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Dan Byrnes
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Note: This personal website was begun on 13 August 2008 as an adjunct on the domain - http://www.danbyrnes.com.au/ It replaces a different and older personal website which is now superseded. It will be a vanilla, no-frills website and will probably carry various family pictures and some family history information, and a little "blogging" as well. Anyone who can manage a website doesn't really need a blog, is the feeling. - Dan Byrnes

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Cooking at a friend's party one night, 1990s
Dan Byrnes cooking at a party


Opinions of late

By Dan Byrnes

Protesting in cyberspace ... about The Political Disconnect Effect

Mid-2012: We interrupt your complacency in order to advise ...

That reason in government in the so-called developed world is starting to unravel, while we observe that many governments in the less-than-well-developed world are not so reasonable and seldom were ... this is due to the ongoing Political Disconnect Effect. Now read on ... about Disconnects.

The Disconnect Effect is complicated, and it underlies many political problems we think we notice today. It is due to many factors including the effect of the Internet (and the marketing of digitised content) on media outlets we all thought we were used to, such as newspapers, which once were the useful watchdogs of democracy, but are not useful watchdogs anymore. Excess spin in the management of political issues is a major problem which journalists seem unwilling to counter as a challenge to their professionalism. From politicians, supine, misleading, lazy, plain stupid and/or cowardly lacks of political will are another set of problems. Excess complexity in sectors such as finance and banking is yet another can of worms. Read below on some major symptoms of The Disconnect Effect, world-wide.

We are not talking here about ordinary problem areas, overt criminal activity, or ordinary stupidity from individual politicians, or issues about which you and I might normally disagree or agree, or anything we thought we were used to; all things which are often evident, or at least suspicious, when they happen and are subject to already-organised social response patterns (such as, The Rule of Law). The Disconnect Effect is quite contemporary and needs to be more widely recognised. It may be part of a merely transitional phase, or it may go deeper, but it seems to go to the heart of Democracy as we used to understand Democracy. Certainly, it can be said that politicians and media commentators are not yet taking Disconnect problems seriously enough.

One of the best responses to this website´s mini-survey on world opinion on Disconnects comes from a man aged over 70 somewhere in the USA, a fan of President Obama who wishes Obama would get onto business and stop shilly-shallying. He says, ¨The disconnects occur when people [politicians and commentators] are stupid or lying. When they are not called out on their mistakes, the disconnects become ideology.¨
(This is actually an important point -- we live in days where silly, pointless, erroneous views rule, hijack the zones of useful, guiding political ideology, sidelining common sense, are not countered by sceptics and questioners in the media, and help to institutionalize the reign of unreason - Ed.)

USAGE in the UK: (An accidental disconnect found in one of the daily e-mails from Wordsmith)
"You know the story by now: how transport services aren't nearly up to scratch, how fare prices seem to inversely correlate with the pleasantness of your journey, yada, yada..."
On the Hike in Rail Fares; Evening Times (Glasgow, Scotland); 22 Dec, 2011.

Defining disconnects: One of this website´s friends, a landscape painter Phillip Russell, complains on 5-8-2012, that our Olympic athletes at London 2012 are demonstrating a decided disconnect between their sporting efforts and the Australian flag. Whether or not they are rendered distractible by use of social networking media, they are not showing the right kind of patriotism. He is concerned about it.

A different friend in Victoria also notices the Olympic Games after he advises us that an excellent article on the topic of Disconnects appeared The Age newspaper (Melbourne), August 9th by Barry Jones, Australian politician, writer and public intellectual, the article being an edited version of a speech he gave the previous night. It has been available on the internet, entitled Stupidity is on the rise in our age of enlightenment. Here. Jones is especially worried about the infantilisation of debate.
The friend´s own view is that: ¨Disconnects seem to be everywhere - the media coverage of the Olympics is a good example. I haven't seen any of Channel 9's coverage (which has been, probably rightfully, condemned), but have seen much of the coverage on Foxtel's numerous channels. Look at the phrasing and composition of the advertisements - for products or for the athletes themselves - for many examples of what Umberto Eco calls hyper-reality: a form of disconnection from real life as most of us know it. Of course, the Gruen team, in their latest series on the ABC, have got this pretty well nailed as well. The very Chariots of Fire tone of many of these ads and promos are stomach-churning and have little relevance to the ambitions of ordinary people.
Definition of political disconnect? Maybe when public discourse seems so distant from the actions needed to solve community problems, and provide a vision for the future that is bi-partisan, cooperative, and free of factional in-fighting. As you suggest, maybe serious journalists could be more dogged in extracting from pollies statements re the future that are relevant to the rest of us and from which we could identify their sincerity in their roles as community leaders. We need an intelligentsia in public life that is committed to earnest debate and a media that can broadcast ideas fairly and with the intention of assisting the resolution of difficult questions.

An item recently from Washington Post on a book review. Disconnect: The Breakdown of Representation in American Politics, by Morris P. Fiorina and Samuel J. Abrams and The Disappearing Center: Engaged Citizens, Polarization, and American Democracy, by Alan I. Abramowitz. One upshot? “In America today, there is a disconnect between an unrepresentative political class and the citizenry it purports to represent,” the authors write. “The political process today not only is less representative than it was a generation ago and less supported by the citizenry, but the outcomes of that process are at a minimum no better. The present disconnect is cause for concern and not something that can be discounted as either normal or unimportant.”

Also in the USA: From a post 29 December 2011 at okpolicy.org, a political blog - Growing disconnect between [US] budget politics and reality by Paul - keywords - Budget | Tagged with Board of Equalization, budget crisis, budget shortfalls, current services budget, forecasting, Governor Mary Fallin, income tax, PAYGO, tax cuts |

Europe: Geneva, International Labor Organization (23 May 2012) ILO head warns of growing disconnect between people and politics
ILO head, Juan Somavia, has warned of “a growing disconnect between people and politics, people and government”. These remarks were part of his address to young men and women who were attending the Opening of the Youth Employment Forum in Geneva.
GENEVA (ILO News) - Many people are saying “you are not taking my situation into account”, Mr Somavia said. “This is particularly true in the case of youth and young people” whose feeling is often: “OK, you talk about our issues but we’re not there, we’re not there in the process”, he said.

ILO Director-General Juan Somavia also warned of growing discontent over the way the global crisis has been handled in Europe, while hailing developing countries that followed a different track and increased social protection. “This discontent is fuelling today a global reaction,” Somavia said.

This is a hoot! Apparently a website from Australia. See: thegreatamericandisconnect.blogspot.com.au - The Great American Disconnect- which says about itself, Political Comments With edged satire, parody and humour, we are a ¨pop¨ culture magazine with emphasis centering on American politics for thinking people. We take pride in our accuracy and truth and in ¨The American Way¨ - most of the time. The Great American Disconnect is a Free Speech Blog.

Disconnects other: India (as of 31 July 2012). A literal disconnect. Lack of reliable and useful supply of electricity, the failure of three huge electricity grids, ruining the life and work experience of more than 600 million people across two days of chaos for modern life. The greatest failure of contemporary infrastructure in the world history of industry since 1760 when the Industrial Revolution began.
Quantitative easing (printing money) by governments of USA and in Europe, with little regard for questions of how a national money supply could or or should or can be arranged, at least as far as ideas about managing a national money supply were considered years ago, economic ideas which have long been sidelined.
Green movements of all kinds, and seen internationally, including Green political parties, for not regularly monitoring investment levels in new ways of providing energy (re solar energy, electric cars, wave/tidal power, wind power) as a reliable economic index to be regularly (and quite seriously) published alongside stock exchange listings in quality newspapers.
Japan, for not publishing the results of its allegedly scientific inquiries into whales, releasing findings to the world press, etc.
North Korea, in general, ultra-disconnected, enough said.
The United Nations for ineptitude, powerlessness and hypocrisy where situations arise as in Syria (July 2012), where an objectionable regime is allowed to run rampant against its own people with no useful intervention from the UN. (Same for Libya in Gaddafi´s time.)
The USA: Go listen again to the Billy Joel song, We didn´t start the fire, and rethink whatever it is you think about the song. The USA has sure stoked some fires for its own reasons.
The USA (Federally), for not discussing in public, and in detail, how many and how badly some of its states are, or might be, technically bankrupt.
The Australian government (successive), for ineptitude and failure to solve the environmental problems afflicting the Murray-Darling River Basin problems.
Obesity: What is the point of overweight people dieting if so often, they later return to their usual overweight condition because of aspects not of their diet, but their psyche, their body chemistry or metabolism (distorted by earlier intake of fats, salts and sugar), their attitudes to food and exercise, and, well, their diet. That is, what they eat!
Lies or misleading comment contained in TV advertisments, often unchallenged by knowledgeable persons nor suitably policed by regulators. The same for much of food labelling, at least in Australia.
Disconnect major between the contemporary world of finance and the history of the world of finance: In newspapers through this entire website´s lifetime, finance pages (and their editors, collectively), consistently refuse to review new books on economic history (often about the failures of financier-types). This results in an institutionalised disconnect between gung-ho investor-promoter types and the cautions to be derived from economic history. Never has this website seen any worries about this disconnect expressed by either wise-old company directors, academics, or politicians. The upshot is clear: our newspaper finance pages are managed, edited, and written, as far as we can tell, except for what we read from the most-experienced finance journalists, by people bereft of a sense of economic history. (From Dan Byrnes)
The 24x7 news cycle (as it is called) is ruining both the conduct of political debates and the reporting of same by the media. Here we find a mutually, self-reinforcing, negative feedback loop. While politics deteriorates, so does media reportage. The worse it gets, the worse it gets; the bottom line has not yet been approached and is appallingly unthinkable anyway. Quite frankly, balance is disappearing, and many politicians are getting away with talking nonsense. It is already said that the 24x7 is having a bad effect on the conduct of politics. It is said less seldom that it is having an equally bad effect on media outlets, and will presumably do so until they adjust to it.

Re a Definition of a Disconnect. This website had no idea there is a Wikipedia item on disconnects, so we shall have to go netsurfing on it. Our notion here of a disconnect is political, but many people seem to find this too vague. I am not thinking of things we merely dislike or might disagree with from our usual, personal or group perspectives. Normal political nonsense, shenanigans and silly poses we can easily see through, and as with filibustering in the USA Congress, are not in themselves necessarily a disconnect, it is organized behaviour, whereas a disconnect is actually, a zone of disorganized [political] behaviour where behaviour used to be both organized and connected.

A disconnect has worrying similarities to a deliberate lie, in that a lie is a deliberate divorce between knowledge of situations, actions about situations, and speech about situations. A lie is worse, politically, of course, when the hearer knows for a fact that a lie is being perpetrated. Then things might become evidence-based, no, if we wish to confront the liar.

But a Disconnect has far more implications than an outright lie, because the divorce between words and action might be due to lack of political will, or lack of political nous. It could be due to shared confusions, failures of analysis, unwillingness to seek answers, or be due to blurry or silly ideology which makes people overlook problems and contradictions, or for their own private reasons to encourage confusions or blurriness which have or will become institutionalised.

In formal terms, a proper political disconnect is, or almost is, institutionalised. A disconnect is a problem (that is quite widely recognised) which is on the verge of being institutionalised, instead of being solved, and if it (or any failure to solve it) does become institutionalized, then of course it will be perpetuated. And presumably made worse as time marches on.

With disconnects, we are not talking about just a few negative trends in society. It has to do with problems becoming institutionalized. Let´s note some Disconnect Effects which are already institutionalized.
(1) The effect of much e-commerce is a disconnect from what is called bricks-and-mortar retailing, the kind of shopping opportunities we all had until the mid-1990s. This is less political than economic and geographic, but it has its effects.
(2) Already institutionalized in social customs, the seeming disconnect of many young people between good dress sense and what used to be called, good manners. What draws our attention to this is the gap (visible on the streets) that is widening, due to the number of young people we see who actually do have good dress sense and a sense of style and social presence, and the contrasts can be alarming.
(3) In psychiatry, a symptom of Depersonalisation Disorder is a feeling of being disconnected from one´s body. We are not here talking about this, although sometimes it does seem as if the body politic of todady is gradually losing its mind.
(4) Most modern democracies have inherited from the 18th Century a disconnect that is highly valued, the separation of Church and State, which has of course been institutionalized. The problem with it lately, at least in the USA, and to an extent, it is becoming less valued, and religious-minded people want more influence in politics. This seems to be a situation where some groups, at least, want a long-valued disconnect to be reconnected. And so we see that a political disconnect might well be in the eye of the beholder!

Disconnects and Cognitive Dissonance

Follows from www.elearnportal.com. On Cognitive Dissonance And Self-Perception Theory

Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable state of mind that occurs when one realizes that he/she is acting in ways that are inconsistent with his or her attitudes; or that perhaps two or more attitudes are not in tune. For example, those who hold strong opinions about protecting the environment from pollution may feel some dissonance if they were to vote for a candidate who was opposed to supporting environmental issues.

When one experiences a disconnect between behaviour and attitudes, cognitive dissonance theory predicts that he /she is then highly motivated to restore a sense of equilibrium. A number of direct mechanisms to reduce the attitude-behaviour discrepancy were identified by early researchers Aronson (1968) and Festinger (1957). Examples of those mechanisms are as follows:

One can change either the discrepant attitude or the behaviour in order to bring them into consistency with each other;
One can seek out new information to support the discrepant attitude or behaviour. Smokers may seek evidence, for example, that the benefits of smoking, such as weight control, outweigh the risks to respiratory health.
One can undermine the inconsistency; that is, decide that the inconsistency really is not important. This mechanism is also called trivialization.

A number of indirect mechanisms for dealing with inconsistencies are also available to individuals experiencing cognitive dissonance. Rather than focusing on reducing the discrepancy directly, individuals may seek to improve their self-esteem despite the gap between their attitudes and behaviours. One may focus instead on emphasizing those positive self-attributes (affirming those good things about oneself) that may be threatened by the dissonance. For example, in the case of the individual who believes strongly in working for environmental issues and yet votes for the politician who is directly opposed to this cause, rather than try to alleviate the dissonance directly, he might instead merely contemplate the many other ways he has supported the environmental issues – thus minimizing any self-deprecation that may result from the dissonance he experiences by his behaviour.

And so a few comments about cognitive dissonance. A good many voters today, and politicians too, have an uncomfortable state of mind about the hollowing out of political parties, about allegations that parties are less representative. (So this is not only about the self-perception of individuals) If so, this would mean that politicians have become disconnected from their constituencies, and problems in constituencies. What is important is that such problems will probably affect the future. The coping mechanism termed trivialisation as above as similar to what Barry Jones (noted above) has complained about as the infantilisation of politics. From this website´s memory of his psychology classes, the theory on cognitive dissonance began when psychologists wondered what happened in the state of mind of religious cult believers who had believed in a prediction of the end of the world, and the end did not occur. How did they adjust to (a) being contradicted by reality? and, (b) having a revised view of the future imposed on them? That is, cognitive dissonance has to do with belief systems, and with predictions about, or attitudes, to the future. So if today there has been a great trivialisation of political discourse, could it be partly due to anxieties about the present and the future? Here, the role of our views on climate change (or AGW, Anthropogenic Global Warming) and for political discourse will be important, because they bear on how we regard the future. What sets of ideas will be compatible here, we might ask? And what would a climate-modified environment give us for the future, except a sense of relative powerlessness? And so, a politicised form of cognitive dissonance arises, that happens to motivate us as a society to trivialise politics. Still, this does not explain everything either, and conceptually, there is no single cause for political disconnects. There are many causes, probably a bewildering number. But various fears of and for the future do seem to be involved. One might be, excess doubts, leading to more widespread internal awareness of feeling arising because incompatible views are being imposed on individuals, groups, whole electorates, and if our political parties have been hollowed out, entire nations. As does seem to be happening, consider Greece of late.

Having now netsurfed on matters, and asked what Wikipedia can throw up, we find we had better be clearer - we are talking here about political disconnects - which are different to other kinds of disconnects. A political disconnect is a problem that risks being institutionalized as a problem, not a solution, and in particular, is not a good solution to problems likely to appear in the future. We need more politicians who can identify such disconnects and feel motivated to fix them.

Dan Byrnes August 2012

January 2013: BTW, Gun Control in the USA? Concerning the massacre in Newtown CT. Gun control should now preoccupy the USA at all government levels. This is a paranoia-controlled society (Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, feel edgy and go buy a gun? Really? How very Clint Eastwood!) where guns are out of control. It might seem simple, just disband and outlaw The National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America, scatter the gun lobby in Washington to the four winds and give them the usual contempt visited on the Klu Klux Klan. But it is not simple, as certain propositions are lodged in the US Constitution. What the gun control debate in the USA is going to involve is debate on the definition of being an American. The debate is not going to be pretty. As someone once said, the US gun lobby is one of the few political lobbies in the USA that is armed. And it is not subject to the controls governing the US military! -Ed.

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Recent poetry from Dan Byrnes

A Photo by John Fields
Dan Byrnes in his early 60s
Webmaster Dan Byrnes in his early 60s. Photo by John Fields, taken in Armidale Mall at Courthouse coffee shop during a chance meeting of friends.

Poem by Dan Byrnes on John Fields, 14-2-2013


(For John Fields, Vale, February 2013)

Man with a soul
man with a heart
man with a camera
man with a place to start

Man with an eye
man with an aim
man with a beautiful purpose
man with wit about the more helpful game

Man with an art before art got burned
man with a goal a little stark
to get to goodness before it is ever spurned
man who seldom missed the mark

- Dan Byrnes (otherwise indicated in these pages as -Editor)

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