And not just because I was the Editor on the book. ;-)

soozeyHaving worked on it for a year, “I am the problem” by Soozey Johnstone is the simplest, most insightful and easiest-to-implement book on dysfunctional executive teams – how to make success happen more often and more easily, and rediscovering your organisational “mojo” – that I have ever had the pleasure to read.

One influential CEO called it “the best Australian book on business I ever read”. I am hopeful it will go on to be a worldwide best-seller.

As the blurb reads:

Is this you? Buy the book!

Is this you? Buy the book!

 

The book is designed to be a very practical “hands on” primer for anyone facing apparently intractable organisational obstacles, whether or not the organisation is recognising or facing up to those obstacles – yet.

As a Director or Manager, you can choose to act on any of the 9 obstacles: just one, or a few, or all of them. Acting on all of them would be a genuinely transformative move.

Or buy the book. Really.

Or buy the book. Really.

From personal experience I am can confirm that acting on any of the excellent advice in the book will make you happier, and your organisation much more functional and successful. Each chapter includes at the end a simple to follow “To Do” list to make implementing positive change easy and painless and there’s a wide “additional reading” section too.

Frankly, I think it will help people navigate everyday life better too, including with family and friends.

And at thirty bucks Australian, trust me, it’s an absolute steal. Incredible value.

So don’t procrastinate: buy it. Buy it for yourself, or buy it for the stressed executive in your life.

You can thank me later, and let us take this chance to wish you a Very Merry Christmas and a stress-less 2015.

#stooshpr #iamtheproblem #merrychristmas

jesus-wept

One of the more difficult things for anyone with a brain to work out is “Why?”

Why do the most terrible things happen?

Why do a bunch of suicidal terrorists slaughter dozens of wonderful, bright, inquisitive, compassionate children and their teachers in pursuit of their goals, for example?

Why does a crazed gunman shoot people in a Sydney cafe?

Why do suicidal fanatics and car bombs regular reap their bloody toll of death in countries the world over, and in the Middle East especially?

Why does a father kill his two tiny daughters to “punish” his ex wife?

Why? Why? Why? What possible purpose do all these events hold?

Is it all part of some cosmic plan? Or is it an entirely random, meaningless moment in time? Disgusting in its mundanity.

Does it represent some titanic battle between supernatural forces of good and evil? Or is it merely a dull and deadening further example of the oft-demonstrated human capacity to divorce ourselves from the consequences of our actions?

Or does all this have no inherent meaning at all? Is life merely a lonely and ultimately meaningless road, ending inevitably in death, in which the only passingly relevant question is “How did you do?” “Were you lucky?” “Were you noble?” “Were you unlucky?” “Were you base?”

Or perhaps, as some have argued, “Did you have fun?”

What do you tell the parents of a child recently dead from cancer? The wife whose husband and father of her children is killed in a work accident? The three children of the woman killed in the Sydney siege, all under ten? What do we tell them?

We are confused. We do not know if the earth is spinning off its spiritual axis, or whether there even is any axis at all.

We are torn between the siren calls of both God and Man – we can simultaneously believe the immediate and compelling emotional evidence of the supernatural in our lives – especially by contemplating coincidences so unlikely as to be highly unlikely to be random – at the same time as we recognise the rationality of the agnostic or the atheist. On balance, we believe in God, but the balance is fragile and tilts both ways. Doubt is our constant companion.

suffering

If there is a God, how could he allow us to make such a total, violently messed up miasma of a world?

How could he allow us to run riot, seemingly incapable of managing our existence, seemingly unable to place compassion for our fellow beings – and the planet as a whole – at the head of our “To Do” list?

Why did he curse us with so-called free will – if free will is merely an excuse for wanton brutality and ineffectual governance of our planet? Yes, freedom to pollute with run off from our factories is balanced by the freedom to clean up our waterways, but why give us the choice? Did we ever ask for such a terrible series of choices, that we seem so incapable of handling?

Where is God, whatever we call him, while IS behead 22 Syrian soldiers on video – video taken over some hours, from multiple camera angles? Or when they slaughter thousands of civilians and shovel them into pits? Where is God when a US drone blasts into sanguinary non-existence an innocent Afghan wedding?

Where is God when a random act of weather or an accident on a road destroys people notable for their innocence and good naturedness?

In short, where is God – where is meaning – when the innocently good die young?

No, we do not pretend to know. There is no perfectly satisfying answer to this question which has occupied – bedevilled – humankind since we learned to think.

We are drawn, though, to one piece of irrefutable logic, from psychiatrist Viktor Frankel, who so movingly, intensely and validly sought meaning in his experience of the death camps of the Nazis.

Frankel – a man who could so easily have despaired – summed up the wisdom of thousands of years of sages in all cultures when he said:

“If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.”

 

Suffering is the one constant in life. We all have experiences that threaten to crush us – our dreams get shattered, our bodies fail us, we are submerged in our own incapacities and weaknesses – and most terribly, we all lose people we love to illness, accident, to seemingly blind fate.

And most terrifying of all, death is our constant companion. As we wake up every morning we never know if we will see another.

So what really matters, it seems to us, whether one has a comprehensively worked out religious perspective or none, is how we deal with suffering.

Do we allow it to destroy us, or do we resolutely continue to strive to live lives that answer our personal and communal driving moral imperatives, whether we source those imperatives from a religious book or from within our own rational view of how the world should be constructed?

As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Cat’s Cradle:

 “In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in his cosmic loneliness.

And God said, “Let Us make living creatures out of mud, so the mud can see what We have done.”

And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man.

Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close to mud as man sat, looked around, and spoke.

“What is the purpose of all this?” he asked politely.

“Everything must have a purpose?” asked God.

“Certainly,” said man.

“Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this,” said God.

And He went away.”

God or no God, it is up to us to work out the purpose. And how to survive it.

compassion

The world can sometimes seem overwhelmingly awful and dark. So this Christmas – this Hanukkah – this Milad un nabi … this … December? January? … the one thing of which we are convinced is that we should all spend some time reconnecting with those we love, taking joy in little things, making those course corrections that we need in our lives, and above all showing compassion for those touched by suffering.

Because this we do know. As we are all bound by it, so we all can learn to endure it, endure it even when it tears like a maddened beast at the very vitals inside each and every one of us, and we can endure it together, yoked together by the burdens of our common suffering.

alone

Suffering is the one thing none of us escape. That is the one lesson of history that is observable, undeniable, and in its own way, comforting. The lesson – the example – of our shared humanity, and our frailty.

The realisation that we all suffer. And – whether through the grace of God or the courage of the human mind operating alone – the almost simultaneously certain realisation that we can, and do, survive.

Indeed, that surviving itself is the meaning we all search for. Until, one by one, we lay down the imperishable, insistent, ever-present burden of thought, and go to sleep ourselves.

One of the startling thing about Western responses to current Islamic extremism is how it misunderstands the essential thrust of the problem.

We in the West are mesmerised by the ranting of so-called Islamic leaders against “the Great Satan” and threats to extend their rule over all the world.

In fact, nothing of the sort is happening. What is really happening throughout the Middle East and elsewhere is a sectarian conflict between Muslims and between ethnic groups who also happen to be Muslim.

As we mourn two dead hostages in Sydney, so Pakistan now mourns an infinitely more horrible attack from the Taliban from the tribal areas of its own country. As AFP and Yahoo report, a teenage survivor of a Taliban attack on a Pakistan school has described how he played dead after being shot in both legs by insurgents hunting down students to kill.

As surely the whole world knows, yesterday and overnight a mentally-disturbed man with a long legal history bailed up 17 or so people in the Lindt cafe in Sydney, demanding to speak to Australia’s Prime Minister, and seeking wide publicity for his points of view.

We do not wish to talk about him.

We do wish to note the outpouring of grief and support from the Australian people for the families of those killed, and the victims themselves, for those terrified and injured, and for ourselves – for the whole nation – which has been deeply shocked by the scenes of the last 24 hours.

The flowers are gathering at the site of the seige. All day, Aussies have quietly turned up, written in books of remembrance, laid down flowers, and stood in silence. Many in tears, all in shock.

They have been joined by politicians and notables, police officers and emergency workers, but mainly it has been the ordinary Australians who have trekked to Martin Place to be part of the mourning.

And uniquely, and so typically Australian, a single woman’s gesture – “I’ll ride with you”- spoken quietly to a Muslim woman who was removing her hijab for fear of being abused, spat on or assaulted – all things that have happened recently – has “gone viral” and been repeated by millions of people worldwide, who wish the wider Muslim community to know that they are not blamed for the actions of lunatics or fanatics.

Muslims arriving to place flowers at the site have been especially welcomed with quiet smiles, a touch of approval on a shoulder, a gentle look.

Today is a very sad day to be an Australian. It is also a great day to be an Australian. As so often in this remarkable nation, it is the ordinary people who show the true mettle of the country, who reveal in the simplest of human ways the unique communal nature of this wide brown land.

muslim flowers

flowersflowers2

There will be other horrors. There will also, sadly, be some extremist idiots who inevitably break the seal of national tolerance.

But the true Australian spirit – the spirit of its people, not its luminaries – stood up and was counted today, under the most painful of circumstaces. I am so proud of my fellow citizens, and have never regretted for an instant asking to belong to this tolerant, good natured, welcoming and egalitarian nation, the very essence of which is “everybody comes from somewhere else.”

Our deepest sympathies go out to all caught up in this madness.

#illridewithyou, Australia.

Summer exhibition in Melbourne – exciting!.

Regulars like you, Dear Reader, will note that we predicted a narrow win for Labour in the recent election in Victoria, but without a huge degree of confidence, and that’s the way it has turned out. The late swing back to the Liberal-Nationals we spotted was there, but it came too late to save them and Labor ended up with 9 seats more than the Coalition – which was at the upper end of our speculation, although their overall majority is just 6, which is about where we guessed it would be.

What’s more, the Greens won two Lower House seats – an historic result which most notably allows one of their MPs to second a motion by the other, which will make a hell of a difference to their impact on politics in Victoria, and which has been largely ignored by everyone.

We freely confess we didn’t think they’d win any lower house seats, and they are obviously to be congratulated for effectively outflanking Labor on the left.

A completely unexpected win over the Coalition for an Independent in Shepparton completely flew under our radar as well – although to be fair on ourselves, it did for everyone else, too. Even the successful candidate seemed surprised. It was also very annoying for us as we lumped on significantly with bookie Tom Waterhouse on the Coalition to lose the election by 8.5 seats. In the final wash up, thanks to the Shepparton result they actually lost by 9 seats, which means the Family Wellthisiswhatithink is drinking Jacob’s Creek Sparkling this Christmas and not Bollinger Special Cuvee. Helas!

The new Greens MP Ellen Sandell owes her victory to Liberal voters.

The new Greens MP for the seat of Melbourne Ellen Sandell owes her victory to Liberal voters.

Fascinatingly, the Greens defeated Labor in the seat of Melbourne on Liberal preferences, despite the Liberals very publicly and emphatically putting the Greens last on their how to vote card, behind Labor, as this extract from the VEC preference count shows, with a third of Ed Huntingford’s Liberal votes going to the Greens, enough to give them the seat.

Fully one-third of Liberal voters preferred the Greens to win – even if it might cause a “hung” Parliament, and against the wishes of their party – which is a significant fact to be considered when predicting future elections.

It also shows that a very significant number of voters simply don’t follow How to Vote cards …

To:  Green ALP

Transfer of 9412 ballot papers of HUNTINGFORD, Ed (5th excluded candidate) 3038 6374 9412

 

With all results declared the vote for Labor was 38.10% and for the Coalition 36.46%. – a margin just over one-and-a-half percent. So before they get too cock a hoop, it should be noted that Labour was really only delivered victory by Greens preferences. In their own right they were clearly barely preferred over the Coalition by the State’s voters, although it should be acknowledged that many people will have voted Green as a statement of political preference (or protest) intending that their votes would inevitably flow to the ALP before the Liberals or Nationals. But not all of them, as the seat of Melbourne showed.

In other words, the result was actually quite a lot closer than it might have been portrayed on election night or since.

 

andrewsspeech2

 

What now?

Daniel Andrews still has a significant job to establish credibility with the Victorian electorate in our opinion, (perhaps more than ever after belatedly and laughably asking voters and media commentators to “Call me Dan”), and he faces a competent and engaging new Liberal leader in Matthew Guy.

Guy is young and energetic, famously self-confident (although he will need to watch that), hard working and combative – perfectly suited to be an Australian opposition leader, in other words – and although he has been pretty quiet since assuming the top job we expect him to provide Andrews much more competition than the avuncular but somewhat unimpressive Ted Baillieu or Denis Napthine.

We wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the opinion polls showing a very brief honeymoon for Andrews indeed. He has started poorly by immediately breaking a key promise – to release the East-West road link contracts on “Day 1″ of a new government for public scrutiny, and as ABC local radio pointed out this morning, also completely failing to say why he is suddenly reticent to do so, either.

 

guy

 

Critically one thing Guy HAS said since winning the leadership is that the Coalition will continue to support building the East-West Link, which by election time had garnered poll support from among Victorians of 63%. Despite the ALP’s election success, many Victorians are dismayed that the key road project is not going ahead – including many Labor voters – especially now Labor has also been forced to admit that their standout public transport project – the Metro Rail Tunnel – doesn’t have enough financial backing to actually go ahead anytime soon, which the Coalition said all along.

Indeed, the Federal Government told Labor point blank 18 months ago and regularly recently that a Coalition Government in Canberra would not be funding the Rail Tunnel. So now, in effect, we get no new road, and no new rail tunnel, but we do get $300 million of “planning”. Commuters driven mad by lack of trains, train delays, and bottleneck roads might very well argue that we have had more than enough bloody studies already, what we need is some action.

What’s more, transport experts are now talking about putting new tolls on the sites of railway crossing removals promised by Labor. Which is why they’re transport experts and not politicians, we guess. The argument is the removal benefits car owners, so they should pay for it. In fact, removing level crossings also means trains don’t have to slow down for them, so it benefits public transport users too. We look forward to the same experts arguing that Zone Fares should go up. Anyhow, the toll idea is ludicrous: an act more likely to enrage millions of motorists could hardly be imagined.

The result of all this confusion is very likely to be inertia. If that’s the case, don’t be at all surprised to hear Matthew Guy cry out “See! Labor is all talk, when are we going to see some action?” about every other day between now and the next election. The “do nothing” catchcry killed the Brumby Government, and history can, and does, repeat itself.

The Abbott government - looking very tired, very quickly.

The Abbott government – looking very tired, very quickly.

One term governments are likely to become much more common than they have been in Australian electoral history.

Napthine’s gone.

Campell-Newman in Queensland is looking rocky next year.

And we are more than prepared to call the big one right now – if the Liberals and Nationals don’t dump the awesomely unimpressive Tony Abbott soon (in favour of Malcom Turnbull, we hope, but just as likely Julie Bishop, which is somewhat alarming) then the current Federal Coalition will be a one term government too.

Daniel Andrews needs to start thinking already that the same fate could face him if he doesn’t “get something done”. And fast.

Final seat count

ALP 47
Liberals 30
Nationals 8
Greens 2
Independent 1

 

bloodymachete2

 

In another appalling crime which will shock the world, Pakistani police Wednesday were looking for four men believed to have killed a couple and four of their children as retribution for a perceived “honour crime.”

Police officer Mohammed Aslam said the killings happened Tuesday in the town of Athara Hazari in central Pakistan.

Aslam said the men are believed to have hacked the family to death with axes and knives. One daughter, identified by police as Aisha, survived and relayed what happened to authorities. She and the other bodies were found after a man delivering milk to the house noticed that no one was coming to the door, Aslam said.

Astonishingly, and completely inexplicably to Western eyes, Aisha told authorities the killings stemmed from her mother’s first marriage nearly 30 years ago to another man, Aslam said. How can such hatred last for so long? Apparently it is a common cultural feature of life in some societies.

Another police officer, Mian Mohammad, said Ghulam Fatima’s son from her first marriage visited the family a few days ago. He was joined on Tuesday by three more men, who the police say helped him with the crime.

The surviving daughter told authorities that the son said he was taking revenge on her for leaving her first husband.

“It is an incident of honour killing,” said Mohammad.

In Pakistan, leaving one’s husband or marrying against a family’s wishes is extremely rare. Such actions are often perceived as crimes against the family’s honor and the woman can be killed in order to restore the family’s reputation.

Such retribution can be carried out years, even decades later. The killings are rarely prosecuted.

Action to outlaw such murders have frequently failed in the Pakistani parliament. The incidence of honour killings is very difficult to determine and estimates vary widely. In most countries data on honour killings is not collected systematically, and many of these killings are reported by the families as suicides or accidents and registered as such.

Although honour killings are often associated with the Asian continent, especially the Middle East and South Asia, they occur all over the world.

Although men are sometimes victims, the murdered are far more like to be women. In 2000, the United Nations estimated that 5,000 women were victims of honour killings each year. According to BBC, “Women’s advocacy groups, however, suspect that more than 20,000 women are killed worldwide each year.” Murder is not the only form of honour crime, other crimes such as acid attacks, (as we have previously reported), abduction, mutilations, beatings occur; in 2010 the UK police recorded at least 2,823 such crimes.

procrastination

In the Wellthisiswhatithink household we have a principle of life we hold dear to. It’s called “Eat the Frog”.

No one would want to eat a frog willingly. Well, perhaps the legs if fried in a little garlic butter and accompanied by a tantalising chilled chardonnay. But not just pop the whole, live creature into one’s mouth and crunch.

The basic idea is that we all have things we put off because we perceive they might be unpleasant. Cleaning up our room for a teenager. Making a phone call to stand up to someone who makes us nervous. Or going for that early morning walk in the rain that our doctor prescribed. Not the rain. The walk.

Eat the Frog – we are indebted to business analyst and personal coach Soozey Johnstone for the tip – see the end of this article for a link to her brilliant new book – simply means “get the shitty stuff out of the way first up – the rest of the day is bound to be an upward curve of contentment”. And it works.

Of course, most people procrastinate from time to time. And most of the time it’s not so harmful: putting off doing the laundry for a few days or taking 15 minutes here and there to get lost in Facebook. In fact, research shows that access to Facebook in the workplace makes workers more productive rather than less – it’s a nice break for the brain.

dinosaursBut procrastination can also create huge problems for many people — at work, at school, and at home. Consider all the people who keep meaning to start saving for retirement, for example, but never do it. Or people with obesity or diabetes who constantly tell themselves: “I’ll start eating right tomorrow” — but never do. Or “I’ll implement those new systems at work because I know the workplace will be happier and more productive if I do” but then are always somehow “too busy” to actually get around to it.

Roughly 5 percent of the population has such a problem with chronic procrastination that it seriously affects their lives.

None of it seems logical. How can people have such good intentions and yet be so totally unable to follow through? Conventional wisdom has long suggested that procrastination is all about poor time management and willpower – basically, personal weakness. But more recently, psychologists have been discovering that it may have more to do with how our brains and emotions work.

PROCRASTINATORS ARE LESS COMPASSIONATE TOWARD THEMSELVES

procrastination2Procrastination, they’ve realised, appears to be a coping mechanism. When people procrastinate, they’re avoiding emotionally unpleasant tasks and instead doing something else that provides a temporary mood boost. But the procrastination itself then causes shame and guilt — which in turn leads people to procrastinate even further, creating a vicious cycle and even depression.

But getting a better understanding of why our brains are so prone to procrastination might let us find new strategies to avoid it. For example, psychologist Tim Pychyl has co-authored a paper showing that students who forgave themselves for procrastinating on a previous exam were actually less likely to procrastinate on their next test.

He and others have also found that people prone to procrastination are, overall, less compassionate toward themselves — an insight that points to ways to help.

Pychyl, a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, has been studying procrastinators for some 19 years.

He remarked: “When a procrastinator thinks about themselves, they’ll think, “Oh, I have a time management problem” or “I just can’t make myself do it. There’s a problem with my willpower.” And when other people think about procrastinators, they use that pejorative term: “They’re lazy.”

PSYCHOLOGISTS SEE PROCRASTINATION AS A MISPLACED COPING MECHANISM

procrastinate3“But psychologists see procrastination as a misplaced coping mechanism, as an emotion-focused coping strategy. People who procrastinate are using avoidance to cope with emotions, and many of them are non-conscious emotions. So we see it as giving in to feel good. And it’s related to a lack of self-regulation skills.

I can simplify that and say that psychologists recognize we all have a six-year-old running the ship. And the six-year-old is saying, “I don’t want to! I don’t feel like it!”

Pychyl continued: “Recently we’ve been doing research that relates to the work on “present self”/”future self” because what’s happening with procrastination is that “present self” is always trumping “future self.”

Hal Hershfield has done some really great research on looking at how we think about “future self.” He’s shown that in experimental settings, if someone sees their own picture digitally aged, they’re more likely to allocate funds to retirement. When the researchers did the fMRI studies, they found our brain processes present self and future self differently. We think of future self more like a stranger.”

Screen shot “My graduate student Eve-Marie Blouin-Hudon just did three studies, and what she looked at is our ability to imagine the future self. She measured people’s self-continuity. You’d see circles representing present self and future self and choose how much to overlap them. Some people see these selves as completely distinct, and some people see them totally overlapping. The people who see the present and future self as more overlapping have more self-continuity and report less procrastination.”

Well, that makes sense.

So, for example, you could engage with students to think of an image of themselves at the end of the term. And the hypothesis would be that those students who engage with this imagery of future self will then procrastinate less. People will make less procrastinatory choices now because they’ll realize that “It’s me in the future we’re talking about, here. I’m going to be under the gun.”

Pychyl was asked what he thinks is the most surprising thing about procrastination, and what his best tip for avoiding it would be.

“I’m still grappling with that for many people, the experience of procrastination doesn’t match the definition that most of us are working with: a voluntary delay of an intended action despite knowing you’re going to be worse off for the delay. If you speak to people, they’ll tell you that it doesn’t feel voluntary: “I feel like I have no control over it.” For some people, it feels totally involuntary, like they can’t help themselves.

JUST GET STARTED

“One of my pet expressions is “Just get started.” And it’s important you don’t say “Just do it” — that’s overwhelming. But just get started.

Whenever we face a task, we’re not going to feel like doing it. Somehow adults believe that their motivational state has to match the task at hand. We say, “I’m not in the mood.”

Horace cracked this stuff 2,000 years ago

Horace cracked this stuff 2,000 years ago

Our motivational state rarely matches the task at hand, so we always have to use self-regulation skills to bring our focus to it. So at first, it will be “Ok, I recognize that I don’t feel like it, but I’m just going to get started.”

The wisdom of the ages would seem to back this view up. Roman thinker and poet Horace once aid: “The task that is started is half finished.”

What’s the hard evidence, though, that just beginning a task, even in a very small way, makes it easier to follow through?

Pychyl again:

“We know from psychological research by [Andrew] Elliot and others that progress on our goals feeds our well-being. So the most important thing you can do is bootstrap a little progress. Get a little progress, and that’s going to fuel your well-being and your motivation. Back in the 1990s, I put pagers on students and paged them [eight times a day for five days before an academic deadline]. And when they finally started working on the project, empirically we found that they didn’t see it as as difficult or as stressful as earlier in the week. So their perceptions of the task changed. There’s lots of reasons to think that that’s what happens to us when we get started.”

But what about getting distracted?

“[Peter] Gollwitzer and his colleagues for years have shown us that implementation intentions make a huge difference to even deal with things like distractions. Implementation intentions take the form of “If, then.”

So: “if the phone rings, then I’m not going to answer it.” “If my friends call me to say we’re going out, I’m going to say no.” So you’ve already made this pre-commitment. You can use implementation intentions to keep yourself focused: “If I’ve finished this part of the article, then I’m going to immediately turn my attention to reading the next part.”

Pychyl argues that procrastination it’s all about self-deception — you aren’t aware that it’s going to cost you, but you are. When there’s no more self-deception and you face yourself, you either (pardon the term) shit or get off the pot. As he says: “You’re either going to do it, or you’re not going to do it.” Stop kidding yourself.

Indeed, indeed. And we at the Wellthisiswhatithink desk have long suspected that one of the best ways to deal with the overflow of stimuli and work in today’s world is never to procrastinate if an opportunity presents itself to deal immediately with something minor, instead of adding it to the list of things to do.

This seems counter-intuitive to the idea of avoiding distractions, not to mention time-blocking and a heap of other good stuff like ADCB task prioritising. But we nevertheless believe that is outweighed by the positive boost of not endlessly extending the “To Do” list. There’s a note on our desk (we are as prone to procrastinating as anyone else) that simply reads “Do it now.”

Pychyl believes he’s a living example of the principle of “getting things done”:

“I really like my life, and I like to make time for the things that are important to me. [Robert] Pozen, who’s written a book on extreme productivity, has the OHIO rule: only handle it once. And I’m like that with email. I look at that email and say “I can reply to it now, or I can throw it out,” but there’s not much of a middle ground. I’m not going to save it for a while. And so if I can deal with it in two minutes — this is David Allen’s work — I deal with it.

I used to procrastinate, and now I don’t because I got all these wicked strategies. And it’s every level: some of it’s behavioural, some of it’s emotional, some of it’s cognitive. And now my biggest challenge is how do I teach my kids this. That’s really hard.”

Further reading: Pychyl’s book from 2013: “Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change”

“Why wait? The science behind procrastination.”, a review of the contemporary research by Eric Jaffe

“I am the problem” 9 problems that hold back managers from business success and what to do about them. Soozey Johnstone with Stephen Yolland.

Further listening: Pychyl also hosts a podcast, called iProcrastinate, which often features interviews with other psychology experts in related fields and is also heavy with tips and tricks for overcoming procrastination

BEST BUSINESS TIP – USE THE “RED DOT SPECIAL”

Many years ago, someone shared with us a brilliant tip to avoid procrastinating in the office that we have told hundreds of people, and it really works.

Your new best friend

Your new best friend

Many people have desks that are covered with papers. They seem unable to reduce the load on the desk, and frequently find it deeply depressing that their workspace is so cluttered and confused. They waste time finding what they need – but the real problem is they just look at the desk and murmur “tomorrow”.

If I am describing your world, here’s a really clever and simple tip for getting started on tackling the problem. Every time you touch a piece of paper on your desk – every single time – and especially if you simply pick it up and move it from side to side or front to back – put a little red dot with a felt tip pen on the paper. Don’t do anything else – just “red dot it”.

It’s revelatory. Very soon, you will find some pieces of paper or files that are covered in a ridiculous amount of dots. These are the matters you are deliberately avoiding.

Answer? Deal with them, delegate them, bin them, or file them somewhere else. Your stress levels will reduce substantially and you’ll become much more productive.

You’re welcome.

[Some of this article first appeared on Vox]

torture-on-trial-waterboardA storm of controversy is raging in the USA over the Senate report on how the CIA treated suspected terrorists, post 9-11. Only the executive summary is to be released.

In our opinion, it is entirely correct and proper that the American government release this information. For the following reasons, in summary:

  • It only confirms what is widely known anyway.
  • It sets America apart from those with whom it contests the global stage, by holding itself to a higher standard of ethical behaviour and public disclosure.
  • Anything that goes to ridding the world of torture by Governments is to be applauded. It has no place in a civilised society, no matter what challenges are faced, and in any event the intelligence it yields has been shown again and again to be unreliable. Or to put it another way, if someone is pulling your fingernails out one by one, you’ll tell them anything they want to hear to make them stop.
  • Convictions based on evidence produced by torture must be considered highly unreliable, and therefore it works against justice being done and ties the justice system up in ethical and practical quandaries.
  • Anyone planning to attack the US and its allies is intending to do so anyway, and telling the truth will do nothing to make them more aggressive. They don’t need encouragement.

In reality, issues like this are all about who we want to be. Ultimately, we cannot control everybody else’s behaviour, we can only control our own.

 

This was how they used to treat prisoners in Dachau. Is this how we want our governments to behave>

This was how they used to treat prisoners in Dachau. Is this how we want our governments to behave>

 

I well remember my mother, who was a deeply conservative person and passionate supporter of Margaret Thatcher, surprising me one day by speaking out at the dinner table against detention without trial and torture in Northern Ireland, the province which during my early years was riven with sectarian strife, terrorism, and a trenchant government response. She said:

“You can’t make a country safe by being worse than the other people. The rule of law us what sets us apart from the animals in the jungle. Everyone has a right to a fair trial. Our behaviour needs to stand up as an example against those who abandon the rule of law.”

Naive? Possibly. Magnificent? Definitely.

Tell us what you think in the poll at the end of the story below.

You can read the background to the story in the Bloomberg report as follows:

Current and past U.S. officials, including former President George W. Bush, have mounted a campaign to try to block the release tomorrow of a Senate report detailing harsh interrogation tactics previously used by the CIA on suspected terrorists.

The opposition comes as Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee plan to release an executive summary of the 6,200-page report, which found the CIA used extreme interrogation methods at secret prisons more often than legally authorized and failed to disclose all the activities to lawmakers and other officials.

Despite warnings of retaliation abroad against Americans from those opposed to making the report public, the Obama administration supports its release, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said today.

“The president believes that, on principle, it’s important to release that report, so that people around the world and people here at home understand exactly what transpired,” he said. Earnest said the administration has taken steps to improve security at U.S. facilities around the world.

Releasing the findings will give terrorists fresh ammunition to escalate their violence and put the lives of additional U.S. officials and allies at risk, said Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the House intelligence panel.

‘For What?’

“All they’ve got to do is find something they think indicates something and they’ll use it for their propaganda machine,” Rogers said today at a meeting of Bloomberg Government reporters and editors. “Why are we going to risk the lives of some diplomat, for what? We’re going to risk the lives of some intelligence official who had nothing to do with this, for what?”

Secretary of State John Kerry supports releasing the findings, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters today. Kerry discussed the policy implications of the release in a phone call with Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and chairman of the intelligence panel, and said it was up to her to decide when to do so, Psaki said.

Duke University law professor Charles Dunlap, a retired Air Force major general, disagreed, calling Islamic State by an earlier acronym.

American Risks

“Although there may be some demonstrations and even some violence, I don’t think that it will particularly directly endanger Americans or American allies because those who represent a danger are already doing everything they can to inflict harm,” Dunlap said in a statement. “After all, ISIS is beheading innocent Americans and others – they hardly need more motivation for barbarism.”

Dunlap and several U.S. military and intelligence officials and diplomats said the real risk is, as Dunlap put it, “really to the ability of U.S. intelligence agencies to get the cooperation it needs from other countries, not to mention the debilitating effect on morale of CIA and other intelligence professionals.”

U.S. officials are bracing for international blowback that could fuel riots and retaliation in countries hostile to the U.S. The Defense Department warned U.S. commands overseas on Dec. 5 to take appropriate force protection measures in anticipation of the findings release, and the State Department has directed overseas diplomatic posts to review their security.

Six Years

The final report, which cost $40 million and six years to complete, is the most comprehensive assessment of the CIA’s so-called “black site” detention facilities and “enhanced interrogation techniques” on terrorism suspects following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. President Barack Obama, who said the program amounted to torture, ordered that the practices never be used again when he took office in 2009.

Subjecting detainees to waterboarding, which simulates drowning, and other harsh tactics such as sleep deprivation and stress positions produced little timely, accurate or valuable intelligence in the U.S. war on terrorism, according to U.S. officials who asked to remain anonymous because the findings haven’t been released.

Some Democrats and human rights activists have hailed the report for finally exposing flaws and possible crimes in the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program, which largely operated from 2002 to 2005.

‘Off Base’

The report appears to be “way off-base,” Bush said in an interview yesterday on CNN’s “State of the Union” telecast.

“We’re fortunate to have men and women who work hard at the CIA serving on our behalf,” Bush said. “These are patriots. And whatever the report says, if it diminishes their contributions to our country, it is way off base.” Others who are part of the campaign include Bush’s former CIA directors George Tenet and Michael Hayden.

Congressional and administration officials said that current CIA Director John Brennan and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough have battled the Senate committee for months in an effort to redact as much of the report as possible.

Opponents of releasing the report also have created a website, CIASavedLives.com, where they plan to publish declassified documents, opinion pieces and media reports to rebut the Senate Democrats’ report. The site is being curated by William Harlow, Tenet’s former spokesman at the CIA.

Republicans and former Bush administration officials who ran the program condemned the report as a biased attempt to rewrite history. They say the interrogations produced significant intelligence that helped capture terrorists and protect the country.

‘Crucial Information’

“Information from the detainees was absolutely crucial to us understanding al-Qaeda and helping disturb, disrupt, dismantle and, in many cases, destroy al-Qaeda networks,” said Charles Allen, who managed the intelligence community’s collection programs from 1998 to 2005.

“It’s hard for people in 2014 to understand how the world fell in on top of the Central Intelligence Agency” after the 2001 attacks, Allen, now a principal with the global risk management advisory firm The Chertoff Group, said in an interview. “There was no wide-scale abuse of any of the interrogation authorities, and CIA officers simply do not lie to the Congress.”

The CIA waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-described planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, 183 times in March 2003, according to a 2005 Justice Department legal memorandum released in April 2009. The agency used waterboarding at least 83 times in August 2002 against Abu Zubaydah, who is an alleged al-Qaeda operative.

Hard Choices

Allen, the former CIA official, said “very hard” choices had to be made and the interrogation methods were necessary. He recalled a meeting in the spring of 2002 where then Tenet asked a group of inter-agency officials to raise their hands if they disagreed with the methods used.

A representative from the Federal Bureau of Investigation was the only one to object and walked out of the room, Allen said. That was acceptable to Tenet and the small group because they knew the FBI operated under different authorities, Allen said.

Another FBI agent, Ali Soufan, has argued in recent years that enhanced techniques are both unnecessary and ineffective. Soufan was the first to interrogate Abu Zubaydah.

“There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics,” Soufan wrote in a 2009 column for the New York Times.

‘Gentler Approach’

Allen disagreed. “Would we have gotten all the information through a more patient, more gentler approach over a period of months?” he asked. “You don’t know, and certainly the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence doesn’t know because it’s all hypothetical.”

Some high-ranking military and intelligence veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan disagree, saying their experience is that waterboarding, sleep deprivation, forced nudity and other “enhanced” techniques produce inaccurate, tainted and sometimes false information.

Other critics of the report, inside and outside the U.S. intelligence community, also say it failed to examine how officials in Bush’s White House and Pentagon kept demanding that the CIA extract more information from its captives, and Justice Department officials allowed them to do so by using techniques such as waterboarding that are widely considered torture.

tamir-rice-11

Further shocking details are emerging about the killing of 14 year old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio.

Millions of people worldwide have watched the video as a police car screams to a halt next to the young boy playing alone in a gazebo and two seconds later the boy is shot multiple times.

These key questions remain to be answered:

  • Why did the police despatcher not inform the responding officers that the person reporting the boy holding the gun that the gun was “probably fake”?
  • Why did the police car pull up next to him rather than a safe distance away and assess the situation more calmly?
  • How were “three warnings” given within two seconds? Police claimed, according to the Associated Press, that the officer who opened fire on Rice asked the boy to put his hands up three times, suggesting that Rice was given ample warning before he was shot. The video footage doesn’t specifically disprove this, but it suggests the officer who shot Rice, Timothy Loehmann, would have given the commands incredibly quickly — again: Loehmann shot Rice within two seconds of his squad car pulling up to the park pavilion. You try saying “Hands up” three times in two seconds. We can’t. Let alone in a manner that would be comprehended by a terrified 12 year old boy.

But the story becomes more incredible and painful. As Tamir Rice’s 14-year-old sister rushed to her brother’s side upon learning he’d been shot, police officers “tackled” her, handcuffed her and placed her in a squad car with the Cleveland officer who shot Tamir, her mother and a Rice family attorney told reporters Monday.

The mother, Samaria Rice, was threatened with arrest herself as she “went charging and yelling at police” because they wouldn’t let her run to her son’s aid, she said.

Speaking at a Baptist church in Cleveland, Rice recalled how a seemingly normal November 22 morphed into tragedy as two Cleveland police officers pulled up to her son outside a recreation center across the street from her home. As you can see here, within two seconds of exiting the police car, Officer Timothy Loehmann gunned down Tamir, 12. The boy died the next day. Tamir was playing with a pellet gun, and a witness who saw “a guy with a pistol” told 911 twice that it was “probably” fake but that Tamir was scaring people. It doesn’t appear the 911 dispatcher relayed the information to Officers Loehmann, 26, and Frank Garmback, 46.

Police have said that Loehmann, who has been criticised for his policing in the past, opened fire after Tamir reached for the gun in his waistband and that an orange tip indicating the gun was a toy had been removed. Rice said she didn’t allow her son to play with toy guns, explaining that one of his friends had given it to him.

Records from the suburban Independence Police Department obtained by CNN include comments from a supervisor detailing what they called “a pattern of lack of maturity, indiscretion and not following instructions,” a “dangerous loss of composure during live range training” and an “inability to manage personal stress.”

“He could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal,” according to the letter written by Deputy Chief Jim Polak of the Independence police.

The letter recommended that the department part ways with Loehmann, who went on to become a police officer with the Cleveland Division of Police.

“I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies,” Independence Deputy Chief Jim Polak wrote of the police shooter in a November 2012 memo. So the next question to be asked is:

  • Why was this man allowed to continue as a frontline policeman?
  • Were his immediate superiors in the Cleveland Division of Police aware of the 2012 report?

It seems likely not. Apparently Cleveland officials drove to Independence to gather information about hiring the officer who eventually shot the boy, but never looked at his personnel file.

Cleveland police spokesman Sgt. Ali Pillow said Wednesday officers asked Independence police about Timothy Loehmann before hiring him in March, but police there referred them to the human resources department.

Pillow said the Independence human resource department told them Loehmann had no disciplinary actions taken against him. Loehmann officially resigned from Independence but officials there had been prepared to release him from duty.

The personnel file contained the Polak reports who questioned Loehmann’s ability to handle the duties of a police officer after an emotional breakdown during firearms training and other incidents that caused concern for his superiors.

They eventually decided they wanted to release Loehmann from the department but allowed him to resign.

Cleveland police on Wednesday amended their written policy on reviewing public personnel files for someone trying to get hired, Pillow said. Incredibly, they previously had no policies about viewing personnel files.

A harrowing knock on the door

Tamir’s mother recalled Monday how she got the news that the youngest of her four children had been shot.

“Two little boys came and knocked on my door and said, ‘Police officers just shot your son twice in the stomach,’ ” she said. “I really thought they was playing, like joking around, but I saw the seriousness in their face, and it scared me,” she said.

She ran to the scene, admittedly frantic, and arrived at the same time as an ambulance. Officers wouldn’t let her check on her son, she said, “and then I saw my daughter in the back of a police car, the same one the shooter got out of.” Family attorney Walter Madison said police placed Tamir’s sister in the car with Loehmann.

Samaria Rice said she calmed down and asked police to release her daughter. They told her no, she said. Not only would they not release her daughter, but later, she said, they made her choose: stay with her daughter or accompany her son to a hospital.

She chose the latter but was told she couldn’t ride in the back of the ambulance with her son, so she rode in the front seat on the way to the hospital, she said.

“The treatment of the family is unacceptable,” said Councilman Jeffrey Johnson, who appeared alongside the family at the news conference. “It just shows the lack of training when we shackle a grieving sister, threaten a grieving mother and not even take care of a child lying on the ground.”

Cleveland police declined to discuss the family’s allegations. Detective Jennifer Ciaccia told CNN, “We’re really not commenting further at this point.”

first aid

In a lawsuit filed last week against the city and the two officers, the family says Loehmann and Garmback “refused to provide any medical attention to Tamir for at least four minutes as he lay on the ground alive and bleeding.”

We may never know if that four minutes was crucial in the death of the child. Cleveland police Chief Calvin Williams has previously said that four minutes after Tamir was shot, a detective and FBI agent arrived and the FBI agent administered first aid. Paramedics arrived three minutes later, the chief said.

One has to ask: having realised they have needlessly shot a 12 year old boy with a toy gun, how could anyone, in all conscience, leave him terrified and bleeding for four minutes on the ground?

Attorney: Brown, Garner cases aren’t templates

Attorney Benjamin Crump said the Rice family is “very distrustful” of the justice system, and in light of the grand jury rulings in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, is demanding a transparent investigation.

In contrast to the Brown and Garner cases, the family also wants the officers — who are on paid leave — charged before a grand jury hears the case, said Crump, who also represents the Brown family.

“There is nothing written anywhere in the law that says police officers are to be treated differently from any other citizen,” Crump said. “We cannot have children playing cops and robbers on a playground and police officers coming and claiming their lives.”

Tamir was by himself in a gazebo when Garmback and Loehmann pulled onto the grass alongside the gazebo and got out of their car. From the despatcher’s failure to relay the report that the gun was probably fake to the haste with which Loehmann shot the sixth-grader, Crump said “several things were done inappropriately,” which is sufficient probable cause to charge the policemen.

The family attorneys also called for the ouster of Safety Director Michael McGrath and Martin Flask, executive assistant to the mayor — a call echoing one by Councilman Johnson, who asked for their resignations in a Cleveland newspaper last week after a Justice Department report that said Cleveland police had a pattern of excessive force.

The family’s primary objective, Crump said, is to “hold the killer of their child accountable.”

“Tamir was a bright child. He had a promising future,” his mother sadly said, explaining that he was a talented artist, drummer and athlete.

Asked what would represent justice in her eyes, Samaria Rice replied, “I’m actually looking for a conviction.”

A thorough and meaningful investigation and charges – if warranted – would be a start. And we assert that the place for these matters to be settled is in open court. Another Grand Jury sitting “in camera” and finding yet another policeman has no case to answer will lead to more civil trouble across the US, and a further widespread loss of confidence in the “system”. But currently it looks like the matter will go to a Grand Jury again.

Meanwhile, the innocents are left to mourn. On Sunday Tamir’s father Gregory Henderson said the youngster had his whole life ahead of him when he was gunned down.

Wiping away tears, he said: ‘Who would’ve thought he would go so soon? He had his whole life ahead. To be 12 years old, he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Police, they know what they’re doing.’

Whether or not they do is what a court should decide.

And we also note, this case is different from the Brown case in Ferguson. In this case, there’s a video.

And we ask – not to create tension, but simply to speak truth to power – this question must be asked by anyone who sincerely wants America’s streets to be safer for all, and for that great nation to stop torturing itself in this manner – would this have happened if the young man was white? We will not enter a debate on the matter: we assert it is for every individual reading this sorry tale to ask themselves in the quiet of their heart, “would this have happened if the boy was white”, and to reflect on their ponderings.

I can’t be wittering on about politics and social matters constantly. Hard as it may be to believe, Dear Reader, even I like just celebrating the simple wonders of the world around us, sometimes. So when I came across this collection of photos of sea slugs – thanks Yahoo – I wanted to share them. As you may recall, Dear Reader, sea slugs interest me. What can I tell you? Everyone’s gotta have a hobby …

Unfortunately the slugs in my garden do not look anything like the slugs that inhabit our coastal waters. And they love baby lettuces. Anyone got a better trap for slugs than a Vegemite lid filled with beer, please share.

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potterIn a move that will delight her legions of readers young and old, not to mention overload the servers on her website in all probability, British author JK Rowling will be releasing 12 new Harry Potter-based stories in the run-up to Christmas.

The official website Pottermore.com said that every day starting on Friday, until Christmas Eve she will be publishing new short stories based on fictional characters from the wildly popular franchise.

New information about Harry Potter’s arch enemy Draco Malfoy (boo! hiss!) will be revealed in one of the festive stories, as well as potion recipes and the chance to win prizes by solving “rhyming riddles”.

A statement on the website reads, “With wonderful writing by JK Rowling in Moments from Half-Blood Prince, shiny gold Galleons and even a new potion or two, make sure you don’t miss out – just visit pottermore.com and answer our rhyming riddles to unwrap a #PottermoreChristmas surprise every day”.

We can’t wait.

scarlett

That sound you hear is the cracking and shattering into a million un-mendable pieces of millions of male hearts.

You think women worldwide came over all wistful or full-blown tragic when George Clooney went off the market?

That is nothing – nothing we tells ya – to the pain being felt at the news that Scarlett Johansson has got married again in secret.

Yes, sources have revealed that new mum Scarlett Johansson has secretly wed her fiancé Romain Dauriac. He is known from his role as an editor in the Clark, a French urban art magazine and recently his management role in a creative agency.

The couple – who welcomed their first daughter together, Rose, in September – set tongues wagging after they were both spotted with rings on their wedding fingers.

OK, we get it. Froggie accent, intellectual, stunningly good looking, doesn't matter if he's got any money coz you've got plenty ... pffft. Big deal. Can he name the result in every Southampton FC game since 1979? No, we didn't think so. Big deal.

OK, we get it. Froggie accent, intellectually impressive, stunningly good looking, doesn’t matter if he’s got any money coz you’ve got plenty … pffft. Big deal. Can he name the result in every Southampton FC game since 1979? No, we didn’t think so. Big bloody deal.

“Scarlett and Romain were married in a very intimate ceremony after the birth of their daughter. They kept the wedding a big secret because they both wanted privacy,” a source confirmed to the New York Post.

Although they were expected to wed in Roman’s home city, Paris, the source says they actually married in Scarlett’s native country, the United States. The star and her journalist beau first started dating in 2012 and became engaged in August 2013.

At the time, 30-year-old Scarlett said she wasn’t going to rush into marriage as she wanted to “enjoy and really savour” being engaged. That little window of hope has been keeping men going the world over. If only they could manage to accidentally-on-purpose be having a beer in the same bar as ScarJo one night, and manage to engage her in effortlessly witty banter while sucking their stomachs in, hey – well, anything could happen, right? Just don’t actually DO it, babe, till we’ve had a chance to talk, k?

She did it. It’s over.

The marriage is a first for Romain (also now known internationally as “You lucky, lucky bastard”) and a second for Scarlett who was previously wed to Ryan Reynolds from 2008 to 2011. ScarJo has admitted to being jealous and slightly insecure about Romain. Probably because he’s, you know … French.

We wish them luck. We just know they can’t understand us, seein’ as how we’re saying it through gritted teeth, an’ all.

The beauty of nowhere

Posted: November 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

It’s not really nowhere of course. Someone here grows our daily bread.

But they are nowhere to be seen. Just an endless gently curving field and the burning late-afternoon sun being sucked at hungrily by the million-fold ears of wheat. The tumbledown barn built by a grandfather long gone stands sentinel over a family’s industry, and when you face south the endless bitumin ribbon snarls by unseen and ignored.

Between somewhere and somewhere, in South Australia.

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crystal ballHere at the Wellthisiswhatithink crystal ball gazers society, we have something of a reputation for calling elections correctly. In fact, we have got every Parliamentary election (UK Westminster, Australia Victoria and Federal), and Presidential election (USA), correct since 1979, including the “hung Parliament” in the UK last time. And sometimes we’ve been spot on: we made quite a bit of dosh on the electoral college figures for Obama not once but twice.

It’s not really rocket science. It’s just about knowing what one is about. Check the polls, assiduously, all of them – not for the hard figures, but rather how they fluctuate over time. Or don’t.

Vitually all elections follow a trendline. The “Big Mo”, or momentum, the Americans call it. Viewed externally, that is to say not working for one of the major campaigns, it’s usually surprisingly simple to discern the mo. Just listen to people in the street, in your office, in cafes, watch the news, scan social media, sit in the pub with your ears open. Watch people’s faces. It’s normally unmistakeable who they intend voting for when push comes to shove.

Which is why we are absolutely certain that the Labor Party will win tomorrow’s election in Victoria.

Since the disastrous Federal Budget in April, the Liberal National Coalition have not headed the ALP. The poll then was 52-48. It has never been better for the Lib-Nats than that, although it has been worse.

And right up until today it was still 52-48, although the very latest poll for the Age (taken over the last three days) now has it as 50-50 on a “two party preferred basis” after a notional redistribution of preferences.

And 50-50, ladies and gentlemen, is mo. But it’s a switch: at the very last minute, it is momentum for the Liberals and Nationals, not the ALP. So whilst we are absolutely certain that the ALP will win, we actually aren’t, anymore. Certain,that is. Because if that momentum continues over into tomorrow, it could really be a real squeaky bum hole night for both major parties.

So after months of the contest being a “no contest”, what is happening?

The race is closing. It’s been obvious for a week or so. Whether it closes enough will decide the result.

Partly this is because people – ordinary folk, not political junkies – only really focus on who to vote for right at the last minute, and sometimes when they actually get into the polling booth. That effect is lessened when the election is interesting, or about great matters of moment. Neither applies here.

The other factor is there is a world of difference between answering an opinion poll question and actually voting for who you want to be your government.

Right up to the declaration of results for the last state election, for example, the incumbents – Labor – were considered a shoe in – steady, unspectacular Labor that was, with a respected if not loved leader in John Brumby, and no obvious slip ups in living memory.

Except there was a strong undercurrent running that the opinion polls failed to pick up because they couldn’t frame a question that could capture it: that the reason Labor never made a mistake was because they never actually did anything. And that was enough to deliver the narrowest of wins to the Coalition. We picked it – we hated Brumby’s smarmy, self-satisfied performance which was obviously mostly fluff, and we reckoned lots of other people did too – no media pundits did.

It was even acknowledged by the current leader of the Labor Party immediately after the election that this lack of achievement – talking a good story but doing little – was the single biggest reason for their defeat.

Is there such an undercurrent running now? Well, once again, we believe there is. And the undercurrent is made up of a number of factors.

The first is that the Australian electorate is incredibly and consistently “small c” conservative: it dislikes change. Less so nowadays, but still very discernibly.

There hasn’t been a one term Government in Victoria since 1955 – nearly 60 years ago. We have a visceral dislike for changing Governments at all levels, and only do so when we are convinced that the one in power currently is exceptionally incompetent or venal. Those criticisms cannot be levelled at Napthine’s government.

They have delivered a strong budget surplus, kept taxes down, are offering to spend a billion more on pork barrelling than Labor as a result – yes, the Libs are the big spenders in this election – and they have been effectively clear of sleaze or corruption with the exception of the hideous Geoff Shaw debacle in Frankston, which in our view the electorate has now pretty much forgotten.

It’s one thing to tell a pollster that you’re thinking of giving the Libs a kick in the tush because, well, just because it seems the appropriately iconoclastic thing to do – it’s quite another thing to consciously put geeky, gawky “Dan” Andrews into the big job when likeable old Napthine hasn’t really done anything wrong. We think that will give people pause for thought that hasn’t been picked up in the polls.

The second is that the Liberals and Nationals are infinitely more effective at encouraging and organising people to vote early by post or pre-poll, and there have already been 1 million such votes cast …

Earlier today we heard a radio commentator opine that the more that the gross number of pre/postal votes climbed, the more accurately they will mirror the overal vote pattern. That is to say, as they have been collected over the last three weeks in large numbers, they should be expected to break, say, 52-48 in favour of Labour.

But in our personal experience the effectiveness of the Liberal “ground game” significantly outweighs Labor’s, (the opposite is true in the USA), and therefore we suspect these already-cast ballots could break much closer to 51-49 to the Coalition. If that’s the case, and the vote in the booths tomorrow is roughly 50-50, then this could still be a very, very close election indeed.

Against that, and as a whole, Victoria tends to lean to the ALP at all elections.

It was the best state for Labor at the last Federal election, even with the relentless train wreck that was the Rudd-Gillard fiasco. And the feeling that the Federal budget was tailor-made to be nasty to the little people has been exacerbated by the very well understood piece of political calculation that Messrs Abbott and Hockey are both rich, both Sydneysiders, and both seem uncomfortable and sometimes contemptuous when speaking about the rest of Australia past the Blue Mountains.

Picking up on that angst, the TV know-it-alls reckon the seats down the Frankston line will be the deciders in the contest, chock full of annoyed battlers and retirees, and they might be right, at that – Frankston and Carrum look very wobbly at least – but we suspect that is so much received wisdom, especially as it ignores the contests in marginals in the countryside such as the regional cities of Ballaraat and Bendigo which might well be closer than predicted. There has been an assumption made that Labor will snap up some of the country marginals, too, but the very Melbourne-centric Labor Party doesn’t play well in regional Vic, whereas bumbly, horse-owning country vet Dennis Napthine plays unusually well.

In the country, Napthine is often touted as “one of us”, which could not with the best will in the world be said of long-term party apparatchick Daniel Andrews, despite him being brought up in Wangarratta in the State’s north. Not for nothing has he been spruiking that fact again and again in recent weeks: nevertheless, his urban veneer is perfectly obvious.

The last factor that is being largely ignored by the chattering chardonnay drinking classes in the inner city is that, far from being a vote loser, the very controversial East-West Link (road tunnel) which has led almost every news bulletin in what seems like a year has actually been becoming more and more popular with the voters as the Government has patiently explained its rationale, and voters in a string of semi-marginal Eastern and outer-Eastern seats have sweltered in traffic jams at the Hoddle St exits.

Certainly the project has been controversial, and one could argue the Government’s obdurate secrecy on much of the detail has been annoying for many. But ultimately, the question is, “Would I like to get to the Tullamarine Freeway from the end of the Eastern Freeway 20 minutes faster than I can now?”

There are tends of thousands of frustrated commuting motorists – not to mention commercial truck drivers – who will say “Yes”. Sure, they’re not the types that protest on street corners, but they do vote.

And the latest opinion poll on the topic, almost ignored by most of the media because it doesn’t suit the anti-tunnel hysteria they themselves have whipped up, has approval for the East-West Link sitting at a pretty emphatic 63%. That’s a big enough gap in favour to be significant. Not for nothing have the Liberals been bleating that only they will build the East-West Link. If they can get 50.5% of that 63% to vote for them, they’ve held onto power.

So there we have it. The Liberals and Nationals will retain power and Napthine will continue as Premier, at least for now. We know this to be true.

Except, we don’t. Our gut instinct still tells us that a small Labor win – perhaps a majority of as little as two or three seats – is the most likely result. A very good Labor win would look like a majority of maybe 8: anything above that would be a landslide and that is very unlikely. So if we had to part with our wrinkled ten shilling note at the bookies, we’d stick with Labor to win – just – if for no other reason than enough people might want to send a nasty message to the detested Tony Abbott and will sweep poor old well-meaning Napthine aside in the process.

And we’ve been confidently predicting Labor to win for a year. So: Labor to win. Just.

Unless, of course, they don’t. In which case, you – er – heard it here first.

PS Real political junkie stuff. Will the Greens win any lower house seats? We’re guessing no. Who would replace Napthine as party leader if he loses? Matthew Guy. Who incidentally, would have won this election hands down, if the Baillieu camp had not headed him off at the pass by handing the leadership to Napthine in the first place. Or to put it another way, be careful what you wish for.

viting historic

The Victorian State election is tomorrow (Saturday). It’s been so bloody dull this far most people will forget it’s on until they try to walk down the street and get accosted by wild-eyed fanatics handing out How to Vote cards.

Anyhow: non-Victorian readers who are not total election luvvies can turn off now.

For the rest of us, the only real interest in this election, given that it looks very likely than “Dan the Man” Andrews and his Labor Party will win, (although the very latest polls are showing a tightening), is what happens in the Upper House.

This house is like the Senate in Canberra – it’s elected in regions by proportional representation. Which means, of course, that it’s virtually impossible to know what will happen because preferences flow every which way, and we could well end up with an Upper House with all sorts of odd bods in it, making life tricky for any incoming government.

It also means that most voters don’t have a bloody clue how to actually vote formally in the upper house election. For all of you, here’s the facts courtesy of Anthony Green of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, edited judiciously by us.

What is your Upper House vote?

legislative council

The Victorian Legislative Council, or upper house, is like the Senate in Canberra. It is a ‘house of review’ with five members elected by proportional representation from each of eight regions.

Unlike the Senate in Canberra, the Legislative Council does not have staggered terms for its members. All 40 members of the Council face election every four years at the same time as the lower house, the Legislative Assembly, Victoria’s “House of Reps”.

Each of the eight regions consists of 11 of the state’s lower house electorates. When you turn up to vote you will be given the lower house ballot paper for your local electorate, (Melbourne, Richmond, Bulleen, etc) and the ballot paper for the corresponding Legislative Council or upper house region. Got that? Two ballot papers. On we go.

What do I see on my ballot paper?

Along with your small lower house ballot paper, (which you number “1” to however many candidates there are – you MUST number all the boxes) you will also be given a large upper house ballot paper. Your upper house ballot paper is divided across the middle by a thick horizontal black line.

Candidates and their parties are organised into columns running across the ballot paper. Each column has a single box above the line by which you can vote for a party, OR multiple boxes next to candidate names below the line by which you can indicate numbered preferences for their candidates.

Unless, of course, you’re in the North.

Sadly, the Northern Metropolitan Region ballot paper is even more complex. It has two rows of party voting boxes above the line, and two rows of party candidates below the line.

The first row of boxes above the line is for the first row of candidates below the line, and the second row of boxes above the line is for the second row of candidate boxes.

As Green remarks, it is truly horrible, but the alternative to doing this was the reduced font size and magnifying glasses issued at last year’s Senate election. Basically, good luck working out what the fuck is going on.

If you vote in Northern Metropolitan Region and get this ugly ballot paper, just double check with the Polling Officers that you have voted for the party you think you are voting for. A few extra moments checking avoids you voting for someone you didn’t mean to.

Don’t Confuse Party Names

Premier Denis Napthine leads the Liberal Party. His party appears on the ballot paper with the column heading ‘Liberal’ in the metropolitan area, and ‘Liberal/The Nationals’ in the country regions.

There is another party appearing on the ballot paper in all regions as the ‘Liberal Democrats’. Be warned that the Liberal Democrats ARE NOT the Liberal Party and have nothing to do with Premier Denis Napthine. So if you are intending to vote for Denis Napthine and the Liberal Party, don’t vote for the Liberal Democrats by mistake. Of course, if you like the Liberal Democrats best, vote for them first.

Daniel “Call me Dan” Andrews is the leader of the Australian Labor Party. They are not the same as the Democratic Labour Party (DLP). If you intend to vote for Daniel Andrews and the Labor Party, don’t give your first vote for the Democratic Labour Party (DLP). The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) ARE NOT the Australian Labor Party. Of course, if you want to vote DLP, go right ahead.

Remember, when you vote above the line for a party, THEY decide where your voting preferences go. So if you vote for any party above the line on the ballot paper, which is quick and easy, it is always possible your ballot paper will end up with another party through preference distribution.

And never start off by giving your first preference to the wrong party by accident.

How do I vote?

You have two options when you vote, voting either above the line or below the line.

You can place a single ‘1’ in one of the boxes above the line to simply vote for a party.

Or, you can vote for candidates from 1 to 5 below the line. You can then stop, or go on numbering below the line beyond five for as many candidates as you like right up to numbering the whole ballot paper.

Hang on, is this different from the Senate?

Yes it is, in a very important way. At last year’s Senate election, when you voted below the line you had to number every square. In Victoria you are only required to number from 1 to 5 below the line for a formal vote. All preferences beyond 5 are optional. Put one preference, five, ten, twenty, or the whole lot. Up to you.

What happens if I vote for a party above the line?

When you vote for a single party above the line, your ballot paper is distributed as if you have expressed a preference vote, and the preferences used will be those pre-decided by the party you vote for.

There have been some very weird and controversial preference deals struck by both Labor and the Liberals at this election, especially to the detriment of the Green Party. If you want to check the preference tickets of each party before deciding who to vote for, which we recommend, you can examine them at the VEC website.

Then again, if you believe and trust your chosen first preference party, you probably do not care much about who your chosen party directs preferences to.

Checking preference deals can be very complex. Trying to understand how a party’s preferences will be distributed requires understand the very complex counting system, and also making assumptions on what percentage of first preferences each party will poll.

So if you do care about your preferences, it is probably quicker and easier for you to vote below the line for candidates and keep writing in numbers until you don’t care any more, or you’re sure you definitely don’t want your preference to end up with the Monster Raving Loony Party*, rather than try to understand the very complex preference tickets.

*Despite what you may think we don’t have one of those in Victoria, although they do in the UK.

What happens if I give more than one preference above the line?

You can, but it won’t make any difference. Only your first preference ever counts above the line. Any 2, 3, 4 and so on preferences above the line would simply be completely ignored. Only your first preference ‘1’ counts, and your ballot paper is also deemed to have the preference tickets of your first choice party.

How do I vote below the line?

A vote below the line must have the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 in some clear order to be a formal vote. If you wish you can go on to number 6, 7, 8, and so on for as many candidates as you like on the ballot paper.

You can vote for any candidates in any group below the line. Some parties are standing 5 candidates, which means you can vote 1 to 5 in that group, but you don’t have to. You can vote 1 for a Labor candidate, 2 for a Greens, 3 for a Liberal, 4 for a Sexual Freedom For Fish* candidate, and so on.

*Nope, we don’t have any of those either

If there’s a group or party that have fewer than five candidates that you want to vote for first, then you have to go on and number candidates in more than one column. You must number from at least 1 to 5, so if you were to just number 1,2 in a single column and stop, then your vote will be informal and won’t count.

Don’t mix and match between above and below the line. You can either vote a single ‘1’ above the line, or the numbers 1 to 5 below the line. Mixing up numbering between the two options will make your vote informal.

Then again, if you correctly number at least 1 to 5 below the line, and a single 1 above the line, your vote is formal both above and below the line, and the counting rule is to always apply a formal below the line vote before a formal above the line vote. Simples, huh?

Can I go on beyond 5 preferences below the line?

Yes, and the more preferences you give, the greater chance that your vote will stay live in the count for longer. If you vote below the line, ensure you vote at least 1 to 5, and then go on giving preferences for as many candidates as you know or like or care about.

What is the best way to number my ballot below the line?

It’s this simple: number candidates in the order you would like to see them elected. Give your ‘1’ vote to the candidate you would most like to see elected, 2 to your second preferred candidate, and so on.

If you try and get really tricky-clever with so-called strategic voting you might end up outsmarting yourself. Strategic voting is only possible if you are able to estimate the vote each party will achieve. Even pointy-head experts have difficulty determining this, so the best strategy for everyone is simply to number candidates in the order you would like to see them elected and if you don’t care after a while, stop.

Can my ballot paper “run out” of preferences?

Yes. If you just number 1 to 5, and all five of your preferences are for candidates who have already been elected or excluded (“knocked out of”) the count, then your ballot paper will ‘exhaust’ its preferences. An “exhausted” ballot paper is one that has no preferences for a candidate remaining in the count, so the ballot paper is put aside as out of preferences and plays no further part in the count. It cannot be further used to determine the election of another candidate.

For this reason, it is always best to keep numbering beyond five candidates. If you think all the other candidates are a waste of space and want to stop at 5, you can do that, of course. But if you have views on other candidates on the ballot paper, and you want your vote to have the maximum impact, it is best to keep numbering for as many numbers as you see fit.

Exhausted ballot papers mean that it is possible for the final candidates in the Council to be elected with less than a full quota of votes, which isn’t desirable.

How can I work out what to do in advance, so I’m not standing in the booth for half an hour?

When you vote, you must fill in the official ballot paper handed to you in the polling place. Only a duly authorised ballot paper can be admitted to the count.

But if you want to vote below the line, there are sites where you can prepare your list of candidates, print them out and take them along to vote. Then just copy your sequence of numbers across to the actual ballot paper.

You can try Cluey Voter.

There. Now that was all clear as mud, eh? Good luck.

The Upper House election is likely to be crucial this year as regards the future governance of the State. Make sure you know what you’re doing!

HughesAustralia and much of the sporting world is reeling in deep shock and disbelief today at the death of Australian batsman Phillip Hughes after he was struck by a cricket ball to the head in Sydney two days ago.

We do not intend here to eulogise Phillip – others will do a better job of that, and his exciting batting play in many arena is all the evidence we need of his brilliant skills. He was also, by all accounts, and by his many interviews with the media, a fun, charming and engaging young man.

No sport is entirely without risks. A couple of weeks back we wrote with deep shock of the death of two young female Australian jockeys in the space of a week.

Cricket seems uniquely likely to cause injury to its participants. German Kaiser Wilhelm once presciently remarked that the British Empire was incapable of being defeated because its officer corps were trained for battle by making them stand in the middle of a mown field while small cannon balls were thrown at them. Indeed it is remarkable more people are not hurt playing the game.

The advent of helmets with wrap-around face guards or grills for those facing fast bowling, not to mention those fielding near the bat, has been a helpful and effective move. That this ball hit Hughes behind the helmet on the back of his head when a millimetre or so either way would simply have left him nursing a sore head and feeling a bit foolish is a bitter, bitter pill. We confidently expect to never see such an event again in our lifetime.

Yes, we should review the design of those helmets, just as we should review the turns on racetracks to make sure most horses – all horses, as far as we can arrange – get around them without slipping up at speed. Just as we have reviewed the safety features of Formula 1 cars so that serious injuries or death are almost banished from the sport, where they used to be almost weekly events, just as the auhorities work to make road cycling safer, and so on. We didn’t ban ocean racing after the Fastnet or Sydeny-to-Hobart disasters, and the crews for those exciting events still queue round the block to take part. What we did do was implement better communications, better rescue provision, and better weather alerts.

Our reason for writing tonight is simply to say again, woefully, that we must face the stark fact that there is always only so much we can do.

Sport will never be without risk and we cannot make cricket’s helmets so all-encompassing that they make batting impossible, especially against fast bowling. What happened to Phillip was dreadful bad luck and extraordinarily unlikely. Sometimes we just have to bite down hard and accept that life throws us all some ugly balls, now and again.

Those of us who love nothing more than the settle back on our couches or take our seat in the stands and watch elite athletes of all kinds do what they do best should remember that, and express our thanks for their courage. None of them can ever be entirely sure they will survive their career. Equally certainly, none of them would be put off competing by that doleful knowledge.

Phillip Hughes was a country lad with a ready smile. He started out playing cricket at 12 years old against adults, who he cheerfully bashed all over the grounds of small-town New South Wales. Raised in Macksville – a relaxed fishing and oyster-farming town centre of a rich rural district on low-lying land around the Nambucca River – and finished in Sydney grade cricket at Western Suburbs, where he, like his friend and Aussie captain Michael Clarke and fellow future Test player Mitchell Starc, were coached by Neil D’Costa, Hughes’s precocious talent would lead him to the modern cricket star’s cosmopolitan life.

He turned out not only for NSW and Australia but also the English counties Hampshire, Middlesex and Worcestershire, the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League, and for the Strikers and South Australia when he moved to Adelaide in 2012. He represented his country in all three formats and made new friends in each. Wherever he played, he was popular for his simple, light heart; there was no “side” to Phillip Hughes. He was just a bloody nice guy.

It would be nice if something could be done to memorialise his life and career by further supporting youth cricket, especially in country Australia. If the net result of the robbery of this young man’s promising life was with sad irony to unearth the next Philip Hughes then today’s loss might seem not quite so dreadfully, appalling, awfully hard to take.

Our deepest sympathies go out to Phillip’s family and friends, and the whole cricketing world.

If it won’t play for you, click on the little YouTube sign on the bottom left on the screen.

Further comment superfluous. Enjoy and smile.

Ironic photo of the week

Posted: November 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

IMG_1935.JPG

We often think of how much Orwell wrote has come true. Newspeak. Mind crime. Universal supervision. Rewriting history. Maybe 1984 should be reissued as 2014?

A friend challenges me to briefly discuss the difference between communism (as in, it’s a common refrain from the right that all sorts of left wing (or even mildly populist centrist) politicians are just communists, basically, and all sorts of public figures to the right of Ghengis Kahn in our political systems are just, essentially, fascists.

obama_nazi_communist_muslim_peaceWhat’s the difference, huh, pontificator?

Well, this was all started by the way the terms are used by all sides to demonise anyone the protagonists don’t like – most obviously, poor old President Obama, who seems to be one of everything depending on which angle the person doing the criticising is coming from.

So laving aside, for a moment, whether those insulting generalisations, have any meaning, and honing in on the core of the question – what is the difference between communism and fascism? – and the answer is, precious little, looking at history.

But it should immediately be said that most communists believe there has never been a communist society, and there have certainly been fascist ones, so that exemption should be acknowledged.

There is a real difference, though, even between Stalinism, state socialism, Sovietism, Maoism, (or whatever you want to call the regimes that have masqueraded under the title communist), and Fascism.

Fascism has been supported in the past because it protects the rights of the rich industrialists, and in Spain, Italy and Central America, the Roman Catholic Church, as well. (Which is why it has always been so split in half between deeply conservative opinion and “liberation” theology.) In general, fascism did a very poor job of protecting the needs of workers – as they were irrelevant to the programme, and was antithetical to any type of organised labour at all – and this was seen especially so in the rural areas of Spain and Italy, and later throughout South America. Other than in Germany, where it can be argued that materially the workers did quite well under Nazism at least for a while, but that was coming off such a low base that it hardly counts.

But at least sometimes, state socialism has historically been successful at delivering basic needs to many people. Cuba is probably the most obvious success story where literacy rates and free essential healthcare are better, for example, than in the USA.

But it must also be immediately acknowledged that any success has been through the removal of free comment, dissent and freedom of movement, and it has also been responsible for grinding poverty and even starvation, especially in Cambodia, China, Russia and North Korea, where it can further be argued that starvation was used as a shameful article of deliberate public policy.

The worst of the worst.

The worst of the worst.

There is no doubt that the worst mass murderer in history was Mao-Tse-Tung, whose crimes dwarf Hitler’s even, by a factor of at least three or four times.

Stalin was also responsible for maybe as many deaths as Hitler.

Of course, history is written by the victors, and I have heard it argued that the “industrialisation” of horror by Hitler sets him and the Nazis apart from all the other horrible people the 20th century threw up. I am not sure that’s relevant, though the images of the cattle trucks and crematoriums have seared themselves into the West’s collective consciousness, to be sure. Then again, if we had film of hundreds of thousands of those opposing Mao (and some supporting him) being machine-gunned or buried alive, we’d be just as deeply shocked by the ‘industrial scale” of that.

Dead is dead, after all.

We think what links all totalitarians (which is a better word, I think, than any of the names of specific movements) is that they essentially do not care genuinely about the rights or opinions of the governed, or they are prepared to discard them lightly, and they enact laws, and create situations, where the people governed have no recourse against the Government, whatever that Government is called. The move from a pre-fascist to a fascist state can then be accomplished virtually overnight, and often with a veneer of legality, as in Germany in 1933.

So is there any sense in which totalitarianism is still relevant to modern Western countries? Aren’t we past all that?

In our carefully-considered view, there are many in position of great power in America that have no regard for the rights of the Governed at all.

They are headed by industrialists like the Koch’s, (and there are many others), but they also include many of the multi-headed hydra-like organisations that continually denigrate the role of government per se, and lead people who are ill-educated to question the core principles of democracy.

By our observation, there is little doubt that these people are almost entirely on the right – often the far right – and they have, as a plan, the deliberate takeover of the Republicans as their stalking horses for the gutting and enfeebling of American democracy.dollar

They also flood the Democratic Party with money through more carefully concealed channels, in order to corrupt the system entirely.

Which is one reason their encroachment on the civil state rarely excites any attention from legislators.

He who pays the piper plays the tune.

TNY_electioncosts_optIn our view, until thorough finance reform is enacted, (and we don’t believe it will be), then the people cannot take back control of their republic, and that is why we believe America to be, quite genuinely, in a pre-fascist or neo-fascist state, and one that any thinking American should be utterly committed to resisting.

In short, we are deeply pessimistic about America’s future.

A final cataclysm could be triggered by the deliberate engineering of a legislative log-jam combined with a stock market collapse, very possibly based around a debt default, which would be equally engineered. Artificially creating concern about economic performance, or actually precipitating a collapse in economic performance, is a classic last-stage fascist tactic.

In our considered opinion, Democracy itself is under threat in many places in the world, but nowhere more obviously than in the United States, and we see little or no determination in America to face it, living in the bubble, as Americans so often are, of the oft-repeated nonsense that they are “the best country in the world”.

In many ways, and laudably, America is wonderful – but it is also very badly served by the continual lie that it is incapable of being improved or cannot learn form the opinions and experiences of those overseas.

fcWhere one sees it repeated parrot-fashion by an increasingly right-wing media, interpolated subtly into popular debate, into foreign news coverage, even into sports coverage, it is very easy to also see it as “Go to sleep. Go to sleeeeep. Everything’s OK, go to sleeeeeeeeeeep.”

Bread and circuses for everybody, and if you don’t think that’s enough, well, you must be an intellectual pinko Commie bastard.

And incidentally, the increased militarisation of police, and more significantly the constant excusing of excessive police force, incident by incident, is just one more very obvious precursor to fascism. The casual and growing acceptance that it is OK to harass and jail whistleblowers, or even to kill US citizens deemed to be a threat without trial, on American soil or overseas, are other indicators.

Well, Sleepers Awake! we say, before you wake up one morning and find Democracy has become little more than a sham, and your freedom to discuss it or to do anything meaningful about it has been stripped from you. We all need to understand that fascism works by taking over public institutions and making them its own, NOT by abolishing them. A semblance of Democracy is not the same thing as Democracy.

America will always have a Congress and a Senate. It will always have State Legislations. You’ll still elect the local Sheriff and Judge. That doesn’t mean they will always respond to voters, and can’t be entirely under the purview of the shadowy paymasters who really pull the strings.

You have been warned.

Further reading: http://www.diffen.com/difference/Communism_vs_Fascism

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/princeton-experts-say-us-no-longer-democracy