September 21, 2018

Horse 2467 - ...ex In the City

A client of mine who is "so Jewish that he circumsised his gefilte fish", wants to start a podcast about financing startup companies, which is also the "most Jewish thing for a podcast that he could think of". He intends to call it "Keks In The City"; which if anyone else suggested it, would be really racist.
This led me down a series of mental alleys and passages, that eventually took me to Stupid Town.

Bex In The City - a podcast about an aspirin–phenacetin–caffeine compound analgesic. The 1960's housewife's drug of choice... before they discovered Smirnoff.

Mex In The City - a podcast about trying to find decent Mexican food.

Pyrex In The City - a podcast about Minnesotan Hotdish.

Rex In The City - a podcast about a giant dinosaur who is trying to fit in with modern society.

Rex In The City - a podcast about a bulldog who has a law degree and is in private practice.

Rex In The City - a podcast about a dinosaur and a dog who has a law degree, who drive around in their hotted up Subaru Impreza.

Dex In The City - a podcast about the midnight runners and their attempts to get their first single "Dance Stance" heard on the radio.

Chex In The City - a podcast about the history of negotiable financial instruments.

Lex In The City - a podcast about a Batman villain.

Lex In The City - a podcast about driving slowly in a Japanese luxury car.

Lex In The City - a podcast about a Batman villain driving slowly in a Japanese luxury car.

Shrex In The City - a podcast about a giant ogre who has inadvertently found himself in the modern world.

Tex In The City - a podcast about how everything is bigger in the Lone Star state.

Fex In The City - a podcast about Irish swear words.

Trex In The City - a podcast about walking around and seeing what you find.

Pex In The City - a podcast about gym franchising.

Flex In The City - a podcast about the installation and repair of air conditioning ducts.

Tex Mex In The City - a podcast about the westernization of various dishes from Mexico.

Hardiflex In The City - a podcast about building materials which are suitable for building a garage out of, in 1986.

Nex In The City - a podcast about giraffes.

Chex In The City - a podcast about the search for one very particular kind of breakfast cereal.

Hex In The City - a podcast about witches and spells that they have placed upon various bits of real estate.

Hex In The City - a podcast about using allen keys.

September 20, 2018

Horse 2466 - Three Easy Pieces

Spicy Skittles¹
If someone mixes Skittles in with a bowl full of M&M's, then that person is a monster and you should shun them. Shun them. You should banish them to Room 101. However, if someone mixes Spicy Skittles in with a bowl full of M&M's, then you should have them committed to one of those places where they can wear a special jacket that allows them to hug themselves all day long.
Actually, if you find someone who has a bowl of Spicy Skittles, then at very least you should question their sanity if it is the second packet that they have bought. Buying the first packet because of curiosity is acceptable because humans are curious but buying the second packet after they already bought a first one, is madness.
Sour lollies  have been around since way before I was a kid. Hot lollies like Warheads have also been around for a long time as well. Those lollies  are already substandard; so mucking around with them is fine. I even got used to weird chili chicken flavoured lollipops that my in-laws sent from America. There is a special kind of insanity to those. However, Spicy Skittles are messing with the forces of nature.
There's nothing inherently wrong with them and yet, that's precisely what is wrong with them. They are spicy enough that if you weren't expecting it you would be surprised but they aren't spicy enough to make you keel over and writhe around on the floor in pain. They appear to be made for people in their old age, who normally aren't eating lollies in the first place; that does my head in.

I have no idea if this was a thing from a commercial that went away and came back or if it was film related but a client of ours walked into our office with an officially branded pair of Pizza Hut Pie-Tops this week.
Put simply, they are shoes that kind of look a bit like Chuck Taylor All-stars, with WiFi enabled connection to your smart phone, so that when you press a button on the side in a very deliberate and particular manner, they order pizza. Your shoes order pizza. I don't know what strange future I have accidentally entered but I need this in my life.
Pizza is in my not very well paid or thought through opinion, the king of all sandwiches. Pizza is an elaborate open sandwich that just happens to be baked. I love sandwiches. I love toasted sandwiches and my sandwich press gets used on a semi regular basis. Having a pair of shoes where you can press a button and it orders pizza, combines a gloriously stupid invention with the reward of having pizza at the end. I do care how dumb this is. I care because pizza ordering shoes are an invention which nobody needs, to solve a problem that wasn't really there, to give you pizza which is delicious. Yes, yes, yes!

Is This A Peace Treaty?³
The two presidents of the two Koreas, Kim and Moon, from the north and the south, met in Pyongyang on Wednesday and signed off on further outcomes resulting from the Panmunjom Declaration of April this year. Some of the articles included North Korea shutting down a missile installation, further moves towards the full denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, more details of what peace looks like, and infrastructure announcements including road and rail.
You'll find this buried deep into the pages of The Australian, in the "world" section of the Sydney Morning Herald, and it didn't even get a mention in the Daily Telegraph; so if you've been following the printed press in Australia, you might have missed it. It did find reportage on both the ABC and SBS and on ABC News Radio but I have no idea about the rest of television news.
What I want to know is if the 45th President of the United States tweets a twoosh on Twitter, then the media goes into a blind flap but if you have possibly the most significant news story of the decade, which might have formally ended the Korean War (I haven't yet read though the details) then why is this not front and centre across all the news media? If this actually is the formal end to a war which was started 70 years ago and the two leaders are looking at ways to formally establish a peaceful normality, then this is properly excellent.
They're also talking about sending a unified team to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, which is incidental but if this plays out similarly to the way in which the two Germanys reunified, then 2024 might not actually be symbolic but a matter of fact; that would also be excellent.

September 19, 2018

Horse 2465 - This Is Not A 2019 Everest; So Stop Saying It Is, Ford.

With Holden suffering their worst sales months since 1948, Ford is loudly crowing about the fact that their Mustang is outselling the Commodore. I find this to be quite tone deaf on the part of Ford because apart from two months when the Mustang was still a new model in Australia, the Mustang has never again been able to outsell the now discontinued Falcon. I suspect though that Ford don't want to crow all that loudly about that.
When Commodore and Falcon basically exited stage left from the top of the sales charts, that space was filled by the Toyota Corolla, Toyota Hilux, Mazda 3, and Hyundai i30, and Ford having decided that they'd again like to play at the top end of the charts, woke up from their stupor and have been pitching the T6 Ranger T6 in their ad campaigns. Again the irony is that Ford Australia developed and engineered the T6 Ranger and were then immediately refused permission to build it in Australia because Ford loves the profits that Australia sends to Detroit but is just like all the rest of the motor companies now in that they don't love Australians enough to employ them to build stuff. Ford's latest ad campaigns look even more tone deaf and I've now seen on telly, in print, and online, adverts touting the 2019 Ranger.

Today's date (and this is something which would appear on the blackboard of a kindergarten classroom) is the 19th of September 2018. 2018. 2018. 2018?! What Ford are trying to push on us is the absolutely idiotic practice of the Model Year, which I suppose is justified in their eyes as Ford Motor Company can't see beyond the city environs of Detroit and their Profit and Loss statements.
Out here in the real world where physical stuff exists and actual real life happens, the whole concept of a Model Year is "a bunch of stuff¹" in the words of Joe Biden.

The whole idea of a Model Year from what I can determine, came about because of Alfred P Sloan at General Motors. At some point in the 1920s, he hit upon the idea of marketing cars as fashion items in the hope that the hoi polloi would replace their cars in the same manner as the fashion cycle happened. This would have been a lovely idea in the 1920s where the rich in America were turning over obscene amounts of money in a hurry and there was no way that it couldn't last forever... except... except...
When the stock market crashed like a 1920s Cadillac doing 125mph with 1920s brakes, it slammed into the wall of destiny and everyone was really really sad for a very long time; starting the Great Depression, which wasn't all that great for anyone at all. It especially wasn't great for the motor companies and for a period of time while the world was plunged into another World War, the motor companies basically put their model lineups on hold as they too were drafted into the war effort.
It wasn't really until after the Second World War that new designs started appearing again and in the meantime they had practically halted. A 1948 Ford looks pretty much like a 1941 Ford. Armed with a revitalised economy and a growing middle class, the motor companies now found that they could cycle through new models without doing anything except changing the grills and lights on a regular basis and the idea of a yearly model cycle and a Model Year was reborn.
The thing that I find really really infuriating about the idea of a Model Year, is that the Model Year bears absolutely no relation to the calendar year. In some cases where a new model is built alongside an older one, they might both share the same Model Year; also if a particular model debuts at different times around the world, the same Model Year might last as long as 34 months. What kind of buck-wild nonsense is this?

There is already a perfectly good system for designating between different models and even sub-models of the same car and considering this is Australia and we've been using the system for the past seventy years, there's no need to be foisting this rubbish on us. That system is the already extent Model Code.

Every Australian kid worth their automotive GT stripes should be able to recite the following:
XK, XL, XM, XP, XR, XT, XW, XY, XA, XB, XC, XD, XE, XF, XG (ute), XH (ute), XN (Nissan Ute), EA, EB, ED, EF, EL, AU, BA, BF, FG, FGX.
That series of letter codes is the complete run of Ford Falcons from 1960 to close in 2016. The Model Code tells you succinctly which one is which and is precise.

Across other manufacturers Model Codes are also useful. Proper car nerds should be able to tell what AE86, FD, EP3, FN2, R32, DC5 and KC are just by the code. They will also be able to tell you what the subtle difference between an AE85 and AE86 are as well².
For cars where the Model Code isn't used, the Generation Number is also useful. Fiesta Mk4 through to Fiesta Mk7 all sit on the same platform, the 3rd Gen Mustang is the Fox body car, an Impala 10 is the one that shouldn't exist because it should have properly been VF Commodore, and Ford Fusion 2 is Mondeo Mk4.
Technically this is a Ford Everest Mk3, which has been derived from the T6 Ranger. Ford if they were sensible would have given us the Model Code as the designation because the Model Year is not only deceptive, I'm going to say that it is a straight up lie.

Cars that are sold in Australia are by law fitted with a compliance plate. That compliance plate contains all sorts of neat details like the VIN and Gross Vehicle Mass but the one thing that renders the whole concept of a Model Year as a complete lie is the build date. The build date is the thing that tells you when it left the factory and I can tell you that unless Ford have secretly gained access to time travel, there is no way in nine kinds of Hades that that compliance plate will read anything other than 2018 by virtue of the fact that the car already exists.

This is not a 2019 car. Don't say it is when it's not. Stop lying, Ford, for Ford's sake. Unless of course you want to enter a brave new world; in which case, welcome to the year AF110 - 110 Anno Ford, in the year of Ford, Amen.

¹This is a bunch of stuff -
²Just by looking at it -

September 18, 2018

Horse 2464 - Why A Congress Full Of Jackasses Will Not Be Able To Remove The Elephant In The Room

More than half a lifetime ago, when my age began with a 1, one of the opening subjects that I did on the road to working in accounting was Commercial Law 1A. That was soon followed by Commercial Law 1B, 2A and 2B. Somewhere in there was Constitutional Law with regards companies (both proprietary and regular limited companies) and a comparison of various constitutions. That meant that as part of an accounting course, I was inadvertently exposed to the Australian, Canadian and US Constitutions.
I like the Australian Constitution. People will tell you that is called the "Washminster" system because it combines elements of the Washington (US) and Westminster (UK) systems of government but really, it is closer in spirit to the Canadian Constitution; which had already been in place and had already long dealt with similar issues.
Likewise, I do not like the US Constitution. I don't like that the President and Cabinet sit outside the Congress because that means that apart from the President, the entire cabinet is made up of non-elected people. The US Constitution is so incredibly badly constituted, that precisely ZERO countries have copied it. The US Constitution is so incredibly badly constituted, that two years after it was accepted, it was amended 10 times with the Bill of Rights and a further 17 times after that.

It looks to me that the US Constitution was deliberately designed to be terrible. The Continental Congress which had met from 1774 to 1789 in three incarnations and was basically leaderless and toothless, only really had the power to lay taxes and declare war and nothing else. James Madison, John Jay and Alexander Hamilton wrote series of essays, that were anonymously published under the handle of "Publius" to defend the document to the public through the newspapers and were supposed to write 25 essays together but John Jay fell ill after only writing 5, Madison wrote 29 and Hamilton wrote 51.
From there the US Constitution was argued among 55 men; of which only 39 survived the rigors of argument until the end and the grand idea of Montesquieu took root; which accounts for the separation of powers and branches as defined by the constitution.
Herein lies why the US Constitution is terrible.

The three branches of the US Government are slow and clunky. That's fine if you want properly written and executed legislation which has been properly scrutineered in good faith. Increasingly though, we have seen factionalism and bad faith (well actually we saw that in 1800 but...). A slow and clunky government also means that it is night on impossible to remove someone who should be removed. The US Government is like a three ring circus which is a giant menagerie of badly behaved animals.
The first ring in the three ring circus is The Supreme Court which is basically a permanently baked-in factional cesspit and this was best exemplified by the decision in Marbury v. Madison (1803):
It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.¹
In theory The Supreme Court should be the three wise monkeys but because they're political appointments, they just like to fling poo.
The second ring in the three ring circus is the office of the President; which in 1789 was only conceived as far as installing George Washington and no further. There was supposedly talk of having Washington as an American king but I haven't found much in the way of evidence for that.
Removing a President is nigh on impossible; especially when the president is the elephant in the Red Room or the Oval Office.
The third ring is the Congress. The Congress has the power to put checks and balances on the President's picks for Supreme Court nominations; or as we have seen in recent years, grind those picks to a complete standstill. They also have the power to removed the President and Vice President but the process is arcane.

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.
- Article II, Section 4

As it stands, an impeachment resolution would begin in the House of Representatives under whatever rules that the House Committee on Rules and then the Judiciary Committee come up with. A set of grounds for impeachment would be drawn up, wherein the House would vote on it and it would be sent to the Senate to be tried.
Under the current set of rules, an impeachment resolution needs 2/3rds of approval in the House and then 2/3rds approval in the Senate. It is so incredibly difficult that to date, in 239 years, no President has been impeached. The way things are, I think that it is impossible for Mr Trump to be impeached as well.

Even if you were to predict the biggest blue tsunami imaginable, of the sort that would make Hurricane Katrina and the waves look like she was walking on sunshine, the bluest of blue waves only gets me to 263 seats in the House and 58 seats in the Senate.
If the Democrats win every single tossup seat in the House and every single seat where the swing is less than 10%, then you only get to 263 seats and they need 290 to pass an impeachment resolution.
If the Democrats win every single contestable seat in the Senate, then because only a third of the Senate is up for reelection every two years, then the best the can hope for is 58 seats and they need 66 to pass an impeachment resolution.
In every single possible scenario, even if the Democrats win all 435 seats in the House and do manage to pull off a unanimous impeachment resolution, there will always be 42 Republicans in the Senate and they are 0% likely to want to impeachment Mr Trump.

It could very well be thought that my thought about the US Government being badly constituted is wrong. It could very well be that Madison, Jay and Hamilton, along with the 55 people who argued in that summer in Philadelphia wanted to make it impossible to remove Washington as President. Maybe they really did see no further than him because based on the previous Continental Congress which was leaderless and toothless, there wasn't any reason to suspect that the new experiment would be any different. Maybe they really did want a king in everything but name who was technically impeachable in theory but unimpeachable in practice.
Whatever the case, they could not have forseen the elephant in the Oval Office and the impossible task that a Congress full of Jackasses have in getting rid of him. The numbers don't work; maybe by design.


September 14, 2018

Horse 2463 - 7Books: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C Clarke

There is a good mathematical explanation why the book is almost always better than the film (see below¹); in fact, the only example that I can think of where I personally enjoyed the film more than the book, was The Lord Of The Rings trilogy because I find Tolkien's writing to be tedious. This example of 2001: A Space Odyssey is a case where I don't much like the style of writing of the book but I still mostly enjoyed it and where I like part of the film of the book but I find great chunks of it to be a bunch of eye bleeding nonsense.

The basic plot of both the book and the film is straightforward. There is a black thing on Earth called the monolith, which is discovered and more or less kicks off the technological evolution of humans. Another one is found on the moon, which in turn sets off the discovery of another one around Jupiter and a scientific mission is sent to explore it. The ship's onboard computer which has been given sentience through artificial intelligence, realises that it is unable to complete the mission because of the inherent error proneness of the ship's crew; so it kills them all except for one who manages to disable it, and that crew member goes on to explore the monolith in space, before passing through it and inadvertently evolving into the next stage of what humans are apparently.
The book has a lot to say about what it means to be human through the device of a machine which displays more human internal conflict than any of the actual humans in the book.

I think that 2001 suffers from being changed during the process of writing and as I understand it, Clarke was writing it concurrently with the film, which itself was in a state of flux due to the machinations of Stanley Kubrick. The best book in the Odyssey series is 3001 in my opinion because it reads like an old fashioned straight forward adventure novel and Clarke had finally got it right. As a work of writing, 2001 is almost a self-referential piece because it displays its own internal conflict because it doesn't really know what it's trying to be and ends up being an space adventure, commentary on human nature, warning on technology and an establishing piece of world building, but it does it all badly.
So why do I like this book and why is it important enough to make my personal list of seven? Remember the opening paragraph to this blog post - the book is almost always better than the film.

Once upon a time in the land before Eternal September and during the summer after which Win Percy and Alan Grice had won the Bathurst 1000 in an HRT Commodore, I had left primary school but hadn't yet entered high school; when someone thought that I might like to read a science fiction novel. I suppose that my nascent nerdery might have been on display, even as a twelve year old. I don't remember who gave me their beat up old copy but I can remember reading this book, mostly propped up against the door jamb of my room, while the summer raged on and ten billion cicadas simultaneously yelled into the world.
This is one of the reasons why the book is better than the film in most cases. Precisely because the book takes more time to get through and because it requires more of a personal investment of time and emotional hardware, the reward of enjoyment is almost always bigger. Also, because watching a film mostly happens inside a darkened room, there aren't really any other sensory inputs. There's not really that same sense of place or time of where and when you were when you consumed the media in the case of a film as opposed to the book.

2001 was probably the first book that I read that made me think about the act of reading a book and what that book was doing to me. I can still remember when I was becoming increasingly frustrated with Dave Bowman and then shut the book in anger because I thought I was being manipulated by the book and then realised that that's exactly what Clarke intended to do. Arthur C Clarke's intention is to make you annoyed with the almost mechanical humans in the book so that you can see the not quite humanity of the machine. I don't think that I'd ever realised before that an author not only could manipulate you but was actively trying to do so.

This I suspect is the same reason why people go to horror movies or want to watch weepy movies because they want to feel something. 2001 did make me feel something, manipulated, and I resented it. Of course in due time, I kind of grew the emotional hardware to process this and as a result, one of my favourite books is The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald because it makes me want to hate every single person in the whole stupid, tragic story and that includes the narrator². Clarke clearly wants to manipulate you into feeling frustrated with the crew and tries to make you feel some degree of sympathy for HAL but manages to succeed in doing neither. Having said all of that, I will still reread 2001 because it is a necessary component in the journey of getting to 3001: The Final Odyssey; which is a far better book in my not very well paid opinion.

The film of the book of 2001 is considered something of a cinematic masterpiece but as a thing which is trying to convey one of the central conflicts of the book, it fails. Granted, it does other things elegantly (such as making exceptional use of silence as a device, the fantastic use of camera angles and set design, and one of the most inspired soundtracks in cinematic history) but the one thing that it doesn't do that it should, is give that central internal conflict of HAL, his fears and overwhelming need to complete his mission at any and every cost, the necessary time and space to breathe. As a reader, that time and space is a natural consequence of the volume of time that it takes to work through it.
2001 makes this set as an object lesson for why the book is better than the film, even when the book is a little bit naff.

¹Does Hollywood ruin books? - Numberphile
²Nick Carraway fawns over Gatsby, hates Tom and is constantly drunk; which clouds his narration. He is a terrible narrator and hideously unreliable.

September 12, 2018

Horse 2462 - The Herald-Sun Is Still Racist

The Herald-Sun in its continuing propaganda campaign to promote racism (at this point I am not convinced that it could be anything other than this), decided to publish a cartoon by Mark Knight, who was already known for his carry-on on the subject of so called 'African gangs' in Melbourne, which has depicted Serena Williams in that grand tradition of Sambo cartoons that would have been at home in a newspaper of more than a century ago.
This is a multi faceted jewel of barbarity on the part of the Herald-Sun and one that warrants looking at it from different angles to catch the various rays of darkness that emanate from it.

As with any good recipe of far-right racist baby formula, there needs to be some ingredients of truth to make it at least part way palatable before it gets vomited all over the pages of a newspaper, which is ultimately undigestable.
Serena Williams who is somewhat known for losing her temper in an undignified manner on the tennis court, was given a code violation for coaching by the umpire  in the US Open tennis final, and then then deducted another point for racquet abuse deducted a point for racquet abuse and back chatting to the umpire. She spat the dummy and gave the umpire a verbal spray before finally losing to Naomi Osaka 6-2, 6-4. During the presentation of the trophies, she was booed by the crowd; so this whole incident was already an international controversy.
I would expect therefore that the Herald-Sun would take sport at this. I don't care if you are playing sport in a local competition or on the world's stage, there simply isn't a place for getting angry with the referees. They might very well be wrong, they might not be aware of the rules of the game, they might not even be watching the game that they are refereeing, there are norms that are accepted and expected that the umpires and referees should be allowed to do their job without hindrance. You simply do not talk to the referees unless explicitly spoken to.
Serena Williams smashed that norm and as such, does deserve to do the subject of sport being made of her. In that respect, Serena Williams was fair game for the subject of an editorial cartoon. This however, is where the story gets complicated.

In Monday's edition of the Herald-Sun, resident cartoonist and agent barbarian Mark Knight, published a now infamous cartoon which portrayed Ms Williams in the same sort of style in which blacks and Africans in the United States were portrayed during the time of the Jim Crow Laws. Meanwhile, I am left questioning why Naomi has Osaka turned into a blonde white woman? If this isn't about race, then why has there been an obvious whitewashing?
This has of course jumped international boundaries thanks to the internet and has subsequently become the subject of editorials in the Washington Post and New York Times.

One of the skills that a cartoonist should have in their kit is the art of the caricature; a caricature by nature relies on the art of exaggeration. We should expect that an editorial cartoon will make fun of someone's big ears, nose or some other feature that the subject is famous for. In principle, a caricature makes use of visual stereotypes and shortcuts as the prism through which to view the world through.
In case though, the stereotype which is being riffed off of, is one seated very much in a problematic history. The Herald-Sun can claim that this particular cartoon isn't playing to that problematic history but to any person of reasonable intelligence and knowledge about the world, that claim simply does not stand up. Also given the history of the Herald-Sun and Mark Knight as a cartoonist for that same newspaper, it is even more difficult to make the claim that this is anything but an ungenerous attack on Ms Williams' dignity and an attack which employs that same problematic history of race.

Of course this morning, the Herald-Sun and indeed News Corp through the Australian and Sky News (but not the Daily Telegraph which chooses to remain strangely slient), has doubled down on its usual free speech angle; claiming that it has the right to publish whatever it likes according to that same right to free speech.

Interestingly, the Daily Telegraph in Sydney, also published a cartoon to accompany a piece by Miranda Devine in today's newspaper for September 12.

The cartoon in question does caricature her haircut, and her teeth and she's swatting a tennis ball shaped like the Venus/female symbol and Serena in the cartoon is obviously black skinned as well; which is accurate. Miranda's column is that Serena has a history of bullying umpires and that women are just as capable of being bullies as men are. It's a completely valid set of criticisms. This means to say that both the subject and a caricature can be done seriously; without resorting to obvious racism.

The Herald-Sun doesn't seem to have learned any lessons from its previous excursions down this road, when similar issues were met with previous racist cartoons by Bill Leak and Michael Leunig. The Herald-Sun is even trying to claim that it is suffering under censorship, despite the fact that these cartoons are in-house moderated and any censorship they're up against is brought by and against themselves.
In the wake of this  Mark Knight appears to have deleted his Twitter account; probably also trying to cite his being censored, despite the fact that censorship does not equal outside criticism.

As I was writing this on the B1 bus to Mosman, I realised that I am the embodiment of the legal fiction of "The man on the Clapham omnibus". I am that hypothetical ordinary and reasonable person, the right-thinking member of society, the officious bystander, and the fair-minded and informed observer. I am also white; which means that in theory that I should be nominally immune from racism such as this because I am not the subject. However, I am seriously offended.

The Polish-born American rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who once was living in a rented room in the home of a Jewish family in Frankfurt and who was arrested by the Gestapo, whose mother and two sisters were killed by the Nazis, who went on to be active in the civil rights movement; including in the  in the Selma Civil Rights march wrote:
"There is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible."
- Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Reasons for My Involvement in the Peace Movement, 1972

I would argue that irrespective of what our intent is, it does not matter. It isn't our intent which matters because the vast majority of prejudice, bias and racism is unconscious, but it is the effect our denial has on people who have experienced such prejudice, bias and racism for the entirety of their lives.
It is our duty to listen to people of colour  when they tell us what is racist and that they suffer serious and injury and injustice due to systemic racism.  It is our duty to yell loudly at the The Herald-Sun, that this is unacceptable.

September 10, 2018

Horse 2461 - 7Books: The World According To Clarkson, Jeremy Clarkson

Given the more than 2000 posts here over the years it shouldn't be surprising to anyone that I like cars. I like watching motor racing, I like reading motoring magazines, l like looking at traffic, I like driving and I like driving even when I'm stuck in traffic. I like the styling, the technological aspect, the industrial design problems posed by trying to fit stuff inside a motor car and I like the dumb fun that comes front taking a road trip, more than I like the destination.
It should therefore also be of no surprise that a motoring book should make this list. What might be of surprise though, are the reasons why I should pick one by Jeremy Clarkson.

The first thing that you learn about Jeremy Clarkson from his motoring columns in the Sunday Times and his tweets on Twitter, is that Jeremy Clarkson on TopGear is kind of a caricature of himself. If you cut through the terribleness surrounding bad behavior and a media circus that has no desire to report truth whatever that may be, you learn that the thing that worries him the most is the welfare of his children. The second thing that you learn, and in takes a while to pick this up, is the reason why he got the gig on television in the first place; that is that he was a feature writer for a newspaper and was given ample time to breathe as a writer.

A normal newspaper columnist will start out as a pavement runner, visiting all of the boring places and doing the grunt work of journalism. They will attend council meetings, court cases, accidents, sporting events and everywhere that the newspaper needs a pair of eyes and a pen. Clarkson started out as a cadet journalist in Rotherham; which sounds to me to be less exciting than watching paint dry but not quite as boring as waiting for it to peel. I've seen this in my local newspaper, that a lot of the job must involve meeting a lot of grumpy people who are grumpy over really petty and insanely small things (but not in their eyes) and taking photographs of those same people looking grumpy and/or pointing at things while looking grumpy.
Exactly how Clarkson made the leap from the tedium of provincial news to a national newspaper is unknown to me but it must have given him the necessary skills via osmosis of how to write copy and make a story which actually only deserves fifty words, run out to fifteen hundred. As someone who might have had the nascent skills to be a journalist had I been born fifty years earlier, I appreciate the skills on display where a small thing is spun into a larger thread upon a spinning wheel.

All of this by way of introduction is instructive as to why have put one of Jeremy Clarkson's books on this list. Clarkson is first and foremost a journalist who happens to have specialised  in motoring writing. As a motoring writer,  he spends surprisingly little time writing about motor cars but rather spends more time telling stories. The truth is that it is mostly impossible to convey how a car feels to drive and it's going to be immensely subjective anyway. It is also incredibly boring to most people to read about statistics like power, torque and 0-60 times, unless you are something of a nerd.
Clarkson likes to feign a kind of ignorance when it comes to anything technical despite being in the business of doing motoring journalism for more than two decades. You'll frequently read the words "horsepowers" and "torques" before he might launch into a description of a Short And Long Arm Suspension system that some German marque has installed on their latest alphanumerically named luxobarge.
What Clarkson does best is torture metaphors to the point of breaking, makes hyperbole sit up and beg, and runs around waving the banner of old cobblers. At its heart, that's what the majority of motoring writing is - a fully palletised, packed and ticketed, barcoded, addressed, and containerised, load of cobblers. This is perfectly acceptable for a motoring column but would be inappropriate in other subject areas.*

Given that Clarkson does write a load of cobblers (and he's aware that he mostly writes a load of old cobblers), that should justifiably invalidate him from this list; except it doesn't. The biggest thing that Clarkson taught me as a writer (albeit one who primarily writes for my own amusement) is that there is a distinct rhythm and beat to middle to long form journalism. Just like the majority of Hollywood films are basically 90 minute four act yonkomas, a fifteen hundred word column comes with an establishment paragraph, stumbles its way through a number of paragraphs while collecting plot tokens, before cashing them in for a payoff am the end which is almost always flat. There is also a distinct turning point in a piece where you know that the payoff is coming.

The truth is that I often disagree with Jeremy Clarkson politically, I find some of his analogies needlessly crass, and I think that his columns dwell far too much in the realm of supercars which normal people will never own (though given that they appear in the Sunday Times, which is primarily written for "the City", then this is understandable) but the fact remains he is very good at the craft of journalism; which is why TopGear on with Clarkson, Hammond and May was so successful - they all were.

I know that this isn't specific to Jeremy Clarkson's books but they just happen to be the ones that I own the most of this type, that the idea of collating what are stand alone pieces into a book is viable. Granted that every book of newspaper comics is this very same thing and the transcripts of Clarke and Dawe are also this same thing and even Shaun Micallef's book "Smithereens" is even more fragmented but is this very same thing, this at least shows me that if I ever decide to publish these ramblings, then the format is not unfamiliar. The inclusion of this book is probably more to do with the inclusion of a type of book but in this particular instance, form is function.

*I'm looking at you Miranda Devine. You are a bad political opinion writer but might be all right as a motoring writer.

September 07, 2018

Horse 2460 - 7Books: Why I Write, George Orwell

There is something of a literary joke that nobody has actually read 1984 by George Orwell. This even found its way onto an episode of QI, where the klaxons came out for someone who answered that they had read it. I have read it and I think that it is doubleplusaverage.
There is something to be said about the pieces of popular culture that come into a mind during the years of adolescence, as they seem to make more of a lasting impact on an individual. My first encounter with 1984 happened in Year 10 when in English class, we were reading a novel which I had an almost visceral reaction to; so I looked at the reading list from the Department Of Education and found that the English Department's storeroom had a full 130 whole grade set of copies and so I asked if I could borrow one. That year, I ended up answering the final exam questions in the School Certificate as the only student in our grade who had read this book. As a 16 year old, I had read quite a few dystopian novels; so this was well within my wheelhouse.
Over the course of the following summer, I ended up reading Animal Farm, The Road To Wigan Pier, and Keep The Aspidistra Flying and although they're all fine, none of them made as much impact on my brain as Orwell's essays.

During the 1990s, Australia at both Federal and State level was busily actively tearing down and destroying all of the public institutions that were profitable, so that they could be sold off and privatised. We now live in the legacy of twenty years of almost criminal activity from governments and the terrible thing is that those institutions will never be put back into public hands.
It was in that economic climate that I read a lot of Orwell's essays and while books like 1984 and Animal Farm deal with the oppressive effects of totalitarianism (because he was looking out from the sceptered isle at both Fascism and Soviet Communism), I was looking at the other end of the welfare state and seeing a different set of people claiming the spoils of governance, except this time they were unelected.
Orwell had lived through the era of late imperialism with people like Colonel Blimp, then seen authoritarian answers arise to solve the problems of a continent in disarray. Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin were the embodiment of those answers but by the time I was becoming politically aware, Germany had reunified, the Iron Curtain had been drawn back, Gorbachev, Glasnost and Perestroika had been and gone, and Boris Yeltsin was busily drinking himself to death, along with the remnants of the old regime. Once the Iron Curtain had been drawn back, the ghosts of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin were beginning to be chased away with a little bit of illumination.

People who have read Animal Farm and 1984 might have had the impression that Orwell hated the state. This is probably in ignorance though, as Orwell himself was an employee of the state broadcaster, the BBC. The thing that you take away from his essays like The Lion And The Unicorn, A Hanging, Why I Write and whatnot, is that Orwell was in fact a socialist. I think that the basic question which is driving Orwell in many of his essays, is if it is possible to spend millions of pounds on blowing people up, destroying people's houses, and killing civilians who would have otherwise preferred to go about with their daily lives in noble mundanity, then why wouldn't it be possible to win the peace after the war by spending millions of pounds collectively improving people's lives?
The central questions of economics are: What to produce? How much to produce? How to produce? For whom do you produce? Who decides what to produce and for whom? Why are we producing? Orwell doesn't answer any of these questions but he is concerned about the people with power who get to decide these things and make policy decisions. Orwell's socialism is obvious and he doesn't try to disguise it even an iota.

But the thing that Orwell does that is really interesting, is as a writer, he questions the very medium and process which he is engaged in. In 1984 but especially in Why I Write, he makes a point of using language as a weapon against language which has already been weaponised  in propaganda and which in a lot of cases has been left to wither through laziness of people. Viewed chronologically, there's kind of a hint that this might show up in future in Keep The Aspidistra Flying which was written on the other side of the Second World War to 1984.

My teenage brain in the 1990s, was taking in the effects of state communism falling apart in front of my eyes and so I was never going to be as socialist in outlook as Orwell. I was working with new information that he couldn't have conceived of and I kind of like a lot of the things that capitalism brings. I was also taking in lessons about what language was being made to do and for what purposes; maybe that's something which a high school English class should have done but we were mired in looking for motifs and themes in fiction, which is all fine I suppose but I think I'd prefer to know if the wool is being pulled over my eyes rather than exploring its texture.
I think that Orwell's essays in particular were like someone dragging a three tine cultivator through my brain. I'm sure that the seeds and weeds that would eventually lodge in there and take root but the ground was fertile. Orwell did more to shape my political outlook than anyone else and he did so by breaking apart politics' biggest tool, so that I could put it back together for myself.

September 02, 2018

Horse 2459 - The Festival Of The Thirsty Knife - 2018 - It's Actually Pretty Normal

If you've been watching Australian politics recently, you would have noticed that we have had a change in Prime Ministership, for no real sensible reason other than those based in revenge, ambition and survival. The thing that triggered off this particular leadership spill was that when Malcolm Turnbull ousted Tony Abbott back in 2015, he did so citing that Abbott had lost 30 Newspolls as preferred Prime Minster; when that completely arbitrary statistic arrived again and after the window had opened for a normal House of Representatives and half-Senate election arrived on the 4th of August, the spill motion arrived within three weeks.

There have also been suggestions flying around that somehow democracy in Australia is broken. Last time I checked, democracy was doing fine. If the metric of the longest continuously operating parliaments with no breaks is a measure of the stability of democracy, then Australia has the oldest five with New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland all sitting continuously since 1855, 1855, 1856, 1856 and 1859 respectively.

People have also suggested that if democracy itself isn't broken, then maybe politics is. Again, the truth is somewhat different. A Premier or Prime Minister's tenure ends, at the exact second that either the people collectively vote them out of office, or the members of the parliament hold a successful vote of no confidence, or they lose the confidence of their own party. What we saw in the case of Malcolm Turnbull was the last of those three.

Malcolm Turnbull's deposition from office, was the answer to one of the late and great British Labour politician Tony Benn's questions to ask of power and powerful people:
What power have you got?
Where did you get it from?
In whose interests do you exercise it?
To whom are you accountable?
How can we get rid of you?

What we saw was the party getting rid of Malcolm Turnbull. Say what you like about democracy and politics, the fact that he was gotten rid of, is evidence that they are both in rude health and are alive and kicking.

Perhaps what people object to is some bizarre notion that they didn't elect Scott Morrison in as Prime Minister. Again, in a parliamentary democracy where we never elect the Prime Minister or Premier but they are appointed as leader of the party or group or coalition with the majority of members on the floor of the chamber which controls the purse, the notion is idiotic.

People remember that the last Prime Minister to lead a party to several terms of office, from one election cycle to another was John Howard, and while that hasn't happened since, they tend to forget that Australia periodically goes through periods of calm which is immediately followed with turbulence. People also seem to have this strange ability to telescope memory into a shorter distance that it actually is. John Howard lost his seat of Bennelong in the 2007 election which was 11 years ago; yet the commentariat seems to be acting like a herd of sheep, running around aimlessly.
If John Howard is your starting point, then the number of Prime Ministers that you have in a ten year period going forward, is six. If Scott Morrison is your starting point, then the number of Prime Ministers that you have in a ten year period going backward, is still six.
Six is not the most number of Australian Prime Ministers that we've have in a ten year period; in fact we've had more on multiple occasions.

From 01-01-1901 to 01-01-1911:
Barton, Deakin, Watson, Reid, Deakin, Fisher, Deakin, Fisher - Eight

From 06-04-1939 to 06-04-1949:
Lyons, Page, Menzies, Fadden, Curtin, Forde, Chifley - Seven

From 25-01-1966 to 25-01-1976:
Menzies, Holt, McEwan, Gorton, McMahon, Whitlam, Fraser - Seven

Since 1901 we have had 30 Prime Ministers, lasting on average for 3.9 years or an average of  2.5 Prime Minister per decade. These numbers look terrible in the here and now but in the grand scheme of Westminster parliaments, they almost look docile.

If we assume that the House of Commons has the traditional starting point of 1721, where the First Lord of the Treasury usually and unofficially held the status of Prime Minister of State, then the United Kingdom has had 60 Prime Ministers, lasting on average for 4.2 years or an average of  2.02 Prime Minister per decade.
The United Kingdom though has been through a more turbulent time and they can beat Australia's record of eight Prime Ministers in a decade.

From 19-04-1825 to 19-04-1835:
Jenkinson, Canning, Robinson, Wellesley, Grey, Lamb, Wellesley, Peel, Lamb - Nine

Australian domestic politics turns up the crazy a notch; with a Victorian Premier lasting on average for just 2.43 years or an average of  4.1 Premiers per decade. New South Wales fares not much better with a New South Welsh Premier lasting on average for 2.53 years or an average of  3.95 Premiers per decade.
New South Wales though can beat the record of nine, with the period right at the beginning of responsible government in the state, from 1856.

From 24-08-1856 to 24-08-1866:
Donaldson, Cowper, Parker, Cowper, Forster, Robertson, Cowper, Martin, Cowper, Martin - Ten

We can even do better than the record of Frankie Forde in terms of shortest tenure of a premier. Forde was Primer Minister for seven days following the death of John Curtin but George Fuller's first tilt at the Premiership of News South Wales last just seven hours.
Labor Premier John Storey who was Premier died on 5th October 1921 and was replaced by James Dooley. Dooley's Government lost a motion of no confidence and George Fuller ran up Macquarie Street to ask the Governor to install his Nationalist Party as the new government. That didn't last very long and Fuller himself had to give up the Premiership that evening after only seven hours, after losing another motion of no confidence and Dooley returned to office.

If we compare Australia to the six states and the UK and Canada, what we find is that the Australian Prime Minstership is actually more stable than all the states. It is less stable than the UK or Canada; but I can't find any particular reason why that should or shouldn't be the case. It isn't related to term length since the states have longer terms than the Federal Government does but all turn over Premiers more often.

Vic - 2.4yrs, 4.1/dec
SA - 2.4yrs, 4.0/dec
NSW - 2.5yrs, 3.9/dec
Tas - 2.9yrs, 3.4/dec
Qld - 3.3yrs, 3.0/dec
WA - 3.7yrs, 2.6/dec
Aus - 3.9yrs, 2.5/dec
UK - 4.9yrs, 2.0/dec
Can - 5.3yrs, 0.8/dec

Australia as a nation actually appears to be somewhere near the middle when if comes to replacing the leader of government. This is the general summary for average tenure and the average number of premiers in any given decade.

I think that it's only because we are in the moment that we think that this is some terrible brave new world we've entered but really, this is the way that Westminster parliaments have always been. We even forget that at state level, we're even more likely to change leaders. This also doesn't take into consideration the Leaders of the Opposition either, which appear to be running at 2.68 years and 3.73 per decade.

This period of time is not abnormal; it isn't even all that unexpected. There will almost certainly be an election before May 2019 and this change of leadership, is simply a case of the Liberal Party trying to make themselves more saleable to the public.

August 24, 2018

Horse 2458 - The Festival Of The Thirsty Knife - 2018 - Knives Drawn At High Noon

Now that the Potato has fired a warning shot across the bow of the Top Hat, and the rest of the Liberal Party runs from side to side like brainless sheep, as the National Party runs around in a little circle, while the house burns down, the myth of Stable Leadership that was sold to the Australian public back in 2016 collapses in a giant heap (as indeed does this tortured set of metaphors). Meanwhile, Bill Shorten must surely be thinking that all he has to do to take his party into government at the next election is simply not to do anything scandalous; which at this stage could probably include everything short of eating a baby on live television.

Today the 24th of August 2018, looks like it will go down in the annals of Australian political history as a day of fame of some sort. Whether or not we have the downfall of a Prime Minister remains to be seen but irrespective of what does happen, war has been declared in all directions inside the Liberal Party and whoever wins, the 25 million of us outside the party room will lose.
Before we explain today and how it is that we got here, we need to explain yesterday.

Apart from a few pieces of ordinarily business of the parliament, the House Leader Christopher Pyne  (who is the manager of operational business on the floor of the chamber but not head of the cabinet) called for a motion to adjourn the House of Representatives for the day. This was passed 70-69 and an otherwise empty chamber, filled up rapidly. What the adjournment did, was to close the House of Representatives before Question Time; which saved the government the twin embarrassments of having questions posed to vacant cabinet positions after the relevant ministers had resigned, and having to fight a vote of no confidence.
It was nominally expected that there would have been a spill motion some time today but the actual business of the government being the government got in the way. The Senate also went about its usual business, being the house of review. There was incidentally a vote of no confidence in the government tabled in the Senate but the government won that and at any rate, it's utterly pointless holding a vote of confidence in the Senate because government isn't formed there.
With the government abandoning the business of governing, parliament was then adjourned until the next sitting scheduled sitting date in September.

The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull then held a press conference in the Prime Minister's Courtyard and announced that there will be a spill motion of the Liberal Party at High Noon tomorrow, subject to a string of conditions.

The first thing which has to be put in order is the question of whether or not Peter Dutton is eligible to even sit in the parliament. This related to his family trust owning childcare centres and the legality of them having pecuniary interests from out of the budget of the Commonwealth; this relates to a prohibition arising from Section 44(v).
This is supposedly for the Solicitor General to render some advice on the matter, though this is something of a nonsense because eligibility questions can only be answered by the High Court upon the referral from the relevant chamber. The House of Representatives obviously can not refer the matter to the High Court because it has already been adjourned until September.
I suspect that the reason why Turnbull wanted to refer this to the Solicitor General was because it bought Scott Morrison several hours to be able to canvas for votes for further on in the process. This was still before anyone was in full possession of the facts from this afternoon.

Assuming that Peter Dutton is in fact eligible to even sit in parliament, then there will be the spill motion proper. If the spill motion fails, then the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will go on being Prime Minister and nothing much will change. The parliament will probably continue to run around like brainless sheep until the election or the next spill motion whenever that is.
If on the other hand, the spill motion is successful, then the leadership of the Liberal Party will be available to be contested. If that happens, then several things will follow. Firstly, Malcolm Turnbull has announced that he would quit the parliament, thus forcing a by-election for the seat of Wentworth. This is usually a Liberal voting electorate's but who knows what would happen once Mr Turnbull quits?
Secondly, Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison will contest for the leadership of the Liberal Party and hence the position of Prime Minister. Or rather, that's what was going to have happened and will no longer be happening happened. Instead, Julie Bishop has announced that she too will join in the leadership challenge, thus making this a three way tussle between Julie Bishop, Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison.

Today has been an extraordinary day for a number of reasons. Malcolm Turnbull passed Gough Whitlam in terms of the copy of days that he had been serving as the Prime Minister and while that's a natty bit of trivia, there is a much more serious statistic in play. That is that the parliament was adjourned for no other good reason than the Liberal Party is having such an omnishamble spat, that they can't hold themselves together long enough to be able to sit in Question Time. Not even in the revolving door of Rudd-Gillard-Rudd did the Labor Party ever have to close the doors to get their business done. Not even when Paul Keating knifed Bob Hawke in the back, which by the way also happened to coincide with a visit from George HW Bush to the parliament (Hawke waved at Bush Snr. from way up in the bend, on the backbenches), did the Labor Party close the parliament to sort their stuff out. Actually, not even on 11-11-75 amidst the confusion of Kerr sacking the government, the Senate finally passing the Appropriation Bill No.1 1975-76 (which caused the Constitutional Crisis in the first place), or the votes of no confidence on the floor of the House of Representatives in the newly installed Fraser government, was the parliament closed. On that day, it was dissolved by the Governor General and not the parliament itself.
For the record, I have seen parliaments adjourned early but that was at Christmas and people wanted to go home early. This is nothing more than indiscipline running rampant and factionalism openly sneering at peace, order and good government.

If we assume that the Festival Of The Thirsty Knife does claim yet another Prime Minister, then this also has dire implications for the parliament and whoever the replacement is. Malcolm Turnbull has announced that he would immediately resign as the Member for Wentworth; which means that the slender majority that the government holds would be reduced by one; at least for the duration of the vacancy. The numbers would then fall 75-74 and any vote of no confidence on the floor of the chamber would need the vote of the Speaker of the House to break a deadlock. If the Labor Party was really sneaky, they could wait until someone had left the building and would be more than four minutes away; thus forcing a loss of confidence. It could also happen that the people of Wentworth might actually do something that they haven't done since 1909 and vote in someone who wasn't from the conservative side of the aisle. If a Green or forbid, a Labor candidate became Member for Wentworth, then minus the Speaker there would actually be a 75-76 split on the floor of the chamber and it would take someone like Bob Katter  to support the government. All of this would happen after September 10 though; after the House of Representatives resumes sitting.

At least for the moment, whatever happens today, there will still be a Liberal Prime Minister in charge and that's terrible. Admittedly I am biased towards the economic left but my current anger directed towards the government generally, quite apart from the 'hooray' and 'boo' of politics, is that Malcolm Turnbull has been Prime Minister,  Julie Bishop has been Deputy Prime Minister, and both Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton have both been Home Affairs Minister, while we have driven vulnerable people to despair, children to immolate themselves and set themselves on fire, people to go on hunger strike and in some cases commit suicide, while they have been seeking asylum.
As a nation we have been cruel and inhumane and all four of the possible candidates who might be Prime Minister by the end of lunchtime are all responsible for this, as either being the direct minister in charge or the first or second in charge of the executive.

Although I find the game of politics somewhat entertaining, I am not so rusted on to one team or another to be that much slighted about who happens to be in charge. Politics and government is ultimately about enacting policy and governing through the exercise of power. Unfortunately the game of politics in this country is being played like the crocodile with a chainsaw: I don't care how they got it and I don't like how they're using it because there is blood being spilled.
Whoever is in charge at the end of the day, I hope that they immediately realise  that their actions have consequences.

August 23, 2018

Horse 2457 - When Will The Next Federal Election Be Held?

I have been asked several times over the course of the last few days about when I think that the next Federal Election will be held. I have also been pressed for my opinion on how this compares to Remembrance Day 1975, when the Governor General John Kerr sacked the sitting government, the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, installed a new government and Prime Minister and immediately dissolved parliament.
It would seem as though there is a lot of mass confusion about many things about the system of government we have and in particular, who can do what.
This then, is me throwing everything at the wall, wishing fortune to us all. Oh ho ho ho ho, hey!

1. When can the Prime Minister call an election?

In practical terms the Prime Minister could go to the Governor General tomorrow and ask for a normal House and Senate election because we have already entered that particular window.
Likewise, the last date that there can be both a House and Senate election, owing to the timetable of fixed terms in the Senate, is Saturday 18th May 2019.
If the government wanted to let the term run out to the last possible date, then there would be a Senate election on or before 18th May 2019 and the last possible date for a House Of Representatives only election is 2nd Nov 2019.

2. Can the Senate force an election?

Kind of, not really.

Under Section 57 of the Constitution, the Governor General can dissolve the parliament if it will not pass a bill, and even then only after six months have elapsed. Currently there are no bills which have been rejected by the Senate thrice and the government doesn't hold any election triggers.

The only absolutely necessary bill that a government must have passed into law in a year is the Appropriation Bill No.1. If a government is unable to secure confidence on the floor of the House of Representatives, then it doesn't get to be the government any more. If a government is unable to secure the supply of money to be able to pay the debts of the Commonwealth as they fall due, then there doesn't get to be a parliament any more and we have a shutdown of all government services. The latter has never technically actually happened. As it currently stands, the government has already passed the Appropriation Bill No.1 2018-19 and so the Senate would only be able to block supply after the next Federal Budget has been handed down; which doesn't happen until 14th May 2019, and then six months beyond that date which is already beyond the last date that a House Of Representatives only election could be held anyway.

3. Will the Prime Minister call an election soon?

Probably not.

The last Ipsos Poll has the two parties on a two preferred basis with the Coalition on 45% and Labor on 55%.
By my back of the envelope calculations, that would equate to a parliament after an immediate election of:
90 - Labor
56 - Coalition
5 - Other

If the Prime Minister were to call an immediate election, it would be political suicide and a net 20 Coalition members would lose their seats. Even if there is the possibility that Malcolm Turnbull might lose the premiership to Peter Dutton or some other third candidate, not even he would be that spiteful to have his own party thrown out of government. If anything, it would make more sense to weather out the storm and let all of this pass, or let his replacement decide to call an election and let them take responsibility for the damage.

4. When do you think that the election will be called?

If you had asked me this a month ago, I would have said in October 2018 because the two party preferred polls were closer and invariably after an election has been called, then tighten. At the moment though, I think that it would be idiotic for the Liberal Party to call an election soon because they would suffer electoral wipeout.

It is in the Prime Minister's best interest to let the current turmoil blow over. It is also in the Prime Minister's best interest to wait until the ramifications of Peter Dutton's ownership of a family trust which runs childcare facilities and has an ongoing income from the Commonwealth, thus triggering a possible conflict under Section 44(v) and possibly his eligibility to even sit in the parliament, are worked out and maybe pass through the High Court. It is also in Peter Dutton's best interest to see what happens in this regard because if he launches a leadership challenge and is then deemed to be ineligible to sit in parliament, being chucked out of office while being the Prime Minister is probably the extinction of his political career.
Assuming that there is never a Section 44 issue and Peter Dutton does become Prime Minister, then I no idea if that's good or bad at all. There is usually a honeymoon period for a new Prime Minister in the polls but because Peter Dutton has been the minister in charge of sending asylum seekers to a tropical gulag, then his actual political capital might very well be minus. He would need several months to turn around his personal reputation and that means holding an election later rather than sooner.

There is also the issue of the Federal Budget. If there is going to be both a House and Senate election, then the power of the purse will be handed to whoever wins the election irrespective of when the election is held. The last date for both a House and Senate election is 18th May 2019; which means that the parliament would be dissolved six weeks earlier and that puts the normal date for handing down the budget within that window. The first item of business would be the writing of the Appropriation Bill No.1 2019-20. If the election is held before 11th May 2019, then of course whoever is in government would get to write the budget bill.

If however we get an uncoupled Senate election and no House Of Representatives election, then the budget could be handed down by the coalition and pass the House but would then have to face a very hostile Senate. Whoever the Prime Minister is at that date could merrily run down the clock all the way down to 2nd Nov 2019, safe in the knowledge that the statutory date that the parliament must be dissolved by would come before the date that a Senate could refuse to pass the budget for six months, by.

I think that based on all of this, were probably facing either an election on 9th Mar 2019 or 18th May 2019. The first responsibility of a government is to keep the lights on in the house and pay the bills of the Commonwealth when they fall due. The first responsibility of a Member of Parliament should be to represent their constituents but we all know that their first priority is actually to be reelected.


I refuse to believe that the Prime Minister should either declare an election just because of a leadership challenge or by the same token, be held to the calendar of the election cycle. I have heard people, especially on Twitter, saying that they want a say in voting for the Prime Minister.

Firstly, we never get a say in who the Prime Minister is. Secondly, the position of the Prime Minister isn't mentioned in the Constitution, let alone whether there even needs to be one. I can imagine a setup of co-captains, or a triumvirate, or even a cabinet of equals. It's all fine.
The Prime Minister's turn in office should end the second that either the public votes in a change of government, or when the party decides that they have had enough. The public gets to decide at an election and if the party changes its mind part way through a cycle, then so be it. The government itself is built out of a majority of members on the floor of the House; we never get a say in how that majority is actually built, let alone who forms either the executive or who the leader of that executive is. All y'all need to get over it.

August 21, 2018

Horse 2456 - Why Free Speech Shouldn't Be Absolutely Free

Thoughts? Surely there is a line which can be crossed and that should be clarified/ specified in law. I don't like "all or nothing" ...there are always shades in between which are better.
- Question posed via Facebook, 21st Aug 2018.

The newspapers attacking me are not newspapers in the ordinary sense. They are engines of propaganda for the constantly changing policies, desires, personal vices, personal likes and dislikes of the two men. What are their methods? Their methods are direct falsehoods, misrepresentation, half-truths, the alteration of the speaker's meaning by publishing a sentence apart from the context...What the proprietorship of these papers is aiming at is power, and power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.
- Stanley Baldwin, 17th Mar 1931

Th' abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.
- Brutus, Act II Sc2, Julius Caesar

When people call for an unfettered right to free speech, what they are giving their tacit approval to is an unfettered right to not be held responsible for their speech. They might not like to admit that but what they are asking for is that someone who has the unfettered right to free speech should not be held responsible for the damage they inflict.
This is kind of like giving a ten year old child a hammer and then letting them loose in a car park. You can almost guarantee that a nasty ten year old child will absolutely use it to do damage to cars. If you don't believe me, then use the people who are the most vociferous free speech advocates and ask yourself the question of whether or not you would have given the ten year old version of them a hammer and letting them loose in our imaginary car park. In general, the people who most want to call for  an unfettered right to free speech, want it because they intend to deliberately cause damage.

Someone once said that "Laws exist for the regulation, standardisation and protection of society"¹ and the principle of not giving a ten year old child a hammer and then letting them loose in a car park, has the more formal epithet of "the harm principle". The idea of the harm principle probably found its first legal expression in the Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen of 1789, following on from the storming of the Bastille, the abolition of privileges and feudalism, and much discussion during the National Constituent Assembly during the French Revolution.
The Declaration had its initial drafts written by General Lafayette, Honoré Mirabeau and Thomas Jefferson; the latter who would take his spirit of fighting with words back across the Atlantic to America in the drafting of her own constitution.

La liberté consiste à pouvoir faire tout ce qui ne nuit pas à autrui : ainsi, l'exercice des droits naturels de chaque homme n'a de bornes que celles qui assurent aux autres membres de la société la jouissance de ces mêmes droits. Ces bornes ne peuvent être déterminées que par la loi.
- Article 4, Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen, 27th Aug 1789²

Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.
- Article 4, Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen, 27th Aug 1789²

This would later find a voice in John Stuart Mill's philosophical work On Liberty:
That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.
The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.
- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859)

It is worth pointing out though that Mill was very much in favour of free speech. His argument is basically that free speech and open discourse is necessary for both social progress and for the advancement of intellectual ideas. His general position is that bad ideas and statements of falsehood should be allowed to be aired because people should be allowed to evaluate and abandon ideas.
Mill didn't think that offence or abuse should be limited because he didn't consider either of those things to constitute harm.

I think that he was wrong.

I think that it is absolutely possible to harm someone. I think that it is absolutely possible to destroy someone's life. I think that it is absolutely possible to destory someone's self-esteem; to the point that they will commit suicide. I think that John Stuart Mills proposition that bad ideas and statements of falsehood will be contested and evaluated in the arena of ideas is itself utterly false.
Furthermore, I think that offence and abuse should be limited because both of those things absolutely constitute harm.

Because the arena of ideas is not an equal playing field. The people who contribute to it have different levels of power and control and to deny that is to deny the very fabric of society itself.
The reason why I expect that John Stuart Mill would make such a basic error, is due to the very real fact of confirmation bias. Quite likely, the kinds of people that he regularly interacted with as a civil servant, political economist, and philosopher, would have shared with him, his three most basic qualities: He was English. He was white. He was a male. Those three things, in the context of the 1850s and 1860s, place him in the group of quite literally the most powerful people on the face of the planet.
It is interesting to see though, that while he was a Member of the British Parliament for the constituency of the City and Westminster, his ideas began to change. In 1869 he published an essay called The Subjection of Women, and as a member of the Liberal Party (which was so named because it was liberal in the classical sense), he was also the first Member of Parliament to call for women's suffrage. This means that even Mill in his own lifetime, began to recognise that different people who contribute to the arena of ideas have different levels of power.

Given that people do have different levels of power in the arena of ideas, and people have the very real ability to cause damage to each other and each other's lives, it therefore makes perfectly logical sense to restrain that power. The question then becomes one of to what degree should the restraints hold power back? Again, the harm principle is instructive:
- everything which injures no one else
- to prevent harm to others

This was also brought out by one of my favourite rulings on the subject, in James v Commonwealth:
A good draftsman would realize that the mere generality of the word must compel limitation in its interpretation. “ Free ” in itself is vague and indeterminate. It must take its colour from the context. Compare, for instance, its use in free speech, free love, free dinner and free trade. Free speech does not mean free speech ; it means speech hedged in by all the laws against defamation, blasphemy, sedition and so forth ; it means freedom governed by law as was pointed out in McArthur's Case.
- James v Commonwealth (1936) 55CLR1³

Freedom should be governed by law. The aim of the law is the regulation, standardisation and protection of society. The harm principle dictates that it is the last of that triad which is the thing we're going for when it comes to the issue of placing restraints on speech. Again, where do you draw those lines?
Consider what is now arguably the most famous free speech restraint in Australia; Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

The only reason that anyone cares about this was because of the 2011 Federal Court of Australia case of Eatock v Bolt, where Pat Eatock, a woman of Aboriginal descent, brought proceedings against Andrew Bolt and the Herald-Sun because of an article which had been published in 2009 entitled "White Fellas In The Black", and the court found against Andrew Bolt and the Herald-Sun.

Here we have an obvious case of a mismatch in power. Andrew Bolt who is a well known journalist and serial protagonist, has a platform in the Herald-Sun, Daily Telegraph, Adelaide Advertiser, the Courier-Mail, as well as on Sky News, formerly Network Ten, as well as on radio 2GB and 3AW. Pat Eatock, being a woman of Aboriginal descent, already has to contend with racism on a daily basis; in a country which has a very long and dark history of racism.

The words of 18C in question are:
(1)  It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
(a)  the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and
(b)  the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.
- Section 18C, Racial Discrimination Act 1975

Firstly, an action in four daily newspapers which have combined circulation of 3 million, is hardly in private. Secondly, the material tests are twofold. There is a "reasonable likeliness" test; which has common law origins to at least the 1870s with the prototypical "man on the Clapham omnibus" who is deemed to be a reasonable person who would have acted based upon what they would have foreseen.
The fact that it is, suggests that the section is at least primarily directed to serve public and not private purposes: Coleman at [179]. That suggests that the section is concerned with consequences it regards as more serious than mere personal hurt, harm or fear. It seems to me that s18C is concerned with mischief that extends to the public dimension. A mischief that is not merely injurious to the individual, but is injurious to the public interest and relevantly, the public’s interest in a socially cohesive society.
- Eatock v Bolt [2011] FCA 1103, Bromberg J 2011

It is for those reasons that I would respectfully agree with the conclusion reached by other judges of this Court, that the conduct caught by s 18C(1)(a) will be conduct which has “profound and serious effects, not to be likened to mere slights
- Eatock v Bolt [2011] FCA 1103, Bromberg J 2011

It's pretty obvious that the courts have long since reached the opinion that free speech does have limits but that those limits don't extend all the way to mere personal insult. There have been cases where just using vulgar language to a policeman have gone by completely untouched by courts; on the basis that just swearing and random abuse doesn't of itself amount to tantamount damage. This is the harm principle in full swing.
It is worth noting that similar provisions exist in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, as indeed are the provisions that "a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated"  but Section 85 points out that unless there is an express provision, just because something is unlawful, doesn't make it an offence at law.
All of this brings me to the actual video in question, in which Rowan Atkison delivers a speech as part of the Defend Free Speech campaign and in particular "Reform Section 5", which relates to Section 5 of the UK's Public Order Act 1986.

It should be pointed out that the Public Order Act 1986 came immediately after a turbulent period of racial tensions in the UK, and a series of race riots across Bristol, Brixton in South London,  Toxteth in Liverpool, Handsworth in  Birmingham and Chapeltown in Leeds.

The then House of Commons Sub-Committee on Race Relations  reccommended on the basis that there had been abuses by police basedon the existing structure of the so-called "sus law" in which anyone who was "suspect", which were mainly black people, Indian and Pakistani and other south asian people, and other ethnic minorities, were stopped and arrested on sight.

The aim of the Public Order Act 1986 as specified in the preamble was:
An Act to abolish the common law offences of riot, rout, unlawful assembly and affray and certain statutory offences relating to public order; to create new offences relating to public order; to control public processions and assemblies; to control the stirring up of racial hatred; to provide for the exclusion of certain offenders from sporting events
- Preamble, Public Order Act 1986

Specifically Section 5 said:
(1)A person is guilty of an offence if he—
(a)uses threatening [or abusive] words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b)displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening [or abusive],within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

(2)An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the other person is also inside that or another dwelling.

(3)It is a defence for the accused to prove—
(a)that he had no reason to believe that there was any person within hearing or sight who was likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress, or
(b)that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other dwelling, or
(c)that his conduct was reasonable.

This act was set against a society where racial tensions were running high. Even the policeman in the comedy sketch that Rowan Atkinson refers to, was a demonstration of the abuse of this power. The comedy program Not the Nine O'Clock News was shown on BBC2 from 1979 to 1982; which was right at the height of the race riots across Britain.

I think that this is the very same thing that John Stuart Mill was suffering from, a case of confirmation bias. Rowan Atkinson of course realises that he has a place of privilege, however there is still a world of difference between a joke in a comedy sketch and even a vulgar one, and someone in a position of power exercising that power to deliberately inflict harm on other people.

I think that whatever right to free speech exists, should always be tempered with the expectations that a reasonable person who happens to be on the end of that might suffer harm. That harm might be on an individual basis or in the case of systemic racism, a case of harm which affects an entire group of people from a particular race, religion, sexual orientation or gender. You might very well have the ability to inflict mere slights upon someone, but when that line is crossed into causing harm, then we have a problem.
The other big point about having laws like the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, or Britain's Public Order Act 1986, is that they provide avenues for remedy once someone has been injured. That in itself is somewhat problematic because you might end up with vexatious litigants, but again the reasonableness test and the point of view of the "man on the Clapham omnibus" is a long established metric by which to judge that.

Free speech should exist but not absolutely.
There should be limits.
Those limits should be tempered by the possible harm which can be done.
There should be avenues for remedy.
It's reasonable to expect reasonableness.


Horse 2455 - The Festival Of The Thirsty Knife - 2018 edition

One of the glorious things about Australian politics is the incredibly quick turnover of the executive of the nation. If for arguments' sake we assume that Malcolm Turnbull gets rolled in the Festival Of The Thirsty Knife,  then he will be the seventh Prime Minister in a decade. This must look completely hatstand absurd to our American friends across the waves, who usually have only two or three Presidents in any given ten year period, where fixed terms usually means that there will be one person in the role of chief executive for eight years at a go. When it comes to Australian Prime Ministers even surviving eight years, I can only think of three that have managed to achieve that.

The benefits of such a flexible system are obvious. One of the chief questions to ask of power is 'how can we get rid of you?' if the person doesn't live up to the task; in Australia that's remarkably easy but in the United States, even if the President is completely unsuited and unsuitable to the job, so much so that they are themselves a cause for national security concerns, the method of removal is so difficult that it has never been successfully completed in 229 years. It is actually easier to shoot and kill a US President than it is to impeach them.

Barton, Deakin, Watson, Reid, Deakin, Fisher,  Deakin, Fisher - 8
In the early period of Australian politics, you should have expected from the outset that there would be a period of volatility. The Commonwealth had just newly federated and MPs were being sent to Melbourne on primarily state issues. The national party machines hadn't yet been put together and so this is why you end up with someone like George Reid from the Free Soil Party as Prime Minister. With no-one really able to establish solid coalitions, rapid turnover was more or less baked into the system. During the early years, Australia's Federal parliament looked quite a lot like a current German Bundestag with parties kind of flying in the same direction but leaving and rejoining the flock.
It also wasn't helped by the fact that John Hope, 7th Earl of Hopetoun as Governor-General, appointed Edmund Barton before the first election; on the presumption that he would be able to form government. This was only after he'd already appointed William Lyne who was Premier of New South Wales, who couldn't persuade members from other states to join his government; this decision is commonly known as the "Hopetoun Blunder".

Lyons, Page, Menzies, Fadden, Curtin, Forde, Chifley - 7
The next period of volatility happened during the end of the depression and during the Second World War. This mostly had to do with the former party of Robert Menzies, the United Australia Party, imploding and tearing itself apart. It is during this period where you get Menzies quitting to eventually found the Liberal Party, Lyons and Fadden both inheriting the premiership because someone had to be in charge, the crossbench deciding that they were sick to the back teeth with that kind of nonsense and switching confidence and supply to the Labor Party through the power of a £1 variation budget, and this was given another twist when John Curtin died of stress in the office of being the chief executive in a time of war (which also happened to FDR in America) and Frankie Forde only hanging around as a caretaker for eight days.

Menzies, Holt, McEwen, Gorton, McMahon, Whitlam, Fraser - 7
Australia didn't suffer another period of rapid turnover of the Prime Minister until after a period of ridiculously boring stability. Menzies sat in the big chair with virtually no opposition from the Labor Party from 1949-1966 and then the Liberal Party went back to its regularly scheduled imploding and tearing itself apart. This is how we end up with Gorton and McMahon as Prime Minister after Harold Holt went for a swim one day and never came back.
After a brief period where Gough Whitlam actually bothered to step up and provide a vision of the future but had literally no idea how to pay for it,
Australia reverted to mostly stable government.

Howard, Rudd, Gillard, Rudd, Abbott, Turnbull - 6
The period following the last continent of stability has had the premierships of a visionary like Whitlam who had no idea how to pay for it (and was by rumour a difficult person to work with), a technocrat who was personally attacked by a narcissist Opposition Leader, that same narcissist Opposition Leader who never worked out how to be a Prime Minister, and now a well meaning pastor of a broad church where the parishioners aren't playing with the same text. To be frank, I don't think that Dutton actually does represent a strong faction of the Liberal Party, its just that the party is doing badly in the polls because its policies are bordering on stupid and actually engaging in cruelty with respect to refugees, and rather than change policies, the Liberal Party would rather change leaders.

In this particular episode of the Festival Of The Thirsty Knife, Malcolm Turnbull has actually done nothing implicitly wrong that would warrant his removal. His Premiership has looked almost exactly identical to Tony Abbott's and I suspect that from a policy perspective, a future Peter Dutton premiership would also look almost exactly identical. If the Labor Party is like the Borg which assimilates MPs into the collective and slightly leftist touchy feely hive mind, then the Liberal Party is like the Black Pearl where MPs become part of the ship and the National Party are no more than barnacles which become stuck on the outside as helpless and sometimes unwilling travelers.

Australia broadly speaking will elect economic and culturally conservative governments into power by default. They will also remove governments if they feel they've been there too long. Those governments though, are mostly made of factions which fly in different directions.
A Prime Minister's term in Australia is not and should not be characterised by the ticking clock of the election cycle. We have consistently proven that a Prime Minister's term in Australia lasts exactly as long as either the public or the factions which hold up their numbers in parliament, stick together. It is a bit like building a table but instead of legs, you're using 76 cats as the base - don't put a full cup of tea on the table because if the cats move, you'll have a spill.

This morning's leadership spill went:
Turnbull - 48
Dutton - 35
Abstain - 2

The National Party stood outside the caucus room as helpless and unwilling travelers and had no say in the spill whatsoever. Had they been allowed, they could have very well titled the results. As it is, Turnbull remains as Prime Minister and as far as we know, the cabinet will return to exactly the same state that it was before.

This morning's Festival Of The Thirsty Knife returned nothing at all. The Knife wasn't as thirsty as we first thought and no blood has been spilled. Mr Turnbull must surely be looking over his shoulder there because the question being asked of power of 'how can we get rid of you?' still remains and infinite possibilities lie in the realm of the unfinished.