Australia covers up corruption in getting plastic currency contracts

July 30, 2014

The supply of, and the technology for producing, plastic currency are a big business for the Reserve Bank of Australia. Plastic currency is now used by 23 countries around the world. But it is also apparent that Australian parties have been involved in bribing high officials in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam (at least) in securing contracts for plastic currency. The Australian courts are apparently cooperating in some form of cover-up.

That has become apparent from the Wikileaks release of a gagging order by the Supreme Court of Victoria at Melbourne where the court forbids

any discloures, by publication or otherwise, of any information relating to the court case by anyone, including the Australian media, ensuring complete secrecy around the largest corruption case in Australia. The order also forbids any disclosures about the order itself, and specifically commands no mention be made of the affirmed affidavit submitted to the court by Gillian Bird, a career diplomat, currently appointed as a deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Bird is one of Australia’s most senior and experienced diplomats and is responsible for relations with South East Asia which is why her affidavit, currently held sealed by the court, is so important.

Not only a gagging order but also a gag on revealing the gag!

For such a blanket gagging order to have been issued suggests that some “big” names – both at home and abroad but probably mainly abroad – are running a little scared of embarrassment or something worse.

My “rule of thumb” is that in corruption cases of this sort about 3 – 4% of the contract value will find its way into the hands of individuals (officials/politicians) in the buying country and that from this amount about ½- 1% of the contract value will be channeled back to individuals in the selling organisation. The 3% is an important number since it is what is unofficially accepted as being acceptable as legitimate facilitation costs for selling by OECD rules. If bribes can be held to less than about 3% (including the kick-back to the kick-back), the contract can usually escape too much scrutiny.

Plastic currency is one of the few areas where Australian technology leads the world. As such it provides a very valuable source of revenue (and prestige) for the RBA.

Currently seven Australians have been charged in an ongoing $17 million corruption case:

SMH: A seventh Australian man has been charged over an alleged $17 million banknotes bribery scandal engulfing companies related to Australia’s central bank.

Clifford John Gerathy, 60, of Maroubra, in south-eastern Sydney, faced Melbourne Magistrates Court in Melbourne on Wednesday.

A former Securency sales manager, Gerathy faces two charges of conspiring to bribe a foreign official and falsifying documents in connection to the scandal involving currency contracts.

Before Gerathy appeared in court, the Australian Federal Police said it would be alleged he facilitated payments of $17.2 million in commissions to an agent in Vietnam and falsified accounts in relation to a contract in Malaysia.  …… 

Gerathy will next appear in court on September 23 with his co-accused, all six of whom are from Victoria. The others charged with bribes allegedly paid to secure banknote contracts are Myles Curtis, 55, John Leckenby, 66, Mitchell John Anderson, 50, Peter Sinclair Hutchinson, 61, Barry Thomas Brady, 62, and Rognvald Leslie Marchant, 64.

They all seem to have been represented for the gagging order hearing in front of the Hounarable Justice Hollingworth.

Australia gagging order attendants

Australia gagging order attendants

Australia was the first country to use plastic currency using technology developed jointly by the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). In 1996, RBA and Belgian multinational Union Chimique Belge (UCB) formed a joint venture, Securency Pty Ltd, to service demand for the polymer technology.

CSIRO: ……. polymer and synthetic chemistry was used to develop a non-fibrous and non-porous plastic film, which the banknotes are printed on. This substrate gives high tear initiation resistance, good fold characteristics and a longer lifetime than paper.

The substrate and the specially-developed protective overcoat prevent the absorption of moisture, sweat and grime so that the polymer banknotes stay cleaner.

CSIRO has also developed a variety of overt and covert security features for use on polymer banknotes. These security features are produced from a combination of spectroscopic techniques, synthetic chemistry, nanotechnology, surface science microstructure manipulation and polymer chemistry. …

….. Currently there are over thirty different denominations totalling some 3 billion polymer notes in service in 22 countries worldwide. 

In addition, a press-ready polymer substrate (Guardian™) is available for countries with their own note printing facilities.

Guardian™ is produced by Securency Pty Ltd, a joint venture between the Reserve Bank of Australia and Innovia Films PLC, a European-based manufacturer of polypropylene films.

Innovia Security

The first Guardian® banknote was issued as a commemorative $10 note in 1988, the year of Australia’s bicentenary, containing both the first transparent window and first hologram of any type, making it the most secure banknote of its time. After being successfully received by the public, the RBA introduced a $5 note for general circulation in 1992 followed by successive notes in the years following. Throughout the 1990s, Guardian® banknote substrate steadily grew in popularity throughout the world, with the innovative polymer-based technology gaining the trust and confidence of more than 30 Central Banks to either adopt Guardian® for use in mainstream denominations or as a commemorative note as a test and forerunner to future use.

In 1996, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and Innovia Films entered into a joint venture to create Securency International, an arrangement that was concluded in February 2013 when Innovia acquired the RBA’s 50% share in the business. The RBA proved an outstanding partner in helping Securency establish itself in the global banknote industry during a period in which some of the world’s most successful companies including 3M and Mobil also attempted to enter the banknote substrate market but were unable to do so.

 

“Euthanasia is both profitable and cost effective”

July 28, 2014

I think an individual should be able to choose, and be assisted, to die peacefully and painlessly – provided he is of sound mind and is suffering from a terminal and painful illness.

But I am afraid that part of the building momentum for euthanasia in Europe is cost driven and not driven by a concern for the individual. Countries with aging populations and with well developed public health programs are facing increasing costs for the care of the elderly. In Sweden and the UK for example this care is often “out-sourced” or privatised. Many of these establishments are owned by risk capital companies – which is a little strange – but not fundamentally wrong. But the “quality” requirements they are required to meet are set by the public institutions doing the out-sourcing. Inevitably these “quality” requirements are specified in such a way that the out-sourcing succeeds and contracts are let. To ensure this the requirements always allow the service provider sufficient room to make a profit. There is a clear incentive for the service provider to “increase the throughput” and reduce the cost per person they are tasked to care for. That – in turn – is leading to a deterioration in the care provided especially to the aged who are no longer competent or able to complain about the service received. It is clearly cheaper to allow a general reduction of service, and to only do more than the minimum if and when a complaint from a relative is received. Of course, relatives have only limited opportunities to notice any deterioration of service. The “out-sourcing” itself is driven by cost. There have been many “scandals” (such as this one) associated with the “quality” of service in “privatised” homes for the aged. But it is not by accident that the State and the municipalities and health authorities have pushed these scandals into the “privatised” sphere rather than to be found wanting themselves. Part of the reason for out-sourcing these services has clearly been to also out-source the scandals waiting to come as care of the elderly inexorably deteriorates. The more the care of the aged deteriorates the more attractive a voluntary euthanasia scheme becomes – for all parties involved.

I have a clear perception that in Sweden the quality of public medical and palliative care for the elderly is already driven by cost considerations. It is illegal in Sweden but age discrimination is endemic. We hear about procedures and expensive treatments being denied to the elderly for many ostensible reasons, but in reality because the patients are – in the judgement of the care-providers – just too old and too big a drain on costs. For public medical and palliative care, a form of unwritten age-discrimination is already in place. The aged patient has little recourse except to opt for private treatment and then euthanasia may be a much more cost effective solution..

The euthanasia debate is picking up steam in Europe but my fear is that though much of it is carried out under the guise of concern for an individual’s right to die, much of the debate is actually being driven by public health cost considerations. Many of the statements by politicians seem to me to be trial balloons or electoral posturing – but they have an underlying smell of preparing for curbing the costs of caring for the increasing number of the elderly.

It may be very cynical but I note that a healthy growth rate in voluntary euthanasia among the aged has many public and social and economic benefits. The cost of health care for the aged is both capped and reduced. The demographic of the ratio of elderly to working population is improved. Medical resources are freed for the more valuable, younger patients. And the aged patient gets what he or she wants.

A true win-win!

BioEdge: 

Euthanasia might be needed for poor people who cannot access palliative care, the new Lithuanian Health Minister has suggested. Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė was sworn earlier this month, but already she has made waves by backing an open discussion of the legalisation of euthanasia.

Without making any specific proposals, she told local media that Lithuania was not a welfare state with palliative care available for all and that euthanasia might be an option for people who did not want to torment relatives with the spectacle of their suffering.  

The minister has also raised the idea of euthanasia for children. She noted that this option had been approved for Belgian children after a long public debate. It was an option which might be appropriate in Lithuania as well after public debate.

Ms Šalaševičiūtė will face an uphill battle in her campaign to introduce Lithuanians to euthanasia. Many doctors and the Catholic Church oppose it. Dr Andrius Narbekovas, who is both a priest and a doctor, and a member of the Health Ministry’s bioethics commission, told the media:

“The Ministry of Health should protect health and life, instead of looking for ways to take life away. It goes without saying that it is … profitable and cost effective … But a democratic society should very clearly understand that we have to take care of the sick, not kill them.”

Lithuania merely reflects the debate all over Europe which is probably most advanced in Belgium where even involuntary euthanasia (is that not murder?) has been proposed.

Politicians and many aged sufferers could find this irresistible: “Euthanasia is both profitable and cost effective”.

Two of my friends have utilised the services of Dignitas. So, for whatever reasons it may come, I do hope that voluntary euthanasia is available to me when my time comes.

Too much biodiversity – time to let some species die out

July 28, 2014

Conservationists would have us believe that the earth is losing species at an alarming rate and that evil humanity is to blame and therefore more and more species must be protected by “freezing” them into an unnatural existence. Alarmist “conservationism” has led to the ridiculous situation where successful species are termed pests and are eradicated. Hopelessly unfit species – if they are cuddly or otherwise attractive to watch – are protected by being sentenced to a “frozen” existence in zoos or in “protected” and totally unnatural and anachronistic habitats.

I was just watching a program about the highly successful urban coyotes of N. America. They have found a new prey in domestic pets and are thriving. But having adapted successfully to the changing environment they have – needless to say – earned  the status of being declared a pest to be wiped out!!

And yet there have never been more species alive than there are today.

A new review paper warns with great alarm about another impending mass extinction due to the loss of fauna that man has caused. The press release for this paper (why do scientific papers need press releases?) begins thus:

Stanford biologist warns of early stages of Earth’s 6th mass extinction event

The planet’s current biodiversity, the product of 3.5 billion years of evolutionary trial and error, is the highest in the history of life. But it may be reaching a tipping point.

In a new review of scientific literature and analysis of data published in Science, an international team of scientists cautions that the loss and decline of animals is contributing to what appears to be the early days of the planet’s sixth mass biological extinction event.

If biodiversity “is the highest in the history of life” and many species are incapable of adapting to the world they live in, perhaps it is time for them to exit gracefully.

Perhaps the progress of humankind requires that some of these obsolete species must be allowed to disappear.

The dangers of reducing biodiversity are being hyped to a ridiculous extent. Without the mass extinctions of the past, most of the species living today would never have evolved. If the dinosaurs had not gone extinct we would not be around. And the disappearance of the dodo has not increased any threat to humanity.

Related:

Fighting against species extinction is to deny evolution

Genetic adaptation – not stagnating conservation – is the way to help threatened species

Between debilitation and satiation: The behavioural space

July 28, 2014

This is the second part of series of posts describing what I call the Engagement Theory of Motivation and which I have found useful during my working career.

The first part was posted on 23rd July 2014: Manipulation, motivation and behaviour

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2: Between debilitation and satiation: The behavioural space

The space within which rational behavior can be expected and elicited is constrained by the debilitations of intolerable deficiencies on the one hand and needs which are satiated and incapable of providing further satisfaction on the other.

Eliciting desired behaviour lies at the core of all human social interaction. I take “manipulation” and therefore motivation merely to be tools for eliciting behaviour from our fellows. As tools they are neutral and neither good nor bad.

Since Maslov (1954) first came up with his hierarchy of needs there have been many theories and hypotheses of motivation proposed. I find his hierarchy is fundamentally sound. His approach is still the simplest, most practically applicable approach. It remains I think the most useful – if qualitative – way of addressing motivation and behaviour in the work place.

Hierarchy a la Maslow

Hierarchy a la Maslow

Fig 1. Maslov’s hierarchy of needs

I take Maslow’s lower-order needs (physiological and safety needs) to be mainly – but not exclusively – physical and his higher-order needs (social, esteem and self-actualisation desires) to be mainly – but not exclusively – cognitive.

The space for eliciting rational human behaviour lies in the planes of his satisfactions and dissatisfactions. I postulate that all conscious, rational human behaviour is aimed at decreasing  internally perceived deficiencies giving dissatisfactions or increasing internally perceived desires (needs) giving satisfactions. I take these planes to be that on which the “state of human condition”, at any given time, can be plotted as a representation of the individual’s satisfactions and dissatisfactions at a particular time. The axis of time is not explicit but it is implied since only one “state of human condition” exists at any given time. For an individual to go from state 1 to state 2 on the behavioural therefore implies – and requires – the passage of time.

Read the rest of this entry »

The changing colours of the world’s population

July 26, 2014

I like playing with numbers and – more often than not – the numbers do tell the tale.

The human species comes in a variety of colours and this skin colour is a genetic trait. (They are different races whether we wish to admit to it or not but they are all part of the same species). I choose to classify the world’s population as six colours.

  • Pink (euphemistically called white – but I note that “pink supremacy” does not have quite the ring of “white supremacy”)
  • Beige
  • Olive
  • Yellow
  • Brown, and
  • Black

I use the data from the medium scenario of the  UN’s 2012 World Population Prospects and assign all countries a colour in 1950. In reality of course there is a mix of colours in most countries with the US possibly presenting the most significant “melting pot”. In any country, the changes to the colour mix comes primarily from immigration and only to a very minor extent from the genetic mixing of the colours. I arbitrarily assign colours and percentages to countries and regions as follows (1950 as the reference point):

  1. Pink – Northern Europe, Western Europe, Australia/New Zealand, N America 80%
  2. Beige – Central and Western Asia and Eastern Europe
  3. Olive – Southern Europe, Central America 80%, South America 70%
  4. Yellow – East Asia, SE Asia and Polynesia (excluding Australia/New Zealand), South America 10%
  5. Brown – Southern Asia
  6. Black – Africa, N America 20%, Caribbean, Central America 20%, South America 20%

Of course this is just playing with the numbers. Of course there are mixtures of races in all countries. I could as well have included SE Asia in the brown as the yellow. My purpose is to picture the primary colours of the world population as they change and not to distinguish every hue.

But demographic numbers are cold and inexorable and inevitable.

Fertility rates do not change that quickly and intentional changes are not that easy to achieve. The effects of the Chinese one-child policy will really kick-in only in the next 50 years as Chinese population declines. Between 2050 and 2100, China will face the aging challenge faced by Japan already today and which will be increasingly faced by Europe  in the next 30-50 years. Indian population will peak around 2050 and will then decline as the reductions of fertility now taking place work their way through. Africa will only just be reaching peak population by 2100.

By 2100 world population will have stabilised at around 10.5 billion and may be slightly on the decline.

The changes to the colours of the world’s population are already fixed for the next 100 years.

Changing colours of the world population table

Changing colours of the world population table

Changing colours of the world population

Changing colours of the world population

This is just a picture of what humanity will look like in 2100.

The last 50 years has seen a sharp decline in the pink races and an increase in the brown and yellow races. The next 50 years will see the yellow races beginning to decline and the brown and  black races increasing sharply. For the 50 years to 2100, the browns will stabilise and only the black races will still be increasing. By 2100 a relatively stable mix of races may be in place.

If fertility rates develop as expected then the mix of races in 2100 is likely to persist for some considerable time thereafter. This picture is silent as far as immigration is concerned and is also silent as to the extent to which races are mixing. It is my perception that the US and Australia are much more open to the mixing of races whereas Western Europe, Japan and China are not. Eastern Europe is still stuck in a 1950’s world-view of humanity and its races. The challenges of aging faced by Japan now and later to be met by Europe and China will likely use immigration as one of the main solutions. But it will probably take at least 3 or 4 generations before the genetic mixing of races is accepted in these countries.

Paradoxically it is the “politically correct” version of multiculturalism prevalent in much of Western Europe which actually preserves races in their silos and prevents mixing. They have missed the fact that just trying to preserve cultures of the past does not help in creating the culture of the future. But they cannot live in the past forever.

There will be greater movement of peoples around the world. People will move from countries with low GDP. They will move to countries with high GDP’s but where the aging problem is acute and where the proportion of productive population must be increased to cope. Movement of people in large numbers will cause many problems for the immigrants themselves and for the areas of aging population they move to. But for the next 100 years this shift of peoples northwards will – and has to – increase.

John Derbyshire: Consider the numbers. The three countries contributing the most to the Children’s Crusade coming in across our southern border—Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras—are home to 29 million people. If the entire populations of those three countries decamped to the USA our population would increase only nine percent.

Many more than three countries are contributing to the human flood into Europe across the Mediterranean and through Turkey. The five most commonly mentioned in news reports and the Eurostat databases are Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Sudan–homelands for a total of 106 million people. If they all moved into the 28-nation European Union, the EU population, currently 506 million, would increase by 21 percent. …..

…… Thus, while both the USA and the EU live figuratively in the shadow of dams with vast numbers of wretched people in dysfunctional nations backed up behind them, the EU’s dam is far wider and higher than ours, the shadow correspondingly deeper.

The wealth gap is greater over there, too. GDPs per capita for Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras are 10, 14, and 9 percent of the US figure. Compare Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Sudan at 15, 3, 2, 3, and 8 percent of the EU average—and that Syria figure is from 2011, before the civil war.

Africa as a whole, even with oil-rich Nigeria and Angola and still-functioning South Africa, is far poorer than Latin America.

Narendra Modi needs to dump the Shiv Sena and crack the whip within the BJP

July 24, 2014

The biggest credibility challenge that Narendra Modi faces is to convince Indians – and the outside world – that he represents something much larger, secular and inclusive than the narrow, religiously-bigoted  and exclusive position espoused by the RSS and some even more extreme Hindu nationalist groups. But he has to do this equitably but without giving the perception of appeasing the Muslim fanatics.

And he has to clean his own house first. His ally in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena, is now an embarrassment and a liability. Within his own party also there is no dearth of intellectually retarded loud-mouths. They are all now a burden and unless he cuts them down to size they have the potential to negate all his efforts to be  inclusive.

The Shiv Sena is a special case and I think Modi can afford to dump them. They have just made utter fools of themselves:

IBNA video has now surfaced showing Shiv Sena Thane MP Rajan Vichare forcing a Maharashtra Sadan Muslim staffer to eat during his Ramzan fast. CNN-IBN has accessed footage which shows Vichare force feeding the staffer.

The video gives credence to the allegations that Shiv Sena MPs abused the employee and forced him to eat, even as the Shiv Sena continues to deny the claims. Shiv Sena MP Anant Geete in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday said that the claims being made by the Opposition are false.

DNATaking law and order into his own hands is not something new for Rajan Vichare, the Shiv Sena MP from Thane who force-fed a Muslim catering supervisor to break his Ramzan fast at Maharashtra Sadan last week. In the last 25 years, around 24 cases have been registered against the senior Sena leader in various police stations of Thane. 

Defending his recent act, Vichare said, “I was protesting against the quality of food at Maharashtra Sadan.” Later, Vichare was forced to apologise and issued a statement saying, “I regret if anyone’s religious sentiments were hurt. I did not know that the employee was a Muslim. I respect all religions and have even attended roza as well as iftar parties.

The Shiv Sena party leader, Uddhav Thackeray, has been engaged in some verbal contortions while apologising – but not seeming to apologise – and has been reduced to mumbling that it was all about the food quality and nothing to do with religion. But Shiv Sena is not the force it was when his father Bal Thackeray was in charge. Neither intellectually nor politically. When no party member dared to deviate from the party line as determined by Bal Thackeray. (I recall when I regularly used to meet the Minister of Power – who was then a Shiv Sena nominee in the coalition government of the time. First it was Suresh Prabhu and later it was Anant Geete. After every substantive meeting, I usually had to go to Bombay to meet Bal Thackeray and reconfirm whatever had been discussed with the Minister). Uddhav Thackeray does not have that sort of iron control over his party members and they are now apparently rushing around – the analogy is headless chickens – all doing their own thing. The Shiv Sena remains a force – if only in Maharashtra – but they are in a declining spiral and my reading is that it would be least damaging for Modi to dump them now – early on in his term – and cap his losses.

With his own party members Modi will just have to lay down the law and get rid of the intellectually challenged. And there are quite a few of them.

The BJP leader in Telegana, a certain K Laxman, of no great intellectual stature (and not to be confused with VVS Laxman), has been stupid enough to attack a leading Indian sports star – because she happens to be Muslim and is married to a Pakistani. He was idiot enough to attack Sania Mirza the tennis player. If there is one thing that unites Indians and transcends politics and religion and caste, it is sport. And cricket and tennis lead all the rest.

FirstPostIn a statement that could almost have been designed to reclaim the ‘pointlessly offensive’ tag from Shiv Sena MP Rajan Vichare, Telangana BJP leader K Laxman on Wednesday slammed the TRS government’s decision to appoint tennis star Sania Mirza as brand ambassador of Telangana, terming her a “daughter-in-law of Pakistan”.

“Sania was born in Maharashtra and settled in Hyderabad only later and, hence, is a non-local”, he told reporters, pointing out that she is married Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik. “If 1956 is the criteria for deciding the nativity of Telangana, where was Sania born and when did she come to Hyderabad? And whom she married should also be a criterion for selecting her.”

So much for aman ki asha.

The comment has predictably created an uproar with members of the TRS, the Congress and other opposition figures falling over each other to criticise it, and for good reason. The statement reflects a toxic combination of anti-Muslim bigotry and sexism that is the preserve of rightwing ideologues.

“My goal is a white Ukraine” – Swedish neo-Nazi

July 24, 2014

Whether they admit it or not, the European Union and the United States have helped the growth of the far-right, neo-Nazi Right Sector in Ukraine. My belief is that this was more due to incompetence in applying foreign policy (what else would one expect with John Kerry, William Hague and Catherine Ashton in charge?) than due to any well analysed implementation of foreign policy. The growth of the Right Sector – which makes no secret of its fascist, anti-semitic, anti-black views –  was probably not intended, just as the growth of ISIS and Al Qaida related groups was not intended in Syria. Just as the growth of ISIS in Iraq or the rebirth and growth of the Taliban in Afghanistan were not intended.

Ukraine and the Right Sector have also provided the idiot, neo-Nazi, white supremacists of western Europe with a cause to rally behind and an opportunity to exercise their yearnings for violence. Just as Syria and ISIS have provided young, radicalised, idiot Muslims of western Europe with a cause and an opportunity. (That this was not foreseen by the governments of Europe and the EU is another indicator of incompetence and also that the “common” EU foreign policy is just a “dumbing-down” of the policies of its member countries).

In Ukraine the Azov Batallion  was formed by, and operates under, the authority of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry. It is, ostensibly, a volunteer force, about 300 strong and has provided a home for the more violent, far-right Ukrainian hooligans. It has also provided a home for neo-Nazi “volunteers” from at least Sweden, Finland, Norway and Italy.

Svenska Dagbaldet:“My goal is a white Ukraine. I am a nationalist and I want that white Europeans will remain in Europe” , says Mikael Skillt from Sundsvall. SvD reached him by telephone with the Azov Batallion somewhere outside Donetsk.  

Skillt is a member of the Swedish neo-Nazi, Swedish Party. Since February, he is in Ukraine. Now, he is in the Azov batallion and leads a search party outside Donetsk.

Skillt has also been talking to the BBC:

The appearance of far-right activists, both foreign and home-grown, among the Ukrainian volunteers fighting in east Ukraine is causing unease. Mikael Skillt is a Swedish sniper, with seven years’ experience in the Swedish Army and the Swedish National Guard. He is currently fighting with the Azov Battalion, a pro-Ukrainian volunteer armed group in eastern Ukraine. He is known to be dangerous to the rebels: reportedly there is a bounty of nearly $7,000 (£4,090; 5,150 euros) on his head.

In a telephone conversation from an undisclosed location, Mr Skillt told me more about his duties: “I have at least three purposes in the Azov Battalion: I am a commander of a small reconnaissance unit, I am also a sniper, and sometimes I work as a special coordinator for clearing houses and going into civilian areas.”

…… Mr Skillt believes races should not mix. He says the Jews are not white and should not mix with white people. His next project is to go fight for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because he believes Mr Assad is standing up to “international Zionism”.

Italians and Finns and Norwegians are also in the Azov Batallion.

YLE

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a demand on Monday for Finland, Sweden, the Baltic countries and France to investigate claims published in Italy’s Il Giornale newspaper that citizens from these countries have voluntarily left to fight alongside government troops in east Ukraine.

The article in Il Giornale, published over the weekend, said the international fighters had joined the armed volunteer group the Azov Brigade, said to be made up of around 300 far-right extremists fighting against pro-Russian separatists.

Il Giornale featured an interview with one Italian volunteer who had joined the brigade, who says he and his colleagues are there of their own will and for their own ideological reasons.

“Many have joined us from the Nordic countries, like Sweden, Finland and Norway,” the fighter says.

It would seem that the Azov Batallion is the unregulated military arm of the Ukrainian government.

 

A theory of motivation (as a subset of manipulation): Part 1

July 23, 2014

This is the first part of series of posts describing what I call The Engagement Theory of Motivation and which I have found useful during my working career.

1: Manipulation, motivation and behaviour

In common usage, “manipulation” has a negative connotation but “motivation” is generally regarded as being something positive. A “manipulated” person is considered a dummy, or someone being exploited. A ” manipulator” is considered “bad” even if not always “evil”. A “motivated” person  is usually seen as being diligent and performing to the best of his ability. To be “motivated” is usually considered a “good” thing – but not always. A “motivated” witness or a “motivated” observer is biased and therefore “bad”! To “manipulate” someone has a connotation of being unethical whereas to “motivate” someone is usually seen  as something to be admired.

This usage reflects the mixing up of what elicits human behaviour on the one hand, with value judgements about the objectives or purpose of causing such behaviour on the other. I try to keep these separate. The means of eliciting behaviour is merely a tool.

Manipulating the behaviour of others is central to being human. Most social interaction involves the influencing of the behaviour of others. Requesting, debating, arguing, persuading, coercing, threatening, ordering, begging, praying, rewarding, punishing are all methods we employ to elicit desired behaviour from others. I take all such influencing of behaviour to be “manipulation”. When I “request” a cup of coffee at a cafe in return for a “reward”, I successfully “manipulate” the behaviour of the server. An order in the army is to “manipulate” the actions of others. Politicians “manipulate” their voters – or try to. The cry of a baby “manipulates” the behaviour of its mother. We manipulate our children, our friends, our colleagues and our enemies. All man made laws manipulate. Manipulation is the very essence of social interaction.

Manipulation, as I use it here, is the eliciting of human behaviour. It is a tool of social interaction and is neither good nor bad.  It is only the objectives and purposes of manipulation which can be subject to value judgements about goodness or badness.

I take “motivation” – and particularly “motivation in the work place” – then to be just a particular subset of manipulation to elicit desired human behaviour. By empirical observation, I note that when a person is “motivated” he is not

  • more competent, or
  • more knowledgeable, or
  • more intelligent, or
  • more skillful, or
  • stronger or taller or smarter,

but he is

  • More effective
  • More focused
  • More cooperative
  • More “driven”
  • More dynamic
  • More result-oriented
  • More diligent …….

Thus I take the level of motivation to be a measure of the level of engagement of an individual in the actions he is performing (his behaviour). The more motivated he is the more “effective” his performance is, within the constraints set by his abilities. An unmotivated or demotivated person performs the actions in hand well below the limit of his capabilities. Motivation does not affect capability but it does affect performance.

Human behaviour and what causes it is part of the seemingly infinite universe of psychology in all its myriad forms (social psychology, cognitive psychology………). I can only approach behaviour and its causes in an empirical and pragmatic way.

My basic assumption in developing my “Engagement” theory of motivation invokes an analogy from the physical world. It is entirely qualitative and only very small parts are subject to quantification.

I assume that all human actions (which we call behaviour) are analagous to motion in physics. Further, I take a change to be only in response to a “force of behaviour”. The challenge lies in describing and defining this force. Building on Maslow (Motivation and Personality – 1954) I assume that any human, at any given time, exhibits a “state of human condition” which is a composite of

  1. the levels to which his various needs are satisfied, and
  2. the levels of his various dissatisfactions from deficiencies that are not met

I take “satisfaction of needs” and “dissatisfactions due to deficiencies” as two separate scales, neither of which can be negative and which are not diametrically opposed. Of course there are many needs and many deficiencies and there is a level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with each of them,

state of human condition

state of human condition

It should be noted that there is a scale for each need and for each deficiency and that the scale itself is a composite of “health, wealth and happiness factors”. Nevertheless it should be possible by suitable weighting to combine all the levels of satisfaction of all the various needs into a single “level of satisfaction of needs”, and to combine all the various dissatisfactions due to deficiencies into a single “level of dissatisfaction due to deficiencies”. This then allows the positioning, at any given time, of an individual’s “state of human condition”.

state of human condition -2

state of human condition -2

For every deficiency – again following Maslow – there is a tolerable level of dissatisfaction. If this level is exceeded then rational behaviour is no longer possible and an individual can and will only act to reduce the dissatisfaction to the exclusion of everything else. It is the tolerable level of dissatisfactions which defines the behavioural space where manipulation and motivation can be brought into play to influence behaviour.

Next - 2: The Behavioural Space

The very model of a modern individual

July 21, 2014

I can never find a political label that fits me or a label that I would like to be fitted to.

(some edits on 24th July to try and improve the scanning)

(With apologies and thanks to Gilbert and Sullivan)

I am the very model of a modern individual,

I am well informed on matters social and political, 

I know the his-tory of Man and of theories philosophical,

Of apes and Denisovans and matters anthropological.

I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,

I understand the flow of heat in a manner thermodynamical.

About politics and sociology, I’m up-to-date with all the news,

On any subject under the sun, I have opinions and decided views.

 

Of science led by politics, I tend to be suspicious,

My views on global warming verge nigh on being scandalous.

On matters social, economical and all that is political,

I am the very model of a modern individual.

 

I know our myths and legends from time ages immemorial,

I can tell the tales of Duryodana, of Beowulf and Galadriel.

I can quote from the songs of Omar Khayyam and from the sonnets of the Bard,

Verses from the Bible, the Koran or from the Vedas do not come so very hard.

I am familiar with the post-modernists and privy to all the schisms,

Between environmentalism, and feminism and even conservationism.

I could hum you an air from Bach or Mozart or even a Shankar raga, 

And even sing along with you the many hits of Abba.

I am quite familiar with the works of Marx and Paine and Friedman,

I can And debate with you the ins and outs pros and cons of abortion or execution

In short, in matters social and political,

I am the very model of a modern individual.

 

I don’t know what is meant by “God” and by ridiculous “Religions”,

As if w‘re e are still stuck in the dark depths of the Spanish Inquisition.

I have little time for Islamic jihad or rampant Zionism,

I only have contempt for Christians killing Christians.

I find I’m simultaneously, conservative and socialist,

And when I’m not a fascist, I can even be a communist.

Nationalism and patriotism seem to me quite artificial,

Since Nation States are merely accidents geographical.

As a conglomeration of matters contradictory,

There is no better modern individual than me.

 

I don’t know what I don’t know, or even all there is to know,

But I will know all that I can know, before it’s time for me to go.

In short, in matters social and political,

I am the very model of a modern individual.

Can Obama do anything other than make pretty speeches?

July 20, 2014

I was listening to Barack Obama after the shooting down of MH17. It was just another pretty speech.

Barack Obama’s place in history is assured.

He will be remembered as the first black President of the US.

The history books may have little more positive to say than that. They may mention that he did win a second term. They may well wonder why? They may mention his dithering and some of his pretty speeches. They may have many more negative things to remember. Of being a US President who despite a Democratic majority in the Senate managed to accomplish very little. In both international affairs and on the domestic front some of his failures could be catastrophic enough to earn a place in the history books.

Iraq and Syria are overrun with terrorists. Violence is flaring in Ukraine and on Israel’s borders. A humanitarian crisis is developing on our own southern border, but immigration legislation, like most all legislation, is moribund. Probes of the veterans’ health-care system, the IRS and Benghazi are sucking up attention and the administration’s time.

Now fully one third of the US thinks Obama was/has been the worst US President since the Second World War! Worse than Jimmy Carter, worse than George Bush Jr., even worse than Richard Nixon., and I can remember the loathing that Tricky Dicky engendered – both in the US and internationally.

Obama’s reputation internationally is one of pretty speeches and no substance, of a President who is so risk averse that he is virtually paralysed in any situation demanding courage and of a President who has abdicated control over his security services. The NSA spying revelations, the expulsion of the CIA head in Germany and the failure of intelligence in Libya and Syria and Ukraine, despite unprecedented levels of information gathering, give the impression of a security service completely devoid of oversight or direction. Obama’s security apparatus is going rogue but he has not the wherewithal to control or direct it.

Even domestically his healthcare flagship is less than convincing. He may have bigger failures to come both internationally and domestically, but there is little expectation of any future successes. His over-analysis and dithering on virtually every issue suggests he could possibly have been of some use in a think-tank advising a President. But they are characteristics which have not served him well as President.

But Obamacare’s “free” benefit mandates, and overregulation, has only resulted in sharply increasing health insurance costs, more than doubling premiums in many cases, another President Obama failure by his own words and standards.

But the worst President Obama failure can still be yet to come.  Obama told us that nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran’s terrorist government would be “unacceptable” and he would stop it by any means necessary, with all options now on the table.  But the flower child Obama/Kerry nuclear negotiations now actually seem resigned to only trying to contain what Reagan defense expert Frank Gaffney now is calling the Iranian “Obamabomb,” to echo the Obamacare failure.

His pretty speeches have fooled a lot of people and have built up hopes and expectations. But it is not just that hopes and expectations will have been dashed. He will leave the world a more turbulent and dangerous place when he leaves the presidency than when he started. Eight wasted years.


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