that amidst all the behinds we score, we score enough goals to actually win.
That was the story of Friday night – though Footscray’s approach to goal didn’t focus on leads – it did focus on moving the ball, keeping the forward line open, kicking to advantage. And yet with Collingwood dominating the midfield for almost all of the game you never got the impression that there was a plan in place – a set of routines the Collingwood players all knew that would convert control of the ball from the midfield into a dangerous shot on goal in most circumstances. Since the early Malthouse years Collingwood has always given the impression – to me anyway – of having to do that much better in order to win than any other team.
On Tuesday I headed out to the new Caroline Springs station for a look around. It opened at the end of January.
I caught the 17:59 train from Southern Cross. It was heading to Bacchus Marsh, and it was full — at least by V/Line’s standards, which means every seat was taken — reflected in their official capacity figures. In fact, a dozen people were standing in my carriage by the time we left Footscray. Since the last time I’ve ridden an H-set, it appears that V/Line has fitted the seat sides with handles to help cope with standing passengers.
We rolled into Caroline Springs about 5 minutes late, and the first thing you notice is that it’s in the middle of nowhere; about 800 metres from the nearest houses. This of course is a complete contrast to most of Melbourne, where suburbs developed around the railway stations, at least up until about the 1930s when the rail network stopped expanding.
I touched-off with my Myki, and followed the crowd. A reasonable number of people were getting off the train here, given it’s only a half-hourly service in peak hour and the station’s only been open a couple of months.
Evidently Caroline Springs Station’s working name was Ravenhall, because it turns out that’s what shows up on the Myki transaction record… they still haven’t changed it! Local MP Marlene Kairouz says it will be fixed.
The other thing that changed is that the original plan for a single platform was revised in 2016, before the station opened, but after much of the station was built. It was sensibly modified to have two platforms, with a short extension to the duplicated track from Deer Park West to just past the station. Looking at the completed station, you can’t really tell it’s been modified along the way.
Leaving the station takes you via stairs (ramps also provided) and an underpass to the only exit to the north. There’s a car park, a bus interchange, and a bike cage. Several bikes were in the cage, but most people walked to their cars, with a few boarding the waiting bus, which left a couple of minutes later.
There’s a bike path that goes into the station precinct, and ends at the bike cage. I’m not sure if the road from the suburb, Christies Road, has bike lanes or if there’s any kind of separate bike path or connection to the nearby Deer Park Bypass trail.
Here’s an odd thing: in the underpass was a surprising number of millipedes, mostly on the walls, some on the floor. This is not something I’ve seen before so visible in a station, but around Australia, including in Victoria, millipedes have caused train delays and even been blamed for a train crash in Western Australia. In 2012 they forced V/Line to ensure all trains were at least two carriages. I hope they’re aware of this latest occurrence.
As I looked around the car park snapping photos, the PA sprung to life: “For the gentleman taking photos, is there something we can assist you with?”
I snapped a couple more, then walked back into the station and paused by the booking office window. The station assistant came out of the back office where he’d presumably been watching the CCTV like a hawk. “Nah mate, I’m good, thanks.”
Touching-on my Myki as I re-entered the paid area, I waited for the train, and looked around the platform, taking a few more photos and trying not to look too suspicious to my vigilant friend.
There’s a fully-enclosed waiting room with an information screen and timetable display inside. With little weather cover around the station, that’ll no doubt be useful on cold winter mornings.
This next photo shows along the platform there are markers for where the different length trains should stop. You can also see the base of a future staunchion, which seems to have been installed as part of provision for electrification of the line, which is expected next decade. Good forward planning. The sign on the fence refers to the adjoining conservation zone, which probably means there will never be development immediately around the station.
Looking west you can see where the double track ends, with just single track extending beyond towards Melton.
Oddly they list “duplication of 17 kilometres of track between Deer Park West and Melton” — perhaps the already-duplicated section to Caroline Springs was technically part of the same project or something. No matter – it made sense to do it while building the new station.
Single track of course plays havoc with train operations. Any little delay can very quickly snowball, as trains have to wait for each other.
In this case, there should have been another train from the city to Ararat, due at 18:45, which should have enter the single track, before passing the inbound train I was waiting for, at Rockbank at 18:50, which would have reached me back at Caroline Spring at 18:55.
But that train to Ararat was some 26 minutes late departing the city — and may have delayed (or been further delayed by) the inbound trains following mine. It’s a precision juggling act that won’t be required to the same extent once the line is duplicated.
18:26 Southern Cross – Ararat is delayed approximately 26 minutes due to the late arrival of another service.
— V/Line Ballarat Line (@vline_ballarat) March 21, 2017
V/Line blamed the long delay on the late arrival of another service… this was a train from Waurn Ponds on the Geelong line, which had suffered extensive delays right through that evening’s peak hour. It beats me why they run their operation like this, with delays on different lines cascading onto each other… but Metro’s not much better at times.
The Ballarat line upgrade project will bring a much needed boost in terms of track capacity and reliability. It’s good that Caroline Springs finally has its station, but further upgrades will help passengers at stations in Melbourne’s fast-growing outer suburbs, and right along the line.
Provided they can keep the millipedes under control.
Postscript: An update from Marcus Wong:
@danielbowen I went past today, pest controller was there spraying for millipedes.
— Marcus Wong (@aussiewongm) March 25, 2017
Travesties of the proverbial is a very occasional series one post of which began with these words.
Keen readers of this blog will know that occasionally, just occasionally I identify a saying or concept which has somehow come to signify something close to the opposite of what its progenitor had intended
This essay documents quite a good example. Remember Fukuyama’s The End of History? If you’re my age, of course you do, and if you’re not, then I’m sure you can nod wisely and pretend. (Remember Rule 1 – Pretend is never good enough – except here at Club Troppo.) Well it was embraced as a triumphalist doctrine that things had got as good as they could get. As the essay points out:
The second half of Fukuyama’s title, The Last Man, was a direct reference to the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche, who argued that, although modern society with its emphasis on truth and transparency had ‘killed God’ (the future of Western politics was egalitarian and secular), it had nothing to replace Him with. The vast majority of modern human beings would now be small-minded, stunted, pathetic creatures, possessing no sense of how to achieve greatness, only of how to accrue petty comforts and easy pleasures in a materialistic, self-obsessed world. In other words, if megalothymia went out of human life, so would greatness. Only base mediocrity would remain.
Fukuyama combined Nietzsche’s idea of the last man with his own diagnosis of underlying human psychology. His prognosis was that the outlook for post-History Western society was not good. It was possible that the last men at the end of History might sink down into a brutish contentment with material comforts, rather like dogs lying around in the afternoon sun (this was what Kojève predicted). But they might well go the other way. There was every chance that the last men (and women) would be deeply discontented with their historically unprecedented ease and luxury, because it failed to feed megalothymia. If the last men went this way, they would become bored by what Fukuyama called ‘masterless slavery – the life of rational consumption’. The spread of egalitarian values that went along with secular democratic politics would open up spaces of severe resentment – especially, we might now postulate, among those who had lost their traditional places at the top of social hierarchies, and felt cheated of the recognition that they believed they were owed. (Sound familiar?)
Anyway, of course the triumphalist interpretation was the one that found its way into our culture as the distillation of Fukuyama’s thesis. Why? Because that was what Davos Man made of it and Davos Man owns a lot of cultural assets with which to propagate his view. And Davos Man had a lot of money making to be getting on with – taxes to avoid, structuring finance and restructuring workforces.
This kind of thing always puts me in mind of what I think of as a collective id.
Why has ‘the environment’ somehow become the predominant form of complaint against our age? Certainly greenhouse gas emissions are a big deal. So it’s not all bad that environment is such a Big Deal. But green concerns have been a major consideration for all sorts of other, far less rational reasons and many of the things we do on behalf of the environment – like kerbside recycling – do little if any environmental good. Why do we do it? I’d say because it appeals to our subconscious in the same way that the idea that we were all sinners and should repent of those sins to save ourselves in the eyes of God was a major theme of much social and political pontification before the Enlightenment. The idea that economic growth can’t go on, that the Gods need to be appeased appeals to our subconscious desire to atone for our easy life, even though if we dematerialise economic growth of course economic growth can go on. And on and on.
In all this I think of the extraordinary Eglinton Tournament of 1839:
175 years ago, Archibald Montgomerie, the Earl of Eglinton (1812-61) resolved to provide what might now be called a ‘re-enactment’ of a medieval tournament on his estates in Ayrshire. A great fan of the turf (his jockeys rode in tartan) and of champagne (by some accounts he drank nothing else), Eglinton planned an event to complement a race meeting. It quickly snowballed in line with the overwhelming public response to the idea and thousands of people, many dressed in medieval fashions in accordance with Eglinton’s instructions, arrived at his estate via railways and specially-commissioned steamers in late August 1839.
As we might expect, MPs and their families featured prominently in an event whose main aim was to provide models of proper behaviour for political and social elites. The Queen of Beauty was Lady Seymour, wife of the Whig minister and MP for Totnes, Lord Seymour. Large numbers of MPs and local political elites featured in both the house party that stayed at Eglinton Castle and the large crowd in the pavilions, which witnessed the action over the following days.
From another source:
The dress rehearsals were held in London at a garden behind the Eyre Arms, St John’s Wood, a tavern close to Regent’s Park, the last one on Saturday 13 July 1839. Nineteen knights participated. The audience was invitation only; many of “the very elite of the most elite” (said the “Court Journal”) were invited to watch, and 2,690 attended. The rehearsal went perfectly. The weather was sunny, the banners and armour and tents impressive, the jousting successful. Even critics conceded that the tournament was likely to be a fine show.
A hundred thousand spectators are reported to have attended the actual event which was a fiasco. The tournament was pretty much rained out. One descendant of the Earl reports that his folly in spending £40,000 promoting the tournament “impoverished his family”. What (on earth!) was going on? Well the industrial revolution was going on, that’s what. People were streaming into cities where they swapped the traditional human bonds of the British countryside and its grinding poverty and oppression for the impersonal bonds of the city and the slightly less grinding poverty and anarchy of the slums. The representatives of a new discipline of ‘political economy’ were intoning gravely about maximising ‘utility’ in a manner similar to the way businessmen were calculating how to optimise their profit. They were preaching counter-intuitive and heartless doctrines that relieving the poor only encouraged them – only produced more poor as Charles Murray does today. None of this made any sense in the countryside where if one came upon a beggar one might help them in some way without having twenty more knocking on your door to make merry with your charity within a few days.
And as this soulless dystopia that was brewing within the burgeoning cities of the UK, a utopian golden age of heraldic medieval chivalry erupted from the zeitgeist – a world where humans dealt with each other person to person – where a Lord could be respected as upholding the good along with all his power and the hoi polloi were respectful of all this lordly goodness. How much of this was true was kind of beside the point. It was truthiness itself in the age of Mr Gradgrind. And so Walter Scott churned out novel after novel imagining this golden age. And more gothic churches were built in the five decades following the Eglinton Tournament than had been built in the previous ten centuries.1
Anyway, it makes little sense, but that’s why we put our garbage into two streams to protect the environment but abolish carbon pricing which jeopardises the planet, why we acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, their elders past and present, but spare ourselves the trouble of really engaging with their problems, and so on.
By Lars Lih
March 24, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — “All power to the Soviets!” is surely one of the most famous slogans in revolutionary history. It is right up there with “Egalité, liberté, fraternité” as a symbol of an entire revolutionary epoch. In this essay and others to follow later in the spring, I would like to examine the origin of this slogan in its original context of Russia in 1917.
24-03-2017 - Traduzione del Comitato Carlos Fonseca - L’Ecuador tornerà alle urne il 2 aprile dopo che il primo turno delle elezioni presidenziali non aveva dato una vittoria decisiva a Lenín Moreno, il candidato disposto a continuare la “Rivoluzione Cittadina” dell’uscente presidente Rafael Correa, che ha favorito i poveri.
Ora Moreno affronta la sfida di riuscire a far sì che l’Ecuador non si aggiunga alla lista dei paesi della regione nei quali la sinistra ha recentemente perso le elezioni.
By Phil Hearse
“The way the Leave campaign have tried to ramp up a fear of immigration has been disgraceful—but the truth is that if you see an immigrant in a hospital, they’re far more likely to be working there than being treated. The time has come to brand the “Brexit” campaign for what it is—a bid for a right-wing Tory takeover of the reins of power in the UK and to dismantle the hard-worn social gains of the last few decades. The people leading the case for a vote to leave are on the right of the Conservative Party and will take an “out” vote as their signal to make their power grab complete.” Nicola Sturgeon, 16/6/2016
Hans Christian Andersen’s famous story The Emperor’s New Clothes epitomises the phenomenon of the truth hiding in plain sight as a result of collective delusion or selective vision.
There is just such a collective public delusion at the heart of our current understanding of Australian politics and government. The expectations of Australians, particularly the Canberra Press Gallery, that our normal form of government is a two-party system with the government controlling a majority in the lower house and mostly able to get its legislation through the upper house without undue difficulty simply does not accord with reality and hasn’t for quite a long time.
Governments at federal level almost never control the Senate, and increasingly are forced to wrangle legislation through by negotiating and compromising with a disparate group of minor party and Independent Senators. Julia Gillard was quite good at this and Malcolm Turnbull is getting better, although Tony Abbott was hopeless.
In the House of Representatives as well, majority government can no longer be assumed. Julia Gillard governed in minority between 2010 and 2012, and Malcolm Turnbull (or whoever might replace him) is within one seat of having to do likewise.
A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald underscored for me that that this is unlikely to be a temporary phenomenon:
Australia is poised for widespread political instability as more than one in four voters flee the two-party system, political analysts say.
Disgust and disappointment with major parties is approaching historic levels as Australians follow British and Americans voters and reject new age politics. …
Previously, a 25 per cent primary vote for non-governing parties has been a red warning light for major Australian political parties.
In the 2016 federal election, the warning light started blinking deep amber, with a primary vote of 23 per cent for the minor parties in the House of Representatives.
Now, opinion poll after poll point to the vote for the minor parties breaching the 25 per cent tipping point at the next federal election due in 2019.
In the 2016 Northern Territory election the combined primary vote of the two major parties was around 75% while the primary vote of minor parties and Independents was indeed around 25%. Remarkably that ended up with five Independents elected to the Legislative Assembly (but no minor party representatives) out of a total of 25 MLAs. Fully 20% of our Parliament now consists of Independents. Such a dramatic result is unlikely to occur in larger states or at federal level, and was as much a result of “rats deserting the sinking ship” of the CLP as of any wider trend towards minor parties and Independents.
Nevertheless it is likely that the number of Independents and minor party representatives in the House of Representatives at federal level will gradually increase over time. Current representatives like Bob Katter, Andrew Wilkie and the Greens’ Adam Bandt have proven very durable and hard to dislodge once they got elected. The Greens are likely to take more inner urban seats from the ALP over time, and One Nation is likely to take seats from the Coalition if it doesn’t implode again first.
But the idea that this necessarily means “political instability”, although apparently almost universally accepted without question, is misconceived. Julia Gillard managed to get legislation through the Parliament without undue difficulty, and the instability we all remember was caused by internal undermining from Kevin Rudd rather than by Labor’s minority status in both Houses of Parliament.
I have never understood why so many people regard a stable two-party system with its resulting elected dictatorship as the ideal form of government. As far as I’m concerned it’s almost exactly the reverse. A system which requires discussion, negotiation and compromise between politicians representing as nearly as reasonably possible the diverse groups and interests of the Australian population is greatly to be preferred. Typically we get much better legislation and policy implementation as a result of that sort of deliberative process. That’s why I’ve been exploring various options for achieving such a system at The Summit, including multimember seats with election by proportional representation, and the New Zealand system of Mixed Member Proportional Representation. However it’s beginning to look as if Australia might achieve some such outcome, albeit in a fairly messy way, without any electoral reform at all.
By Charles Pierce
March 22, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — Since December 9 last year, when the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) made its allegations to U.S. Congressional leaders, ranking politicians of both major parties have gone on a concerted rant against Russia for allegedly subverting American “democracy”. The specific allegations are: (1) that Russian state operatives hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC); (2) that Russia then used WikiLeaks as an intermediary to make public internal DNC emails which would embarrass the DNC and hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign; (3) that Russia’s objective was to help Donald Trump win the Presidency; and (4) that Russia’s intervention changed the outcome of the Presidential election. For reasons given below: (1) and (2) are possible but unproven, (3) is unlikely, and (4) is fantasy.
Meanwhile, the major U.S. news media outlets have reported the story with a persistent evasion of highly relevant facts including the U.S. government’s many subversions of elections in other countries.
Following a little jaunt out to Caroline Springs on Tuesday (more on this in the next post), with some tweets along the way, I had an interesting Twitter conversation with a disgruntled Geelong line user.
One of my tweets noted that a huge crowd waiting at the platform for a Geelong train had in fact fitted into the train when it eventually arrived. (The exchange is reproduced below.) My correspondent took umbrage at this, thinking it implied the Geelong line is all fine.
My view is that showing a photo of one train that a platform that looks okay doesn’t imply that every train is fine. It doesn’t even imply that the train in question didn’t become overcrowded down the line when it picked up more passengers.
Here’s the thing:
I have been told repeatedly by those in power — ministers (from both sides), senior bureaucrats, operator staff (from the CEO down), that they appreciate (and pay attention to) my observations because I call out both the positive and the negative. Good, bad or ugly.
It’s also gained the PTUA credibility with the media, who know they will get an honest assessment of a situation.
Remember the boy who cried wolf?
If I was 100% critical all the time, it wouldn’t be credible.
If I claimed the entire public transport system is 100% stuffed, it wouldn’t be credible. (If it was 100% stuffed, so many people wouldn’t use it and rely on it every day.)
I do tweet plenty of pictures of packed services. But I also try to put it into context, and to understand why it is so.
The nature and cause of the problem will determine the solution, and who’s responsible for fixing it.
It’s not in my nature to be relentlessly cynical and negative all the time. Not even on Twitter.
Fortunately it appears that this helps progress the debate to solutions, rather than just get bogged down in endless criticism and whinging.
So I’ll keep calling it as I see it.
Thoughts? As always, leave a comment.
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) March 21, 2017
Waiting for the doors to open… eventually. pic.twitter.com/GsE3idrUgx
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) March 21, 2017
Everyone eventually got aboard, and from what I saw, almost everyone got a seat. One or two got comfy in the luggage racks. pic.twitter.com/BWmqNdFrYW
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) March 21, 2017
@danielbowen are you a V/line management plant Daniel? Slrsy
— Cyn Nickle (@ismnup) March 21, 2017
@danielbowen > geelong service is acceptable in the circumstances. It's a complete farce of inept planning, execution and management.
— Cyn Nickle (@ismnup) March 21, 2017
@ismnup I made a statement about one specific train, which was sitting in front of me, not the whole service/line.
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) March 21, 2017
@danielbowen fair enough, but your comments have 1000 times more leverage than us, just don't want those in power to think everything is ok
— Cyn Nickle (@ismnup) March 21, 2017
Por Youngsu Won
Marzo 22, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, traducido por Enrique García para Sin Permiso— El 10 de marzo, a las 11:22 de la mañana, el juez del Tribunal Constitucional Lee Jeingmi leyó la última frase de la sentencia, que declara que el tribunal había decidido por unanimidad, destituir a la Presidenta Park Geun-hye. Después de un juicio de 92 días, la presidencia de Park Geun-hye había terminado.
This evening I received a highly significant email. It’s from National Archives with which I’m doing some minor business. I have no idea what it means, but I figure it could be of considerable use to someone. If that person is you, I commend it to you. It’s certainly a relief to be protected from potential evildoers with such relentless focus and determination. Please do not comment on this thread or your computer may blow up – well it probably won’t but you will not be able to benefit from Troppo’s standard insurance for exploding laptops – for reasons that I hope are obvious:
An email sent by you to ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ with the subject ‘Accepted: Digital Excellence Awards Judges teleconference [SEC=UNCL… @ Thu 6 Apr 2017 15:00 – 16:30 (AEST) (Anne Lyons)’ had a protective marking that cannot be received.
The National Archives of Australia can only receive emails from non-Fedlink senders where there is either No Protective Marking or one of the following markings only:
Note: Emails with markings of type [DLM=…. can only be received from Fedlink senders.
These rules are set by the Australian Government and we cannot make exceptions.
Do not reply as this email address is not monitored.
By Dick Nichols and Will Wroth
March 21, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — The containment in the March 15 Dutch general election of islamophobe Geert Wilders’ Party of Freedom (PVV) was greeted with relief by the mainstream European media (see table for election results as of March 19; final results will be declared on March 22).
The PVV’s final vote of only 13.1% (20 seats in the 150-seat lower house according to the Dutch proportional representation system) represented an increase of only 3% (5 seats): given expectations this advance was really a sizeable setback.
The PVV, which advocates shutting all mosques (“hate palaces”), banning the Quran, closing Dutch borders and leaving the European Union (“Nexit”), had been leading in opinion polls since September 2015. Its support reached high points of over 40 seats–up to 20 more than the ruling conservative People’s Party of Freedom and Democracy (VVD). Wilder’s one-man party—himself--only started to poll consistently behind the VVD in the last ten days of the election campaign.
Here’s a list of buzzwords. I want to make a quick point. Note that there are very few ugly neologisms there – or even expressions that don’t have clear meanings. Most of the expressions have very clear meanings. Indeed, some of them are quite compelling That’s their point. The problem is different. Unfortunately, a lot of people think complaining about this stuff is the same as complaining about punctuation or grammar or that kind of stuff. I think the real problem is very different. It’s not even that loose use of expressions facilitates loose thinking, it’s that it facilitates a particular kind of loose thinking.
The problem is that, having been coined these expressions are taken up as if saying them makes what they assert true. For instance, I like the term ‘dovetail’. It captures precisely something very worthwhile – to have a very well articulated interface or relationship between two parts of a system. But of course once the word gets ‘traction’ as we say in the trade, everyone starts simply using it – we’ve got to ensure that finance and marketing dovetail well together. Yeah – sure. I recall one Great and Fearless leader of mine frequently saying that we would “really think through” things creating all the affectations of thoroughness, rigour and self-awareness in our thinking, other than those qualities themselves.
So what’s happening here is not an aesthetic, but an ethical breach. As Adam Smith explained – though not using modern terms – culture is a public good to which we all contribute as we use and are part of it, or to use an excellent term of Aaron Maniam’s, it’s a ‘generative commons’.1 Such things are maintained by the ethical practice of the donors and beneficiaries of the commons – the carriers of the culture. So if the boss starts saying that we’re ‘really thinking things through’ when his whole purpose is to substitute the expression for the deed, then he’s degrading the culture, which is tied very closely to the capacity of the organisation to deliberate and act. It’s a much subtler affair, and as a result one needs much subtler methods to try to fight this kind of breach, but the breach itself is like unjust enrichment or breach of fiduciary duty.
Anyway, over the fold I thought I’d race through the words and colour code them. Red for ugly, dumb, buzzwords, blue for very useful clear and indeed compelling expressions.
At the end of the day we should reconsider baking into our work all buzzwords, but I know bandwidth is a challenge. We need more bench strength to allocate resources to build a straw man 2 for a new approach and create a dead on burning platform 3 that our change agents can drive across the change network.
We need to create a parking lot 4 of forbidden buzzwords and build the critical mass needed to make this change happen while cross-pollinating across companies. We need to organize a large scale data dump, orchestrate a buzzword deep dive 5 and create deliverables 6 that solve this issue in real time. 7
These deliverables must dove-tail with other work drilling down 8 into buzzword abuse, and we must drum up support for confronting the elephant in the room, 9 which is that we may not be prepared to do anything about it.
If we create a compelling elevator speech that fleshes out the challenges of buzzword abuse, we could gain traction in getting our arms around this, circle the wagons and get all of our ducks in a row to tackle the business buzzword gatekeepers. Then we could start fresh with greenfield communication.
It’s not impossible to harness the organic process across companies equipping buzzword abusers to hit the ground running with plain speak. That would hit the nail on the head.
We need to map this out because it is so on point, but I’m open to additional mindshare. I will never be out of pocket for the hard work required to make this paradigm shift. If we peel back the onion, we all have it in our power alleys to hit this head on, generate quick wins, and pick the low hanging fruit that will allow us to start speaking like normal people again.
It may be important to prepare a deck that puts a stake in the ground and outlines the case for change so no one could push back. This deck would be a robust road map which could become the sexy project everyone wants in on that would never become shelfwareor vaporware.
We’d even encourage scope creep as we sing from the same song sheet and socialize the plan across the corporate ecosystem about making this strategic pivot.
We need to talk live and not keep it to talking at the 20,000 foot level. We’ve got to tee upa way to think outside the box back to a time before buzzword thoughtware and ideationcontaminated our communication. Figuring out how these buzzwords didn’t create tissue rejection early on is outside of my wheelhouse, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t circle back and change it.
There is no turnkey solution. We need to touch base regularly to get on the same pageand continuously vector towards success on this value add initiative. People adoptionstrategies will be vital to make this mindset shift. It’s going to feel a lot like herding catsor even like getting Jell-O to stick to the wall, but if we take it one buzzword at a time and don’t try to boil the ocean, it might work.
If you see someone walking the halls abusing buzzwords, parachute in and get down to brass tacks, re-level set with them, and connect the dots so that together we can build a better mousetrap.
This won’t be easy because many of you already have too many balls in the air and too much on your plates. Even though you are wearing multiple hats, keep your focus so we get a win-win proposition (or at least a zero sum proposition) on this work thread.
We all know this is a sticky wicket, but we’ve got to attack this on the front lines at our offices. That’s where the rubber meets the road. Feel free to ping me with other ideas about how we can increase the footprint of plain speak being used across all industry spaces.
a lot of the words are not particularly odious.
Quite a few of the words and expressions are rather well crafted.
Experienced Troppo readers will be aware that I fairly frequently post articles about topics relating to crime and punishment, especially crime statistics and patterns. Quite often those articles consist partly of impassioned diatribes against sensationalist tabloid crime “shock horror” stories, usually but not always published by the local Northern Territory News.
I posted just such an article again on the weekend, but put it on The Summit blog published by Charles Darwin University School of Law rather than here at Troppo. The details of Territory crime statistics and debate about them are unlikely to be of any great interest to the great majority of Troppo readers. Nevertheless there are some more general issues that come out of this most recent discussion that I think are potentially of wider interest.
My weekend article was provoked by a NT News story ridiculing neophyte Labor MLA for the inner Darwin seat of Fong Lim Jeff Collins for having the temerity to suggest in the Legislative Assembly last week that tabloid stories about an out-of-control crime wave in Darwin might be just a trifle simplistic and exaggerated. Outrageous! the News thundered: “Perhaps he should look at the latest shocking statistics – Darwin commercial break-ins up 90%; Darwin house break-ins up 20%.” (They are referring to the latest NT PFES crime statistics summaries for the year to end January 2017).
The thing is that the NT News story was quite right as far as it went, it just lacked context and the newspaper was engaging in blatant cherry picking. When you look at the statistics in full and over a longer period of time, they actually show pretty much exactly what Jeff Collins was saying. I’ve been watching NT crime statistics closely for over 20 years, ever since I founded Victims of Crime NT in 1996 after my wife’s mother was murdered. The truth is that the figures go up and down, often by seemingly significant percentages, from year to year. They always have and probably always will. Analysing the figures, finding the reasons for changes and taking remedial action where necessary is why PFES collect the statistics. Taking particular short periods, small areas and particular offences in isolation may be a good way to get a circulation-boosting headline but it doesn’t achieve much else. In fact, as Mr Collins observed, it could potentially needlessly create a “climate of fear and loathing in the community”.
Nevertheless, in most cases it doesn’t. What actually happens in practice is that media and government habitually engage in a complex theatre sports game with unwritten but well understood rules. The relationship is mostly symbiotic rather than parasitic. The more thoughtful and experienced members of government understand that the mainstream media has a powerful commercial incentive to publish sensationalist, simplified “Hey Martha” stories that will attract eyeballs and sales. That is especially true in these days of the Internet, the drying up of the so-called “rivers of gold” of classified advertising, and the plethora of free sources of news and information from social media and other sources. The NT News is especially good at finding and publishing those sorts of stories, and as a result has commercial success to a significantly greater extent than most other newspapers, many of which are rapidly going broke. If you expect any mainstream media organisation to publish a worthy and thorough exposition of crime statistics in context and with proper explanations and qualifications, you are going to be disappointed every time. For the great majority of readers a story like that would be downright boring and they wouldn’t read it. An accurate story on NT property crime rates would say: “2016 property crime a bit higher than 2015 but lower than 5 years ago and a lot lower than 10 years ago”. Fair and balanced for sure, but who would actually read it?
Fortunately, I suspect that at least the more thoughtful senior media people realise that a lot of their stories in areas like this are simplistic at best, but equally realise that commercial survival trumps thorough, worthy coverage every time. Moreover, they will usually cut a fair bit of slack for a government that appears to be at least making a reasonable effort at tackling the problems of (say) crime. Thoughtful media and government people all know that there are no “magic bullet” solutions to crime rates or for that matter the issues of punishment and treatment of juvenile offenders currently being examined by a royal commission. But there are certainly some things that can be done by government, and it is certainly true that crime in the Northern Territory is a very serious problem. Our crime rates in just about every category are significantly worse than anywhere else in Australia, and although they have been slowly improving over the last decade or so they remain much worse than elsewhere.
That was the real problem with Jeff Collins’ statement in the Legislative Assembly and his subsequent Channel 9 interview. Quite apart from the inevitability of tabloid media coverage of crime stories, the great majority of the general public is never likely to be interested in detailed and balanced stories on crime statistics or crime and punishment theory and practice. Nor are they likely to be paying close attention even to simplified tabloid stories. Even if the media had covered Jeff’s parliamentary speech in a more careful and balanced way, the message that a high proportion of the reading public would have received (however unfairly) was that he wasn’t taking crime seriously enough. Moreover, that was always going to be compounded by the fact that he made his speech only a day or two before the monthly crime statistics were to be published by Police Fire and Emergency Services. Given that Jeff is apparently Assistant Minister to Chief Minister Michael Gunner on police matters, he should have not only known that that was the case but also known that those figures were going to show a very significant “spike” in break-in offences to both homes and commercial premises over the Christmas school holidays. While that doesn’t actually mean that there is a “crime wave” as such, it was entirely predictable that making a speech in Parliament suggesting that the media’s coverage of crime was sensationalist and simplistic was always going to be met with a story suggesting that Jeff was one of those “elite” politicians who was out of touch with the concerns of his electorate. If you lead with your chin you shouldn’t really be surprised when your opponent floors you with a well directed uppercut. Politics is a tough game, but I have no doubt that Jeff Collins will learn the necessary lessons.
I’ve known Victor Perton since he was a lively Liberal MP interested in approaches to regulation that were more promising than the standard reg review boilerplate of the time. Neither of us made any progress on that score and reg review remains its ineffectual self.
Now comfortably out of Parliament and doing various things, he asked me to be a guest on his website Australian Leadership, something I was a little apprehensive about. The term has a bland positivity about it – the kind you use in media releases alongside words like “enhance”, “sustainable” – and yet it’s a political word. Leaders are generally given the things that politics needs to be about – power, money and social prestige. I guess that’s inevitable – and in that sense good – but if that’s the case then our notion of leadership should come very closely associated with how it’s held to account – which it doesn’t seem to me it is. There’s also a growing practice of leaders as insiders. Monash Uni picks the three kids from every school in their catchment area that they determine are best qualified to be part of an insiders club which is given special offers to study at Monash complete with their own club – where they can meet …. each other. It’s a strange idea, particularly in an educational context, that the people at the front of the queue should get additional and exclusive help.
The Henley Club is a self-started operation of a similar kind. Here’s it’s blurb:
The Henley Club is a private social club based in Melbourne, Australia. Our members come from diverse backgrounds with the shared values of being interested and interesting, and represent the future of Australian leadership. Members are connected through other members to all of the major clubs, groups and associations around the world. For emerging leaders, membership enables rapid growth of personal and professional networks.
I think you get the drift here. A groovified old boy’s network ideologically updated with diversity, self-starting and interestingness. I was invited to the Henly Club for a function (I’m too old to be a member if I wanted to be.) and I met some fun, indeed interesting people. In many ways a big improvement on the old boy’s network, but that’s pretty academic if you’re not in the club. I’m broadly supportive of Groucho’s approach to clubs.
In any event, I didn’t want to burden my answers with all this freight so set about answering the questions as best I could – trying to avoid cliché. In case you’re interested, the result is below the fold.
Nicholas Gruen: Very hard for me to say, as I don’t know enough and I’m wary of rehearsing clichés. I think Australian culture is down on formalities of superiority. Note how often the American press addresses their President as “Sir”. That doesn’t happen here. So that’s a plus.
On the downside, we’re a strikingly conformist culture. Australians are keen to get on with each other and so often agree too quickly and think direct disagreement is rude.
In Australia, officials are amongst the most helpful and pragmatic. On the other hand if you push-back against them, in a lively but not necessarily confrontational way, they’ll often take offence. I note when I’m in the US or pretty much anywhere, I can push back and question things more without people taking offence.
Good leaders need to find a way around that.
Nicholas Gruen: I spent 3 years at the Business Council of Australia, and my generalisation about the leaders we get is that rather than being chosen for outstanding intelligence – though most were intelligent people – they were people who others felt comfortable being led by. That meant they were not eccentric or particularly unusual, they tended to get on well with others and be respected as competent and capable.
Nicholas Gruen: He’s probably slipped from view in the last decade or so, but Weary Dunlop has to have a special place in our memory. Australian leadership as humility. As one Australian historian argues, each of the nationalities captured as prisoners of war by the Japanese formed their own kind of society which was a microcosm of their culture back home. Brits tended to form class hierarchies in their huts, Americans markets – with cigarettes as the currency – and Australians formed communes of mateship and mutual aid and enjoyed the lowest mortality rate of all the nationalities.
I like to honour and remember Captain Edward Broughton – born in New Zealand but that counts as Australasian anyway and he spent a lot of his time here. He was in charge of my father’s unit of refos in WWII and was one of the first Australians to really respect those men – for their humanity and their talents. Being Maori, he had great empathy for their dislocation, their status as an ‘other’ in the society they found themselves in. As he put it “You and me, we’re the same”. Anyway, I wrote him up here. One day I’d like to endow a prize named after him for some act of empathy done by an Australian for others in the previous year!
Don Dunstan is one of my favourite political leaders of all time – others being Churchill and Lincoln. Dunstan was a progressive culture warrior at a time when that was long overdue. Uncompromisingly his own man, in a conservative, blokey culture he was known to wear tight pink shorts around town and recited Sappho at the Adelaide Zoo in the original Ancient Greek. He unleashed a torrent of modernising and liberating reform at least a decade ahead of its time. He was also a person of high political principle. Against all the whispering that he was gay (he was), he never lied about it and even proceeded with gay law reform. He had a celebratory defiant kind of fun about him as well. When some nutter predicted the end of the world (was it from a tidal wave?) on a particular day, he held a party on Glenelg beach that afternoon! When there was a bank run, he turned up at the bank with a megaphone to calm nerves.
A lot of the stories of racism tackled in the AFL particularly I find very moving. My team – Collingwood – often features as the bad guy, and then somehow redeems itself – or so I’m hoping. I can’t tell you how much I love the picture of Nicky Winmar lifting his Guernsey to the Collingwood outer and pointing to his skin as if to say that it’s colour is their problem. He likes it. Then Allan McAlister made some stupid and highly offensive comments about it. I think McAlister was genuinely mortified at what he’d said – actually came to see how wrong it was and the upshot was a range of very successful initiatives starting with the indigenous all-stars matches.
But the Age reported this episode eight years before Nicky Winmar’s great stand against the outer:
“As Jimmy Krakouer, near right, the mercurial North rover, prepared for the first bounce, Collingwood ruckman David Cloke ran by, tapped his head and delivered a message. What he said was surprising given the culture of the time . . . . Cloke told Krakouer he could not control what was said from the other side of the fence, but if any Collingwood players resorted to racial abuse, Krakouer should tell him, and he would deal with it.”
That’s leadership. Quiet, unassuming, decent, powerful, effective.
Masters Hardware couldn’t launch a viable business against Bunnings, and only a couple of years after launching, have closed up all their outlets.
As this photo shows, they also couldn’t construct a functioning pedestrian crossing:
No wonder Masters is in trouble – they couldn't even design a pedestrian crossing that goes anywhere. pic.twitter.com/CN8JFL9yHk
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) March 28, 2016
But here’s one thing they did manage: they’ve provided empty car parks right across Australia for learner drivers to practice in.
Yes, we may be more public transport-oriented than most households, but we do have a car, and the time has come to teach my offspring how to drive.
They haven’t waited as long as I did (I was 27 when I got my licence), but neither have my kids jumped into it at the first opportunity. We ended up getting them Proof Of Age cards when they turned 18 because they hadn’t got Learners permits yet.
But it’s starting to happen now, and apart from paid lessons, we have headed down to Masters a couple of times. And both times, other L-platers have been doing laps as well.
As it turns out, it’s not perfect at South Oakleigh, because there’s an active supermarket at the other end of the car park, and an alarming number of motorists like cutting through the car park at diagonals to get to it. Sure, you may save five seconds, but you risk smashing into a learner driver.
Figuring out the clutch and manual gears seems to be about as hard and frustrating as I remember it being when I first learned.
(I’ve been thinking about upgrading my old car, which might include going to an automatic — more on this soon. Something for family discussion.)
Anyway, we’ll keep practicing, so thanks again, Masters.
As the parent of a new L plater, I'd like to thank Masters Hardware for providing empty car parks right across Australia.️
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) February 20, 2017
We need leaders who get up and out, are close to global megatrends and consumer behaviour, and understand leading indicators for changes to how people will work and live.
A self described “leadership consultant”
Continued from Part One.
Starting sometime – I’m thinking late in the 1980s – organisations started changing their weekend team-building retreats – where everyone went canoeing and abseiling – to strategy retreats. At strategy retreats the idea is that everyone empties their minds and the group starts with clean sheets of paper. Often a retreat begins and ends with attention to metaphysical questions like “What is our mission?”. Another fave was “Where to we want to be in ten years time?”. The very question blasted away all those cobwebs of short term thinking and you could Think Big. Megatrends were discussed. I’d love to know the history of this transformation from abseiling to Big Thinking as it seems a massive cultural shift in many, many ways.
One story that stuck out for me, and that was often told as some kind of illustration of the importance of the apex questions being posed was the company that made carpets and eventually realised, though this astringent process of navel gazing, starting with a clean sheet of paper, thinking long-term, gettingout of the weeds, looking to the heavens for deeper insight, that it was in fact supplying its customers floor covering needs. Don’t laugh – this actually had a point. The upshot was that the firm reconfigured its offering as a flooring services solutions company. Still sounds like a joke I know, but that’s because it’s become a cliché. This was a genuine and valuable corporate reinvention. They made a lot more money and, by taking responsibility for the end of life of its products improved both economic and environmental efficiency. But I suspect this was real strategy – brought about by some smart people, perhaps some strategy people and if not some research capacity and testing before the strategy was ‘rolled out’ as we say.1
In any event, by the naughties this approach had become pretty much a business monoculture. Virtually all organisations in the private, public and, following not long after, the not-for-profit sector, had ‘mission statements’. 2 As you know the ‘mission’ of the organisation would be summarised in some short pithy catchphrase. This could be a little embarrassing because what they did was run a particular organisation – say a newsagency, or a TV station or a government department, but that wasn’t the answer to the question “what do we do?” or “what is our mission?”. They were after an answer that might do a number of things.
The same article I’ve just cited outlines the many functions of “mission statements”.
The fact that there are so many purposes for mission statements gives the game away. Because several of these uses are, at the very least, in some tension with one another. So the mission statement is a kind of apotheosis of confused thinking. The dramaturgy of its production comes with all sorts of bromides about how we’re rising above the mundane. It all seems so … well commonsensical. Why don’t we give ourselves more time to focus on these Big Strategic Things – a common lament of boards and senior managers about board meetings?3 But nothing is as it seems.
For instance “Where do we want to be in ten years time?” is a plausible conversation starter. But it’s marketed as so much more.4It’s almost invariably sold to the group who’ve been working on their blank-mindedness on the first session or morning of the retreat as the necessary beginning of the journey.How can you plan to go somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going? But if we were going to take this apex goal setting seriously, this is a very serious step – the foundation of all our strategic thinking. Get that wrong and you’ll be on the wrong tram – rather literally.5 There’d be a lot of work gone in before everyone turned up. People known for their thoughtfulness would have debated aspects of it – fleshed out the possible options (including the possibility that asking such a question is quite possibly a poor, and uninformed way to begin the strategic discussion).
There might be some reference to the need to revise this starting point and start again if one were to take the possibility of human fallibility seriously. There might be some reference to crafting a goal with some reference to what is and what is not within the organisation’s control. But wait – if you did that you wouldn’t be starting with the goal would you? That suggests the organisations’ means and ends are dialectically, rather than mechanically related to each other. Anyway … no matter. I’m just trying to give some flavour of what the slightest bit of critical thinking might turn up here. Suffice it to say that it’s a misunderstanding to expect any of this.
Again, the game is usually given away – in this case by how poorly such conversations are prepared, how little intellectual leadership is shown in them. And by the end of the morning one has some lame objective “We want to be the leading newsagent, in – take your pick – our suburb, the state, the country, the world.” Why was that objective chosen? No real reason. Because it sounded good in the group. The person who said “we want to continually make entrepreneurial (risk-taking) decisions systematically and with the greatest knowledge of their futurity; organizing systematically the efforts needed to carry out these decisions; and measuring the results of these decisions against the expectations through organized, systematic feedback” just seemed to be going on and on – even though he turned out to be Peter Drucker.
If we want to use the mission statement as a strictly motivational/communications device, well and good. The problem is though, that it won’t have the desired effect of getting ‘buy-in’ from employees and other stakeholders if it’s transparently a piece of fluff. So there needs to be some process whereby the statement can be given some essentially bogus gravitas – like the retreat in which we pretend it’s all part of everyone’s planning the culture, the mission and the future of the organisation when it’s more like an advertising slogan – signifying nothing other than whatever little psychological hijinks it’s up to.
Here’s one authority that turned up in a Google search.
Google’s mission, for example, is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Google pursued this mission in its early days by developing a very popular Internet search engine. The firm continues to serve its mission through various strategic actions, including offering its Internet browser Google Chrome to the online community, providing free e-mail via its Gmail service, and making books available online for browsing.
Hang on a minute. This gets things completely arse about. I think it is possible that Google’s book project came from such aspirations to organise the world’s information (whether or not formalising this in ‘mission statement’ achieved anything). But Chrome and gmail? How does Google building its own open source browser to compete with Firefox or gmail to compete with hotmail and its epigones help with the mission? It doesn’t, except in so far that one could use the mission to justify building pretty much any IT asset and making it publicly available. So here’s a strong proponent of mission statements who proceeds to demonstrate his anti-thinking in full view.
[T]he mission statement is a crucially important part of strategic goal setting. It is the superordinate goal that stands the test of time and assists senior managers and indeed workers in navigating through periods of turbulence and change. It is described as “the stake in the ground that provides the anchor for strategic planning”.
Hang on, hang on. So an organisation is going through a “period of turbulence and change” and while its “senior managers” are seeking to figure out how to navigate it, they keep coming back to the mission statement that was constructed in a different time, and also in an environment in which it was assumed that an organisation has a singular mission expressible in a single, summary statement? And why exactly is this a sensible way to go about strategic thinking? To come back to the Google example above, there may have been a time when Google could (and so perhaps should) have expressed a singular overarching ‘mission’ as organising the world’s information” but that time has long gone. Google is a set of resources and competencies sitting in a whole range of markets. For instance relatively early in its life, it realised that it had developed resources in delivering the best search engine that gave it technical advantages over its competitors when it came to scaling servers. That meant it could make disruptive forays into web based email and other cloud served markets. It went aggressively after online email not because it related particularly directly to its ‘mission’ as expressed in its mission statement, but because, all things considered it was a strategic fit. Ditto all its big strategic decisions – like buying and developing Android (because Apple looked like it might run away with a critical market for delivering ads).
Many strategic-planning processes are far more focused on setting goals (with no tangible lever that management can control) rather than crafting choices and moves to meet those goals (levers firmly in the control of management). ↩
March 18, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Left Unity — This is the third of Ernie Tate’s letters to Left Unity detailing and analysing the struggles against Trump as they emerge on the other side of the pond. Ernie is a lifelong revolutionary who emigrated to Canada from Northern Ireland as a young man. He was one of the most important activists of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign in the 1960s and has recently produced a two volume memoir, “Revolutionary Activism of the 1950s and 1960s”.
A by-product of present toxic atmosphere in the United States against immigrants and refugees has been a sharp increase in this country in recent weeks in the number of asylum seekers walking across the Canadian border, often placing themselves and their families in harm’s way from our extremely harsh winter. It’s also a consequence it should be noted, of the military interventions by the American empire in the Arab and African world — now greatly destabilized because of it, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union. And like everywhere else, reactionary forces here are attempting to exploit it to stoke up anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment.
Dilar Dirik interviewed by George Souvlis, first published at Salvage
George Souvlis: By way of introduction, could you explain what personal experiences strongly influenced you, politically and academically?
Dilar Dirik: As a Kurd, you can never run from your identity, because your identity is essentially political and the level of your political consciousness acts as a self-defense as the only way to secure your survival and existence. That is why insistence on the free expression of your self-determined identity is portrayed as political controversy, nationalism, or terrorism by the capitalist-statist system.
March 17, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal / John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — One hundred years ago, on March 17 (4) 1917, the following appeal calling on Polish workers to support the Russian Revolution and fight for Polish independence was adopted at a rally of Polish socialist workers in Petrograd.
After the outbreak of World War One, the bulk of Poland (which had previously been ruled by the Tsarist government) came under German occupation. By 1917, roughly three million Poles – many of whom had been evacuated from Poland on the eve of the German invasion – found themselves under Tsarist rule. In response, Polish socialist parties began organizing the large groups of displaced Polish workers in industrial cities like Petrograd and Moscow.
Here is a link to a companion article to Treaty: Yeah, Nah, Maybe which I cross-posted here at Troppo from The Summit a week ago:
Another article published there a couple of days ago (The hidden karma of Aboriginal affairs policy …) is also relevant.
I am publishing them at The Summit partly because in a valiant if possibly futile attempt to have a positive effect on government in the Territory (or at least public discussion about it) after 4 years of deeply depressing rule by the Giles CLP government, and partly because previous experience suggests that most Troppo readers aren’t all that interested in Territory legal and constitutional issues. These links are for the discriminating few!
If you’re at all like me, you see and hear a bunch of people complaining that with the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency, the world has gone mad and anything could happen. The New York Times today published a column by a former assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, Jack Goldsmith, that should act as a tonic.
Goldsmith points out an important fact about the Trump presidency: The system appears to be working. The Trump presidency is just two months old, and already Trump’s seemingly remarkable connections to Vladimir Putin’s Russian government are being investigated by the FBI. And with attorney-general Jeff Sessions recusing himself, that investigation is being led by a respected career prosecutor who is now deputy attorney-general, Rod Rosenstein.
Meanwhile the Senate and House intelligence committees are both doing their own reviews, and Republican members of Congress like John McCain are needling Trump pretty sharply. You remember McCain. He’s the former presidential candidate and POW of whom Trump quote: “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
If you’re as cavalier as Trump seems to be, your deeds and statements catch up with you.
… While there is no doubt that partisan politics will inform what many in both congressional parties do in this matter, one should not overlook what is truly remarkable here: In the second month of a new presidency, several bodies in a Congress controlled by the president’s party are conducting high-profile, politically fraught and hard-to-control investigations that potentially implicate current and former administration officials and former campaign officials.
All of these actors and institutions are holding the Trump presidency to account. They are endeavoring to uncover the truth about the manifold Russian mysteries. And they can, if they see fit, take action with effects ranging from publicity and embarrassment to political damage with electoral consequences to criminal prosecution to impeachment if appropriate.
It’s true that the process of accountability is halting and frustratingly slow. But this is as it should be. The stakes could not be higher for our democracy …
I could be wrong (as I was about the chances of Trump winning) and a year from now this will all have gone away. But don’t dismiss the possibility that systems of checks and balances work.
By Davide Grasso
March 15, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from InfoAUT — When Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire on December 17, 2010 – few of us knew the dimensions of what was about to happen. North Africa and Southwest Asia were ticking time-bombs waiting to explode, waiting to manifest, sometimes rapidly, sometimes slowly, deep contradictions and new paths towards the future. Few among us were aware of how unprepared we were for these events and, initially, for developing a solid analysis of what was happening beyond the Mediterranean.
At the time, a friend told me: "These 'springs' have swept away the Salafis from the history of those countries denying that tendency to be the dominant one among the youth." The following events, up to the present ones, demonstrate how incomplete and one-sided this impression was. We were projecting our expectations on the events. We did not analyze the facts in all their complexity, for what they were, albeit in their ambivalence; we looked at them for what we wanted them to be.
March 14, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal / John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website —100 years ago today, on March 14 (1), 1917, the Social Democratic Interdistrict Committee (Mezhrayonka), supported by the Petersburg Committee of Socialist-Revolutionaries, issued the following appeal to soldiers.
At that time, the Duma Committee and the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies were striving to bring order into the revolutionary events on the streets and to prevent the tsarist autocracy from restoring its control over the city. Dominated by moderate socialists, the Soviet pursued a policy of cooperation with liberals in the Duma.
The appeal below presented a militant alternative to the Duma Committee’s course. According to Michael Melancon (2009), it circulated on March 14 (1), 1917, probably before Order No. 1 was issued, and may have influenced the wording of Order No. 1. Alexander Shlyapnikov, who published the leaflet in 1923, states that the Executive Committee of the Petersburg Soviet confiscated it on the morning of March 15 (2), 1917.
Selection, translation, and annotation by Barbara Allen.
Another in my series of ten year old photos: March 2007.
Smartbus advertising at Caulfield station. It was nice to see them promoting the frequent service, but there was only one problem: it wasn’t true. The Smartbus serving Caulfield (route 900) has never been better than every 15 minutes in peak. (And really, the frequency/radio thing is a bit lame.)
The Town Hall tram stop in Collins Street. Yes, even back then, the entrance ramp was a bottleneck at busy times. Note the canvas roller for the destination displays – these days they’re all LEDs.
Train bingo at Richmond – tracks to/from platforms 2, 3, 4 and 5 have trains. Back then, Richmond’s platforms and ramps were largely uncovered. More shelter was added in 2015.
Glenhuntly station, then my local for some days of the week. A Comeng train crosses while a Z3-class tram waits. Despite the current level crossing removal program, this hasn’t changed – trams still wait while trains crawl across.
Also Glenhuntly; a Comeng train on platform 2, while a Siemens train arrives on platform 1. The earlier Siemens liveries were pretty ugly, but the Connex version was quite pleasing to the eye, I thought.
The Railway Museum at Williamstown, from a visit that month. Who is, or was Bill Bragg? Presumably not related to Billy Bragg the singer. I don’t know – searching Google didn’t find any answers. Anybody know?
Something you never see anymore: the marker for a wheelchair to board a 3-car train. 3-car trains were the bane of evening and weekend travellers, resulting in horrible crowding at times. Nowadays they’re almost all 6-cars all the time.
Corporate strategy is a comparatively new field which, took off a decade or so after WWII. There were various technical disciplines maturing in WWII like operations research and some institutional development around that in universities like the Cowles Commission at the Uni of Chicago and defence related establishments like RAND.1 Herbert Simon, who later won a Nobel in Economics and is associated with the word ‘satisficing’ was also part of this adventure. Like the habitual, superstitious use of CGE modelling in policy analysis and advocacy today, these techniques were typically oversold and led to various disasters – perhaps best illustrated by the technocratic prosecution of the Vietnam War under Robert Mcnamara. But one can at least analytically separate this overreach from the idea that, if they’d been used with more intellectual humility the new tools had some value.
Following this period, strategy various entrepreneurs found ways of scaling the sale of consultancy services to firms to assist them develop strategy. I have my doubts about this stuff. I’ve never found it very persuasive and one of its distinguishing characteristics is its analytically looseness. But it isn’t snake oil – or isn’t inherently snake oil. SWOT analysis has always struck me as a very commonsensical heuristic or set of prompts to adopt if one is trying to think about the future of an organisation or part of it.
This matrix may not seem worth a lot to you. It doesn’t seem a lot to me, I have to admit. But it made the founders of Boston Consulting a shedload of money.
Not only was it easy to understand, but the quadrant could then be populated with data and then the consultant was selling more than a heuristic. They were selling their clients intel on where they fitted in the competitive landscape which could then be sold over and over again. The book Lords of Strategy documents who these entrepreneurs were and how they did it. Another one was Michael Porter at the Harvard Business School who developed a story about how competitive advantage develops. More recently Clayton Christensen did something similar – though more boutique. He set the template in the Innovators Dilemma and has since punched out Dilemmas like the Rank Organisation punched out Carry On movies.
Porter and Christensen market their thoughts as a ‘theory’ of how things happen which is then sold back to industry as new insight. In both their cases, the basic ideas are explained in a short and sweet Harvard Business Review article and then repeated at book length with an embarrassing amount of padding and repetition. Porter experimented with the thickness of the business book like the Russians experimented with the thickness of the novel.
Both Porter’s and Christiansen’s ‘theories’ engendered a small rump of academic quibbling about whether they are right or not. But that kind of misses the point. Neither ‘theory’ is expounded as a testable hypothesis or to the extent that people think it is, more fool them. 2, when during the course of updating that seminal piece in 2008, I asked him about the origins of the five forces framework. And so, he famously argued, in addition to the fierceness of price competition among industry rivals, the degree of competitiveness in an industry (that is, the degree to which players are free to set their own prices) depends on the bargaining power of buyers and of suppliers, as well as how threatening substitute products and new entrants are. When these forces are weak, as in software and soft drinks, many companies are profitable. When they are strong, as in the airline and hotel industries, almost no company earns an attractive return on investment. Strategy, it follows for Porter, is a matter of working out your company’s best position relative not just to pricing pressures from rivals but to all the forces in your competitive environment.
When you ‘test’ these hypotheses to the extent that they’re clear, they’ll turn out to be kind of true, but with lots of exceptions.] It’s a story which suggests an heuristic with strong normative implications about how competition can shape capabilities (Porter) or how dominant firms need to avoid the mistake of killing off ‘disruptive’ possibilities that, if the firm does not nurture them, will grow elsewhere and unseat their dominance. While these forays are much less coherently structured than the usual economics paper in many ways this pragmatic informality occasionally leaning on some formal heuristic is a sensible way to reason our way to conclusions about how we should act in practical situations, in business or policy. In many ways this is the way Krugman does economics today, and as I’ve argued previously, I think his economics in that style is much more useful than his more academically respectable work – which is surprisingly useless.3
My only objection to ‘strategy’ of the heuristic kind I’ve mentioned above is not the informality of its reasoning, but the lack of rigour, or perhaps I should say ‘care’ with which it is applied. It’s very often a collection of stories with little regard for obvious questions like how representative they are, or how much retelling the stories of existing firms might reflect simple randomness rather than any larger patterns in the world itself4 or survivorship bias.
And yet. And Yet. …
And yet beginning in the mid 70s and moving up the hype cycle for a good two decades after that, something else carried all before it in strategic planning within organisations. Here the emphasis isn’t on specific concepts. It’s not really on analysis at all, though no doubt its defenders would say that this was what emerges in the process. Yes, folks, this is the transformation by which virtually all organisations came to have a mission statement, which was often extended to a full suite of utterances with the addition of a vision statement.
But Troppo would not be Troppo if it didn’t leave its readers, literally gasping for air wondering how things would turn out in the next bodice ripping installment.
“Price competition can’t be all there is to it,” he explained to me [thus ignoring fifty years of economic analysis of imperfect competition, both theoretical as in the case of Chamberlain and Robinson and empirical as in the case of Berle and Means ↩
When Harry Fired Sally: The Double Standard in Punishing Misconduct, Mark L. Egan, Gregor Matvos, Amit Seru – #23242 (CF LS)
We examine gender discrimination in the financial advisory industry.
We study a less salient mechanism for discrimination, firm discipline
following missteps. There are substantial differences in the
punishment of misconduct across genders. Although both female and
male advisers are disciplined for misconduct, female advisers are
punished more severely. Following an incidence of misconduct, female
advisers are 20% more likely to lose their jobs, and 30% less likely
to find new jobs relative to male advisers. Females face harsher
punishment despite engaging in less costly misconduct and despite a
lower propensity towards repeat offenses. Evidence suggests that the
observed behavior is not driven by productivity differences across
advisers. Rather, we find supporting evidence for taste-based
discrimination. For females, a disproportionate share of misconduct
complaints is initiated by the firm, instead of customers or
regulators. Moreover, there is significant heterogeneity among
firms. Firms with a greater percentage of male executives/owners at
a given branch, tend to punish female advisers more severely
following misconduct, and also tend to hire fewer female advisers
with past record of misconduct.
Does the reliability of institutions affect public good contributions? Evidence from a laboratory experiment By: Jahnke, Björn ; Fochmann, Martin ; Wagener, Andreas
Reliable institutions – i.e., institutions that live up to the norms that agents expect them to keep – foment cooperative behavior. We experimentally confirm this hypothesis in a public goods game with a salient norm that cooperation was socially demanded and corruption ought not to occur. When nevertheless corruption attempts came up, groups that were told that “the system” had fended off the attempts made considerably higher contributions to the public good than groups that only learned that the attempt did not affect their payoffs or that were not at all exposed to corruption.
By Youngsu Won
March 12, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — On March 10, at 11:22 am, Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court Lee Jeingmi read the final sentence of the verdict, declaring that the court had unanimously decided to dismiss President Park Geun-hye. With that, following a 92-day trial, Park Geun-hye’s presidency was over.
Pro-impeachment protesters present at that time in front of the courthouse applauded the verdict, filled with a huge sense of joy and the feeling of a moment of emancipation. On the other side, desperate anti-impeachment protesters were deeply disappointed, resorting to verbal and physical assaults, causing the tragic and unnecessary deaths of some poor old people.
It was a historic moment, signifying a gigantic political victory for the millions of people who participated in the grassroots candlelight protests – South Korea’s indignados – and for those who led the 134 days of consecutive mobilisations that all together brought more than 15 million people onto the streets. Park now joins the list of presidents ousted in disgrace; her collapse has sent nostalgia for her father’s time in power (Park Chung-hee 1961-79) to the dustbin of history.
March 12, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal / John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — 100 years ago today, on March 12 (February 27) 1917, Socialists in Petrograd distributed the following appeal for an insurrectional general strike to bring down tsarism. That day, the culmination of the Russian February revolution, witnessed the crumbling of tsarist power.
By Dick Nichols
March 11, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — In the end the close result that participants and commentators alike were expecting never happened: at the second congress (“citizens’ assembly”) of the radical Spanish anti-austerity party Podemos, held in Madrid on February 11-12, the proposals and candidate list of outgoing general secretary Pablo Iglesias easily defeated those of outgoing political secretary Iñigo Errejón.
By Farooq Tariq
March 11, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — While this great son of the mountains is incarcerating in jail for raising voice for the rights of the people of GB and all working class people of Pakistan, the stooges of imperialist neo-colonial powers and some elements in the religious institutions and community organisations at the behest of the Establishment have once again launched a smear campaign against Baba Jan and his party.
I was listening to a recent episode of Big Ideas featuring Steven Oliver who gave a good account of himself I think. He also recited a poem which has gone viral on YouTube. You may have read it, heard it or heard of it. I liked the poem also. I also agree with the point he’s making that there are all manner of celebratory days in the Australian calendar and yet there’s none that celebrates the indigenous people of this continent.
Yet I was also somehow saddened. If this is the most important thing to Oliver and others prosecuting the cause, well and good. But I have to say it leaves me somehow disoriented. Can you think of any liberation movement worth its salt seeking as their central ask something so easily granted – and therefore so easily ignored in its spirit – as an annual commemorative holiday. I can’t really say I have anything to put in its place. But I can say that things are most assuredly not good in so many areas of aboriginal welfare. And yet the three biggest things I can think of in aboriginal political aspiration in the last decade or two are the Apology, the Recognise campaign to remove some junk DNA from our constitution and now the agitation over Australia/Invasion Day.
John Howard held fast to his immense lack of generosity in refusing to give an apology. But if it’s an apology you’re after it seems very odd to then campaign for one from someone who, if you manage to politically browbeat him into giving you one will make you feel cheated. It certainly won’t be an act of generosity which I thought was kind of the point of an apology. Then there was a fine apology from Kevin Rudd. And what did it count for? Perhaps people who know more about it can fill me in.
There was the ‘Closing the Gap’ process if I’ve got the propaganda name correct which was delivered in the same old way and which has no doubt improved a few things, but not many and not much. (There was also ‘reconciliation’ about which I recall agreeing with Germaine Greer that it was hard to know what it was. Who was being reconciled to whom? How? It was cranked up during the tenure of John Howard who pretty obviously didn’t give too much of a hoot for any of it. But it was easy enough for him to intone the word. The whole thing was like some ad campaign.)
Meanwhile as the Rudd Government announced it was closing the gap by the time it was well and truly out of office, the ‘intervention’ rolled on, if I recall correctly rebadged as something or other – ‘Unchain my Heart’ comes to mind, but that was the theme-song behind the WorkChoices ads, or perhaps it was the GST. Since then the biggest profile thing has been the Recognise campaign which completely mystifies me and seems to be running into the same sands the Republic ran into. The whole process is built on ambiguity. Activists use the ‘hook’ of the remaining sections of the constitution that were enacted with discriminatory intent but are not being, and are highly unlikely to ever be used in such a way. An agenda starts rolling to clean up the drafting, but though the ‘hook’ was minimalist, the activists now target more substantial action. But this doesn’t really make much sense. There’s no particular consensus on what should be done. I expect there would be disagreement between those of goodwill towards aboriginal people as to whether legal changes in the constitution would do much good if enacted and of course there’s a fair bit of non-good will around to help stymie stronger ambitions in any event.
The political motive force behind all this is what I call memefication. You see it’s non-indigenous people who have the power in Australia. It’s non-indigenous people who make the rules, run the businesses, staff the media etc etc. We’ve known about the abuses – the shocking abuses – for a long time. The information is there. It was there about the children long before the report that John Howard tried to turn into Tampa II (I presume that was his central motivation, but perhaps I’m being unfair). And then there was the graphic images of Don Dale Youth Detention Centre. All the problems were well documented – indeed better documented than the 4 Corners program – well before it went to air. But the power structures that be are untroubled by it all (imagine if they were the children of some respectable sub-class in Melbourne – red-heads for instance?). It’s only when that suffering becomes memefiable that anything happens. When you show a kid being tied up and put him in a spit hood that makes for uncomfortable viewing. Just as it does for cattle being shipped live to Indonesia. So we get into Something Must Be Done mode. And in each case, tellingly, it’s a white hero who enters the fray and directs the traffic with edicts being produced and promulgated within a matter of days!
Each of the ‘symbolic’ agendas I’m mentioned above tries to use the ‘hook’ of white guilt, of white wrong doing to memefiy the aboriginal cause. And in doing so subverts it. It is no longer about aboriginal issues – which after all don’t really command that much attention. Its tedious to be told over and over again about the nitty gritty of the disadvantage and dysfunction in aboriginal communities.
I can’t say I have anything particularly salutary to offer. Obviously I think we should be tackling the worst problems which are particularly in remote communities, and what I learned with The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) leads me to believe that it would be technically possible to make some serious inroads into those problems with intervention that really seriously put the people the intervention was trying to help at the centre of the process. But that’s a pipe dream. Firstly I could easily be wrong that it would work. It’s just a hunch of mine. Secondly the human centred design methods used by TACSI are a million miles from the way all the large government bureaucracies in the country work including, most depressingly agencies that have been trying to change for at least half a decade and who are led by what seem to me to be very competent and well motivated senior managers. Of course they all say they do it, but mostly just at the edges. We’re still a long way from scaling them anywhere in the country – and in my experience in the world.
As for the symbolic stuff, well I’m certainly fine with what our friend in the video calls for above. But as someone who would love to see his country rise to the occasion, rise to the potential that seemed to be there as Arthur Phillip refused to take his commission unless slavery was outlawed in Australia, who went to great lengths to try to deal with the locals but who, in the end, failed miserably I can’t say it gives me much enthusiasm.
Recently I got to have a look at proposed upgrades to the Comeng train fleet.
Comeng trains are named after the Comeng (“Commonwealth Engineering”) factory where they were built, with the carriages being brought into service between 1982 and 1989. The factory in Dandenong is now run by Bombardier, and in the grounds you can find a plaque from 1983 with the same logo you’ll still see on many of the trains.
Most of the trains are still in service, making them between 29 and 36 years old. Of the 570 built, there are still 555 Comeng carriages in service (92.5 x 6 car trains, though Vicsig has a lower figure), making them the most numerous in the Metro fleet, though they are about to be overtaken by X’trapolis trains in number.
Along the way they’ve undergone various upgrades:
The Rolling Stock Strategy released in May 2015 flagged another set of upgrades to keep Comeng trains going into next decade until they can be replaced by the new “High-Capacity Metro Trains” (HCMTs) to be introduced from 2018.
Specifically, the strategy flagged: $75 million for maintenance and refurbishment to extend the life of the current Comeng train fleet, with an expected phase-out from 2022-2025 — though of course it remains to be seen if this happens as quickly as that.
In the next few months we’ll start to see visible signs of this. The work is being done at the Craigieburn Train Maintenance Facility (TMF), which was opened in 2011 and is the “home depot” for the Comeng fleet.
This makes sense in the context of the Five group railway plan, which flagged that the overall train fleet would be semi-permanently dedicated to specific lines. The Comengs would run on the Northern (Upfield, Craigieburn, Sunbury) and Dandenong lines, obviously to be replaced by the HCMTs first on the Dandenong line, then the Sunbury line (when the two are connected via the metro rail tunnel from 2026) then presumably the others.
I was invited by Metro to have a look, and headed up to Craigieburn one Friday afternoon. It was surprisingly busy with people leaving the city, as well as school kids heading home.
I’ve been past Craigieburn numerous times, but the last time I stopped off was not quite ten years ago, for the opening of the new station and extension of suburban services. On that day, then-Premier John Brumby (pictured) and Transport Minister the late Lynne Kosky (I think she’s standing on the other side of Brumby) rode a train to the new station to officially open it. Brumby was whisked away by car, but Kosky, to her credit, stayed longer to answer questions and meet the public.
The new Train Maintenance Facility itself is impressively large, and is part of a larger complex of sidings north of Craigieburn station, and alongside the rail line north to Seymour, Shepparton and Albury.
After signing in, we took a look at the various changes they’re trying out.
This front cab design isn’t going to be used… it’s not very appealing, is it. Sounds like instead they’re likely to go for a stripe design with more blue.
What is changing is the marker lights (the small bulbs above the cab windows) will change to LEDs. The handlebars at the front, often used by train surfers,
will may be removed (in a future project) — apparently they used to be useful for drivers to do diagnosis on faults, but are rarely used for legitimate purposes now.
The interior prototypes have been reviewed by a number of stakeholders, and include a raft of tweaks.
Several designs of seat cushion are under consideration:
More visibly different “special needs” seats (you may recognise the pattern from the trams; apparently this is likely to become the standard PTV design):
Possible implementation in a future project: wheelchair spots at second door as well as the first, which may be useful where larger number of wheelchairs need to board on a single trip:
Extra hand straps, similar to those on the X’trapolis trains, and designed not to cause an issue when tall people bump into them!
Centre poles (except in the doorways for wheelchair boarding) like E-class trams:
Not shown on the day were that handles on the backs of seats will be made larger. This may make up for the problems they have installing hand holds along the carriage, away from the doors.
They are not removing the fifth seat of each row (as has been done with the X’trapolis trains), as this is technically difficult/expensive on the Comeng fleet. However they may remove a small number of seats at the ends of carriages.
It’s not illegal to move between carriages, but it is illegal to ride (eg stand) on the inter-carriage platform while the train is moving. This is relatively common, and is a favourite spot for nicotine addicts who just can’t bear to be on a train without a cigarette.
It’s less common for people to try and enter and exit the train this way — but it does happen.
Riding there or boarding is dangerous – it wouldn’t be hard to fall and slip underneath the train, especially if it’s moving. The carriages may bounce around, and you’re only held in by a some bars and a chain. Being outside the carriage structure, there’s also no protection in a collision.
On my trip up to Craigieburn, I’d noticed a few school kids had changed carriages via these doors, some while the train was moving.
Metro can’t just lock the doors – they may be needed in an emergency situation. So they’re looking at ways of enclosing the connection, as in the Siemens and X’trapolis trains. The two designs they’re trying out are similar to what’s found in those trains.
Bellows, similar to the Siemens fleet (but leaving the doors in place):
Similar to the X’trapolis design — this one has some teething problems as they’ve found a gap appears when the train goes around sharp corners.
These upgrades will start to appear in service from about the middle of this year.
I’m told that later changes next year will include an overhaul of the air-brake system and Passenger Information Displays as well as CCTV.
I still look fondly on the Comeng fleet – back in the day, when they were the only air-conditioned carriages, in hot weather it was a joy to see one approaching.
It’s good that there’s a plan to improve them to keep them in service a bit longer, since it will mean as the newer trains come into service, they can initially be focused on growing the size of the fleet to cope with patronage growth. It would make no sense to throw away good carriages for want of a little TLC.
Barring any out-of-left field plans to keep them running (one proposal was to use them on the Geelong line, hauled by diesel engines), eventually the Comeng fleet will be phased-out next decade, having done at least 40 years service.
Thanks to Metro Trains for inviting me.
Edit 11/3/2017: Minor changes to the text to correct some errors. Some of the proposals in the prototype unit are for evaluation for later projects, and are not being implemented across the fleet at this stage.
Cross-posted from The Summit.
It was surprising (at least to me) that there wasn’t more discussion at the NT Governance Summit surrounding the question of a possible treaty between Aboriginal Territorians and the Northern Territory Government. It seemed as if most of the current and former politicians and politically engaged Territorians in attendance regarded the subject as one from cloud cuckoo land, not a fit topic for serious political debate by mature adults.
It’s certainly true that until the last year or so the question of a treaty was one mostly discussed by lefties and dreamers. Prime Minister Bob Hawke raised it as a serious question in 1990 but dropped it like a hot potato when a couple of influential State Premiers objected strongly. Not long after the High Court’s Mabo decision was handed down and treaty talk just dropped off the public radar. The issue hasn’t surfaced again seriously until very recently.
Indeed as recently as 2015 in a speech strongly advocating a treaty, Natalie Cromb observed:
Whilst I advocate for treaty, I am not flippant in thinking that getting a treaty is going to be easy, because it is the least palatable option for governments as it holds them to a set of obligations that they ordinarily would not live up to.
Yet the current state of play is that the governments of both Victoria and South Australia are now negotiating seriously with their Indigenous citizens with a view to concluding a treaty, and new Northern Territory Labor Chief Minister Michael Gunner has announced that he likewise will be negotiating towards a treaty (or at least “listening”).
This article by Harry Hobbs puts the new state-based treaty movement in context.
It appears that the expressed concerns of many Indigenous people, that the proposed Recognition Referendum is at best a minimalist response to demands for proper recognition of Indigenous people and their rights, have led some more enlightened state governments to revisit the idea of a treaty. Prominent Indigenous legal academic Megan Davis recently observed:
The reinvigorated treaty movement underscores the contested nature of recognition and the rejection of minimalist recognition. In the most obvious example, the state of Victoria has become the first Crown entity since 1788 willing to enter into a treaty process with Aboriginal people. According to Emeritus Professor Cheryl Saunders, a world-renowned expert in constitutional reform and design, “the idea of a state-based treaty bubbling up from the grassroots” is a good one, in part because it “probably puts a bit of a break on the idea that national constitutional recognition can be purely symbolic”.
For Northern Territory Chief Minister Gunner the imperative to negotiate seriously towards a treaty (not just “listen”) is much more pressing than for the governments of Victoria or South Australia. Not only did Independent MLA Mark Yingiya Guyula campaign strongly on the treaty issue in defeating Labor’s Deputy Leader Lynn Walker for the Legislative Assembly seat of Nhulunbuy, as Gunner acknowledged in his treaty “listening” announcement. More importantly, the previous Henderson Labor government was voted out of office in 2012 almost wholly as a result of Aboriginal anger at what was widely seen as a betrayal of Indigenous rights and interests perpetrated by:
That anger hasn’t disappeared since 2012, it’s just that Aboriginal Territorians discovered like the rest of us that the Giles CLP government was even worse. Moreover, a succession of Aboriginal MLAs of both parties((Malandirri McCarthy, Marion Scrymgour, Alison Anderson, Larisa Lee and Francis Xavier Kurrupu)) have repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to cross the floor of Parliament or even leave their respective parties and sit on the crossbenches where they believe their party has failed to adequately protect Aboriginal rights and interests. That was the principal reason why the Giles government went from a comfortable parliamentary majority of 16 to a minority government of just 12 MLAs in the space of just three years.
If Michael Gunner is smart (and I think he is) he already realises that he will need to do much more than merely “listen” to Aboriginal aspirations for a treaty. As Natalie Cromb argues:
A fair go cannot be achieved without a Treaty.
A Treaty would be the basis upon which the sovereign Indigenous people of Australia and the Government could negotiate the terms of rights to land, minerals and resources and the self-governing of communities. It would be a binding agreement that would have sanctions to deter breaches of the terms of the treaty.
The events of the last decade have demonstrated to Aboriginal Territorians that they cannot rely on any political party or any level of government necessarily to protect their rights and interests. Only legally enforceable rights can achieve that. As Yothu Yindi memorably put it: “But promises can disappear, just like writing in the sand”. The song became something of an irritating earworm when it was a smash hit in 1990 and played on high rotation. But unlike most pop songs its lyrics are profound and worth reading and listening to afresh.
As you know, despite spending millions on marketing to get the word out, our arts industry, for easily understood commercial reasons, doesn’t effectively get the word out about whether their products are any good or not. So for the cost of an hour or so’s outsourced, offshored labour, Troppo steps into the breach. Perhaps we should go one step further and see if anyone wants to suggest some times they intend to go to movies and we can join each other there.
Benjamin Artz, Amanda H. Goodall, and Andrew J. Oswald, September 2016
Abstract: Women typically earn less than men. The reasons are not fully understood. Previous studies argue that this may be because (i) women ‘don’t ask’ and (ii) the reason they fail to ask is out of concern for the quality of their relationships at work. This account is difficult to assess with standard labor-economics data sets. Hence we examine direct survey evidence. Using matched employer-employee data from 2013-14, the paper finds that the women-don’t-ask account is incorrect. Once an hours-of-work variable is included in ‘asking’ equations, hypotheses (i) and (ii) can be rejected. Women do ask. However, women do not get.
I’ve not read the paper but Andrew Oswald is a fine scholar and won’t waste your time if you’re interested in the subject.
March 7, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Left Unity — One of the most important areas of work for socialists in Europe in the period of Trump will be to establish ongoing working political relationships with comrades in the US and Canada. To that end Left Unity will increase our coverage of politics across the pond. We will begin with a new ‘letter from North America’ courtesy of Ernie Tate. Ernie is a lifelong revolutionary who emigrated to Canada from Northern Ireland as a young man. In the 1960s working in Britain he was one of the most important activists of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign. He has recently produced a two volume memoir of that period, “Revolutionary Activism of the 1950s and 1960s”, published by Resistance Books. Now at the age of 82 and living in Toronto he is still active and an acute observer of the political scene. Ernie will send us his thoughts twice monthly. Below are the first two instalment written to Phil Hearse his longtime friend and comrade.
School Lunch Quality and Academic Performance, by Michael L. Anderson, Justin Gallagher, Elizabeth Ramirez Ritchie
Improving the nutritional content of public school meals is a topic
of intense policy interest. A main motivation is the health of
school children, and, in particular, the rising childhood obesity
rate. Medical and nutrition literature has long argued that a
healthy diet can have a second important impact: improved cognitive
function. In this paper, we test whether offering healthier lunches
affects student achievement as measured by test scores. Our sample
includes all California (CA) public schools over a five-year period.
We estimate difference-in-difference style regressions using
variation that takes advantage of frequent lunch vendor contract
turnover. Students at schools that contract with a healthy school
lunch vendor score higher on CA state achievement tests, with larger
test score increases for students who are eligible for reduced price
or free school lunches. We do not find any evidence that healthier
school lunches lead to a decrease in obesity rates.
March 6, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal / John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — One hundred years ago today, on or about March 6 (February 21), the Petrograd Mezhrayonka (Interdistrict Committee) distributed the following leaflet regarding International Women’s Day (IWD).
Although the origins of IWD were in the United States, German Social Democrat Clara Zetkin proposed in 1910 the annual celebration of the holiday on March 8 (February 23 in Russia). The holiday was first celebrated on this date in 1911 in Germany and several other European countries. Russia followed with a small demonstration in 1913, but IWD was overshadowed in Russia by May Day and the anniversary of Bloody Sunday (January 9, 1905).
In 1917, Russia’s various socialist groups failed to unite behind common slogans for International Women’s Day and therefore were unable to carry out a joint action. Without a printing press at the time, the Bolsheviks did not issue any leaflets for IWD.
My latest column for The CEO Magazine extends my updated Troppo post on decentralisation. As I dug further into the issue for this column, I was startled by the extent to which governments have not just paid lip-service to decentralisation, but have made it policy and started to direct additional resources towards pushing people out of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.
Many types of decentralisation seem to me to be bad policy. But even if they turn out not to be, it would be useful to know why we’re doing this.
Thanks to Nick Gruen for pointing me to the developing screw-up that is APVMA’s move from Canberra to Armidale.