Sunday, August 23, 2015

ALP and union movement under pressure

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The Bolt Report in this episode explores the type of conduct we have come to expect from unions.
I have some sympathy for the plight of Australian workers. The reality however is that unions don't. Unions have never truly represented workers. You can of course stick a label on anyone and say they are "representatives". That however is not in itself a value proposition. Where the unions fell foul of their worker-members was by:
1. Resorting to extortion to win better conditions for workers. They lost that power when companies simply decided to shift manufacturing capacity to Asia from the late 1980s. The implication is that the unions took the easy steps to extort money, estranging workers from bosses as custodians of their interests. But unions never stepped up and offer anything other than a 'near criminal' sanction for stop work actions
2. Attempting to jocky for influence and kickbacks between workers and contracted businesses. I.e. they attempted to force union membership as a condition for being contracted, effectively enforcing blackbans against anyone that did not comply with their demands. By so doing the unions effectively profited from worker fees.

It is interesting how the Greens have always distanced themselves from such conduct; but never so much not to profit from that relationship. It makes you wonder - who are the conservatives?

Now if unions actually cared about workers, the unions would have negotiated to ensure training so they were better prepared for job losses. They wouldn't have taken steps to obstruct productive work practices.

The reality is that unions and representatives of labour have used "tragic" rhetoric to discredit capitalists, and it is fair to say that some bosses did not treat workers well, particularly in  the old days, but the culture perpetuated by unions and their representatives has done nothing to aid that.

One of the reasons for the absence of justice in the workplace arena, and hence the intractable use of extortion to achieve desired outcome, was this culture of narrow vested interests of representatives.

It becomes more shameful when you recognise the cause of low wages. Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, unskilled workers have seen their wages stagnate in real terms. The unions lost their capacity to extort wage gains. The lost that capacity because capitalists had the option of shifting their factories to Asia to avail of cheaper labour. Not exploitation. Such jobs are welcome in Asia. The wages are far better than their parents ever had. Basically the first wage of a call centre agent is on par with a mature worker at around $400/mth.
These low wages could be considered as "exploitation". The reality however is that such wage levels are ultimately stimulus ensuring that:
1. Cashless, under-utilised workers are employed first in the greatest numbers because they are employed at the greatest benefit and lowest cost. I. E.  Working getting low wages in a low-cost developing nation are better positioned to support more people with jobs in a competition with robots.
2. Businesses are rewarded for building more manufacturing capacity requiring more workers. Economies of scale means worker costs and productivity are improved, eventually allowing for higher wage demands.
3. Consumers are rewarded with low cost products. The "long boom" for the last 25yrs have resulted in the uptake of unskilled workers at unprecedented levels because of low wages ensuring low wages. We have all benefited from a litany of electronic devices.

The implication is that, as Bill Gates alluded to, capitalism has contributed to the raising of hundreds of millions of people out of poverty over the last 2 decades. The unions of course, or their representatives, would never acknowledge these facts.

Andrew Hastie - old school standards

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Andrew Hastie is presented as a man of integrity who will get the job done, as the representative for the Canning electorate in WA.  The problem with Hastie is that "Special Forces" qualifications don't really pass as qualifiers for political life,  and living in some barracks in his electorate is not preparation for public life. It's a narrow government life experience, akin to school, followed by another school experience. There is little appreciation of economics, finance, accounting or anything outside of defence. Maybe he can be Minister of Defence in a liberal cabinet? Can he represent his electorate. Of course he can. The issue is whether he has the values to judge them,  and serve them fairly in his role. In this respect Hastie is destined to be 's carbon-copy failure like Abbott.
It is sad day when the electorate is becoming a conflation of liberal and democrat, and the liberal party is becoming more arrogantly anti-intellectual. They are not just conservative; they are trending the boundaries of fascism.
The Labor Party is full of chimps, however there is something disconcerting about a Liberal Party appointing a lot of Christian self-righteous puritans, with no life experience, who profess the calibre to tell Australians how it is.  It's disconcerting because whilst their rhetoric speaks of individualism, rights, aspiration and integrity; their policy prescriptions are completely on par with Labor. Like Labor, their members are professional politicians and bureaucrats like "tin soldiers" with no life experience. No skills that prepare him for the assaults on his integrity. I'll happily demonstrate as much if Abbott or Hastie ever chat with me on Facebook.
These fakers will defend their past legacy; they are not custodians of our future. The religious right in Australia are going to destroy Australia, just as they did the United States. Abbott is not even Reagan; but you can be sure he will spend on infrastructure like there is no tomorrow. That is not a bad thing, however like Menzies, there will be no other progress. It will be hapless "privileged" self-righteous leadership cowering to old values with no intellectual engagement. For those who don't fit the model, their will be repressive alienation; all for the sake of preserving the interests of liberal party sponsors.
The only defense from such a development will be a switch to the libertarian parties, namely Rand Paul in the USA and the Liberal Democrats in Australia. The ACT Party in NZ more closely approximates a 'right' conservative party. Mere appeasers to old values whilst they offer a respite to the centrist National Party.

There are several defences from such poor government;
1. Anarchocapitalism - denying these authoritarian governments a monopoly in their arbitrary use of force. That is to say no government can be trusted in the basis of the existing political structure.
2. More Liberal Democratic Party in the Senate
3. Not giving the Labor Party a chance because of the union-extortionists they are. 

I cannot see Hastie being anything other than a lackie for an Abbott coalition. The by-election  is a referendum on Tony Abbott. Hastie is his boy.  What we need is politicians who don't just talk about integrity, but who break the political whip, and actually display it because integrity means more to them than their political futures.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Scottish independence - The values for change

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Scotland is taking the fateful step towards independence. The question is – should it? I’m an Australian critical analyst who has taken upon answering the questions which people in this fledgling nation cannot. They cannot for any of a number of reasons – namely:
1. Empiricism – that is an undeveloped capacity to appraise abstract ‘analytical’ arguments
2. Bias arising from a misplaced sense of identity
3. Presumptuous ideas about the issue, i.e. Knowing something about politics, but not about economics, and other pertinent subjects
4. Foresight – Not knowing the future outlook

Of course, it is not a question of possessing perfect wisdom, but simply making the best possible decision within one’s means. To this end, I’m simply providing a ‘heads-up’, with the qualification, that I’m not perfect either. In any respect, perfection is not an option open to any of us, since our political system is so disempowering it is impossible for any of us to reach it. Therein lies the illusion of this campaign; the idea that things will be better if we simply reject the British. These exponents of independence however will be functioning on the same fundamental premises as their predecessors. There is one solid reason why they will be doing that – the voter would be apprehensive if confronted by the reality of change and justice, and there is no hope in comforting millions of people, so the ‘new system’ is destined to only achieve some fraction of ‘the optimal’. The question is whether that ‘fractional change’ is worth the effort, or is Scotland destined to fall prey to the same mistakes as Britain. Some people like to gamble. I like ‘proven paths’ supported by evidence because there is actually no need to take unqualified risks. We have a mind; we need to use it. The schedule is now overtaking the events. People are destined to be engaged in the 11th hour. The ‘no team’ has only now just got serious about the campaign. That is a measure of their disrespect; but what of the implied ‘respect’ of Alex Salmond and his team. Well, Salmond has offered very little detail about the trail he is blazing for Scotland. Is that a measure of his regard for Scottish voters? It’s hard to say. He might well be avoiding controversy because:

  1. He is just a custodian of the people’s interests, so he’s open to ideas
  2. He just appreciates that the opposition are destined to use anything he says to create fear. i.e. Might the devil be in the detail, or the absence of it? That ultimately depends on the balance in any debate.

So let us consider the problems for Scottish secession that I have raised above.


Empiricism is a philosophical perspective that compels the observer to find comfort in evidentiary sources of knowledge. It is a perspective that holds ideas or concepts as suspicious or deceptive, whilst experience is ‘grounded’ and tangible. The reality is that people who are explicit or implicit exponents of ‘experience’ at the expense of ideas are simply not well-equipped to think. The problem is not that analytical thinking is a source of uncertainty; the problem is that they never employed the methodology to the point of achieving any comfort in it, or any sense of efficacy from employing it. By implication, it became a tool that they felt compelled to deride, not because they found a better tool, but because:
  1. Their relativist standards precluded them from caring whether they were ‘analytically’ efficacious
  2. Their subjective perspective allowed them to simply find another tool, i.e. empiricism, which gave them comfort
  3. They were able to join a ‘school of thought’ that gave them the validation to persist with the method, and the compartmentalisation to avoid scrutiny.
The fact of the matter is that sound thinking depends upon both rational ‘analytical’ and experiential (‘empirical’) engagement. The reality is that people are prone to ‘flip’ from analytical to empirical thinking, but struggle to engage both skills at the same time. One might wonder why I have not identified rationalism as a problem. The reason is that rationalism is largely confined to Continental Europe, with schools like the Austrian School and praxeology. These schools are significant, but they are not influential in politics. The empiricists reign supreme, largely because of their propensity to:
  1. Proven success. Empiricists have been able to draw credibility from successful application in the ‘basic’ physical sciences, i.e. People simply took a leap of faith that they could apply seemingly ‘non-analytically’ methods to the human sciences. They do ‘conditionally’, but derision for analytical thinking gave the empiricists an ‘easy path’. The problem is that the human sciences entertain far more complex problems and there is less scope to experiment with humans in ‘closed systems’. This meant they could not ignore the broader context, so instead they derided ideas or our ability to know anything, i.e. scepticism. 
  2. The tangibility of empiricism. Empiricism is more tangible, since you can refer to data, and larger data sets have even greater appeal. What seems lost on people is that it requires an ‘analytical’ frame of reference, or a methodology, however that is just a rationalisation to comfort people. People are only really interested in ‘results’, and methodology is gives scant consideration. Most research is peer-reviewed by empiricists, and controversial research goes untested. It is a leap of faith in the methodology of testing research and the results of research. 
  3. Derision for ideology. The empiricists have been very successful in deriding ideology. There is a good reason why this is so; “everyone appreciates the self-evident”, whether it’s the candy bar, the tax concession, the cash back. The point of these ‘tangible’ values is that people get them, and don’t appreciate the long-range, the conceptual, or the unidentified benefit that does not take a form they can immediately perceive. Practical extortionists have therefore reigned supreme in politics, journalism, business and other modes of engagement. They didn’t have to account for their methods, as long as they had practical outcomes that trumped all but the largest ‘inconvenient, obstinate ‘extortive’ oppositions, like the union movement and Greens. This didn’t make these oppositions right; it just made them an obstacle to prevailing powerful interest groups. Practical people then had to suppress any respect for ideas that contradicted their practices, so they needed an intellectual framework for attacking ideas’. i.e. Empiricism.
  4. Appeal to authority. There is an expectation that results sanctioned by some body is a sufficient measure of its validity. In a world of competent practitioners of scientific method, you would hope for that, but we should have no such comfort. The irony is that they call their method ‘the scientific method’. The reality is that it’s a political sanction for ‘appeal to authority’ or ‘faith in non-analytical scientific method’. This of course serves exponents of the status quo (conservatives) and modern liberalism (‘liberals’). Interesting, for practical reasons, these counterparts hold sway over different public policy areas. Conservatives hold sway with economic interests, so classical liberal ideas dressed up as utilitarianism prevail, whilst liberals have been able to win over social policy with their popularity among the unions, churches, welfare lobbies and even conservative sympathisers. Both sides of politics therein stand opposed to analytical thinking because its ‘ideological’ and it’s derided as such because they can’t use it; but it can powerfully be used against them unless they can construct oppressive political agencies to curtail it. The reason analytical thinking is so distrusted is because even ‘specialist’ rationalists cannot make sense of the world. They are not generalists, or even if they are, too few of them are raised in a world offering sufficient ‘detachment’ from tragic ‘experience’ that they are destined to be shaped by it. Of course there can be a contrary explanation for those experiences, however finding such an explanation before analytically-minded people have had a chance to elucidate a ‘world view’ is a challenge, and then to expect any validation thereafter, is a challenge that most idealists won’t make.  
For these reasons there is an undeveloped capacity within ‘specialists’ to appraise abstract ‘analytical’ arguments. 

Various forms of bias

There are a number of forms of bias that makes people prone to poor decisions. These include:
  1. Material bias that lend support to poor decisions. i.e. If you were a banker which was destined to lose their job, or vulnerable to adverse outcomes because of your position, then you might be compelled to make a decision that serves your short-range interests rather than your long-range interests. This can be extended to a material loss because your judgement was wrong, and you attempt to avoid acknowledging that by denial. 
  2. Abstract bias arises where people are compelled to accept outcomes that avoid their sense of intellectual ambivalence or the necessity for them to learn, or change their position. The bias arises, not from material consequences, but moral apprehensions about a person’s capacity to solve a problem, whether themselves, or to convince others of the plausibility of the solution identified.
In either case it’s an attempt to avoid bad consequences or avoid ‘hard effort’ where one clearly has no sense of efficacy, and where such efficacy is not considered ‘practical’ under the contemporary political system. Efficacy is a source of motivation because it’s a source of validation, whether pride and reward. You can see that in our extortion-based political system that rationality does not get much validation simply because most people don’t or can’t (with confidence) engage in logical debates, and because rationality is not the standard of value. Such people are invalidated, whilst the unthinking are vulnerable to false arguments by political representatives who would manipulate them. Efficacy is instead depicted as a ‘social skill’, so rewards are bestowed upon one on the basis of one’s capacity to get along and placate others. Egoists are considered mentally ill or deficient under this scenario. It’s a straw argument that collectivists and statists are not accountable for. They care deride people readily with impunity because there are so many more of them.

Presumptuous ideas 

We have already described the problem of people ‘knowing a little bit of something’, therein thinking they are capable of engaging in any related endeavour. The problem with knowing a lot, but not everything, is that the thing you don’t know might be the ‘differentiating idea’ that makes the difference in how you think. There are basically two sources of presumption in society:

  1. Entrenched ideas – Traditional ideas or values which were not questioned. There are a lot of these, and there are powerful institutions in the world dedicated to preserving these ideas. They are called ‘schools of thought’, but really they function more as ‘barriers to thought’ since they validate everyone entombed within, granting them the discretion, but not the compunction to engage with the outside world. Consider the power and influence of the churches. These institutions are still shaping the way kids are raised. Most adults think that their child should have a religious instruction to ensure they get ‘ethics’. For an atheist like myself, this is corruption from the first gasp of air. The church however is merely the first step towards a multiple of false dichotomies across the political spectrum.
  2. Specialist ideas – I’ve already alluded to the folly of people who know a little, and who have come to accept as a ‘leap of faith’ the ideas of others. Clearly they don’t know enough to critically appraise those ideas. These are related problems because if something is not critically appraised it’s because it’s not so ‘superficial’ that it’s being popularly questioned, or because the critique is not so controversial or ‘popular’ that people are open to entertaining it. People still consider the popularity of an issue the measure of its value. When you are raised with a special skill you inadvertently accept peripheral knowledge upon which that idea depends. We have been doing that since birth, and most people don’t question those ideas; even seasoned philosophers and scientists. This is a source of presumption that is difficult for most people to overcome because most people are ‘practical people’ who don’t like to undermine their practicality in terms of their presupposed identity, values and purpose. Of course we are open to some change, but not change that would change our identity or loyalties. 

Perhaps the greatest threat or obstacle to intellectual reform or enlightenment are the entrenched values underpinning the humanities. The reason why these values are so entrenched is because the humanities is a deeper or more complex subject that the physical sciences. The struggles in the physical sciences arise not from the complexity of the variables so much as the absence of data. We are remote from data; whether data which depicts the furthest reaches of the universe, the depths of the lithosphere or the depths of the ocean. 
In the case of the humanities, we are clueless, not because of our inaccessibility to humans, but rather the multitude of variables that shape their lives, and their dispensation to dishonestly or defensively to avoid moral judgement or condemnation. This is understandable. If it becomes hard to understand people, then it becomes easy to judge them unfairly out of context. In political systems which treat us unfairly, we readily spurn those judgements which inadvertently make us feel vulnerable. Politics deals with issues that remain intractable after 200 years. We are still no closer to reconciling the issues of Adam Smith and Karl Marx. Not because there is no evidence, but because some people are permitted the luxury of circumventing evidence for something more pressing – the right to extort influence over others. Yes, we are talking about representative democracy and the state’s power to coerce and tax. 
It helps politicians no end that the field of economics is equally open to question, because it is also complex and controversial. Again, people are divided into ‘schools of thought’ and are barely pressed to reconcile their ideas. Their political exponents are far better off by not performing any reconciliations, for they would surely surrender their bargaining position. There is no ‘position’ in settlement, only in the intractable problem. 
For this reason, the most ‘practical’ field of science or pseudo-science is surely the ‘behaviourist’ school of sociology, which studies the advanced nature of humans with proclivities towards certain tribal groups. This field of ‘pseudoscience’ is certainly validated by a political system which gives a sanction to ‘extorted’ tribal or collective values, and it is indeed interesting how even the concept of ‘individualism’ can be corrupted or twisted to recognise the ‘specificity’ or uniqueness of minorities, but never the smallest minority – the individual, on the premise that anything spurned or affirmed for others is morally ‘good’ an anything wanted for oneself is necessarily bad. i.e. The ego is spurned as a ‘corrupting influence’. The problem here is their psychological values, or their poorly developed conception of humanity, or human motivation. This is of course part of the presumptive, tragic context in which they ‘frame their science’. The tragic and sceptical world-view clearly reinforces the idea of the tribe being the standard of the good. The human conscious cannot be trusted, so any mind becomes a foundation for deceit or ‘greed’. This is the type of thinking that spurns human achievement in any person. Any good is only affirmed as a ‘collective achievement’. There is no room for personal glorification, and it doesn’t serve society to falsely affirm one’s personal responsibility when it was indeed a ‘collective contribution’, but neither does it serve anyone not to acknowledge the discrete contribution of individuals, and to so differentiate those contributions as a basis for validation or justice. 

We can therefore see that presumption is a serious problem in society, and we can also acknowledge the origin of the problem. There is two forms of ‘the good’. There is ‘the good’ as defined by science that recognises within humanity certain capacities to achieve value, just as all species of life seek to achieve some value from bacteria to the primates. There is also the personal, specific context in which every living thing acts or exists, including humans, and we ought to respect the importance of each human by acknowledging the importance of their values to them. When we seek to collectivise values, when we enshrine a code that forces people to seek or support (through taxation) collective ‘social values’, we are saying that the good is a distortion or a repudiation of self. This is a betrayal of self that cannot be permitted because it ultimately undermines human freedom. The depravity of this system becomes even more serious when you look at the political system of representative democracy, because this system proselytises this system as ‘virtuous’, when in fact, it disempowers humans from their values, goals and ultimately an objective notion of ‘the good’. It betrays them by doing so, but also by seeking some bureaucratic conception of ‘the good’ from an array of ‘expert’ public servants with scarcely any life experience, and raises their views upon a pedestal. So you can expect a government to defer to a litany of ‘authority figures’ in government who are sought to be express their views on ‘your good’. i.e. Oil executives, bankers, fund managers saying this will cost money, but it’s your money, and its being spent divorced from your values, and you are expected as a matter of faith, to expect that your interests will be served eventually. 

This is the type of thinking of course that leaves decision-making estranged from you, or Scottish voters. In the context of Scotland, the bankers are not interested in the long range interests of Scottish people. They are concerned with their short term interest as banking executives. They are interested in curtailing the bank’s expense and inconvenience. Most of them are expressing ‘exaggerated claims’ as to the impact of independence to achieve their ends. Nothing could be more disingenuous. In most cases, the impact will depend on how Britain and Scotland conduct themselves; and the answer to that question will not be known until after the referendum. Their Scottish assets could be veritable prizes after the referendum.

One of the entrenched values that can serve as a source of presumption is an entrenched sense of identity. We are born in a certain context or ‘environment’, and that environment embodies a package of experiences, people, values and institutional provisions that define the nature as human beings and of course the sameness of those around us, as well as the specific context which allows for differences as well. Humanity has for a long time been a growth proposition, which is accompanied by change. Such change ultimately threatens our values. Clearly we are accustomed to some measure of change and difference between us, but we have entrenched ideas about what is open to change, and what is not, in accordance with our values.


One of the travesties of the public education system is that it has encouraged everyone to become specialists. Those people who become “generalists” like me are a betrayal of the system because “specialists” don’t appreciate the value of ‘informal’ education. Moreover they don’t welcome being reproached by ‘un-credentialed’ persons who challenge their values. They think ‘all good comes from government’ because they have come to view all standards as coming from government. Society is a complex system that demands understanding not simply one subject or ‘specialisation’, but a large number. There are two problems:
  1. The “specialist” draws a great deal of confidence from the fact that they have ‘high degrees’, but those high degrees and any resulting analysis was based on ‘assumptions’ drawn from other fields. It is a problem because they are not destined to identify the nature of any contradictory values, nor seek to explain them, after all it’s not their ‘expertise’. They instead seek out ‘like-minded’ specialists with a compatible ‘world view’, and incorporate their research into their findings, happily citing the compatible evidence, and selectively and ‘conservatively’ ignoring the incompatible or irreconcilable research or findings.
  2. There are no implications for a researcher ‘getting it wrong’. It’s not their money; they are not going to get fired unless they breach ‘common practice’, and these are the values that define their ‘identity’ resulting in a culture where everyone is systematically ‘in error’. This is a systemic failure of state-sanctioned education, where government standards have been imposed upon all education institutions, and everyone has been raised under the same model.
This is of course simply the institutional failure that is underpin by a epistemic and ethical value system that betrays the individual. The egoist is tolerated as a ‘rogue’ contributor, who is never validated because their values are considered to be a repudiation of the collectivist values of others. Rather than acknowledging the contribution these egoists have to make, these people are ‘invalidated’ and even ‘spurned’ as a cancer upon society. They don’t get the recognition or empathy they deserve, not because they don’t deserve it, but because they don’t need it. They are healthy despite their persecution as ‘greedy egoists’. But this is not the nature of every conflict. In the case of Scotland, we have one collective group seeking to differentiate itself from another collective group. Each attempts to extort some influence over another. The British parliament wants to hold the Scottish people to ransom, and Scottish politicians bemoan Scottish marginalisation, so they can do to the Scottish people what British politicians did to everyone in centuries past. They aren’t a repudiation of the British system, they are building a new franchise under it, and posing it as a solution to the system of old. If they want to disavow the past, they should take some time to disparage the old and formulate the system which would give people confidence in the ‘new’. 

This attempt at secession for Scotland lacks any respect for those people whom they profess to be custodians for. There is nothing compellingly new to justify secession. It rests not on love of certain values, but derision for contemporary custodians without standards. It leaves people accepting one group on faith simply because they are ‘not the same faces’ as before.  

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Monday, September 15, 2014

The destabilisation of the Western security alliance - how Kim Dotcom challenged Western security agencies and the TPPA

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Today was a big day in global politics, most particularly for two countries:
1. New Zealand - which faces an election in 5 days (20th Sept 2014)
2. Scotland - which faces a secession referendum in 3 days (18th Sept 2014)

The events arose because of a telecast by three men in effective political exile - Julian Assange (stuck in an Ecuadorian embassy for 2 years, fighting extradition to Sweden, who are obliged to send him to the US), Edward Snowden (holding effective asylum in Russia) and Kim Dotcom (a NZ resident who is fighting extradition proceedings) to the United States. They stood tonight together along with Glenn Greenwald, the Canadian journalist who published on the mass surveillance scandal in the USA, Dotcom's international lawyer Bob Amsterdam, Laila Harre (NZ Internet Party) and lastly Kim Dotcom. Harre is a former NZ Labour MP, who has joined Kim Dotcom to restore her political career by helping Kim Dotcom create a 'scandal'. Well, they achieved what they intended to do. They did several things:
1. They shone a light on the travesty which is global intelligence gathering
2. They no-doubt elevated apprehensions about the TPPA and the lack of consultation that is allowing governments to 'manage' global trade in ways that aid privileged interests, as opposed to 'free trade'. We are instead getting 'managed unfair trade'.
3. They were able to depict NZ PM John Key as a liar.

Having watched the entire event, there is good reason for John Key to worry. The reasons he will need to worry is because:
1. The TPPA is a source of uncertainty that will make the Conservative Party, and possibly even Winston Peter's NZ First more popular.
2. His credibility has taken a hit. The good news is that most NZ'ers are equally circumspect about Kim Dotcom and anyone who associates with him. Many NZ'ers are uncertain about the events that transpired, but are unlikely to think that the breaches of privacy laws are going to hurt them. i.e. People just don't see innocent people being placed in prison because the NZ government gathers intelligence. This might be the 'end result' in years to come, but they are just as worried about not voting him in, and giving power to a left alliance.
3. Many people are going to preserve their belief that Labour-Greens-Internet-Mana Parties have staged this event to 'cause an upset'. They staged this event just before an election. This is destined to be viewed as irresponsible and opportunistic, as if people would not already be thinking that Kim Dotcom did not have an agenda by staging the event, i.e. He wants to avoid extradition.

The revelations are not overtly new, however they do appear to show that John Key lied, or downplayed the significance of NZ surveillance. I don't really think NZ'er conservative voters and fellow pragmatists are going to be too worried about the live telecast. I think most have made up their minds, and they are going to think that:
1. John Key is lying to protect 'privileged information' as all the leaders have done before Key
2. If Labour is full of integrity, then let Helen Clark step forward and defend John Key or allow herself to be buried with him.

What is interesting about the event is that it really avoids the question that it was designed to raise - why people shouldn't vote for John Key. Of course, by association, people are supposed to wrote for the Internet-Mana Party, and their cohort of candidates, most of them anti-intellectual leftists. What was lost from this presentation was that:
1. Edward Snowden depicted himself as a libertarian in the traditions of John Locke. He spoke of natural rights inherent in human nature. He did not describe social rights bestowed by govts. For this reason his values belong to the ACT Party.
2. Julian Assange did not express any loyalty to Kim Dotcom, but he clearly shares a platform with him because they are both the subject of attempts at extradition. Assange is also a libertarian of sorts, but more confused than Snowden. There is no question he believes in accountable government, and may well gravitate to the ACT Party or the Internet-Mana Party.

The fact is that, given the controversy over John Key this week, and the perception that all of his 'conservative' pragmatic mates are 'in bed with Key', its possible that there could be a destabilising event in the National Party. These voters are unlikely to go to Labour. Some will go to the Greens, a lot will go to Colin Craig's Conservative Party (on issues of land ownership and TPPA) and NZ First (blatant nationalists). The Internet-Mana Party is simply a conduit for Kim Dotcom's vested interests. His candidates, other than Laila Harre are unlikely to poll well, and people won't want proxies for Kim Dotcom in government.

The fact is that the natural custodian of people's apprehensions in this issue are Dr Jamie Whyte and the ACT Party. ACT might agree to some extent with the National Party, and seek fiscal discipline, on the question of personal rights and law, the ACT Party stands closest to Edward Snowden. Jamie is a classical liberal, and is the embodiment of Edward Snowden's values. Julian Assange is more ambiguous, but he could go either way. Snowden even joked about the manner in which Assange had released a lot of information, so there could be an intellectual divide there.

The point is that:
1. Jamie Whyte of the ACT Party has the opportunity to seize the initiatie and not simply win a greater share of the party vote, he could actually be the only plausible leader in a minority coalition. You might wonder how that would be possible, but given the context, its possible he is the only plausible 'personality'. More likely however is Bill English. Business are far more enamoured with Bill English. In a recent CEO survey he polled 4.8/5.0, compared to 4.23 for John Key. Jamie was not even considered. Still, this is Jamie's opportunity to shine. Will he seize the initative?
2. John Key is probably going to resign after the election. On the one level, you might expect that he would welcome the opportunity to engage in positive policy with people, but I suspect he is over all the controversy that been dragged up of late. So Bill English would be the new leader.
3. Alex Salmond could plausibly seize upon this issue as just one more reason to shirk an association with Britain, given that Britain is one of the members of the Five Eyes Surveillance Program along with Canada, Australia, NZ and the United States. Salmond is howevera pragmatist like Key, so if there was any attempt to use the issue, you could be sure it would only be on the basis of a 'technicality'.

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Sunday, June 01, 2014

The cost of human decency - its not a line to draw

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It strikes one as an expensive indulgence in international diplomacy when your government is committing to the identification of a missing plane in your region. Notwithstanding the opportunity to map the sea floor, there is every reason to believe that the Tony Abbott government is paying a high price to avoid a moral censure for not doing enough to secure the 'certainty' of some lost 290 passengers (mostly Chinese) on a KL-Shanghai flight. The problem of course is that its not Tony Abbott's money, but he has everything to lose by not spending public funds. Rest assured that he will accept, as will most people, that there is no limit to the cost burden. Of course there is 'a limit', but it will never be so stated. Instead, there will be some acceptance that 'everything has been done'. Of course it hasn't. Not every stone has been turned, and of course it never it. So what did we buy besides a map of a slice of sea floor that no one will ever use? Well, China loves us now, whereas before they only loved our cuddly koalas.
The problem of course is that emotions carry a great deal of sentiment in national politics. Everyone, barring his wife, consider Tony Abbott a heartless bastard. So we just paid an expensive price to prove otherwise. The reality is that politically, there is probably little gained from such endeavours. There is no evidence to suggest it was a mechanical failure that sank flight MH370 . The implication is that Australia paid a premium to relieve a few hundred grieving families who will probably not leave China bound for a holiday in Australia. Of course other Chinese will, and they will come with a high regard for Australia, and its loving PM.
This is not a new situation, and its not just about pleasing the Chinese. In fact, if anyone needs pleasing, it should be us. China has an international reputation as 'rogue thug' predisposed to pressing every and any unilateral advantage to extort concessions around the world, whether its commodity prices (i.e. issues with Rio Tinto), sea boundaries in the South China Sea (in conflict with Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Vietnam) or its opportunistic gas price contracting with Russia. So why are we attempting to please them? Are we scared of them? Might it be construed as wasting precious resources to placate the bully that China is? I suggest that China has exhausted its right to any concessions, and rather than paying the price tag, Australia should simply be saying 'sorry, its not worth it'.
Do we need to care whether China loves or hates us? The answer is 'No' simply because China doesn't care whether we love it or not. I'm willing to convey instead that China needs the West, or even just Australia more than we need them. They need our markets and they need the resources we supply to them. It could well be argued that China is more able to diversify its supply of resources more than ever. So perhaps we are not in the strong position that we once were. But then China needs options as well. Australia has a huge role in the seaborne coal trade, and its destined to be important in a number of other markets. China does need us. In fact, we all need each other. But more than anything else, we need to stop being solely concerned with 'buying respect for nations' and start thinking about respecting the long-suffering taxpayer. After all, we don't need to offend China; what we simply need is a 'Dear Xao' letter than reads:
"Dear Xao, sorry we will not be funding an exhaustive search for missing flight MH370 because we presume the passengers were killed because planes seldom go missing and we value the living considerably more than the presumed dead. We extend our 'conditional love' to those grieving from this apparent mishap'. All the best, Tony.
This is the type of diplomacy we need; but it won't come as long as extorted wealth is the foundation for political discourse. Of course, I expect this letter with less relish that the following:
"Dear Andrew, you will have anticipated this letter with great trepidation. We acknowledge that your grievance with the tax office has come back in your favour. Sorry to say we have inappropriately extorted wealth from you for the last 30 years. Please find a cheque for $2000; your share of proceeds recovered from selling off the assets of public servants who have profited from your incessant victimisation. Best regards, former tax commissioner & incarcerated felon charged on organised crime...belatedly 2018.
Oh that was some dream going there!

Of course someone's bad news is another's good news. A NZ company is looking to win a lucrative contract to find the plane. Perhaps with such confidence China can pay them on the basis of 'results'.

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Monday, February 03, 2014

G20 Conservation - Government wants to set the issue for the 'conservation'

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Australia is the host and president of the G-20 Group of Nations. It is holding a conservation with intellectuals from around the world who want to participate. The website is here.

I think openness and transparency is not the issue; in fact I think its one of those red herrings created by government to make it look like you governments are 'pro-people', or pro-democracy. If government really wanted to help people, they would actually make the voters accountable, and while where doing that, the politicians as well. Unless people can do that, then there is no education, no system improvement. Its really just sanctioned repression by a 'dumbed down' population.

This problem is evident throughout the world. Currently in Thailand we are witnessing the Thaksin govt being subjected to some measure of 'accountability'. This is a govt known for its blatant corruption; recognised to be squandering taxpayer resources to placate the poor voters, who just happen to be the 'rural majority'. No wonder the so-called 'Bangkok and southern provincial elite' are supported by the military in their endeavours to depose the 'immorally-elected', though of course 'legally-sanctioned' government. It highlights the point that representative democracy is not democracy at all in any real sense. Its an extortion racket that dumbs down and disempowers people, so they renounce their minds as our god in effect tells us to do, and communists have implored us to do. Renounce the self. Not working for you? Keep renouncing! Well, Thailand was never conquered by the British, and so I recognise that, despite its mysticism, that it still appreciates the value of the individual, and thus does not renounce so readily. Whilst they are not a nation of the greatest intellectuals, they don't glorify US founding fathers, they honour a king instead. Ok, they are not perfect, but then even their king from centuries past, when the missionaries attempted to influence them, they recognised that we need only science and logic from the British. Unfortunately, we missed that lesson and devolved into a legalised extortion racket. So I wish the Thai people well; because they might just become the first 'real democracy'. I don't expect it, given their mysticism, but I have no reason to trust government. The British made that lesson to their 'subjects' centuries past. The spectre of the 'right to be taxed unwittingly' tells me nothing has changed. For something resembling the same reason in fact, if we recall the Boston Tea Party.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Chile - a degrading liberal state?

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All the signs suggest that Chile is destined to degrade into a liberal state. The cards were always on the table when you consider the anti-intellectual foundations for the nation. The modern 'successful' state was born out of intellectual repression. As it turns out repression can be good, when the ideas being repressed as are socialism. General Pinochet is criticised broadly for suppressing and killing political activists. Those who lost loved ones are however fond of forgetting that the activists were extortionist socialists intent on turning Chile into a socialist paradise. They might soon have their way. So we will explore the question of - cost or 'opportunity cost'.
There are of course those who will argue that life is an intrinsic value; but actually everything we understand about life tells us that it is objective and conditional upon humans recognising the requirements or life-affirming values to sustain and prosper. So how is Chile destined to fail?

Pinochet should be a national hero because he denied individuals rights to those who spurned their value. How can the socialists of the 1960s, like those of today:
1. Be critical of human right violations when they were no less intent upon curtailing said rights. The difference is only one's choice of victims. Pinochet curtailed the victimisation only to the socialists who threatened the rights of others, rather than the socialists who threatened to takeover the country and renounce everyone's rights.
2. Avoid the correlation between personal freedom and prosperity. Since Pinochet's transformation, the nation has achieved outstanding growth. It is true that a lot of the prosperity has resulted from the mining boom. That said, the nation will struggle to sustain the levels of spending being considered by the new socialist government.

The regime of Pinochet is not without its problems. The greatest threat is posed by low standards of education. The truth is that no nation around the world conveys a healthy framework of human values. Chile is no exception in this regard. It however can be considered to be very vulnerable because:
1. Spanish cultures were never famous for their personal or intellectual discipline
2. Spanish cultures always gave primacy to lifestyle considerations
3. Spanish cultures have always been firmly collectivist, spurring the rights of individuals for the sake of social harmony.

Does this suggest that we are destined to see another oppressive political step by the military. Well, that is possible. This government is relatively popular. The implication is that:
1. Chile could see a return to oppressive militarist rule - but this time round the military may be more corrupt than under Pinochet
2. The socialist coalition of 7 parties might well break down, so it loses credibility, and is unable to implement much of its program

In the favour of the socialist government is the health of the Chilean economy as well as the underlying disparity of wealth. Commodity prices have likely seen the bottom, so we can expect export revenues to have reached their low. Chile will however be going against the international trend of austerity. Partially this will serve to debase a currency that is destined to be a 'hard currency' at a time of robust mineral prices and devaluing international currencies (i.e. EUR, JPY & USD). The problem lies in the potential impact of state education. In some respects the reforms could be construed as positive, however given that it could greatly enlargen the state bureaucracy, there needs to be considerable scepticism about the direction of said policy. Nothing can be taken at face value. It matters less than education is state or privately run; it matters more that the values conveyed are healthy. So what exactly is the nature of this program?

Currently, education in Chile relies upon household funding. The implication is that the poor are precluded from entering 'skilled' work which pays higher. The implication is that Chile is trying to elevate its standing as a 'skilled nation'. That is admirable. The problem is that there is only so much demand for skilled labour. You therefore have to wonder whether Chile's skills development will be as beneficial as in other countries, which already have skilled trainers. This is a threat. The opportunity presented for Chile is that they might well be able to position their nation to be the 'skills capital' of the Latino world. That is a strategic opportunity. There is really no centre of commerce in the Latin world. The Australian Stock Exchange, the Johannesburg and Toronto/Vancouver Stock Exchanges are centres of finance serving their respective markets. There is every reason to believe Santiago could displace Toronto, Sydney, NY and London as the Latino centre of capital, particularly given its growing importance to mining and its shared Latino language.

The negative aspect is the expectation that any wealth created can be pilfered by the state 'in the interests of the common good'. In fairness to Chile, the government is only talking about raising its tax rate from 20% to 25%. This might be construed as recognising its improved sovereign rating - barr immense changes like this. The government is also talking about dropping tax concessions on capital works. Large scale mines tend to undergo expansion. Tax deductions on further capital expansion therefore favours further 'expansion' to defer mining profits, and therefore taxes, until later years. In Chile, the mines are immense. So the miners are able to defer taxes. Deductibles are bad policy as they greatly complicate and distort a 'user pays' system, but so does relying on income taxes. The question is for how long will miners be able to defer tax through deductibles. It is fair to say it will not make much difference because they will merely restructure their spending accordingly. In that case, we can expect 'corporate loopholing' to leave the budget under-funded, demanding more tax increases. The nation should move towards a consumption tax with user pay charges on identifiable and privatised services. Education, if it must be state-funded, should be on the basis of a voucher system, so that people's education dollar is discretionary. If families don't use their education coupon, then perhaps it should carry over towards their social security. The funds should go into a resource fund to protect future savings from inflation. Of course must depends on the nature of education policy; however a state solution is generally a bad idea. Is there any reason to think it will be worse than any other nation? No, but relativism is hardly a solution to what might be construed to merely a 'funding problem' for education. This is a justification for a coupon system - not a Western style state system which has decimated student's capacity to learn. One could be forgiven for hoping for a crisis of confidence from rising inflation to precipitate the suspension of the Bachelet-government's program.

Her other reform initiative is constitutional reform to adopt an electoral system. The problem with representative democracy is that it causes bitter in-fighting over an issue which is really superfluous. Representative democracy is extortion. Policy development should be about 'good rational ideas', not extorting influence as a 'numbers game' or strategic manipulative game-play, that electoral politics ultimately descends into, with lobbyists buying votes. This is not a paradigm that has served any Western nation in the last 80 years. It will never achieve its stated goals - because its is institutionalised corruption, on a poorly conceived idea. Its not stable government; its repressive, disenfranchising, alienating tyranny. The fact that it constraints political leaders almost as much as its citizens is not a saving grace. It is a capitulation that is destined to end in tyranny by forcing the renunciation of the human mind. Having said that, her proposal for reducing the entrenched power of the mainstream parties could be construed as a positive. If they adopted a system like NZ or the Philippines MMP list seats, or even Australia's proportional electoral preferencing system, then minor parties would have greater voice. It would still however be a 'extortion-based' system, where parties are rewarded for extortion. In fact, we might argue that it affirms the wrong value. It says that any competitive system is fair, even though the system rewards or affirms extortive imposition of force.

Of course, the Bachelet-government can be praised for its initiative to liberalise abortion and gay rights. She is not exactly a new face in politics, having led a coalition government from 2006-2010. In that time, she was undoubtedly challenged by her thin majority and the global financial crisis, even if commodity prices were relatively high in this period. On reflection, it does not seem that the Bachelet-government poses such an immense threat given that she will have to rely on the Right for some concessions, and her 7-party coalition might end up being a substantial vulnerability regardless.

It is difficult to compare Chile to Nixon's New Deal. There might be 'centre-left' protesters clamming for change. But at this point there is no crisis demanding such policy. This might however occur by necessity. If Westerner governments are going to continue to poor USDs on the global market, then 'relatively' hard currencies like Chile will be forced to debase their own currencies to remain competitive in international markets. We can expect therefore some profligate spending. The positive news might well be the plan to direct this spending towards 'value-added' education. The question is whether the nation's leader is able to pull off that feat. Its plausible that Chile will be a Mecca of learning for the region. The question is - how well will they do. This demands some understanding of the current value of Chilean education. Perhaps the outlook is positive given its 'discretionary' funding model to date. That question demands investigation.

For more information on the Chilean economy, read BBC News.

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ConvinceMe.Net - Anyone up for a debate?