July 20, 2018

Horse 2445 - I Reject "3 Ways To Fail At Everything In Life" And Submit "1 Way To Succeed At Everything In Life"

Some things that you'll see on Facebook in particular are pictures which contain vague sentiments which people then share. I suppose that they are intended as modern day proverbs of sorts and are supposed to provide some kind of motivation or short term well being. They almost always contain the instructions to share or like if you agree, because meme propagation works like a virus which infects one brain before popping out its message so that that brain can then repropagate the meme. The process works especially well when you have someone who is well intentioned but doesn't think too deeply about the thing that they're helping along; because they've already got their dopamine hit and have moved on.
My brain which I'm sure has been wired up differently to most people and then fed with a slightly different data set, looks at these things, wants to pull them apart and see what's inside. A meme virus gets into my brain and is then met with machinery which has been honed to identity and mutilate it. My brain is like a macrophage, which chews up meme viruses and then displays the mangled bits on the outside like some kind of dystopic hellbeast warrior.

The thing which floated into the path of my brain and was met with the machinery for mutilation was this:

Not being content with letting this stand unchecked, I went to the home page of the one who posted this in the first instance and found that this was from a fitness instructor. Now I'm sure that this in context is supposed to be motivational in a particular kind of way, where the individual is supposed to take responsibility for their actions; which given that this was from a fitness instructor is trying to get people to go to the gym more often I guess. Maybe this is supposed to guilt someone in to buying more time and/or classes with a personal trainer. Whatever the case, I'm sure that in situ that this was designed to be inspirational for the kind of people who are likely to frequent a gym.


Ah yes. Except.
Motivation, the modern day proverb, the mind killer, the instant injection of dopamine to a brain that hasn't thought too deeply about the meme which just went into it, the anesthetic of critical logic, it has a proboscis. It is able to pierce the outer shell of the mind before injecting its little cache of information; which is just enough to turn that brain into a tiny little factory that manufacturers and repropagates the meme.
My brain does not respond well to this. It has seen this kind of thing before and is already ready, willing and able to deploy the necessary machinery to identify and mutilate this; before displaying this on the outside like a dystopic hellbeast warrior.
I'm pretty sure that in context, that this was supposed to be motivational but out of context and on display in a very different world, my brain interprets this as aggressive and accusative. My brain is not content to let this be but wants to pull this apart and see how it works. This meme having passed through my brain will not be repropagated all that easily.

Let's weaponise this and see how it works out there in the real world. Let's apply these rules to the real world and see if they apply, shall we?

The Gender Pay Gap.
1. The reason why women are generally paid less than their male counterparts has nothing to do with systemic misogengy or sexism. Clearly it's all their own fault. Stop blaming males for looking out for their own.
2. Shut your faces ladies and quit complaining. Complaining only means that you fail at life..
3. Be grateful for the fact that we pay you anything at all.

1. Stop blaming white people for being racist. If someone chooses to be “offended” by opinions of others, that’s their choice. There is no “right” to have people not say things you find offensive; none at all. Free speech is more important than your feelings, sorry, not sorry.
2. If you are from a group which is openly being targeted for abuse on a daily basis, then you need to shut your faces and quit complaining. Complaining only means that you fail at life.
3. Be grateful for the abuse you cop. You should be grateful for the words of other people.

Wage Theft
1. It's not the fault of employers that they can't make a profit without literally stealing wages from the hands of vulnerable people. Stop blaming employers for taking the food off your table and work harder.
2. Don't complain about your wages being stolen. The golden rule is in operation; so that means that whoever has the gold makes the rules and that isn't you, so quit complaining. Complaining only means that you fail at life.
3. Be grateful for the fact that you get paid anything at all. In the past, people used to be slaves and were the chattel property of the people they worked for. If you don't like it, leave.

I hope that I've made my point.
These three rules are awful and barbaric.

I hate the sentiment here. Perhaps within the realm of a motivational quote they are useful but outside of that, they are a club which can be used to beat down on people. The three obvious retorts are:
1. Some people's problems should be blamed on others; specifically the people who caused the problems.
2. Some things should be complained about. A complaint is a declaration that something is unsatisfactory or downright unacceptable. There are things in the world which we simply should not accept.
3. Being grateful for the bad things of the world which have been perpetrated by other people is either the sign that someone has been defeated or they are too ignorant to know what's happened to them and I don't mean that pejoratively either. Some people are ignorant of what's happened to them because they haven't learnt something or have never been exposed to it. Maybe they just don't know what they're entitled to because they've never had their rights explained to them.

What I found after following the link to the person who posted this iteration of this picture was the post immediately under it which read:
"Bitch slap your woman. She deserves it."
If that doesn't make the point concisely then I don't know what does. Immediately my brain went into rage mode because here was the perfect illustration of just how awful and barbaric the outcomes of these three rules are. If we were to apply those rules to whoever this chap's lady friend is then.
1. She shouldn't blame her problems on him, even though he advocates domestic violence?
2. She shouldn't complain about being treated badly?
3. She should be grateful?
I'm sorry, this is beginning to look like gaslighting. These three rules when enforced are little more than attempts to gain more power, by making their victims question reality. This sounds to me like the tactics of people like narcissists, cult leaders, abusers, and dictators.

These three rules should be rejected outright. I hate them. Hate hate hate hate hate hate hate.
Having rejected these three rules as aggressive accusations which are deliberately designed to be horrible pieces of victim blaming, I decided to stop, to think and to mangle and mutilate these ideas. If there truly is a rule which is a sure fire way to fail at life, it is this:

Rule 4:
Be unloved.

In just about every possible realm that I can think of, the things which cause the greatest harm in people's lives, is a concentrated lack of love or concentrated stream of anti-love aimed in their direction.
Whether it's to do with an undervaluing of someone as a person, or of their dignity, or trying to destroy and degrade their conditions for the purpose of extracting profits, or a basic hatred of someone on the basis of their gender, race, religion, socioeconomic status, nationality, state of poverty, I think that this more than those other three rules contributes to someone's failure at life more than anything else.
While I will absolutely concede that hard work and making efforts to better yourself is absolutely and unequivocally a very big contributor to someone's success in life, if someone is unloved in real material ways, because of systemic reasons, then all the efforts in the world are not going to be enough to bridge that gap.
What I am getting at here is that nobody in the world is a self-made success. Nobody in the world gets to be a billionaire based solely upon their own efforts. The way to be successful in life is mostly based upon the collective efforts of a lot of people who work together to produce something which is bigger than the sum of their parts. Possibly the greatest single invention in the story of both economics and capitalism is the limited liability corporation, which by definition is a collective ownership group which just happens to have liability limited to the extent of the ownership of the shares therein.

The way to utterly fail at life is to be unloved and to be excluded from the things that would have made you a success. In essence, this is the story of power punching downwards and it surely is a truism that a great inequality of power inevitably leads to violence; either by people exercising power in order to maintain it, or by the great collective of people who are being made to suffer who decide to want to claim some of it back.
Brutus in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar said that "the abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power"; which if you happen to be unfortunate to be on the other end of, means that you will suffer directly because of a demonstrated and pointed lack of love.

When you think about the various instruments and pieces of legislation such as the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights (1948), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951), The Convention On The Rights Of The Child (1989), The Racial Discrimination Act 1975, The Sex Discrimination Act 1984, The Abolition Of Slavery Act 1833, Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 &c. they are all designed to limit the exercise power and anti-love, and to provide agency and remedy to those people who would suffer if power was unrestrained.

Of course it would be remiss of me not to express this in the positive; so here it goes.

The 1 way to succeed at everything in life is:
1. Love and be loved.

That's it.
No really. That's it.
Love people. Treat them with dignity and respect. Pay them properly. Make sure their needs for things like food, housing, adequate medical care, education, civil and political rights, security in their homes and security of their person, are respected and protected. Enact legislation which limits the abuse of power.
If everyone did this as their prime motivation, then I am sure that many of the injustices of the world would disappear very very quickly. If we actually collectively bothered to love people, then we would show concern for their circumstances and try to lift them up.

Also, reject disinformation like the stupid set of rules which prompted this.
1. Blame all of your problems on the people who caused them and actually hold them accountable for remedying them.
2. Complain about everything, then improve things. Complaints are statements that something is not right.
3. Never be grateful for the abuse of power.

Remember - Love and be loved.

July 18, 2018

Horse 2444 - It's All We Can Do To Be Part Of The Queue In This Town

One of the things that infuriates me about the way most people play Monopoly is that they don't actually follow the rules as written. Every single  so called "house rule" that most people play by, always invariably makes the game worse. Putting taxes and penalties for someone to collect when they land on Free Parking is an abomination. Traveling around the board before anyone buys property is a nonsense. Worst of all, people object when you bother to conduct auctions for property that has been turned down - in my experience, those very expensive properties are overvalued and so buying Regent Street for £186 at auction is a net good.

I use the game of Monopoly by way of example because it illustrates perfectly, why I like it when people follow the rules. Rules and laws are for the standardisation, regulation, and protection of society, and when society is playing by the same rules, everything just works properly. The game of Monopoly, when it isn't played according to the rules, becomes a horrid thing that nobody likes; the reason that I suspect that the game is so much maligned is that virtually nobody plays it properly. Monopoly when played according to the full and proper rule set, actually only takes about 45 minutes and is less about mindlessly moving around the board and more about tactically making trades with people.
A similar thing to think about (and one which is far more critical to people's lives) are road rules.  Think about it. We hurtle down the road at 60km/h, past houses, pedestrians, and other road users, and we do it in our own tonne  and a half metal box and what should be remarkable but is so mundane that nobody ever thinks about it, is the unwritten boredom of the fact that everyone gets to where they're going with comparatively few accidents.

We feel violated when people don't follow the rules and it is no surprise that that same word "violation" also applies when someone breaks the rules. Now this isn't some moral rant about law keeping, although it's probably a good idea to follow the law in every circumstance that you can except when it seriously violates your particular set of religious values, no, this is a rant about possibly the most petty kind of rule following that I can possibly think of: the rules of queuing.

Everyone knows how a queue works, right? Wrong! Every single work day, without exception, I experience my own personal eleventh circle of hell just by standing in a straight line.
A queue, and I need to explain this because it is painfully obvious to me that people either don't understand or more likely don't care about the concept, is when a group of people form an orderly line while waiting for a thing to happen. That thing might be in a bank, or a supermarket, or waiting for tickets to a rock concert or Wimbledon, or as I usually experience it, waiting for the B1 bus to Mona Vale.
The thing that does my rag, makes my hair boil and my blood curdle, and gets my hackles, feckles  and schmeckles up, is that without fail, there will be a group of us who will form an orderly queue and respect it as though it were a basic building block of civil society, and there will be another group who arrive later than us and form a clump around the bus door and get on the bus before people who have waited patiently and calmly. A spontaneous condensation of order while waiting for the bus to arrive is both beautiful and noble but a disorganised rabble is precisely that.

The best experience that I ever had in a queue was in central London when I was waiting for a bus at a bus stop sign and someone came up and asked "are you a queue?". Yes, there was only one of me and so the idea that a singular person could be considered a queue was so delicious that that possibly ten second conversation has remained with me to this day. Here was a person so keenly attuned to the fact that not so much rules but the keeping of order is how society functions well.
When you have people who not only jump the queue for the bus but deny its very existence, that sends a very clear and present message that those people simply do not care. Not caring might seem almost trivial (and this is why I pick on this specifically) but when you multiply not caring about each other by a factor of a quadrillion, by fifteen orders of magnitude, then selfishness flourishes and then begins to manifest itself in cruelty.
The B1 bus is emblematic because it passes through the electorates of North Sydney and Warringah. The people who get on the B1 bus because they live in the area, are the people who have been represented by MPs who have been the Treasurer and the Prime Minister; who have had the ability to exact power through enacting legislation. Selfishness multiplied by fifteen orders of magnitude is a perfectly good explanation as to why we have MPs actively looking to destroy and privatize the institutions of the nation and why we are actually putting babies in gaol on tropical islands.

Selfishness multiplied by just this wee little order of magnitude means that people who have been waiting in the queue and following the unwritten and normal expected rules of society, will be actively punished for doing so.
I am regularly punished for waiting in a queue by those people who don't understand how queues work or worse don't care about how queues work, by either not getting a seat or as was the case this morning, not getting on the bus and then not getting a seat because of more queue jumpers who don't care about how queues work.

Suffice to say, I don't like being punished because I followed the rules. That makes me not want to follow rules at all because of negative reinforcement and that makes me want to not care about how queues work; which would only add to this eleventh circle of hell and make the game worse for everyone.

July 16, 2018

Horse 2443 - Tout Est Possible: Les Blues Ajouter La Deuxième Étoile

France 4 - Croatia 2
Mandžukić (o.g.) 18' 
Perišić 28'
Greizmann (pen) 38' 
Pogba 59' 
Mbeppe 65'
Mandžukić 68'

The World Cup final in Moscow was held on an afternoon which threatened to bring thunder and lightning. The truth is that I can not recall even a single World Cup match where it has rained. They must exist, surely? As the mercury peeked into the 30s in the Russian summer, from my vantage point on the couch in our parlour in Sydney, it shrugged its shoulders and walked away after thinking that positive Celsius was too hard.  So as I sat on the couch, not buried under the blanket because the cat was already on it and moving her would be cruel, I was very much envious of the 22 players, green grass and the football on the television screen.

The final started tentatively for France but nobody had told Croatia that they needed to be cautious. Modric was there or there about for much of the opening passage of play and it wasn't until the quarter hour mark that France even managed put the ball in Croatia's half. When they did, Croatia kinds of panicked and Borozovic brought down Greizmamn to award France their first scoring opportunity of the game.
Greizmann's free kick lifted into a giant rabble of players and miraculously found its way into the goal, defeating the Croatian goalkeeper. Upon the replay, it was only then that the world saw that the ball had taken a deflection off Mandzukic's head and in was totted up as an own goal to him.

From here the match threatened to fall into indiscipline and Croatia were lucky to escape without any cards of any colour  as they proceeded to undertake a policy of unnecessary slide tackles. One of their charges forward saw Croatia to only win the ball but meant that they were suddenly on the counter attack.
A ball was delivered to the right hand side of the box, where it was lifted and then Vrsalijk headed the ball back to the edge of the area, wherein Perisic took a shot right through the centre of the crowd and his unsighted shot was rewarded with a goal.

At 1-1 the match opened up and both sides stole the ball off each other and neither of them could control the centre  of the field. For about ten minutes play passed back and forth and then this World Cup Final gave us our obligatory moment of controversy to be talked about through the ages.
France had won a fairly routine corner and has the ball swung into the box, it dipped and crossed the by line after it hit Perisic's hand. Originally the referee appeared to do nothing but listened to the calls from the French players for a penalty and referred it to the VAR. Now the way that I interpret the laws are that there has to be a movement of hand to ball rather than ball to hand, and if the VAR is called for, it is there to confirm or deny a suspicion that the referee had. Now I have no idea if the referee saw the incident and decided if it was an infringement that needed confirming or if he saw nothing and the VAR opened up something that he had never seen before.
He took forever to point to the spot and Griezmann took almost no effort in drilling the penalty shot past the goalkeeper's right.

France went into the break at one goal up, which may or may not have been deserved, but they came out in the second half with the intent to kill the game off. They got their desire just before the hour when Paul Pogba got one shot into a crowded 18 yard box and after bouncing back, he took a second shot which he certainly did not waste.

France went off to confirm their intent to utterly destroy all of Croatia's hopes when in the 65th minute, Mbappe somehow got a very fast shot that skidded across the field to sneak past the Croatian goalkeeper and score France's fourth. It was shot from just beyond the top of the half ring of the 18 yard box, and I think that it was probably from about 27 yards away.

At 4-1 up, France thought that the match was dead, cremated and buried but Croatia who were still playing like the World Cup depended on it kept hope alive.
On a push forward, Umtiti passed the ball back to the goalkeeper Lloris and either nobody told him that there was anyone there or he was just too casual with the ball but Lloris looked up and saw Mandzukic in front of him. Lloris rolled the ball to his left and that was enough for Mandzukic to steal the ball and score a very cheeky goal from only a few yards away.

There then came twenty tense minutes where Croatia moved forward but tired legs prevented them from being effective and creating any real chances, and France were content to absorb and diffuse anything coming forwards. It was as if the first fifteen minutes had been cut and pasted on the end but played at a slower speed.

I have to admit that this was possibly the most engaging and lovely World Cup that I have ever seen and a lot of that has to do with a shifting in world power. Germany would fall to the champion's curse, Argentina self imploded, Brazil were stunned that they could be beaten so easily, England surprised everyone by actually being good for a change, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United States stunned everyone by not being good enough to qualify. The only howler of a result was Saudi Arabia who were thumped 5-0 by Russia and although Englands 6-1 defeat of Peru was comprehensive, Peru didn't look terrible while they were on the end of a hiding.

Amazingly, this World Cup which was held in Russia hasn't really been plagued by the underlying tensions which have been brewing since the hosts were announced. Everyone seems to have forgotten about the annexation of Crimea or the meddling in international affairs which have installed a polezni durak in the White House. The poisoning of  Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, have been unremarked on much either.
Football for the last 33 days has been so much bigger and better than grown up things like love, death, war, espionage, or at very least has been a distraction from those things; even in a country which has a dubious record.

The last time that a Frenchman entered Moscow to steal the silverware, Napoleon left after the city had been set on fire and his army was in total disarray. This time Didier Deschamps' side leave with le Coupe du Monde and France can add a second star above their chicken on their kit.

July 15, 2018

Horse 2442 - Belgium Wins The Match That Nobody Wants To Be In

Belgium 2 - England 0 
Meunier 4'
Hazard 82'

The Third Place Playoff is the game that nobody wants to play in, and nobody is really quite sure why it exists other than to sell advertising space and extra tickets. This is the only match in the whole tournament which actually manages have less prestige than an Olympic football fixture and that's saying something. Nevertheless, the sides that make it here still generally try, if for no other reason than nobody likes to lose.

From the kickoff, Belgium looked like they wanted to be there and if England did, they certainly did not want to be there after just four minutes.
England had been pressing forward for short period, if only half-heartedly, which left them seriously exposed at the back. A very deep ball was sent over the center of midfield and Lukaku was able to bring it down and send a lovely short pass to Meunier who only needed one touch to blast it into the goal.

England responded with glacial pace and it took an entire eight minutes for them to get the ball back to Belgium's 18 yard box, and until Trippier  swung in a ball which Loftus-Cheek headed wide of the goal. Five minutes later, Sterling released Kane who should have been looking to add to his personal tally in chasing the tournament's Golden Boot but from 17 yards away, the best and last that he did.

I'd like to say that something else of significance happened in the first half but it really didn't. This match was played at even less intensity than the first time that these two sides met in the group stage match.

The second half wasn't a whole lot better except that England kind of remembered that they were playing an international match at the World Cup and sort of tried. Trippier  made a run deep into the corner and sent a ball inwards that would have meant that Kane would have scored his seventh of the tournament, but Kane at full stretch didn't manage to put a foot on the ball and the chance inside the six yard box went begging.

After another period on the counter attack, Dier layed off to Rashford who sent it back to him, and he was unmarked in front of goal but the shot was cleared off the line by Bel 2. That was emblematic of England's entire tournament. They could very easily get to the opposition's 18 yard box and then subsequently have no idea about how to get the ball around the defence.
Belgium on the other hand, knew exactly what to do and how to go about doing it. With England showing extreme impotence in front of their defence, Belgium would sit back and then explode forward. In the 79th minute, they took just seven touches to take the ball from their own six yard box to Meunier winning a corner at the other end of the field.

The final nail in the coffin of England's campaign came in the 82nd minute when Eden Hazard saw the English defence part like the red sea and not even the heroics of Jordan Pickford was enough to stop him. Hazard's finish was direct and clinical and even though England won a free kick late into the match, they wouldn't come close to troubling Belgium's goal.

Of these two sides, Belgium must surely feel the most hard done by. Had they lost against England in the group stage, they would have passed down that side of the draw and would have found Croatia to be an easier opponent. The still would have met France in the final but at least it would have been in the final. Third place is Belgium's best ever result in any tournament but somehow it still doesn't seem like enough.
England on the other hand have just had the most successful campaign in 28 years and to make it to a semi final after so many years of false dawns and so called "golden generations" that have turned out to be alfoil, is itself remarkable. England should have crashed and burned well before now and I'm surprised that it took as long as it did for the universe to right itself and for England and to remember that it is England and therefore rubbish at football.

The next major tournament for both of these sides is the European Championships in 2020, which will be as close to having the tournament in England without officially doing so because if they can escape the group stage and the Quarter Finals, then the remaining matches will be at Wembley. Euro 2020 officially isn't being hosted in one country but all of them, but this still means that the tournament has to be held somewhere.

I think that the only remaining question of Russia 2018 will be not whether or not France does beat Croatia but by how much. I expect that the engraver is already practicing writing the word "France" to go onto the trophy as we speak.

July 13, 2018

Horse 2441 - You'd Better Not Call Ghostbusters.

If there's something strange in you neighborhood,
Who you gonna call? 
Neighbourhood watch!
And if it appears to be serious, then the Police Force!
1800 333 000 - Crime Stoppers
131 444 - Police Assistance Line

If there's something weird and it don't look good.
Who you gonna call?
The TV repair man!
Maybe a local General Practitioner!

If you're seeing things running through your head,
Who you gonna call?
A mental health professional!
1800 011 511 - NSW Mental Health Line

An invisible man, Sleeping in your bed
Who you gonna call?
An optometrist!
You might have cataracts or some other vision impairment.
1800 626 300 - OPSM Customer Support
1800 074 171 - Specsavers Customer Care

If you're all alone, Pick up the phone
And call...
131 873 - 2GB/4BC Open Line

I ain't afraid of no ghost
I hear it likes the girls
Call the Police!
This requires a criminal investigation
000 - Emergency Services

If you've had a dose of a freaky ghost baby
You better call...
A toxicologist!
131 126 - Poisons Information Centre

When it comes through your door
Unless you just want some more
I think you better call...
That's a home invasion. Call the police!
000 - Emergency Services

July 12, 2018

Horse 2440 - Hope Is The Dead Thing With Feathers

Croatia 2 - England 1
Tripper 5'
Perisic 68'
Mandzukic 109'

I have been on not quite forty tours around the sun and in that time England has appeared in two World Cup Semi Finals and lost both of them. For most of this England side, they weren't even alive the last time that England last appeared in one and what makes this all the more sad is that the last time that England was in a Final was more than half a century ago.
I'm beginning to think that the distance between England winning World Cups is measured in Halleys, which ya unit of time based upon the time it takes for that cold and dead piece of ice to do its own tour of the sun. If this is indeed the metric, then England should expensive to win the World Cup in 2042.
As for now? We've been disappointed yet again.

Hope is the thing with feathers  
That perches in the soul,  
And sings the tune without the words,  
And never stops at all.
- Emily Dickinson (254)

Emily Dickinson was obviously never a football fan; furthermore she was never an England fan because she would have known that if Hope is the thing with feathers, then its like a canary down a pit, and will be one of the first things to die before everyone is killed when the oxygen runs out.

Hope came and perched in the soul after just five minutes when a fairly innocuous challenge brought down Sterling just outside the Croatian box. Both Young and Trippier stood up to the ball but Trippier was the one whose pinpoint delivery found nothing but the top corner of the goal. It lifted over the top of the two tallest players in the Croatian wall, it curled as though it had some kind of internal guidance system, and it dipped ever so deftly.

At one-nil up England looked like they were going to tear Croatia to pieces but nobody bothered to tell Croatia and they immediately sought to correct the mistake in the universe. When they won a corner after eleven minutes, it was all that England could do to scramble it out and on no steps at all Jordan Pickford launched a clearance from his own six yard box and found his opposite number at the other end of the field.

The match turned into something of a street fight and England could have doubled the lead when Sterling's deft pass to Harry Kane was somehow wasted from less than six yards away. Croatia almost equalised on the counter attack when the clearance found Modric who sent it to Rebic; who beat the back pair but couldn't get Pickford.

Ten minutes before the break, Kane went for a run and janked it to Dele Alli who took too many touches and so was forced to offload it to Lingard whose shot was wide. From here Croatia shut the gate and England were stranded outside the 18 yard box for extended periods. Although there was attempts from both Sterling and Young, there was no way that anyone was going to score from outside the area tonight and the half time break saw England nursing a one goal lead which is never enough except when the final whistle goes.

Croatia came back after the break with a greater sense of purpose and at the 64th minute, Rakitic's shot troubled Pickford. Three minutes later though, while Croatia was still brimming with confidence, Vrsaljko lifted a ball over the back three of England and Perisic duly found the equaliser.
England were stunned by this and very nearly went behind in rapid fashion when Perisic again troubled Pickford but the shot struck the upright  and Sterling was the one who had to clear the ball.

Twenty minutes of chaos became fifteen minutes of worry, ten minutes of anxiety and finally five minutes of mind numbing boredom. At 1-1 at full time, England must've thought that they could kill the game off in extra time and very nearly did so when after winning a corner, Trippier's ball in was met with Stones' head and then disappointment as it scuffed the top side of the crossbar.

Half time of extra time looked like a formality but just three minutes after the third break in play, Mandzukic became the hero of Croatia when a ball was played in behind a compressed England back five and he was able to sneak away what would ultimately be the winner.

England's last roll of the dice came up snake eyes after a short period of play when Modric was prepared to play actual fisticuffs just to waste time and Maguire was hacked down in a challenge which also served no real purpose than to waste time. It worked beautifully as Ashley Young's free kick didn't even find an England head and as the final whistle blew it yet again became obvious as to what an England fan's job is: to be perpetually and horrendously disappointed in new and unique ways.

There is an old cat proverb which says that "if you want to eat fish, you should expect bones". There should be a three lion proverb which says that "if you want to talk garbage, you should expect pain". Even the song "Three Lions" by Skinner, Baddiel and the Lightning Seeds, which has been ringing out in Russia which contains the line "Football's coming home" also contains the lines:
Everyone seems to know the score,
They’ve seen it all before
They just know, they’re so sure
That England’s gonna throw it away, gonna blow it away

Today, they did precisely that... again... and it won't be the last time either. Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and then is snuffed out yet again, when England concedes a goal.

July 11, 2018

Horse 2439 - France: Coq-A-Hoop

France 1 - Belgium 0
Umtiti 50'

I was asked before this match about who I thought would win. I'd already reached the conclusion well beforehand that because both Belgium and France had stores of talent right through their squads, that this match was too close to predict. What we saw was the expression of that sentiment writ large as both sides being full of titans and giants, cancelled each other out and just appeared to be normal sized. This match was always going to swing on the smallest of margins, to the point where even the one percenters were still too broad.

To say that this match was played hesitantly would be an understatement. Both France and Belgium knew that the jaws of defeat were wide open and should they be chewed up and swallowed, there was a throat like a black hole immediately behind them. Victory would send them to the World Cup Final and defeat would mean that one of these golden generations, could only hope for bronze at best.

Belgium sat just inside France's half in the opening period of play but even then, they could find any penetration into the box. Anything that was sent forward was immediately rejected like a baby refusing to eat carrot. A glimmer of hope came twelve minutes in when Hazard finally did manage to play a ball into the area and from about 13 yards from the goal line but jammed right to the edge of the 18 yard box, he fired a warning shot across the French keeper Lloris but it was to no avail.

France pumped the ball forward after the goal kick and for a brief period, they unlocked some sort of crazy-go-nuts party mode but when Matuidi blasted a rocket of a shot from 22 yards out, not only did he beat all defenders and the Belgian goalkeeper but he also beat the laws of physics and space and time, when the shot dipped and then curled upwards. I have no idea of what kind of Laminar Flow or Bernoulli Effects were on display but it should be a lesson for a first year university course, even though it failed at being a useful strike.

The match returned to its regular state of mutual tension and although both sides showed technical excellence, they also showed attacking impotence and it wasn't until the half hour that anything of import developed. Pavard made a break on a counter attack and found himself relatively unchallenged in Belgium's half. Although he was impeded by a defender, he found support and gave the deftest of touch passes to Giroud who was fouled and won a free kick.
They would again feature in the passage of play from the dead ball, when the free kick was sent about five yards to Pavard, who then lofted it into the box and found Giroud's head but that also wafted past the post.

Again the match returned to the tense deadlock and to be honest, I think that both sides appreciated the half time break as a break in concentration meant that they could divert their minds from the ominous scoreline of nil-nil. It was as though the World Cup was made of porcelain and they didn't want to drop it, for fear of having their dreams shattered before their eyes.

After the break though, the deadlock would be shattered when after a period of French pressing, they unexpectedly won a corner. Griezmann's delivery to the centre of the six yard box was more hopeful than good but Umtiti realising that this might be his only chance to do anything useful, turned the ball goalwards and suddenly France was coq-a-hoop.

At this point you would expect Belgium to find an extra gear but as they'd already been flat out for fifty minutes, there wasn't anything else that they could find. Fellaini spewed a shot which curled away from the goal in the 66th minute, De Bruyne tried his luck four minutes later, and Paul Pogba went on a run in the 78th minute but couldn't double France's slender lead.

Belgium's last real hope came when the devil's number 87 was showing on the clock when a De Bruyne free kick was masterfully sent into the six yard box but Eden Hazard's head had already moved forward. If this is a game of inches, then the number of inches that Belgium missed the opportunity to play in a World Cup Final was about four.
France was able to successfully run down the six minutes of added time by donkeying the ball deep into Belgium's corners and then playing equally donkeying short corners that barely left the corner circle. This was one of those cases where one goal was enough because the rest of the match had been one where both sides had been operating at close to 100% of their ability for the entire ninety-six minutes.

At this point you have to assume that France are the favourites to win the final. The gates of Bel did not prevail before the army of Gaul and I just don't think that either Croatia or England will be able to find a way through the French midfield much less their defence, unless they find something truly special. If football isn't coming home to England, then it had better start making bookings for a hotel on the Champs De Elysées because it will be up to its eyeballs in Pernod and smoking a Gitanes wrapped inside a Gauloises; the day after Bastille Day.

July 09, 2018

Horse 2438 - Futbolskömmånhjöme.

Sweden 0 - England 2
Maguire 29'
Alli 58'

This sounds almost ridiculous to say as an England fan but just three hours of football now separates England from becoming champions of the world. Germany? Knocked out in the group stage. Brazil? Knocked out in the quarter finals. Italy? Never even qualified for the tournament. Yet here we are with England having posted a two-nil win against Sweden in a quarter final.

This match started out timidly as both sides kind of stared each other out like a couple of prize fighters before the first punch was thrown. England were able to press slightly higher on Sweden as England's 3-5-2 held more of an advantage in the midfield than Sweden's 4-4-2; which for probably forty years was almost like the DNA of English football. So much so that FourFourTwo magazine is the name of the highest selling football magazine in Britain.

The first parry came at twelve minutes in, when Klaerson's shot from 22 yards came like a rocket but was fired high and to the left of the goal, which didn't trouble Jordan Pickford at all.

Six minutes later after England walked the ball up at an agonizingly slow pace, Raheem Sterling broke into a sprint, dinked the ball to his inside left and past a defender but Kane's shot was a worm burner that took a deflection off of the Swedish keeper Olsen. This resulted in a corner from the left which was delivered by Ashley Young and instead of Harry Kane, it was another Harry, Harry Maguire who headed the ball downward and forcefully into the goal.

Sweden went immediately on the counter but the match soon devolved into a series of parrys  and counter parrys that neutralised each other and apart from Sweden winning two late corners, the English defence  was solid.

The second half continued in the same vein as the first but England managed to press Sweden further and further back to their own goal line until Sweden eventually conceded a corner. Tripper's ball from the right swung towards the centre of the D and bounced off of Lingard before Dele Alli cleaned up and put the ball over the line.

At this point the match was nominally safe for England but Sweden would not go down quietly. Just three minutes later and just beyond the hour mark, Klaasen evaded Henderson and had only Jordan Pickford to beat but Pickford threw out a fist and not only cleared the shot but sent it forward and didn't even concede a corner.
Berg's shot ten minutes later from just outside the 18 yard box was saved with equal skill but by that stage, Sweden were growing tired and they had nothing left to give. As the match dribbled out to its conclusion with a predictable inevitability, time seemed to grind to a halt for me. It wasn't until the final whistle that I was finally able to return to the land of regular time.

England have made it to a semifinal in only the third time in a World Cup. One of those resulted in making it to the final and total victory against West Germany and the other came to ruin against a newly reunited Germany. England will face Croatia in the semifinal while the other side of the draw has France up against Belgium. I fully expect a France v England final but this tournament has frequently given us the unexpected and so the default position of being disappointed with yet another England failure seems entirely appropriate to me. The only time that I will feel that England can win the World Cup is if they are up by five goals in the final and in extra time.

I have to say though, that making it to a semifinal does make me happy. If you expect the world and don't get it then you will be perpetually disappointed; however if you expect the worst (which given England's fifty-two years of missed opportunities, donkey strikers, goalkeepers who have howlers, referees which can be counted on to be corrupt to the eyeballs, and England remembering that they are England and being rubbish at sport) then when anything remotely positive happens, you can be pleasantly surprised.

July 06, 2018

Horse 2437 - A Sense Of Entitlement

Forget the utter dumpster fire that is American politics, in Australia we have our own unique blend of complete knaves and expletive deleteds. This year, the Liberal Party decided to just launch into full on abusive relationship mode and have effectively threatened to sell the ABC. This is in addition to the fact that by "stopping the boats" we literally condemn people to die on a tropical gulag, have made kissy faces to the United States who decided quit the United Nations Commission on Human Rights for no sensible, and this year's federal budget is basically a love letter to big business.

I work in a job in which I'm very much starting to see the effects of radicalisation of some parts of society, as not only is class warfare in full swing but we're starting to see the doctrine of economic jihad among our older rich people (and being enacted into law if the 2018/19 Federal Budget passes the Senate). The only impression that I get is that having lived through the Trente Gloriueses that they now want to burn the ladder behind them and permanently poison the well. The phrase that consistently reappears in conversations that I overhear is that young people want too much and have a "sense of entitlement"; before citing an imagined past of pure virtue where they themselves worked hard. Hard work it seems is the panacea for all the ills of the modern world, irrespective of the systemic and economic changes which may have taken place and which they are partly responsible for.
I really wonder about this so called sense of entitlement. I wonder exactly what is meant by that. Surely if always people have a sense of entitlement, then they imagine that they must be entitled to something, right? But what, exactly?

A Decent Wage.
The average wage in Australia and the one which is constantly touted as though it were the truth handed down on two stone tablets from on high (instead or Lipitor and opioids), is stated at a shade over $80,000 per year. The really curious thing is that if you look at which percentile that the average wage happens to fall in, it actually works out to be percentile 19. Someone who actually is paid the average wage happens to be in the top fifth of all wages. If you use the other major measure of central tendency, the median wage, the one that actually splits the population in twain, the. this amount happens to be about $52,000 per year; which is a far cry from the amount touted.
In addition to this, we're actively seeing a slashing of penalty rates in Australia, which also just happen to coincide mostly with the most badly paid workers, and it has been uncovered in at least two franchise chains, actual wage theft going on where people are forced to pay back monies to their employers because their employers are scumbags.
Never mind that although there has been a very slight growth in the average wage, if you look at the real wages of the median wage worker,  then they peaked in November of 1979. There has been an almost forty year erosion of real wages for the median worker in Australia.
A sense of entitlement to a decent wage? Why would there be? We now have an entire generation of people who have been conditioned as such that they've never been entitled to one. Where this sense of entitlement comes from, is totally beyond me.

A decent place to live.
I have been fortunate enough to be never paid enough ever, that would make taking out a mortgage viable. I don't believe in the great Australian dream of a house on a quarter acre block because quite frankly, I'm awake. I don't suffer from some great sense of delusion and yet at the same time, I have to play a sensitive game of kowtowing to people for fear of having their poor little virtue knob switched on. I have however had sufficiently a good enough job to be able to keep the rent clock ticking over for some very lovely and entirely derelict and absent landlords. They have only really ever showed up when they want to reassess the rent that they collect.
I like probably most renters, openly expect that the only way that anything is ever going to be repaired is if there is a serious structural problem with the house. I used to live in a house where the back door was in such a state of disrepair that it had to remain closed. Our current house has a non working aerial, which we've been able to overcome because we happen to be lucky enough to live in an area with the NBN because otherwise we'd be totally knotted, and where there used to be a garage and a nice garden, is now a granny flat (isn't it amazing that money was found for that?) However, I am lucky.
If you happen to be unlucky enough to be on the minimum wage, the total number of houses or apartments which are considered "affordable" in the entire of Australia is a nice round number - nil.

The general cause for the massive increase in the cost of housing is often racked up to the bogeyman of immigration and population growth; but this conveniently ignores the fact that during the post war baby boom when the population due to immigration and population growth was increasing at a far higher rate, the cost of housing relative to wags was in fact falling. The reason for this is partly because of the fact that real wages for the median wage earner has been falling but the amount of money in the economy has not. There has been a change in the way that the rewards of the economy are allocated and the capital of the dead is now due greater rewards than the wages of the living. Those rewards have to be parked somewhere and since we've redesigned the economy away from making stuff and paying decent wages, they've been parked in bricks and mortar. When the rewards for capital accumulate faster than wages and the price of housing goes up because capital has flowed there, then you should expect that housing should become progressively more unaffordable as housing prices accelerate faster than wages: and they have.
A sense of entitlement for a decent place to live? Why would there be? We now have an entire generation of people who have been conditioned as such that they've never been entitled to one. Where this sense of entitlement comes from, is totally beyond me.

A decent education.
When I was passing through tertiary education, a constant refrain that I would hear my dad repeat was "When I was going to Tech, education was free". I think that it was his general annoyance at the fact that the world had changed but it always seemed to sound to me that I was somehow responsible for a change in the funding system before I arrived. What's even more loony is that the price of the same level of education that I received and paid a pretty penny for, has increased by two orders of magnitude.
It is now possible to leave the education system with student debt that extends well into five figures and even six. It is now possible for a student to enter the workforce having accumulated a debt large enough that would have bought you a very fancy motor car and indeed a house in the suburbs just three generations ago. All of this is to secure a piece of paper which allows you to work in a job where you can be treated like pond scum by the same people who can brag that they got their education for free.
There is also this really strange kind of disdain for academia which has arisen over the past twenty years. As the economy has shifted to one where money farming and rent farming are the most viable industries, the amount of money allocated to the hard sciences has fallen and the money allocated to the social sciences that aren't law and finance related have fallen off of a cliff. There is a weird cry and hue that universities are a hotbed of elitism, and there seems to be some sort of cultural xenophobia and horror that people might want to look at the past differently and perhaps study things that aren't particularly eurocentric. I really don't understand this at all because if you do any study of the anthropocene you find that humans have pretty much always been as horrible to each other in the past as they are now, and across all cultures. If you actually bother to lot at human nature honestly, you very quickly find that most of history across most fields is about the exercise of power punching downwards and if you dare to suggest that this is based upon money, sex, or race, you get accused of elitism, and usually by the people who have the most money, who are the most sexist, and the most racist.
So given that, the people with money and power, get into politics for the express purpose of punching downwards, just so they can defund  education, which also includes the technical colleges and universities. Those things still have to be paid for though, and none other than the students who are already asked to pay fees which are orders of magnitude more expensive than before are on the hook.
There's also a really strange thing that is related to this and it has to do with the funding model of primary and secondary education. Those people with money and power have found a convenient grift delivery system to make the general public pay for the cost of spending their sprogs to private schools while at the same time defunding  public education. It's very easy to claim that public schools are failing if you design the system so that the poorest people who find it the hardest to survive and who suffer from the problems associated with poverty including behavioral issues go to the least funded schools.
A sense of entitlement to a decent education? Why would there be? We now have an entire generation of people who have been conditioned as such that they've never been entitled to one. Where this sense of entitlement comes from, is totally beyond me.

To be treated decently.
There is no doubt that since the end of the Second World War as the world was snapped violently away from late Victorian manners which had been insanitised and codified for purely exclusionary reasons, that the world has become more egalitarian in the way that it deals with social morays. When the 1960s arrived the people who had grown up in the previous climate of manners were all horrified at the slip and so there is quite a lot of residual literature of the time which is from old people crying foul over the loss of manners. They are all dead now.
In the rush for more egalitarianism, society ran towards the other door and open vulgarity became the order of the day, and I would wager that the level of smut, profanity, indecency, nudity, violence, and just pure abuse, has increased myriadfold since the days when Elvis Presley could only be shot on television from the waist up because the lower half was a bit "suggestive". All of that has surely had an effect on the available language and thoughts that enter and pass through people's minds and mouths and the internet is nothing but an accelerant to this. You can not blame the internet for horribleness of human nature.
I work in a very small accountancy firm and so although I am not actually in the legal profession, I am adjacent to it. Before this, I used to work directly in the law courts themselves. This means that I have spent a lot of time around people who have letters like QC and SC after their name. Nevertheless, people who have qualifications in the law are more often, more beastly and cruel to both their clients and the people from whom they contract services from, than the rest of the general public in my experience. A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a client which was so shockingly brilliantly awful in its execution, that I was almost proud of them. I was impressed by this person's use of language and imagery that I almost wanted to congratulate them on the sheer affrontery and audacity of their invective. But again,  think that I have been lucky.
In the real world, where once manners would have held back people from speaking exactly what they thought, no matter how barkingly racist, insane, cruel, or divorced from facts and logic it may be, this lack of manners has now been dressed up in the clothes of frankness and honesty. Well to be perfectly frank and honest, I preferred to live in the world before where people kept that all bottled inside. I have a theory that Pandora's Box is actually a metaphor for her mouth and whoever Pandora was, was actually a really nasty piece of work who spewed hate whenever she opened her mouth and let all kinds of evil into the world.
A sense of entitlement to be treated decently? Why would there be? We now have an entire generation of people who have been conditioned as such that they've never been entitled to be treated with anything but contempt and disdain. Where this sense of entitlement comes from, is totally beyond me.

For the record, I think that I do have a sense of entitlement. I think that I and indeed everyone is entiteld a decent wage, a decent education, somewhere decent to live and to be treated decently. When you have parliamentarians who are actively trying to smash those things then of course people are going to complain. If people trying to ask for the most basic of decency, are accused of being whingers, then it's obvious that we do not live in a decent country; or certainly one without common decency, which I take to mean isn't really that common any more.

July 05, 2018

Horse 2436 - Reset To Before The American Revolution

This blog post was originally scheduled for yesterday, the 4th Of July. The 2018 FIFA World Cup however, continues to be the best World Cup in my lifetime.

If life was a video game and you wanted to restart it back at the best sensible restart point, then the 1st Of July, 1776 is definitely a good one. Although the United States celebrates its independence on the Fourth, it was actually the Second of July that summer when the delegates met and the reason why the Fourth was selected is because it takes two days for the vellum to stabilise. The First Of July is the last date which the plan to unilaterally severe the ties to England could have been quashed and had that course of events taken place, then today's world would look vastly different.

You can distill all of reasons why the United States chose to break away into just four things:
1. Taxation - Namely the colonies' refusal to pay, despite the fact that running the civil administration of a nation is expensive.
Since there was no such thing as a police force until the Premiership of Robert Peel, this meant that soldiers ended up being quartered in places like public houses. The Boston Massacre ends up reading like a pressure cooker of a tale which came to a sudden and violent outcome.
2. Monopoly - Namely the one handed to the East India Company, over the terms of trade of goods in and out of the colonies.
Again, the Boston Tea Party is a specific instance where the East India Company's stock was thrown over the side. It is really interesting how practically nobody talks about the crates of booze on board the company's ships.
3. Representation - The fact that they didn't really have any in the British Parliament (and then would immediately deny to a black people, women, and white people who didn't hold land in America).
4. Slavery - A problem which the colonies actually wanted to perpetuate but which the government in London wanted to put a stop to.
If you actually look through the timeline of the so-called "Intolerable Acts" then what you find is the government in London responding to and trying to punish the colonies for their refusal to address and remove slavery, after it had been abolished at Common Law in England.

If we can somehow set these things aside (which is really easy if you're playing with history and producing weapons of mass distraction) then you can throw that switch in the pretend world and see what it does.
So let's get pretend Alexander Hamilton really drunk on Samuel Adams' finest ale. Let's distract Ben Franklin with some kite flying and fart jokes. Let's convince John Hancock, John Jay and Thomas Jefferson that Hamilton insulted them and that they should stay away. Let's give George Washington and Aaron Burr some pistols and a few cans of beans to shoot off of a wall, and let's start by making sure that Declaration Of Independence is never signed or published.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Those opening few words from the Declaration Of Independence contain more than a few direct lies. The truth was that the country did not hold those truths to be self evident and when it came round to writing the Constitution 13 years later, some people would be held at law to be far less than equal, 3/5ths of a person to be precise. As for the statement about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, there are very long shadows that are still being cast; with the Second Amendment giving people the ability to destroy all three at the pull of a trigger, court cases like Roe vs Wade which make the assertion that those rights are not only alienable but should be denied, and the repeated refusal by Congress to act on matters like healthcare which would provide for the general welfare and protect those rights practically.

If you work your way through the rest of the document, you'll find frequent assertions that King George III has done all sorts of horrible things but I have never actually read a proper treatise which actually bothered to investigate the claims therein. Indeed by the time of Thomas Paine's 1795 pamphlet entitled "Agrarian Justice" he openly says that no proper objection to the Declaration Of Independence had been put forth. This is hardly surprising when you consider that the United States by that stage was a newly properly constituted country and it would be madness to prosecute a document with no legal standing, and the British having fought an expensive war were never going to investigate a document which has no legal standing and in a set of colonies that they no longer possessed.

Nevertheless, the original sins of the Declaration Of Independence continued to echo through the history of the new nation supposedly conceived in liberty, to the point where under the Presidency of James Buchanan and then Abraham Lincoln the country would snap in twain because of it, and Martin Luther King Jr would accuse it of being a bad cheque which had been presented.
Ironically, I suspect that the last available date in American history which might have avoided many many decades of pain and suffering by millions of people who were never considered equal for a long time, is what would eventually Canada Day; that I July 1st of 1776; before there was a Canada.
If we assume for a second that someone in that hall in Boston in 1776 was able to convince everyone there that declaring independence was a hasty idea, then the whole entire course of North American history could have been different.

In 1772, Somerset's case kind of opened the door to the idea that people couldn't be owned and Wedderburn v. Knight in 1778 established that people couldn't be chattel goods and therefore owned by someone at English common law. As things go with common law, this is gloriously ambiguous as to whether or not slavery was legal in the rest of the British Empire and it wasn't until the Slave Trade Act 1807 and the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 that it was properly cleared up. The United States wouldn't properly address this until they first had a civil war in the most decidedly uncivil way.
If we assume that the American Revolution had gone ahead because of the list of grievances which was long and varied (but which mostly revolved around the execution of power, taxation and a lack of representation) then had the Treasurer Lord North bothered to finance the campaign properly, then maybe you would have seen more slaves join the loyalists; which would have meant that the revolution would have been put down at Saratoga in 1777. These same people would have won their emancipation at common law in 1778 and the resulting statutes would have had effect.
Instead though, the United States declaration of independence meant that slaves were considered as only 3/5ths of a person and the admission of new states into the union came with caveats about them being slave states otherwise or not.

The War Of 1812 would have never have happened and if you assume that Polk's push towards the Pacific was still policy, then the United States Of America might have been constituted on 1st July 1867, with the rest of Canada but I suspect that had the chain of events which led to thousands of Americans dead and strewn across the fields after fighting other Americans, then the theoretical combined country which might have 60 states as of now, would have likely been constituted in about 1816.
A 60 state America, dominating the whole top half of the North American continent
(and of course assuming that the War Of 1812 never happened because it would have been one country) probably also might have come up with better solutions for treating the first peoples better, if the Canadian experience is anything to go by. Canada still has an imperfect relationship with its first peoples but its better than their neighbours to the south who have never officially conducted treaty talks with theirs. The US Constitution insofar as it relates to first peoples within its own borders is so til of asterisks all the way down, that that blue field in the corner of Old Glory may as well be asterisks rather than stars.

The whole system of government would have never been imagined in the way that it was, and a Westminster style parliament probably would have been held in a place like Richmond, Virginia. At the moment, the Prime Minister would be Paul Ryan, as he is majority leader in the House of Representatives, and Donald Trump would have never have been President because that position would have never have existed and if he really wanted a career in politics, then he would have had to have won a seat in parliament and them won a caucus meeting decision. That seems highly unlikely.
Also, because America would have been still culturally aligned with Britain, then it would have likely been a Test Cricket playing nation and possibly even a Football World Cup winner by now. Instead of Football, Baseball, Apple Pie and Chevrolet, you could have had Football, Cricket, Meat Pies, Radio 1 and Hockey Night. That still doesn't mean to say that America would have qualified for this year's World Cup because Italy didn't either and at any rate, with only two countries on the North American continent, the whole of the Americas would have likely formed the confederation.

It's probably also reasonable to assume that the whole history of American expansionism and empire building would have been different as well. Officially the United States has never had an empire but this conveniently ignores that at one stage, that the Philippines was under US control, that the Kingdom of Hawaii was annexed, that great swathes of land (the last being Alaska) was simply purchased and with practically no input from the people actually living there, and that both Panama and Puerto Rico were won as the spoils of war.
America probably would have joined the United Kingdom from the outset in both World Wars rather than being distinctly isolationist in character, would have been more integrated in prosecuting the peace afterwards. Of course it does mean that during the Cold War, the only thing separating the Soviet Union from America would have been the Arctic Ocean; so maybe that would have played out differently.
A more integrated America on the world stage would have likely been less belligerent in stance, more accepting in terms of human rights, and maybe even would have solved the issues within its own borders relating to health care, education and the status of refugees and immigration in far kinder ways.

What's really interesting is that the Governor of Massachusetts,  Thomas Hutchinson, published a dissenting pamphlet which basically argued that the whole American Revolution was nothing more than the work of a military conspiracy who wanted independence so that they could perpetuate their privelege and did so by enlisting mostly white people to rebel for the cause.
One signatory of the Declaration of Independence, William Whipple, was so disgusted that he had a fit of conscience and freed his slave because he could not in good faith both fight for liberty and deny it to someone else. Nevertheless he still fought in the Revolution in the hope that "it will be the means of dispensing the blessings of Freedom to all the human race in America"; a sentiment which is still being worked out imperfectly.

July 04, 2018

Horse 2435 - 4th Of July And The Red Coats Win!

Colombia 1 - England 1 (aet)
Kane 56' (pen)
Mina 92'


This 4th of July, I am celebrating the victory of the red coats over an American army. Okay, so it's a different set of red coats and it's a South American army of eleven Colombians but nevertheless, a victory is still a victory; even if it is done in an ugly ugly fashion.

Colombia started this match with absolutely zero fear of England. As far as they were concerned, this would be a routine ninety minutes and thence a trip to the booking office for an appointment with Sweden in the next round. England on the other hand, were carrying a relatively fresher side, which also included the so far Golden Boot of the tournament.
Almost from the opening whistle, this match degenerated into a chaotic and undisciplined mess.

In the fourth minute, after a passage of pressure by England, Mira handballed outside the area and then decided that he wanted to have an argument with the referee. When Young stood up and delivered the free kick to an undefined location that wasn't remotely near the goal, it was already apparent as to what kind of match this would be.

At the quarter hour mark, Trippier crossed inwards to the head of Harry Kane who came perilously close to opening the scoring but somehow managed to put the ball over the bar from three yards away. Seven minutes later, Curduardo joined the party by unilaterally declaring that Colombia needed a space program and the first thing to be put into orbit would be an Adidas Telstar '18.
The match kind of cooled down a bit with neither side really establishing any kind of dominance and the only real highlight before the half was four minutes from the break when Kane was brought down outside the area and Trippier sent the free kick to nowhere in particular. Unable to break the deadlock, both sides must have gone into the dressing sheds at half time thinking that if they could only score once, that that might be enough.

Five minutes into the second half and Arias elbowed Kane in the head, and then protested long and loudly about the fact. This must have enraged Sanchez because two minutes later, he hugged Kane and threw him to the ground. He might have got away with it too, had it not for him being directly in front of the referee when it happened and then for four whole minutes, we kind of had a shouty conference between at least half of the Colombian side and the referee.
They needed have bothered as Kane converted the penalty into a goal by driving it straight down the middle and over the keeper.

From here, neither side looked threatening except for a scare when Kane and Tripper lost the ball deep into the corner of the Colombian end of the pitch and a clearance and then almost 90 yard run by Curduado was only foiled by his own virus immense ineptitude. Pickford made himself look big and that was enough to throw out Curduado's radar.
It probably should have ended 0-1 to England except that Columbia pressed late into the match and won a reprieve when a Falcao corner found Mina's head, who bent the ball in front of Pickford to equalise  in the 92nd minute.

An extra half hour is almost always a test of who can keep their nerve for the longest period of time and as cramp was beginning to set in, in players of both sides, if there was going to be any scoring, it was wilted out in the heat. Bacca missed in the 100th minute. Falcao missed at 103 minutes. Henderson made a run and dinked the ball left to Rose, whose 112th minute strike also missed.

This war of attrition would end after two hours in inglorious fashion and England won 4-3:

The only redeeming feature of this idiotic thing is that for the first time ever, England have won a penalty shootout in a major tournament. Ten kicks is hardly a way to resolve a football match but it does mean that the England manager Gareth Southgate, will get to forget his own penalty miss at Euro '96. It also means that he will continue to rack up late fees for the rental of his waistcoat because I'm sure that as the England manager and indeed every England fan, never really expects to go this far into any tournament.
England now stand just three tantalising matches away from adding a second star above the shield, and already it's appropriate to go into ridiculous overconfidence mode because you can't properly experience the inevitable disappointment of England being knocked out of a tournament without thinking that they are goodness and light incarnate, first. At the moment though, everything is working out better than expected.

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry Kane, England, and Saint George!'

July 03, 2018

Horse 2434 - People Must Have Put Plastic Bags On Their Heads And Suffocated: This Whole Argument Is Madness

If you've been following the media this week, this biggest dilemma currently facing the country, isn't the loss of penalty rates and the punching down by the rich and powerful in undeclared class warfare (don't worry, the rich are winning - they have the weapons), it isn't the ongoing tragedy which is currently going on on Nauru where we still have people locked up on a tropical gulag and where journalists have been kept out of the Pacific Islands Forum, and it isn't the new set of scandals at the Commonwealth Bank as result of gross misconduct when it comes to financial advice. No, the most terrible issue is that Woolworths and Coles have withdrawn plastic bags from the checkouts.
Andrew Bolt in the Herald-Sun and Daily Telegraph wrote a piece which claims that there will be future food poisoning claims because people don't wash their reusable bags properly and Facebook was awash with a story that a checkout operator in Richmond (with no identifier which state that it was in) was choked by a customer because they didn't have any plastic bags. Both versions of the story on my Facebook feed appeared to have a picture of Sainsbury's, which says to me that this was never checked by genuine news outlets.

As we rolled through the weekend, I discovered first hand what it was like in this brave new world without plastic bags at the supermarket checkout and to be honest, it was totally fine. The world didn't collapse or come to an end and the only moment of anger that I saw was perpetrated by two sets of bogans in the car park, who were both driving Commodores, competing for a car park space where the person hadn't even exited (and by the way was also driving a Commodore).
Humans have a remarkable ability to do two things. Firstly adapt to situations; so that whatever is, becomes the new normal. Secondly, that humans have an unlimited propensity for selflessness and will complain long and loudly about things that are relevant to their interests.

The people complaining about Woolworths and Coles removing plastic bags can't use the excuse that the world has changed and that they can't get used to it. Things were indeed different when they were children because things were different when I was a child.
When I were a wee lad (and you know that this will be the insane rambling of an old geezer), there wasn't even a thing as plastic shopping bags. Our local Fleming's used paper grocery bags and that was in the days when an entire week's worth of shopping could be had for under $40. I remember dad complaining about how the shopping bags would get wet and so he wanted to use the alternative which was provided and which was also sensible.
The Fleming's had a big sort of cage thing near the checkout where you could pick out the big cardboard boxes which all of the things in the supermarket was originally shipped in. This was far more sensible because those cardboard boxes would get another use and maybe more before they were eventually incinerated in the backyard. Everyone's backyard incinerators are all gone (and the weekly ceremony of poisoning the sky has also gone) but I can see no sensible reason why this ever needed to change. Packing your shopping into cardboard boxes that would have otherwise been thrown out anyway, makes perfect sense to me.

The butcher's shop also had their own heavy paper shopping bags. The butcher's shop that we always went to was part of the Bush's Meats chain of independent shops and although I have no idea how that worked as an organisation, I do know that the big bags that we got had their logo on; and my sister and I called them "B Bags".
B Bags were also ultimately destined for the incinerator but they would almost always have a brief but turbulent life as being a suit of armor for small children. If you rip out holes for your head and arms, then a B Bag becomes a perfect adornment for a small paladin or crusader. If you also give that same small child a cardboard tube from the inside of an aluminum foil roll, then you have the makings for someone to cry "havoc!" and let slip the dogs of war, in suburbia.
I didn't live in some idyllic 1950s paradise either. This was at a time when the old order was just about to change. By the time I turned twelve years old, the Berlin Wall had come down and East Germany had ceased to be, the Soviet Union was in the middle of becoming neither of those things, Margaret Thatcher had learned that even the Iron Lady was prone to rust, and the stock market had crashed and we were all hurtling towards "the recession that Australia had to have" with no brakes.

If I can remember the days before plastic bags appeared at the supermarket en masse, then clearly this is not an always forever and ever type scenario. This is a change that has happened within a generation and that means that it shouldn't be that difficult to get used to changing again.
The underlying truth here is that Woolworths and Coles are justified in removing plastic bags from the checkout. When you hear about a whale which has turned up dead on a beach somewhere because it ingested 80 plastic bags, then that means that we're doing serious damage to the world that we live in. This isn't it a climate change issue but rather that the oceans aren't our rubbish bins and we can't keep on chucking our rubbish in them forever or both they and the things living in them will die. If a person showed up at an airport with 80 plastic bags inside them, we would be shocked and horrified and assume that they were trying to smuggle drugs through customs. To the best of my knowledge, whales aren't particularly renowned for their cocaine smuggling cartels.
Not only is the solution to replacing plastic bags at the checkout both cheap and obvious, it's something that we already used to do and didn't really have a good enough reason to change. Bunnings  already employs this at their stores, and the other big supermarket chain Aldi, never needs to change their policies because they never packed your shopping for you in the first place.

Okay, yes this is all a bit of a rant to say that "things were better in the olden days" but that's only because they actually were and it has taken us all this time to realise why. It has been estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans of the world than all of the biomass put together; for something that's only really existed since 1907, that's environmentally shocking in ways that we cannot conceive. Eliminating plastic bags at Woolworths and Coles, is but the smallest of steps in a much grander story of eliminating single use plastic across the planet. The only verdict that I have is that the whingers are unreasonably selfish, at the expense of even their own future selves.

July 02, 2018

Horse 2433 - Ode To The Flat Cap

Summer seemed to last forever this year and Autumn arrived on the number 528 bus, changed buses and left again before we were aware that it had been and gone, but Winter arrived dead on time with almost clockwork precision. We haven't had the freezing frosts of previous winters because La Niña has come to play and so that means that we get driving rains which induce trench foot instead.
The truth is that I quite like the rain as it means that the people who work the hardest of all, farmers, get to grow things and dollars are effectively falling out of the sky. If there's one group of people whom society depends upon, without really knowing it, it's farmers.
From a more immediate and selfish standpoint though, the rain this year has made me appreciate something so mundane that unless you've experienced this yourself, you'll have no understanding of what I'm talking about at all. My appreciation goes to... flat caps.

As a chap who is currently on his fortieth tour around the middle sized star at the centre of our corner of the cosmos, the trappings of youth are starting to fade away; although given the choice, eating Coco-Pops and watching cartoons in the morning seems like a perfectly worthwhile endeavour  to me, except that television stations don't appear to put cartoons on in the morning anymore and I'm on the train at that time of morning anyway.
Among those things that I never had to think about, was the fact that I never needed spectacles before. I don't really need them to see long distances however, it would be so much of an annoyance to put them on and take them off, that I just go to work with them already on.
Ahah! I don't hear you say because text is a silent information medium and at any rate, I'm the one doing the writing; so not only is text silent, it's also not time traveling. Ahah, the delayed reaction of a sprung mechanism suddenly trips. My appreciation of flat caps, in a rainy environment, is due to the fact that when it rains, my cap acts as an awning for my head and my glasses don't get rained on.

One of my pet peeves, which I keep in my mental palace and feed with morsels of irascibility, is when you are pootling down the motorway at 70mph and a bug splats directly in your field of vision. The last thing that goes through the bug's mind is its thorax but the only thing that goes through my mind is the sudden excruciating pain that immediately follows because my eyes rapidly switch back and forth between focusing on the bug's carcass and the road ahead.
When I am wearing glasses and a spot of rain lands on the glass, this sensation is identical and I start wishing for it to go away. One drop of rain in my field of vision is immediately more annoying than anything else in the world at that moment. I bet you that I could be standing outside during a nuclear weapon strike and provided I had a drop of rain in front of my eyes, the impending vaporisation would seem less bothersome.
If you're wearing a flat cap though, although you are still getting rained upon, the little blessing of not having rain fall in your eyes is wonderful.

I have worn flat caps for a very long time. As a nerdy nerd in high school who eventually decided that not only was I not going to march to the beat of the same drum as everyone else, I was going to metaphorically plug in the electric e-bow and march to that instead, my flat cap was revolutionary when viewed against the backdrop of baseball caps. It served to be equally useful in uni when accompanying a football short or a big black scary cromby coat; largely in part because it was already the universal uniform of the north of England. The truth is now that I still like big black scary cromby coats and a flat cap just looks normal.
In the mid 1990s when I was in high school, there was a surge in popularity of things American; especially of basketball. This was still during the time that Michael Jordan was plying his trade; as such, the baseball cap style of hat came to rest upon many people's heads. The baseball cap kind of became a symbol of the United States, mostly because baseball has to be about the most American thing of all. The real estate on the front is the perfect place for a corporate logo, which also explains why the trucker hat and corporate identities like it. Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" red hat, is exactly in this same spirit, whatever you have to say about the politics of the man. Australia though, is kind of a cultural half way blend and then variations on both, although you do see baseball caps here, they're not as ubiquitous as in the United States.

I have seen other travelers on the train in recent years who, following the peak of hipsterism, still wear flat caps. I wore flat caps before it was cool, completely unironically when it was cool not to be cool, and still wear flat caps when they're not cool any more. The neat thing is that once you leave the crucible of educational institutions, the rest of the world is gloriously indifferent to what you wear.
So being free to wear whatever hat that I like, which in my case also includes a trilby, a pork pie and a bowler, my default head wear all comes down to the sheer practicality of flat caps. Mine is made of wool; so that means that it can get wet and it's perfectly fine. It can be folded up and stowed in my satchel if need be and because it's black, it hardly clashes with anything. That kind of simple versatility is why it became the unofficial uniform of the north of England. When you have a country as rainy as England, you need something that is going to excel under those conditions.
In an Australian winter, where it rains a lot, where the mercury sometimes dips into minus degrees Celsius, and where frosts and fogs hang around until well into the morning, I like to keep my brain from freezing. On cold mornings where all of my extremities are screaming because of cold, at least I can keep the heat in my noggin. I like not having droplets if my field of vision and so I will sing the song of the north of England, even though I am in the south and in one of the bits of dirt that she stuck a flag in. I am not prepared to go out and get a pigeon loft or any whippets though.

June 29, 2018

Horse 2432 - And How Could I Ever Refuse? I Feel Like I Win When I Lose

England 0 - Belgium 1
Januzaj 51'

Never before have I been so completely calm with an England loss. Rather, never have I been so happy to see an England loss. In fact, this whole match is a case of perverse incentives producing perverse actions.

Both England and Belgium had qualified for the round of 16 before a ball had even been rolled in this match. From the outset, it was always in the best interests of the managers to play a completely different lineup to their previous games; for fear of both injury and/or red and yellow cards which would take players out of future games. England made 9 changes to the previous lineup and Belgium made 8; so already this dead rubber was being treated as such.
Further to this, the reward for coming second in the group was a comparatively easier draw in the competition, based on the results of other groups. From that perspective, it was actually preferable to come second in the group, and that either meant losing or losing on other stats like fair play. The commentary denounced this match as a race to get yellow cards but that never eventuated and instead we got a very placid game, which may as well have been the local derby in the Southern Counties Combined Division, between Vanilla City and Vanilla United. It was kind of fitting that England were playing in lily white and Belgium wore a red kit which was accented with plaid.

The first half made so little impact on me that the only note that I made was 45' 0-0. Both sides were playing so slowly that they would have lost a race with a plastic bag that was blown around by the breeze.

The second half resumed in a similar fashion and Belgium shocked the world by actually bothering to do something. Six minutes in, Fellaini made a break, dinked  the ball to the left and Januzaj forgot that coming second in the group was actually desirable, and slotted home a fairly boring kind of goal.

From this point, the Three Lions awoke from their slumber and prowled around a bit. They didn't really make much of a go of it and the best of their opportunities came when Loftus-Cheek opened up Belgium's back four as though he had parted the red sea and Marcus Rashford had a strike which happened to take a deflection off the hapless Belgian keeper and didn't go in.
Belgium had a few halfhearted attempts at scoring again but England's back four were equal to the task. They came close to scoring twice more but the first was cleared off the line by John Stones and the second bounced around in the six yard box like a pinball with ADHD before Rose put a boot through it and enough postage on the ball to make sure that it was sent and wouldn't come back.

England 0 - Belgium 1, kind of means that Belgium have given England the better outcome for the rest of the competition. England will face Colombia in the Round of 16 and probably Switzerland in the match after that. Never before have so many been so not disappointed by such banality.

Aside (because this match was so relaxed):
It has really bothered me from a design perspective that this tournament (and indeed every World Cup to date) hasn't applied the letters and numbers of the font for the tournament on the players kits. I know that companies like Nike and Adidas like to have their branding everywhere but right down the sides of the field, the ad boards have consistently had 2018 World Cup Russia branding in both Roman and Cyrillic scripts.
Since the invention of television, Football has its own visual historical record. Effort is put into the transitions between camera shots (wipes and sweeps) and as of the information graphics including the score in the corner is branded; so why not the kits?

The kit manufacturers and the respective football associations generally don't appear to be all that worried about the look of the tournament; as evidenced by the fact that so many kits of various nations are all off the shelf kits with pallette swaps. The England kit looked simple but not in any way distinctive and if the three lions shield wasn't there, it would have been impossible to guess which country was playing; likewise, if it wasn't for the plaid device on the front of the Belgium kit, and the completely nondescript Belgium shield (when viewed from far away), you would think that Spain was playing. Since the kit manufacturers don't appear to be worried about the look of these things, and they will adopt central branding at league level, then why not do it for a World Cup?

June 28, 2018

Horse 2431 - California's Jungle Primary Is Better But Still Awful

Why did the Lion get lost?

I got asked on social media recently, what I thought of the California primary. Now I know that this person happens to live in California and so maybe they were trying to extract some kind of validation from me for their great state but I know that I have to let them down gently and say that I think that the system is still hopelessly inadequate; it just happens to be one step less inadequate than it could be.

Like every state in the union, California gets two senators. These senators are elected for six year terms; which is different to the two year terms which the members of the house are voted in for. Also unlike the house, instead of a most votes wins basis in every district, the Senators are elected on a state wide basis, where there is something called a "jungle primary" and then a runoff election in November. By "jungle" they mean that all the animals in the zoo form the pool from which the final candidates will be eventually chosen.

The system is thus.
In California's jungle primary, the two highest vote getters go through to the general election in November; that's it. There are no more qualifiers or restrictions. It doesn't matter if a party wins both slots. It doesn't matter that there might not be a third party on the ticket. It merely allows the top two candidates to compete head to head in the general election in November. Yes, it is designed to lock out the smaller parties; yes it is undemocratic but it's simple.
It's simple and dumb and still inadequate.

Consider the results of the jungle primary which have been just held for the Californian seat in the US Senate race:

44.2% D - Feinstein*
11.5% D - de Leon*
8.7% R - Bradley
35.7% N - All Others.

This means that the two candidates with the star next to their name will appear on the ballot paper in November.
 Okay, that might be fine if you like Feinstein but the next best vote tally went to de Leon. Why do they get to go through? What about the 44.4% of the electorate who voted for someone who wasn't Feinstein or de Leon? What happens to their vote? Effectively it has been thrown down the toilet and flushed into the wide blue yonder with all the other bits of toilet paper for all the good it did. This is a mockery of democracy and makes issues like voter fraud (which is almost entirely a fiction) and influencing the election look like amateur hour.

Don't get the impression that I particularly care one way or the other, either. The political parties are a lot like going to a football match where the supporters yell at each other from opposite ends of the stadium for 90 minutes.

If it was:
44.2% G - Kitties
8.7% G - Bunnies
35.7% N - All Other Fluffy Animals.

Then why does BURN ALL THE ANIMALS get a go; when they barely represent a ninth of the population?
Surely it makes no sense to even put them onto the final ballot paper when collectively Bunnies and All Other Fluffy Animals represent a portion of the population which is even bigger than the one who won the jungle primary, Kitties.

It makes sense to me that what you'd actually want is many rounds, where the smallest one is knocked out every time and then everyone gets to have another go. If there's ten candidates, then hold ten jungle primaries; so that way you would eventually get the approval of 50%+1 of the population. If democracy wants to reflect the will of the majority of the people, albeit eventually, then this would be the best way. Of course, this naturally leads to the problem that holding ten sets of primaries would be expensive and time consuming; so this could never hope to be considered in practice.
Except that not only is it possible, but Australia has been doing precisely that for more than a century.

You can and do achieve exactly the same ends by effectively holding many qualifying rounds for the general election on a single ballot paper, just by using instant runoff voting, with ranked choices.
With instant runoff voting, the one elected eventually gets 50%+1 of the votes.
With instant runoff voting, it's like holding many jungle primaries consecutively because the assumption is that people will always choose the same option until their candidate is knocked out. With instant runoff voting, someone who has voted 1 next to a candidate with a big cohort of votes, remains voting 1 for that candidate many times over.

Consider the election in the seat of McMillan, which is in Gippsland, Victoria; in the Australian Federal election of 1972³.

In round 1, Buchanan was eliminated and the preferences distributed. Every preference distribution is like holding a brand new jungle primary; so unless people mark every box, then failing to make second and third choices is effectively like throwing your vote away.

In round 2, Houlihan was eliminated and the preferences distributed. In round 3, Armitage who got the second biggest group of votes in round 1, actually had less votes than Hewson and was eliminated. Round 4 is the equivalent of the general election in November where there were only two choices. Mountford is eliminated in round 4, which had there been a most votes wins election, then they would have just won it straight up, despite getting the disapproval of more than half the electorate.

This example not only illustrates why an exhaustive set of jungle primaries through the use of an instant runoff vote is not only preferable but why anything less, and the Californian jungle primary is a an example of something which is less, is a complete affront to democracy itself. We honestly have no idea who the electorate might have approved of in a proper instant runoff vote.

Actually it also inadvertently illustrates why compulsory voting is essential. If you want to make the argument that people have the right not to vote, then this is an encouragement for people to throw their vote into the toilet. Legitimate government only comes through the consent of the people, and unless you are specifically arguing for the destruction of the state, then getting that consent albeit begrudgingly only happens if everyone votes.

Single member districts already lead to a tendency towards two party politics. The Californian jungle primary almost always returns a candidate from the two big political machines, to the exclusion of all others, and with the added possibility of placing two candidates from the same party on the ballot paper in the general election in November. That has the possibility of being even worse than just a single most votes wins election because it produces the means for a particularly keen political machine to completely lock out the other party from the general election entirely. That's not even democracy.

The most votes wins system is bad. The Californian jungle primary might be one step better but it's still bad. The thing is that the two political machines have no real interest in promoting genuine democracy and so instead of designing the best system, you're left with something which is inadequate and not the best. If it isn't the best,  then the people are more likely to suffer the effects of a bad system - and they do.

¹Jungle is Massive! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iGo-WMamzw
²California Primary Election Results, New York Times, 11th June 2018 -https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/06/05/us/elections/results-california-primary-elections.html
³Division of McMillian
³Courtesy of Antony Green, from the ABC https://twitter.com/AntonyGreenABC/status/1011853609569357824