Tag Archives: 2016

#Nice – truck attack, 80 killed

I’ve just learned that there’s been a new terrorist attack in France – in the southern city of Nice. Details are still sketch, but it seems that a man driving a truck ploughed into as many people on the road as he could, shooting at the same time. The crowds were there to celebrate Bastille Day and were caught completely unawares.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2016/jul/14/nice-bastille-day-france-attack-promenade-des-anglais-vehicle

I don’t know how accurate the death toll is, but even one person is too many. My thoughts are with the people of France.

Meeks


Australian #politics – the bad, the bad and the ugly

rip 2016On Saturday, July 1, 2016, Australia voted in a double dissolution election [for House of Representatives and Senate at the same time], but five days later we still don’t know which party will govern.

Nevertheless, we can safely say that Malcolm Turnbull has lost. If the Liberals remain in power, Turnbull may remain as Prime Minister, but his effectiveness will be severely compromised, as will his legacy.

So how did Malcolm Turnbull, one of the most respected and admired politicians in recent history, manage to lose his appeal in such a spectacular fashion?

The answer, I believe, is very simple, Malcolm was not allowed to be Malcolm and voters punished the party for it. To understand this, it’s important to understand the right wing, conservative, faceless, faction heavy weights of the Liberal party. They :

  1. loved Tony Abbott,
  2. hated Malcolm Turnbull [they still do]
  3. had to acknowledge that Tony Abbott was almost universally hated by voters,
  4. had to acknowledge that Malcolm Turnbull was liked and respected by voters on both sides of the Liberal/Labor divide

[confession: I liked him too and I’m a Labor voter],

Taking points 3 and 4 into consideration, it eventually became obvious that the party would suffer a landslide loss if Abbott stayed as Prime Minister. Worse still, only the hated Malcolm Turnbull would have any traction with voters. So after much gnashing of teeth, the conservatives gave in and offered Turnbull a deal: they would support his coup against Tony Abbott, but only if he [Turnbull] continued to toe the party line established by Abbott.

In hindsight, this seems rather crazy until you consider that the right wing has never had any time for Climate Change, or marriage equality or even that pesky NBN. So they were prepared to use the Turnbull popularity with the electorate but without all that small ‘l’ liberal nonsense.

What is less clear is why Malcolm Turnbull and his supporters accepted such a backhanded and hamstrung endorsement.

My personal guess is that Turnbull et al., must have seen the writing on the wall and grabbed what they could, believing [probably accurately] that he would never have a better chance of becoming Prime Minister.

So Malcolm and the conservatives struck a deal and for a while, the strategy appeared to work. Liberal popularity in the polls went up as Malcolm rode a wave of public hope.

We believed in Malcolm. Wasn’t he the man who lost the leadership of the Liberal party because he stuck to his principles on climate change? What greater sacrifice could a politician make? And wasn’t he also the man who openly supported gay marriage? And in a way, despite selling out on the full glory of the NBN, he at least managed to stop Abbott from scuttling it completely.

So Malcolm was our hero, and we believed that finally we would get a government that most of the country could swing behind. He might be a Liberal, but he was a good Liberal. Maybe even another Menzies [arguably the ‘best’ Prime Minister in Australia’s political history].

But then the winds of change began to blow a little cold. Week followed week and nothing we’d hoped for eventuated. Nothing on Climate Change. Nothing on marriage equality. Nothing on Refugees. Nothing on anything that any of us plebs actually cared about. What was going on?

In time, some of us began to think that Malcolm was playing a long game. Yes, he was under the conservative thumb now, but after the next election he’d be so successful that the conservatives would have to crawl back into their holes and finally, finally Malcolm could be himself.

I truly believe this was a part of the PM’s strategy when he called a double dissolution on an issue that no one seemed to care about, including him.

The trouble with this strategy was that Malcolm’s popularity declined in direct proportion to the release of policy after policy that favoured the big end of town while asking us to accept all the sacrifices required to balance the budget [at some point in the future].

Australians pride themselves on giving everyone a ‘fair go’, and we’ll happily dig deep to help those laid low by disaster [witness the 30 plus million dollars raised by public donations after the Black Saturday bushfires here in Victoria]. But Australians also have a history of distrusting the super rich and the big end of town. If the Liberals had offered genuine support to small business, we might well have tightened our belts and got on with it, but they offered incentives to companies and corporations that did not need the help. And they were going to pay for it by making us do without.

That major miscalculation was rooted in the conservative concept of the ‘trickle down’ effect. In essence, it means that if government supports big business, big business will generate growth which will lead to jobs which will lead to greater prosperity for all.

Sadly, most people in the Western world have now had first hand experience of the trickle down effect and they know it doesn’t work. So when Malcolm and the rest of the Liberals bleated about jobs and growth, we weren’t listening. Added to this disinterest was a great disappointment – we’d had such high hopes for Malcolm and he hadn’t lived up to our expectations. Malcolm wasn’t Malcolm. Had he changed his mind about all the things we thought he cared about? Or had he sold us out just to be PM?

I think we might still have voted for Malcolm if not for the brilliant campaign run by Bill Shorten. I personally dislike the man and can’t see myself trusting someone who stabbed two Labor Prime Ministers in the back in order to be given the job of opposition leader. Nevertheless, despite all expectations to the contrary, Bill Shorten ran an inspired campaign. He picked up on all the disenchantment of ordinary voters – including their fears for Medicare – and hammered them home.

In the final analysis, however, Shorten’s campaign would not have been as effective if the right wing conservatives had allowed Malcolm to be Malcolm. Instead, they muzzled the goose that might have laid their golden egg, and now they’re spinning all sorts of ‘reasons’ to explain its failure to deliver.

I feel sorry for Malcolm Turnbull because I can understand his desperation to finally wear the mantle of PM. But the truth is, when he sold out to the conservative right, he lost the perceived integrity that made him popular in the first place, and with that, he lost the very thing he wanted most – validation.

In my last post I talked about the disaffection of Western voters, and how this might lead to a change in how we ‘do’ democracy but in the meantime, we are protesting about the lack of integrity of our politicians in the only way we can – by kicking them out. This, too, is democracy.

cheers

Meeks

 


The end of Representational #Democracy?

People tend to talk about our Western systems of government as ‘democracies’, but the reality is that they are only representational democracies.

Why ‘only’?

Because the original Greek definition of democracy was one man, one vote. Of course by that definition, neither slaves nor women could vote, but it was still a pretty amazing concept in a world of Kings, Emperors, Warlords and other hierarchical and dictatorial forms of government. When a civic decision had to be made, everyone would crowd into the plaza and vote with a show of hands. Simple. Direct. And non-scalable. Imagine how big a plaza you’d need for even a small country like say Hungary.

By the time some of the countries of Western Europe decided to give this democray thing a go, they’d already figured out that one man, one vote simply couldn’t work, not for big places like England and France. So they invented a system that allowed their citizens to choose between just a few people for the right to vote. The person who ended up being chosen at the grassroots level would then go up to parliament and vote on their behalf. This is the basis of representational democracy – one person voting in the name of lots of people.

Now representational democracy was a great invention in its time, but the reality has never lived up to the hype because all those representatives ended up being funnelled into parties. Then factions within those parties would compete amongst themselves. Eventually, one person would gain enough power to represent not only the whole faction but also the party. This leader would then go head to head with the leader of the opposing faction until one of them won. Eventually, the leader who won would get to represent and make decisions for…all of us:

we the governed

 

Forgive me for this child’s view of politics, but sometimes we have to remember what’s real and what is merely an aspiration. At the moment, the kind of democracy that gives each man and woman a vote that actually matters is still just a pipe-dream.

Or is it?

During the lead up to the recent Australian election, many of the political pundits mentioned that a massive proportion of eligible young voters were not registering to vote. [In Australia, voting is compulsory and anyone 18 and over is supposed to register their name on the electoral roll].

Were these young people merely apathetic? Just not interested in politics? Not interested in politics as we know it? Other?

At 63 I can hardly speak for the young, but as someone who lives on the internet, I can make a few educated guesses:

  1. I don’t think the young are disinterested in politics at all
  2. I think they are merely disinterested in the traditional form of politics taken for granted in the West.

Now let me make a few guesses as to why:

  1. change.org
  2. Facebook [and Tumblr and Twitter and…and….etc]

What does social media have to do with politics? And disaffected youth? Everything.

Todays 18 year olds have grown up having a direct say in the issues they care about – via Facebook et al., and organisations such as change.org and getup [amongs others]. On these platforms, groups form almost organically and as the groups grow, they gain a voice, a voice that is being heard by pollsters and politicians alike. The major parties may deny that they take any notice of online petitions, but no institution is large enough to withstand the fury of a self-righteous group.

So the young have found a platform and those in control are paying attention, and this is happening in real time, day after day. Why on earth would these young voices care about an election that happens only once every 3 – 4 years and does NOT reflect their views?

Make no mistake, in a representational democracy, only voting blocks actually matter. Individual votes matter hardly at all. For example, here in Warrandyte, we are part of the Jaga Jaga electoral area. Jaga Jaga is never mentioned in post election commentary because it is a safe Labor seat, and has been for a very long. Thus, no matter how I vote, my vote has no effect on the outcome of the election because it would take a massive change to turn Jaga Jaga into a swinging electorate. And swinging electorates are the only ones that can really change the final outcome of the election.

So for young people living in Warrandyte who do NOT believe in Labor’s values, voting is essentially pointless, and exactly the same thing applies to Labor voters in a safe Liberal electorate. Yet all these young people have had a taste of what true democracy could be like.

They have made their voices heard on social media and that is the kind of system they want: one person, one vote and each vote counts.

We do not yet have the technology to make online voting, issue by issue, a reality. The internet is simply not secure enough, not yet, but it will be, and when it is, I believe representational democracy will change. It will have to. Brexit and Trump and the [possibility] of a hung parliament here in Australia guarantee it.

We who are governed want to have a say in how we are governed. We want democracy.

cheers

Meeks


Green energy and #wavepower

Baseload is a word that’s bandied around a lot when proponents of fossil fuel energy plants talk about green energy. Essentially, the argument states that modern, technological states require reliable energy to thrive. This, they say, cannot be provided by green energy sources such as solar and wind because neither is available all the time.

There is some truth to that argument, and until reliable green energy storage becomes available – e.g. massive batteries of some kind – we will need some form of regular energy production. But…that regular energy production need not be from coal or nuclear. Geothermal has been around for a while but while it’s reliable, it isn’t necessarily cheap. This is where wave power could provide the magic bullet that finally weans us away from fossil fuels.

Wave power technology harnesses the constant rise and fall of ocean waves to turn the generators that actually create the energy we need. The technology is not free, but once in place, the driving force behind it is. Better still, that driving force – ocean waves – is constant. Some days may see more energy generation than others, but the waves never completely stop. And that’s important because that minimum level of power generation can be calculated and used.

The new wavepower plant built in Gibraltar [read the Gizmag article for full details] may be small, but it’s cost effective now and can be added to in the future.

Wavepower in Gibraltar

Wavepower in Gibraltar

Congratulations to Gibraltar for taking a small step towards greening the planet. Hopefully one day, all countries with access to an ocean will harness wavepower for their own energy needs.


Eurovision 2016 – congratulations Ukraine!

The Offspring and I just finished watching the scoring for Eurovision 2016, and we’re both knackered! So exciting but also incredibly nerve wracking.

Ukraine won at the very end, but out very own Dami Im led for most of the judging, and we couldn’t be more proud. Congratulations Ukraine and THANK YOU, Dami. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

p.s. This is the people’s favourite – You’re the Only One [Russia]:

 


#WordPress Devs….just stop it! This #Reader is 0/5

Okay, now you’ve really messed up my Reader! Where the hell are the blogs I follow?

For those who haven’t yet seen the new WordPress Reader landing page, this is it:

wordpress crap reader 2016

Under ‘Welcome to the Reader’ you will find this:

Recent posts from blogs and sites you follow will appear here.

But they don’t. They don’t appear ANYWHERE. Nor is there a clickable link to take me to wherever my follows have been hidden.

‘Explore Discover’ [shown as 1 on the screenshot] is Freshly Pressed with a new name.

‘Get recommendations…’ is just that, a list of blogs I do not follow that WordPress thinks I should be paying attention to.

In the Navigation pane to the left is an option called ‘My Likes’, but this only takes me to posts I have liked in the past.

Nowhere can I see a way of checking in on the blogs I have CHOSEN to follow for reasons pertinent to me.

How dare WordPress tell me my choices don’t count!

I hope this is a glitch of some sort that will get fixed pronto because this new Reader is so awful I really am tempted to leave WordPress altogether. Only the thought of losing all the material I have created during the last four years is stopping me.

Not happy WordPress. This time you really have gone too far.

A.C Flory

Meeka’s Mind

https://acflory.wordpress.com

17/2/2016


Open #submissions to Gollanz, January 2016

My thanks to the Offspring for alerting me to this, otherwise I would not have known that Gollanz is holding open submissions. -waves to the Offspring-

If you write sci-fi, fantasy or horror [I think] then you might consider sending your MS off. You can find the full details here:

http://www.gollancz.co.uk/2015/10/gollancz-direct-submissions-january-2016/

As I don’t have a print version of Vokhtah, and don’t fancy paying the postage on an A4 printout to the UK, I won’t be applying. That said, I hope my all my sci-fi writing friends take advantage of this opportunity. Win or lose, it’s an important experience and I wish all of you the best of luck!

cheers

Meeks


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