Another head rolls in the West Wing

Seventh West Wing sacking

Anthony Scaramucci has been removed as White House communications director at the request of White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, just days after being named to the job, according to two people with knowledge of the decision.

Now I only posted my advice to Donald yesterday. It was about attending one of my Beer Game sessions so you would understand what his problem is.

Why Donald Trump needs to play the Beer Game

 He hasn’t got back to me yet

I have now updated

In case you missed them: Trump sackings/resignations to date

Why Donald Trump needs to play the Beer Game

The Beer Game is an activity that systems theorists, like me, use as teaching exercise with postgraduate students and consulting clients to show them the way that organisational structures determine behaviours.  It was developed at MIT and has been used for many years to demonstrate some of the fundamental concepts underlying Systems Theory and System Dynamics.

One of the important ideas is the distinction between Events, Patterns and Structures.

Events are things that happen once. Chance occurrences, that are not particularly important. But sometimes they keep happening and become Patterns. When they become Patterns, we need to look for the Structures that create them.

 Some people refer to this as the iceberg  model because the events are all  to see above the surface and  structures and patterns lurk beneath the surface.

In a recent blog, I all listed the people who had resigned or been sacked by Donald Trump in the first four months of his presidency:  In case you missed them: Trump sackings/resignations to date. There have been six of them. This constitutes a Pattern.

There are clearly structures within the White House system that are creating the situation leading these repeated resignations and sackings. Simply getting rid of the people is not going to solve the problem. Sackings and resignations will continue until these structures are changed.

The structures within the  West Wing will be the same as any organisation, only a bit more toxic and with much higher stakes. These are likely to be cultural, political and psychological and power structures, rather than physical or policy structures, in this particular case.

Some years ago, one of the great gurus of Systems Thinking, Peter Senge, visited Australia. He told the story of when he ran the Beer Game. Some time into the game, as was  always the case, chaos reigned. Then the participants, a senior executive, stood up and walked out of the room. He returned sometime after. During the debrief Peter asked him why he left.

“Look, he said, “I’m the vice president of a large multi-billion-dollar-a-year company. I’m  smart and I’m good at my job. But I can’t get this board game to work. Now I realise, it’s not me, it’s the way the game is set up, is designed to that we will fail.”

(He was right, the game is structured in such a way that it is impossible to get it to work.  In fact, the harder well-intentioned people try, the less likely they are to succeed. The only way to give to work, is to change the structure)

The executive continued, “Now I’ve also had to sack three marketing directors in the last four months and I’ve left instructions to sack a fourth one.  Playing this game, I suddenly realised that the problem is not the people. The job of marketing director is structured so that those guys were set up to fail.  I now realise that’s what I need to fix.”

Unfortunately, the 44th president of United States doesn’t think he needs to learn anything.  So he is not likely to fix the problem in the  West Wing.

Or anywhere for that matter.


In case you missed them: Trump sackings/resignations to date

REINCE PRIEBUS:  His chief of staff

JAMES COMEY: The FBI director

COREY LEWANDOWSKI: His Campaign manager

CHRIS CHRISTIE: Leader of the president-elect’s transition team

PAUL MANAFORT: His campaign chairman

MICHAEL FLYNN: His campaign adviser-turned-national security adviser

SAM NUNBERG: The man behind many of Trump’s earliest and most popular campaign ideas

SEAN SPICER: The White House press secretary



Dangerous nonsense about nutrition and academic performance

Sunday Age The results are in: Vegies make the grade

How do you boost the test scores of Australian students?

According to an article published in the paper today, the answer could be sitting in the crisper drawer of the fridge. An Australian study has linked eating vegetables with dinner to higher NAPLAN test scores. Students who devoured vegetables every night achieved NAPLAN scores that were an average 86 points higher in writing than those who steered clear of their greens. Eating vegetables had a significant impact on students’ performance in all areas of the NAPLAN test, except for numeracy.

Co-author Tracy Burrows, an associate professor in the school of health sciences at the University of Newcastle, said the connection between food and academic performance needed to be investigated further. One potential explanation might be that fruits and vegetables influence neurological activity, promoting better cognitive function.

The causes and reasons for academic success are many and varied.

On the same page of the  Sunday Age, it was reported that academic performance in Victorian schools had declined as result of the Victorian Education Department changing the grading system. Well, no. The kids are still performing in the same way, the goalposts have just shifted.

But coming back to the link between diet and academic success. This study has identified a statistical correlation between the consumption of certain food types and academic success.

There are  numerous and humorous examples of spurious statistical correlations  For instance the divorce rate in Maine and the consumption of margarine  (for others see


But coming back to the connection between nutrition and academic performance which isn’t quite as stupid as margarine and divorce.

The problem is that the two are not causally connected and to claim that “Eating vegetables had a significant impact on students’ performance” is simply not true

It is possible that families with good diets are likely to be better educated and come from better socio-economic backgrounds both of which are factors generally associated with better academic performance. It is therefore likely that there will be some correlation between diet and academic performance.

But  to say that “that fruits and vegetables might influence neurological activity, promoting better cognitive function”  does not appear to be borne out by the study.

So it does not mean that simply giving  your child lots of fruit and veg is going to help them get a better NAPLAN score.

There are lots of benefits from feeding your child well but better academic scores is not an automatic one.

Election battle lines drawn: Labor to save us from the rich, Liberals from the terrorists.

The front page of today’s Sunday Age neatly sums up one of the key differences between the two major parties in Australia.

The Federal Police have launched another raid in Sydney and Malcolm Turnbull’s warning of the dangers of terror. His difficulty is that the people who are  arrested normally seem to be released and foiled  plots don’t make headlines.

 The family who lived in the raided house on Cleveland Street have been described as “perfectly nice and normal people” by a neighbour whose property backs onto theirs.

“We knew them to say hello to and they seemed nice,” the woman in her early 30s, who didn’t want to be identified, told AAP. An elderly couple lived in the home, the neighbour said, and they had adult children

Bill Shorten is also grabbing headlines. It’s a bit of a cheap shot.  Most people don’t know  how trusts work. So it easy is to talk about saving billions of dollars. It’s a bit like talking about making multinationals  like Apple, Amazon and Google paid tax. Easy to say, but much harder to do.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who said “the threat of terrorism is very real”, warned that airport security has been “enhanced and intensified” in light of the operation overnight.

Five properties in Surry Hills, Punchbowl, Wiley Park and Lakemba were raided on Saturday evening. Four people remain in custody.

Bill Shorten will slam the door shut on tax loopholes that let high income earners legally use trusts to slash their tax bills, in a move designed to raise $17.2 billion over 10 years.

The new tax policy, foreshadowed by Fairfax Media a week ago, is the second-largest revenue raising measure announced by the federal opposition, after its ambitious plan to curb capital gains and negative gearing tax breaks, designed to raise $37 billion over 10 years.

Bill also is also rattling the bars of the Republican cage again. It’s wedge politics but it’s clever wedge politics because as the ex-leader of the Republican movement Malcolm Turnbull got nowhere to go on this issue.

Campaigning has started early thanks to Section 44. We could be  in for some by-elections so expect everybody to stop governing the country and start campaigning.

Malcolm Roberts denies Indian citizenship “I don’t even like curry.”

Senator Malcolm Roberts, born in India of a Welsh father, is fighting to prove his  credentials as an Australian citizen. “I don’t like curry and I’ve never worn a turban.” is his latest attempt to fend off suggestions that he might be an Indian citizen.

He is fighting for his seat in the Senate on two fronts: Walsh parentage and Indian birthplace.  You have to feel sorry for the poor bloke.

There have also been rumours that he might be a Welsh citizen.  These have been fuelled by the fact that it has been suggested that he had been growing daffodils in his garden. The daffodil  is the national flower of Wales.


Senator  Malcolm Roberts identifies his chances of remaining in the Senate

 He is not helping his cause very much.

One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts denies he lied when declaring less than a year ago he had “never held any citizenship other than Australian”, despite now saying he has renounced any ties to other countries.

Senator Roberts’ office claims there is no contradiction because the senator “is choosing to believe that he was never British” – even after the British government confirmed he was once a citizen.

To add to his woes, his successor is already lining up.

And guess what,  it is none another than Pauline  Hansen’s sister. This comes about because the next bloke on the One Nation all ticket after Roberts, (who got 77 first preference votes),  looks like being declared bankrupt and the next cab off the rank is Pauline’s sister.

Given the distribution of preferences, there is a very good chance that no one actually voted for her.


Judy Smith who is one of six of Pauline Hanson’s siblings.   What’s the betting that they’re all in line for the Senate if One Nation keeps losing senators at its current rate?


Rod Culleton, the  One Nation Senator, lost his appeal against court bankruptcy verdict and his senate seat

 All this morning be quite funny, if these people were not in a position where they made decisions that affect the lives of all Australians. Sometimes democracy fails very badly.


Elijah Doughty’s death raises the same questions as Don Dale

This young boy’s death is a tragedy of epic proportions. It contains all the elements of the deep-seated problems that surround the social, economic and racial problems that plague the aboriginal communities of Australia.

Elijah Doughty was killed when  the motorbike he had stolen was hit by a ute driven by the bike’s owner who claimed he was trying to recover his bike.  The driver of the ute was recently given a three-year sentence for dangerous driving causing death, a decision which the local aboriginal community thinks is manifestly inadequate.

The ABC reports Petrine James, the mother of 14-year-old Aboriginal boy Elijah Doughty,  has spoken for the first time publicly to 7.30 about the loss of her son.

“That it’s alright for people to go out and do what they want to do, by taking the law into their own hands,” she said. “I think everybody should come together. Not just Aboriginal people, everybody. This is not about racial issues, it’s much more than that.”

Ms James had to deal with the news from a prison cell. Ms James has been in and out of the criminal justice system since she was a teenager and has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. The last time she was sentenced for multiple burglary and stealing offences, the judge criticised the as being inadequate.

Where you start with a problem like this?

Once upon a time, there might’ve been a chance. Perhaps.


But as a systems theorist, I know that the individual has very little chance when they are placed in a system that the system is structured in such a way that the individual’s characteristics, no matter how positive and strong, really give them very little chance.

And in Elijah Doughty’s case, the cards were probably stacked against from the start.  But somehow, resilient systems needed to be built around those two small children in the photo.

The television will be covering the protests in the major cities where the local aboriginal communities will travel and be protesting the injustice of the verdict in this particular case.  And there will be a lot of anger. Justifiable anger.  But while understandable, there is probably very little point to this.

There will also be coverage of the deep-seated endemic nature of the economic and social systems that produces particular type of problem.  Let it be hoped that this will bring you some long-term and thoughtful policy solutions to this tragic problem.

There has also been coverage of the riots in Kalgoorlie after Elijah Doughty’s death.

There was also a shot of a young aboriginal boy jumping onto a police vehicle and smashing the windows with the rock.  He looks as if he’s about 12 or 13. Probably the same age as Elijah Doughty.  He probably now has rockstar status amongst his peers.

And these images really sum up the problem.

Until we find some way of dealing with the anger of that 12-year-old boy, we’re not going to stop him stealing motorbikes. And were not going to stop the owners chasing him.

Because there is another side to the Elijah Doughty story.

It’s the story of the people who live in the rural towns and from whom Petrine James and Elijah Doughty steal things.  They’re the people who live with the lawlessness and disorder on pension days. They are predominantly white, working class and often not particularly rich. And they don’t like having their motorbikes stolen and houses broken into.  And they are frustrated by the fact that the police are more or less powerless to deal with teenage crime.

These people don’t get on television and they don’t riot and the don’t demonstrate. But they are also part of the problem because they represent, and are represented by, law and order, the police, prisons and detention systems.

And it may be surprising to realise, these people probably vote for Pauline Hanson.


So one of the profound difficulties is that beyond the major cities, there may not be much sympathy for the plight of Petrine James nor much appetite for adopting more  enlightened and better funded approaches to the problems that plague our rural communities.


Malcolm (77 votes) Roberts, Section 44, Clouds and Silver Linings

Most people agree, and I’m one of them, that the rules laid out in Section 44 and dual citizenship are probably a bit extreme and the three senators who have been forced to stand down or resign probably should not have had to. But the rules are the rules.  They should have checked. We’ve lost a couple of good Green senators and losing one of the better Coalition senators.

But now. Every cloud has a silver lining. Many people, myself included, would agree that the Australian scene would be a better place without this man managing to hold the limelight every now and then. I accept, somewhat grudgingly that in a democracy and as a matter of principle, the bogans, Islamophobes, homophobes, xenophobes and the whateverphobes probably need a voice in Parliament given their numbers and that Pauline Hanson’s One Nation is probably that voice.

But with all principles, like the principle of free speech, there is a point where you draw the line.  I draw the line at this man, Malcolm Roberts who was elected with 77 primary votes and has used this unfortunate accident to promulgate a set of views that stands in complete defiance of accepted and established scientific evidence on climate change.

He is an aberration in our political system and his views are dangerous and destructive.

But it looks as if Section 44 may bring him undone.


The Age reports: “One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts is under mounting pressure to prove he’s eligible to stay in Parliament but is refusing to provide evidence he renounced his British citizenship before last year’s election. (Senator Roberts) is resisting media and public pressure to release the primary documents from Britain.”

In a statuary declaration, Senator Roberts said he had, “analysed if he was a British [United Kingdom] citizen by decent [sic] from my father, who was born in Wales, the United Kingdom, or if I was an Indian citizen”.

“I can confirm I am not a citizen of the United Kingdom, nor am I a citizen of India,” he wrote.

If Senator Roberts appliances same level of rigour to his research  into his own citizenship as he does to his research into climate change, then he will almost certainly lose his seat in Parliament.

His election was an aberration. It may be that the operation of an arcane element of the Constitution may rectify this particular problem.

It looks as if there is a God. He is a just God. He works in mysterious ways. And if he does, we should praise him. Hallelujah.

Publishing, Perishing and Scamming

The Age reports: South African dietician alleges Melbourne science conference a fake.

South African dietician Elizabeth Fourie is among researchers and health practitioners who believe they have been duped into paying hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of dollars, for a bogus medical conference run by a company called Conference Series, an affiliate of India-based online publishing empire OMICS Group.


 Maybe Elizabeth Fourie should have realised that getting rapid acceptance of the paper at a conference where she could visit her sister was probably too good to be true

Attendees claimed nearly half of the conference speakers were absent, creating hours-long gaps in the conference. The research was not properly scrutinised, and some papers bore little relevance to the conference’s theme, they said.

Information about this particular company has been around for some time. This article appeared at the end of last year.

Kevin Carey writing in the New York Times A Peek Inside the Strange World of Fake Academia claims that This year the Federal Trade Commission formally charged OMICS with “deceiving academics and researchers about the nature of its publications and hiding publication fees ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.”

There are numerous lesser manifestations and examples of the insidious creep this kind of activity.

Even at the most prestigious of conferences, there are signs of this type of decline in standards.

It comes in the form of engaging  engaging in activities only for the sake of the contribution they make to one’s CV.

It’s not uncommon for “prestigious academics” to present papers at conferences but only to present their own paper and not attend for more than the half-hour takes it to make that presentation. This effectively denies their lesser colleagues the opportunity to interact with them and removes one of the main reasons for people attending conferences:  namely interaction with colleagues.

Again, possible to submit a conference paper which will be published in the conference proceedings, hence providing the academic with a “refereed” publication, but to do so without presenting the paper at the conference.

Normally, this will involve registering for the conference and paying the conference registration fee. The ultimate extension of this is that everybody opts for this and nobody attends a conference at all. This spares the conference organisers the expense of running the conference and all conference registrations turn into profit.

One imagines that this is the acme of the OMICS Group business model.


There are four things driving this particular phenomenon.

The first is the need for academics to publish for promotion and for tenure.

The second is the willingness of unscrupulous academics to set up conferences and journals which are essentially scams and which do not use any form of rigour  in the reviewing process.

The third is the total failure of selection panels in academic institutions to read the publications of applicants for positions but to rely merely on their CVs and the list of publications many of which will have in published in journals which appear to have prestigious titles but in fact are of very dubious standing.

The fourth is the preparedness of academics to lend their names to the editorial panels of journals, whose credentials and standing they do not scrutinised, simply to be able to pad out their own CV with what appear to be significant and substantial appointments.

it is unfortunate fact of life, that the commodification of education is now creeping its way into the hallowed halls of academia.





Dunkirk: the last time that Britain got out of Europe

Christopher Nolan”s Dunkirk is the story of the evacuation of British troops from Europe in 1940 after the German invasion of France. The evacuation was performed by by what came to be known as the little ships of Dunkirk, a flotilla of hundreds of merchant marine boats, fishing boats, pleasure craft, yachts, and lifeboats called into service from Britain for the emergency. (Wikipedia)


These small ships were able to get in close to the beach where the troops were stranded.  it was a most remarkable operation.  Rightly, the stuff of folklore and legend


For people of my generation and particular their parents who live in Britain, Dunkirk is a very real experience and probably one that is lost on younger people today. But it was one in which Great Britain  stood on its own two feet, independent of France and importantly against Germany and survived.  And importantly, one that the old folk of Britain think that can be repeated.

Expect the cinemas of Britain to be packed out with old age pensioners.  The film has  great symbolic importance for the people who voted for Brexit.  At the heart of the anti-European sentiment that led to the huge demographic splitting in the vote on the European union was the memory of times like Dunkirk and the Blitz and the idea that somehow Great Britain can go it alone again.

So, the film is very timely piece of propaganda and also a piece of brilliant marketing. A bit like Shakespeare’s Henry V,  a nostalgic look at  time when Britain  considered itself a great nation.

I remember a history lecture in Auckland when I was an undergraduate. It was delivered by an American lecturer of German descent. He was lecturing on modern European history.

He said, “You must remember that it was the Russian sacrifices on the Eastern front that ultimately defeated Germany.


After that, it was involvement of American industrial might. Britain really played a minor role.”


He was lucky to avoid lynching. Britain had won the Second World War by defeating Germany during the Battle of Britain. We all knew that and Dunkirk had been the turning point. We have been taught that at school.

And now the theatres will  be filled with people who are also taught school.

Rule Britannia, bring on Brexit.