Friday, August 31, 2007

What's happening lately.

What's happening? I'm not sure if horse flu is comparable in effect to the flu we humans get, but there is currently an outbreak of the disease in the equine world here. I've never really been into horse racing and betting, so it has little impact on me (besides perhaps feeling sorry for the horses - Phillip means ' lover of horses' - and I have to say I think dogs, cats and horses have a special place in the human family. I don't think we as a species would be were we are without them).

Whats about to happen is APEC. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Organisation is coming to Sydney over the next week or so.
"...The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is an economic forum for a group of Pacific Rim countries to discuss matters on regional economy, cooperation, trade and investment. Together, these countries represent about 60% of the world economy...".

Countries such as Malaysia originally opposed this grouping. (Mahatir basically wanted a SE Asian closed club instead. Reality bit him, but not so much Singapore and Lee Kwaun Yew hard in 1997, Australia not only rode out that storm unscathed, but helped bail out some of our not-quite-friends and suddenly silent sometime critics). APEC seems to me to be somewhat similar to the OECD, or even the G20, which Australia is also a member of.

Of interest? There are only 21million Aussies. We are the 13th largest world economy, and the Aussie dollar is the 5th highest traded currency in the world, Australia regularly ranks in the top 3 of the Human Development Index. (HDI - heres a LOT more info on that interesting measure).

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Aircraft Maintenance.

Qantas Engineers are upset. The airline has an excellent safety record, and they say overseas maintenance standards aren't necessarily up to theirs. However, there are union jobs in the mix here too, so this is worth looking through. The Aussie aircraft community sometimes gets accused of being pedantic on matters of airworthiness and safety. If that's what it takes to keep aircraft from falling out of the sky, then, my view is 'so be it', Good and fastidious maintenance comes at a price, in terms of the skill of the maintainers, and the wider 'network' that they are part of.

So when I heard about this today, I looked a little further;
"...Licensed aircraft engineers began a legal process today to allow them to ground Qantas aircraft that have been sent offshore for maintenance...."
"...Qantas engineers have found that the aircraft have returned from overseas checks in a condition that does not meet Australian airworthiness standards and our members will be grounding the aircraft until they are properly checked..."
Qantas have been 'outsourcing' some maintenance work. To places like Singapore, who bid for the work and do it cheaper than Australian LAMEs (Licenced Aircraft Maintenance Engineers). As I said, deep, fastidious maintenance and the skilled people who do it well don't come cheap. I have to admit that I have always felt comfortable and safe in Qantas aircraft - MOSTLY because of their maintenance and safety reputation. (I also feel better in a Boeing - but that's another story).
I do wish the Qantas LAMEs well, (remember the movie 'Rain Man' - "... The scene in the airport was cut by most airlines on their plane trips... except Qantas..").
More here and here.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Isn't she boo'ful?

Isn't she boo'ful?

Well, beauty can be in the eye of the beholder. But these lovely ladies can comfortably airlift troops, or an Abrams tank, or 60+ tonnes of humanitarian relief, anywhere they are needed in the world. They are C-17 Globemasters. Affectionately know in the RAAF as FJs - 'Fat Jets'.

The RAAF's first 2 have been delivered, 2 (and rumours of more) yet to be delivered. The only bad thing is we could use more of them. Trouble is that they run to A$250 million each, throw in a few engines and some spare tyres etc and the fleet the RAAF are getting will cost about $1.2 billion. It's all about Logistics.

"Amateurs talk Tactics, Professionals talk Logistics".

UPDATE 31Aug07: Absolutely Stunning pic of a C-17 here. (From and by Janne Laukkonen).

Iraq, the Surge, and 'Twenty Eight Articles'

It's interesting to note how far the MSM, the Main Stream Media, can lag behind the new media, the pajama journalists, the bloggers. I posted this 6 months ago in February (not original, I got it from the MilBlog community).

It seems some progress is being made in Iraq, and the Surge, and new tactics seem to be having some effect, according to this article in 'The Australian' this weekend.

And it seems David Kilcullens 'Twenty Eight Articles' is the new approach being used. He should know. They have their roots what he practiced with INTERFET in East Timor in 1999, that we used in Vietnam in Phoc Tuoy province, and that the British and Commonwealth used successfully in the Malayan Emergency.

The article in the Australian in part says;

"...After 40 years of struggling with the aid dependency trap we learned that you don't go in there and do it all for them. That builds corruption, it creates dependency and it weakens the people you're trying to help. It's much better to do it on a commercial basis, to give people jobs, don't give them aid."

Kilcullen says everywhere in Iraq and Afghanistan where the techniques have been applied, they have worked. He is confident that the counterinsurgency can stabilise Iraq but he is not confident that it can be done to fit in with a US electoral timetable.

"Throughout history there has never been a counterinsurgency that has succeeded in five years. Ten years is the norm. Difficult ones like Northern Ireland, that had a sectarian dimension, took 30 years."

Kilcullen believes there is a strong moral argument about Iraq that doesn't get talked about enough. "When people feel tired of the war and want to walk away, we have to remember we assumed a responsibility when we invaded Iraq and we can't leave until we can hand over to a stable sovereign government. These people's lives are in our hands now. It's important to realise Iraqis don't want us to leave. They are terrified we are going to leave. If we walk away it will be like Rwanda. And it won't be quick. It will play out on CNN over five years..."

I truly wish them godspeed. What I really can't understand is that we have groups in the West who want them to fail. What possible good could come of that, for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, for the world generally? The only thing that it would advance is their own political agenda.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A day for remembrance.

I believe it was US Admiral 'Bull' Halsey who said something to the effect that "There are no great men, only great challenges which ordinary men must meet".

Perhaps arguable, but if you or I were put in such a position, how would we cope? Some are challenged and find out.

Look at the photo at top left. An ordinary Aussie family? Husband, Wife, Children, Grandchildren. But that gentleman 2nd from the left at back faced one of those 'great challenges'. That's Bob Buick, and on 18 August 1966,he was the platoon Sgt of 11 platoon, D Company, the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. On the afternoon of that day, Bob was at the forefront of the most significant Australian action of the Vietnam War - the Battle of Long Tan. Bob had a lot of mates there with him, and we remember all of them too, but he is a symbolic figure in that story.

The first group of soldiers to encounter the enemy that day, half of 11 platoon were killed or wounded almost immediately - including the platoon OIC, 2Lt Sharp. Heavily outnumbered, they fought off mass attacks by VC and NVA soldiers, in a tropical downpour. What they did have was artillery support however, and that made a telling difference. I have seen a documentary on the battle, and audio recording of the radio traffic exist and were part of that documentary, especially between the artillery controller and HQ. Astounding stuff if you ever get a chance to hear it. Of the artillery support called for increasing from a few guns to a full regimental fire mission. Of Sgt Buick, almost out of ammunition and believing his position about to be over-run calling in artillery strikes on his own position. (They didn't, help was on the way by then).

Today is the anniversary of that battle. It has become Vietnam Veteran's Day.

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."

Lest We Forget.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Python(esque) humour.

I have to admit that a Pythonesque post on 'pumuckl's' blog sent me off on this tangent!

British Comedy is so much more subtle that the American variety, which is often slapstick style (Though movies like 'Porky's', 'Airplane' - AKA 'Flying High' are hilarious).

And the Pythons represent the genre so well (arguably are a genre of their own!).

There's probably the most famous - 'The Parrot Sketch'.

My personal favourite - 'The Four Yorkshiremen'.

And then there's the team 'taking the piss' out of we Aussies, in the 'Bruces' sketch. (All the more memorable because as a young trainee tech our appy course adopted the Philosophers song as our course song).

"Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable.

Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
Who could think you under the table.

David Hume could out-consume
Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, [some versions have 'Schopenhauer and Hegel']

And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as schloshed as Schlegel.

There's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach ya
'Bout the raising of the wrist.
Socrates, himself, was permanently pissed.

John Stuart Mill, of his own free will,
On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill.

Plato, they say, could stick it away--
Half a crate of whisky every day.

Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle.
Hobbes was fond of his dram,

And René Descartes was a drunken fart.
'I drink, therefore I am.'

Yes, Socrates, himself, is particularly missed,
A lovely little thinker,
But a bugger when he's pissed."

Life. Far too important to be taken too seriously!

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Federalism. Under threat?

Australia is a federation (of states). We have 3 tiers of government; local (shire and city councils), states and territories (6 + 2+, Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South and Western Australia, the Northern Territory, the ACT - Canberra, and some external territories - Christmas, Lord Howe, Norfolk Islands etc), and we have the biggest, most expansionist of the lot - the federal government.

So, having noted the federal government expanding into the areas that historically are the area of responsibility of the states, I take extra notice when I see this entry at Catallaxy - which is coverage of this piece;
Our PM Howard says; that Australian’s “don’t care about theories of governance” in the delivery of basic services, but rather are only interested in “good outcomes”. He goes on to claim that people don’t care about which level of government delivers services and that they in fact want more Commonwealth intervention.." (from the Catallaxy entry).
I take note of that assertion, and disagree.

"In all that people can do for themselves, government ought not to interfere".

"The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all in their separate and individual capacities".
Abraham Lincoln.

Those ideas strike a chord with me. Although some call me a neo-con, others a libertarian, I seek the practical centre (IMHO, both the far left and far right are as dangerous to individual freedom and human happiness as each other).

I disagree with Howard on this. I don't have a problem with differing tiers of government handling different responsibilities. (Though I do have a problem when there is duplication of services). If competition is good in the business marketplace, then why not also at the governmental level?
I believe people should do what they can for themselves (eg superannuation), be able to buy goods and services in the free marketplace at prices set competitively by market forces (or indeed form co-operatives if they so desire), and have government do what they can't do, or do so well for themselves (as Lincoln says "in their separate and individual capacities").

And governmental services should be handled at the lowest level possible - the federal level should not be doing what the states can do, nor should the states do what the local government tier can do - and they all should stay out of our affairs to the maximum extent possible.

Competition. If one local government area meddles too much, or charges too much in rates, then we have the right to point out the one 'just next door' does so much better than ours, (or vote in some who will do better), or, if necessary - move areas. Likewise the states. But if the federal sphere stuffs things up bigtime - what choice then - move to another country? (If both sides of the political process seem to have the same tendencies? Get really active - demonstrations and the like).

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Time for hobbies and interests?

I'm getting towards that part of life when maybe, just maybe, I can see the time coming when I may have a little more time and money to pursue some other interests. Daughter is now working (I think she has turned out pretty well - biased though I be!), and maybe things won't all be directed to mortgages, bills, and raising one's family - those of course have to be the major priority while you have those responsibilities. But, maybe, there might be some time in the sun around the corner.

So what to do. I remain interested in books and movies, (even have some screenplays partly written), shooting. There is the 'net, which I probably devote way too much time to. But I'd also like to get into some other things - like ham radio, old valve gear (like valve/tube radios and guitar amps), clocks (especially marine chronometers), planes and flying (love to build a small plane- a Flybaby or one of these). The list is seemingly endless. There are lots of old cars, of various marques I like, and I have a soft spot for Ducatis (thought haven't owned a bike for years).

Ah, the possiblities. Decisions, decisions.

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Found another great blog.

Found another great blog (via C's blog) - Worldman. He and pumuckl are both Swiss.

I confess to having a soft spot for the Swiss. Their political system as it has evolved being the major point of interest. That and the observation that they have very little in the way of natural resources or advantages going for them, yet have one of the highest standards of living, quality of life, and most free political systems in the world. All while surrounded by potential invaders, and a less than benign climate and environment.

"Of all the neutrals, Switzerland has the greatest right to distinction....She has been a democratic State, standing for freedom in self-defence among her mountains, and in thought, in spite of race, largely on our side." Winton Churchill, 1944.

Machiavelli observed the Swiss are 'most armed and most free' thanks to their militia system.

All in all, a model to study, critically, and to learn from.

First of August (just gone) is their national day - something like Australia Day for us, or July the 4th for the Americans.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Welcome back 'Diplomad'!

After a long absence, 'Diplomad' is back (MIA for just over a year).

I like the blog for a number of reasons - not just because they say nice things about Oz - and the area I have a little to do with, (though I can't claim any credit for what these folk achieved) - but because they clearly have inside valid, 'from the coalface' news to share with us.

I kept them on my blogroll, hoping they'd return, but even if they didn't, the historical posts were interesting anyway.

Looking forward to more knowledgeble posts.

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