January 29, 2020

Horse 2655 - Is The Office Of The President Fit For Purpose?

A lot of the world of politics is watching on in complete disbelief at the orchestrated farce going on in the US Congress at the moment. Everyone who knows even a little bit about how the system works, knows that the game was rigged before it started; including all the players inside the game. The process going on is in principle asking the question of whether or not an individual should be removed from the office of the President but if it was already all decided before it was ever started, then that question is moot.
The one question which nobody has asked (largely because there is no political will to ask it), isn't the rightness or wrongness of the individuals and parties concerned but whether or not the system itself is fit for purpose.

Probably the only time that I can think of where anyone of note asked the question, was Thomas Jefferson who noted that constitutions expire and that after about nineteen years, you no longer have a living thing but the cold hand of the dead, ruling by force. I personally think that a constitutional review is long overdue; including the questions of who has what power and how they are entrusted to exercise that power.
The unsaid thing about giving power to people, is that you also give them the means to damage the system which put them there. Since people are selfish, then it follows that some of them will damage and bend the system to perpetuate private advantage (which happens to be right at the heart of this impeachment trial).

Imagine that you have a cow. That cow is a particularly evil cow. Now obviously a cow has the potential to cause a lot of damage if it is in the wrong place but a particularly evil cow not only has the ability to cause damage but the intent to cause a lot of damage (It is after all, a particularly evil cow). A particularly evil cow with both the ability and the intent to cause damage should have restraint placed upon it so that even though it has both the ability and intent to cause damage, it does not cause said damage.
Exactly the same thing can be said of people. I for instance probably do have the means to cause damage but rarely do I have the intent. I also do not have the means to cause much damage. A more powerful person than I, pick any metric that you like (physical prowess, financial capital, political power, intelligence), has the ability to cause far more damage than I do. In a lot of cases, we put the restraints of the law upon powerful people so that even though they might have the means and maybe the intent to cause damage if they are particularly evil, the outcome which is hoped for by operation of the law is that they do not cause damage.
We learn from physics that power is the ability to do work. Work is the
exertion of effort over time. What we do not want are particularly evil cows or people doing their work, with particularly evil intents.

For this reason, I simply do not understand why anyone thinks that a Presidential system of government is even part way sensible. There are cases like Australia where you do have a President (in Australia's case the President of the Senate) but there you have a President in a presiding role; as the mediator of discussion and not actually in charge of the executive. A Presidential system of government vests the power of the executive in the hands of a single person.
Remember, power (in this case executive power) is the ability to do work. The question as it relates to executive government is identical to the question of what kind of work that a cow wants to do. If you have an ordinary cow, then they still have the ability to cause damage but not necessarily the intent. If you have a particularly evil cow, then you had better watch out for the worst. Likewise, vesting executive power of a nation in the hands of a single person may in fact be a good idea if the person whose hands it is in, is someone who is benevolent. If they are particularly evil or belligerent, then you had also better watch out for the worst.

As applied to the President of the United States, who has both the means and the ability to cause a lot of damage, the question about whether or not a President has caused damage to the office or the nation, is only ever asked as a matter of fact, after the event. It is never asked about the system itself, which happens to place immense power into the hands of a single person. As we shall see in this impeachment trial, the myth about having checks and balances in place to ensure that damage isn't done, is not a very good myth. All the checks and balances mean nothing if there was no restraint placed upon exercising power; nor do they mean anything if after the event, nothing is to be done about it.
In listening to Ted Cruz's podcast "The Verdict" (which by the way is both excellent and articulate; even if I happen to disagree with just about everything in it), even he concedes that none of the facts of this case are in dispute. Say what you like about whether or not this is impeachable, the fact remains that if this was in a normal court (which it isn't) then a guilty verdict would be returned. What we have then is a Congress with the means to place restraint upon someone doing damage but who refuse to do so. That restraint may as well not exist.

The central problem as it relates to the fitness of the system for purpose though, isn't whether or not this particular person is guilty but whether or not a person can actually be found guilty or not. I suspect (because it has never been tested) that it is impossible to find a President guilty of a crime under the law. If you have an ordinary President, who might have the means to cause damage, then self restraint might stop them from actually doing so. If you have a particularly evil President, who has both the ability and the intent to cause damage, then what exactly is there to stop them?

January 27, 2020

Horse 2654 - So What Is An Impeachable Offense, If Any?

In my reading of the Federalist Papers, the anti-Federalist Papers, Hamilton's personal correspondence and the US Constitution itself, I have come to the conclusion that it is a bad Constitution. If you were going to look at other federal models other written constitutions, you would have to concede that everyone other nation which actually wants to have peace, order and good government as the outcome of the rules which a constitution lays out, has learned from the United States and every other written constitution which has followed and improved upon the system vastly.
I think that Madison who is generally regarded as the Father of the Constitution, Hamilton who was the most vigorous defender of the Constitution, and Jay who was the premier legal power of the day, never really thought about the implications of their Constitution beyond the term of George Washington. The Continental Congress was a virtually impotent body which really only had the power to lay taxes and raise armies and so I expect that they thought that the new office of the President Of The United States would be equally as benign as the President Of The Continental Congress had been. I think that they also assumed that it would be occupied by people who would at least pretend to be servants of the people.
I think that the wording of the method of impeachment is deliberately left vague because they did not think that it would be used. Power is assumed to be retained by the states, democracy was seen as dangerous, and I suspect that they never expected that a knave would be elected to the office of the President.

There are several provisions in the United States Constitution relating to impeachment, however the two which are at the core of the action are listed below:

Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 provides:
The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

Article I, Section 3, Clauses 6 and 7 provide:
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States; but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

It is important to note that there are no rules whatsoever which direct either the House of Representatives or the Senate in how they are to go about with impeachment proceedings.
It is also important to note that the US Constitution itself provides that the impeachment process is purely a political one; which means that there is in fact only one set of conditions where a President might be impeached.

The President is part of X Party, while their opponent is Y Party.
X, X, X = No impeachment. Because one party controls everything.
X, Y, X = No impeachment. Because the House isn't going to draw up any articles.
Y, X, X = No impeachment. Because the Senate isn't going to pass those articles.
Y, Y, X = Impeachment.

https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed65.asp
A well-constituted court for the trial of impeachments is an object not more to be desired than difficult to be obtained in a government wholly elective. The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself. The prosecution of them, for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused. In many cases it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.
- Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No.65, 7th Mar 1788.

What we are currently witnessing is the condition of Y, X, X; which is one of the four which will not result in a removal of someone from the office.
It seems pretty obvious to me that Hamilton as the Junior Delegate from New York to the Constitutional Convention, was fully aware of the fact that the process would be subject to party lines and factions but nevertheless, he still argues that this is the system which should be used. I personally think that that is crazy bonkers because it bakes into the Constitution itself, the means by which a knavish President surrounded by knaves can continue to be knavish. That is inherently a bad system.

If you have a Senate which conspires to protect the President, then any Impeachment Trial will return a not guilty verdict. Even if you have a Hitler/Stalin/Napoleon character who machine gunned sixty people on 5th Avenue, then if the Senate conspires to protect this person, they will not be removed.
The great myth of the US Constitution is that it places checks and balances upon the three branches of government in the three ring circus but when you have the lions in charge of lion taming and they refuse to remove a rogue lion, then no such check on power and no such balance exists. All you have are lions which are free to roam around the rings; looking self important and acting like king of the beasts. It should always be remembered that the king of the beasts still acts beastly.

In Australia, the Prime Minister as the head of executive government not only sits inside the parliament but is answerable to the parliament, to their own political caucuses, and to the courts. If the Prime Minister of Australia were t to commit a crime, then they would be answerable to the courts. It remains an untested question at law in the United States.
If any parliamentarian had been found to be ineligible to sit in parliament, then the parliament can refer such a person to the High Court for a ruling on their eligibility. In the United States though, that referral process never leaves the Congress; which means that when you have a Senate who refuses to justly consider said referral, no check on power and no such balance exists.

What of the monarch or their representative? Suppose that we had future King  Henry IX decide that he wanted to turn rogue and only do evil all the time. Under a Westminster System, Henry can't enact legislation, he can't really summon an army, and he doesn't run the executive of the nation. The President can not unilaterally enact legislation but they do run the armed forces as Commander in Chief and the are the head of the Executive Branch. This means that the President of the United States has more actual vested power than the King Of England; who America threw off in a revolution. If you have a Senate which refuses to act after such an event, then there is no check on power and no such balance exists.

What we have now is therefore nothing more than a prime time television show, which takes place in a nice looking marble and wood paneled room. If there is no check or balance on the office of the President because the Senate refuses to place one on the office, then where exactly is that check? Is there such a thing as an impeachable offense and if so, what is it?

January 24, 2020

Horse 2653 - Australia Day: It's Always About The Story

Yet again Australia Day has come upon us and yet again we re-open the discussion about the existence of Australia Day. Probably with the exception of Columbus Day in the United States, I don't think that many public holidays around the world have such a contested set of cultural narratives which exist about it.

Australia Day is itself symptomatic of an abject refusal by the country to confront its own past; and this is perpetrated by both the authoritarian right which also contains an overtly racist element and the economic right who do not want to have to pay for anything in the country and especially not making good on consequences of the past. Racists do not want to acknowledge the past and business does not want to pay for something that it sees no value in.
Therein lies the problem. Australia has never bothered to face its own past because at almost every point in the nation's history, it would have to face the ugly reality that ever since the time that the land was injured by spearing it with force, it has almost always been controlled by moral bankruptcy.

In principle you do not need to have a reason to have a public holiday. For instance, Great Britain has four Bank Holidays which originally started out as the day when everyone else but the banks would go on holiday; leaving the banks a whole day to settle and reconcile their accounts. A Bank Holiday in Great Britain commemorates nothing. Even within the normal operation of the week, Jewish people have a different notion of which day is holy, to Muslims, Sihks, and Christians, and there is even variations among different groups of Christians.
Therefore, if the date in question is not intrinsically meaningful and the day in question is not intrinsically meaningful, then the meaning which arises is purely that meaning which is credited to it through the cultural story which is then overlaid on top of it. This is a case of yet again the world is made up of stories.
That should tell us that the reason for Australia Day is not about the date of the 26th of January but about the story of why that day has been selected. On that note, we immediately run into a deliberate refusal to acknowledge that the past exists.

The day itself is not a day of foundation of the nation but rather, the day in which by proclamation, sovereignty of the land was simply stolen by force. This was a military action by the Royal Navy and up until there was the beginning of responsible government, we had direct rule by the military.
The people who want to write some kind of narrative saying that the day is a day when everyone can come together, need to explicitly deny both the history and the reality of what the day actually stands for.
I am not a republican because it has been consistently proven in my lifetime that we are as a nation a bunch of cruel cruel eejits and so I do not think that we are capable of inventing a non-partisan and non-political form of republic but if we were going to become a republic one day, then that is day that would replace Australia Day.

The actual history and the reasoning for wanting to start a colony in New South Wales is pretty easy to understand. Having just lost the Thirteen Colonies of America in the American Revolution and needing to address overcrowding in the British prison system, the First Fleet was sent out as virutally free labour, with prisoners having their death sentences commuted to transportation.
The crankiest Yorkshireman of all, Captain James Cook, claimed sovereignty over all of the land Australia from the shore of Possession Island in 1770; so the events which followed from Joseph Banks' "Proposal for Establishing a Settlement in New South Wales" (24th Aug 1783); which was made almost immediately after the end of fighting in America, seem like a natural consequence.

The arrival in 1788 of the First Fleet of eleven Royal Navy ships, and where the proclamation of the colony of New South Wales is purely a military operation. Lt Gen. Watkin Tench's "Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson" (1792) is further proof that this was nothing more than a military operation; where he basically ridicules any notion that the people who were already here were worth incorporating into the colony. He places the value of the first peoples of Australia as even less than Benjamin Franklin's "Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America" (1770) and that viewpoint is demonstrably the same sin which has been repeated for 232 years.
What we are left with then, is a date which is celebrated because of imperial triumphalism, some of tacit racism (because racists need to find some covert platform for their story), or a kind of economically driven agenda.
What followed was genocide, denial, dispossession, whitewash, forgetting, and now further denial. There is also a refusal to accept any responsibility for the past, because that admits liability.

I heard commentary on the radio this morning which said that anyone who wanted to change the date, was playing identity politics. It takes a special type of hypocrisy to accuse someone else of playing identity politics while simultaneously actually playing identity politics yourself and over a subject which itself is exclusively about the identity of the nation.

This is who we are as a nation? Happy Australia Day.

January 22, 2020

Horse 2652 - They Should Show Up But They Better Shut Up

Every month in the suburb where I work there is a group which meets where various business owners get together and have a chat. In theory it is supposed to work like an informal referral thing where people refer customers to others in the group on a purely informal basis. Or at least that's what it used to be.
At one point someone had the idea of having someone present a short lecture every month and by doing that we could all learn something about our respective occupations. Except that over time, this gradually became a platform for several women to bring lectures about feminist issues. There's nothing implicitly wrong with that but over the course of the past two years, that's kind of all this thing has become. Gradually the men stopped showing up and at the last meeting, I was the only one left. I have no idea where they are, if anywhere.
My job in this situation is to be sent to this group by my boss, leave some business cards on the table along with the others and collect any new business cards which might turn up. Occasionally there are also free sandwiches; which I also must admit at this point is still a nice thing. I think that the implicit contract in exchange for me collecting possible business leads, is attending lectures.

I have come to the conclusion that nobody in the room would ever be particularly interested in anything that I might have said in these meetings (notwithstanding that because I really have nothing to say; I don't say anything) and that masculinity is itself the root cause of the world's problems; which to be fair is backed up by several thousands of years of evidence, wars, commerce, legal systems, practically all of the media, and also practically all of the governance in the history of the world.
It was interesting that what was originally a meeting space for the various businesses in the area is now a de facto feminist space; which I suppose is fine if that's what you want to do but I am increasingly faced with the uneasy suspicion that my presence itself is problematic. I suspect that the men who have stopped coming, stopped because this doesn't really serve the purpose of being a business meeting group for them anymore.

That in itself is an onion of many layers because I was told that "men could show up and they should show up but they better shut up." So I did. I am good at shutting up. My entire working life has been with people who command higher incomes and command more power than I do. A good servant puts up and shuts up as much as possible. There's nothing so unnerving as a servant who's not serving.
I don't really know what they expect me to do at this point because after sitting quietly, am I then expected to go out and tell the men that weren't there of what was said? I already don't really like the attitude of the vast majority of business people in Mosman because I think that they are needlessly cruel to both their staff and with each other; so I don't know which business men exactly would listen to me and then come to a feminist meeting. That seems to be like a similar argument to wanting to tell racists not to be racist and expecting the people who have put up with the effects of racism to pull themselves into the air by their own bootstraps.

I find this attitude repeated across a whole bunch of issues where it is almost like people who are being oppressed by a system are expected to create their own freedom and opportunities. It is pretty obvious that society hurts women in a number of ways, but I'm also going to put forward that that same society also hurts men. It's just that we have decided that we don't care about that. Also, I should point out that I am not a men's rights activist. We have all the rights.
I think that there is an assumption that all men are either stupid and/or evil (which to be fair I think is true but for different reasons) and therefore trying to have any kind of empathy for men is simply a waste of time.

Something that piqued my attention in this meeting was when someone interrupted the lecture and said something to the effect of "We need to talk about how power structures benefit men."
After having spent the last quarter of the twentieth century dismantling both the institutions and the mechanics of the state, we have also dismantled people's expectations of what the state is capable of doing. Increasingly, we're moving towards a more individual sort of society and that places more of a burden upon the individual to look after themselves.
I also note that as a gender, men are generally losing their jobs at a fas lolter rate than women. If you look at those jobs which traditionally employed more men than women such as manufacturing and mining and those jobs are either being sent to other countries or at greater threat of automation, then you have to ask what that does to someone's sense of identity. I bet that if you ask men generally how they define their identity, then you'll usually find that it revolves around their job and more importantly their ability to keep dollars rolling into a bank account.

When asked specifically how I personally benefited from the power structures of society, I conceded that I benefit mostly from an implicit right to be left alone in my person and a disproportionate rate of authority might be accrued to me if I were to say anything. When it came to asking me about how much money I made, because at this point I knew that I became the acceptable token enemy, I openly admitted that I made less money than anyone else in the room; to which the reply was 'good' as though I was paying penance for some horrible crime.

I am coming to the opinion that I really do not want to be at these business meetings any more and that if I stop going, then these local business meetings will be exclusively attended by women. If that was always the intent, then fair play to them because they have won the space. If they expect to change the attitude of the men in Mosman, I wonder how effective they will be when there are no men in the group. Moreover I suspect that if I choose to not bother to show up and shut up, that I will not be particularly missed, if even noticed at all.
From that perspective, if you want to answer the question of how power structures benefit me personally. then being told to show up and shut up by a different set of people, looks for all intents and purposes identical.

January 20, 2020

Horse 2651 - On Eldership.

We often hear about Leaders and Visionaries (and perhaps great failures in leadership), and society likes to appoint these people into positions of management. The politics which exists inside corporations and nation states, often has to do with the disagreements which stem from the basic questions of what is to be done, or how to get a thing done. Sometimes there are questions of what wasn't done or even the misuse of those positions for private gain.
Very rarely though, is the idea of Eldership spoken about. It appears to be one of those concepts which society used to see as valuable (and maybe that has to do with society living with a greater sense of community than we have now) but which we do not understand as much any more because the world is seen more often through the lens of cold economics. I think that Elders are different and distinct from Leaders and that the whole concept although perhaps unfashionable, is more valuable than ever, as we gradually forget the lessons won in the past.

I do not think that leadership qualities are a prerequisite for Elders, though I can definitely see how those things might be concurrent. A leader is someone who either has a grand sense of vision and imagines the future, or someone who has the experience to guide an organisation going forward. Elders on the other hand, might not even be called to lead anything; which suggests to me that they have a different purpose and function.

What someone who might be considered for an Eldership role in an organisation has, thay very few other people have, is a resilience which has been work hardened by hurt.
I think that one of the things that society drastically undervalues are the value of hurts. A hurt is either caused by a sharp sudden blow which is akin to some kind of impact trauma, or by a long rolling general kind of ongoing pain. The questions that someone who might be considered for an Eldership position in an organisation is going to face, is generally arguably easier than what they have already gone through. In short, Eldership as opposed to merely getting old, involves remanufacturing hurts and experience, into that rarest of all qualities: wisdom.

Getting older, which is distinct from Eldership, does in fact come with the normal things that you would expect in life (such as the realisation that the world is a sometimes nasty place, that everything and everyone that you love will eventually break and die, or already has done so and I don't want to devalue those experiences) but there's not necessarily a lot to be learned which is a lot different from the experiences that other people have, from passing through life. Yes, everyone's experiences are different and unique but a lot of people pass through difficulties and are still essentially an identical person, having learned little or merely cauterising hurts rather than holding them and learning something hard from them.

Again I think that society generally undervalues wisdom because it generally doesn't understand it. Someone far greater than I once said that "those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it"; which is a nice platitude with what probably might be a very painful kernel of hard won truth in the middle.
As a society, it is becoming apparent that we are rapidly unlearning the lessons won during the First World War, the Great Depression, and the Second World War, because it is literally impossible to remember a past that you never experienced. If I am one of the cohort of Generation X, then it is the two, three and four generations of people who came before me who learned those valuable lessons about how life works and imparted painfully won wisdom on society. Starting with my parents' generation, the five generations which have followed, haven't learned any of those lessons through suffering hurts. Wisdom therefore, I think is a far rarer asset, which fewer people possess.
Without those societal wide hurts which affected lots of people, the hurts which wisdom is remanufactured from, are harder to find.

Wisdom is of course distinct from knowledge or skill. You can have someone who knows a bunch of stuff or someone who is skilled at a particular task; again, management and vision are leadership qualities but not necessarily those of Eldership. Wisdom is often knowing how to do something, or knowing how the world works, or even why the world works; without necessarily having any obvious reasons for why. Wisdom is where life experience has taken its hammer upon someone, struck a blow, and the person has taken the experience and learned from it.
Wisdom is like travelling down the road of life and progressively collecting the arms, horns, and badges of the monsters and other enemies that one has faced; then gluing them to your own armor as a display of warning to others. You can see this on building sites where the wisest of workers will display lots of stickers on their hard hats. Some of the stickers will be old and faded but they still say "I was there" and "I have seen stuff". In the military, a similar thing exists with campaign medals and the ribbon groups; which are separate and distinct from the rank that someone might have.

It probably goes without saying that all of the qualities of character that we'd expect to see in leaders are also to be found in Elders. We would expect that they be well-thought-of, they they handle their own affairs well (because if someone can't handle their own affairs, they can't very well be expected to take an oversight role in the welfare of others), they generally aren't all that pushy but gentle because they know from experience that life can and does hurt, they shouldn't really be that motivated by money which is almost an anathema to business but it's because they know that the community in question will outlive them when they are gone, and I think that one of the greatest expression of the evidence of their qualification is how committed they are to their partner and family¹.
In that respect, Elders aren't necessarily leaders at the front but they do exercise oversight and offer advice; moreover they engage in the far harder task wrangling people in an organisation and moving them from one place to another. Mary Schmich, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, wrote in a piece that eventually became a commencement speech and later a song by Baz Luhrmann that:

Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off. Painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.
- Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune, 1st Jun 1997²

However I'd argue that the advice offered by a proper Elder as opposed to someone who is merely old, is not painting over what is ugly but sitting with the ugly thing and hammering it with chisels. Elders are the trades masters of their communities. They will mentor those who come after them and share their hard-won and often painful experience, or provide counsel or some other serves within the entity.
I think that as society reduces everyone to economic units, we're losing the sense of how valuable that is and in doing so, are running head-first and eyes closed to the stupidities of the past.

¹https://twitter.com/BarackObama/status/1218174463046553600
²https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/chi-schmich-sunscreen-column-column.html or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5QgT3vgIOA

January 16, 2020

Horse 2650 - The Right Won Everything Else

"The left won the war of culture; the right won everything else."
- Unknown, 37th Bockember ZZX3

Despite my best attempts to find the original source of this quote, I have not been able to do so. To be sure it does sound like a truism which can not be falsified (which is often what lies at the heart of a good proverb) and yet contained within it, are ill-defined terms which allows the audience to read what they like into it.
The first and most obvious problem is the question of what 'the left' and 'the right' are; which itself varies from person to person, even then most people only have a vague notion of what they mean, even then it's internally inconsistent.

My go to is the instrument of the political compass¹, which is a useful tool in at least framing the question and almost immediately you can tell whether or not people are prepared to bother to consider this to be a thing which can be attempted to be described with semi-empirical terms or whether they are content to play in the nebulous land of rhetoric. But first, a history lesson.

The first iteration of what the left and the right are, happened in France where you had Royalists and Republicans on opposite sides of the parliament chamber. That isn't particularly useful as you can have monied interests on both sides of the chamber and given that most of the people who didn't hold lands and none of the women had the franchise, whatever definition this happened to generate is not exactly applicable to the vast majority of the people.

It is only after the rise of the reformists, the chartists, the suffragettes, and the trade union movement, that the idea that the question of who should get to control the economy begins to make any sense at all. Marx and Engels' 'Communist Manifesto' is essentially trying to make the point that workers should own the business enterprises that they work for and that taken to its logical end, that everything should be held as a collective. Whether or not you agree with that is up for question but the absolutely unquestionable thing that that work did more than anything else was to provide the framework for having a really important central discussion in economics.

Economics asks the basic questions of: What to produce? How much to produce? Who should this be produced for? And the question which comes out of the Communist Manifesto: Who should have control?
That question of who should have control over what in the economy is the entire basis for the left/right argument in economics. It is generally accepted that as far as economics is concerned that some authority owning literally everything¹ is the definition of 'the left' and authority owning nothing at all is the definition of 'the right'.
It should be therefore logical that there is a myriad of nuance between those two points and that what really lies between the left and right is a spectrum of points and a spectrum of opinions for all of those points. Anyone who tries to convince you that this is purely a black and white issue is nothing more than an ideologue.

The thing is that at some point in the past, the definitions of words started to go skewiff. The United States in particular, uses the words 'conservative' and 'liberal' which actually take their labels from the names of the two big political parties in Britain of the late 1800's; which have nothing to do with economics at all. 'Conservative' in principle means to keep things roughly as they are and to accept change slowly (by conserving the status quo); whereas 'liberalism' was about opening up the mechanisms of government to the masses. That explains why in Britain why there was both a Labour Party and a Liberal Party and why in the United States, there has never been a Labor Party.

This has hinted at what the other spectrum which the political compass describes is. Specifically this is the question of what degree of control that the government should have on people's lives. If everything should be controlled by a sole authority then you have pure authoritarianism². If everything should be controlled by individuals themselves then you have pure libertarianism.

Now having explained all of that by way of background, it should be apparent that a lot of people who you are having a discussion with about what is left and what is right, have mentally turned the axes 45° or are playing with some other left/right spectrum. This is made all the more complicated when the person whom you are having a discussion with, has some notion of what left and right are, that doesn't fit with any real consistent system at all. You can further complicate that the person is merely using the term as a term of abuse, rather than having any sensible discussion. There is at least one columnist that I read regularly who appears to use the term 'the left' for anything that they don't like.

If I am going to lay my cards on the table then personally, I am nominally left of centre economically because I think that all infrastructure and very large club goods should be owned by the government. That includes hospitals, schools, roads, the police, military, judiciary, all property registers, the water, gas, electric, sewerage, telephonic and telephony (which includes the structure needed to run the internet) services, and all central regulatory authorities which are there to keep things fair and safe.
The reason for this is that I think that it has been comprehensively proven time and time again that private entities who run things for private motives are inherently selfish, which results in worse outcomes for the general public. By the same token, I think that where you have nominally fungible services or  entities that sell things where the optimal sharing group is small,
I am also pretty centrist culturally because I think that government should leave people well enough alone, expect when their actions begin to harm others, and even then I am idiosyncratic.

As for the left winning the war on culture and the right winning everything else, I think that that should be viewed through that lens.
The nature of the internet means that people can view almost whatever they like, without very many gatekeepers. As for arguments which are thrown up by some members of the commentariat that people can't say what they want to on university campuses or in schools, they seem very spurious to me. Whenever you do hear of people wanting to assert their right to free speech (which is by definition a libertarian idea), then you are far more likely to hear of people with authoritarian preferences using violence to shut it down, rather than libertarians using violence.

Media companies generally will sell whatever it takes to make a profit, either by selling the media itself or selling the advertising space. Again the basic economic questions rear their heads.
The criticisms usually levelled at state media groups is that they are biased, despite repeated studies which show the opposite. It should come as no surprise that it is usually authoritarian concerns who are making those complaints. The criticisms which are usually levelled at private media groups is that they are too authoritarian; which is mostly true when looking at news and editorial biases but not at all true when looking at media which is designed as pure entertainment.
Sky News is very heavily biased in an economically rightist direction and this is combined with very heavy authoritarian tendencies but Fox 8 is ridiculously culturally libertarian. In that respect, the left won the culture war but the right won everything else, even on Fox's networks.

It might have been true that for a while, the economic left was winning but only as far as the provision of services which the economic right either saw as unprofitable or that they couldn't deliver because the capital cost was too massive. Even while a US President was crowing about the death of Communism on the dismal side of the Iron Curtain, the left was in the middle of losing the economic war in the West. Across the Anglosphere, public assets were being privatised for peanuts and labour conditions were being smashed in the process. To claim that the left won the economic war, is bordering on openly lying (which has actually become acceptable anyway, in the past decade).
For the right to claim that there is some leftist globalist agenda is also bordering on openly lying because those global instruments don't even have the power to raise even so much as a mild grumble when the military of a global superpower unilaterally explodes a foreign leader that they don't like. There could be a complaint about a nation state like China but I don't know how you can simultaneously claim that a conspiracy exists when the entity in question is aloof from it.

¹https://www.politicalcompass.org
²As a description, in the Bible, God owns the entire universe and has total ultimate authority; which technically makes him an Absolute Autocratic Leftist; which using that as a descriptor also makes many Christians apoplectic when you explain this.

January 12, 2020

Horse 2649 - Mr Trump Will Not Be Getting A Fair Trial According To The Constitution; By Design

It is expected that the Impeachment Trial of President Donald Trump will begin this week and unless I am very much mistaken, I think that it will all be over red rover, by the end of the month. Furthermore I think that owing to the make up of the 116th Congress and that two Republicans will break ranks, the results of this trial will be Not Guilty 51 - Guilty 49; which is far short of the 67 needed to actually remove the President from office.

After having read the Federalist Papers, the anti-Federalist Papers, as well as other correspondence from Hamilton, Jefferson, Jay, Burr, and Madison, who I suspect were actually the chief architects of the form of government which has been copied by exactly zero nations since, I have come to the conclusion that removing a President was made difficult by design. That seems like an entirely sensible thing to do if you are starting out a nation and want to ensure stability but with the passage of more than two centuries, this unchecked and indeed virtually uncheckable position has finally been occupied by someone with neither experience nor interest in actually running an executive of the nation properly.

The great American satirist Henry Louis Mencken once stated:
The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
-Bayard vs. Lionheart, The Evening Sun, Baltimore (26th Jul 1920)¹

I will note however that being a mere moron is not grounds for removing a President. A higher standard than mere badness at the job is needed to unseat a President; and for this, the standard of 'high crimes and misdemeanors' is given in the Constitution, even if there are no directions as to what those high crimes and misdemeanors are. For that, the House is allowed to do what it likes before passing it on to the Senate which is also allowed to do what it likes; seeing as the process is overtly political and being carried out inside a political institution and not a court, the result must also be invariably political, which is why it always has been and why this is no different.

I shall attempt to show this by looking at the Constitution itself; which I hope is better than mere opinion. All text will be taken from the current wording of the Constitution which is found here:
https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/index.html

Article II, Section 4 provides:
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Which is all well and good but this is a dependent section on what has come before.

Firstly - Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 provides:
The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

It is highly important to stress here that the sole Power of Impeachment rests with that House of Representatives and that the direction given by the Constitution here on how they are to conduct said impeachment is exactly nil.
The House has the sole power of impeachment and there is no direction whatsoever about how they are to conduct those proceedings; about whether or not they are required to hear from witnesses; about what kind of majority that they have to have; or even the rules which they might come up with.

The House, with no direction given by the Constitution is free to do whatever it likes, whenever it likes, in the manner it likes, on the matter of the power of impeachment; with reference to nobody. President Trump's objections that he didn't get to call witnesses (which is insane because he then wouldn't have allowed whoever was going to be called to attend anyway) is not his business. The sole power of impeachment rests with the  House of Representatives. Story. End of. No returns.

However, just because the House has that power of impeachment, once it passes on the results of those impeachment proceedings, the ball leaves its court forever and passes to the Senate. This is where we are now.

To that end Article I, Section 3, Clauses 6 and 7 provide:
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present.

Judgement in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honour, Trust or Profit under the United States; but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgement and Punishment, according to Law.

Just like the power of impeachment in the House which has no direction given by the Constitution, the power to try all impeachments which rests in the Senate, also has no direction given by the Constitution. Just like the House, the Senate is free to do whatever it likes, whenever it likes, in the manner it likes, on the matter of the trying an impeachment.

Although the Constitution says that the Chief Justice "shall preside" over the Senate trial of a president, really all his job is is to be a directions manager.

It is the Senate who makes the rules and ultimately they have first and last word and every other word in between. If the Senate wanted to, they could by vote, by ballot, or even by yell down, overturn anything and everything that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has to say. They can ignore any and all of his rulings; which effectively means that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in an impeachment trial in the Senate, is completely powerless, irrelevant, incompetent, and immaterial. Chief Justice William Rehnquist found that out, right at the beginning of President Bill Clinton's Senate impeachment trial in 1999. He couldn't plan the calendar; nor the break times; nor could raise any objections to Ms Lewinsky being interviewed on video tape which was then presented to the Senate. Chief Justice William Rehnquist had no judicial power whatsoever; which given the words of the Constitution, must have been entirely as expected.

All of this means to say that whatever Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell decides to do at this point; which may involve hearing witnesses or not, or quietly burying the whole thing, or not allowing cross examination, or even not allowing a proper defence and prosecution to run opposing cases and/or counsel, is perfectly fine and allowable if that's what the Senate decides.

The Senate as a collective is not an impartial jury like a normal court case; nor is it instructed or directed by the Constitution to be so. The Senate is more like the Referee in a football match who is not only the sole arbiter of the game but also the sole arbiter of time according to the rules². Just like a football referee could be playing Candy Crush on their phone and not even remotely paying attention to the game around them, then making completely arbitrary decisions based upon fads and fancies, whims and whimsy, or just sheer spite, there is not even a requirement imposed on the Senate to try the case fairly. If that sounds bonkers mental hat-stand insane, that's because it is.

For this reason, I think that  Mitch McConnell has no intent on running a fair trial. Running a fair trial would on the face of it, need to have the Senate come to the conclusion that the President is guilty. Mr Trump will not get a fair trial but rather a trial which is observed by trial judge (the Senate as a collective) which is being very partial; with the intent of keeping him in the office.

¹https://www.newspapers.com/clip/21831908/hl_mencken_article_26_jul_1920_the/
²http://www.thefa.com/football-rules-governance/lawsandrules/laws/football-11-11/law-5---the-referee

January 10, 2020

Horse 2648 - Are We In A Fake Twitter Account War?

One of the quietly burning things that has happened over the last two years, especially on Twitter, is the emergence of fake accounts. This was cited as being thing on Facebook during the 2016 US Presidential Elections, along with what has now been labelled as 'fake news' but that was far more overt. That had to do with the sharing of things that looked like news articles; which were without fact. The issue which is currently playing out on Twitter isn't fake news but rather, fake opinion, which is being manufactured more or less in real time; probably by the kinds of places which act as call centres.

It makes sense given the nature of the various environments of the platforms.
Facebook which wants to be a common carrier so that it isn't responsible for the content posted on its platform, has repeatedly reaffirmed that it does not want to and will not ban or fact-check political ads. Facebook gives a token of control to its users by allowing them a little bit of control over how many political adverts that they see.
Twitter on the other hand has outright banned them; which means that as the art of politics is like the flow of water or electricity, it follows the path of least resistance. Twitter can not in principle regulate opinion because that would mean that it not only has to take a political stance but the sheer scope would be impossible.

I have noticed the downright obvious fake accounts posting opinion, which mainly recycle the same half dozen opinions and the same hashtags in reply to posts (usually from verified journalists at news media groups); to a sort of second wave set of accounts which have all been created from about August 2018 onwards, which act as political attack dogs for the right.
I find it rather implausible that a whole heap of Liberal Party aligned people all just decided to join Twitter at once.

The 2019/20 Australian Bushfire Horrorshowcatastropextravaganza has had the rather strange set of narratives being pushed almost in unison by these accounts. First it was the Greens being accused of not allowing control burning (which makes no sense considering that the Greens hold government in precisely zero legislatures in Australia), then it moved to bushfires being normal (which is true but ignores the fact that this is the single biggest bushfire event in the history of the nation and the worst drought in the history of the nation), then it moved to trying to say that this was all the work of arsonists (despite the fact that 0 people in Victoria, 3 people in Queensland, and 24 people in NSW have been charged with arson since September), and now it has moved to some kind of cheering that the Prime Minister has announced a Royal Commission (despite the fact that he met fire chiefs back in September who forewarned him about the contingent possibility of bushfire).

The really weird thing is that these accounts post similar arguments in any given week from Tuesday onwards. I am assuming that this is different to the outrage cycle which happens symbiotically between Macquarie Radio and News Corp, where readers of newspapers complain to the radio stations from about 8am in the morning. That follows a normal weekly cycle, with mostly older radio callers being outraged from Monday onwards.
The coordinated Twitter complaint cycle probably begins on a Tuesday I suspect because Australia is so far to the east on the globe, that we have already passed through Monday morning by the time that these people wake up. I can imagine paying people in India or Pakistan to play the Twitter game, for pennycents an hour.

The reason why someone would want to run a coordinated misinformation campaign is obvious. One can blame Russian interference, which might have been a politically expedient excuse for the 2016 US Presidential Election (and useful for Russia) but that can't be seriously posed as an excuse here because our next Federal Election isn't until 2022. No, the reason here is more likely to be from entities which do not want to have to face the prospect of decreased profits as a result of the government acting on this crisis. Those entities include the mining companies and the entities who fund and effectively own and operate the Liberal Party.
There simply hasn't been any serious scrutiny at all from any of the News Corp stable of newspapers, nor Sky News, nor Channel 9 (Fairfax still shows some degree of editorial independence), nor Channel 7, nor Network Ten, nor Macquarie Radio. The groups which are bothering to scruitnise the government are SBS, the ABC (which is also the target of Twitter fake account opinion writing) and the Guardian Australia. The really curious and scary thing is that the most truthful reportage on this crisis is coming from the BBC, Deutsche Welle, and Al Jazeera.

I have found it interesting that if you post links of statistics from government agencies, these accounts will almost instantly apologise for getting the facts wrong and then post a similar opinion to the one that has been just shown to be wrong, about an hour later. This shouldn't surprise me as I am sure that the amount of due diligence needed to keep track of this kind of thing is longer than most people have the patience for. If someone in a Twitter complaint factory operates say 200 accounts, they could systematically rotate through all of them and as far as the algorithms that look for bots are concerned, those accounts would look normal.

Politics is the art of persuasion to operate and control power, in the aim of enacting policies. The idea that the media would be used to manipulate the electorate's opinions is hardly new, it's just that the battlefield upon which those opinions are being fought on has changed. Buying the labour of people on the cheap to fight a political argument that they don't care about, is a rational tactic if it means that your side wins elections. It is also mutually beneficial to someone who is working in such a place because operating a computer is a far nicer occupation than being out in a field.

I have no way to prove this theory but it all just seems far to coordinated and suspicious to me that opinions should be posted in such a methodical system. It also seems suspicious to me that these opinions should be so alike, when you consider that the country is literally on fire. It should be insane to people that a government should be excused to such a degree. I find that to be incredible.

January 09, 2020

Horse 2647 - The Less Weird Thing Andrew Lloyd-Webber Did

The 2019 theatrical release of Andrew Lloyd-Webber's weird as all get out movie, Cats, cost USD 90 million to produce and when all is said and done will probably only end up grossing USD 60 million; which will make it a weird as all get out bomb at the box office.
Anyone who is anyone should have realised that the weird as all get out movie was based on the weird as all get out musical from 1981; which in turn was based on the 1939 poetry collection Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot. Eliot's book of poetry has nothing to do with the weird as all get out concept of the cat afterlife.

What I don't understand is why anyone thought it would be any different considering that in 1987, Andrew Lloyd-Webber produced the equally weird as all get out musical Starlight Express¹, which is about steam trains and has the players on roller-skates for the entire production. I dare anyone to name a weirder than all get out character in the entire of film, theatre, television and radio, than 'The City of Milton Keynes'.

But all of this is a digression by way of a less weird thing which I had totally forgotten about.
Grab your Doctor's Sausage, Piroshki, and a jar of Mayonez; and put on your Ushanka and Adidas shell suit for that other project that Andrew Lloyd-Webber did.

Коробе́йники - Korobeiniki (literally 'The Peddlers') is a 13 verse folk song which has a peddler and a young girl, engaged in a battle of haggling over the wares that they sell, in a giant metaphor for their courtship and presumably skoodilypooping². Everyone else in the world who isn't Russian, will of course know this music from the 1989 edition of Tetris on Nintendo's Game Boy as the Type A music.

Cut forward two years and Game Boy Tetris became so big that Andrew Lloyd-Webber and his cast recording producer Nigel Wright, sampled and remixed Type A under licence; under the pseudonym Doctor Spin to release the song simply known as 'Tetris'.


This had lodged itself somewhere in my mind and I was only reminded of this, when someone on Twitter asked the question - why doesn't Andrew Lloyd-Webber do something normal? This is that normal thing and given that it came out in 1992 during the middle of Eurodance and made it to number 6 in the UK charts, seems like the most normal thing that Lloyd-Webber could have done.

I however can not think of this song with the lyrics that Korobeiniki originally had, for I am not Russian, and instead think of the lyrics from Pig with the Face of a Boy's 2010 song 'Complete History Of The Soviet Union, Arranged To The Melody Of Tetris'.


Long live Stalin, he loves you. Sing these words, or you know what he'll do.

Still, the 'Complete History Of The Soviet Union, Arranged To The Melody Of Tetris' and even remixing video game music which itself is taken from a Russian is still many or orders of magnitude less weird as all get out than the idea of a musical about the cat afterlife.

¹which itself asks the obvious question - Are you real? Yes or No.
²As if you don't know what that is.

January 08, 2020

Horse 2646 - The ABC Is More Vital Than Ever

The current bushfire crisis, which is probably the biggest bushfire event in the recorded history of the world, apart from being a political horrorshow, is a practical demonstration of why the ABC is very very very very important.
Despite the economic terrorist organisations of Sky News and the IPA calling for the abolition of the ABC, they offer no alternative proposal to replace the vital emergency warning and information broadcast system that the ABC provides as part of the ABC Local Radio network. Dare I say that they don't actually care that the country is on fire; choosing instead to run a propaganda campaign of barely credible lies.

ABC Local Radio, especially on the AM band, is in a lot of cases, the only reliable source of information. Mobile phone services and the internet aren't even viable in many instances, when the infrastructure needed to make them work has been destroyed due to fire.
I also note that News Corp and Fairfax have scaled back their news desks, as have Prime/7, WIN Television/9 and Capital/10, only the ABC has journalists on the ground to report in real time what is going on. Macquarie Radio in Sydney is running a similar propaganda campaign to Sky News, and networks like Austereo which don't really employ journalists, are running very weak vox pops as their best but feeble efforts.

AM Radio is also uniquely technically poised to offer an emergency service because unlike Digital TV and Radio which fails even in completely clear weather and which is affected by storms within the line of sight from the transmission tower, or FM radio which is also affected by the smoke and haze, AM radio is sufficiently low tech that it isn't really affected enough to be unheard. AM radio transmissions have an effective range of thousands of miles in some cases, and I personally can attest to having listened to ABC Adelaide, ABC Melbourne, ABC Brisbane, and even radio from New Zealand using only basic equipment in Sydney. As you move around Australia, quite often the only thing that you will be able to find on the radio is the ABC.

Mobile phone services are fine but you can't exactly be expected to live stream radio from your mobile phone for hours at a time. It may as well be non-existent if the network goes down. AM Radio on the other hand, only needs a rudimentary radio to receive the signal and given that that signal can be picked up from hundreds and hundreds of kilometers away. Unless Sky News or the IPA propose some other alternative, then quite frankly, these troll terrorist organisations need to get out of this country.

Only the ABC has the ability to run emergency broadcast services to anything like the scale needed and because they aren't motivated by the profit motive, the ABC actually bothers to act like a public service.

https://mobile.twitter.com/abcsydney/status/1213297070645235714
We have begun rolling emergency broadcasting coverage on ABC Radio Sydney. 5 fires burn at Emergency-level across NSW, including the Green Wattle Creek fire near Sydney. Listen to ABC Radio Sydney on 702AM, online or on app. If you’re elsewhere, check http://reception.abc.net.au 
- ABC Radio Sydney, 4th Jan 2020.

For the 4th of January, ABC Local Radio in Sydney, completely abandoned its normal programming; instead choosing to focus on what was more important. Or rather, their AM service on 702 ran an emergency broad broadcast, while on digital they ran ABC Sydney as normal and an ABC Emergency station as a pop-up service. I imagine that this kind of thing has happened up and down the east coast especially across the nation to a lesser extent.

Part of the problem that this crisis has brought into sharp focus, is a distinct lack of care from people in power for the very people who they govern and in theory who they are supposed to serve. Sky News and the IPA are under no such illusions or pretenses and the only people who they serve are themselves. The idea that the people of the Commonwealth should share the wealth in common for the idea of peace, order and good government, is completely unknown to these organisations.

If these bushfires prove nothing else, it is that the attempts of Sky News and the IPA, as well as the badgering of Macquarie Radio and the complicit media companies to try to kill off the ABC, are insidious. I will confess that I am being radicalised online by Sky News and the IPA, to want to eliminate these economic terrorist organisations who don't even hide in plain sight.

The ABC is more important than ever and the current bushfire horrowshowcatasrophextravaganza makes that clearer than ever before.


January 05, 2020

Horse 2645 - Iran Attack - I Fail To Understand Why

At the weekend it came to light that US President Donald Trump authorised (or ordered) a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport, to kill Qassem Suleimani; who was Iran’s top general, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, commander of its Quds Force, and the second most powerful official in Iran.

The reason given is that US intelligence said that Suleimani, was developing plans to attack US diplomats and service members in Iraq and the region. Exactly what those plans were remains undisclosed. If this actually was a genuine reason, then that should be hidden for reasons of national security. If this was not a genuine reason, then that will be hidden for reasons of national security.
Does anyone actually believe anything Messrs. Trump and Pompeo say about the reason for the drone strikes? Recall, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo feigned surprise & ignorance when asked about the substance of the telephone call between President Trump & President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky; which became the subject of the articles of impeachment as passed by the House. We found out in the released transcripts that Pompeo was on the call.
It is like the moment we all feared has arrived. An unstable and unfit President in way over his head, panicking, with all his experienced advisers having quit, and only the sycophantic amateurs remaining. This President has now stooped to assassinating foreign leaders and announcing plans to bomb civilians.

What we do know is that as we speak, more than 170 Iraqi MPs have signed draft legislation ordering the expulsion of US troops from Iraq; a red flag has been raised over the Azam mosque of Qom, which is a signal that a major war is coming.

What we also know is that as Mr Trump could be facing an impeachment trial in the Senate (even this is not guaranteed as Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has not actually comitted to having the Senate hear the trial), this has proved immensely popular with his base.
The strke happened on the 2nd of January and on the 3rd, he was holding a rally with a crowd of thousands of cheering supporters King Jesus International Ministry megachurch in West Kendall, Florida.
It is as if after having seen all of the bad things line up in his kaleidoscope, he gave it a shake and once again saw all the prety colours and people cheering. Considering that this was a completely unprovoked attack by the United States, I wonder how in any way, this can be played as being righteous. I wonder which version of the bible people are reading.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, bomb your enemies and kill those who persecute you?
- Matthew 5:43-44

Of course Jesus didn't say that; yet somehow, this has become the launching platform for “Evangelicals for Trump”, which is all in aid of Mr Trump's 2020 re-election campaign.

I can only think of the words of the greatest Prime Minister that Britain never had, Tony Benn, before a 1998 vote in the House of Commons to decide to bomb Iraq:

https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1998/feb/17/iraq#S6CV0306P0_19980217_HOC_220

And every night, I went down to the shelter in Thames house. Every morning, I saw dockland burning. Five hundred people were killed in Westminster one night by a land mine. It was terrifying. Aren't Arabs terrified? Aren't Iraqis terrified? Don't Arab and Iraqi women weep when their children die? Does bombing strengthen their determination? What fools we are to live in a generation for which war is a computer game for our children and just an interesting little Channel Four news item.
- Tony Benn, MP for Chesterfield, 17th Feb 1998


In ordering to bomb Baghdad International Airport, to kill Qassem Suleimani, President Trump has indicated that he is prepared to open a door, to an unplanned and possibly uncontrollable war.



Bombing Iran in 2020 is no different in principle to bombing Iraq in 1998. Generals who fight wars from behind desks who are thousands of miles away, spend the coin of the battlefield, which is human blood, because they do not have to pay.
Soldiers pay. Civilians pay. Mothers pay. Fathers pay. Children pay. Sisters pay. Brothers pay. They pay in blood. They pay with death.

I fail to understand why this is righteous. I fail to understand why this is sensible. I fail to understand why this is just. I fail to understand why this even happened at all.

January 03, 2020

Horse 2644 - Black #5 or: How I Stopped Worrying And Built A Guitar (yo)

How many people can say that they spent part of their holidays building a guitar? I can.

I haven't been able to string it up fully yet but I have at least heard it sing for the first time. At the moment, the open string is playing a G#.


There is a whole cottage industry specifically devoted to the building of cigar box guitars but as I live in Australia where the rates of cigar smoking is minimal, the number of cigar boxes that are available to make guitars out of, is also minuscule. As such, we have to source other boxes and I this case, because I wanted something reasonably substantial, I bought a craft book box from Bunnings for $20. The neck is that 42mm x 19mm pine which is found in those bins in the timber section and is ridiculously cheap.
The neck is a straight through piece of wood, which has been doubled when passing through the guitar, and then screwed into place with a couple of brace pieces inside the box. 

I imagine that most people who attempt to build their own guitar would have a decent workbench and possibly a bunch of power tools. I only have hand tools and no workbench at all. A lot of the sawing that I need to do, is done with the bit of wood, laid out on the ground and suspended on firewood. A workbench would also be tremendously useful when drilling things. 
I am grateful that I have both a hole saw and a coping saw; those things are incredibly useful.


The paint on this is mostly Chromacryl, which you'll find in most stationery shops; though some of the paint was a tin of outdoor metal acrylic. I realised by happy accident that I could make fret marks by simply sawing across the fretboard and into the paint.
Again, I had no idea when setting out that this was going to be black but seeing as we had some black paint in the shed and I knew that the sound holes would stand out against the black, then the choice practically decided itself. If a guitar is going to have a name and most people tend to number their cigar box guitars, then logically this should be called Black #5.

The tail piece is simply just a couple of holes drilled through the neck; with six rivets that push into the holes. Someone much wiser than me worked out a long time ago that the standard balls at the end of the strings, sits nicely against one of those rivets. The bridge is just an offcut with one of the pins from rivet laid across in a cut groove. The nut is made from a nut and bolt. There are three eyelets as guides for the strings. Those sound holes are tea strainers, which were recovered from #3A. #3A was a wee little whiner and buzzed horrendously and was strung EBE with the top three strings but it exploded the head-stock in a summer¹.


As I only had one string which was a 40 gauge, I could only string that up to get an idea of what this is going to sound like. I think that it needs the three bottom strings from a guitar; probably with the lowest at about 56 and tuned to DAD². That would mean that what would be the 4th and 5th strings are tuned normally and the bottom string would be tuned down a whole step.

I found that I had to put more tension through the strings to stop the nut from buzzing and I fixed that by simply adding that nut to the other end of the bolt. Admittedly that raised the action of the guitar but seeing as it will be played with a slide, that's more or less irrelevant. What Black #5 seems to be telling me, is that it is demanding to be played loudly and it wants lower strings. I think that the voice that fits this guitar, is a low howl rather than a high pitched scream. 

Black #5 is way heavier than my other box guitar and almost as heavy as my regular acoustic. This thing is a beast and deliberately so because I didn't want it to suffer the same fate as #3A. I had hoped to install an electric humbucker and maybe I still can, as I have left space to do that; the one I got from Aldi, broke as I was trying to drill some holes into the tangs on the side, so that I could attach it. 

I have no proper workshop, no proper workbench, no mitre box, not table saw, no band saw, and no table router. I do however have some simple tools, an attitude of bravado and a streak of insanity. I got excited and made a guitar. If I can, you can. Get excited: make things!

¹http://rollo75.blogspot.com/2018/12/horse-2496-imperfect-and-cheap-is.html
²DAD tuning on a three string guitar is tuned to jokes. BADDAD tuning on a six string guitar is worse than Bad Dad Jokes. BAGDAD tuning sounds like Iraqi metal music.³
³No really, it does - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcuucFMtoas

January 02, 2020

Horse 2643 - The National Breakdown And Rejection Of Philia

I am willing to bet that the majority of the people who are reading this, grew up in some kind of family environment. The family is probably the oldest and most basic of human collectives and is even more simple than a village or a tribe.
The reason why I am speaking about the family as the most basic human collective is that it serves as a model upon which all other human collectives are based. Indeed the town and city, the corporation and firm, councils and counties, states and nations, are in effect all collectives of a kind, which are far bigger in scope than the family.

Also presumably, you will have probably loved the people in your family. Obviously this is a less intimate love than between two lovers but, the love contained within the family group is still pretty strong. It is also usually disposed to wanting to see what is best for the other members of the family group.
If you move outwards, you start to see a more disperse kind of love which includes those larger collectives; including towns, cities, corporations, firms, states and nations. This has been pondered for centuries by philosophers, as they have tried to understand the nature of the things which build society which aren't necessarily of the physical world. Indeed, in my opinion, two of the four most important things to have contributed to physical human happiness and development are not physical things but mass literacy and the limited liability corporation¹.

I think that what has happened in the twenty first century especially, and which is manifesting itself in political antagonism and in physical calamity such as the current bushfire crisis, is a chronic breakdown of the more disperse kinds of love.
We spent the 18th and 19th century, trying to establish and invent a kind of language for talking about the rights of the individual. We then spent the latter half of the 19th century and following the deaths of a hundred million people across the fields of Europe, we began to look at how the workings of a collective kind of practical love might operate, through the development of the welfare state. Yet towards the end of the 20th century and into the 21st, having decided to undo a lot of those practical workings and privatising the machinery, we're now back on the road of trying to establish the rights of the individual and smash the remnants of whatever a collective kind of practical love produced.

As far back as Aristotle in his Nichomachean Ethics, he wrote about the disperse kind of love called philia. Philia expresses itself as a brotherly love, which might extend to family, friends and the community. He describes the proper outworking of philia as expressing loyalty and fealty to individuals and to the group, and the proper exercise of this practical love requires the work of virtue, equality, and familiarity. However, the expressions of this in the twenty first century appear to be cracking.

The big question that practical love with regards to the collective, that is the state and the nation, is: how does this benefit the collective as a whole? What we are very much beginning to witness, expressed through the elections of Trump, Brexit, and our own pathetic election which was won on the issue of franking credits is: how does this benefit me?

The success of Trump began in 2010 with the rise of the TEA Party within the Republicans. In fact, the TEA Party never really went away, they just quietly moved to the control centre. Trump is not a political genius but rather an egoist and an opportunist, who found a home. Indeed, the TEA in TEA Party stands for "Taxed Enough Already", and was set up in opposition to the aims of the Obama administration which was trying to lay the ground work for a practical outworking of that collective kind of practical love; through the establishment of a collective health care system.
Trump also found that he could mine a lot of political capital through the deliberate exclusion of people and othering his imagined enemies. This is an expression of a rolling back of philia and the active repeal of the extension of that love. In return for loyalty and fealty to him, corporations to a larger degree and individuals to a lesser degree, have been rewarded by being allowed to show less practical love for the nation and its people through the mechanism of paying less in taxation.

The issue of Brexit, is an overt expression of rolling back a collective kind of love. Admittedly, the idea that someone might not necessarily feel European is what is at the heart of the issue here but it demands a deliberate forgetting of why the European Union exists in the first place.
The forerunner to the European Union, the European Economic Community, had its origins in the European Coal and Steel Community; and it had within the words of the charter, the recognition that the previous four decades had caused tremendous mayhem and destruction and that it was only through community that somethinG larger would be built. Brexit is an explicit rejection of that community.

In Australia, issues which swung the 2019 Federal Election and the NSW State Election, both were rejections of community. The superannuation system which has been very much manipulated so that individuals do not pay tax, was perhaps the biggest benefactor with regards the issue of franking credits.
Meanwhile, the New South Wales State Government was returned and immediately cut the budgets for the National Parks, the Rural Fire Service, and NSW Fire and Rescue. Even if you reject the premise that climate change exists, the fact that basic maintenance wasn't done in forestry and land management is purely due to the fact that budgets simply didn't exist².
Australia's domestic response to the worst bushfires in the history of the nation, has been: The Prime Minister running away to Hawaii. The Governor General running away to France. The Environment Minister being silent. The Energy Minister openly lying to the United Nations. The NSW Emergency Services also running away to the UK and France.

From the standpoint of nations, which is getting pretty close to the biggest organised human collective, we are witnessing a deliberate rejection of philia and care about the citizens of those nations. The citizens of those nations are crying out for someone to listen to them but even though there are magic words said to those citizens (which vary from nation to nation), the leaders of those nations are showing demonstrations of a deliberate rejection of a collective kind of practical love. They are aided and abetted by various private organisations who through the manipulation of the media or simply through the manipulation of government itself, are seeking to defund, degrade, and destroy those institutions which facilitate the enactment of practical love.
In doing so, by rendering nations and states less powerful, power shifts to the next biggest human collectives which are corporations and firms, who love nobody but themselves.

¹The other two being proper sewerage and water management, and refrigeration.
²The suggestion that the Greens prevented fire management is simply untrue and if you want to run that as an excuse, then you are an idiot. Also, the fires have not been caused by arsonists; for if they had, then there would be thousands of people charged and imprisoned. The scope and length of fire fronts, renders that excuse also simply untrue. If you want to run that as an excuse, then you are an idiot.

December 31, 2019

Horse 2642 - Operation Red Line - CBD and South East Light Rail (L2)

In the closing month of the 2010s, Sydney began to undo a 60 year old mistake and has started to put the trams back in. In principle, a tram is a much better transport solution than a bus because they run on discrete tracks; which means that they can run right through the centre of very heavily trafficked pedestrian precincts.

I had hoped to go on two tram lines yesterday but the T1 line from Sydney Terminal to Dulwich Hill was so incredibly packed that they had to employ platform guards. There was no way that I would enjoy a ride on that tram yesterday; nor will there be for several years while the Bankstown Line is out of commission and being converted to the new Metro specifications.


T2 begins at Circular Quay and the first thing of note is that the whole line is kind of run as a halfway house between a full on railway line and a tramway that is found in Melbourne. The trams are run in their own demarcated lanes with roll kerb markers to separate car traffic and where they do run down the centre of the street, regular vehicular access is denied. Unlike Melbourne, there are no Fairways nor Hook Turns. Maybe Transport for NSW thinks that the people of Sydney are too dim to figure it out. Circular Quay terminal has three platforms and none of them are numbered.


The 'office' of the tram driver is a rather cosy looking place. They are thrust forward in a central position and surrounded by a lot of fun buttons. I think that they are operated by variable speed control and a brake pedal and possibly with a dead man's pedal.

I have no real need to take photographs of the stops at Wynyard or the QVB because apart from trams running down the street, the built environment hasn't changed a lot.
I did however take a photograph of Town Hall Station as the example. The signs throughout the system are red, as opposed to the orange on the train network, the green on ferry wharfs, and blue at big bus stops. They all have a derivation of the New Johnston typeface which is found on the London Underground but I know not exactly what typeface it is. Also, the Opal Card readers are also the same ones found at train stations without passimeter gates; which is to be expected.


The line heads down George St, turns left into Eddy Ave, cuts right into Chalmers St, and then turns left into what I think is Devonshire St; before heading past the Sydney Cricket Ground, Randwick Racecourse, the University of NSW and ending up in the middle of a boring part of Randwick.
The stations which are separate from the regular flow of traffic, are functional but not exactly things of architectural beauty. I think that they fit in nicely with the overall corporate scheme that Transport for NSW is trying to convey but they are all a bit cold.



They call this station Moore Park which although is technically correct, it feels oh so wrong. Across the way is the Sydney Cricket Ground; which is a hallowed bit of turf which has defined 160 summers and many many winters. I think that this station should be called Sydney Cricket Ground rather than Moore Park.
This station has metal barriers installed and pedestrian underpasses, which I presume will mainly be used as vomitoria at the end of a big sporting fixture. Already there has been forethought put into the intended use of this station and I very much like it.



While I do like that these platforms all fit together with the same design language as the rest of the system, they all feel a bit lifeless and soulless. Had I been in charge of the project, I think that I would have given the task of designing the stations to different architectural firms and told them that it has to look like a Sydney Tram Stop. Many different ideas would have been expressed; in the same way that all of the London Underground despite having all kinds of different styles and methods of construction, all feel like the London Underground. Maybe it's just the newness of this system but it just doesn't really do anything to inspire me.



Somehow I suspect that this is the point. I know that it is possible to create nice things but for some reason, we choose not to. At the University of NSW, the tram stop actually complements the surrounds because the design language of the buildings is so monolithic. I am led to believe that medicine happens inside that building but I cannot help but feel that it is very impersonal.


If it ever came to it and a tram was in a situation where it outran the end of the line, it would probably come to a halt within about three feet. There aren't any fail safe buffers or triggers because Randwick Station is already on an upwards slope.
Also, I mentioned earlier that this ends in the middle of boring suburbia. In the immediate environs, there is one sandwich shop and whatever there is at the hospital down the street. This is not in the slightest a tourist destination and nor is it really intended to be. I love it. Just like Leppington Station which is a railway station in the middle of nowhere in preparation for a housing development, Randwick Station is a triumph of function. It does exactly what it is supposed to. Boring is brilliant.


I conclude this back at Central Station with a point of confusion. I completely realise that this is a tram line but over a brick wall is the regular train platforms 22 and 23. Not quite directly underneath this is platforms 24 and 25. I hope that the new Metro platforms will be numbered 13 and 14 because that is where the box for the new Metro line has been excavated. As platform 15 will not be reinstated, that number should be used for the single platform for the Dulwich Hill L1 tram line and I think that these two tram platforms should be numbered 26 and 27. That would greatly help with integration into the station because right now, it seems just a little bit orphaned.


Yet again my biggest gripe with the implementation of this network is why did we specifically have to buy trains from France and Spain? What would have been wrong with Comeng built trams which came from Australia?
There's nothing inherently wrong with the Alstom Citadis 305 but I have no idea why the decision was taken to choose to send the manufacturing jobs overseas. Evidently, we are too stupid to build trams in Australia.

December 30, 2019

Horse 2641 - Re-Tooling A Metaphor

Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle.

Most people would interpret 'the fiddle' as being a violin. However, the 'fiddle' in this case actually refers to the manipulation of politicians and legislative bodies, to write favourable rules for the rich and and powerful and for multinational corporations, who can ignore national boundaries. The cat stands for these entities and is a signifier for the craftiness and cunning of them.
'Hey diddle diddle' is on the face of it, little more than poetic nonsense which is dressed up like a case of echolalia to rhyme with the clause which follows. 'Diddle' is in fact a diminutive and because it is doubled, it means that this is in the plural. The use of the word 'hey' at the beginning of this is clearly meant to be attention grabbing because what is to follow is both urgent and important.

The cow jumped over the moon.

Obviously a cow jumping over the moon can only be within the realm of metaphor. While it is true that puissance is the high-jump component in the equestrian sport of show jumping, I know not of a bovine equivalent.
A cow is a sufficiently large enough beast to signify something which is massive and difficult to stop. Having established that the cat and the fiddle refers to multinational corporations, this line refers to the fact that they are not only able to jump across national borders and regulations but that they do so with relative ease.

The little dog laughed to see such fun.

A dog is an animal which through proper training, can be made to come to heel and conform to the will of their master. You would be correct in thinking that the loyalty and fealty of dogs can be established and extracted oh so easily, and it is to this end that this metaphor begins.
The fact that the dog is laughing at the 'fun' that it is witnessing, either means that the dog is a willing participant or that the dog is in fact too stupid to critically analyse what is going on. This is especially evident among sections of the electorate who have in the past decade or so, been made to conform their will and even their speech with the economic right, despite the fact that it runs counter to their own interests. By using the magic words of some assumed morality, or appeals to nationalism, racism, national security or nativism (even when the people doing the propagandising don't actually conform to the standard themselves), the 'little dog' (that is the electorate) has been convinced to not only vote for these people but actually cheerlead for them.

And the dish ran away with the spoon.

At the same time that the economic right has been stealing away the 'little dog'of the electorate with tissue paper promises, the economic left has more or less abandoned its previous base and thrown its lot in with a modern kind of cultural leftist and libertarian pluralism. Granted that liberal democracies have for the last century or so expanded people's rights and conditions, it was almost always the collectivist push of the economic left who did that; predominantly through the movement of the chartists, trade unionists, suffragettes. The last thirty years especially have seen movements like the push for LGBTQI rights but they have almost been in direct opposition to the economic left; and after having achieved what they set out to do, offer no kind of dialogue with the people whom they have othered. The dish and the spoon have engaged in an almost identical game to the cat and the cow.