76 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. There hasn’t been much comment about Abbas’s decision last week not to stand again for PA President. There is nobody else with any credibility either able or willing to replace him. As Uri Avnery says, he’s seemingly decided not to go down in history as the Petain of Palestine. This move would appear to have completely discredited the Obama/Clinton policy, and would also appear to signal a change in Palestinian policy toward a one state solution, based on a facsimile of the anti-apartheid struggle. This may well turn out to be quite momentous.

  2. A question that intermittently pops up in my mind is how we treat people in society and in particular at work. The issue is that the current dominant belief is that competition at all levels is the only appropriate strategy for – well, I dunno what, but my guess is – optimal efficiency in the allocation of scarce resources. Or something like that 🙂

    Anyhow, to the point: given two people with the same skills and same background, but vastly different personalities and perspectives, how do we get the best from them?

    What if person A is analytical, enjoys the challenge of finding novel solutions, needs quiet time to themselves in order to make progress on such problems, but also needs and enjoys collaborating on problems with colleagues? And what if person B is intuitive and moves to all decisions rapidly, and is extremely motivated when trying to beat the competition, whoever they may be? What if person B finds “quiet time” boring and frustrating, even depressing, and needs the company of others to function well? What if they are outgoing and able to connect quickly with strangers?

    Given the two personalities for A and B, and some indication of what motivates them, it would be a mistake to place both A and B into the same environment, while expecting identical results from their work. Person A probably needs an office to keep out sound and other distractions so they can focus well on a problem, while Person B probably feels most comfortable operating in an open plan office where other people are in plain view and there is a feeling of activity around them. They probably seek and enjoy travel where the objective is to establish contacts and/or negotiate contracts/sales.

    Person A is unlikely to be motivated by money primarily, but certainly won’t respond well to what they perceive as an unsatisfactory pay regime. They are probably at their most motivated when working on projects with some unknown possibilities – that is, there are genuine avenues for intellectual discovery – and doing so with a flat, loosely structured team in which various collaborative efforts may emerge naturally. They may be competitive in the sense of trying to achieve a better solution than other colleagues, but the target of what competition there is, concentrates on arriving at the best solution available. This sort of competition is more about reaching the best solution; the “losers”, if they are like person A, will be swayed to adopt the best solution if the alternative solutions are compared on their merits, and then will be supporters of it. A lot of the reward for person A is the collective satisfaction at reaching a great solution, and sharing in its creation and development with other colleagues.

    On the other hand, a team in which a bonus pool is meant to be the motivating “carrot” is – from Person A’s point of view – so obviously designed to create competitive behaviour among individual team member, that person A finds it demoralising because it erodes the foundation of collaborative behaviour, and may even compromise the sought after trust and openess among colleagues.

    Person B, on the other hand, may very well be motivated by a bonus pool; in B’s case they may be keen and able to form short-term coalitions with other team members to achieve subordinate goals which improve their chances of a good bonus. The short-term coalition competes directly – although often in a camouflaged form, ie not overtly – against other team members, to beat them at achieving some subgoal of the project. Person B may switch coalitions when it furthers B’s goals, while working against individuals within a coalition to reduce the other individuals’s opportunity to acquire a bigger slice of the pot.
    To Person B this is not considered unethical; rather, it is seen to be with the tacit blessings of the company since they offer the bonus pool in the first place. Certainly, if other team members behave similarly, person B is not unduly upset to be temporarily under seige; in fact, they thrive on the game being played and redouble their efforts to prevail, as it is a chance to beat the others.

    Both persons A and B may be kind, generous and helpful to others. Both may be interesting and make good friendships outside of work and/or inside work. However, it should be clear that if their job environments were transposed, it is quite unlikely that either would perform at anywhere near their best. In fact, both might suffer emotionally and health-wise if stuck in these environments, given their individual personalities and driving factors.

    Why is there so little consideration to diversity of workplace environments? It seems that environments that were once optimal for the person A type are shifting towards the optimal evironment for person B type. And that is a waste of talent.

  3. @Hal9000

    For the life of me I can’t work out why the US doesn’t simply send Mitchell to natanyahu with a blunt message:

    Cut a deal around restoration of the pre-67 borders removal of outposts right of return of Palestinians, and return of the Golan Heights, return of moneys seized from the PA and indemnity for the attacks or we cut your aid to zip, demand back the money since Oslo and vote on the Security Council for sanctions.

    Problem solved. It’s not that hard.

  4. It is a curious experience to open a morning newspaper and to discover therein that one has been libelled by a stalker. This is what happened to me when I saw today’s Australian and discovered an op-ed piece there, written by someone whose stalking activities against me had already brought him to the police and the magistracy’s attention.

    The stalker’s name is Hal Colebatch, and a link to his article appears below. Given Mr Colebatch’s neocon status, it unsurprisingly contains the usual ad hominem attacks on anyone who has dared to criticise the Israeli government, for whatever reason:


    As I am among Mr Colebatch’s victims (he does not actually name me, but a simple Google search will confirm whom he means), I thought it as well to send the following to The Australian‘s letters editor. Whether it will be published, heaven knows. There are some (I was once among them) who still credit Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets with an interest in free speech. At any rate, this attempted response to Mr Colebatch’s attack was what I wrote:

    Dear Letters Editor:

    My attention has been drawn to the latest burst of unintentional farce by Hal
    Colebatch in your pages (The Australian, November 10):


    The author of the “Australian-sourced attempt” to oppose neocon hagiographies, and to do so in the pages of “the grotesquely misnamed American Conservative“, was
    myself. Why, it might be wondered, did Mr Colebatch not mention my name?

    I’ve deleted some potentially defamatory statements here. Please check the comments policy before posting material that might raise questions of this kind – JQ

    The editors at The American Conservative and Takimag (the former magazine having refused to print Mr Colebatch’s own more libellous effusions, which perhaps helps to explain his latest outburst) can speak for themselves, if they wish, in response to Mr Colebatch. Of his calumnies against me I shall say no more than that I stand by my description of John Howard. To Mr Colebatch’s attempted defence of John
    Howard’s “conservatism”, I would simply respond: do the phrases “centralism” and
    “gun control” ring a bell?

    Mr Colebatch ill-advisedly invokes Richard Krygier. Living in Sydney, as I did during the 1970s and 1980s, I came to know Mr Krygier, if not well, then at least incomparably better than the Perth-based Mr Colebatch ever did.

    If there was one thing that disgusted Mr Krygier more than open and dirty-mouthed thugs flaunting their semi-literacy, it was those who had no objection whatsoever to
    per se except that they themselves had not been placed in
    charge of it. Any resemblance between this last category and Mr Colebatch is of course totally coincidental, but Mr Krygier might well have been reluctant to believe in such coincidence.

    Yours sincerely

    R. J. Stove

  5. Fran. While I agree with your sentiments, Mitchell is on a short leish by Obama. The domestic Jewish lobby in the US is all powerful, all pervasive and in particular with the Democrats. Hilliary will be no stranger to that power as a former US senator from NY state. I doubt Obama has the political strength to give Mitchell your brief and Netanyahu would know that and indeed have the capacity to play poker with Obama over an attack on Iranian nuclear sites if the US got too demanding. So you have the big Hillary climb down and a return to the status quo including the disgraceful Australian UN vote on the Goldstone call for an inquiry into war crimes by both sides – Hamas and the IDF. It just goes on and on and both of us risk being labelled anti semitic.

  6. John, according to the Australian, Liberal Senate leader Nick Minchin is under fire from his own troops today over his bloody unhelpful and uninformed views on climate change and his decision to directly challenge Malcolm Turnbull’s authority on the issue. Furthermore, many in the Liberal Party would agree with the Liberal frontbencher who thinks Minchin is a ‘complete fruit loop’.

  7. @R J Stove
    R J Stove – its long been known they play low, dirty and mean if its any consolation. This Hal fellow sounds like the usual nutter having read his piece. Watch your back.

  8. A question that intermittently pops up in my mind is how we treat people in society and in particular at work. The issue is that the current dominant belief is that competition at all levels is the only appropriate strategy for – well, I dunno what, but my guess is – optimal efficiency in the allocation of scarce resources.

    It seems to me that the obsession with competition is a lefty thing. They can’t stand capitalism in it’s natural state so they are forever trying to artificially created more competition to suit their social agendas. They seem to think it ought to be the main passtime of business when in fact good business entails a collaboration between customers, suppliers and employees and even with peers within the industry. To be sure competition is important but some seem to raise it to god like status and create institutions devoted to it. Witness the ACCC.

  9. Chuck “back down barnaby” in the sin bin as well. Did anyone else see Barnaby on TV last night doing the chicken dance with a bunch of schoolkids?? Apt, I thought…very apt.

  10. @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Terje – you have really placed a pice of delusionism in here now

    “It seems to me that the obsession with competition is a lefty thing.”

    Ha Ha Ha Ha…that is the funniest piece of delusionism Ive heard all day…but I do know libertarians think they can create their own empire…..who are you trying to fool Terje???

    We didnt come down in the last shower. The “right” (thats “right” ..not “lefty”) have been bleating on about competition and efficiency for years (bugger ethics and morals..he with the most aggression and most money takes all because he is “competitive”!!!).

  11. Alice :
    @R J Stove
    R J Stove – its long been known they play low, dirty and mean if its any consolation. This Hal fellow sounds like the usual nutter having read his piece. Watch your back.

    Thanks Alice. I’ve long known Mr Colebatch. He wasn’t always quite this bad. I won’t go into the reasons that he – after years of tolerably civil dealings with me – decided that he was on a Blues-Brothers-like “mission from God” to destroy me altogether. But he hasn’t succeeded thus far, mainly because his Vyshinskyite power-mania is balanced by his most un-Vyshinskyite ineptitude.

    I was fighting against totalitarianism at an age when Mr Colebatch was doing nothing more strenuous than bending the elbow and uttering leather-lunged defences of Indonesia’s East Timor genocide. Whether these antics were actually more, or less, reprehensible than the equally youthful druggie and Khmer Rouge dalliances of Mr Colebatch’s current Quadrant comrade Keith (“What’s wrong with plagiarism?”) Windschuttle, I leave to others to judge.

  12. @robert
    Dont….even….mention ….the name ….Windbags Keith Windschuttle….to me R J. (ex trotsyite now neo con extremist and hired hack writer for IPA and…JH’s shoeshine boy…selective historian for great white men and mighty white battles (other colours and women need not apply for a place in history)…otherwise mostly employed as nitpicker of footnotes on behalf of the loony right … rewarded with cosy ABC board position… which, regrettably, no-one who actually worked in the ABC wanted him on…)
    Stop! I get migraines.

  13. @pablo

    The domestic Jewish lobby in the US is all powerful, all pervasive and in particular with the Democrats.

    How do you figure that? AIUI they campaigned against Obama and secular Jews supported him.

  14. Sorry, Alice, I didn’t mean to induce any migraines in you (or anybody else) by mentioning Mr Windschuttle. Moreover, you and I might well disagree on quite a few issues. But don’t worry, it would not surprise me if the present government simply cut off Quadrant‘s taxpayer funding: without which funding, of course, Quadrant would be dead in five minutes.

    Today, by a process of word-association, the name Quadrant is as inextricably mixed up with “hoax”, “Sharon Gould”, and “Trotskyite retreads” as the name Angry Penguins was with “hoax” and “Ern Malley”. A pity for the handful of talented people still involved with Q; but c’est la vie. When KW banned me from Q‘s pages (I used to have articles published there now and then before he came along), he did me one of the greatest favours of my life.

  15. @TerjeP (say tay-a)

    Hmmm, interesting take on it, TerjeP; you make an audacious claim indeed, and for that I’ll give you half a gold star sticker.

    Certainly, in well run enterprises there are usually signs of collaboration, otherwise they won’t hold together for long. I guess what I’m questioning is how workplace culture can quash natural human differences in ways that reduce the performance of some otherwise capable individuals. The workplace isn’t necessarily restricted to private enterprise here.

    I’ll see if I can get back to you on your claim, If I can just stop ROFL.


    Donald Oats

  16. @R J Stove
    Yes – we do disagree on quite a few things R J. I am rather hoping the present government cuts off Quadrants funding….why fund an organisation that repeatedly attacks the institutional framework of government and keeps pushing for lower and lower taxes and smaller and smaller government? Its a bit like feeding a nasty dingo at a campsite. Although I am not certain it would fall over. Im sure they have other well endowed sources of funding. Its a shame they waste it on people like Windbags.

  17. I wasn’t aware that Quadrant receives funds from the government; if it does, that would be a fairly major contradiction of their editors’s (I never quite know how to treat the possessive on the plural form of a noun – to ‘s or not to ‘s? Anyway, I’m following Stephen King on this.) personal beliefs concerning government, or is Quadrant the exception that proves the rule as far as they are concerned?

    Might look into this one…

  18. Well, that wasn’t very hard. Google provides the juice on Quadrant grant money from the government it serially bashes for being too big. And what about their other favourite whipping boys, like lickspittle rentseekers of various shades? Hypocrites!
    They can continue bashing the government if they so desire, but why are such idealogues applying for government grants when they are only so willing to lay the boot into those who actually need the odd government-provided service.

  19. Donald Oats :
    Well, that wasn’t very hard. Google provides the juice on Quadrant grant money from the government it serially bashes for being too big. And what about their other favourite whipping boys, like lickspittle rentseekers of various shades? Hypocrites!
    They can continue bashing the government if they so desire, but why are such idealogues applying for government grants when they are only so willing to lay the boot into those who actually need the odd government-provided service.

    Mr Oats, I myself asked Quadrant the very same question back in 1989, and suggested that if it took seriously its commitment to the free market, it should junk its taxpayer funding and start taking up classified advertising (which in those pre-Internet days would’ve been a gold mine, as it long was – and for all I know still is – for The New Yorker). Naturally my suggestion was greeted with outright disgust, and then ignored.

  20. Barry Brook has an interesting post on an alternative approach to carbon trading “fee and dividend”:

    Do others have a view on this?

    I realise that nobody wants ot detract from the chances of an ETS being passed at present. However I think there are three reasons to discuss this:
    – as a “plan B” fallback option in case the ETS and/or Copenhagen fails
    – in case so many actors defect from ETS schemes that they don’t achieve anything
    – in case the free permits in an ETS this time make it ineffective, just as they did with the first European scheme.

    The coal industry will never go voluntarily into extinction. IMO it needs to be regulated out, first brown coal, then black.

  21. @Donald Oats
    Well said Don – Im actually horrified Quadrant is in possession of a government grant. I didnt know but now I can feel a migraine coming on because of those Quadrant people – (the utterly filthy contemptible hypocrites).

    Which stupid government gave them the grant Don?

  22. @Socrates

    I realise that nobody wants ot detract from the chances of an ETS being passed at present.

    Not nobody. I want an ETS passed but not if it is a poor one such as the one we have.

    Still, the fee & dividend is simply another low threshhold tax proposal. It’s not a serious suggestion and one which if proposed would not amount to anything and achieve nothing but further delay.

    Carbon taxes are at the mercy of political auctions at every election and would be very easy to whiteant. As someone over at BNC noted, while a good tax is better than a bad ETS or no ETS, a good ETS is better than a good tax. It’s also more likely to persist in being a good ETS than is a good tax.

    Much the same can be said of regulatory measures as taxes. In theory, regulation plus prioce signals could be the best approach of all, but in practice you would never get all the players on the same page and cooperating, so its moot. Debating regulation would simply hold up progress in more interminable inquiries and restart debates about “picking winners” and cross-jurisdictional inequity and Smoot-Hawley-style shenanigans.

  23. Alice asks: “Which stupid government gave them the grant Don?”

    I’m open to correction on this score, and if I’ve erred, I apologise; but I believe every Australian government since that of Sir Robert Menzies has given money to Quadrant from approximately 1958 on. (Quadrant was certainly founded in 1956, when Menzies was PM.) In other words, Labor governments as well as Liberal governments have done so, although the Literature Board as we now know it didn’t exist when the initial Federal funding kicked in. One would need to look up a history of the Australia Council – which I haven’t done – in order to determine the amounts of taxpayer subsidy over the decades. But the fact of the continuous taxpayer subsidy is indisputable.

  24. @Donald Oats
    It had to be didnt it Donald? Board jobs for people like Windcshuttle and Albrechtsen and grants for the IPA under Howard (and that isnt even the tip of the iceberg the extent of his political appointments). A good old boys and banshees club!

    At the same time as he was initiating funding for the IPA let us not ever forget JH was slashing research funding for social welfare and funding for genuine charities(exclude the fake charity websites owned by the wealthy that sprang up under JH claiming tax deductions and doing do damn charity at all). .oh and JH was also putting the boot into single mums.

  25. Good idea, lets ditch all government grants for magazines and think tanks. Clearly nobody would support a grants program that assesses eligibility on the basis of policy preferences or biases.

  26. @Pedro
    No, Pedro, that is not what I am saying. I am pointing out that to apply for such grants and to accept them, is at odds with the eternal principles espoused by the regular contributors, and indeed, by the editors themselves. They should be discouraging the government from awarding such grants in the first place and leaving it up to individuals to contribute the money themselve; that is, if the Quadrangle members are to be consistent with their principles.

    There is nothing stopping them from going for government grants under the rules of the day, but don’t expect all taxpayers to be happy funding such diatribe as found in the Quadrangle.

    World communist plot to install a global government, with AGW as the leftist mechanism for achieving this; that’s the main thrust of Janet’s dribble in the UnOz, isn’t it? Ditto for the other dittoheads. Everywhere they go they see a Red – now that is delusional.

  27. @Donald Oats
    I don’t read Quadrant (it is far too conservative for my liking), but the fact that they oppose government handouts and then accept them when they come along doesn’t seem inconsistent or hypocritical. If the government allocates a certain amount of money to fund these publications, they would be at a disadvantage if they didn’t lobby for their share of the spoils. After all, why should all the funding go to the leftist publications?

    In an ideal world, the government wouldn’t be funding these publications at all, but since it does, Quadrant are more than entitled to lobby for their piece of the loot, as is every publication with a propensity for communist propaganda. Like any good rent-seeker, you can’t expect them to turn their nose up at “free money”.

    At the same time, I do see a certain element of hypocrisy in John Howard speaking the language of free markets while handing out bonuses to his pets. Don’t be fooled – the size of government grew dramatically towards the end of the Howard years. As for Janet, who unfortunately is like many conservatives, she was notably silent during the midst of this runaway government spending and yet has decided to pipe up now that a Labor government has come to power.

    I opposed the Rudd stimulus plan, but let me tell you I sure didn’t throw that $900 cheque in the bin when it arrived in the mail. I would have rather had no stimulus and less government debt, but the fact that it passed means I’m going to make the best of a bad situation. No doubt you think that’s hypocritical, whereas I consider it rational decision making.

    It is delusional at times, this Reds under the Beds kind of scare tactics, but at the same time, as I said, most people are oblivious to the slow but inexorable rise in government spending. The fears of communist revolution or somesuch are overstated (especially in countries lacking the absolutist tendencies of Russia or Latin America), but eventually as the population growth continues to decline and the tax base shrivels up, we’re going to faced with some tough questions about how we fund this lavish (but poorly performing) welfare state. And this is a real opportunity for political strife.

  28. No Seabass, I don’t think it is hypocritical to use the $900 cheque that the government sent to you. It isn’t the same situation as Quadrant. Whether you agreed with the approach or not, the money was “pushed” to you, whereas the Quadrant magazine has devoted itself to arguing long and hard – in fairly bellicose tone from what I’ve seen – to end the various subsidies and grants and “handouts” of one form or another. And then they apply for Program grants from at least one government body. Quadrant “pulled” the money in, it wasn’t pushed upon it.

    If Quadrant wants to apply for and to receive government grants in order to bumble along, well it’s free to do so. I still consider it hypocritical to rail against the very thing that it benefits from. Surely it can’t be too hard to find $50K or so a year from the readership and other supporters. Then they’d have “clean hands” as they say.

  29. @Donald Oats
    Actually hold on that one Don. Ill check it myself. I might be confusing it with IPA (re the coal black dirty hands of the board members)…but notwithstanding, Quadrant make me ill putting their hands out for grants and then giving the unfortunate and the poor a real serve over the years, via attacks on social welfare, even attacks on the poor themselves (poor because they are lazy etc). I lump Quadrant in with the IPA and the CIS. The “sad” rags that seek to divide us, by whatever sneaky means possible, into a nation of the haves and the have nots. Sneaky means include enlisting more than one media mogul to the cause of providing them the print medium and a bullying voice or two to hector and harangue us.

  30. Readers of Professor Quiggin’s website might be interested in the following article about Quadrant from Martin Krygier, the political scientist and son of former Quadrant publisher Richard Krygier.


    I can’t, of course, speak for others; but the following passage from this article struck a particular chord with me, at any rate:

    “Two of the least attractive elements of our public culture – though the competition is fierce – are that we think in labels and hunt in packs. The combination makes it easier than it might be to identify (and fabricate) enemies and recognise friends, but it has little else to be said for it, outside war. And whatever your position in the culture wars, a condition of realism is to recognise that these are not real wars. … At the start of this essay I mentioned my father. I have no idea where he would lean in this sad story, though there are times when I’d like to know. He loved Quadrant, but he died 20 years ago, a lot has changed, and he was a thoughtful man. He was also a person of taste and what used to be praised as discrimination. While I can’t speak for him, I remember how he spoke. He was fond of a phrase coined by his former compatriot Szmuel Gelbfisz, better known as Samuel Goldwyn. ‘Include me out,’ my father liked to say, when the occasion warranted. And so do I.”

  31. @TerjeP #15: “It seems to me that the obsession with competition is a lefty thing. They can’t stand capitalism in its natural state so they are forever trying to artificially create more competition to suit their social agendas.”

    I think there is something to this, though it may not originate with the left. Modern capitalism is a highly legislated and regulated thing; markets are often created by legislative fiat; and putative monopolies are broken up by the state. The virtue of competition is often part of the justification given, for such actions and others (like privatization).

    Foucault apparently expressed the opinion, in some lectures from the late 1970s, that even then “neoliberalism” attached much greater significance to competition than did classical liberalism. I have not tried to weigh up the evidence myself but you can see some discussion here and here. So there’s a question of intellectual history – did an enhanced idea of the importance of competition play a part in the rise of neoliberalism – as well as a question about the present – do today’s regulators, privatizers and monopoly-busters cling to the idea of competition, as what commerce is all about, because they have little personal experience of the real thing?

  32. @R J Stove
    R J Stove,

    I have no doubt whatsoever that Quadrant was entirely a different animal when it started under Menzies to where it has ended now. This one statement also strikes a chord with me….

    ….”And whatever your position in the culture wars, a condition of realism is to recognise that these are not real wars.”

    The culture wars were about one group, one faction, one side making an enemy of the other, within the same community, in order to grab the reigns of power and with it, all the benefits to those within the faction – to divide and pillory an imaginary enemy is to conquer all.

    But we, the ordinary citizens, when we vote, suffer the worst delusions of all…that politicians, no matter their shade, can act as one and work together for the good of the great majority.

    Alas it is not so and that sums up the culture wars. He who commands the ideas commands the people.

  33. @mitchell porter
    Mitchell – I personally hope the local Woolies in your area raises its prices another 40% in the next five years, in response to the idiocy of your statement above.

  34. As it happens, I wrote quite a few articles for Quadrant over approximately a 20-year period; I’m not sorry I did. But though even Mr Windschuttle hasn’t managed to drive away every single non-zombie from Q‘s pages, the Q which I knew and respected is as totally dead now as the dodo or the woolly mammoth. Mr Windschuttle and the late Mr McGuinness – to quote a prominent American columnist’s graphic description, earlier this year, of Dubya – “got a hold of the keys, got high on neocon hooch, and crashed and rolled the family SUV.”

    Thus, I feel about Q much as I feel about the current Liberal Party (not that I have much enthusiasm for the ALP either). If Sir Robert Menzies saw the Liberal Party of 2009, I doubt he’d even cross the street to spit on it.

  35. @R J Stove
    Im not surprise Windschuttle contributed to the downfall R J Stove…..not at all..tell me – Ill bet he has a bold narcissistic streak? But I suspect he is a walking disaster on two legs in any organisational sense. Arrogant little chap. He has taken on much bigger fish than him and caused a minor skirmish in the water …but at the end of the day his name will pass quite quickly into the oblivion of the history he thought he could engineer. Really Windschuttle is noisy but not a soul worth worrying about, yet I wouldnt have wanted to work with him. I might have committed a major felony.

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