July 13, 2020

Horse 2730 - Predicting The 2020 Presidential Election For Fun And Frivolity

I have been asked by someone to make a prediction about the 2020 United States Presidential Election. Having been through this exercise before, I know from experience that not only is this a fruitless task this far out but that I am a terrible prophet. While you don't need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows, I can not even do that. Run away now. Save yourselves!
When it comes to predicting the future results of elections, I have an 15/21 record on this blog. That kind of margin indicates that I am really good at picking foregone conclusions; for once you remove those, the margin falls to 6/12 and that means that as a political pundit I am really no better than a coin toss.  If media companies would to pay me for my obviously brilliant analysis, then by all means please do so but you'd get about as much sense if you put lipstick on a pig and set it loose in the newsroom.

What makes this problem an especially difficult one is that a presidential election in the United States is not merely on the basis of the popular vote but rather it is the result of 51 contests which then apportion instructions to an arcane body called the Electoral College¹; which then votes on behalf of the people and even then isn't necessarily bound by those instructions. The Electoral College awards as many 'electors' per state as there are members of the House of Representatives and Senate which that state send to Washington plus 3 Electoral College votes from the District of Columbia which is what it would have gotten in it was a state.

Those 51 separate contests mean that overall popular opinion isn't the determinant of actual results and by design, the opinions of smaller states have an outsized view. Say what you like about the political ramifications of that but I think that in principle, it is a good idea despite the system itself being immensely stupid. The architect of the United States Federal Government, Alexander Hamilton, probably arrived at this as a compromise after the smaller states delegates in the original thirteen colonies complained loudly about being completely ignored. The Electoral College deliberately overeggs the pudding in favour of smaller states for that reason.
If there actually was a concerted effort by the bigger states, then every election could be decided by decree by the twelve biggest, as they together control just over half of the Electoral College votes. Of course getting California, Texas, Florida and New York to agree on what ingredients should go on a Tuna Melt Sandwich would be nigh on impossible and even if you could get some kind of agreement, then the two pieces of bread would most likely be different and Texas would still want barbeque chicken and bacon on it; thus ruining the point of a Tuna Melt Sandwich. If these states can't agree on a sandwich, then the actual balance of power lies elsewhere.
In 2016, Trump won the Presidential Election by a minority of the popular vote which by virtue of geography translated into a majority of Electoral College Votes. Herein lies the crux of the problem.

The United States of America, in terms of its politics, is only true in one aspect of its name. It is not and has not ever been United. It is not and has never been a uniform America. The key word here is the States which determine everything  and in that aspect, America could be as many as 12 countries and certainly no fewer than 6: New England, New York, The South, The Mid-West, The West, California. Presidential Elections are turned on the basis of those six countries at bare minimum.
Countries like New Zealand, Australia, and to a lesser extent the United Kingdom, are reasonably predictable when you use the political device known as a Uniform Swing Calculator. Broadly speaking, those countries have a relatively uniform electorate and once you work out what the national swing is, you have a pretty good idea of how far the county falls in one direction or the other and you can pick out the number of seats that are going to change hands with a fair degree of accuracy. The United States of America on the other hand, has at least six sets of swings going on and they do not all point in the same direction.
This means that if one is going to play the prediction game with anything approaching part way sensible as a bare minimum condition, then one may as well plug 51 sets of swings into 51 swing calculators and then hope that it spits out a result.

I shan't bore you with the details of the spreadsheet which I used but suffice to say, it looks like the results of putting lipstick on our imaginary pig and set it loose in the newsroom. I should point out here that the one insane anomaly is everyone's favourite superhero, Florida Man². Florida is like God's Waiting Room of America. Florida is where old people go to retire and because old people come from all over the country to retire, Florida tends to blink red and blue like a malfunctioning police car. I don't know if Florida is a bellwether state because it controls 29 Electoral College votes but it has the power to be the hinge on which Presidential Elections turn.

This time around, the two blinking lights are Virginia and Florida. Together they are worth 42 Electoral College Votes and that is easily enough to turn the election red or blue. At the moment I have Biden/Anyone beating Trump/Pence 276-262 and that margin is simply too small to make any meaningful prediction.
Four years and six months ago,  Donald Trump said “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” We now know that that is absolutely true and that the percentage of the vote that that equates to is 38%. Likewise, a generic Democratic candidate could probably have said exactly the same thing and that percentage of the vote that that equates to is 41%. The 21% left over isn't uniformly spread; which is why looking at a uniform swing is useless. The actual margin of competitive votes is less than 100,000 people; spread over about four states.

I'm going to predict a Biden victory but even then, I think that my reliability at picking a winner i July is really no better than a coin toss.

¹which has been copied by exactly zero other countries.
²Google "Florida Man" and especially the "news" section and you'll see that Florida Man is the worst superhero ever.

July 10, 2020

Horse 2729 - Can Someone Explain To Me Why The Name "Washington Redskins" Should Stay?

There is yet another push going on as a result of the current Black Lives Matter movement (which is just the latest incarnation of what should be properly called "Hey White People, stop being a bunch of cruel and violent racist expletive deleteds"), to change the name of the Washington Redskins football team to something not so obviously racist.

There have been two historical responses to this request which keeps on happening; which on the face of it look different but are in reality, exactly the same response.
1. No. Which is: insert some garbage about heritage, history or other such nonsense about how some imagined forefathers played in the uniform; which is actually just a roundabout way of saying "No thanks. We actually like being racist expletive deleteds, thank you very much."
2. Nothing. Which is: the non-reactive method of making the first response but without having to come up with nonsensical excuses.

I really fail to see why in an age which has come after hundreds of years of colonial repression, degradation and in some cases extermination and genocide of indigenous people around the world and where previously willfully blind eyes have only recently half-opened, why this isn't a fait accompli. What makes this all the more stupid is that even before the racists started claiming the vague concept of 'heritage', sports teams and franchises were already picking themselves up and plonking themselves down in new places with entirely new marketing.
In America, the homeless Raiders have been moved around more times than is sensible, the Los Angeles Rams, Brooklyn Dodgers, Hartford Whalers and loads of other teams have either been moved, renamed, or both.

On the other hand, as a small kid I wondered why a team needed to be called the City Somethings at all. Football clubs in England were just named for the place where they came from like Liverpool, Chelsea, West Ham etc. Where you do have differentiation between clubs in the same city with United and City, that usually indicated that there may have been multiple clubs which came together.
The phenomenon gets more strange still, when you consider that in the immediate period just before I was born, sporting teams in Australia didn't actually carry the 'Somethings' part of the City Somethings in their name. Any nicknames that they did acquire, were merely just that. The South Melbourne Australian Rules football club was (and still is to some hard core fans) known as the Bloods but the name of the team was always South Melbourne Football Club.
What's weirder still is the modern idea of naming sporting teams after nebulous concepts like Victory, Jazz, Storm, Heat, Thunder. At least a 49er is rhyming slang for a 'miner' and Steelers and Rabbitohs are named after the local industry in the city.

As someone who doesn't understand in principle why a team needs to be called the City Somethings, coupled with the fact that teams in a franchise system have a high propensity to rebrand themselves anyway, I do not find arguments to keep the name Redskins convincing.
Also, as the United States has a surfeit of geography , I must admit that I have no idea where the Washington Redskins come from. Is it Washington DC, Washington state, or some other city called Washington? If the basic function of a name is to identify a thing, then the name Washington Redskins does a monumentally poor job of it. If your name is both racist and geographically ambiguous, then why wouldn't you just change the name?
If anyone has a part way sensible argument as to why this name exists in the first place, let alone why it shouldn't be changed, please leave a comment below. I don't get it at all.

As someone who follows motor racing, the idea that you can't change all of the colours is ludicrous. Cars in NASCAR can change their entire colour scheme from week to week. While you do have examples like Ferrari who are mostly one very particular shade of scarlet, they have also in the past run stripes, white and black accents, and even run cars in yellow and blue. Mercedes-Benz which is famous for its Silver Arrows, started out running white, changed to silver to get underneath a weight limit (allegedly), has in the past run the colours of the Nazis, and this year have adopted a black scheme for the Black Lives Matter movement.

America likes to hold itself out as a shining example of capitalism in action. If the most ultra-capitalistic sport in the world (ie motor racing) can and does change colours and team names in some cases, purely at the heck and call of the sponsors, then why wouldn't a sport which was shaped by television want to change to meet the wishes of the sponsors? Maybe there is a market for racist football teams? I don't know.

Aside II:
If I was Grand Poohbah and Lord High Everything Else then I'd want to change the name of the team to something that actually reflected the city (assuming of course that it is Washington DC).
It's not like this is an intractable problem. There are minor league baseball teams called the Savannah Bananas, Macon Bacon, and the Rocket City Trash Pandas. No, I have not made any of those up.

Name it after the stagnant swamp of the Potomac that the city of Washington DC sits on; call it the Washington Swamp Rats. Double down on the fact that this is the seat of government and fly as close as possible to the existing seals which government departments have; call it the Washington Department of Chaos. Name it after George's most famous medical complaint; call it the Washington Wooden Teeth. Completely abandon the name Washington entirely and riff on the Great Seal of the United States and call it 13 Arrows And Oak Leaves. Call it Washington 51 after the push for DC statehood.

If I can spitball the problem, I can't see why it's so hard to solve. Maybe they just like being racists?

July 09, 2020

Horse 2728 - The Internal Paradox Of Trying To Cancel Cancel Culture By Trying To Cancel Cancel Culture

In this post I am going to attempt by self-contradiction to explain why two terms that keep on cropping up in the media irritate me. I am also self-aware that by waggling my pointing finger of annoyance at expressions in English, I am equally guilty of falling into cliche and trope myself. Political speech especially employs a deliberate lack of precision; which is designed to prevent actual thought and in this case, these two terms are more likely to be used as weapons rather than descriptors.

Almost without exception, when someone complains about things being too 'politically correct' what they are actually complaining about is that someone pulled them up for saying something knavery. I can not think of an example where someone has requested for someone else to be more politically correct. No, the person who asks someone to stop saying knavish things, does so because their life becomes more unpleasant as the result of the person saying knavish things.
The people who want the racism, sexism, discrimination, violence, denigration, degradation etc to stop, almost always demand it directly. They want others to listen, to stop acting like a knave and to stop engaging in those things which actively puts people in danger and harm. The voice of someone who is on the receiving end of someonen else's lack of love and decency, never resorts to such weasely terms as 'politically correct'.

If I was to hazard a guess, it would be that the term 'politically correct' came from that part of the right, who chose to use language to sanitise and dehumanise the things that if they actually looked at in the face, would scare them. 'Politically Correct' sounds like it came off of the same euphemism factory conveyor belt which turned 'shell shock' into 'battle fatigue' and then 'post traumatic stress disorder' so that the right could blame that on mental health, instead of their actions literally sending hundreds of millions of human bodies to be chopped up by machine gun fire in wars. The term 'politically correct' sounds like it was devised by the same kinds of people who at this current moment in time are asking people to volunteer to die from COVID-19 rather than the economy suffering and if it wasn't, then it certainly has been employed by those kinds of people.

The common argument against political correctness, is that people have a right to free speech. Of itself, an argument for the right to free speech seems reasonable but I personally find arguments that rights are absolute to be at best misguided and more often than not, an argument put forward which actually acts as a defence for the right to commit abuse of people. Granted, there are legitimate arguments where something ought to be said where people in power need to be held to account but where you have people and organisations in positions of actual political and societal power, those people arguing they they have a right to free speech, even after they have been convicted by the courts for running foul of defamation and discrimination laws, is nothing more than an expressed wish to continue being cruel knaves and not having to pay for it.

One of the real failures of political philosophy over the past 250 years has been the decoupling of people's rights and any responsibility that people have to each other as part of a society. There is an argument to be made that the idea of a social contract is invalid because nobody voluntarily signs up for it but by the same token, nobody voluntarily signs up to be born in the first place. I think that it is deeply dishonest for an individual to assert that they have rights and then act as if they have no responsibility to act decently to anyone else.

Particularly over the last two decades, after some groups of people have established the right to be considered human in some cases, people who have been previously powerless have begun to fight back using what little power they do have, in a continuing quest for others to act decently.
Again we come back to the concept of the previously power asking the powerful to stop saying knavish things because their life becomes more unpleasant as the result of the person saying knavish things. If you really want someone to stop saying knavish things, then the mechanisms that work the best, are the existing laws and regulations and the power of the pocket book. Here we run into the weasely terms of 'deplatforming' and 'cancel culture'. If you cut off the economic incentive for knaves to stop saying knavish things, the hope is that they will stop saying knavish things.
Unfortunately, this ends up meaning that you get elements of all the political left and right and the political north and south joining forces; which ends up just further enabling the authoritarian right to continue on its merry way.

This week there has been an open letter calling for an end to 'cancel culture' signed by JK Rowling, Margaret Atwood which has gained 150 signatures and will be published in Harper’s Magazine. To be fair, I don't give two hoots about Harper's Magazine but as it is published in New York City, it does have a reach into the board rooms of the rich and powerful. Weirdly the signatures include Noam Chomsky, New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss, author Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis. Already, some signatories have realised they they have been co-opted and duped and have asked for their names to be removed.
This is something of a paradox because while the authoritarian north wants to use free speech as a defence for abuse the libertarian south mostly wants to use it to stop existing power dynamics from punching downwards. The paradox exists because this open letter which is calling for an end to cancel culture, is itself cancel culture; and the one thing that cancel culture can not cancel, is itself.

I'm wondering if there is no new culture war going on at all but rather, just new set of terms of describing disagreements between people who hate racism & discrimination & people who love to perpetuate it. While all of this has been going on, the term 'woke' has just replaced 'politically correct' as the most pretentious way of saying 'not a massive bigot'. All of this would go away if the knaves who want to say knavish things stopped saying knavish things because those people on the receiving end of the abuse, wouldn't be receiving that particular kind of abuse any more.

July 06, 2020

Horse 2727 - What Grandma Ivy Saw

Some friends of ours have recently celebrated the arrival of their daughter Ivy. As I am not a parent, I do not know what that is like first hand but I imagine that apart from the occasional cooing from friends and family, having a very small baby is like living with a gunpowder keg; in that they require constant attention and are likely to go off and explode without warning.
A baby starts off mewling and puking and knowing nothing about the world, and then over the course of 80 years or so, learns a tiny little bit about the world, before the world inevitably changes into something unrecognisable; and they eventually end up mewling and puking before the cold embrace of death comes for them as well.

The first task of any parents is to give their new person a name. In this respect, Ivy is a brilliant name. Ivy is one of those names which is different enough that there aren't going to be three of them in her classes in school but sensible enough that it works equally as well for a small girl, as it does for a captain of industry, as it does for a grandma.
On that last point, assuming that the world doesn't chaotically spiral into a dystopian future (which is a possibility), then Ivy should have a nominal life expectancy of 84 years. 2020 + 84 = 2104. Unlike most of the twentieth century which had a surprisingly optimistic view about the year 2000 despite three world wars (two hot; one cold), I do not know if we have as optimistic view about the year 2100. I do not think that the 21st century has anything like jazz, rock and roll, or Les Trente Glorieuses to look forward to, like the 20th century had.
However, there are at least some things that we can know about the 21st century and the world of 2100, either by extrapolating what exists now or by what always was.

She will see at least three kings of England. 
It is reasonable to assume that Elizabeth II will die at some point; wherein she will be followed by Charles III; who will be followed by William V; who will in turn be followed by George VII. George VII is at the moment only a wee lad and almost certainly has no real concept of the job that he will inherit.

Australia Will Probably Be A Republic In Her Lifetime.
Australia has spent the last 45 years questioning why the Governor-General had the ability to sack a Prime Minister as the representative of someone 10,000 miles away. The republican movement makes the simple argument that Australia should have its own head of state, on the basis of the rhetoric of growing up and maturing as a nation. I personally don't like the idea of Australia becoming a republic because I see the actual advantage in changing symbols (which is really all that it does) as being less than zero.
Probably during the reign of King Charles III, the republican movement will gain enough inertia to force a referendum because it will be aided and abetted by the economic right who will enjoy the ensuing media smokescreen to do something really appalling. It is really easy to stab someone in the back if you get behind them first.

There will still not be flying cars.
This was a favourite of science fiction writers of days past and the thing which always gets in the way of this is the operation of physics. The simple unavoidable truth is that it takes orders of magnitude of extra energy to fly.
Sure, we might have self-driving cars and possibly no private cars as all of the oil runs out but the smartest boffins in the world can't rewrite the rules of nature.

Koalas Will No Longer Be A Thing.
What we have learned over the past 60 years especially is that as the planet heats up (for whatever reason, including whatever idiotic non-anthropomorphic conspiracy theory that you can invent) that the incidence of bushfire has become more severe and continues to get more severe. At the same time though, as Australians continue to build houses and clear what used to be economically unproductive forest areas, the total amount of area that is viable for koalas is shrinking and will eventually become so small as to make it impossible.
Some scientists have put the date at 2050 but I think that it will certainly be inevitable by 2100.

Summers Will Be Horrible.
I expect that there will be 50°C days in Sydney in summer. When you consider that only this past month, there were 40°C temperatures recorded north of the Arctic Circle for the first time ever and that the hottest years on record have all happened this century, then the trend must invariably keep on heading up the ziggurat lickety-split.
That might mean the end of cricket on the radio; which I personally think would be a national tragedy but I would find it very easy to imagine that Ivy has bigger and more pressing things to worry about than a rising ball outside of the off-stump which leave Australia at 23-6 against India.

Life Will Get Considerably Worse For Most People.
One of the lessons that the long game of history teaches us is that people who have power like having it and want to retain it. Over the last 200 years as we've seen the franchise extended to more people, we have also seen the next form of governance emerge. Straight up rude fascism didn't work because of its brutality but it taught corporations how to manipulate power by infecting government. The period of my lifetime has been characterised by privatisation and the increasing impotence of government.
For Australia it means that the old age pension will probably be got rid of, the ABC and SBS privatised and destroyed, universities privatised; public health care, transportation, schooling and the prison system privatised as well. Corporations already act as if they are above the law because they are, and as the automation of what used to be the workforce happens even more, the underclass of people who might have been educated and cared for and who would have had a claim on a portion of the economy through their labour, will no longer do so. The bottom line for corporations is the bottom line and if they don't have to care about people then they certainly will not want to pay for them.

This Is Probably The Last Pandemic That Australia Will Actually Cope With.
If you privatise health care then the expense instead of being carried by the nation as a collective and without profit motive, gets carried by smaller entities and due to reductions in economies of scale and reduced bargaining power, then the end user costs go up. Since price supplied goes up, the corresponding amount of demand shrinks and a new smaller equilibrium point is found. Unfortunately in the case of public health care, if that equilibrium point doesn't include the entire population then in a pandemic, the people who can not afford health care will not have it. When people can not afford health care, they are either turned out onto the streets or they simply never present themselves in the first place.
Pandemics do not care about your economic status of if you die. As privatising health care in Australia will probably be a thing, then the people who control and operate health care will want to protect themselves first; even at the expense of other people's lives.

We will all be dead.
The only certain thing in life is that the circus can not go on forever. Not even the best efforts of science can fight against the laws of science and that means that the law of entropy eventually gets cited and the messengers of death come around to collect.
In the year 2100 I will be 122 years old and therefore dead. Ivy's parents will be at least 100 years old and also very likely dead. Probably everyone who is currently reading this will also be very likely dead. I have no idea of what your conception of what happens to you after you die but I am reasonably sure that after the last person who is alive when you were also dies, then you are reduced to not much more than a name in the land of the living. It demands an answer to the question of what you do about it.

I think that Generation X is probably the last to have a life that would have been seen as comfortable, Generation Y will begin to feel the effects of the world falling apart, Generation Z will be the wedge generation and Generation Alpha will be the the first generation in a while to have begun in a time period where the decisions that were taken a long time ago, will start to make their effects known. 

July 04, 2020

Horse 2726 - The Least Interesting Election Of 2020

The Eden-Monaro by-election being held today will be one of the least interesting by-elections in Australian Electoral History. Unless of course it turns out unexpectedly, in which case it will be unexpected and uninteresting. This election is the sort of snoozefest that not even the ABC's Election Analyst Antony Green can enliven.
"But how is this even possible?" I don't hear you ask because this is a blog post and this particular by-election is so mind numbingly dull that I can't imagine an excited political pundit in this case. "But isn't Eden-Monaro supposed to be a bell-wether?" I also don't hear you ask because only serious political junkees would have known that.
No, this particular by-election is so unbelievably boring that it can only be described by an imaginary nerd in nerd glasses and the 'well actually' voice. My advice would be to turn around now; save yourselves!

Eden-Monaro used to be a bell-wether electorate because it comprised a sufficiently large enough area that the kinds of people who lived in it were sufficiently diverse. These days, the kinds of people who live there are more likely to be seachange fuddy-duddys who vote vaguely leftist. Over the last 20 years, Eden-Monaro has lost its bell-wether electorate status and has drifted into being nominally unsafe Labor seat.
Herein lies all of the reasons why this by-election is going to be as dull as dishwater. This is whatever the opposite of a riddle wrapped in an enigma is. This is like trying to solve a murder where you have a man standing in a room holding a smoking gun and crying while confessing to the murder.

The state of play in the House of Representatives yesterday was that the LNP Coalition holds 77 of 151 seats and government. Given that Eden-Monaro has suffered flooding, bushfire, is currently in the midst of a global pandemic, and the government has been consistently incompetent and uncaring in all of them, the people aren't going to be likely to suddenly change sides and actually vote for the government. Remember, this is the electorate in which a pregnant lady reused to shake the hand of the Prime Minister on television, back in January.
In virtually every poll since the campaign began, the Labor Party has been expected to take +40% of the primary vote and on a two preferred basis, has always been consistently at least 52-48. That indicates that unless there's something amazingly weird that would account for a margin of four percent, then the odds are stacked against the LNP Coalition.

The grand odds of history are also against the government turning over an opposition seat. I had a look through the results of by-elections and the last time that I could find where a government actually managed to flip an opposition seat in favour of them was back in 1915 in the Grampians by-election. That was 105 years ago and before we had preferential voting; which made the job easier.
By-elections are traditionally occasions to punish the sitting government; not reward them.

Also, on this occasion, the Labor candidate is the Mayor of the Bega Valley Shire Council, Kristy McBain. Ms McBain is a candidate with some experience of being in office as opposed to her opposite number in a field of 14, Fiona Kotrjos who although having ran at the 2019 General Election, appears to be a farmer who won a branch vote in a small room. Not that there's anything wrong with being a local candidate but the Liberal Party is trying to win this by-election, not by promoting her but the Prime Minister Scott Morrison. That strategy works well if you have a popular leader but it might not be the best strategy here.

All of this comes together to create a mildly dull sort of election campaign in mildly dull circumstances. If the government does manage the unexpected, then remain in government, they go from 77 to 78 and a majority of 2 to 3. If Labor retains the seat then exactly squat all happens. This is effectively a dead rubber in an already historically unlikely set of circumstances.

Perhaps the most interesting thing that might happen politically today, is if you were to watch the musical 'Hamilton' on Disney+. That's the story of the former Secretary Of The Treasury of the United States and it is the fourth of July; so I suppose that's sort of political. I very much doubt that you'll get much of a song and dance routine from the Eden-Monaro by-election. But just you wait...

June 30, 2020

Horse 2725 - I Think Two Hydrogens Could Share With Each Other

L: Can two hydrogen atoms stick together, like H₂0 but without the oxygen?
K: that’s an interesting question. How did you come up with that? 
L: Well, hydrogen only has one electron and would want one more. So I think two hydrogens could share with each other.

K: I eventually told him he was right, after double checking on google. I don’t trust myself to remember high school chem lol.
- K, May 28.

One of the things that I love is when children arrive at conclusions based upon what they understand and know and make guesses accordingly. It could be argued that the entire of science¹ is exactly this pursuit, except with more money and fancier toys.

Contained within these four lines of dialogue, is indeed the central questions which underpin chemistry and when I saw this on Facebook, my next line of enquiry is to task the very next question which underpins the entire of science¹ - why?

If I can not find out 'why' and put it in simple terms, then I will have failed in this excercise. Or to quote Ernest Rutherford, the father of nuclear physics:
"An alleged scientific discovery has no merit unless it can be explained to a barmaid."
- Ernest Rutherford (allegedly)

So then, without further adieu, here goes nothing. Kaboom.

The biggest single force (if you want to call it that) in the universe, even bigger than the forces of gravity, magnetism, the weak nuclear force and the strong nuclear force, is the drive towards entropy. Everything in the universe and that probably includes time, tends to flow from a state of higher energy to a state lower energy and the difference is transformed into stillness and weak heat. When you couple that with the theory which suggests that the universe itself will tend towards a quiet and boring heat death and where black holes and space-time will evaporate into a state of absolute boredom, that means that there is an awful lot of entropy going on.
Entropy is sometimes likened to 'disorder' (that is that everything starts out ordered and gradually falls apart) but I like the other idea that unifies chemistry and physics which says that entropy is just another form of 'laziness'. Entropy is just an advanced form of inertia, where objects are lazy and like to keep on doing what they are already doing until they are forced to change.

Almost all of chemistry is rearranging atoms and molecules into different things, which either costs energy to do so or gives off energy and the results are more lazy. Laziness is the key to understanding why there are diatomic homonuclear gases (diatomic = two atoms, homonuclear = the same kind of chemical).

On the very right hand side of the periodic table are the 'Noble Gases'. Noble is a nice way of saying that they don't react to much. Actually, they're just really snooty and smug and full of themselves and have no need to react to much. For reasons¹, all of the other kids in the period table want to look the Noble Gases because of how cool and non-reactive they are. Everyone in the periodic table has electrons which are filled up in shells and while there is a good explanation¹ of how and why they work, the short answer is that everyone wants to wear the clothes of the cool kids.

Most of the kids in the periodic table are very metal and like to hang around with themselves. They're also pretty dense and too ignorant to work out how to do chemistry with others. The kids on the far left of the table can be bullied out giving away their outermost coats and the kids who want them the most are on the far right²; and so are basically just like straight up thieves and will steal from others, which makes some salty chemicals.

As all of the kids are trying to be as lazy as possible, then they all want to do as little work as they can for the conditions. The most lazy and stable states can change depending on how hot it is outside or how much pressure they're under. Some kids like Sulphur have many different stable and lazy states which change based on what the ambient temperature is. It doesn't split into free sulphur atoms; it changes into a different state which is most stable under those conditions.

The thing is that all of the atoms except for the Noble Gases (because they are so cool) get really anxious and agitated if they ever find themselves alone. They all hate being by themselves and will want to find a buddy, even if their buddy steals their stuff.
Finding a buddy who either steals your stuff, or someone who shares your stuff, or even a whole bunch of buddies all being very metal and sharing everything together, is called a bond. Forming bonds with each other is how atoms to form molecules, which are more stable than if they were all alone.

Hydrogen is a perfect example. Lonely unbound hydrogen doesn't exist on earth, almost all of it is in a bound state. Water and most organic molecules contain Hydrogen. Hydrogen is really needy and looks for approval all of the time and wants to give away its one electron just so someone will be its friend. Even when there are two hydrogens hanging out with each other and someone bigger who can bully them both comes along, they will both break away from each other and give their electron to the bully. That's what caused the Hindenberg tragedy³. Hydrogen is really unstable; a single spark can set it on fire or cause an explosion, depending on how pressurized it is.

Because atoms don't like to hang around by themselves and chemistry happens which frees up single atoms, they often want to form pairs. The diatomic state of that atom is much more stable than the lonely unbound state.
It isn't necessary that all atoms tend to a diatomic state. The reason why any atom binds with other atoms is to tend to a stabler state. Gold exists in the free state because it is highly stable, and gold atoms do not find a state of lower energy very often, although there are certain gold compounds too.

It just happens that after some chemistry has been done, the atoms which are most likely to become lonely, are the bullies. Since chemistry happens with loads and loads and loads of atoms, then because there would be so many lonely atoms, they will just buddy up with whoever is free and that usually means other atoms just like them.
Under normal temperature and pressure that people like to live in, there are only seven kinds of atoms which will form gases (well, actually six but the seventh doesn't need that much more heat and pressure). Those seven elements are:
Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Fluorine, Chlorine, Bromine and Iodine.

The short answer as to why you get diatomic gases is that atoms don't like being lonely and want to bind to other atoms to form molecules to achieve a state of lower energy and become lazier. It is not always necessary that they tend to a diatomic state; it is governed by external factors too.

¹science! which is beyond the scope of this post.
²which looks suspiciously like politics too.
³oh the humanity.

June 26, 2020

Horse 2724 - When To Write Off Liverpool's Season

Officially, today; as League Champion!

I have never before written that in a blog post because I haven't been able to.
The last time that Liverpool won the league was back in 1990. In 1990, I was 11 years old, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the UK, the first Gulf War hadn't happened, virtually nobody had the internet, and Rupert Murdoch and Alan Sugar hadn't yet bought football's soul before selling back the husk to the fans for millions of pounds.

If there ever was an object lesson in patience, then Liverpool fans are it. We have seen many false dawns, I have written many annual pieces on when to write off the league, and even when Liverpool had stretched out a 25 point margin that still wasn't enough to make anything sure at all. Having previously been on track to win the league on the earliest date in a league season, the arrival of COVID-19 meant that all of that could have come to naught but instead with football being resumed, Liverpool now have the honour of winning the league on the latest date ever.

I think that it is fair to say that although this particular Liverpool side has some very good players, it is still not made up of the absolute stellar tier. There are better strikers than Mo Salah, there are better midfielders than Jordan Henderson, and there are better defenders than Virgil van Dijk. A great deal of the reason why this team has won the league is because of Jurgen Klopp who has somehow managed to capture lightning in a bottle.
Jurgen Klopp isn't like previous managers who have won the league for Liverpool like Kenny Dalgleish, Joe Fagan or Bob Paisley, but rather he is more of the ilk of Shankly. Klopp gives the impression in interviews that he does the job, not because he necessarily wants to win titles but because he genuinely loves watching football. Even during this week when asked what he thought about Manchester City playing Chelsea he said: "I like to watch them play because they play attractive football. We aren't them and we don't play like them but they are fun to watch." I know that it is very easy to make those kinds of statements when you are winning but he has been at Liverpool for five years and even when the team has failed on the pitch, he still gives the impression that he thinks that he has one of the best jobs in the world because he is up close to watch football.

Earlier in the week, Liverpool comprehensively beat Crystal Palace 4-0, in a match in which they displayed why they are now league champion. Each of the four goals was like finding a new way to tear apart a Christmas present; and the third goal by Fabinho was as if he had fired a rocket.
The final drop of water which broke the dam was a sending off of Fernandinho in the 77th minute of the Chelsea v Manchester City game. Willian converted the subsequent penalty and as the referee blew for full time, it then became mathematically impossible for Manchester City to win the league. Such is often the way with a league, the results which actually close out a result happen somewhere else.
Having said that though, Liverpool have to date this season won 28 games and might be still on track to set two new league records: both for the number of wins in a season and the number of points.
Maybe there is another drop of irony that when Liverpool travel to the City of Manchester Stadium against City which is the next fixture for them, it will be behind closed doors due to COVID-19 and so there isn't really a way for the fans to celebrate in person.

Of course, the final word probably should go to the architect of all of this, Jurgen Klopp:

I hope I don't have to wait another 30 years for another league title.

On the base of the statue of Bill Shankly which stands out the front of Anfield there is a statement "He made the people happy." I think that's about the highest complement that you can pay a manager and the players and today, Jurgen Klopp has again done that; with the help of a team of reds.

June 25, 2020

Horse 2723 - Fascism: A 'How To' Guide

I want you to imagine that you are a political actor with designs on running a fascist dictatorship.

The first thing that you will need to do is start a political party. You might like to recruit your friends in business that you have cultivated. They will likely want to help you because facism involves an enmeshing of business and government for private profits. They will likely enjoy the idea of passing legislation on behalf of them because the golden rule is in play - whoever has the gold makes the rules - and who better to make the rules than those people who already have the gold.
If you don't want to start your own political party, then you might like to join a party which calls itself 'conservative'. The term is vague and there will be probably be factions who believe in the institutions of the state but they can be easily swung to a new standpoint. You will still need the security and judicial parts of the state apparatus to successfully enforce power. Conservatives can be converted to nationalists and nativists relatively easily.

You will need to eject some members of your party on the grounds that they are racist, sexist, or other kind of 'ist'. It isn't necessary that your party cleanse itself of these elements; merely that you have some 'other' who can become a lightning rod for your scorn. You can actively demonise these people in the press and they will actually be willing to accept the derision because of the notoriety that they will get. They can have opinions which are absolutely unacceptable and there will always be people who will follow them because they will be seen as straight talking; which is a good thing because you can then have policies which are either nativist or classist and nobody will scrutinise you because they will all be hooting about the person who you have chosen to make into a pariah.

You might also like to set up your own newspaper/radio station/television station. This is where you can broadcast your narrative of whatever you like. You can also have opinionistas who look a bit newsy but because they will spruik think pieces, they won't actually be under the relevant legislation to do with news broadcasting.

It might take you a while to finally convince people to vote for you but it can be done. The big hook lines will be that you are the first to truly listen to the people (even though you're totally not), that you have the solution to the problems (which you will totally cause), and that nobody else can solve the problems and make your country soar to the heights that it once did in some imagined past that never existed. If this involves myth making then make sure that you invoke some imagined founding fathers, or some abstract concept like freedoms, or security, or religion, or some other thing that the people can be easily manipulated into believing.

Keep it simple and stupid. Better yet, invent a slogan which is so vague that you can not be held accountable if you don't happen to succeed in doing it, and so vague that the people can project whatever they can imagine into it. If the people feel as though they own the slogan, then you can make them believe things that even go against what they benefit from and even the economic systems that in some cases literally keep them alive. Here are a few to pick from:
- Hope and change.
- Jobs and growth.
- It's time.
- Fightback!
- Making it great.
- Free society, free people.
- Work makes you free.
- Make it great again.

You will also need to find someone who you can build a cult of personality around. If the system allows the same person to stay around for a while, this might be a problem but if you are in some kind of rotating democratic system (which I know is annoying you will have to live with it for the time being - it can be changed at a later date) then you can apply the same principles of demonising your enemies as you did to the people that you ejected from your own party.
Pick out some really trifling trait about the leader of the opposition party. Call them too old, too young, question some decision that they made 20 years ago in parliament. If you can find some moral failing in their past then exploit it; it doesn't matter if you have committed that same moral failing, you only need to accuse your enemy. Insult the media. Accuse the press of publishing lies. Accuse the media of being too liberal, too timid, or of protecting your political rivals for their own gain. It's probably not true but as long as you repeat a thing often enough, it will feel true to the people. Maybe even buy some clandestine agents in the press or on social media.
Above all, keep on making the same inane points over and over again. The people who will vote for you mustn't be allowed to think too deeply about what they are voting for.

The method that you use to acquire power, which by the way is the ends to itself, must be democratic. If there has been a military takeover, then that means may be used against you at some point. While you do want power, getting it all at once via a military coup sets you up to be liable for a civil war. The aim should be civil obedience, even though you are decidedly uncivil about what you intend to do.
If you can find an affable incompetent to lead your party into winning an election then that will do, however if you have already generated a cult of personality around someone who has a vision, the people will already voluntarily line up behind you.

Once you have won an election, you need to start buying the favour of just enough of the middle class to keep you there. The poors will probably never vote for you but if you can convince the upper half of the middle class then that should be enough as in a democracy you only need to win 50% of the votes + 1 (maybe less according to the rules).
You can do this via patronage of the things that the upper middle class likes but which the poors do not have access to. Private school education is brilliant for this because you can literally spend public money to buy private votes. If you can change taxation policy to reward those people who derive income from the real work of other people, then that's also brilliant because you can create a sense of aspirationalism among part of the middle class as well as demonising the poor. If you can privatise things like the utility companies, the healthcare system and physical infrastructure like roads and railways, then even though the people absolutely need those things for the proper functioning of society (and in some cases, to actually stay alive) then do it. Private profits at public expense will help the people who fund you and thus keep the symbiotic relationship maintained.
You might also want to crack down on guilds, unions, trade associations, and anything which the poor might use to organise themselves into to complain about their lack of power. Accuse them of communism, socialism, sovietism, or simply make them look feeble by comparing them with spaced out nature types. Enforce this with police power and raid their offices.

If you want to get rid of the people who could possibly question what you have to say, then you might want to think about either defunding the humanities departments at universities, or think about installing your own centres for history. Whoever controls the past, controls the future. Once you've got rid of all of the people who might want to critique your politics, then it becomes really easy to make it look like you're increasing funding to the sciences even though you aren't.

You might also like to defund the state broadcaster who aren't motivated by the profit motive but have a claim on investigating the truth. If journalists actually do discover that you have been covertly operating spies in foreign countries for the benefit of private corporations (which your party members might be employed by) or perhaps if they discover atrocities which your military has committed, then you can get either the Federal Police to raid their offices or gt the Secret Police to conduct trials also in secret.

You should also think about making sure that just enough people have access to guns and weapons so that there is just enough domestic terrorism and unrest, that you can come in and appear to solve; thus looking like a hero to the people. It doesn't even matter if the people who cause the unrest are nominally on your side because you will have already demonised the racists.

Curate a healthy sense of nationalism and nativism by demonising immigrants, including if they escaping other brutal regimes. Accuse immigrants of taking all the jobs even in spite of your friends moving operations to places where wages and working conditions are minimal. Blame the immigrants and lock them up; lock them up in detention centres that are far away from population centres or even on island exclaves, because if the people can't see what you are doing, they can't complain about it.


If any of this sounds vaguely familiar, that's because it should be. Many of these policies were enacted by Germany from about 1929 onwards and that didn't turn out badly at all. Many of these policies have been enacted by the United States from 1981 onwards and that country has gone on to be a shining bacon¹ of democracy. A lot of these policies have been enacted in Australia from about 1997 onwards.

All of this is possible because people are inherently selfish. The slide towards some kind of facism/feudalism/aggressive colonial capitalism is possible because those with power like to keep it. Actual democracy² is rare.

And as for the argument that poor people want to anarchy because in some places they are suggesting to defund the police, that is just plain stupid.

You've got that eternal idiotic idea that if anarchy came it would come from the poor. Why should it? The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists; they have more interest than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn't; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists.
- G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)

¹No, that's not a typo. A shining beacon provides light to all but a shining bacon provides undeserved deliciousness.
²Athenian democracy wasn't really democracy either because the only people eligible to vote were males over the age of 35; which looks staggeringly like most of history as well as most boardrooms of corporations.

June 22, 2020

Horse 2722 - Hiking Uni Fees Isn't Really About Arts Degrees

In yet another move which proves to me that only is Australia moving towards functional fascism (which I am using as a descriptive term and not a pejorative), the Education Minister Dan Tehan announced last week that if you want to study arts and humanities at university then you have to pay the full economic cost of it yourself. He may as well have punched every arts and humanities student in the face personally because that's the kind of disdain which the Education Minister has shown for education. I would like to think that we have reached a new low in politics when a Minister of the Crown is an enemy of the people but I suspect that we have still further to go and we will be bashed and pushed down the stairs to get there.

Dan Tehan says the Government wants to steer people away from humanities into "job-ready" STEM fields; which basically has the effect of penalising arts and humanities students specifically with disproportionate amounts of debt. From an economic standpoint, this of course makes perfect sense because by shifting the supply curve arbitrarily, you also shift the equilibrium point to a new higher price. Also, since a higher price is a very effective barrier to entry, it means that the government has in effect determined who will study arts and humanities at university, purely on the basis of economic means. It is exactly the same strategy which is played out in school funding and results in economic apartheid by design.

The question of why the government should specifically attack the humanities and the arts, as opposed to the sciences, is both a question of ideology and teleology. It is an ideological question because it relates the enactment of policy and who gets to be able to do it and the telological question has to do with what the government intends education to do. The second is related to the first and is framed in terms of it.

I am convinced that the Liberal Party is running through the list of demands placed upon it by the IPA and is progressively checking them off as the policies that they enact, poison and degrade the proper functioning of democracy. Democracy in principle is government by the demos, that is the people, and while efforts were made to open it up from the 1830s onwards. However, government I suspect is subject to some kind of descriptive equation which always adds up to exactly 1.

Although I lack the tools, my suspicion is that within the confines of the nation state, it is possible to build an equation which describes who controls the total amount of power which exists. Power is enacted through policy and policy involves an entity taking action to achieve and do things. Within the confines of the nation state, we usually assign the authority to write the rules which we call law, to a body called a parliament, or assign them to a person called a president or king or emperor, and we assign the ability to interpret those rules to the judiciary. In times past, those three functions have been vested in a single person. In an Westminster context, Magna Carta in 1215 represents the beginning of rich people having a say, the various reform, sufferage, and representation acts starting in about the 1830s resulted in ordinary people having a say, and trade unionism and civil rights movements resulted in those ordinary people making laws and enforcible them. It is natural that those with more wealth and means should resent ordinary people having any say about how they conduct their affairs and so the last 40 years have been about those people taking back what they think should rightly belong to them.

If a national government is in essence a unitary authority, which is the sole authority to control the rules within the nation, then a great deal of the political fights which happen are going to be about who gets to control that authority. This is why I suspect that this current government has decided to hike the fees on university courses to things like law, finance, economics, law etc. They see those courses of study as the pathways to getting into the parliament and thus controlling the rules within the nation.
Likewise, since the total amount of governance within the nation also adds up to exactly 1, then calling for smaller and more limited government, means that actual governance is transferred out of the parliament and into the hands of companies and organisations which directly control the nation. This is the ideological question. Specifically, who gets to be able to enact policy? If it isn't being done by the government because governments have been forced to step out of the way, by being forced to become smaller and more limited, then the enactment of policy is by default being done by someone else. If there is one thing that powerful people hate, it is someone else having power and them becoming less powerful.

If there is anything that economists, theologians, lawyers, and financiers, s is that everyone without exception is inherently selfish. On average, the centre of everyone's individual observable universe is just shy of an inch from the outside of people's eyeballs. People can only observe the world from their own perspective and because that perspective is constructed by an ego, I suspect that it is literally impossible to build an observable universe where that ego is not the most important thing inside it. Naturally that is going to result in individual selfishness; which when compiled into families and groups, means that there are lots and lots of selfishness feedback loops going on. Also when you consider that people's ability to conceptualise any more than about 23 individual things before they are grouped is mostly impossible, then that results in families, companies, and groups and classes of people acting for the benefit of themselves. All of that roughly explains the ideology of the question here but what of the teleology? Why should selfishness and power have anything to do with the arts? It's easy to explain why powerful people do not want poorer people to have access to the levers of power by limiting their ability to get to them, but artists, that is pure artists, have no real power to change much of anything.

You might be here reading this and wondering what the point of funding the arts actually is. The irony is that you are reading this on a computer, or a tablet, or a phone, which has a graphics interface which has been designed by graphic artists; looking at text which has also been designed by graphic design artists; which in turn was first imagines by movie makers and science fiction writers. Quite literally, the future was written and imagined by artists and then built by boffins in consultation with artists.
Dare I suggest that later on, you will probably watch MasterChef, or Big Brother,  or sport, or a television series, or a movie, or a multitude of other things, which have all been created and crafted by a host of artists. If you now ask what the benefit of an Arts Degree is, then maybe you need to think critically about why you are such a deeply ignorant person.

When it comes to the pure arts though, such as painting, sculpture, theatre, dance etc. even I concede that the direct economic argument falls to pieces. In this respect, I should probably be expected to side with the rentier class whose objection to funding the arts is that because there is 'no obvious economic benefit' then they shouldn't be expected to pay for it. This incidentally is exactly the same general argument against having universities not only be publicly funded but universally available. This is a question of who gets to decide what we all club together and buy. I am not going to side with the rentier class because as a citizen of a nation and a Commonwealth, I believe that the point of banding together is to make the world nicer. Why can't we as a nation have nice things? Moreover, why does the rentier class get to decide that the nation can't have nice things? Why are they morally somehow better than us?

Why then punch specifically at the arts and humanities? The problem with the hard sciences is their stock and trade is with the immutable facts of the cosmos (the word 'cosmos' I am choosing to use in the classical Greek sense of it being the world system; which mostly includes the real physical world and the real objects in space, and how they move etc.). The hardest of the hard sciences is mathematics, which contains elements like arithmetic, algebra, trigonometry, calculus etc. which not only do not change but are also impervious to the whims of politics. The humanities though, contain those pesky things called opinions, beliefs, emotions, and feelings, which are all very much subject to change and being questioned.
It is the arts and humanities departments at universities where the very idea of questioning the status quo is both awakened and nurtured. This absolutely scares the people who have and control power because once you give people the tools to question why society is unfair, they tend to want to do something about it.

Please forgive me but I would prefer to live in a society where the products of all of the arts are available to everyone. If we live in a world of nothing but vulgar capitalism, then the only thing that decides what gets produced is what is profitable. That might be all good if you happen to be a rentier whose income comes from the real work of other people but it means that the society itself becomes the consumers of a world of nothing but vulgar capitalism.
People don't go to the theater because they can't afford it but what if they could? People don't go to art galleries as often as they might because either they don't understand art or they can't afford it but what if they could? When the Sydney Symphony Orchestra put on shows in Parramatta Park for free last year, you had a bunch of people show up who almost certainly wouldn't have been able to go to the Opera House. Would society be better off if normal people engaged with the arts? I would think that a better kind of people would emerge.
Moreover, if education generally is reduced to the world of nothing but vulgar capitalism, then what is the kind of society which that is likely to produce?
Australia is begining to see the effects of that experiment in the same way that the United States has already done. What you produce almost by design, is a society which matches the ideology; that is one that is reduced to nothing but vulgar capitalism. The vast bulk of people become just smart enough to run the machines and just dumb enough to passively accept their situation. It suits the rich and powerful few to have a dumb population incapable of critical thinking because those people might realise how much they've been shafted and start demanding change.
If the right people don't have power, do you know what happens? The wrong people get it. People who study and become politicians and councillors - ordinary voters, no less!

I hate to tell you arts students but this really isn't about you. You are collateral damage as a result of a rocket which has been fired at the humanities. This stems right to the beginning of the Liberal Party when on opening day Sir Robert Menzies, in the very first speech of the assembly spoke of fighting political warfare.

June 18, 2020

Horse 2721 - If You Say "All Lives Matter", I Will Assume That You Don't Actually Believe It

In response to the protests which have happened across the world, following the murder of George Floyd under the knee of Minneapolis Police, a common refrain which has been posted in response to the slogan 'Black Lives Matter' is the deliberately undermining reply of 'All Lives Matter'; mostly by people who don't actually believe that to be true.

Suppose that you are a school teacher. You are sitting in the staff common room at lunch time and you can hear one of your students being beaten up. We'll call her Alice. Not only that but you can determine from the cries of the student being beaten up that the ones laying into her are the class prefects Bridget and Cosette. What do you do?
Any sane teacher would call Bridget and Cosette into the staff room for a severe talking to. You would tell them off for acting so cruel.

Let's suppose for a second that Alice comes from a poor family. Let us further suppose that Alice's parents work for the parents of Bridget and Cosette. Let's further assume that Alice is actually something of a troublemaker who is known for lashing out at Bridget and Cosette.
As the teacher, do you blame Alice for the circumstances which she finds herself in and give Bridget and Cosette hockey sticks so that they can do their job of being prefects better?
If you were to do that, I would probably be justified in my opinion that even though you might be an academically brilliant teacher, you lack basic humanity and common sense.

Suppose that you have a fourth student in the class called Doris. Doris has finally decided to speak up for Alice and wants to get your attention to do something about it. Do you listen to Doris? Or do you listen to Karen, whose mum is on the Parents and Teachers Association and can threaten to withdraw funds from the school? Suppose Karen thinks that just because she hasn't personally experienced any bullying that "all children matter". Is she wrong?

Suppose further still that I been incredibly sexist in my hypothetical example and the names are actually Adrian, Bradley, Colin, Darren, and Kevin. Does any of that make a difference because they're just boys and boys just do that kind of thing?

I hope that I have laboured the point beyond what is reasonable. If one of your students is being beaten up by other students and you want to spruik the line that "all children matter" and yet do nothing to address the issue of your student being beaten up, then you are not only a monster but a liar. If you are a student in this example who stands to the side and wants to spruik the line that "all children matter" but do so because you haven't actually experienced any trouble, then you too are a monster and a liar.

In lots of countries with histories of colonialism, slavery, indigenous dispossession and the like (which includes my own country), we have people who after hearing that people have been beaten up by police and security forces, then blame the victims for their own systemic neglect. 'All Lives Matter' is the equivalent of being more concerned that the children who you bothered to look after are worth more than the one that you have lost and the utterance of that slogan generally demonstrates that the person saying it, fundamentally believes that it is not true.

It is no coincidence that in those same countries, the people who fundamentally do not believe that all lives matter, consistently vote for governments who then enact policy which is consistent with those beliefs. Political parties who then run marketing campaigns to get reelected, will conduct market research and know that people actually do not fundamentally believe that all lives matter, will then adjust their marketing and messaging so that everyone can feel good about the voting choices that they make. Often the purpose of marketing and messaging is to make the consumer feel good about the purchase that they have made; which in this case is paid for by votes.

Dear White People who want to say "All Lives Matter",
If it is true, then act like it. Shut up. Listen. Act. Everyone who wants to say that "All Lives Matter" either proves that fact by listening to the cries of their fellow citizens, or proves that they do not believe that it is true, by vomiting up slogans that are worth less than cat vomit.
The world doesn't need to hear your stupidity which proves that you are a monster and a liar because that has pretty well much been the default position which perpetuates the problem.
Stop lying when you say that you "don't see colour". Either you are actually blind or wilfully lying; there are no other options here. Just because you don't personally experience problems doesn't mean that they don't exist. Shut up. Listen. Act.
Love, Rollo.

Actually if anything, I will admit that I am being radicalised online by people who want to say that "all lives matter" because that indicates to me that these are the people who are monsters and liars. Again, if the people who do go around saying say that "all lives matter" actually believed it, then they probably wouldn't be saying it and thus undercutting the sentiment and real worries of the people who have a very very legitimate complaint.

June 16, 2020

Horse 2720 - It's Bingo Time!

If you read enough crime fiction (or watch crime drama on television) then one of the recurring things that comes up, particularly in quaint English village life, is a bunch of old ladies going down to the Bingo Hall to play Bingo.
Inspector Morse thinks that Bingo is the reason why all ladies are forced to eat cat food. Poirot thinks that daubing at lots of Bingo cards is a mindless pastime for mindless people. Miss Marple on the other hand mentions in Bertram's Hotel that she regularly goes to bingo because she likes to hear all of the gossip, and that Mary St. Mead is like a microcosm of the world: everything that happens in the world, has already happened in Mary St. Mead.

Since "The Horse" has never had a pull out gambling section before, I thought that it would be fun in these crazy times, in these uncertain times of uncertainty, in these uncertain crazy uncertain crazy times, to have a bingo section.
You'll need your own bingo card. To make that you will need a grid. Draw six vertical lines and then six horizontal lines. That will give you 25 squares to write your numbers in. Pick any numbers that you like between 1 and 90. Put those numbers anywhere you like in the grid. I have no idea why there are 90 numbers and not 100 but there just are, and this is an immutable fact of the universe.

The standard pay out rates for a game of bingo are:
₱15 for the first "Bingo". That is the first column or row which someone has completed.
₱25 for the first X. That is all of the corners completed.
₱50 for the first "House". That is when someone has actually completed their whole bingo card.

Since Bingo cards usually only cost ₱2 and they sell 25 of them in a round of bingo, then 25 x ₱2 = ₱100 in takings, ₱15 + ₱25 + ₱50 = ₱90 paid out in prizes, and the house collects ₱10 in profit. If you compare that with a payout rate of 95% for bookmakers at horse racing tracks, 95% for most games in a casino, and about 87% for poker machines, then Bingo actually works out to be not all that great a gambling vehicle for the participants but lovely for the house. Preying on old ladies seems somewhat insidious to me; which is why I also think that poker machines are also insidious devices.

Since this publication has already taken 2 of your imaginary monies, then you can either walk away now knowing that we have already won, or you can play along at home and try to beat the house. We'll tell you when our imaginary old lady has won.
We should point out that it is possible to win all three prizes in a round of bingo and so if you do that, you will be morally obligated to buy some imaginary orange squash for the imaginary old ladies in the bingo hall. You might also like to spend some of your imaginary winnings at the imaginary bistro. Try the veal.

For the record, there are official lists of Bingo Calls but as I think that most of them are hokey, I shall use my own.

70. People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day. 70.
6. White boomers, snow white boomers. 6.
49. You have failed. Please see me after class. 49.
53. Here comes the Love Bug. 53.
25. I'm still alive. 25.
74. Recycle more. 74.
22. Two little ducks. 22.
11. Secret Herbs and Spices. 11.
23. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not lack anything. 23.
69. The zodiac symbol for Cancer. Ha! I bet you thought it would be something else but you've got a grotty filthy mind. 69.

2. The answer to the question of life, death, the universe and everything. 42.
7. Magnificent. 7.
34. Off to war. 34.
12. Set your clocks to spooky. The midnight hour has arrived. 12.
88. Two women who don’t wish to be judged by society’s standards. 88.
21. Gun Royal Salute. 21.
26. A to Z. 26.
85. Staying Alive. Staying Alive. Ah ha ha ha. 85.
45. Spin the record. 45.
71. I'm sorry, sir, but we don't speak Swedish. 71.

75. Jump and jive. 75.
55. Snakes alive! 55.
36. Dramatic Situations. 36.
62. Turn the Screw. 62.
51. Doesn't rhyme with banana. 51.
24. Hours from Tulsa. 24.
77. H E double upside down hockey sticks. 77.
1. Is the lonliest number. 1.
29. Feeling fine. 29.
5. Coco Chanel. No.5.

43. Beans in every cup. 43.
15. Steve McQueen. 15.
83. Gluten free. 83.
27. All the famous people die. 27.
72. Chicken Vindaloo. 72.
89. Hydroxychloroquine. 89.
20. Twenty Dollars? Aw. I wanted a peanut. 20.
41. I love my mum. 41.
68. A bucket and crate. 68.
84. Big Brother is watching you. 84.

73. That existential feeling of dread that you get when you wonder if you have locked the door or not. 73.
40. Happiness begins here. 40.
48. Haters gonna hate. 48.
33. Fish and chips and peas. 33.
35. Millimeter film. 35.
63. Stuck up a tree. 63.
31. Tom Tom the Piper's son. Stole a pig and he did run. 31.
2. Number Two. Open a window. 2.
14. Kind of obscene. 14.
78. Broken Plate. 78.

16. And never been kissed. 16.
56. Clickety Clicks. 56.
39. The famous steps. 39.
30. Dirty Bertie. 30.
59. The goose drank wine. The monkey smoked tobacco on the street car line. 59.
3. Is a magic number. Yes it is. 3.
28. Shut the gate. 28.
79. Do or do not. There is no try. 79.
52. Pack of Cards. 52.
54. Hardware store. 54.

81. Set phasers to stun. 81.
32. Winnie The Pooh. 32.
58. Christmas Cake. 58.
9. Doctor Knickerbocker's Love Potion. Number 9.

BINGO - Imaginary Old Lady has a Row.

60. This week on 60 Minutes. Tick tick tick tick. 60.
8. The best things in life are free. But you can keep them for the birds and bees. I want your money. 8.
82. One fat lady taking her pet duck for a walk. 82.
37. Slices of Devon. 37.
66. Get your kicks on Route. 66.
57. Heinz Varieties. 57.
90. Top of the house. 90.

BINGO - Imaginary Old Lady has all the Corners.

61. Cinnamon Bun. 61.
17. Dancing Queen. Young and sweet, only. 17.
44. Double Death! 44.
19. What this rash that comes and goes? Can you tell me what it means? 19.
10. Boris' Den. Number Ten. 10.
65. No use crying over spilled milk. 65.

BINGO - Imaginary Old Lady has Finished.

4. Death has arrived. 4.
86. Concrete mix. 86.
80. Don't Have Breakfast. Eight-nothing. 80.
13.  Unlucky for some. 13.
38. Avocado on a plate. 38.
18. Wheels of Justice. 18.
46. Dorothy Dix. 46.
76. Trombones led the big parade. 76.
64. Will you still need me? Will you still feed me? 64.
87. The Devil's Number. 87.
67. Stairway to Heaven. 67.
47. Russian diplomacy. A K. 47.
50. 5 – 0, 5 – 0, it’s off to work we go. 50.

The chances are that you have beaten our imaginary old lady in this game of Bingo. If you would like to play again, then just create an Excel spreadsheet and use the =RAND() function to generate 90 random numbers next to your list of 90 bingo calls. Organise your own imaginary den of iniquity and inequity. It is much better to take imaginary money from imaginary old ladies who aren't real, than to take real money from real old ladies.

June 15, 2020

Horse 2719 - Fighting The History Wars Requires At Least A Passing Knowledge Of History

For those people who do not think that history repeats, not only was a pandemic like the one that we are currently living through predicted as a 100% eventuality and planned for (and conveniently forgotten about) but the associated period of hardship which falls mostly on the poor is also repeating and we took no steps against that either.
Humans generally are very bad at predicting the future and the economic right is even worse at it because unless there is a present danger instead of just a contingent possible danger, then the profit motive which is the biggest driver of human activity (which in reality is just selfishness repackaged) simply refuses to admit that there might be broader responsibilities that we have to each other.
One of those responsibilities is the responsibility to act with decency to each other and that I am afraid, is something that people motivated by profits simply cannot abide with. In the past that has resulted in slavery whereby people become the moveable chattel of other people, to be bought and sold, and when that relationship is severed and the effects continue due to a multitude of systemic factors including the fact that all capital is produced from the excess of past work, then it's going to have very big knock on effects.

Just like the H1N1 Influenza pandemic of 1918-20, there have been race riots on the United States as that country refuses to admit its past mistakes and wishes to perpetuate them into the future. Some starting places to look at include the Red Summer of 1919 and the Tulsa Massacre which actually included aerial bombing of black people's houses by their fellow citizens.
We haven't quite descended into that kind of violence, yet. However, the echoes from the tensions in the United States have made people question their own history in other countries; which includes the pulling down of statues of slave owners of times past.
As someone who has read a bit about the long game of history, as history and what we choose to commemorate, celebrate and remember, is always done by the people of the present, the questioning of the past is hardly a new endeavour. In fact, the defacing of statues and the sacking of treasures is something that probably extends to before antiquity.

When I read columns like Andrew Bolt's in the Daily Telegraph/Herald-Sun/Courier Mail, his insistence that the past is sacred is no less a case of playing identity politics as those he accuses of playing identity politics. It's just that he is waving the banner of a different identity.

I know that not having a university degree or even a high school certificate is no guarantee of the intelligence of a person because loads of people who have never been to university are ridiculously smart and/or have learned their craft in the University of Life but Mr Bolt never appears to be all that intellectually curious. If you are going to successfully make proper arguments against someone else's position, then it is best if you first make an attempt to understand that position. If you are going to attack the intellectual ground of your enemy then you should at very least have read across what your enemy has read. I find it repeatedly amusing for instance that I am accused of quoting left-wing writers, after having quoted Hayek and Von Mises. Actually, all this proves is that if you are going to successfully make proper arguments against someone else's position, then you should also probably understand your own.
The truth is that it is easy to pull apart Mr Bolt's arguments because like so many right-wing nuts, it you apply even the slightest torque and pressure, you can undo them very simply.

News Corp rather inconveniently hides its URLs and its articles behind their paywall, which makes linking to them rather difficult but even so, I am not sure that I want to direct traffic their way to generate ad revenue for them.

I can not for the life of me work out what the Dickens Mr Bolt is complaining about when he poses the question that race rioters would want to tear down a statue of Marx. This makes zero sense on so many levels; basic maths tells you that if you multiply zero by anything, many times over, you still get zero. Nothing times a whole lot, is a whole lot of nothing.

Firstly, I don't understand which 'statue' Mr Bolt is referring to. No doubt there are statues of him around the world but I can't think of any in Bolt's city of Melbourne; nor can I think of any in London. There is a monument in London where Marx is buried but you would expect that sort of thing in a cemetery. It could be that but does that mean that Mr Bolt actually advocates desecrating the grave of a Jewish man? Mr Bolt has already been found guilty of violating the Racial Discrimination Act; so perhaps it isn't past him to add anti-Semitism to his quiver as well.

Secondly, for people who are anti-racist to want to bring down a statue of someone for presumed racism, wouldn't that require that the person in question was actually racist? Say what you like about Marx's political ideology but racism isn't really a strand of his thinking or manifesto; which is what you would expect from someone who more than likely had members of his extended family who were the victims of pogroms across Europe.

Thirdly, to actually address the terms of Mr Bolt's article last week, I have one simple question - "Why?". What possible reason would race rioters want to tear down a statue of Marx, assuming that one existed (which by the way doesn't; neither in the United States, the United Kingdom, nor Australia). Again, that lack of intellectual curiosity is on display yet again.

To place Marx back into history, he wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848 and was writing for various magazines on both sides of the Atlantic during the US Civil War (1861-1865). Not only is Marx aware of what is going on in the United States but he seems deeply concerned for the plight of American slaves.
Before the war started in 1861, he wrote in a January 1860 letter to his colleague Engels that the world was a tinder box and presumably revolution was at hand with “on the one hand the movement of the slaves in America started by the death of John Brown, and on the other the movement of the serfs in Russia.”

Marx is deeply concerned with the treatment of people who are mostly powerless and his economic view of the world, however incomplete and inadequate at describing how the economy works, is largely motivated by improving the lot of working people.
The day John Brown was hanged for his raid on Harpers Ferry, Marx wrote that "ending chattel slavery would not destroy capitalism, but it would create conditions far more favorable to organizing and elevating labor, whether white or black.”
Maybe you can make the argument that Marx only views the issue of racism as an incidental problem which sits alongside the broader issues of slavery, wage slavery and the ruthlessness of factory owners towards their workers but he certainly doesn't give cause for race rioters to want to pull down his statue (if it actually existed; which it doesn't).

If anything, black people might have cause to want to revisit Marx and have a look at what he said. In fact, Marx's writings in newspapers and magazines which were the only big media of the day, may have filtered through to Abraham Lincoln himself. Lincoln's address to Congress in December 1861 contains the following:

Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation. A few men own capital, and that few avoid labor themselves, and with their capital hire or buy another few to labor for them.
- Abraham Lincoln, 3rd Dec 1861

That sounds distinctly Marxist.

Lincoln who inherited a war over slavery (I really fail to see that there was any other root cause), not only was the one who issued the Emancipation Proclamation but politically, he is the first Republican President. I wonder exactly on what basis black people in America would want to tear down a statue of Lincoln.

More than likely, Mr Bolt is preying on the fact that the readers of the Herald-Sun/Daily Telegraph/Courier Mail are just as lacking in intellectual curiosity as him. Marx is probably just another swear word in the land of the Herald-Sun/Daily Telegraph/Courier Mail; like "Aboriginal", "Thunberg", or "the left" which is repeatedly defined by Miranda Devine as "anyone I don't like".
Moreover, the organisation which Mr Bolt works for, engages in victim blaming frequently and is not above doctoring photographs and hacking the phones of the dead to push its point of view.

I am also convinced that it is this kind of article and the subsequent discussions of both it and the regurgitation of this as a topic, which is why we saw the police in Sydney defending the statue of Captain Cook against literally nobody; while they flashed white supremacist hand signals at people and while someone dressed as the cut-price bargain bin version of Indiana Jones stood inside the police cordon. The statue was graffitied anyway, during the wee small hours of Sunday morning and unless Captain James Cook was a Marxist, I just don't think that the people who did this, would be the same kinds of people who might pull down a statue of Marx, if it existed; which doesn't; so it can't be pulled down.

June 14, 2020

Horse 2718 - This Is "Not A Bin"

This weekend after I'd successfully ended up on the wrong road and going to the wrong place, we went to Windsor and pottered about for bit.
While walking along a path by the riverbank, I encountered this:

As my brain is a repository of the useless, the nonsensical and the daft, immediately my mind went to that 1929 painting in oil on canvas by René Magritte entitled 'The Treachery of Images' and which is more commonly know as 'This is Not a Pipe' in English.

This is not a pipe.

This is not a painting of a pipe.

In this context, it is the electronic representation of a photograph of a painting of a pipe with the caption "Ceci n'est pas une pipe"; which is French for "This is not a pipe" underneath it.

The painting is I assume a commentary on the concept of a meta-message; parading the thought that the representation of a thing is not actually the thing.

While I don't really want to get into the meta-argument of what this representation of a photograph is, I am prepared to question the message on the real object itself. This is a real bin in the world and it is very clearly a bin; standing in a specific holder for bins.

Why then does this carry the message that it is 'not a bin'?

I do not think that this is a piece making an ontological query about the the nature of being a bin. Granted that the nature of reality could very well be pure subjective fantasy and that space and time and here and now are only in our mind but somehow I do not think that a bin in Windsor would be making such an enquiry.
Nor do I think that this is an art installation because that is very obviously a holder for bins and this is very obviously a bin.

If anything, this could be a question to do with the teleology of the bin. Just like Aristotle would claim that the telos of an acorn is to become an oak tree, that is the purpose of the acorn is to become a thing that makes more acorns (and conversely an oak tree's purpose is to grow and then make more oak trees), the usual teleology of the bin would be to be a bin; that is, a receptacle of people's rubbish. If a bin's purpose isn't to be a receptacle of people's rubbish, then what is it for? The claim made here is that it is 'not a bin'; which implies that the bin has some other purpose, however we are not told what that purpose is.

As much as I would personally to go back in time and point at Ludwig Von Mises for being a cruel prat, I fear that his explanation of praxeology might be useful here. His 1949 work 'Human Action' lays out the case that economics is essentially a praxeological science (however murky and dark that it is) and that people's reasoning and purpose defines the economic decisions that they take. I would argue that humans are irrational and cruel and downright selfish, and that Von Mises must have been deliberately fridge blind to not offer the six years of unpleasantness which happened just a little bit before this, as evidence.
Someone has assigned some purpose to this bin (its telos) due their reasoning (their praxeos) but we the passers by haven't been told what it is. Maybe if I can put some cake into Schrödinger's Box with the cat, then I have it and eat it as well. Or it could very well be that the cake is a lie and this is actually some kind of reverse psychology, trying to get the general public to defy the notice and put their rubbish in there.

I do know that as someone with incomplete information, I am merely confused by this bin which claims that it is 'not a bin'. If it is not a bin, then what is it? What other purpose has been assigned to it, and if that other purpose exists, then why is it in a holder for a bin?

June 13, 2020

Horse 2717 - The End Of The Road For V8Supercars Approaches Fast

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic crisis was a thing, Supercars management was considering what kind of steps that they should take to future proof the sport. Those of us on the outside who didn't have to worry about the immediate commercial challenges, could see storms brewing which have only been compounded by the pandemic.
Motorsport in Australia for a very long time has been beholden to the whims of the manufacturers and the sometimes complete apathy therein. Ford for instance, had a very strong presence in 1977 and then just three years later completely abandoned Allan Moffat who had given them a famous 1-2 at Bathurst. They would not return with any proper factory support until 1993. Holden on the other hand, maintained a presence from 1969 until 2018. Every other manufacturer has either come and gone depending on the then whims of the day but still subject to the demands of the two elephants in the room. Of late, those elephants of Ford and Holden have both suffered existence failures in Australia; with the latter ceasing to exist entirely as an entity from 1st July.
Given all of that, as one of the howling monkeys of the commentariat, I think that I have the best solution going forward. If I could somehow get a foot in the office of the CEO of Supercars, then this would be my pitch for going forward.

Australian motor racing has one of the strangest pickles that it has ever had to deal with. The top flight of touring car racing in Australia now has the problem that there are no manufacturers in Australia and consequently nobody left who might provide unbuilt shells to go racing with.
In the very olden days, it used to be that you could take a car directly out of the showroom and race it on Sunday. The problem with that is that racing machines in anger is generally more dangerous and so bespoke cars with roll cages and safety equipment like fire extinguishers started to be built.
With every single manufacturer having moved out of the way, you'd think that this might spell disaster for motor racing; when it is quite the contrary. For possibly the first time since 1968 there is now an opportunity for the sport to define its own design requirements, rather than be subject to the fads and fancies of the manufacturers.

In the lower categories of motorsport, the drivers and teams run cars that they either think will give them some kind of advantage according to the rules or perhaps because they actually like running the kinds of car that they will run. There are also categories where there has never been any resemblance to road cars at all, such as formula racing (like Formula Ford) and circle track racing (Sprint Cars) and nobody seems to have a problem at all with this. Likewise in the very top eschelons of motorsport such as Prototype and GT racing where the aim and end of going as fast as possible supercedes all else, there is also no concession to running anything that looks like a road car.
In categories such as NASCAR Cup series, the concession to running anything that looks like a road car extends only as far as the cosmetic differences on the front and rear of the car. Those cars have stickers and shaped mouldings to at best give a passing resemblance to what is on the road but no further.
Time and time again, various motorsports categories prove in principle that the fans don't actually care a whole heap if the cars on track bear only a passing resemblance or no resemblance at all to what is on the road, as long as the sport is fun to watch.

- A car which doesn't actually exist on the road versus another car which doesn't actually exist on the road and which brand won't exist in 21 days either

To that end, the solution is to embrace that complete lack of resemblance to what is on the road and instead embrace the better principle that if the thing in question looks cool, then that's really all that matters.
Basically, we need to remember that sport generally and motorsport in particular is an elaborate and expensive way of playing games with expensive toys. In short, we are all born with a finger up our nose, then we get taller. The only difference between the people who drive Porsches and the people who drive Corollas is the quality and expensiveness of the toys that they are playing with.

Basically the way that I see it, the Supercars Championship can decide to go in two and a half directions.

1. They can admit that as a thing, they are basically finished and adopt GT3 regulations.
This was the route that the Japanese Auto Federation took when they originally conceived of firstly the Japanese Grand Touring Championship and then Super GT. Super GT in their GT300 class runs a mix of pure GT3 cars, so-called 'Mother Chassis' cars, and JAF cars; without getting too deep into the weeds, are equalised for performance with Balance Of Performance which is similar to GT3. They run GT3 and GT3 equivalent cars, which although haven't actually been approved by the FIA, are run as though they had been.

2. They can adopt NASCAR Gen-7 regulations.
NASCAR as discussed in previous posts, is getting ready to adopt its next generation of cars. However instead of having the teams themselves build the chassis, all of those chassis will be built by Dallara. By having a single common fabricator, they can make the cars more close in terms of performance because the individual teams no longer have the ability to chase 1% improvements.
The beauty of having a single fabricator such as this is that Dallara is already building the cars anyway and as they are already going to be building them, then ordering a few more isn't going to be all that difficult.

3. They can adopt some other current common standard.
With no future Commodore to play with, this means that the class is an open book. The most obvious thing would be to adopt the Penske Mustang as the standard and then let other teams/manufacturers put their own noses and tail light clusters on it. Since the Penske Mustang already bears no common components with the road going car, then this is hardly an issue. I could very easily imagine a Chevy crate motor, BMW V8, Toyota V8 or whatever other engine would fit, all being allowed and rated against each other. As it is, the rumours are that the sport is considering adopting the Coyote V8 as a common engine but there really isn't any need to.

What we do know is that the Commodore already is a legacy vehicle since the last ZB Commodore was built back in January. Holden as a brand is almost a legacy item as after 30 June, General Motors officially stops trading in Australia. That leaves Ford all on its own and since they don't actually fabricate the Mustang, then really the whole category doesn't need Ford's blessing either.