Trump lost but have the democrats won?

Trump lost but have the democrats won?

Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

Trump lost.

He will contest and whine, but for now, the American people are more concerned about their democracy than his tantrums. 

This is an encouraging sign. 

The country pulled itself back from the brink and gained some time to reflect. It’s what happens next that matters.

People may remember a frustrated President Obama, particularly in his second term of office. A recalcitrant and regressive Republican majority in the senate scuppered most of his key initiatives. 

President Biden is familiar with that scenario, viewing from the Veeps chair throughout that painful process. Republican’s majority in the senate has gone, but they have not gone away, nor has their mischief. 

A debate must happen within the democratic party. 

They united to get rid of Trump, fair enough. But a firm, adult conversation must happen between the old school and the new youngsters who have a very different take. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, serving as the U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district since 2019, for example, is asking the party to look very closely at how it got itself in the mess that resulted in Trump in the first place.

It is time for an alternative. 

The old school must realise that moving to the centre is no longer the answer. At least not the established centre that pampers to donors and the corporate world. 

If that happens again, it matters very little really which colour is in power because each offers the private sector the same easy ride. 

A centrist policy that bails everybody out using debt which simply funnels itself into a tiny number of people with stock options is not the future; it can’t be. 

Now is the time for dramatic rethinking and risk-taking. 

The Biden presidency won’t be able to do that. There have been enough old white men in the oval office for us to know how that goes. Admittedly this one has a woman of colour as vice president. But still, too much of the old school lingers. 

Back in the election, the progressive left had an old candidate too, considered way too risky at the time. The gamble to dump Saunders and go with the convention only just paid off. And it was a high-risk game to play in the first place. 

What must happen now is that the youngsters must come through. Their energy, positivity, and passion must fuel a progressive cause focusing on the well-being of people and the planet. They will usher in a different economic model because the last one is not working. 

The problem that faces them is scary. The planet cannot support three cars per household, and by 2030 just sourcing food for 11 billion people will be hard enough. 

Recall the late, great Hans Rosling’s explanation of the demographic transition

He said that the 2 billion poorest aspire to a pair of shoes, another 3 billion to a bicycle, 2 billion more to a car and a billion or so in the rich countries who, pre-COVID, aspired to fly to a remote destination on holidays. 

Progression means an economic approach that meets those aspirations, noting that a bicycle is not enough and, perhaps, three cars is not possible. 

If you want to ‘reimagine the shape of progress’ as Kate Raworth puts it check out her TEDx talk on Doughnut economics.

Thankfully Trump lost and the Democrats under Biden will calm the waters somewhat. 

Relative peace will buy time for the new generation of ideas to thrive. Only then will they have won.


Thanks for reading this blog post. There are plenty more to read and share.

Caught on the wrong side of history

Caught on the wrong side of history

Photo by Shaah Shahidh on Unsplash

According to Ian Verrender, ABC business editor, a senior Australian government minister who was on the wrong side of a few drinks made this off the cuff comment…

 “The difference between Labor’s policy and ours is that Julia Gillard introduced a scheme where big polluters paid Australian taxpayers. Tony changed it so that Australian taxpayers pay big polluters,” 

Unnamed Austrailian Government Minister

This bizarre statement referred to the carbon price, the so-called ‘great big tax’ introduced by the Labour government in 2012. This blog has mentioned the debacle that is Australian climate policy and the frustration and sadness that it has been thus for over a decade.

Imagine the arrogance in this inebriated quip. 

Australians elect such individuals, and as an excellent article by Leigh Sales, another ABC stalwart, tells us, this level of vulgarity is typical. It is not a personality thing but ingrained into the political system. It is leadership that lacks.

I always liked the idea that the cream rises to the top. 

It ranks alongside ‘the truth persists’ as quotes that are hopeful and true. The problem is it’s taking a while, way too long. 

“Cream always rises to the top…so do good leaders”.

John Paul Warren

The delay in the arrival of some genuine leaders will have consequences.

One of the more ironic is the one Ian Verrender describes, the consequences for Australia of the rest of the world putting a price on carbon in the form of carbon border taxes. Countries that have lowered emissions and want to keep it that way are reluctant to import emission-intensive commodities. At least that is the rhetoric.

The reality for Australia is that there will be carbon levies. The world was trending towards enforcing climate policy through trade action. For example, the EU Carbon Border Adjustment Legislation is still rough but will include aluminium, iron, steel, cement, natural gas, oil and coal. 

Here are the 10 Biggest Exporting Industries in Australia

  1. Iron Ore Mining $123.1B
  2. Oil and Gas Extraction $39.8B
  3. Coal Mining $37.6
  4. Liquefied Natural Gas Production $34.8B
  5. Gold and Other Non-Ferrous Metal Processing $29.4B
  6. Meat Processing $15.9B
  7. Grain Growing $8.2B
  8. Alumina Production $7.4B
  9. Pharmaceutical Product Manufacturing $6.9B
  10. Copper, Silver, Lead and Zinc Smelting and Refining $6.8B

That is at least $309 billion in exports that could get slugged for their emission intensity. If the levy is just 5%, that is $15 billion in lost revenue… per year.

But it’s ok; the taxpayer is waiting patiently to pay the big polluters.


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Power and the populist

Power and the populist

Photo by Alejandro Cartagena 🇲🇽🏳‍🌈 on Unsplash

Talking about the ‘man child’.

Sometimes conversations just meander along into some interesting territory. Here is one between myself and my buddy Chris in July 2020 prior to the US election and 6 months into the pandemic.


Good morning, Chris.

How are you doing?

We have to stop meeting like this people begin to talk. 

They do already. So until we grow up and become a republic we have to put up with foreigners interfering in our democracy… Seems to be the news this morning.

I get all of this reporting about the Royals and everything, but they are just the law under themselves. Mind you they always have been news, for centuries literally.

They are just celebrities now, aren’t they?

They are now but they never used to be. Not so long ago it was the power struggle, the wrestling around of power. That’s really what gets people off once money is no longer an issue then it’s all about the power.

I mean you can see that with our own Malcolm Turnbull, you know, there was nothing he would gain from being Prime Minister except some feathers in his cap and maybe a place in history. He’s already worth 150 million bucks or something so he doesn’t really need the money. It’s about the glory and the power?

Yeah, and you wonder what people get out of that it obviously drives so many people. I mean, I think power drives people in business more than profit. In my experience, the people in charge of businesses are there more because they like to be in charge than they are to make profit for shareholders.

Hmm… I get the ‘in charge’ thing. 

It’s seductive. No question.

I guess power is what’s really there but what’s the power for in your particular case? I can see the difference between, I don’t know, Gandhi and Donald Trump, they both want to influence people. But very different circumstances that got them to be leaders with very different styles. Gandhi was obviously not in it for the glory or maybe was I don’t know. We certainly didn’t gain anything material out of it. 

No, but that’s what I think I’m getting at. I think it’s these people like to be respected and you get that in a position of power. Almost by definition you’re respected because empowering at the end of a gun is respect of some sort or another even if I respect you because you could take my life. I don’t respect you for your moral high ground. I respect you because I’m s*** scared of that AK-47 you’re holding.

Yeah.

So power is the thing, isn’t it? 

And we talked about that before, the difference between the sort of positional power and personal power and maybe that’s you know, Trump has no personal power but he’s craved it and so he’s got himself positional power.

I think that’s a good summation of him. It’s why the media like calling him a man child because he is.

Hmm.

This is a bit of a diss to children because children can be quite pure and Trump is clearly not pure but he is an emotional child. No question that he hasn’t grown up at all. What he does is all for that sense of power in himself. Not from what the presidency provides. I remember when I stood in front of the White House on a visit to Washington and thinking ‘this is an interesting place, you know, it’s kind of locked away’. You can’t get at it, you know. Inside of that place, it would be easy to maintain a small army of sycophants just you just prop you up. And if you have no sense of what you’re doing for the other 350 million people in the country it doesn’t matter. 

Yes and every utterance that army of people coming out to say what he really meant was ‘blah’ to clean up his mess.

Yep. I was thinking about the 20,000 lies. That’s one every 90 minutes of his tenure. It’s kind of phenomenal, isn’t it?

Is it in the Guinness Book of Records?

An untruth every 90 minutes of his tenure ought to be.

But Kaylee will never lie to the press 

Except she does it every day.

She mops up his s*** that is just spread everywhere. But yeah, I mean he’s crashing and it’s really interesting to hear Biden talk about making steel for wind generators and jobs in renewable technologies, battery cars, which out of America just seems like just crazy talk, you know.

But in a way, it’s an obvious platform, isn’t it? Because their problem is that they lost last time because Hillary was considered to be just more of the same, right?

Yeah, she was.

Right? So he’s got to be different this time around. Otherwise, they’ll lose again only he’s not because he’s an old white man?

Agreed, he’s just from the same, Central Casting that produced Hillary.

Exactly. And ironically she was probably a better candidate from that mould.

Yeah, she probably was. Certainly, she was more in touch with her sensibilities because Trump is losing his but yeah, it’s interesting that Hillary was more of the same, but the public chose a scenario worse than that.

Yes, it is extraordinary, isn’t it? Populism might have a short life though. COVID-19 is really sorting them out. I mean all of the populist leaders will be found wanting if they try to be in charge of this virus which will just tell them to stuff off.

Yeah, you can just see it because populism requires you to be popular and so you have to say popular stuff like ‘the stock market is rising’ and ‘interest rates are great’, ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’. And, of course, you have to say that freedom is important and all the other things that are popular. The last thing is to tell people to stay home and you have to shut your business. 

Ouch, very unpopular.

It obviously isn’t gonna work for the populist style.

Except you only need to be a bit popular. Remember Margaret Thatcher won less than 40% of the vote or whatever it was. A tiny majority that gets you over the line. Just learn the system you’re in.

Hmm and maybe Biden has to talk green new deal and the like because he needs the support of his side of politics who are going there.

Well, he has to lock in his core base too. Democrats have to get out of the house, brave the virus, and go vote. That’s always their problem. Turnout in numbers and they win.

Yeah. Republicans have said it. If everyone votes we don’t win.

That’s right, which is probably why they don’t have compulsory voting.

Yeah, and why they play all sorts of jiggery-pokery with booths and where they are and how many there are and when they’re open and whatever…

Yep. Yep, illegal, illegal.

Well, you need and all that stuff when it’s all about manipulating the vote.

To bring back the man child!


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When facts do not matter

When facts do not matter

A while ago the Deputy Premier of New South Wales, Australia, John Barilaro played brinkmanship with the government. He threatened to move his National Party members to the crossbench. These are the MPs who give the government a majority in the lower house, a coalition that gives Mr Barilaro the Deputy Premiership and his party a number of ministries in return for bringing 13 votes to the table to give the government a slim lower house majority of two seats.

This ‘majority making’ brings with it extraordinary bargaining power.

The National Party decided or perhaps Mr Barallaro decided, to leverage that power and threaten to remove his MPs from voting in favour of government policy. So, they’re in government and proposing to abstain from voting.

Needless to say the Liberal party leader and Premier who has 35 sitting members leveraged her power and told them to sit down and shut up.

The outcome was that Mr Barilaro backed down at the eleventh hour blowing any political credibility he had. He then chose to take a month of stress leave. His actions suggest that was a sensible choice.

What extraordinary issue brought this power play on?

Turns out that koalas were the issue. And principally the unproven ‘fact’ that koalas would go extinct in the next 50 years.

The legislation amended on the back of this non-fact, a State Environment Planning Policy known as the koala SEPP, was amended to extend the habitat that is protected for this species by listing more tree species that cannot be cleared.

Landholders must demonstrate through expert analysis that trees are not habitat for koalas and there are no koalas present in the last 18 years.

Here we have a peculiar situation.

The original facts of the matter do not exist. At the present moment in time, we do not know how many koalas there are in Australia. We do not know how many there are in New South Wales and we do not know the trend in those koala numbers.

We do know that populations fluctuate dramatically in a species that is widely distributed, is prone to certain environmental and human drivers of change, has a slow reproduction rate and is likely to be vulnerable in certain places.

We also know that koalas are often present in disturbed landscapes because the younger eucalypt trees are preferred food and we also know that when we look hard enough with the right techniques (sniffer dogs work really well), we find koalas in places that we previously thought they didn’t exist.

Not knowing how many koalas there are. Not knowing how many are being lost at any one time. Not knowing if populations are stable or simply naturally dynamic are unknowns that form the basis for the legislation.

In other words, there is no evidence that says koalas will go extinct in 50 years.

This makes the legislation itself is at best precautionary and at worst unnecessary. It is flawed in either direction. That a government would be put in jeopardy and members would flex their political muscle over such an issue tells us a lot about the current political process.

It tells us that the facts of the matter don’t really matter at all.

What matters is the political process and the benefits, or not, to individual politicians and their careers from having a stoush.

It’s time to put an end to this nonsense.

Let us all begin with the facts. Whatever the evidence is to hand and let that be at the core of any debate.

Sure, you can have your toy throws and throw them out of the cot, have ego-driven rants as part of the political process. We all need some drama and colour in our lives. What we don’t want is for these rants and raves to be based on half-truths, untruths and downright lies. That is not the democratic process.

We need to have politicians who can form governments that are presenting us facts and policy options to deal with those facts. Then we can decide the policies to support that the majority believe will be in the best interest of everyone and the well-being of our grandchildren.

Politicians must have a steady enough hand and a steady enough head that they’re prepared to look at evidence, evaluate and bring it to the table in good faith, then debate the policy options.

To be debating policy on lies and mistruth degrades the democratic process. It undermines public faith in the institution of democracy and it makes all those political players look like complete idiots.


Pleae leave a comment or browse around for more ideas for healthy thinking.

Getting elected to office takes sleights

Getting elected to office takes sleights

Photo by Maxim Potkin on Unsplash

Suppose that an aspiring politician wants to be elected to the US Congress. Let’s call her Florence.

She will need a certain number of votes in order to be to get across the line. In the US system it will usually end up as a two-horse race, so around 45% of the vote should be plenty. 

Florence decides that the easiest way to get those votes is to promise every single person who votes for her $10,000 into their bank accounts.

This is of course illegal as, even in the US, votes can not be bought in such a blatant way. But let’s suppose that this law is temporarily repealed and it’s possible to buy your way into office. 

Clearly, Florence has an attractive platform. 

Vote for me and I will give you ten thousand dollars. There’s a pretty good chance she will get the 45% and sail over the line. 

Now, of course, Florence does not have this kind of money and fails to deliver on the promised payments. There is uproar and dozens of lawsuits. She won’t get elected for a second term but that might not matter if just getting in was the aim.

This kind of extreme electoral brinkmanship, outrageous statements in order to get elected, is the bane of democracies. There are examples similar to the Florence gambit everywhere.

Brinkmanship

Lauren Boebert U.S. Representative for Colorado’s 3rd congressional district since 2021 owns Shooters Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, where staff members are encouraged to openly carry firearms. Boebert played the media. She gained national headlines for saying she’ll carry a gun during her term of office. 

“I am legally permitted to carry my firearm in Washington, DC, and within the Capitol complex,”

Lauren Boebert on Twitter.

Here is a picture. Look into the eyes and see the shiftiness that tells the truth. 

It is one thing to run a business that caters to customers with a certain view of the world, smart even, but to use that image to get notoriety as a congresswoman representing the people, not just those who voted for you, is unconscionable.

I don’t live in the United States and have only visited on a couple of occasions. 

I had an uncomfortable feeling when I was there. Living in such a situation where guns are a part of everyday life is hard to fathom for us fortunate folk who live in firearm free societies. 

I get it’s complicated, but waiving a right to hold arms is nothing to do with a constitution. It’s to do with one person’s rights over another and to feel better because I’m carrying a weapon that could take you out. 

The argument will always be about protection from other people who are fearful of their existence. It’s a very fascinating state of affairs. 

There are plenty of equally contentious issues — race, immigration, wages, taxes, military spending, environment… the list is long — that are ripe for brinkmanship like this. 

In a world full of stress and instant, unfiltered communication, we are all vulnerable to outrage. Politicians know this and can use it to satisfy their need for notoriety. The media know it too and give them a leg up to satisfy their own needs for attention.

Sleight of hand and word is pervasive.

Deceitful craftiness

This comment is not about gun control, the second amendment, border walls, abortion or any of the controversial issues that divide public opinion. 

It is doing whatever it takes to get the numbers, however deceitful or crafty. Manipulating the electoral system and the minds of the voters to tap their limbic responses rather than engage with our cognitive selves.

It is possible to get a handle on all of this. We can hold our politicians to account and make it much harder for them to run the populist gambit.

Here are a few simple options.

The easiest way is to force them to explain their policy agenda. Tell us in clear language how their platform is in the people’s best interest. 

Next, we can look for politicians with a shred of empathy still left in them. Give us more than division and their own ego trip.

Or we can forgive some of the narcissism if they can bring genuine ideas to the table and discuss them like kindergarten kids would do, with brutal honesty. 

This is going to be difficult. It will take diligence and effort on our part.

Make politics just about emotion and we will crash and burn. A different outcome is possible if we make politics about thought.


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Leadership of the masses

Leadership of the masses

Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

Think back to October 2020, a few weeks before the US presidential election. According to the polls, the Democrats nominee has the upper hand. In a normal election cycle he would be a shoe in. Instead the media is in a frenzy in case the polls are wrong given that they fooled everyone the last time. 

There’s discussion of what would happen if the result is close and contested or the sitting president chose not to leave even if the voters said otherwise. The US is on tenterhooks and the whole world wants to know what is going to happen. 

The normally politically lazy Americans would turn out in numbers that would again favour the Democrats, however, it also means the rusted on Trump supporters will be out in force as well. 

Then a few of them took over the citadel.

I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to figure out what makes a ‘rusted on’ Trump supporter. What thinking makes a person vote for a candidate with no ethics, no morals, no substance, no empathy or sense of fairness and has broken every rule there is and got away with it? 

It’s what we used to call back in the day ‘dodgy brothers’, the kind of person you would keep well away from your daughters. 

And yet there he is, the sitting President, running a campaign of disruption and division in order to get voted back in again. Relying on that rusted on core to put him back in office. Arguably, despite the impeachment ruling, inciting them to violence and to deny the result of the democratic process.

What is it that allows that to happen? When does humanity wake up and say ‘no, this is not the kind of guy we want to lead us into our future’? 

Well the Americans did, just. But the divisions are still there, painful and as rusty as ever. 

It could be the power of the fear and loathing that exists in people prepared to back a person who will go against everything rather than build confidence, partnerships and forward thinking. There was a quote just before the election to the effect that  there is this man high on steroids and should any foreign jurisdictions be listening, to keep well away lest they spark something that they didn’t want involving red buttons. 

More scary than funny.

Leadership qualities

Leadership gets more than its fair share of posts on this blog. 

I think I’ve always assumed that we look towards leadership that is progressive and inspires confidence. Leaders pull people together so we can become more than the sum of the parts. 

Such individuals need talent, a lot of energy, commitment, and balls. It takes courage to bridge tribal divisions and innate prejudice from all sides. 

It’s much easier to be a leader who divides and conquers. This has become common practice (Trump, Johnson, Putin, Bolsonaro, Modi et al) but a relatively easy practice. The only real skill needed is to identify the points of difference between people and then just accentuate them. And you have to admit Trump knew exactly the points of difference and played them like a fiddle. 

So my vision of leadership, the egalitarian bringing people together for common cause and making the sum much more than the parts, is not everyone else’s vision of leadership. 

It seems that there are a lot of people who want ‘us against the rest’ leaders, the guy that supports me against them, whoever ‘them’ might be. 

Historically humanity has often fallen for these leaders. Us against them is the main paradigm in wars of conquest. So perhaps what’s ‘rusted on’ is our limbic requirement to fight. And you can’t fight unless there’s something recognizable to fight against. 

I can’t fight time. I can’t fight the planet even though we try. I can’t fight the weather. These are too big and brash to take on, but I can fight my brother. I can fight the neighbor. And I can certainly fight those funny dudes with their crazy religion across the water. 

And maybe I am naive to think that leadership on commonality and of gathering together is our default. It is not. Our default position is exactly what we’re witnessing around the world, the leadership of us and them. The only way that the leadership stays in office is if you have slightly more of us than of them. 

Where do we go from here?

All this begs the question of where humanity goes from here? What type of leadership is possible if everyone is battling a limbic system that wants to fight, flee or freeze?  

At one time I thought the best option was to raise awareness and move people beyond their limbic thinking. Encourage the majority to become more aware, more understanding of the consequences of their choices, and so take more responsibility, especially when they place their ballot. 

I even wrote a book about it, Missing Something, on the premise that a raised awareness would help understand all the various problems that humanity faces including political leadership. 

Self actuation is a huge challenge in itself, especially when it is so comfortable to live off basic instincts. Political leaders understand this and trigger the instinct all the time. Trump is the quintessential embodiment of the approach. He locks onto base fears and fuels them all the time. 

Other political leaders recognise the base instinct and then bend it to their own ends often through authoritarian even military methods. Humans are easily manipulated by our slavery to base instinct with the stick and the carrot. 

Just saying ‘raise awareness’ is naive. Even if it would work, making it happen is daunting and likely not possible.. 

Whilst awareness helps bring people to a heightened sense of self, we need something more. 

The leadership humanity needs to give us a reasonable chance of survival can’t rely on scented candles and incantations. We have to play a ‘Trump light’ game that latches onto limbic responses for the political leverage needed to make progressive changes. 

This sounds horribly like moving to the right rather than the centre left. I am hardening towards the draconian on some of these things. Responses to COVID-19 show that it is possible to impose strict rules on society and get away with it in the public interest. It’s a small step to a benevolent dictatorship that could tackle the equally huge issues of inequity, food security, and a stressed environment. 

The risk in forcing people into decisions that you believe they’re not capable of making due to their basic instincts getting in the way is a slip of the tongue away from control for nefarious purposes. Blink and we are in the dangerous territory of the end justifying the means. 

Horrid as it sounds, such control must be part of the conversation because the limbic system in human brains has got us this far. It will be part of what comes next.


Please have conversations about leadership and benevolent control. Whatever comes next it must be better than populism.

Historians are worried about democracy

Historians are worried about democracy

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

It is easy to forget that democracy is not a common way of doing things. 

At the end of 2020 when US citizens queued up at polling booths in record numbers, I was reminded that the right to vote is very recent in historical times. Women in the US, for example, had no such rights until the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by Congress on June 4, 1919. 

The US had seen 29 of its 45 Presidents before this vital change.

Historically, most societies were run by authoritarian regimes of one sort or another that limited personal freedoms. Democracy, that so many of us take for granted, is actually a mid to late 20th-century phenomenon and by no means universal. 

Here is one metric of democracy over time, the Polity scale ranging from -10 (hereditary monarchy) to +10 (consolidated democracy).

number of democratic counties over time

By Ultramarine at en.wikipedia – Own workTransferred from en.wikipedia, Public Domain,

In short, democracy has risen exponentially since the 1800s.

Remarkable as this trend is, many historians know how fragile democracy might be in a modern world.

Democracy is fragile

The dangers to democracy have been around for some time, think how close Donald Trump came to shattering it in the US, and the warning signs, the historians argue, are 

  • the spread of misinformation 
  • inequality 
  • the politics of internal enemies and 
  • politically motivated violence. 

Misinformation

The spread of misinformation is just about everywhere. 

Anybody with a smartphone can record a video on any topic, put it up on Tick-Toc and before you know it, can be peddling all sorts of information that they claim is the truth about anything. All with little or no justification. 

Traditional media, driven by the requirement for clicks, do a similar thing. Jumping on whatever they believe will keep their audience interested and not very much to do with whether or not the information is correct or truthful.

We now know that misinformation is a powerful political weapon and despite the impeachment of a president is hard to diffuse.

Instant access and weak filtering by consumers mean that truth from fiction will be forever contentious. 

We are stuck with it. 

Inequality

Inequality has always been a challenge for society. 

Those in power need to keep those not in power happy for as long as possible and yet at the same time not allow them to become too wealthy such that they might gain power themselves. 

Think subjugation of women over the centuries or the hereditary titles of the aristocracy. 

Can’t have any Tom or Dick getting their grubby mitts on the estate.

At the same time, power and capital will get things done. Most of the global development that delivers wealth and wellbeing to so many people came about because money was concentrated in risk takers.

It is a delicate balance. 

In the old days, the sword was the tool of suppression and to wield it required some noble heritage, a few loyal knights, and gold coins to buy your way into power. Now the same thing happens for those with bitcoin.

However, once sufficiently downtrodden, the masses have little left to lose. Emboldened they rise up and take away your power. 

Currently, the world is in a situation where a handful of people own vast amounts of wealth. And the majority own next to nothing in comparison. This whole idea of inequity is not just within jurisdictions, but also across the world. 

It is incredulous that Forbes lists the richest 400 Americans as owning more than $3.2 trillion in assets and then sobering to know that four billion people live on less than six dollars a day.

That is a wickedly large majority, severely downtrodden.

If this is what democracy delivers it is setting itself up to collapse.

Internal enemies

The machinations of internal enemies are the basics of modern politics. Long gone are adult conversations about policy or what is in the best interests of the electorate. 

In Australia, for example, voters have experienced the removal of multiple sitting prime ministers by their parliamentary colleagues, their own party members, who’ve decided for one reason or another that they’ve had enough and push a spill in the leadership. 

It is one thing to have an eye on the electorate that must decide on your future every four years. It is quite another to watch you back for daggers from your colleagues every four minutes. 

Debate and deliberation followed by legitimate choice in the polling booth seems like ancient history.

Violence

Politically motivated violence is clearly the most insidious of the dangers. 

America stared at violence as it stormed its castle of democracy. Now they must worry about their hugely divided country when every man and his dog has access to firearms. 

Then there is the prominence of extremist groups both on the left and the right who gain more noise than they deserve. Through the various media channels and instant access to video footage of whatever event they care to perpetrate. 

A lot hangs in the balance.

The good news

Precarious as democracy may be, the growth in the number of democracies since WW2 is still exponential. People seem to like it.

Things that are liked are hard to give up and are not easily taken. Expect resistance to anyone that tries.

I know that is what they said in Germany and Italy back then and it failed. But this time around we will be better, more vigilant and prepared.

I hope.


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Environmental science degrees in Australia just took a massive hit

Environmental science degrees in Australia just took a massive hit

In the 2020 Federal budget the Australian government, in its wisdom, decided that they would shift funding allocated to particular subjects within the university sector. The media have focused on reductions in the amount of money spent on arts degrees and the promotion of STEM subjects, technical and hard science degrees. 

Only one of the big losers in that story was environmental science. 

The student contribution to environmental studies was cut from $9,698 to $7,700 a year – meaning students will pay less for their degrees. A positive of course.

However, the commonwealth contribution paid to the universities to run these degrees was cut from $24,446 to $16,500 per student per year – meaning that the government will fund each degree less. Unless the university can be remarkably creative, less money received per student means a poorer quality of education.

This is very short-sighted, obviously. 

At a time when the youth are turning their minds towards their futures and what kind of environment they’re going to live in; not to mention their children and grandchildren. They are concerned. They think that the current and previous generations have given them a hospital pass. And they’re about to crash into the opponent with very little protection. 

Many of them are keen to find out more, to engage with environmental problems, and to search for solutions. Apply their sharp and agile minds to make the world safer and more sustainable.

The environmental sciences, one would have thought, are in the best interests of everyone. 

No matter what your value set, not understanding how the environment works is just a massive miss to any economy, society and individual well-being. 

Think about it for a moment.

All modern economic systems are founded on feeding the people. There are only two ways to feed the people: grow enough food or buy food from another grower. Either way, you need a strong system of economic organisation in order to be able to achieve the outcome by either method. 

Failure to feed your population and strife is never far away. 

And here is the thing… whether we like it or not,

The environment is where we grow our food 

Until we have created greenhouses on the moon or vertical gardens on every building in every city, the majority of our food supply will come from the land. It will be grown in soil. That’s going to be the case for at least the next hundred years and beyond. 

Not recognizing this fact just because we seem to have enough food right now, is morally abhorrent. That senior leaders and advisers are not even contemplating future food security is criminal. 

Remember that on any day of the week at least 700 million people are hungry and not all of them live in obscure countries that few know exist.

We have a small window for finding options to grow and distribute food for everyone. A short time to throw alternatives around and have their value debated before landing on the values that take precedent in which locations. 

Soon this window for rational discussions will have passed and will be in crisis mode. 

And a crisis is what it will come to for hungry people are desperate. 

In spending less on environmental science education governments are undermining the capability to even act in crisis mode by making it harder for a youngster to be educated in this area of interest. It is tragic. A small budget item decision that really points to the stupidity of the people in power. 

Not just the government

It may be that the environmental scientists themselves must take some of the responsibility. 

In my hirsute youth way back in the late 1970’s, I completed a degree in environmental science at the University of East Anglia in the UK. It was a new degree at the time and UEA promoted itself as a place of open-ended learning and student-centred inquiry.

A fascinating subject combined with a novel pedagogy fitted my personality to perfection. 

I absolutely loved it.

I spent hours in the library on my open-ended inquiry. And was both fascinated and empowered by the student-centeredness of the whole approach. In one of the courses, I even marked my own assignment, only to be told by the lecturer that I might have undersold myself. 

That this type of degree was available at the time was magical to me. 

The ability to mix and match a whole range of different subject matter, that would otherwise have not gone together or insufficient on their own to merit undergraduate study, was perfect.  Ecology, sedimentology, geochemistry, meteorology, sustainable development… and that was just the first year. 

Later it was Environments in time, more Ecology, Ecosystem Management, Land Resource Development, and Toxic Substances in the Environment. In total a thorough grounding in the bio-physicality of the world with and without humanity.

This STEM version of environmental science was not taken up in every program. 

In many universities, these topics never really came together and environmental science was hijacked by the human end of it. The value-laden decision making by individuals and the consequences of people being involved in the environment more so than the objectivity of the information that you can get about how the environment works. 

In other words, the sociology of the subject risked diluting the objectivity. 

These programs are less able to be precise about the science of the environment being absorbed in the social aspects of it. 

Consequently, environmental scientists are not winning Nobel Prizes. They’re not at the forefront of the men in white coats that governments are now trotting out to explain the COVID crisis. 

The discipline of environmental science does not have the standing needed to attract resources to empower the next generation. I think we have to take some responsibility for that, for not actually putting ourselves forward well enough. 

But if I was a climate actions youngster skipping school in order to protest about my future, then I would be looking closely at that cheaper degree and hoping that the quality of the program was up to scratch. 

Then I would enrol in environmental science.

Society will need what I learn.

One rule for you and one for the politician

One rule for you and one for the politician

There is a debate going on in Australia at the moment about superannuation. In particular, the percentage of superannuation payments that companies must make for each employee. 

Currently, the law says that 9.5% of the base salary is the minimum requirement. 

Some companies go with more than that in order to provide attractive remuneration for staff. For example, the university sector has very generous superannuation levels well into double figures. But overall, weak investment returns and stock market volatility will leave many workers with modest super at retirement.

In response to this future problem, the Federal government promised to raise the minimum rate of employer superannuation contribution to 12%. 

This has benefits to workers but also to the economy as a whole when those workers become retirees and have more money to spend. 

Only the Australian PM Scott Morrison is considering delaying the legislated increase from 9.5 per cent to 12 per cent…  to protect jobs.

It is a boon for politicians to stand up and say “isn’t it wonderful that we are trying to improve the superannuation rate”. Even if they then say that they will delay it to protect jobs in tough times.

When the PM or any of his ministers stands up to speak though, he probably doesn’t tell everybody that his superannuation as a member of Parliament is already 15%. 

Imagine standing up and saying well, ladies and gentlemen, I get 15 per cent you get nine and a bit, but we’re going to raise yours a little bit or maybe not now that COVID-19 has stuffed everything up.

That is really not going to go down too well – one rule for you and one rule for me.