Begun in 2008, it's unlikely that I'll regularly make entries to this blog, so do check my main site at www.fourhares.com

This blog is more likely to include posts of a political nature - and one that requires sisu on the part of many!

Archives dated prior to March 2008 are entries moved across from either LiveJournal or Octant.

Recent Posts

Categories

On bureaucracy as anti-democracy

In ‘We need to be more than right: in a liberal democracy we should be making space for small, dissident, and unconventional opinions and parties’, John O’Sullivan writes (my bold emphasis):

As Anna Fotyga remarked, there is a surprising problem with the term “liberal democracy.” As a defender of liberal democracy as pure as Marc Plattner of the NED has written, there is always a tension between liberalism and democracy, between majority rule and the liberal rules designed to prevent the misuse of majority rule.

For myself I would argue that the balance within liberal democracy has tipped too far away from democracy and towards liberalism with more and more powers being transferred from Parliaments that are democratically accountable to the voters — and towards courts, bureaucracies, and transnational institutions that are accountable either to themselves or to no one.

To make matters worse, these non-democratic institutions are often driven by opinions very different from those of the voters. And though they begin modestly by correcting those laws and regulations that arguably violate the Constitution, they go on to lay down their own positive laws, i.e., to legislate, if unchecked.

The longer this continues, the more that the substance of majority-rule democracy is whittled away and replaced by judicial oligarchy. Maybe we should call this system post-democracy as John Fonte of the Hudson Institute does.

This has been one of the most worrying trends in Australian (and other western) society over the past thirty years, exacerbated when the Labor party is in power, and unfortunately only rarely and only ever partially undone when the Liberal party is elected (a more genuine term than ‘wins’). Especially evident of the above has been the increased bureaucratic intrusions in education, and the ever increasing self-promulgated power of these bodies – bodies that also appear to dictate how to provide them with increasing autonomous powers when, again, especially Labor in power.

The Value of Minor Parties in the 2016 Australian Federal Election

 

I am constantly astounded by the way in which that which the Left, when in power, unfortunately establishes, is perpetuated when the so-called ‘Right’ gets elected instead. What we have been seeing in Australia over the last few decades is a progressive (as in the former USSR usage of that word) move away from personal autonomy and freedom towards a society ever less democratic and increasingly bureaucratic. In fact, it seems that what is increasingly happening is that elected representatives are taking bureaucracy’s views and passing into law the former’s recommendations, inverting the proper role of public servants to those of determining legislators (and often enacting legislation that permits bureaucrats to make their own rules, altogether bypassing proper democratic principles, as has become all too evident with, as one amongst many examples, teacher registration bodies such as the VIT).

I am reminded of an observation made by the Israeli highly insightful MK Moshe Feiglen, who is reported in Manhigut Yehudit with the following:

Why is it that when the Left is in power, it rules and leads the nation according to its principles, while when the Right is in power, the Left continues to rule and lead according to its principles? And it rules by means of the elected officials of the Right, with virtually no opposition. Why does that happen time and again?

The only disagreement I have with him on this only highlights the very reason as to why this occurs: it is not that the Left rules by principles, but rather through policies. This is, in fact, the key distinction that ought to distinguish freedom-oriented individuals and political parties with those who (usually of the Left-oriented variety) step-by-step take society increasingly away from responsible democracy: Principles are what best serves political parties, as opposed to bureaucracies who seek to impose (upon themselves as well as anyone else they can) policies.

‘Red’-tape is well-named

A political party that falls into the temptation of policy-dominance has already moved away from sound principles of democracy, and into the darkening realm of bureaucratic control and increased red-tape. Perhaps a useful read would be The Master and his Emissary.

So what to make of the coming Federal elections in Australia?

Here is what I would personally recommend in the Upper House (in those States where candidates are standing from those parties), and the reasons are simple: Section 18C is effectively an islamist notion that should never have made it into Australian law, and should be removed – something the Liberals had presumably intended and yet never followed through; in a similar vein, the bureaucratically inspired nonsense to financially penalise parents who have responsibly looked into associated risks of vaccinations and made a conscious decision to not subject their child to this intrusive medical intervention needs to be repealed – it is in fact an astounding breach of personal liberty and familial responsibility.

And for these reasons, I would encourage that votes for the Upper House (Senate) be preferenced to, in the first instance, the Health Australia Party and then the Liberal Democratic Party.

On the Alphabet, Google and Kurzweil's hesitation about the future of democracy

square and compasses with google G inside As many know, I’ve had various reservations about numerous pronouncements from Ray Kurzweil: his desire to make the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear; to increase the life-span of people indefinitely; to ‘create God’… and now his latest (actually, not his latest, as it was already there in his book on the so-called Singularity) where he raises the question with regards democracy in a world that already presumes the living consciousness of machines (quoted in ‘Ray Kurzweil on Giving Future AI the Right to Vote‘):

In a world where AI passes the Turing test, who gets to vote? Does democracy make sense?

Let’s take this a little further… and perhaps take a conceptual look at the kind of political organisation we may aspire to even in a world in which, for example, intelligent conscious beings from another planet or dimension were to be present on Earth (or wherever else we happen to populate). In such a case, perhaps the simplest way to consider the situation is that (should non-humans prefer a different organisational political structure) is for there to be concurrent differences for different entities. The angelic realm are likely not organised according to a democratic model – without this implying that we should, at this stage of our evolution, imitate them in a manner that could only equate to a poor parody.

In a world where a so-called ‘AI’ passes a Turing test, this has no political implications for humanity nor does it negate or minimise values of democracy.

In another article (‘Why Digital Overload Is Now Central to the Human Condition‘) on Kurzweil’s same site (singularityhub.com), a comment that celebrates the diminishment of quietude and the intrinsic need for inner reflective space in order for the spiritual world to be ‘heard with the eyes of the heart’ in worryingly made:

Information technology has created a hyper-connected, over-stimulated, distracted and alienated world. We’ve been living long enough with internet-connected computers and other mobile devices to have begun to take it for granted. But already the next wave is coming, and it promises to be even more immersive. As our lives are increasingly augmented and infused with new digital technologies […]

the article goes on to at least ask the question whether this is good… and we can surmise its answer in light of the view that ‘our lives are increasingly augmented’ and of similar concern is the view that our lives are ‘infused with new digital technologies’!

opening page of alphabet …and this brings me, out of entirely different considerations (it just happens that I was considering these within the same week – and I do not post often) to considerations of Google’s enveloping A-Z company.

So now the ‘G’ of Google is held within the ‘A’ of Alphabet… interesting idea: one of the highest named number (googolplex) is contained between the Alpha and Omega of the Latin alphabet (of course, the name ‘Alpha-Bet’ stems from the Greek, and thus also implies it) – abc.xyz as domain name makes this clear.

The ‘G’ within an ‘A’, as millions of Freemasons across the (English-speaking) world are used to, stands for both ‘God’ and his ‘Geometry’… and certainly not ‘Google’, as Larry Page states on the very first page of Alphabet (abc.xyz): ‘G is for Google’.

On the educational merits of student financial vouchers

seven liberal arts and sciences

It was refreshing to open the year with a post from Moshe Feiglin (an Israeli parliamentarian) writing the following within a post titled ‘Moshe Feiglin: Instead of Censoring Books, Let Parents Take Responsibility‘:

“Give the money (that you took from Israel’s citizens) to the parents in the form of vouchers worth 4,000 NIS per month per student,” Feiglin proposed.” Let talented teachers compete for those vouchers and earn 35,000 NIS per month for teaching a classroom of ten students. Let ‘boutique’ schools spring up in every corner and compete for the parents’ vouchers (like today’s hospital maternity wards, which are constantly upgrading and competing for ‘business’).”

Feiglin said that parents who want Rabinain should get Rabinian. Those who prefer Uri Tzvi Greenberg should get him. “Languages, math, science, music and Judaism, of course. All as per parental preference,” he added.

“Return the responsibility (and the money) to the parents and get real education for Israeli children,” Feiglin concluded.

There are of course numerous reasons that a voucher system to fund school education is of benefit – but even more important than any funding model is the need to augment educational freedom and diversity, away from the asphyxiation of government and bureaucracy tethering. Unfortunately for Australia, the opposite strangle-holding is being increasingly tightened and applauded.

Victoria's proposed legislation on vaccination

On my jmdavid.com political site, I have written about the proposed legislation that seeks to forbid healthy children from participating in Kinders. Here is a link to my open letter to members of the Parliament of Victoria:

> On the Question of Kindergartens and Vaccinations

The proposed Legislation and its anti-democratic impulse

Without the freedom to be able to engage and participate in society, there is no true democracy. When a government (whether elected or not, lest we forget that the German Nazi regime was itself elected, as were, for that matter, successive regimes of the former Soviet Union) seeks to remove the freedom to participate unless partaking of particular medications (or equivalent), then a step has been taken that is politically unjust and morally deficient. This is, in essence, the basic problem of the proposed legislation.

Michael Leunig's on the proposed legislation linking vaccination to kinder participation

The argument presented is that the ‘science’ points to the benefit for the whole community of global vaccination. That is all well and fine. The basic idea is that in order to render immunity from illnesses that are potentially threatening (with either serious illness or even possible death), vaccination provides an effective means for which the human body may produce antibodies without having to simultaneously fight an attack from a live virus.

There is no question about the current understanding of the medical science that advocates for vaccination, and the concerns I raise have nothing to do with speaking for or against the benefits or otherwise of vaccinations. Most people I know, in any case, have partaken of vaccination after looking into its risks and benefits – and on that, to imply that no risks exist is simply false and itself ‘bad science’ (to use the language the government is using).

Some responsible adults, looking into the situation, consider the associated risks not worth taking. Alternatively, some consider that the science is itself not fully understood as each iteration of vaccination schedule increases either content or frequency, making its known side-effects plausible conjecture. For others still, there are concerns about ingesting or injecting particular substances for which they may have conscientious objection. Still others consider that healthy human beings, though potentially taking greater risks if unvaccinated, would likely be able to survive an infection subject to their own access to healthy foods and water (that many parts of the world of course unfortunately continue to lack).

It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that the views of minorities are respected, even if not conforming to the views of current science. To impose or penalise those who do nothing wrong except not partake of government-imposed injections is mindbogglingly autocratic, and has no place in a western democracy.

Philosophy Conference (July 2015)

The 2015 COMIUCAP Conference is to be held at the A.C.U. in Melbourne on the 22-22 in July, with the focus:

Philosophy’s Role in a Renewed Understanding of the Meaning of Education

> Conference link

ACU Philosophy Conference

Of especial interest was the description in the call to papers, which I quote at length:

Education has been widely criticised as being too narrowly focused on skills, capacities and the transference of knowledge that can be used in the workplace. As a result of the dominance of economic rationalism and neo-liberalism, it has become commodified and marketed to potential customers. As a consequence, students have become consumers of an educational product and education has become an industry. As Heidegger hypothesised, this has seen a shift in the organisation of educational institutions so that they are now organised along the lines of an industrial corporation. In its extreme form, this leads to
an organisation in which a managerial elite controls the means of production of educational products, develops new products according what to marketing modelling suggests consumers want to buy and discards those that are failing to sell. Tasks are divided amongst product developers and product deliverers. The process is overseen by supervisors whose task is to ensure quality assurance of the product, so that consumers receive what they have paid for. The power of technology has been harnessed to help develop products that can be consumed online, without the need of any interaction between students and teachers. The phenomenon of MOOCs is the ultimate sign of how far and how deep commodification has become entrenched in education.

There is deep dissatisfaction with these neo-liberal developments. What is missing is any conception of education as a formation of human persons so that they develop the virtues and values that they need to not only lead successful lives, but also be responsible members of their communities, working for the common good and acting to transform them into just societies. The notion of human formation as central to education is a hallmark of not only the Catholic intellectual tradition, but also of the Confucian tradition. Religion and culture have a crucial role to play in transmitting the values and beliefs that have underpinned the thought that education is about the initiation of persons into the life of a community and its continuance through the building of just structures and commitment to the common good. It implies a creation of a civil society that can act as a mediator between the power of the State and that of the market. This suggests a much richer notion of education than the neoliberal model. The central question with which the conference will be concerned is the role of philosophy in fostering a renewed understanding of education as the formation of persons and of civil society.

Papers are invited to contribute to the following themes:

  • The place of religion in education;
  • Moral education in a secular society;
  • The transmission of culture as an educational aim;
  • Religious and cultural conceptions of the human person: similarities and differences among cultures;
  • Cultural and religious differences in the aims of education;
  • The market and the State: their role in education;
  • The place of the humanities and the sciences in education;
  • Conceptions of civil society and its formation;
  • The role of the Church in civil society.

Other papers may be accepted at the discretion of the Conference committee.

 

With such a description it was simply too good to miss an opportunity to participate… and so here is my preliminary abstract to a paper I have yet to complete:

The Practical Role of Philosophy in Teacher Formation: understanding and morality.

Teachers daily face fundamental questions pertaining to both insight and to the moral dimension of actions. In addition, teachers, whether conscious or not, have implicit operational views on the nature of knowledge and ethics. There is also, unfortunately, little doubt that all too many non-philosophers tend to undervalue, if not downright negate, the intrinsic importance of philosophy as well as its intrumental role in bringing to light our own developing sense for what has traditionally been considered under the rubric of ‘the True, the Good and the Beautiful’. I argue that unless the teacher develops an ongoing understanding of their own epistemological, ethical and aesthetic views, judgements remain diminished.

The paper addresses the practical role of philosophy in addressing how to make more explicit and develop a lasting impression on the importance of insights into epistemology, ethics and aesthetic value. The discussion is framed by, and arises out of, considerations taken predominantly from the works of Rudolf Steiner, Bernard Lonergan, and John Deely and systematically developed in a manner that differentiates between four levels: that of experience; of object-formation; of judgement; and of ethical action.

Victorian elections 2014

Entering the final week before the Victorian State elections, it’s certainly been a journey as I stand as a candidate for the Upper House (in Victoria called the Legislative Council). For anyone standing as an Independent, the electoral system is stacked against such: never mind that an Independent is likely to have less resources than a political party – I accept this. What makes the voting pattern less favourable to independents is something entirely different…

Voting process for Upper House

Let me briefly outline the voting options for the Upper House for those unfamiliar with Victorian (and Australian) electoral processes. Firstly, voting participation is compulsory for adult citizens (unless precluded or options allowed by law – such as for certain sentences, mental capability, or age).

In Victoria, the Upper House may often have over 40 candidates per region, out of which five will be elected. Unlike at the Federal level (which has an full preferential system – requiring that ALL candidates have a sequential vote placed against their name), Victoria has an OPTIONAL PREFERENTIAL system, requiring a minimum of five sequential numbers against candidatures.

The problem – a problem, I would suggest, for independents especially – is the introduction of allowing a political party (or ‘group’) to decide on a voter’s behalf their preference. This has been well marketed as a ‘simplified’ option by voting ‘above the line’ – effectively placing a ‘1’ against the group’s name, the group (or political party) having provided the Vic. Electoral Commission their voting preferences, and such vote then counted as though this was the wish of the voter.

All sounds, at face value, fairly reasonable. The consequences of this method is that political parties effectively make preference deals amongst themselves for maximal political advantage, irrespective of the political stance of those parties or candidates. A person voting above the line may, as a result, actually have part of their vote allocated to a candidate or party to whom they would be unlikely to vote (as can be seen from perusing the VEC site).

To group the candidates below the line according to political affiliation is sensible and makes for an easier reference for the voter. Similarly, to have the political party’s name above the line for ease of reference for the voter also makes a lot of sense… but the numbering would best be left to only ‘below’ the line – i.e., to the explicit voting preferences of the voter. Political parties (as in fact all candidates) may in any case produce ‘How to Vote’ cards, and given that there is a requirement for only FIVE sequential votes for a valid vote, the argument about accidental invalidity by, for example, numbering 37 twice, does not apply in Victoria.

What are my chances of being elected?

Realistically, very small unless quite a number of electors decide to vote below the line – and number me reasonably high (i.e., between ONE and FIVE). This is judging from previous election patterns in which over 90% of voters choose to vote ‘above the line’. What also appears to have occurred is that Independents have been placed on political parties’ preference cards in a way that seemingly reflects the following: they place themselves (fair enough!) first, then the political parties with whom a deal has been made (irrespective of similarity of view), then the Independents (therefore often numbered in the 20s or 30s), then the other political parties with whom no deal has been made. This appears to be the case across the board and fairly consistently if one looks at all the preference cards of the parties (which, of course, all too few people seem to be looking at, as these are usually solely displayed on the VEC site(s)).

The above should be taken solely as a brief analysis of the situation – I realised before I accepted nomination that my chances would be slight… and of course they not only still are, but there is also a genuine – albeit small – likelihood of being elected.

…I suppose that on this, my best and only realistic chance of being elected is for voters in the Eastern Victoria Region to actually have a look at my website, determine if I am the kind of person they would like to see in Parliament, and then vote below the line accordingly on the Upper House voting paper!

Wilful Web Woes

Over the last few years, I have used two different servers on which to host the various sites I have (or sub-host on behalf of others). It seems like some maliciously intended people have managed to get in to one of the servers (owned by a UK-based company, but maintained in the USA) and caused irrevocable damage.

Over the last few weeks, tens of thousands of spam emails have been generated via the server, and every single site (and indeed other folders on the server that were there for back-ups) has been affected: php-based files have been placed seemingly randomly in the folders; new folders created with over 2000 html pages pointing to obvious scam or to ‘financial services’; .htaccess files created or modified; invisible files and folders with no access permissions (and blocked from altering these even via ftp); and what I can only describe as ‘seed’ pages added (I’ll come back to that one in a short while).

As a result, I’ve already lost a few ‘customers’ (not that I mind that part, as I ‘charge’ minimally, and not something that is financially worth the effort even when things go ‘right’) – but more importantly it’s the good-will and personal support I have been able to provide various organisations and people in need that has been damaged through this wilful damage.

When one of the back-ups for one of the sites was re-instated (from some time back), it appears obvious that some of the damage (though only covert at that time, but through close observation of the site’s loading, clear) has also permeated at least some of the databases and some of the folders.

I have no choice but to totally delete everything on that server and start out afresh and clean for the sites thereon. Approximately half my own sites and half the sites I sub-host have therefore now to be re-created afresh. I do not even want to use any back-ups on the possibility of ‘seed’ php pages thereon.

The provider has suggested that the damage came through WordPress: perhaps this is so, though it does not explain ‘deep’ damage on most of the sites that are non-WordPress (though also php-based, such as Dupral, Joomla, bulletin board, and other ‘blog’-oriented php options). I suspect that what has happened is that a seed-php file was inserted some time back by an unknown means, and that this was able to obtain ‘complementary’ code that eventually, though at first perhaps very slowly, ‘grew’ to its intended result.

Why would this have occurred? To be frank, I doubt it was to generate the spam that flew virally from the server: it seems to me more likely to be an ‘experiment’ in successfully intruding into an area un-observed with a micro or ‘dna-like’ php file that would appear benign, and only over time grow to its effective ability to take control of the whole area. To target a more ‘minor’ (still very significant) provider’s server would be considered good ‘sand-box’ practice… and let’s face it, the spam generated would also mask its probable real intent.

For myself and the people whose sites I sub-host, this has certainly been a nightmare for which I simply have neither the skills nor the time to adequately address. For my host-provider, I’m certain it has been an equivalent nightmare for which they are likely to lose numerous existing and potential clients.

…but on with the ‘repair’ work and moving everything off that server!

Serendipitous reflections

It’s a joy when I haphazardly stumble across an old friend or acquaintance that I have not seen or heard from in years (or decades) and see their success and life directions. Recently, through a series of internet clicks, perusing for a possible firm to engage for marketing Little Yarra, emerged a person who is now managing director of a major (overseas) branch of one of the firms I perused.

The internet certainly makes privacy a little fragile – and at the same time brings the world closer. Here was, in this instance, someone whom I have not seen since the 1970s – a bright and promising life met when I lived and worked in London. I recall their move to Paris at around the same time I had already moved there (though we never again met), and our common appreciation of refinements such as Bang & Olufsen.

For myself, this was doubly serendipitous in that I have of late had London more on my mind as my wife and I talk of our connections to the city, both in terms of our visits, as well as on the imminent birth of her first grand-child…

Australian National Curriculum Review

I have (finally) added a page with a copy of my late-night submission to the review of the so-called Australian National Curriculum. I say ‘so-called’, as there is, of course, no such thing, nor should there be!

For ease of reference, the page is on my main fourhares site: Australian National Curriculum Review (a pdf version is also available).