opinion politics rant

The Role of Shame in Politics

And so at long last, we reach US Election Day 2016, when a reckoning has finally come for the American political system – the candidates perfectly set up as the establishment facing the insurgents, the know-nothing Donald Trump squaring off against the know-it-all Hillary Clinton.

How did we get like this?

How did we get from the point where once upon a time, a candidate that was even threatened with being revealed to be cheating on his wife, would step back, stand down, or resign altogether than face the music, to the point where we’re seeing a candidate standing despite those accusations and worse being thrown around, and still he appears to be as close as a 3% gap?

What changed to allow this to happen?

Shame. Or the lack thereof.

It is the nature of public shame more than anything in democracies to operate as the public conscience of the politicians. It is not the law that forces a resignation in the face of allegations of adultery, for instance; it is shame that pushes a politician to resign when word comes to light of legitimate but morally dubious donations; it is shame that forces departures that allegations of falsehoods bring to light, no matter how legal it may have been at the time.

It is shame, a somewhat quaint notion intrinsically linked with the quainter notions of honor and propriety. It is with shame that we have driven much of the better behavior without needing to codify it.

It was a key component that drove the first parliaments in England – honor and shame being what for years was enough to bring glory and to end careers. So much of parliament’s rules are mere conventions, and adherence to these is driven by the honor of doing the right thing. Where a parliamentarian would cross a line of honor, the sheer shame of doing so was in it self enough to force change.

Now? Who would bother with feeling shame, if the penalty isn’t there? Where’s the big stick as a result?

Let’s take the concrete example in Australia most recently of George Brandis, Attorney General. Ignoring the Solicitor-General’s advice should be grounds for dismissal due to ministerial dereliction of duty; misleading Parliament should have been sufficient for the shame of those deceitful actions to force Brandis to walk, as apparently it’s not an offence to do so.

Brandis didn’t walk, he didn’t fall on his sword, and Turnbull didn’t dismiss him.

Instead, these days, there’s no shame in it. It’s being able to go to the extremes of previously tolerated behavior, and then keep going, because what’s the penalty?

And thus we have Trump. A man with no shame so much that he keeps getting away with so very much and reaping the reward. We don’t hold Trump to a higher standard; we understand this man is poor and devoid of character in many ways, but it doesn’t matter because he’s on the side that uses shame when convenient and brushes it away. It’s not illegal, why should he apologize?

The outright denial of facts and truth is entirely possible if there’s no shame in doing so. If there’s nothing to say “You lied and you ought not have done that,” then where are we left to go?

Where is the shame in treating humans the way we’ve done in Nauru and Manus Island? Political expediency rules.

Truly, we will need to restore shame to its rightful place amongst the emotions that govern those who would governs us, because without it, Trump isn’t the last on this band-wagon, and that’s a truly terrifying thought.

opinion rant

The Trust Issue

Apparently, the biggest single issue that “ordinary Australians” have with Julia Gillard is that she has “lied” about introducing a carbon tax, breaking an election promise. It goes without saying that Gillard is far from the first PM to have broken a election promise, let alone one about tax; the difference is this time, her opponent hangs on to that and doesn’t let go of a line until it proves to have wormed its way into the psyche of the average voter.

Why is it though that adaptability is derided as an unworthy notion in politics? If there’s one thing you learn from politics, it’s deal making – the art of compromising in order to achieve outcomes. As we saw after the election last year, obstinate refusal to participate in a process of negotiation tends to leave you with no seat at the table – and this carbon tax is the result of that very same process of negotiation that won the ALP a face-saving second term. The “lie” became one because of the result that the electorate handed to the parties, and achieving a pragmatic result ought to be accepted as better than partisan bickering along idealistic lines that achieves nothing.

The same goes for American politics: a refusal to engage on the issue and work out a compromise that achieves something simply leaves the government floundering, ineffectual and showing the frailty of the system. Being able to think beyond your own self-interest is the mark of a mature adult, not sticking to a position in the face of evidence and reason.

I despair at the inability to accept compromise or a change of position in our political leaders. Why do we expect them to be so unreasonable? The violence and vehemence that fills what passes for political debate is not a sign of an healthy democracy where open conversations occur.

opinion rant

Freedom is not Free

I’m sure you’ve heard by now of the Mumbai terror blasts and shootings yesterday – the situation still continues today, with a seige at the two hotels targeted still underway. Over 100 are dead, scores injured and the damage both physical and psychological as yet uncounted.

I’m usually one to argue in favour of civil liberties and ensuring fairness, but right now, the only feeling I’ve got is that these scum deserve to die.

The crime is simple: indescriminate murder of innocent civilians in their ordinary places of work and play. There is no defence for this crime, and the callous nature indicates that the perpetrators are dangerous to society and clearly mad – without any respect for human life.

Their shallow claim to a justification is that the anti-terror task force in India is unduly targeting Muslims – apparently oblivious to the irony of their very actions.

The freedom that these people have been allowed in India’s tolerant society and democracy has been abused and exploited. These people, their associates and all who sympathise with their actions deserve whatever they will get in vengence for their contempt for human life. Bastards.

rant tech

The Apple Macbook Battery Swindle

According to Apple’s service department, laptop batteries are considered “consumables”. Any use you get out of your MacBook battery after 1 year, the warranty period, is “a bonus” that you should be “grateful for” (their words!).

I don’t ask for much, but for a battery to go from holding 98% of maximum charge to holding zero to not being recognised by the system at all in the space of a week 13 months out from its last replacement (in-warranty and at Apple’s cost) is ridiculous. I’ve got a 4 year old Dell laptop that still holds 2 hours of charge and the battery is the one that came in the package.

A battery is not a ‘consumable’ – especially not at $200, an appreciable fraction of the cost of a new system – but an integral part of a laptop, and for Apple to claim otherwise is selling these things under false pretenses. The Next Byte store was sold out of MacBook batteries – and that’s not exactly something you’ve got people lining up at the tills for.

If it wasn’t for the fact that Apples remain some of the best looking systems and Mac OSX is so many miles ahead of Windows, I’d never even consider buying one again. All I ask is that Apple build a reliable fucking system I can use for more than a year.

I find myself in agreement with those who call for Apple to license Mac OSX – Apple make some great software, OSX and the iLife suite shining examples of such – and their design studios’ skills are to be respected wherever industrial designers gather. But clearly, they have fuck-all clue about building reliable hardware, and I wish they’d let someone else just have a go at building something with a little more quality control.

That is all.

Ed note: this no longer applies to new MacBooks, since Apple now build it in (i.e. non user serviceable) and push the expected lifespan as being in the order of 3 – 5 years; if you have any issues, shout very loud.



I’ve got a new thought: instead of sending off that email flame to the intended recipient, send it to yourself first.

Read it an hour later, and try to figure out whether it’s just that they are a pompus ass, just don’t get it, and have ended up winding you up; or whether you’ve actually got a point that your multitude of thinly vieled swearwords actually conveys.

How do you deal with frustration over email? I have a much abused stress toy that’s going to get thrown out the (perma-closed) window one day.


Not Goddamn Happy, Jan

Today… today was just about the worst day I’ve had at work, ever. It’s the kind of day where you genuinely think of throwing in the towel, and wonder what it will achieve. Getting out while the going is good is no longer an option because the going is no longer good.

Mondays are never the best of days, but today was a particularly malicious one. When you start off the day with your work being questioned and undermined despite your best efforts, you’re not much inclined to respond kindly, and so it was bright and early.

The rest of the day then preceeded in terms best espoused by Murphy’s Law. You may not believe, but it will goddamn get you, and it will all come at the wrong time, and it will come in a clusterfuck.

And then I get a call, at 7:30, me on my way home hoping to wind down, asking if it would be reasonable for me to work Hong Kong hours. Of fucking course it’s not reasonable, but if I say No point-blank, that’s not exactly going to make me popular, is it?

My phone will now remain off outside of work hours. I’ve had enough.


Suspicious much?

If you’re unloading or loading a truck at 1AM at night in a residential zone… something a little sus is going on, no?

You’re lucky however that people would far prefer you to hurry up so they can get to sleep, rather than actively trying to do anything about it. Just shut the hell up while you’re doing it, alright?



Electric Sheep

Ever found something that you’d always heard about, but never managed to track down for real? A feeling of satisfaction fills you as you realise that now, finally, you can find out exactly what everyone was blabbing about all these years. You might even expect it to be good, because, well, everyone talks about it, don’t they?

You even feel a little guilty, because once you pretended you knew, and while you got away with it, you wanted to be sure next time they couldn’t catch you on the hop.

So: now you’ve found it. And naturally, you’re going to indulge yourself, because if it’s as good as everyone has said it is – and that’s a lot of people, so the effect is cumulative even – it doesn’t matter how much time, money or effort it takes. Finally, you too can join the all-knowing club. Satisfaction is imminent!

But when you, it falls flat. In fact, it falls so short of the hyped impression you had you wonder if you got the right one. No, the packet says it’s the right one, the core bits show it’s the right one, but…. oh dear. You’ve fallen into the hype trap!

In fact, it’s so bad, you’re now inclined to go back to those very people, the hyping majority, those overpowering sheep, and throw it right back at ’em. Argue! Disagree! Dispel the myth!

Find out if one of them has been lying about it themselves!

Blade Runner? That’s the one for me. Bah, silly waste of time.


What Cricket?

I genuinely feel sorry for the English; it’s not like they’re that bad, actually. Any other side in the world, they’d do fine (probably), especially if they put this much effort into it. It’s just that the Aussies are just that little bit more arrogant, that little bit more self-believing, that they’ll put in those last hard yards the English just can’t scrounge up, and they beat them.

I think it’s cricket that’s suffering; I don’t really want to watch it any more, if every script ends with “Australia wins”. I can’t stand how arrogant and unsporting they are about it.


Oh… Bother.

It would appear that I cannot simultaneously have a decent umbrella and a good scarf.

Went and bought a good umbrella yesterday, for the London trip, and in the perfect way to top off a day that had just gone downhill from about 7:30 in the morning when I found out where I was staying (though it really couldn’t have gotten any better there, could it?), I left my scarf on the train when I was coming home. To much gnashing of teeth.

Bloody hell yesterday sucked, after about 8 o’clock.