Donald Trump’s problem: He is not a Systems Thinker and doesn’t understand feedback.

One of the all most important characteristic of Systems Thinkers is that they understand the concept of feedback. In simple terms,  he has a very limited grasp of the idea of consequences.


Feedback is a slightly more complex idea than consequences. Consequences are really what happens to other people when I do something. Feedback is what happens to me when I do things to other people.

Put simply, what goes around, comes around.

One of the startling and alarming aspects of Donald Trump is that he shows absolutely no awareness of the consequences of what he says or threatens to do. He doesn’t understand feedback. So when he threatens that the US will put a 35% tariff on BMW motorcars, he doesn’t appear to understand that this will cause a series of reactions that will ultimately affect the US.


When he insists that  US motor manufacturers build plants in the US rather than Mexico, he doesn’t understand the feedback affects from the disappointed voters in the Midwest who will find that building motorcar plants does not create through many jobs.


Nor does he understand that the higher cost structures in the US will feed back into the prices that US consumers must pay for motorcars manufactured in the US.

I could go on.

Another key concept that Trump will not understand because he is not a Systems Thinker is the concept of systems archetypes. The archetypes explained to us that there are some common systemic structures that produce highly predictable results.

One of those archetypes is known as Escalation and it explains that if someone who is powerful threatens someone else who powerful, the result will be a reciprocal, but possibly bigger, threat.

A highly simplified idea of Escalation is set out in this Causal Loop Diagram.


The + sign at the end of the arrows indicates an increase.  An important aspect of a CLD is that you don’t go around once. You keep going round and things keep getting worse.

Hence Escalation.

Ultimately, it will be feedback from Trump’s behaviours that will bring about his fall.

This is an example of feedback and it’s going to keep happening.


Summer Zervos listens as her attorney Gloria Allred speaks during a news conference announcing the filing of a lawsuit against President-elect Donald Trump in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake


Tony Abbott, The Australian and the Journalism of Political Irrelevance

Tony (No Sniping) Abbott is clearly convinced that his repeated publications in the right-wing newspaper The Australian are constructive and helpful criticisms of Malcolm Turnbull and the federal government.

All designed to be very helpful.

When asked today if such comments were helpful, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said “probably not”.


But for all his commentary, Abbott has achieved absolutely nothing. Many people would believe that his continued criticism is designed to position himself for a leadership challenge against Turnbull.


Still running

It would appear that the current federal Liberal MPs have no stomach for this. They may also have finally realised that Abbott is terminally unpopular in the Australian electorate.

There also appears to have been a strategy that if Abbott were to be returned to the cabinet, he would be bound by cabinet solidarity and would need to stop criticising Turnbull in public. This has not worked either.

Tony Abbott slapped down as Malcolm Turnbull opts for ‘minimalist’ reshuffle. His comments, on the Government’s renewable energy target for 2020 in a weekend opinion piece in The Australian are set to end any hope he had of a return to the cabinet under Mr Turnbull.

With the ignominious departure of the peripatetic Sussan Ley from the health portfolio, Abbott and his fellow travellers may have thought that as an ex-health Minister, Abbott had a chance of being recalled to the cabinet to replace Ley.


Metaphors of snowballs in hell spring to mind

Tony Abbott is sliding into political irrelevance.

It is probably time that the editors of The Australian realised this and started backing another horse. Because there is surely going to be a need for another horse.

Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott because under Abbott the government had trailed the Labor Party in every poll since the general election.

Malcolm Turnbull has not fared any better. The latest Newspoll paints a fairly grim picture with the government behind the Labour Party for all but two months since April 2016


The wildcard in the pack is the preferential votes of  from the GIMPs.

Newspoll has the Coalition primary vote declining by around 4% in the last two years to just over 40% with the Labor Party wobbling around 35%. However, there appears to be an an inexorable rise of the GIMPs and now constitute at least 25%  (and possibly 35%) of the primary vote.


There is a note of caution that needs to be sounded when it comes to polls of the two-party preferred vote. The preferences of the GIMPs are distributed on the basis of the last federal election, not of current voting intentions. These would be quite easy to capture and without up-to-date information about these voting intentions, the polls could quite easily have a significant margin of error.

It is also interesting to note that Fairfax media/ABC and Newspoll have different views on the trends of the primary votes of the major parties. Latest figures from Fairfax media/ABC indicate that the given vote has risen to nearly 34%. That’s one third of the electorate.


Whether it’s 25% or 34%, one thing is certain. It is the preferences of the GIMPs that will decide the results in the next federal election.

Strangely, neither of the major parties are showing in the recognition of this tectonic shift in the Australian political landscape.

Update: A Reachtel poll, commissioned by activist group GetUp! and taken before Sussan Ley’s resignation and in the midst of ongoing issues surrounding Centrelink’s automated debt collection system, found increased support for the opposition, with Labor leading the Turnbull government, 54 points to 46.

While primary support for the Liberal party and Labor was deadlocked at 32 per cent, the opposition captured the majority of the “undecided” support 33.3 per cent to 19.4, with 58.5 per cent of those still making up their mind answering they would preference Labor higher.

A problem the Labor Party needs to fix

Corruption is an invidious cancer in the body politic. It starts very simply with well-meaning people recruiting friends and family to local branches on the assumption that they will support their political aspirations. These family members are not really interested in politics but sign up to support their friend or relation, particularly if they are prepared to pay the registration fees. Often they don’t go to branch meetings and allow the candidate to file proxy votes for them.

It then spreads to pre-selection processes which are a simple extension of branch stacking.  It also builds a pervasive network of obligation which is the cornerstone of the Labor Party factional structures.

Politicians installed through these processes can often be notoriously difficult to remove.

George Seitz, Victoria’s most notorious Labor branch-stacker, was an MP in Melbourne’s west for 28 years.

“He (Shorten) simply came … asking if I would support him,” said Seitz. “Knowing my history of supporting people, which I had done, he relied on that.”


Bill Shorten and (from left) Hakki Suleyman, George Seitz and Andrew Landeryou.

Once Shorten was pre-selected, the party’s powerful administrative committee – with Shorten as president – voted to exempt Seitz from a rule requiring MPs to retire at age 65. Seitz was then the veteran member for Keilor. factional structureschest local politicians,

And  there seems to be no indication that the Victorian Labor Party is giving this problem under control.

Labor figure Intaj Khan, is under investigation over an October council election campaign in which he ran dummy candidates with bogus enrolment addresses and false occupations.


Khan with Anthony Albanese.

Last year, The Age printed this: Wyndham councillor Intaj Khan faces probity, conflict, branch stacking allegations.

He has endured investigations of his Western Institute of Technology, which has been criticised over mistreatment of workers employed on 457 visas and a highly critical report on its teaching standards by a federal regulator.

Then there is an ongoing ALP probe into branch stacking which could cause Khan further headaches after a surge in new, mostly Indian-background members, out west and elsewhere.

Inquiries by the Sunday Age have uncovered repeated failures by Khan to properly declare property and commercial interests, as required by the Local Government Act, including large swathes of farmland.

In August of 2016 The Australian wrote: A new Labor branch-stacking scandal has erupted in Bill Short­en’s home state, with a flood of up to 1400 prospective ALP members in Julia Gillard’s former seat of Lalor and applications frozen in other suburban electorates.

The freeze on the memberships — many of them from members of Melbourne’s large Indian community — comes just months after the party expelled hundreds of bogus members in the biggest purge in its history.

There are a lot of things that lead to the erosion of public confidence in our politicians. Branch stacking and its corrosively corrupting influence in one of them.


How not to win a custody battle

This guy is Alan Langdon.


He wants us to believe that he and his daughter set out to sail from Kawhia Harbour to the Bay of Islands.

But his rudder broke, so he did this:

In this boatimages-2

Absolutely nothing to do with the custody case that he is fighting in New Zealand said Mr Langdon.

New Zealand police confirmed on Sunday they had laid charges against Mr Langdon.

“A 49-year-old man is due in Te Awamutu District Court on January 25, charged with taking a child from New Zealand,” Detective Sergeant Bill Crowe said.

New Zealand Police will have to apply to Australian authorities to have Mr Langdon, who is an Australian citizen, extradited back to New Zealand.

That probably pretty much wraps up the custody battle.

Richard II and the nature of kingship (i)

Shakespeare’s history plays, Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, Henry V, Henry VI, Parts 1, 2 & 3 and Richard III are studies in what it is be king. They do not provide a picture of what a king should be but rather of what kings, both good and bad, are like.

The plays, termed The Hollow Crown in the superb BBC productions, examine the events in the period before and including the Wars of the Roses.

The first play in the series is Richard II where the actions of the main character set in motion the events  of the next seven plays.

The play opens with Henry Bolingbroke, the Duke of Hereford and Thomas Mowbray, the Duke of Norfolk, both accusing each other of high treason. Bolingbroke is more specific, accusing Mowbray of misappropriating money meant to pay his soldiers and of involvement in the murder of Bolingbroke’s uncle, the Duke of Gloucester.

The opening scene is important in establishing the relationship between Richard and his nobles.  If one thing becomes clear from the history plays it is that for the king to maintain his grip on power, he must have the loyalty of the nobility and that of his blood relations, the most powerful dukes.

The staging of the opening scene sets the tone for the rest of the play.  It is important to give the impression that this is a dispute beyond Richard’s ability to resolve or control.

On one hand, we have Richard, effeminate and gorgeously dressed.


Ben Whishaw as Richard in The Hollow Crown

 On the other, we have Bolingbrook and Mowbray. The contrast could not be sharper.


 Bolingbrook (Rory Kinnear) and Mowbray (James Purefoy).


In a world where the king needed to rule with the support of his nobles, these two would  be part of Richard’s loyal supporters. They are two the most powerful men in the nation and Bolingbrook is Richard’s nephew.  Their loyalty to him is seen in their acquiescence to his judgement in Act 1, Sc 3.

After the two state their cases against each other, Richard says

Richard: Wrath-kindled gentlemen, be ruled by me;
Let’s purge this choler without letting blood:
This we prescribe, though no physician;
Deep malice makes too deep incision;
Forget, forgive; conclude and be agreed;
Our doctors say this is no month to bleed.
Good uncle, let this end where it begun;
We’ll calm the Duke of Norfolk, you your son.

It’s a glib statement made worse by the flippancy of Our doctors say this is no month to bleed. Richard simply doesn’t understand the gravity of this situation.

The two men defy Richard and his attempts to broker a peace and remain obdurate in their hatred of each other. Unable to resolve the dispute, Richard ends the meeting in the only way open to him.

Richard: We were not born to sue, but to command;
Which since we cannot do to make you friends,
Be ready, as your lives shall answer it,
At Coventry, upon Saint Lambert’s day:
There shall your swords and lances arbitrate
The swelling difference of your settled hate:
Since we can not atone you, we shall see
Justice design the victor’s chivalry.
Lord marshal, command our officers at arms
Be ready to direct these home alarms.

But there are tensions underlying Act 1 Sc i that become clearer in the next scene between Duchess of Gloucester, the widow of the murdered Thomas of Woodstock, and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and Bolingbroke’s father.


Patrick Stewart as John of Gaunt

Both know that Richard has been complicit in the murder of which Mowbray is accused.

Gaunt refuses to take action against the king  and in doing so outlines the Divine Right of Kings: Richard is God’s deputy and God, not men, will judge him.

Gaunt: Put we our quarrel to the will of heaven;
Who, when they see the hours ripe on earth,
Will rain hot vengeance on offenders’ heads.

Duchess: Finds brotherhood in thee no sharper spur?
Hath love in thy old blood no living fire?……… to safeguard thine own life,
The best way is to venge my Gloucester’s death.

Gaunt: God’s is the quarrel; for God’s substitute,
His deputy anointed in His sight,
Hath caused his death: the which if wrongfully,
Let heaven revenge; for I may never lift
An angry arm against His minister.

When matters come to a head in Coventry, the contrast between the feuding nobles and Richard is again emphasised.

B and M.jpeg

Richardson’s insignificance and impotence in the face of the antagonism between his two  powerful subjects is clear. It is in this scene that the seeds of Richard’s downfall are sown.

Richard allows the ceremonies and formalities of the challenge and the combat to proceed and then he drops a bombshell.

Richard: Draw near,
And list what with our council we have done.
For that our kingdom’s earth should not be soil’d
With that dear blood which it hath fostered;

Therefore, we banish you our territories:
You, cousin Hereford, upon pain of life,
Till twice five summers have enrich’d our fields
Shall not regreet our fair dominions,
But tread the stranger paths of banishment.

Norfolk, for thee remains a heavier doom…..
The hopeless word of ‘never to return’
Breathe I against thee, upon pain of life.

After Mowbray leaves, there is another change of heart from Richard.

To Gaunt

Uncle, even in the glasses of thine eyes
I see thy grieved heart: thy sad aspect
Hath from the number of his banish’d years
Pluck’d four away.

To  Bolingbroke

Six frozen winter spent,
Return with welcome home from banishment.

Gaunt thanks the King but he knows that he will not live to see his son return.

Gaunt: My oil-dried lamp and time-bewasted light
Shall be extinct with age and endless night;
My inch of taper will be burnt and done,
And blindfold death not let me see my son.

Richard: Why uncle, thou hast many years to live.

Gaunt: But not a minute, king, that thou canst give:
Shorten my days thou canst with sullen sorrow,
And pluck nights from me, but not lend a morrow;

It’s an ironic warning from Gaunt. There are limits even do a king’s power and Richard is about to make a catastrophic misjudgment that will make those limits even clearer.

As he plans to suppress the rebellion in Ireland, Richard receives news that John of Gaunt is dying. Gaunt’s death will present Richard was an excellent opportunity to finance the expedition to Ireland.

Richard: Now put it, God, in the physician’s mind
To help him to his grave immediately!
The lining of his coffers shall make coats
To deck our soldiers for these Irish wars.
Come, gentlemen, let’s all go visit him:
Pray God we may make haste, and come too late!

In Act II Sc i, Richard visits the dying Gaunt who upbraids the young king for his profligacy concluding:

Gaunt: Landlord of England art thou now, not king:
Thy state of law is bondslave to the law; And thou–

 Richard is not impressed

Richard: A lunatic lean-witted fool…..
Wert thou not brother to great Edward’s son,
This tongue that runs so roundly in thy head
Should run thy head from thy unreverent shoulders.

When Gaunt dies, Richard makes the final mistake that will ultimately loose him the Crown.

Richard: Towards our assistance we do seize to us
The plate, corn, revenues and moveables,
Whereof our uncle Gaunt did stand possess’d.

The Duke of York is outraged. Gaunt’s land and titles should rightly go to  his son, the banished Bolingbroke.


David Suchet as The Duke of York

York: If you do wrongfully seize Hereford’s rights….
You pluck a thousand dangers on your head,
You lose a thousand well-disposed hearts
And prick my tender patience, to those thoughts
Which honour and allegiance cannot think.

Richard is unmoved and unrepentant,

Richard: Think what you will, we seize into our hands
His plate, his goods, his money and his lands.

York’s argument is that by the law of primogeniture Bolingbroke is launch legal heir. The thoughts which honour and allegiance cannot think are that Richard himself is king because his father was king before him. It’s a social contract that York, Gaunt, Bolingbroke and Mowbray have entered into. If Richard breaks her contract by seizing Gaunt’s lands, then his claims to the throne are similarly open to challenge.

The plotting begins immediately.


David Morissey as Northumberland

 Northumberland: Well, lords, the Duke of Lancaster is dead.

Ross: And living too; for now his son is duke.

Willoughby: Barely in title, not in revenue.

Northumberland: Richly in both, if justice had her right.

Now, afore God, ’tis shame such wrongs are borne
In him, a royal prince, and many moe
Of noble blood in this declining land.
The king is not himself, but basely led
By flatterers; …
‘Gainst us, our lives, our children, and our heirs.

Then thus: I have received intelligence
That Harry Duke of Hereford….
With eight tall ships, three thousand men of war,
Are making hither with all due expedience
And shortly mean to touch our northern shore:

With the imminent return of Bolingbroke, the first half of the argument about the nature of kingship has been established.

The King rules through right of inheritance, the crown passes from father to son.This is true throughout the kingdom most acutely so inheritance of the great estates, the Dukedoms. It is this set of allegiances and contracts that established political rule and stability in mediaeval England. Once one person’s right to their inheritance is abrogated, no one, not even the King, is safe.

When Richard seized John Gaunt’s lands, he put in jeopardy the fundamental bond between King and subject: Loyalty is given where protection of right is guaranteed.  By this line of argument, Richard’s actions justify Bolingbroke’s rebellion.

Initially, Bolingbroke will protest that he only returns to reclaim what is rightfully his, the Dukedom of Lancaster.

The remainder of the play examines how Bolingbroke’s original intentions broadened to include seizing the Crown and the counterargument, put by Richard, that nothing justifies rebellion against God’s lawfully appointed king.


Some strong contenders for the 2017 Outrageous Parliamentary Boondoggle competition.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, cigar chomping mate of Smoking’ Joe Hockey, has hit the front for all the wrong reasons (again).


Senator Cormann, who was pictured smoking a cigar with then treasurer Joe Hockey while finalising the 2014 budget, attended last year’s AFL grand final on a taxpayer-funded trip as did Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop.

It looks like he’s a serial offender.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who is responsible for keeping government spending under control, billed taxpayers more than $23,000 for weekend trips to the beach resort town of Broome with his wife over five years.


Now, to be fair, this isn’t part photograph, printed in notorious left-wing rag, The Sunday Age. No one would believe that Mathias Cormann was such a dork that he would wear a suit  to go riding a camel.

Boondoggle score 7/10

It was revealed this week that Labor frontbenchers Chris Bowen and Brendan O’Connor charged taxpayers more than $10,000 each to take their families to Darwin during the 2015 July school holidays while travelling on official business.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who lives in Melbourne, also charged taxpayers for 12 trips with his family to Queensland holiday resorts.

Boondoggle scores 7.5/10

But there has to be special recognition for this effort from Kevin Andrews clearly believes that praying should be a taxpayer funded activity.


Conservative coalition MP Kevin Andrews drew on his taxpayer-funded “study allowance” when he travelled to the United States to attend a prayer breakfast and address a right-wing think tank.

The Victorian backbencher skipped a week of parliament to participate in the 64th annual National Prayer Breakfast and deliver a speech at the influential Heritage Foundation in Washington DC last February.

A spokesperson Paul Andrews said  “The breakfast was a unique opportunity to meet, within a short space of time, political, civic and business leaders from the US and internationally,”

Mr Andrews also held a series of meetings on the event’s sidelines with Tea Party figure Robert Alderholt, marriage educator Bill Coffin and policy experts on families and national security.

“It was an opportunity to re-establish US contacts, and to make new contacts”

He’s a back bencher for heaven’s sake. Not a minister, not the Prime Minister. So why does he need to be making these contacts in the US?  Because he is entitled to.

Boondoggle score 8/10

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop remains firm that she never planned to attend this year’s Portsea Polo. An unworn Hugo Boss outfit suggests otherwise.


She sure gets around: Julie Bishop at the Melbourne Cup

Fairfax Media can reveal the global fashion house had reportedly agreed to dress the foreign minister, who was set to be one of the star attractions at the annual society event on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula,

Instead, Ms Bishop was a late no-show, citing the visit to Australia by Japan’s Prime Minister as the reason for her absence.

Ms Bishop had been scheduled to attend as a guest of naming sponsor Alfa Romeo but in the wake of the government expenses scandal, including the fact she billed taxpayers to attend last year’s event, she opted not to attend.

In fairness to Julie Bishop, you can’t imagine that the Foreign Minister would book a tax-payer funded, private enterprise sponsored trip to the polo when the Prime Minister of Japan was visiting. Could you?

Boondoggle score for last year’s effort  8/10

Another strong performance from Leyonhjelm in the 2017 Race for Stupid

A while ago, I commented that Pro-gun libertarian and NSW Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm had taken an early (January 3) lead in the 2017 Race for Stupid.


He’s going to be very hard beat having put in another very strong performance with comments he made about childcare workers on TV show The Project where he summarised the role of childcare workers as merely “wiping noses and stopping the kids from killing each other”.

He also argued that requiring qualifications for child care workers did no more than encourage them to demand higher wages.

Childcare workers and parents reacted with outrage, saying the New South Wales senator’s comments were a slap in the face to the “woefully undervalued” workers who provide education for children in their crucial early developmental years.

One of the best responses came from Sydney childcare worker Chloe Chant:

  • And, I wiped some noses.
  • And changed nappies.
  • And set up experiences.
  • And prepared lunches.
  • And mopped floors.
  • And mediated conflicts.
  • And attended staff meetings.
  • And managed resources.
  • And taught self help skills.
  • And helped children toilet training.
  • And was spewed on by babies.
  • And cleaned up vomit.
  • And raked the garden.
  • And helped multiple babies sleep.
  • And taught pre-literacy skills.
  • And expanded the vocabularies of the children.
  • And introduced the concept of nuclear fission.
  • And explained the fundamentals of DNA.
  • And explained where babies come from.
  • And described the purpose of the dendrites on nerve cells.
  • And I wiped more noses.

That was Wednesday.

The problem is that Leyonhjelm gets publicity through this type of stupidity and this encourages to him keep doing it. It also encourages the prejudices of people who are stupid enough to agree with him but who are also allowed to vote

Programs like The Project should not give him oxygen.