ALS Topic 33 - You can't fool all of the people all of the time

Focus questions for Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar, 27 April 2019
Venue: · Adelaide
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Note: About Focus Questions: a) Please read them before you come to the meetup. Think about them so you have more than "instant opinions" to offer. b) Feel free to add more focus questions. c) THE FOCUS QUESTIONS ARE JUST A MENU TO CHOOSE FROM. From this menu we can discuss whatever seems interesting. d) Focus questions are not intended to push one viewpoint! You can adopt any position you wish. We actually like friendly disagreement - it can lead to deeper understanding.

Focus Questions


NOTE: An Australian Federal Election will occur on May 18, 2019, so this discussion is very topical. Although I am frank about my own preferences, this meetup is not intended to be partisan. All views are welcome.


1. PEOPLE GET THE LEADERS THEY DESERVE. TRUE OR FALSE? How do different political systems deal with this issue? How about the Australian case?

2. A SUCCESSFUL LEADER FOOLS ENOUGH OF THE PEOPLE SOME OF THE TIME. TRUE OR FALSE? Well, firstly what is a successful leader (and for whom)?

3. WHAT SHOULD YOU VOTE FOR? WHAT DO YOU VOTE FOR? Are your concerns only local, or national, or global? How do you balance this? Or do you simply vote for personalities?

4. IS LEADERSHIP COMPETENCE MORE IMPORTANT THAN POLICY, OR VICE VERSA? Does your opinion about this matter in the end?

5. THE MOST COMMON FORM OF GOVERNMENT IN THE WORLD IS KLEPTOCRACY. Kleptopcracy is a kind of political parasite plant which always throttles its host. Is it more endemic in democracies or oligarchies or dictatorships? How can it be kept under control?

6. ALL GOVERNMENTS AND ALL LARGE ORGANIZATIONS ARE PARTLY CRIMINAL ENTERPRISES BECAUSE THEY ARE RUN BY PEOPLE - and in every population a percentage are criminals. What do you think of this proposition? What is criminal? How can the balance of good Vs bad be at least biased towards the common good?

7. IS COMPULSORY VOTING A GOOD IDEA WHEN ALWAYS THE MAJORITY OF VOTERS HAVE VERY LITTLE IDEA OF WHO OR WHAT THEY ARE REALLY VOTING FOR? (Note that the worldwide evidence seems to be that compulsory voting drives politicians to appeal to the centre, while voluntary voting tends to drive politicians to appeal only to core supporters (more extreme) and attempt to disenfranchise those whose votes they will never win).

8. THE MOTIVES OF INDIVIDUAL POLITICIANS ARE OFTEN MIXED (AS IN ALL OF US). A frequent pattern is for them to start out as movers & shakers for the common good, then go feral as they accumulate power. What are the signs of decay, and what can be done about it? Australian examples? [Turkey's President Erdogan is a casebook example. He started out as maybe the best mayor Istanbul ever had, and has become an intolerant dictator. His quote: "Democracy is like a tram. You ride it to its destination, then get off"]

9. MOST POLITICAL PARTIES OR MOVEMENTS ESPOUSE SOME IDEOLOGY. What is the political function of an ideology? There is at least an argument that ideologies, like religions, are an opiate for the masses. The kleptocrats/elites from every kind of ideological base all wind up together in the same 5 star hotels ... So is skepticism about ideologies justified, or are they indispensable?

10. WHAT FORM DOES POLITICAL CORRUPTION TAKE IN AUSTRALIA? What can be done about it (and is there a will)? Every country has corruption. It just takes different forms with the same personality types.. Is there any argument for allowing a certain amount of corruption?

11. SO YOU HAVE JUST BEEN ELECTED PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA. Where do you want to take the country? What do you think you have some chance of achieving?




Comments & Extra Reading

Thor May (2014) "What will be the dominant ideologies of the 21st Century?" The Passionate Skeptic website @  [Quote: "The 20 th Century revolved politically around competing interpretations of Capitalism, Communism, Socialism and Fascism. These are all ways to organize the lives of people on a large scale. Are real alternatives or new interpretations likely to emerge in the challenging years ahead? What might they look like?"]

=> This paper has had 20480 views at its location (
_ideologies_of_the_21st_Century  ). Here is a recommendation from Lorna Collins, University of Cambridge, Alumna, August 9, 2015 : "A vital and timely analysis of the ideologies of our time. The implications of this study are political, economic, social and cultural; by examining different political practices in conflictive regimes across the world, the author demonstrates a common thread, which is the need 'to organise the lives of people on a large scale'. The exploration of other possibilities for power, other than capitalism, communism, socialism, and fascism, provides crucial and needed data."

Thor May (2016) "Politics and Politicians : a volatile mix?" The Passionate Skeptic website @  [Quote: " Politics is like medicine: sometimes useful, even necessary, in small amounts, but fatal if taken in an overdose. Politicians can be a useful species but are prone to going feral. Democracies often elect either mediocrities or confidence tricksters because large numbers of electors share similar qualities. In practical terms, is there a better way to manage national affairs? ]

Richard Grant (24 May 2004) "Less tax or more social spending: twenty years of opinion polling? - 20 years of polling." Australian Parliament @

Joe Perticone (April 10, 2019) "The House passed a bill banning the government from creating 'free' tax preparation software like TurboTax, forever". Business Insider @  [Thor, comment: Tax industry lobbyists are major contributors to congressmen. You could reasonably say that the US Congress is an enemy of the American people much of the time. Congress had a public approval rating of approximately 26% of all voters in 2018. This is close to the long term average].

Umair Haque (March 26 2018) "Why Capitalism is Obsolete - And Why Humanity’s Future Depends on What’s Next". Eudaimonia website @  [Quote: "The great challenges of the future  ... aren’t like those of the past. They are more complex, demanding, constrained, risky, and, perhaps most crucially of all, they are more risky. The world’s future depends on getting them right. The stakes are infinitely higher. If we get them wrong, we perish — whether through war, extinction, self-destruction, folly, thirst, famine. If we get them right — then and only then do we go on. Capitalism can’t process, manage, compute, respond to any of that."]

William Pesek (19 April 2019) "Reform or face revolution, fund boss warns - Ray Dalio says wealth inequality has reached crisis levels in the US, like Li Ka-shing [Hong Kong billionaire], who in 2014 said corporations should be taxed more". Asia Times @

Umair Haque (September 15, 2017) "The Story - Life, the World, Now, You, and Me". Eudaimonia website @  [Quote: "It’s a head-spinning, anxiety-inducing time. It’s even scarier to admit it, so let’s do it together. Climate change. Stagnation. Inequality. Extremism. They feel different, more threatening. Bigger and badder than yesterday’s problems. They are. These are Massive Existential Problems. To societies, cities, democracy. To you and I and our kids. To the entire planet. Why are they all happening at once? How are we to solve them? Can we? If we don’t, problems only create more problems."]

Federal Election Winning Party - - Odds at 15 April 2019 (election 18 May 2019) : For a $1 bet you will be paid if one of these parties win: Labor $1.18 / Liberal-National Coalition 3.5 / Australian Conservatives 101 / One Nation 151 / Greens 201 / Pauline Hansons One Nation 251 / United Australia Party 401 / Centre Alliance 501 / - Oddschecker website @

Kate Lamb (15 April 2019) "Indonesia: 193m people, 17,000 islands, one big election. Here's what you need to know. Vote on 17 April is world’s biggest direct presidential election with more than 800,000 polling stations set up". The Guardian @  [Thor, comment: This is Australia's neighbour with a compounding GDP growth rate of around 5% a year - Australia's is 2.9%. How many Australians have a clue about this huge country?]

Also see: David Fettling (6 April 2019) "Indonesia's golput movement exposes Australian stereotypes of our nearest neighbour". ABC @

Peter Hartcher (April 23, 2019) "Why Indonesia rejected the path of strong-man politics" Brisbane Times @  [Thor, comment: There are terrifying social forces at work in Indonesia posing a grave long term risk to Australia. With the just completed Indonesian election we have luckily missed a bullet, this time]

Rebecca Wright, CNN (April 9, 2019) "Is the sultan of Brunei imposing Sharia law to clean up his family's image?" CNN @  [Thor May, comment: Kleptocracy (government by theft) on a grand scale. No matter the ideology or religion printed on their calling cards, no matter how small or how big the country, their code of theft is the same. They all stay in the same five star hotels]

Dima Vorobiev, Former Soviet propaganda executive (Oct 18 2018) "What is the Russian oligarchy?". @  [Thor, comment: This posting explains the second, non-public front of government in Russia, which in turn is the vehicle for the third (and concealed) level: kleptocracy. Russia is not unique. Each country has its own version of levels one and two. My comment is not meant to be cynical. It is merely a factual account of how things work, and have always worked].

Sandeep A Ashar (April 16, 2019) "Prithviraj Chavan: ‘Difficult for us to continue as Congress if Modi is PM again’" Indian Express @ Prithviraj Chavan: ‘Difficult for us to continue as Congress if Modi is PM again’ [Thor, comment: India is on the cusp of a national election. This is a phenomenally complex collection of electorates and languages - the world's most complicated by a wide margin. As a politician how could you possibly satisfy such diverse aspirations? And yet the election happens, more or less democratically. The overall economy is growing at around 6.6% of GDP annually. The interview subject in this article is an ex chief minister and, of course, partisan. However, he does give some insight into the political dimensions. .. And India is playing a growing part in Australia's own geopolitical calculations. We need to understand what is happening there, just as we need to understand China.]

Thor May (8 July 2013) "The Democracy Problem". The Passionate Skeptic website @  [Quote: "Emerging from a brutal prison settlement in the 19th Century, where people were routinely abused, whipped, and hung to death, Australia was one of the first modern states to achieve universal voting for all men and women. Something like civilized life followed. Adult Australians now are all required to vote. This is very recent, as history goes, yet for those who know little history, Australia’s prison camp origin is the stuff of TV specials and could never happen to “us” nowadays. Really? ..When people vote in an Australian election, they typically do not see themselves as voting to accept the rule of law. They take that for granted. In those nations where force rules and choice is not an option, people usually understand very well that the impartial rule of law has been lost, if it ever existed. Australians have the luxury, for now, of voting for secondary matters, such as the personality of leaders, and some random policies (according to their interests) which are usually poorly understood."

Encyclopaedia Britannica (n.d.) "The History of Australia". E. Britannica @  [This article discusses the history of Australia from the arrival of European explorers in the 16th century to the present, including its political institutions. The first legislative parliament was established in NSW in 1842. South Australia was the first to offer women a vote in 1894. The states federated into the Australian nation in 1901. ... if you are vague about where Australia has come from (and hence where it might be going), this is a very professional summary to read.]

Joseph Wang, (March 1, 2019) "Is China more of a meritocracy than the US now?" Quora @  [Quote: "No. I’d say its about the same. Also, people that talk about meritocracy should read Michael Young’s book that invented the term (;  )… His point was that *meritocracies are bad things that will lead to social instability*. The point is that social hierarchy, even those that are based on merit will create a ruling class that will lose touch with the masses].

Fergus Hunter (April 18, 2019) "'Scare campaigns' and 'propaganda': Why a fed-up Bill Shorten has turned on News Corp" Brisbane Times @  [Thor, comment: This article has attracted 1558 comments. It is hard to know how many of those come from some Australian equivalent of what in China they call "The Five Cent Party" - paid propaganda commenters to promote one viewpoint. Nevertheless it is pretty clear about online comments in general that they come cheap without thought or reliable argument. That is true of course of pub chatter the world over. My five cents worth: from direct personal knowledge (I briefly worked for Murdoch once) I know that News Ltd in Australia, UK and USA (Fox News) has been an agent and toy for Rupert Murdoch's conservative political whims. The journalism is not objective. The Australian Labor Party leader, Bill Shorten, has decided to challenge that influence. ]

Peter Hartcher (April 20, 2019) "A climate reckoning is coming to our political hothouse" Brisbane Times @  [Thor, comment: This is a dissection of the present Australian Government's lack of an effective energy policy and the high price that incompetence is extracting. It is both a commercial and a political price]

Mike Seccombe (April 20 – 26, 2019) "Inside the GetUp! election machine - The progressive group is gearing up to spend its $12.7 million war chest on unseating six key members of the Coalition’s hard right and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg" [reference: Australian Federal Election, May 18 2019]. The Saturday Paper @  [You are allowed to read 1 free article per week in The Saturday Paper]

Francesco Sisci (21 February 2019) "The impossible coup against Xi Jinping" Settimana News @  [ Quote: "There is no official statement, but a persisting rumor circulating in Beijing avers that President Xi Jinping in the past six years was the target of a score of assassination attempts. In China and abroad, some claim that his rule, too authoritarian and going against the interests of many in the present bureaucracy, should be toppled. Others contend that the Communist Party should stop ruling Beijing altogether, and many propose that China is just too big to be one and perhaps it should be divided into a dozen or so smaller republics. The latter hypothesis seems far-fetched. In the past 70 years, the communist state proved its resilience and knack for adaptation and a revolution looks still far away.. "]

Jim Watersonand Dan Sabbagh (Tue 23 Apr 2019) "Facebook ads by Lynton Crosby's firm 'part of push for hard Brexit' - A network of secretive pro-Brexit Facebook campaigns overseen by Sir Lynton Crosby’s company CTF Partners was part of a wider campaign to undermine Theresa May and push Britain towards a hard Brexit, according to individuals with knowledge of the company’s operations and internal documents". The Guardian @  [Thor, comment: Consultancy companies & individuals running covert influence campaigns now often work worldwide as guns for hire. Crosby is an Australian, knighted by the British Conservatives for helping bring them to power. Now his company is a force working to fragment Europe politically (a Russian objective). Paul Manafort, now jailed, Trump's former campaign manager, made a mint promoting Russian political interests in Ukrainian politics ... Covert influence through apparently harmless Facebook posts etc. tends to affect people who don't see themselves in politics but who nevertheless vote. ]

Nino Bucci (23 April 2019) "Five Australians free to return after fighting in Ukraine far-right 'finishing school' alongside Russian nationalist militia" Australian Broadcasting Commission @  [Thor, comment: The nexus between politics and violence is always confused. Many individuals are not interested in governance - say, getting the trains to run on time - but are drawn to violence. Some of these characters are non-state actors. Some went to fight for ISIS in Syria in the name of religion. Some will fight in murky conflicts in the name of white supremacy, as with the guys in this story. Some will blow up churches in Sri Lanka. Some are lone wolves. The issue is not new. Wannabe violent Nazi extremists were in every country before World War II. The ideology or religion doesn't matter. They all have the same psychological problem].

Julian Borger (Tue 23 Apr 2019) "US threatens to veto UN resolution on rape as weapon of war, officials say" The Guardian @  [Thor, comment: Are we civilized? You have to wonder what the word means to the state actors enabling atrocity .. ]

Judith Ireland (April 22, 2019) "One in two voters don't understand how to vote for the Senate: poll". Brisbane Times @

The Guardian (23 Apr 2019) "'They think they are above the law': the firms that own America's voting system - In the US, democracy is conducted by a few private companies that have little oversight and keep information secret. America’s new voting machines bring new fears of election tampering". The Guardian @  . [Thor comment: The United States of America is not a full democracy. Even Wikipedia lists the place among those countries that are only "partial democracies". There is no independent electoral commission. Electorates are gerrymandered wholesale, state by state (i.e. electoral boundaries moved by state governors for political advantage), a large part of the population is disenfranchised, or has voting made extremely difficult. This abuse is encouraged by having only voluntary voting. And in this story we see that the electronic voting machines are wide open to fraud. Any real challenge is subject to a swamp of legal trickery, as we see with Trump. So we are supposed to respect the United States?]

Catherine Hanrahan (24 April 2019) "Political parties and their voters don't always see eye to eye on immigration, Vote Compass finds - Overall, [Australian] voters are approximately evenly split on the question of how many immigrants Australia should accept — about one-third say more, one-third say fewer and another third say the intake is about right where it is now." ABC News @

Freddie Lecoy - Another great contribution to Australia's population, economy and social fabric.

=> Thor May - That's a good article Freddie. I agree that Australia's tertiary education standards have been corrupted by universities and TAFEs becoming "an export industry". In fact they are corrupted in many ways - a worldwide phenomenon documented in 20 case studies in my PhD dissertation. The migration part of it is a tricky problem. Notionally at least, tertiary students because of their age, and hopefully their brains, should be good candidates for immigration long term, even if they don't have immediate skills. Immigration itself is a dilemma. Without immigration and the service needs it drives, Australia's real economy (the bit that's not just digging stuff out of the ground) would have tanked long ago and this place would be a moribund backwater at severe risk of takeover by invasion. But immigration is also a sort of pyramid scheme. What happens when the music stops?

Michael Workman, Ariel Bogle and Elise Worthington (25 April 2019) "The app that helped Donald Trump win is targeting Australian voters in 2019 election - The right-leaning Australian Taxpayers Alliance (ATA), which describes itself as a non-partisan grassroots activist group, formally launched its app featuring the "Stop Shorten" slogan this week. ... Near identical versions of the app are also used by the Australian Conservatives and the Australian Christian Lobby, while anti-gay marriage group Marriage Alliance rolled out the tool during the marriage equality plebiscite". ABC News @

Maryanne Slattery (25 April 2019) "Murray-Darling Basin - Barnaby Joyce and Watergate: the water buybacks scandal explained - Here we explain everything from overland flows to water buybacks and why they’re gripping the nation’s politics" The Guardian @  . [Thor, comment: Corruption takes different forms in different cultures. In Australia it typically has a veneer of legality, but is equally devastating, in this case to the environment and country people. The Australian population is overwhelmingly urban, usually with little interest or knowledge of rural or mining matters which are easily exploited by the ruthless. The present Liberal-National coalition government is a partnership of big business city interests (Liberal) and rural business interests (National). Joyce, recently fired as deputy Prime Minister and still demanding to be reinstated, is exposed in this story as facilitating the destruction of Australia's only major river system through corrupt legal trickery].

ian beutler - omg. yr a one-man think-tank, Thor. - couldnt be described as "a patriot" on that account, although u probly believe u are..! (i'm sure u've been called all names, like i have.) -wht a pot pourri! b.t.w. i think "joyce" is typical of our top scum!

Thor - a general comment on political processes: Political selection as we see it internationally, and too often in Australia, is usually not about finding the best people to do the job of effective governance. Although every country has an abundance of capable, well-intentioned people, real political selection is mostly about gang warfare. It is about street fighting, and boardroom fighting, and backroom fighting using every weapon which comes to hand. So it should be no surprise that a big proportion of world leaders and their sidekicks are either criminals or in hock to criminals. If a good guy/gal happens to get to the top of a greasy pole in some world capital, the first thing he/she has to face up to at home, and in those nice world 'summits', is that it will be necessary to consort with and appear to enjoy the company of murderers, thieves, black-mailers and gangsters in suits. That's the way of the world; it has always been thus, regardless of ideologies and religions and political systems. It takes a special kind of quality to survive in this muck and still come through with some decent achievements which benefit large numbers of people.

Thor's own websites:

1. articles at ;

2. legacy site: .


Viral Ideas, Viral Emotions, Psychological & Social Contagion (c) Thor May 2019 return to Ddiscussion