Thursday, June 24, 2010

A new leader for the "lame-duck decade"

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Australia has its first Prime Minister - and guess what! "Its a girl". Before we get as excited about as we were about the Obama victory, let's take a closer look at her history. Based on my research I think we can expect the following:
1. Labor conservatism - she is by no means a radical. She is boringly old school labor. So don't expect an emissions trading scheme. This has endeared her to the unions.
2. A plodder - She believes in hard work, and reading books. But its not that you read, its more important that you read, and how you absorb the information. She might be knowledgeable, but do not expect a great thinker. This is no doubt where her conservatism comes from - a fear to think efficaciously. Just like her father. The good news is that she is not ambitious, so there are not going to be any leaps in social policy. She is a reluctant leader.
3. Social policy - She is no doubt going to be advancing various old-fashion social policies, but they will be concrete bound and make very little material difference.

Sorry to say Australia, you have a very boring choice to make at the next election. Let's identify 2010-2020 as the "lost decade of moral ambivalence" for Australia. Perhaps we will see political slogans in the election like 'Consolidation' and 'Public trust'...the question is which side will be saying them. Hard to pick. I guess the good news is that the thrust towards fascism has been arrested. Rudd is gone.
So in conclusion, we have a choice between lame duck Abbot and lame duck Gillard. Take your pick! I think it will not matter much, though hard to say what will happen at the next election because I can't see who will replace Abbot. I suspect that Gillard will win the next election. It will be hard for women to resist the nostalgia of having a woman PM. Anyway, this 'reluctant PM' will be judged a 'lame duck' and dumped for the sake of Wayne Swan. So its musical chairs all around.
Really Australia, I suggest dumping this system of government. You will not get credible public policy this way. Centralised government and representative democracy does not work. Its empty promises equate to voter slavery and extortion. We need a meritocracy based on electronic submission of policies to committees where reason is the standard of value. If you can imagine a succession of 'vested interest groups' lodging submissions, some back office analysts picking over those ideas to establish policy, having a lawyer crafting them into coherent policy, you have my lower cost and more distributed form of government. Policy based on principles that integrate with other principles...just like human knowledge. Principles of nature, not 'numbers' counting which politicians selling out principles.

PS: In fairness to Abbot...I have not closely examined his psychology.
Andrew Sheldon

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Obama politicising the BP disaster

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The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is proving to be a major political mess. BP has come under a lot of criticism for its handling of the issue. I actually think they have been trying very hard to do things, though I suspect many of the measures are intended to serve 'perceptions' rather than achieve their goal of extinguishing the spill. Was that not always the fault of President Obama. Even before the facts had been established, it was Obama who really made this a political football. From the get-go, he was looking for a scalp....wanting to establish blame. Why? Of course because he realised that leaders are defined by the way they handle crises. His goal:
1. Appearances - Make sure that BP look like they are doing something, so he looks like a strong, decisive leader. I look at the engineering of these so-called solutions and think they have little chance of success.
2. Establish blame - Obama wanted to make sure that his administration was not blamed for the folly.

The implication of Obama's moves were to place BP on the political backfoot. He turned the CEO into a politician, so he had to run off to Russia to allay fears in Russia that BP was not a good partner.
What might be drawn from this experience? Might it be that governments do not make good regulators. Might it be that deep-sea oil drilling is fraught with risks which have never been dealt with before.

Under our legal system is the CEO of BP obliged to fall on his (company's) sword and declare that they are responsible? Should they not make controlling the spill a priority. I actually think they have done a very good job to disperse the oil considering the amount of it being discharged.

BP has been criticised for its response was:
"Everything we can see at the moment suggests that the overall environmental impact of this will be very, very modest" " said BP CEO Tony Hayward.
BP is being criticised in this context for seeing some 'positive' in its investment in the Gulf oil industry, as well as signs that the people undertaking the clean up are doing a good job. There is of course no convincing those who only want to see problems, and who want to lay blame. I have yet to see any beached engrossed in oil. The oil is being dispersed offshore and eaten by bacteria. The problem of course is heavy metals will remain in the water for a year, so fishermen will need compensation.
BP is being criticised for presenting some positive feedback about BP. The hotel and tourist industry is benefiting in the region, as is the construction industry, which has built a new town. Some fisherman actually appreciate that the oil rigs have actually provided nutrients or breeding grounds for the fish. Coral grows on the offshore rigs. Petroleum engineers also stay in these hotels, so these businesses appreciate the oil industry. Are they solely saying it for the sake of future money? Perhaps. However let's acknowledge that this outcome would be worse if government was running the show, and would be better if our regulators were private interests with a stake in the outcome, and not politicians fuelled by perceptions and spin.
Even the far worse Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska was not as bad as this because the oil was closer to the coast, and readily washed onshore. It was a cold climate. In this case, the oil spill is offshore, BP was quickly engaged in remedial measures to disperse the oil, ensuring it did not reach the shore. Surely a positive of offshore, deep drilling. The warmer climate also allows bacteria to more quickly break down the oil droplets. This is why this 'disaster' is a beat up. Why it is a problem is that the company has yet to cap the well. So the problem is not resolved. The greatest concern is the prospect of hurricanes. Maybe that will lead to natural dispersal. I'm not sure.
I don't see us wanting oil any less in future, so let's wait until we have compelling evidence of negligence before we critique the company, lest they focus on the politics and less on the operational remedial measures.
I personally see nothing wrong with the BP CEO going sailing. Maybe he was collecting oil samples. Seriously though, if we hold people to impossible standards like 'no relaxation until you solve the problem' then facts are lost for the sake of perceptions. If he is negligent, and its more likely a company-wide issue, then we would need to reflect on what he has done to remedy it. This is the job of the board. Not the media or Obama.
"The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean, and the volume of oil we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total volume of water" said BP CEO Tony Hayward.
This strikes me as a reasonable point. We often see the environmentalists misrepresent or exaggerate pollution, but in fact the notion that 75,000 barrels a day of unstable petroleum is going to contaminate trillions of gallons of 'salt' water is nonsense. If they can contain it, and a hurricane risk is avoided, then I see no reason why they cannot avoid a disaster. I think he made this statement to 'balance' the exaggeration. Yet critics will argue that this is exaggeration.
Andrew Sheldon

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Israel - the right to exist

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There are a great many people in the world....mostly unthinking liberals with scant regard for principles who feel compelled to attack Israel but withhold complete moral condemnation from Palestine or Syria. This is a grave injustice

Generally speaking, Israel is far superior ethically to Palestine. Israel has democracy, Syria and Palestine are products of their own stupidity, i.e. No rationality, no democracy, no respect for the rights of others. Israel only disrespects the rights of those who repudiate its right to exist. Does Aside from indignant Arabs who repudiate the right of Israel to exist, Israel does not kill other people. By contrast, Arab fundamentalists will kill foreign 'infidels' with impunity. That is why we don't holiday in the Arab world. Many Arabs of course don't support such extreme views, but they don't have the freedom or courage to repudiate those fundamentalist views either. Their existence is reason enough to avoid making general statements. At the end of the day, people ought to either repudiate values they disagree with, or if they are terrorists, physically extricating yourself from them, and refusing to finance them, even if that means leaving the country.

The interesting element of this argument is of course that we refuse entry to these people when they apply for visas to live in Australia. I personally think we should be helping them preserve justice in their own countries. Instead the US continues to provide the Arab states with legitimacy by propping up the existing regimes.

This is not an attack on Islam. All religions are misguided, along with a great many philosophies. Muslims are as much subject to flawed political systems as the West; none more so perhaps than the Muslims of the southern Philippines island of Mindanao. In fairness however to the Philippines government - Islam seems not too different from Christianity, so is there any compelling reason for political differentiation. Any campaign for self-rule therefore seems to be purely a political game.
Andrew Sheldon

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Attention Whistleblowers -

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Always good to find another Australian passionate about politics. Too many are repressed. Here is one whose values are likely the antithesis of mine, however I fully support his agenda, which is to expose the fraud and deception inherent in politics. Check out his website at

Here is an example of the type of news that the Australian government is blocking. The Australian government must be envious of the lack of accountability enjoyed by the Chinese government. Here is an example of the content.
The Australian government is blocking Australians from viewing certain websites. Some websites are perhaps not so controversial, e.g. Child pornography. But what of "online poker sites, YouTube links, regular gay and straight porn sites, Wikipedia entries, euthanasia sites, websites of fringe religions such as satanic sites, fetish sites, Christian sites, the website of a tour operator and even a Queensland dentist". In fact just 32% of the web censorship is related to child pornography. See the article here, and see other controversial information for Australia.

This is of course just a sign of our drift towards fascism. I expect that my website will be on this list in years to come.
I was referred to this site by SMH Online. This article is particularly concerning to me because it highlights the fact that I am not paranoia. It highlights the fact that - as my influence grows - I can expect to be persecuted by the Australian, US or other aligned governments. I already live like this guy....always travelling. I have many home bases.... though I don't under-estimate the capacity of the government to find me. Neither do I under-estimate the indifference of Australians to my life or political views. Such is the nature of repression...that it can render people indifferent to politics. Not only does it direct the quality of the 25% of GDP it controls, it also impacts the quality of the other 75% of GDP.
Andrew Sheldon

Friday, June 04, 2010

A soldiers or policeman's guide to ethics

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The Sept 11th terrorist attack elevated the importance of firemen, police and military personnel. Politicians everywhere were praising the courage, skill and servitude of these people. Do you believe them? I really don't think our politicians say anything which can be taken at face value. It is all political spin. Not just their evasive remarks to escape some embarrassing folly, but also their praise. The reason I would suggest this is the following:
1. The military, the police, the fire brigade is a job like any other. Perhaps the most challenging aspect is the amount of information you need to know. Particularly the police; but then if they end up doing mostly traffic infringements, and there are specialists dealing with any serious problems like a bank robbery, then I guess this also ceases to be true. If all of this is true, then this is really false praise for these servicemen.
2. The police and military pose a risk to the government. We saw in 2008 the overthrow of the Thai government in a military-led coup. The military in this case displayed loyalty to their commanders. Why? Because they are trained to take orders. From whom? Their military commanders or the government. Its difficult to listen to the PM when he is in exile.

From these examples it ought to be apparent that the military and other servicemen are open to moral questions. More interesting is that propensity of the 'political system' to actually discourage them from having any independent thoughts. They are required to simply follow the hierarchy of command. This is a problem...because this is entirely the type of dogmatism and anti-intellectualism that we were fighting in Germany....indeed most wars. Soldiers should not be amoral in the execution of their job.
The strongest defense for the 'chain of command' argument is that soldiers don't have time to think, so they simply need to follow orders. This is not a compelling argument for several reasons:
1. This dogmatism is displayed in peace time as well as war time
2. This dogmatism is displayed up the chain of command, so apparently none of them have the mental efficacy to question policy or strategy.
3. Opposition in most contexts favours better decision-making. We ought to have a primary respect for facts and reality. If, as leaders, we are not getting that feedback, we are inclined to become aloof, arrogant and insecure. This can only result in self-righteous action, and the needless death of servicemen.
4. Repression of ideas is unhealthy. I once asked a soldier how he would feel about fighting a war he did not believe in. He did not have an answer. This is precisely why many war veterans return home with a plethora of mental illnesses. Serving in the military is indeed a supreme sacrifice. Sacrificing your mind is the gravest sacrifice you can make. Its not a point of pride.

Clearly there is a context in which soldiers need to simply follow orders. i.e. On the battlefield when urgent, life-threatening decisions need to be made, there is good reason to subordinates to withhold their opinions until the matter can be dealt with. A subordinate ought not be obliged to fight under a leader whom they lack confidence in, and they ought to have the opportunity to have their opinions tested, whether its to weed out poor leaders, or to identify new ones.

The role of the police and military is not simply to protect a country from foreign invaders. It is also to protect the people from internal corruption. Most wars are the result of civil immorality. It is much easier for a leader to justify breaches of national interest than invade a foreign country. The same can be said of physical abuse. Rape is far more common among people known to the offender. The reason is that:
1. Its easier to justify
2. There is greater reason to expect no consequences

There are of course a number of different or competing elements to government:
1. Executive - The part of government which executes the administration of government
2. Legislature - The part of government which enacts laws. In Australia, we have the folly of the executive being part of the legislature. This is folly, as is any system which allows their affiliation.
3. Judiciary - The part of government which interprets the law. The judiciary is criticised for 'making law' with some controversial decisions. The reality however is that it too has the capacity to make law. Any interpretation of the law is in effect making law, as its applying the law to a particular context. I would suggest that the judiciary fails in this regard because it is not protecting the spirit of the constitution. i.e. Reason as the standard of value.
4. Police & military - The part of government which preserves government and the sovereignty of the nation through the enforcement of the law.

There are important moral questions about who the military ought to follow? In a civil crisis, ought the police and military side with the executive, the courts or the legislature, or do they adopt their own agenda. My view is that they ought to have no particular allegiance other that to their own moral conscience. I would hope that they have one, but the culture of the military appears to be one of unthinking servitude, which is destined to serve immorality rather than morality.
Reason ought to be their standard of value, whether it lies with the judiciary, the executive, or the parliament. The reality is that society only descends to this point because the competitive regime in which government has functioned has broken down, i.e. reason has ceased to be the standard of value.
The problem with government is that it is based on 'numbers', so reason has never explicitly the standard of value. Government has become about extortion. It was always about power. Before it was about physical power - who controlled the military. Today, its about symbolic power because power is dispersed. Taxing powers, media power, financial power, etc. Even foreign governments and corporations can weigh into debates. The lone logical individual counts for nothing. A vote is s symbolic gesture. It counts for nothing. This is why I don't vote, and instead attempt to educate. I don't even both educating for the sake of changing your vote. That would support a bad system. My intent is to educate those organisations which count...those with the ability to influence:
1. The judiciary - I want to encourage judicial activism, as we have seen in India. Difficult because they are creatures of tradition, even if traditions were ill-founded centuries earlier.
2. The media - Difficult because they are mostly lefty liberals with no respect for objectivity
3. Business leaders - Difficult because they are not great conceptual thinkers. Their practicality stems from their willingness to work with anyone. They offer concessions to government if they cannot vote with their feet.
4. Military leaders - Difficult because they have this arbitrary power from a legacy of dogmatism. So they are not destined to be great thinkers.

Anyway, progress is slow.....I am destined to be overwhelmed because there are simply too few people in the world who think, and few practical benefits in preserving an honesty perspective. The only prize is my own self-respect. :)
Andrew Sheldon

ConvinceMe.Net - Anyone up for a debate?