The Dog’s Bollocks

Truth is like a dog’s bollocks – pretty obvious if you care to look.

How the mighty fall – it’s as easy as ABC…

The unedifying scramble by ABC Learning‘s senior executives to unload personal shares in ABC Learning is hardly reassuring news for fellow investors, their workers, or their clients who depend on their services so they can work two jobs and pay off the sub-primed McMansions.

Eddie GrovesFounded in 1988 in Ashgrove, Brisbane’s Eddy Groves, now the Global Chief Executive Officer of the company, ABC Learning, with the aid of cheap sub-prime credit and much largess from the Howard Government has acquired around 1000 childcare centres in Australia and another 500 or so in the US and South East Asia. They were even making overtures to state governments to operate for-profit McPrivate Schools in the McBurbs — courtesy of Howard’s funneling of education funding from public schools into the private sector.

Today’s bursting of the bubble is a long way from the halcyon days when Larry Anthony, Howard’s Minister for Childcare, lost his seat and took up a lucrative directorship with his good mate from ABC Learning. Who can forget when Costello’s granting of quite generous allowances and tax discounts magically transformed into higher fees by ABC Learning wihtin weeks? Brilliant! Those were the days!

ABC Learning has clearly placed corporate growth ahead of providing quality childcare. Never a good combination in my experience. Remember when they went to court defending a negligence charge when a small child escaped and wandered off? They argued that their liability went no further than their employees. That it had nothing to do whatsoever with chronic under-staffing by low-paid, under-skilled workers? Talk about laugh!

Just goes to show that making a quick buck is not the same thing as maintaining a healthy economy. The two should never be confused, despite what the Howardians led us to believe.

Filed under: Economics, Education, Howardians, Religion

Computer says…No!

Third time lucky. Well so they say. Let’s hope so. A handful of sites I’ve built have been rendered useless by the major trials and tribulations of MDWebhosting. First, it was Russian cross-spripting hackers or something, and then on February 9 they had a major power malfunction which fried the power supply grid and then proceeded to cook the servers.

The perils of the webhosting business where punters want increasing amounts of more for less. In some cases corners get cut and uptime disasters occur. I wish MDWebhosting well, but I’ve had to move on in order to rebuild all my sites. Jumba is my new host. The only complaint I’ve had is that support service can be a bit slow, but hopefully that’s only because of the flood of MD Refugees pouring in and going nuts now that something’s working again and the first month is half price. Yay!

Now all I got to do is fix the darn thing.

Filed under: Blogging, Internet, Technology

The Housing crisis that Howard built

News today that 3.3 million Australians will be living in rental properties illustrates the fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into over affordable housing. Not only did Howard fail to address the issue, he actually made it worse.

Negative gearing on investment properties should have been scrapped long ago. It was meant to increase the supply of rental properties. Well that worked a treat. Capital gains concessions should be removed from speculative investment in family houses.

Howard’s ill-considered first home buyers scheme for millionaires created the housing boom we had to have. What have we got to show for it? Housing is now less affordable than any time in Australian history.

And this short-term, quick profit coupon clipping passes for superior economic management in this luckiest of countries.

Filed under: Economics, Politics

$400M is cheap at twice the price

If it costs $400,000,000 to cancel the Super Hornets it will be money well spent to avoid wasting $billions in US Military Corporate profits on a useless piece of obsolete technology ill-suited to our needs. And cancel the Joint Strike Fighter project while we’re at it. The most dumb-assed decision ever made by Brendan Nelson on behalf of the Howard pre-emptive defense doctrine.
ABCAustralia is no longer Deputy Sheriff to Dubya’s neo-con dream of global domination by the US empire. The game’s over boys. A more realistic assessment of our air defence capabilities will better serve our security needs and likely have money left over to spend on Indigenous Australia, or public health and education.

Filed under: Ass Hattery, Politics

The end of the world as we know it?

Dyson - The AgeAccording to Martin Jacques of the London School of Economics the underlying cause of the growing economic crisis is permanent and far-reaching — a fundamental shift in power from the developed world to the developing world — above all China and India. It will be the biggest geopolitical shift since the dawn of the industrial era — the economic and political consequences will be of such a scale that they are impossible to comprehend.

We are entering a period of protracted instability as the old order breaks down, the US seeks to resist change and the world embarks on a conflictual and painful passage towards a new global economic order.

One thing is certain, says Jaques: the neo-liberal orthodoxy will be undermined. It could lead to a rise of protectionism in the US and Europe against developing countries such as China, or new regulations designed to prevent sovereign wealth funds from taking over what are deemed key strategic assets.

When the free market and deregulation are the means by which the Western world extends its global economic power over the developing world, then they are deemed highly virtuous. But it is a different matter when they become the instrument by which developing countries can extend their influence over Western economies.

Similarly, during a recession, the state is likely to be called into active service on a far more regular basis as Western governments seek to deal with the mushrooming effects of market failure.

It is not an accident that developing countries — virtually the whole of East Asia, for example — view the role of the state in a far more interventionist way than does the Anglo-Saxon world. Laissez-faire and free markets are the favoured means of the powerful and privileged. The decline of the Western world could well usher in a significant change in this mind-set.

Having had my share of online stoushes with neo-liberal economic fundamentalists I’ve been contemplating lately that the great dream of The Free Market is no less an ideology than Socialism or Communism were in the past, and in reality, no more attainable. All are born of great philosophical ideas which are never fully realised in the real world. Like all ideologies, they are destined to fail because human society is neither purely a common collective nor purely self-interested individuals. Society therefore never quite provides the ideal conditions to allow the great dreams to materialise. Millions suffer in the pursuit of them for the benefit of a prevailing elite.

Also in the Business Section of The Age today Leon Gettler observes that “anyone who has spent time in big organisations knows that expecting them to be restlessly innovative and strategically nimble, on top of being efficient and sticking to the management rule book, is like expecting a cat to tap dance.”

The truth is management techniques have a certain sameness about them. They haven’t really changed that much since the 1960s, whether it’s about setting budgets, supervising teams, setting tasks for subordinates and then reviewing their performances. Buzz words such as benchmarking or quality have lost their fizz.

Organisational DNA makes traditional management programming easy. Corporate DNA allows companies to engage in cost-cutting, continuous improvement, outsourcing and offshoring to make products and services cheaper, better and faster. That’s what companies do, it’s in their DNA, just as it’s in the nature of cats to chase birds and dogs to pee on trees.

According to management thinker Gary Hamel, traditional management principles built around standardisation, specialisation of tasks and functions, goal alignment, hierarchy, planning and control and rewards don’t work in a world where the pace of change is accelerating and more companies find themselves on the wrong side of the change curve.

His book, The Future of Management (Harvard Business School Press, 2007), says present management practices no longer fit. You can’t expect your business to stand out in a crowded market, he says, when you are using outdated techniques.

“There seems to be something in modern organisations that depletes the natural resilience and creativity of human beings, something that literally leaches these qualities out of employees during daylight hours,” Hamel writes. “The culprit? Management principles and processes that foster discipline, punctuality, economy, rationality, and order, yet place little value on artistry, nonconformity, originality, audacity and elan. To put it simply, most companies are only fractionally human because they make room for only a fraction of the qualities and capabilities that make us human.”

What on earth is the world coming to?

Filed under: Big Picture, Economics, Ideology

Leading by example

Some may think Kevin Rudd’s proposal to freeze parliamentarians’ salaries is a political stunt, but it’s a great idea. It ups the ante on those who would preach the need for wage earners to make do with less for the good of the economy — it’s bad for inflation or something. So come on all you top end of town salary men and coupon clippers — set the example and practice what you preach.

Brendan Nelson also showed some refreshing leadership today in his washup of his performance at yesterday’s historic formal apology to the stolen generations.

Dr Nelson said the critical response to his speech was democracy in action.

”It’s democracy, thank goodness we can live in a country where each of us can have our point of view,” Dr Nelson told the Nine Network today.

”Unfortunately some people chose not to agree with some of the things that I said yesterday and they have a right to do so.”

Dr Nelson said he presented a ”deep-felt sorry” and the nation must now move forward to address indigenous disadvantage.

He welcomed the Prime Minister’s invitation for him to co-chair a joint policy commission to tackle indigenous disadvantage.

”Whatever we achieve as a nation, the extent to which we lift the living conditions, health and life expectancy of Aboriginal Australians will be the measure by which we are ultimately judged.

”The responsibility of government … is to see we do everything we can to address the emotional needs, the housing, the health, all of the other requirements that are so necessary for these people who have suffered and been removed from their families.

”That is our responsibility and compensation … is making sure that all of these services are well-funded.”

Makes a change from Howardian dog-whistling and dismissive ridicule of all dissent. But then the Libs always were much better with honorable notions in opposition than they practice in government.

This could be interesting.

Filed under: Indigenous, Politics

The dogs bark and the caravan moves on

Tandberg - The Age

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s eloquent and moving apology to the Stolen Generations marks a momentous day in Australian history. It was received with overwhelming consensus by the Australian people, drawing a line in the sand after 11 years of stubborn refusal by the Howard government. At Parliament House and around the country were many moving and emotional scenes of relief and gratitude that the moment dreamed of by so many had finally arrived. Kevin Rudd established himself as one who is prepared to show national leadership and extend the hand of bipartisan cooperation.

The only sour note was Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson’s inappropriate litany of sexual abuse offered as some kind of justification for Howard’s ill-considered Intervention, and the intemperate tantrums of some parliamentary hard-liners. Nelson’s speech started out well enough but became confused as he rambled on about fallen diggers , moral high ground and good intentions, presumably playing to the dissident among his own party, and ended up saying words to the effect that we are sorry that some bad things unintentionally happened, but we’re not sorry we did it.

In the blogosphere the usual suspects were yapping and complaining about the indignity and futility of it all, how it was all a sop to the bleeding heart lefty elites. After all, the Stolen Generations is just a myth. By today, the standard no-sorry narrative had become that Sorry will change nothing. They are wrong – if nothing else, the apology has pleased the vast majority of Indigenous Australians who have been calling for this day for more than decade for white Australia to recognise the pain and suffering they have endured. One obstacle has been removed on the path toward a meaningful reconciliation. Anyone with a shred of compassion could not help but be moved by the emotional outpouring witnessed at yesterday’s ceremony.

I’ve seen Archie Roach perform a number of times over the years – most recently at a local event late last year. There was hardly a dry eye in the white audience. Archie’s powerful and heartfelt singing conveys something of the depth of pain the stolen generations have suffered and the profound attachment Indigenous people have for the land, their families and people – something so deeply cultural that the rest of us can at best hope to appreciate and respect it, let alone fully understand.

In Federation Square, singer-songwriter Archie Roach, one of the best-known members of the stolen generations, dedicated his performance to the mother he was separated from, and to his own children. “This brings a new start in life for us, the way it should have been,” he said.

It was a joyous and unique day in Australian history, marking the beginning of a new era in which ordinary Australians no longer have to feel the shame for our government’s unwillingness to acknowledge the harm we have inflicted on successive generations of our Indigenous brothers and sisters. The dogs may bark – the stone-hearted, the curmudgeonly misanthropes who believe only in wealth and personal vanity – but the caravan is well and truly moving on.

But where was John Howard? Watching the proceedings from the comfort of Wollenscroft, wistfully regretting that he didn’t do what Rudd did yesterday? A man so concerned with his legacy can now add the epithet – the man who couldn’t say sorry.

Filed under: Australian values, Big Picture, History, Indigenous, Politics

The Dog’s Bollocks

What they say

The Dog's Bollocks: "Bollocks" is one of my favourite words, and this is now one of my favourite blogs and I've only been reading it for five minutes. – John Surname

This is the person who tried to analyse Hayek. This is actually a person who needs a shrink. – JC

Shut up slim. You’re an idiot.
Just you stay honest and keep that thinking cap on. – GMB

Insightful perspectives on politics and discussion of matters epistemological? I’m sold! - Bruce

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