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Random Rants 11

September 30, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

There’s just so much crap going on in the world at the moment that I think a “random rants” post is called for. I know that’s hard to believe (because as you know I’m not really predisposed to excessive ranting), but this is the 11th in the series so far!

So let’s get started with a local issue, New Zealand’s biggest company, Fonterra, and its inept management…

What has been the most high visibility business/economic disaster of the year here in New Zealand? Probably Fonterra’s mis-handling of milk exports. So what is the natural response of “the system” to this? To pay the CEO an extra $750,000 dollars, bringing his total salary to almost $5 million.

Yeah it’s a great system, isn’t it. The company makes one mistake after another, pays an excessive number of managers huge salaries for unspecified results, fails to manage exports in a reasonable way, lays off 750 employees, pays farmers at a rate they can barely survive on, and the CEO gets a nice, big, fat bonus. Welcome to the wonderful corporate world. Remind me why we want to be involved with this nonsense again?

It seems to me that the people at the top can do whatever they like and rarely suffer the consequences of failure. All of Theo Spierings’ assets should be confiscated and he should be sent back to wherever he came from (yeah, I’m not really serious about that, because I know that’s an excessive and unrealistic response but there needs to be some consequences for these people – also, I know where he came from).

On to a completely different subject now, the death of hundreds of pilgrims recently in Saudi Arabia during the Hajj…

I’m not going to try to tell people that they shouldn’t be participating in traditional rituals, celebrations, and events, because, whether they make any sense or not, these are intriguing cultural practices and make the world more interesting. But it can be a problem when people take these things too seriously and unnecessary problems result.

It’s also very interesting from a symbolic perspective when hundreds of people die (both at the devil stoning ritual itself and prior to the Hajj when a construction crane collapsed) at a pilgrimage. Does this mean that god isn’t looking after them? Maybe the devil didn’t like them symbolically stoning him and fought back?

I’ve never heard anyone offer a theological discussion of this sort of disaster, regarding whether god could be expected to intervene in these circumstances, or whether it is potentially some sort of divine punishment. It has happened with every major religion of course so this shouldn’t be seen as simply a cheap shot at Islam.

So on to rant number 3, the CYF fiasco…

New Zealand’s government agency responsible for the care of children is so dysfunctional that even Fonterra looks good in comparison. After years of continuous reviews and restructurings it is now almost completely useless and in many ways we would be better off if it didn’t exist at all.

This is not the fault of the social workers at CYF, nor of the basic idea of having a government social agency. It is simply grossly incompetent management and totally inept political bungling time after time turning the place into a bureaucratic nightmare.

I have heard various figures about the ratio of actual work done in comparison to filling in forms, reports, and other administrivia. One figure was that only 25% of social workers actually deal with kids, and another was that only 15% of their time at work is spent doing their primary task of helping those most at risk.

These numbers seem ludicrous, even for the most bureaucratic organisation, but they have come from several sources and no one has denied them. There’s really only one solution here: fire all the managers and completely reorganise the place based on the recommendations of the actual workers who know what needs to happen.

Finally rant number 4, politicians messing with science…

I’m not so nerdy that I think science is perfect, or that it is the only thing that matters, or anything else like that. But I do think science is important and that we should be very careful about how we treat it. Science isn’t just another business and scientists are motivated quite differently from business people. Also what they do can’t be forced into a traditional commercial model.

So what does the current government think it’s doing? Why does Stephen Joyce – a person with an educational background in science (he has a BSc in zoology) – not understand what is happening in the country is just wrong? The fact that his portfolio is “Science and Innovation” should be a warning sign in itself. Innovation sounds great in principle but in reality innovators are rarely innovative.

Innovation in business generally involves exploiting science and technology breakthroughs for short term gain. It’s never genuinely innovative because real innovation requires long term study, often with no commercial objective in sight, and with no short term funding pressures.

It might seem unfair to some people that science isn’t subject to the same “market pressures” as business but if you want the benefits of science (and everyone does whether they are prepared to admit it or not) then that’s just the price that you have to pay.

I say that the latest attack on science: the loss of 90 skilled scientists and technicians from AgResearch, is just unacceptable whatever the circumstances. All of these people were doing useful research and the fact that funding for their work can’t be forced into the new commercial model is completely irrelevant. We need to continue the funding of basic science even when the “industry” funders aren’t interested. In fact that is exactly the type of research we need more of.

So those are my rants. The theme in 3 out of 4 is a common one: that inept management and corrupt commercial models are making a mess of our society. We have to rid ourselves of this parasitic management class we are encumbered with. They are the cause of most of the problems and their efforts at fixing those obvious problems just make things worse. As far as the third issue – disasters at religious rituals – is concerned, I just find that theologically interesting. That is all.

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