Friday, 19 January 2018

Donald Trump’s Ascendancy in 2016

In an unattractive way, Donald Trump is brilliant. He may not have been an accomplished politician on his journey to Presidency however broadly speaking, he was consummately accomplished as an individual who entered the Presidential contest, though not as a career politician. Yet despite this and, a privileged personal history, he quite remarkably identified and zeroed in upon the discontent in middle America and I would suggest by accident, how to get around the 240-electoral vote “Blue wall” that ran from Wisconsin to North Carolina. Metaphorically speaking, a barrier that has successfully encased a Democrat vote for the past six elections. Consider, we had well over a dozen talented and more experienced candidates within the Republican camp and yet slowly, Trump lay them all to waste. This was no indolent process it was more dynamic. Over a year-long primary race they, and his Democrat rival in Hillary Clinton, could not match Trump’s better instincts about what troubled so many an American voter, the forgotten middle. It matters little that Trump’s modus operandi was ugly and most certainly cynical, it soon harboured its own momentum and, as the November 2016 election drew closer, it seeped into Trump and his camp, as if by osmosis, that they were gaining the upper hand. Incidentally, from their lofty LA, New York and Washington pads, this was entirely missed by mainstream media. Thus, a very rich Manhattan resident felt the public angst more comprehensively than vanilla media, Hillary Clinton, President Obama, not to mention a talented pool of Republican wannabe’s, and in populist fashion, he courted them, made them feel good, he won them over, he became President. In terms of extent, Russia's influence on the election result is an unknown factor and though still under investigation I suspect it was noteworthy but I am willing to bet that Trump would have achieved the feat anyway.

Quite nearly all politicians have a streak of anti-elitist tendencies, Donald Trump was by far the superior populist in 2016. I viewed his campaign as both crude and different yet effective because he chose to focus on three significant ideological issues of our epoch, illegal immigration, employment and trade and political correctness. Locally, he also pressed a hot button by questioning America's overseas interventions.

The full post coming soon ... 

© 2017 Ottavio Marasco. All rights reserved.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

When Human Resources is anything but …

It is sobering when one happens to come across an internal job advertisement for a desired position and, upon applying receives a more than positive reception from his immediate management team but, for reasons too long winded and tedious to run through here, he is overlooked when, on the surface, he was unquestionably qualified.  

Selection criteria addressed near perfectly, he was told so. Resume content that almost perfectly met experience sought and nothing, not even a look in. No interview, omitted in the first round for seemingly no logical reason.

Feedback is sought through the correct channels and it comes back giving little solace in the face of humiliation and poor treatment. The thrust of the argument for which he was unsuccessful? “…. we were looking for someone with management experience”, the words struck hard. In fact, this was all that was said; it were as if they were talking about someone else.

Was there not sufficient management experience presented on the CV? Everyone thought so.

After some thought, he deliberates on whether to address the apparent decider/s, but then, in a fleeting instant he asked himself  some pertinent questions.

Why? To what end? Answers were not easy to come by and that, in and of itself suddenly meant, let it go.

Below is the email he quite nearly sent to HR or, as it's labeled in his organisation, People and Performance ...
Dear Xxxxx…

In relation to the recently advertised position Xxxx for which I was an unsuccessful applicant. 

I have had ample time to reflect upon comments you made to me over the phone after requesting feedback from your office. 

Truth be written, your very brief remarks, which summed up your main argument, that the company was looking for, “someone with management experience” though entirely understandable, left me perplexed and logically raised several pertinent questions.
  1. That my resume was not read for it was littered with management experience and/or
  2. The company had very specific selection criteria for the position that, intentionally or inadvertently or otherwise expediently, went unmentioned in the job advertisement and/or
  3. That the company, be it your area or, my business unit or perhaps both business units colluding, regarded me a fool of sorts and/or 
  4. That Human Resources locally termed, “People and Performance” is incompetent in terms of, the talent acquisition function. 
If by chance, it is neither of the four points, then the real reason has not been brought to light, which raises even more concern. There is something else worthy of mention, that perhap my CV was indeed read, but simply because of your vocal reasoning that, “…. we were looking for someone with management experience” suggests that the company has inadvertently referred to me out as a liar, hence my resume content was deemed untruthful. 
Please note, all points raised in this communiqué have nothing to do with the position itself for I have no further interest, it is history. 

My concern rests entirely with the way I feel I have been treated and with your feedback, a response that incidentally, I requested in person via email, not over the phone. I was doing the job for which I am employed when I took your call, which is contrary to operational policy, accordingly, I was somewhat hamstrung in terms of an effective response.

Now, with hindsight at my disposal I view your reasoning for my failure to secure an interview as, poor at best. A reasoning that has since elicited more than the usual number of discussions amongst work colleagues but more so, my external business networks and, in all instances raised more questions than it answers. I can still hear it, “looking for someone with management experience”? Honestly, I find this remark astonishing given the written content of the advertisement, my cover letter and the accompanying resume.

Needless to add, my belief in your office, the HR function, P&P whatever, together with “human elements” of the business unit for which I am employed, have been dealt a blow. 

I seek no redress for this communication, my goal merely being to communicate my thoughts on the matter in the hope that you may come to understand that I am no jester.

It was poor form, it did not go unnoticed. 

Yours Sincerely,

Saturday, 15 April 2017

The inescapable truth about dying

Is it one’s age, a recently read book, perhaps the passing of someone close, or a health scare. Since we are all on our own unique journey in life, it’s remains idiosyncratic how suddenly, something triggers thoughts associated with humanity and death hence, mortality. For some, such thoughts strike as if an epiphany of sorts as they get past the age of fifty or later, which is, I believe infantile, given that death, in one form or another, has always been around us, not just in the news but in family.

Personally, the thought of dying, while not uppermost in my mind, does present more often of late, this seems natural and probably due to my age. I felt silly when recently, upon thinking about the possibility of living to a ripe old age of 85 it occurred to me that, being nearly 56, I have completed almost 66% of my stint on this mortal plane. How egocentric on my part to even expect that I reach a minimum chosen age, any age past my present one for that matter. Who am I to dictate how old I must or, even hope to be upon dying, save for having an accident.

Mishaps aside, it occurs to me that there are two broad stages to dying or end of life process. The first stage begins the moment we are born, human life is finite even in the absence of disease, 80, 90, 100 years? It’s pure conjecture and depends on a host of lifestyle factors. The second stage represents society’s accepted characterization whereby a person is diagnosed with an illness and, following a period of unsuccessful treatments the term ‘terminal’ suddenly and chillingly enters the vocabulary. This stage may represent days, months or years.

Call me juvenile but it’s both these stages that from time to time, mess with my mind. My late father was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer at age 64 and died around 22 months later. That was in 2005 or 11 years ago, I was 45, fast forward to my current age and it suddenly occurs to me that if I only live to my father’s age I have around 10 years left. In sum, ill health when coupled with the finite nature of life, combine to give rise to my ruminations about impermanence in the context of being around those I love and in turn, love me.

The inevitable truth about dying is that it’s happening right now to you and me in some form or another, it is indolent but nonetheless occurring, and quantifiably so. The latter needs no scientific apparatus to validate, I only need look at old photographs for visual verification, or take note of the more frequent aches and pains that present.

Socrates suggested that death is really “a change or a migration of the soul from one place to another”, Mother Teresa would add, “but going home to God’, both of which are comforting. As the inevitable draws closer, it is becoming wholly apparent that living fully and embracing it all, the highs and lows, the exultations and the blows, is of fundamental importance to a life well lived regardless of time limitations. This may give us more than a clue to what Mark Twain meant when he said, “The fear of death follows from the fear of life … A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time”.

As an emotive being, I must confess that it is the aforesaid term, “finite” that every so often unsettles me. We’re all limited, we have a predictable and determinate lifespan in linear years that, in the grand scheme of things, represents no more than a miniscule fraction of time past, present and future. And there lies another juvenile conundrum, who am I to question what is unalterable, what has been set by a power greater than the sum of all of us. I have reservations about my finite existence, really, I moot in silent reflection, how laughable in view of its antonym, which just so happens to be, infinite. If my existence is not finite then it must be infinite, God must be laughing too.

As I considered my closing lines to this piece, I find myself intuitively taking solace in the knowledge that many of us do not deliberate on such foreboding thoughts until it they must, until something happens, until dying is thrust upon them, death and all its connotations not merely strikes close to, but nearly always pierces the heart, but then it’s oh so late.

I must live fully now, in all my present moments, it’s my raison d'etre and perhaps yours, Sapientia et Doctrina.

© 2017 Ottavio Marasco. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Food and more in the 1950's

In the 1950's did you know?

In the grand scheme of things it was not that long ago and yet...

Pasta was not eaten in Australia.
Curry was a surname.
A pizza was something to do with a leaning tower.
All potato crisps were plain; the only choice we had was whether to put the salt on or not.
Rice was only eaten cooked in milk, as a pudding.
Calamari was called squid and we used it as fish bait.
A Big Mac was what we wore when it was raining.
Brown bread was something only poor people ate.
Oil was for lubricating, fat was for cooking.
Tea was made in a teapot using tea leaves. These were never green.
Sugar enjoyed good press in those days, and was regarded as being white gold. Cubed sugar was regarded as posh.
Eating raw fish was called poverty, not sushi.
None of us had ever heard of yoghurt.
Healthy food consisted of anything edible.
People who didn’t peel potatoes were regarded as lazy.
Indian restaurants were only found in India.
Cooking outside was called camping.
Seaweed was not a recognised food.
“Kebab” was not even a word, never mind a food.
Prunes were medicinal.
Muesli was readily available; back then it was called cattle feed.
Water came out of the tap. If someone had suggested bottling it and charging more than petrol for it, they would have become a laughing stock!
But the two things that people never, ever had on their kitchen table in the fifties were? Elbows or phones....

Monday, 17 October 2016

Donald Trump and Foreign Policy

I could vote for Donald Trump and I shall consider a future post to validate my reason for this, but whenever I consider the role America plays in the world, I am predisposed to view it through the prism of foreign affairs; such is the importance I place on world and international order. Those familiar with my past though still active blog, American Interests, will recall its central premise:
“ … for all intents and purposes, present “World Order” is stable and predictable in part due to the economic, technological, military and diplomatic superpower that is, The United States. Amongst the masses, it seems largely unacknowledged that it is in the world's greatest interests that the U.S. continues to exact its present worldly economic, political, cultural and military influence, one that extends to leadership in scientific and technological research and the production of innovative technological products. Our democratic way of life, our economies and our national security, are irrevocably tied to a secure world order - an order to which present-day United States, even with its notable imperfections, is at the heart, as the pre-eminent driver of internationalism … America must remain strong.” 
From the same source see also: Like it or not, we still need America

Accordingly, I have concerns about Donald Trump but not for the common rationale associated with misogynist antics – not that I condone the latter.

Trump has made it known that he would re-negotiate the U.S. alliance with Japan, South Korea and NATO – he has not specifically named my homeland Australia, but is on the record that the U.S. has no interest in being in Asia militarily. A Trump victory would see existing U.S. allies have to plan for a withdrawal of security guarantees that have stood the test of modern time and even markets would react adversely at the prospect on protectionism policies. Many Americans, and this group includes Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters, would welcome an isolationist America with significantly reduced military and economic engagement but they do not grasp the consequences of their desire.

Going back to Donald Trump, he describes “Opposition to America’s alliance arrangements, opposition to free trade, and support for authoritarianism, particularly in Russia as his, “three core beliefs’.

We know America cannot solve all the problems of the globe, but Trump completely rejects that his country should be the world’s police officer, indeed Obama has a similar viewpoint but the former goes much further by suggesting that the U.S. does not even need to be involved in enforcing international law and order in its present definition. Trump has also questioned nuclear non-proliferation, mutual self-defence treaties and overseas military bases. Trump’s view cannot be further from Clinton’s who remains committed to the current system who recently said:
“are we going to lead the world with strength and in accordance with our values … I intend to be a leader … both here and around the world, to make decisions that will further peace … stand up to bullies” (Russia), “whether they’re abroad or at home”. 
As for Clinton, those hoping for a continuation of the existing Obama order will be disappointed.

Obama has demonstrated a degree of Trump like isolationism, through lukewarm responses to regional issues which have left a security vacuum, and when that happens the “bad guys” are always there to fill the void. While America stuttered, Putin attacked the Ukraine and has since launched a reckless campaign in Syria, attacked Georgia and annexed Crimea - some 18 months before the outbreak of WW2, Germany on March 12, 1938, annexed Austria and so it went.

While the globe is nowhere near as violent as it was a century ago at the height of WW1, we live in a moment of increasing uncertainty in a time of Obama crafted American self-doubt. Hope for a benign multi polar world is shallow, America can stay in insolation as Trump advocates or rise to the challenge to secure both the international order and security it first created and the world still desperately needs.

As a further adjunct to my argument, we need also consider the foreign policy questions that Trump especially, has failed to address during the campaign.
  • China has been increasingly aggressive over territorial claims in the South China Sea and assuming de facto control of key maritime passageways in the face of international law violation. How are we (America) going to prevent China from dominating the region?
  • What are the priorities for Syria? Ending the civil war, curtailing Russian influence and aggression or fighting Islamic State? Moreover, who are America’s allies in the process – Under Obama this is unknown.
  • The Middle East is a mess; it always was but is getting worse. Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, the Syrian humpty dumpty, Israeli Palestinian tensions, how will America address this?
  • On economic matters, America and its population need entitlement programs but how will they tie in with defence and diplomacy? International verses the domestic.
  • Both Clinton but especially Trump has distanced themselves from the Trans Pacific Partnership, which runs contrary to Obama’s hinge to Asia, but what other tools are they advocating?
  • What is the end state of America’s secret war? What secret war you ask? Since 9/11 America has waged an undeclared war mostly via drone strikes and special ops in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and even the Philippines, a war that has killed over 4,000 individuals.
  • How will the U.S. deal with the failed socialist experiment that is Venezuela? No Government money, no food in supermarkets, no medicine in pharmacies…the total collapse of Venezuela is imminent.
  • How will we address the minefield that was Obama’s (even by his own admission) greatest foreign policy failure, Libya? I would add Syria
  • As forces are drawn down in Afghanistan how will the U.S. address the likely return of the Taliban, or the establishment of Al Qaeda or Islamic State safe havens within the nation?
  • Julia Ioffe, a New York Times writer raised a most pertinent question: How do you explain the necessity of American engagement with the world in terms that matter to people who don’t think about foreign policy? We in the bubble of wonkdom take certain things for granted, like why America should care what Vladimir Putin does in Donetsk or Aleppo. But I have yet to hear a compelling, coherent explanation for why anyone in the Rust Belt (or the world at large) should care about the South China Sea. Why is it worth it for Bob and Mary in Des Moines to have some of their tax dollars go into funding Syrian rebels, into funding USAID, or into NATO?
  • Rebuilding internationalism is the central challenge for the next president and it has to be built from the ground up with domestic support from within. In the words of Bruce Jones at Foreign Policy:
“… He or she will have to recover an older argument about America’s role in the world, not an argument based on exceptionalism, but one about global peace the underpinning of an international economy – a role that America need not and should not do alone, but a role that cannot be done without America.”
This and all the above should be but one foreign policy goal and plainly, Trump is not the one to deliver, addressing these issues in silence or not at all will be punishing.

© 2016 Ottavio Marasco. All rights reserved.

Further Reading and Sources:

(Source: CSIS - Centre for Strategic and International Studies: U.S. Wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen – what are the end states? Working Draft August, 2016 )

(Source: Brookings Institution: Bruce Jones Vice President and Director - Foreign Policy Senior Fellow - Foreign Policy, Project on International Order and Strategy: America’s role in a turbulent World: )

(Source: The Sydney Morning Herald: Peter Hartcher political editor and international editor: United States would be a rogue superpower under Trump: )

(Source: FP: Foreign Policy Magazine: By FP contributers: The .. essential Foreign-Policy Questions Clinton and Trump need to Answer: )

(Source: The Atlantic: Uri Friedman Staff Writer: How Geography explains Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: )