Category Archives: My soap box

Sam Dastyari – one rotten apple or just the tip of the iceberg?

I’ve been having a conversation over on The Passive Voice that has disturbed me greatly. Not because it was unpleasant or rude, but because it has made me feel terribly naive at the ripe old age of 65.

To backtrack a little, the conversation began as a discussion about Amazon. We’re all pretty much Indie writers on TPV so Amazon features rather often in our conversations. Anyway, these are the relevant bits of a recent conversation between myself and Felix J Torres:

FJT: ..They [Amazon] are definitely being demonized like Microsoft ca 1995.
Hopefully, unlike MS in those days, they have more than one part time lobbyist in DC and have a few bought and paid for politicians in their pocket.

Me: ..So cynical! I most sincerely hope Bezos is smart enough not to have to do business like that.

FJT: ..If he doesn’t Amazon will get the same treatment Microsoft got for not contributing enough corporate funds to the politicians….

All that is a matter of record.

As is the fact that MS now has one of the larger contingents in DC and regularly provide PCs and free software to Congress people…

Me: ..I’m not denying it happens under the label of ‘lobbying’, but Amazon succeeded despite not doing what all the other companies were doing. If Bezos caves to the soft-corruption game of ‘gifting’ politicians, the ones to suffer long term will be /us/.
Apologies but Amazon is the /only/ large company that I admire. [I am so cringing now]

FJT: ..Well, of course consumers suffer.
The cost added by the politicians and bureaucrats gets added to the sale price….

Once one player alerts the politicians there is money to be had in a market they don’t back off. Rather they descend en masse…

Bezos would have to be an idiot to hear all the baying dogs calling for a lynching of Amazon and do nothing despite of what happened to Microsoft.

And he isn’t.
Amazon’s publicly reported lobbying has been growing steadily. Even faster than their online sales are growing…

Me: ..So there is open corruption that everybody knows about and accepts as normal?
In certain much maligned countries that might be known as ‘baksheesh’.

FJT: ..

Oh, just because it’s common knowledge doesn’t mean it’s accepted.

But every once in a while a congressman gets caught and arrested with a brown bag with $30K. (Seems to be the going rate in the House. Senators are a lot more expensive.)

Most politicians aren’t that blatant and merely call it “serving their constituents”. And many wrap themselves in principle like “protecting competition” or “looking out for the little people”.

Me: ..A member of the Labor party here in Australia – Sam Dastyari – was caught getting cosy with some Chinese business man, twice. He was finally kicked out but now I wonder whether he wasn’t just the tip of the iceberg, the one blatant idiot who got caught.
Could I get any more disillusioned?
I will never understand why so many Americans picked a certain person to be their ‘champion’ against the swamp, but I’m starting to understand why they need a champion in the first place.

I have only quoted what I thought were the relevant parts of the conversation, but if you’re interested, you can find the whole thing here:

http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2018/01/why-amazon-is-the-new-microsoft/#comment-408446

Just scroll down a bit.

So, is this something everyone else already knew except me?

I would like to think that Australia is less caught up in this nudge-nudge-wink-wink epidemic of greed, but I’m not a complete fool. How many more Sam Dastyari’s are there amongst our politicians? Do they all take bribes of one sort or another? Is that why, once the politics dies down, nothing is ever done to change this bloody situation?

I’ve long thought the  concept of lobbying was wrong: in a democracy, the only people influencing politicians should be the voters. And yes, I know lobbyists are voters too, as are CEO’s of huge corporations blah blah, but if this bribery is as rampant as it appears, then our democracy is just a great big off-colour joke. 😦

Not happy Jan.

Meeks

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Politics – do we really care?

I’ve always had a problem with ‘-isms’ – communism, socialism, facism, capitalism, republicanism, you name it – because they all seem to miss the point about people. Homo Sapiens doesn’t give a flying fruit bat about politics until things go wrong.

I was a kid in the late Menzies era of Australia [1949-1966], and I remember hearing some adults moan about elections while others moaned about the general apathy of the Australian voter. You see, in Australia, we have compulsory voting…and the times were good.

In fact, by the early 60’s, the populations of the Western world were better off, generally, than they had ever been before. Not quite the age of surplus envisioned by Marx, but close, and some of us really were able to live ‘…from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.’ That’s what the Age of Aquarius, Flower Power and Free Love were really all about.

Yet, on an individual level, despite the lack of scarcity, we still suffered from greed and envy and other ‘first world’ problems as we see-sawed between co-operation and competition. Because that is how the human animal is made – neither saint nor sinner but a combination of both.

And in a roundabout way, our dual nature is exactly why compulsory voting should be mandatory in all representational democracies. Voters are human and apathetic…and the silent majority doesn’t give a shit. That is why we have to be forced into protecting democracy, because democracy only works if the apathetic majority moderates the extremes on both the Right and the Left.

If I had my way, I would do away with all career politicians entirely. Instead, I would replace them with ordinary people, plucked off the street as for jury duty. These reluctant amateurs would bring their own strengths and weaknesses to the table, but their very reluctance might result in some genuine ‘…government of the people, for the people, by the people’.

Human beings won’t change, ever. That’s why we have to devise better systems to make it possible for this disparate tribe to live together in mutual protection and safety.

Only by understanding and working around our own weaknesses can we avoid going the way of the dinosaur and the dodo.

May 2018 be a better year than 2017.

Meeks


Lest I forget – Thursday, December 7, 2017

I’m hopeless with dates so I wanted to commemorate the day on which marriage equality became law, here in Australia. I’m so proud. 🙂

-hugs-

Meeks


Elon Musk wins his bet in South Australia!

As a long time fan of renewable energy, the latest news about Elon Musk fills me with glee. He bet that he could install a megabattery in South Australia in 100 days, and he’s come in ahead of schedule!

The story began last year when South Australia suffered a massive storm that destroyed infrastructure meant to allow Australian states to ‘share’ energy on a huge network. Due to some market manipulation on pricing, and a toothless watchdog asleep at its post [yes, AEMO I’m looking at you] South Australia suffered crippling blackouts, off and on, for weeks.

As the South Australia government is Labor and had invested heavily in wind farms, the Liberals in the national government went on a renewable energy bashing spree without offering up one, single practical solution. And then Elon Musk spoke up and shamed them all. He said that he could create a mammoth battery capable of storing the energy from the wind farms until needed. Then he bet the cost of the battery – $50 million dollars – that he could make good on his promise in 100 days. If he lost, he would carry the cost of the project.

Well guess what? -big grin- South Australia has a $50 million dollar bill to pay!

More importantly, all the dinosaurs in our government advocating for dirty coal power stations have been silenced, at least for a while.

You can read the whole story here:

https://futurism.com/elon-musk-megabattery-australia/

Today really has been a good day. Thank you, Elon Musk. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


A Proud Australian

Yesterday marked a special day in Australia. We voted ‘Yes’ to equality and a fair go. And we voted ‘no’ to bigotry.

As a nation, that’s cause for celebration, but the moment would have tasted even sweeter if it had marked the day marriage equality came into law.

Because it’s not there yet. This postal vote was not compulsory. It was also not binding. That means the politicians in Canberra can dick about forever and a day, delaying the inevitable just to pander to party factions. The result of the vote had barely been made public and already a Rabid Right politician was spruiking a marriage equality bill that would grant the right to marriage but would also water down anti-discrimination laws already in place!

I hope the Rabid Right enjoys its moment in the sun, because if they mess this up, none of the Liberals will stay in power for much longer. That is the one lesson none of our politicians seem to have learned. I guess they still think the political see-saw of the last few years is just an abberation. But it’s not. Parliament is full of Independents because we, the people, no longer trust the two major parties.

Malcolm Turnbull, our PM, has said he will make marriage equality a reality by Christmas. I hope that reality does not include the right for others to discriminate against gay couples, because reneging on the clear wishes of we, the people, will sound the death knell for his whole party.

cheers

Meeks

 


Warrandyte – burning off in the rain

That pile of ash and charcoal is all that’s left of a huge pile of dead branches, windfall and prunings that I’ve been collecting all winter.

I know it doesn’t look like much now, but that pile was becoming a real danger so, it had to go. And what better time to burn it off than when everything’s nice and wet!

“But isn’t it too wet to burn?” you ask.

Nope. It rained quite heavily early this morning and at 7:00 am, everything was quite wet, including the outer layer of the pile. Inside, however, that pile was dry and ready to burn. I crumpled up a few sheets of scrap paper and shoved them underneath the pile. Then I put a couple of firelighters on top of the paper and set it alight. In an hour, the original pile and huge armfuls of very wet windfall were all gone.

I suspect most of you know where I’m going with this; branch and leaf litter burn extraordinarily well, so if you live in and around Warrandyte, clean up your property now, before everything dries out and the whole area turns into a tinderbox.

Okay, now I’m going to collapse and not move for a while. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 

 


Intellectual Property – an Indie minefield

I am in no danger of having my intellectual property [IP] diddled away by some corporation waving a contract, but Kristine Kathryn Rusch* is, and her latest post was scary to say the least. Here’s a short quote:

‘Those companies can all acquire IP from stupid writers for less than $10,000 per property forever. Just say the word “movie” or “TV” and most stupid writers give away their IP for free, in the hopes of having a movie or TV show made from their property. The property they no longer own, by the way.’

But the most terrifying part was this:

It doesn’t matter if your copyright is registered, the expert said. They’ll register anyway, even before they’ve started production on anything. The strategy is to create confusion over who owns the copyright, and it’ll take litigation to straighten that confusion out.

The bold emphasis is mine but the meaning is clear – one small Indie hasn’t a hope of fighting a company with millions of dollars in its war chest. Can you afford to take a production company to court to get your intellectual property back?

“Oh but if I’m being paid for it then it doesn’t matter.”

Yeah, that’s the big ‘if’, but sadly those contracts make sure you get little if anything in return.

I really, truly, strongly suggest you read the Rusch article, just in case….

http://kriswrites.com/2017/10/25/business-musings-stealing-intellectual-property/

I’ll confess, part of my outrage stems from the fact that I have day dreams too. I would love to see the Innerscape story turned into a movie or a big, beautiful game. I understand the desperation to have that kind of validation, because I share it. If someone came knocking, waving a contract in my face, I know I’d have stars in my eyes and the k-ching of cash registers in my ears too. But after this warning, I hope I remember that the one thing worse than never finding fame and fortune is being cheated out of it…by a corporate with lots of money and no scruples.

Seriously, if you’re an Indie author, please read the Rusch article.

Meeks

*Kristine Kathryn Rusch is a Hugo award winning writer with her own wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kristine_Kathryn_Rusch


Wifi hack

Just in case you haven’t heard/seen the news on the internet, a basic exploit has been discovered in the Wifi architecture, and that exploit has been hacked. That means potentially everything that uses wifi to communicate is vulnerable.

And that includes:

  • computers via their router
  • smartphones
  • tablets
  • Amazon’s Alexa [I think]
  • and even cars

Apparently Windows based computers should already be updated against this exploit, although how Microsoft managed to find out so quickly is a worry. However, that is only the computer operating system itself. The router also handles things like internet banking and I have no idea how secure that is now.

Android and Linux are both vulnerable. I believe Apple is too.

As most people these days have wifi routers [the box with the flickering lights that sits between your computer and the internet], I would strongly recommend checking with your ISP* about when you can expect a security update for the router. ISPs are your service providers – e.g. Telstra, Optus etc. Until you get one, I would keep internet transactions dealing with money to an absolute minimum.

Actually, you might consider going around with wads of cash for a while. No seriously.

Oh, and don’t use the free wifi in your local shopping centre because such locales are plenty big enough to make them worthwhile for hacking.**

If any of my techie friends has info to share I’d really appreciate it.

cheers

Meeks

* When you sign up with an ISP, they usually provide you with a router [for a fee] so the ISP should provide info. on updating the router.

** Although this hack is universal, it is constrained by the hacker’s need to be physically within reach of the wifi he/she wants to hack. So home wifi is not that ‘worthwhile’, but a large shopping centre probably would be.

 


Monsanto strikes again

Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready was bad enough, but Dicamba is an order of magnitude worse. It’s a form of toxic, aerial blackmail.

“It’s no surprise farmers are up in arms. Dicamba spreads death with the wind, drifting onto their crops, trees, soil, and water. Farmers are now faced with a terrible choice — switch to Monsanto GMO seeds, or watch their crops die.

It’s a greedy, dangerous scheme that will make Monsanto billions and could destroy our food system.” AVAAZ

You can read more about Dicamba here:

http://www.agriculture.com/crops/soybeans/in-wake-of-new-monsanto-seed-illinois-sees-more-crop-damage-from-dicamba

AVAAZ is campaigning for a million signatures to try to stop Monsanto. I’m not American so my signature won’t count, but if you live in the US and you care about food and justice, please sign the petition and ask your friends to sign too.

The petition is here:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/monsanto_dicamba_og_tst/?bqbYGlb&v=98345&cl=13275740849&_checksum=d1b2a8ba752fa86abe58349ca1195cfa018c5244c439e343f548c84481d5288a

Thanks,

Meeks

p.s. we switched over to Daylight Savings time this morning at 2am….I hate it so much. 😦

 


10 things that marriage equality won’t do

A co-worker brought in a pamphlet yesterday. The heading read ‘3 ways gay marriage will change the classroom’. And I quote

More radical gay & lesbian sex ‘education’ programs in schools‘ like Safe Schools which ‘..already teach kids about various forms of sexual activity and encourages sexual experimentation from an early age‘.

Kids will be taught their gender is fluid‘…’something they choose, not something they are born with‘.

Loss of parents’ rights‘. ‘In other countries where gay marriage has been legalised, parents have found themselves in court after trying to pull their kids out of radical gay sex education classes‘.

We were all gobsmacked at the ignorance and blatant disregard for the truth. So here are some things that won’t happen when marriage equality is finally made law:

1.  Heterosexual kids will not suddenly become gay. Homosexuality is not a choice.

2.  Heterosexual kids will not suddenly become lesbian. Homosexuality is not a choice.

3.  Heterosexual kids will not suddenly become trans. Being transgender is not a choice.

4.  Kids in general will not be any more or less interested in sex than they are now. But kids who are taught that being gay, lesbian or trans is not ‘bad’ may become a little more tolerant. They may stop hounding kids who look or act ‘different’. And gay, lesbian or trans kids who struggle to make sense of their feelings and their place in the world may stop harming themselves and taking their own lives.

5.  Parents will not lose any of the ‘rights’ they have now. They will still be free to place their children in public or private schools according to their beliefs. They will also continue to have the right to homeschool their children.

6.  Religious institutions that allowed systemic child abuse to continue for decades will continue to marry or not marry people based on church dogma.

7.  Adults who disliked gay, lesbian or trans people before marriage equality can continue to dislike them afterwards. Marriage equality is powerless to stop prejudice and bigotry.

8.  Marriage equality will not harm any straight people.

9.  Marriage equality will not take anything away from straight people.

10.  Marriage equality is not the start of a slippery slope that will ruin Australia.

These are the countries that have already legalised marriage equality:

This list includes deeply religious countries like Spain, Portugal and Ireland. The sky didn’t fall in and nothing terrible happened.

Nothing terrible will happen here either. Life will continue the way it always has, but there may come a time when kids who are different can stand tall and live happy, productive lives instead of being bullied to death like Kenneth James Weishuhn. Rest in peace.

Vote Yes

Meeks


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