April 19, 2019

Horse 2534 - Bluey

Before we proceed, I have to lay down some basic information.
I am forty years old and I do not have any children. I usually find the childrens' television that I am subjected to while standing in line at the bank, both tedious and confusing.
Paw Patrol in particular annoys me to the back teeth and I really have no idea why anyone would want to live in a town with an incompetent mayor and a boy who clearly has far too much money and has amassed his own private unholy army of dogs. Dora the Explorer and Diego both need to go, go, into the jungle and stay there. Fireman Sam which has been CGI'd for the 21st Century, has been rendered both soulless and pointless.

Imagine therefore, the gears in my brain shifting from 2nd to 5th without first engaging the clutch, in a shower of spark and wonderment at a childrens' television program which I found both charming and wonderful. That program is Bluey on ABC Kids and iView.
I suppose that Bluey is the Australian equivalent of Peppa Pig and appears to have been funded in a similar arrangement, with Cebeebies, ABC Kids and Screen Queensland. Bluey is a show about a family of Blue Heeler dogs, living in what is presumably suburban Brisbane or perhaps somewhere else in Queensland. The family is made of Chili (Mum) who is a part time worker at airport security, Bandit (Dad) who is an academic archaeologist and self proclaimed rock star, and the two girls Bingo and Bluey (the eponymous character of the show).
I think that the show is inadvertently a pretty good snapshot of suburbia in Australia in the 21st Century.

Mum is obviously the more capable of the two parents but unlike other television shows, it doesn't lean into the well worn trope where mum is capable and dad is a complete buffoon. This is because he appears to be home more during the day and is making time for his kids. Mum and Dad don't berate each other; they actually appear to like each other; they also like their kids. Basically Chili and Bandit are both winning at parenting.

I suppose that the thing that I am loving the most about this series is that although it definitely has messages like 'be brave' or 'speak up' or 'don't be too rough with your kids', it isn't preachy about it, and celebrates the simple things like going to the park, taking rubbish to the dump, or going the local takeaway shop.
The house that they live in is a two storey house at the top of a hill and at the end of a cul-de-sac, and has both those decorative things above the doors which ventilate the house as well as those peculiar vents that you get at the top of walls only in Queensland and the Northern Territory. This is a show which is grounded in a place that can be nowhere else but unashamedly Australia and specifically Brisbane.

- That's obviously Big Willie at 1 William St, Brisbane; The "Tower of  Power"

The thing that both 7.30 on ABC 1, or AM on Radio National, or the Sydney Morning Herald wanted to make a lot of noise about was that the show's producers have insisted that when it is sold to overseas audiences in the UK, the US, Canada, New Zealand etc. that it remains intact and that the accents and idioms remain. The show isn't stereotypically 'strayan Australian but it is distinctive enough that it deserves to be respected as is. There's something joyful in the fact that the people who made the thing, take enough pride in it that they don't want it disturbed. We are so used to having television from other countries show up in Australia, that exporting this show is almost a reply of 'we can do this too, you know'. It not only does that, it does it so well that is the most downloaded television show in iView's history and possibly the most downloaded show in the history of television in Australia.

The biggest problem that Australian film in particular has always had is that it has needed to try and be quirky or weird, just to be heard. Australian television apart from soap opera being exported to the UK, almost never goes anywhere else at all other than New Zealand. Bluey tries neither to be quirky or weird because it doesn't have to try. It does the far harder thing of being honest and good. The show looks as slick as anything else in the world and wouldn't at all look out of place in a Saturday morning cartoon lineup at 8am in average America; say on WFYI-TV in Indianapolis (which is about the most average place in America) for instance. Also because each episode is only 7 minutes long, it fits perfectly into advertising schedules.

Of course I realise that I am not in any way the target audience for this show and to be honest, I don't care. My TV viewing contains maths and science and politics and quizzes and Scandi crime drama and politics and sport and now an extra spot of joy.
One of the things that childrens' television does very well that so called grown up television doesn't do is tell stories where the world could be better. Fairy tales are childish but no child has the expectation that that is how the world actually is. The biggest difference between childrens' stories and big peoples' stories is many levels of complexity and the creeping notion that the real world outside is cruel and indifferent to you. That's one of the pre-made lies of big peoples' stories (and also sport), that there are rules and protocols which stories follow and that things resolve themselves in nice endings. That almost never happens in the real world. In an episode of Bluey, there is a minor complication which ties up nicely in seven minutes and while that's obviously not true to life, this is a cartoon and that's fine. The big world outside is going to be cruel and scary but here, wrapping things up nicely in seven minutes and doing it with joy, is the greatest show on television at the moment.

April 18, 2019

Horse 2533 - In Response To The IPA's List Of Demands

The IPA which was founded in 1943 by G.J.Coles of Coles Supermarkets, H.G.Darling the then Chairman of BHP, G.H.Grimwade who was Director of Drug Houses of Australia, Sir Keith Murdoch of the  The Herald & Weekly Times and L.J.McConnan who was head of The National Bank of Australasia which would later merge into what is now the NAB, was from what I can determine a kind of slush fund which was set up by big business for the sole purpose of paying and lobbying for non-Labor political interests. Out of the ashes of what was the United Australia Party, the beginnings of the Liberal Party of Australia were founded by a similar group of people.
It was so suspicious at the time that the Commonwealth Police had to investigate the IPA for its links with facism. They didn't find any of course but if facism is the doctrine of combining authoritarian power with right-wing, politics, then the IPA flies roughly in a similar direction.
Their latest offering which is more or less a new list of demands on their political lap dog, is like previous lists of demands but having been released in an election cycle, is one of the most visible attempts at manipulation. It is though the puppeteer has moved from behind the curtain and is openly pulling the strings.

I have been through the IPA's list of demands and have provided an ill-thought out opinion on them. Seeing as I find them already to be mostly contemptible, I think that I am being hideously generous to give them an airing.

https://ipa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/IPA-Research-20-Policies-to-Fix-Australia.pdf

1. Remove all references to race in the Constitution

Section 25 states:
For the purposes of the last section, if by the law of any State all persons of any race are disqualified from voting at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State, then, in reckoning the number of the people of the State or of the Commonwealth, persons of that race resident in that State shall not be counted.

Operationally no persons of any race are disqualified from voting at elections. This section is functionally neutered. I would however prefer to see this remain in the Constitution as a reminder of the legal scar which we have wrought in history. Removing this would be whitewashing a tragic past.

Also, Section 51 states:
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:
(xxvi) the people of any race , for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws;

There might be a good reason to protect people if they are being harmed, on the basis of race.

Australia has a terrible history when it comes to dealing with the first peoples of this land. If we actually were to to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to the people of Aborginals races and make special laws to rememdy the ongoing systemic injury, then Section 51 (xxvi) is still fit for purpose; even if that purpose is different to what the framers of the Constitution thought it was back in 1900.

2. Repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (1975)

Are you still banging on about this? The reason why Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act is to allow remedy where someone has been injured as the result of someone else exercising their speech. No right should be unlimited and should be hedged in by law.
The only reason that the IPA cares about this is because News Corp and the Herald-Sun has falled foul of the law and was found guilty.

3. Withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement
The Paris Climate Agreement will increase the cost of electricity production by at least $52 billion by 2030 without making any noticeable difference to the environment.

The end of this line is vexatious considering that the IPA doesn't actually believe in climate change anyway. The only reason why the IPA cares about this is because their income stream is mostly likely derived in part from the coal industry.

4. Implement a flat income tax

Its interaction with the welfare system also creates welfare traps through high effective marginal tax rates which keeps too many Australians poor and trapped in a poverty cycle.

What the heck? If you are on such a low income that you are relying on welfare, you are not on a "high effective marginal tax rate". This is just bonkers. Who wrote this? I would fail them in a class for just writing garbage.

The whole point of progressive taxation is that the marginal utility of income goes down as income increases. $1 means far more to someone who only has a few to rub together, as opposed to someone swimming in them. There are 20 slices in a loaf of bread, which is useful for five lunches. Someone spending $10 a week for lunch more closely feels the value of that $1 them someone spending $25 for one lunch. Likewise, someone on a higher income who derives a greater reward from the functioning of the economy, is less liekly to miss that $1 missing. If you think of progressive taxation as progressive discounts of taxation for poorer people, you have a better understanding of why it is so.

5. Reduce the corporate tax rate to below 20 per cent, in line with competitor nations

Who cares what other nations do? Besides which, when a great deal of the ASX actually have an effective corporate tax rate of zero, then this point is meaningless. Besides which, due to the dividend imputation system, tax ends up being taxed in the hands of the final recipient anyway; some of whom get refunds.

6. Appointment of High Court Justices to be rotated between the six states and the Commonwealth

Section 72 of the Constitution states:
The Justices of the High Court and of the other courts created by the Parliament:
(i)  shall be appointed by the Governor-General in Council;

It seems that whoever wrote this doesn't have a basic understanding of law, or the Constitution. This proposal could be enacted but not without a referendum first. Quite frankly, I would be embarrassed if I wrote this. Whoever did write this should hang their head in shame for failing to do the most basic of research.

7. Double the size of the House of Representatives, and halve the size of the Ministry

Owing to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, the Electoral Commissioner must ascertain the number of the people in each electorate and the number of enrolled voters in each division cannot vary by more than 10% from the average across a state or territory, nor can the number of voters vary by more than 3.5% from the average projected enrolment three and a half years into the future.

Section 24 of the Constitution states:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the senators.

I suppose that doubling the size of the House of Representatives, and halving the size of the Ministry, could be done; but the number of Senators would also have to increase accordingly and I just don't see why we need another 225 MPs right now.

8. Privatise the ABC
In a free society the government should not own and operate its own media company.

Why?

This is presented as fact. In a free society, we should be able to collectively own things; after all, we are a Commonwealth and the idea of nationhood is that together, this is a collective enterprise. Maybe the only thing that needs to go away is the IPA. Preferably into a bin.

9. Re-introduce the debt ceiling

The United States government consistently shows that a government which is unable to pay its bills as the result of self imposed rules on parliament is monumentally stupid; as is this proposal.

10. Hold a Royal Commission into the Bureau of Meteorology’s tampering with temperature and climate data

Why?

Is this some sort of tinfoil hat conspiracy thing? Actually yes. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, while in the top job, considered investigating the Bureau of Meteorology’s  data following claims in The Australian newspaper in 2014 that the bureau was "wilfully ignoring evidence that contradicts its own propaganda". The Australian had no basis for the claim.

This proposal needs to die.

11. Abolish compulsory superannuation
Compulsory superannuation is a tax on workers’ wages which is coercively redistributed to the Unions.

This is an outright lie. Superannuation is the mechanism by which individuals are forced to save for retirement. If this were to happen, then compulsory superannuation contributions would greatly reduce by unscrupulous employers and the future burden of making sure that old people do not starve would be placed back onto the Commonwealth.

12. Abolish the Renewable Energy Target and end all subsidies to wind, solar, and hydro-electricity generators

Which member of the coal lobby is paying the IPA? Do we have a right to know that? Presumably whoever is touting for this also wants to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.

13. Introduce a one-in-two-out approach to reduce red tape

What does this even mean? Regulations exist for reasons other than purely having regulations. A standard electrical wall outlet for instance, has not quite 300 various regulations surrounding it, to ensure that buildings don't burn down. I prefer not dying in burning buildings.

14. Repeal the Fair Work Act

No.

15. Legalise nuclear power in Australia

Actually, this is about the only thing on this whole list which I have some sympathy for. Since we already supply uranium overseas and store nuclear waste, it seems a shame to waste this resource.

There is also stated "5 policies the Coalition should not implement but will", as though the IPA wants to yell at the Liberal Party for not coming to heel.

1. Do not hold a Referendum to divide Australians by race
2. Do not raise taxes
3. Do not raise spending
4. Do not proceed with Snowy 2.0
5. Do not introduce new anti-discrimination laws

How about 6? Do not listen to the IPA for they are economic terrorists.

Regarding that, a good definition for economic terrorism is:
Repeated destabilizing actions in order to disrupt the economic and financial stability of the state, for ideological and monetary motives.

How are they not? Under what measure are the IPA not economic terrorists? Moreover, why should the Federal Government be beholden to a list of demands from a bunch of unelected and shadowy knaves? Also, considering that we are in the middle of a Federal Election campaign, is there some method to vote the IPA off the island?
I certainly think that we shouldn't give into their list of demands. 93% of them are rubbish.

April 17, 2019

Horse 2532 - Throwing Facts Into The Lake Of Political Discourse After It Has Been Polluted By Weaponised Garbage

One of the great paradoxes of the 21st century, the information age, and the internet, is that despite having access to seemingly endless piles of data and information, as well as access to properly researched and cogitated articles, the amount of willful ignorance about how the world works and a denial of facts themselves, is not prevalent but rampant. There is an outright rejection of a lot of science, data, and common sense, if it is useful in fulfilling the prejudices of the person who wants to believe in garbage.
People are able to buy into whatever crazy insane garbage that they want to (climate change denial, anti-vaxxing, flat earth theory, etc.) and find all of the necessary support that they need to back up whatever claptrap they choose. Such people are impervious to facts and reason and will often attack the credibility of what you present them with, or launch into various logical fallacies. The great paradox of the information age is that people actively avoid genuine information in favour of weaponised garbage.

The Franking Credit issue which has been brought up by the Labor Party during this election cycle, has been met with opposition from people who are rationally self-interested in maintaining their economic advantage. This has been merrily helped along by the Member for Goldstein¹ and probably still paid employee of the IPA, Tim Wilson, who has successfully gone on a Franking Credits 'Roadshow' at public expense and has not only weaponised garbage but done so for political gain. The problem with throwing weaponised garbage into the lake of political discourse is that anyone who wants to swim around in it, often loses all sense of clarity.

I don't really have a dog in the fight of politics in Australia because in the forty years that I have been alive, both sides of the political game have sold off the stuff that we used to own as taxpayers and members of both sides have gone on to their own financial advantage after poisoning the lake even more. I have been abandoned politically and so I don't care about who happens to lead the country, as long as they do it equitably and fairly.
This means that I tend to want to burn every piece of political claptrap thrown at me, in favour of the facts.

Let me throw some facts into the lake of political discourse:
- There are approximately 11,500,000 taxpayers who have meaningful Individual Tax Returns in Australia.
- Of these 11.5 million people, roughly 460,000 thousand receive any form of cash refunds due to franking credits.
- Of those people, 80% of those refunds as a dollar proportion go to only 91,000 retirees.
- Also, 50% of those refunds as a dollar proportion go to only 44,550 retirees, and they have SMSF Balances of $2.4m

So here's the rub.
As someone who actually works for a living, I find it obscene that someone with a balance of $2.4m who derives their income literally from the work of other people gets franking credits as cash refunds, whereas I get assessed for income tax. How is that remotely equitable?
I am pretty sure that I haven't yet received $2.4m in my entire working life. At 4% return², then the rewards due to that are significantly more than I make in a year, yet if that is ringfenced inside an SMSF, then that can be entirely tax free.

This is quite apart from the fact that people who do have accumulated funds, can use tools such as companies, trusts and SMSFs to avoid paying tax, whereas I as a taxpayer who derives my income from doing real work have no way to avoid this kind of thing at all. The way I see it, putting an end to franking credit refundability is not double taxation, since these people never paid tax in the first place, it is ending zero taxation.
I will get openly admit that I am biased but at least I am biased with reference to the facts and with reference to basic arithmetic which as far as I know hasn't changed since Adam tried to convince God that taking an apple without permission was totally someone else's fault - it's still basically theft. Here though, we've just written a lot of convenient legislation to excuse what amounts to theft from the Commonwealth and the people of Australia because it's all nice and legal.

Why is this acceptable in the supposed land of the "fair go"?  Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged during this election campaign a "fair go for those who have a go". If I work, and have a go, they why does someone who doesn't have a go at all, get a cash refund? Why does someone who literally derives their income from the work of other people, get to absolve themselves from paying tax but those of us who do real work can not avoid it? That sounds to me like someone is "having a lend".
I think that this rort needs to be hurled into the sun; then into that black hole that we've just taken a picture of.

I have been told over the past few weeks online that I am biased (which of course is true because it is impossible not to have internal biases; that also goes for the person telling me that I am biased) on a range of issues but when I point them to the source of the information, I will be told that the source is biased as well; including if that source happens to be raw data from a government agency. The most ridiculous example of this happened after budget night when I pointed to a line item relating to taxation revenue for the next financial year and I was told that I didn't understand how to read the number, despite it being there directly in print.

This is why this lake of weaponised garbage needs to be set on fire with the two flames of anger and hope. It is only through the burning of garbage that we can generate enough light to see the facts for what they are; even if people are going to continue to throw weaponised garbage into the lake of political discourse.

¹People who have read '1984' by George Orwell should instantly see the irony in this.
²Which is roughly the average rate of inflation since the beginning of the Rome in 1AU (753BCE)

April 12, 2019

Horse 2531 - The Arrest Of Julian Assange

As most Australians were going to bed last night, Australian citizen, fugitive, embassy malingerer, and in the eyes of the US Government, troll terrorist, Julian Assange, was arrested by British police after the Ecuadorian Embassy in London decided that they'd had enough of him and withdrew their cloak of asylum and protection.
Assange who was originally holed up in the embassy to evade rape charges that were being made by two Swedish ladies, has been arrested in response to charges made by the US Government on matters relating to WikiLeaks receiving of loads and loads of stolen US Dept of Defense documents and in connection to Chelsea Manning, who leaked them. She served seven in military prison for leaking classified data, and was sentenced to 35 years in prison before having this commuted.


I haven't read through the arrest warrant in full but it appears that Mr Assange has been charged him conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and this would normally be given a maximum penalty of five years' prison but given that the US Government has had roughly seven years to come up with a set of appropriate charges, I bet the only way that Assange could be found not guilty, is if it was suddenly announced that Sheol and Hades were jointly hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics. There is no way in either of those places that Assange would be able to escape a not guilty verdict if the prosecution has done its job properly.
Probably Assange would try and mount a defence that he is a journalist and there would be questions relating to whether or not that is materially true but that assumes that he will even get anything approaching a fair trial and herein lies the problem.

The United States has a proven track record of arresting people and dumping then at the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay. Assange's well founded fear in the first instance, while there were still charges of rape hanging over him by the Swedish authorities, was that as soon as he landed on the tarmac in Sweden, he would be arrested and taken straight to Guantanamo Bay.
In the case of fellow Australian citizen David Hicks, not only was there no charge to begin with but the thing that he was finally charged with was invented under a law which wasn't in existence at the time of his arrest and was applied retrospectively. If you can find it, there is a very good account of this whole affair by ABC Journalist Leigh Sales, called 'Prisoner 002'.
The legal ambiguity of Guantanamo Bay is one of the most delicious pieces of legal fiction for the United States. As it isn't on United States' soil then the courts have held that not all of the US Constitution applies, which also happens to include the due process clauses of the 5th and 14th Amendments. Also as the United States is not a signatory to things that it does not like (claiming that its own constitution is the highest law in the land and therefore it shouldn't be bound to international law or foreign conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Refugee Convention), it is perfectly fine with carrying out 'advanced interrogation' on people, which is a delightful way of excusing the use of torture.
For this reason, Julian Assange has had some very real fears about what would happen to him if he ever left the Ecuadorian Embassy and it will be interesting to see what happens next. Whatever does happen, you can rest assured that the Australian Government will continue to act on its current policy of doing exactly nothing when its citizens face trouble overseas, including when that trouble includes the threat of torture and/or the death penalty; especially when it is carried out by the United States with whom we have a military treat which binds us to be complicit and willing partners in whatever foul designs that the United States has around the world.
I'm not willing to comment on whether or not Julian Assange is actually guilty of crimes that I don't yet understand but I can guarantee that he will be found guilty. I personally think that he is something of an agent provocatuer and a ratbag and that he should have absolutely expected that this day would come. It has all the inevitability of the 07:04 express train to Redfern striking an egg which has been glued to the track - the train might be delayed but it never turns out well for the egg.

The defence that Mr Assange would mount in court (if it ever gets to one) would be the defence that a journalist should be allowed to receive material, even when it is of a sensitive nature and could possibly threaten national security. I don't know if what Julian Assange has done with WikiLeaks constitutes journalism or not (I suspect not) but when or if he is found guilty, it sets up a very dangerous precedent which would extend the United States' ability to prosecute any journalist in the world, in countries with which it has extradition treaties with, and given that they would be arrested on foreign soil, then the due process clauses of the US Constitution would also not apply. That should be enough to scare any journalist who wants to write a piece which part way annoys the United States.

I suspect that the reason why the arrest happened yesterday was that earlier in the day, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australia will be going to the polls on May 18. This means that Australia currently has a government in caretaker mode and would be even less likely to kick up a stink about one of her citizens being arrested overseas (not that we'd say very much in the first place).
Ecuador has had pressure brought to bear on it by the United States with regards a resolution aimed at promoting breastfeeding at the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, which was withdrawn after the United States allegedly made threats to cut trade and withdraw some military aid. I imagine that this has been part of a long game  and I can only speculate that it has finally had enough of Mr Assange after WikiLeaks published embarrassing things from the Vatican. Moreover, President Trump is actively pursuing a program of belligerence as a show of strength and this has been reflected in his attitude towards Mexico, Central America generally, and the re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, merely helps to maintain the strongman image.
This is a public relations triumph for President Trump because in Julian Assange you already have a premade villain who looks buckwild weird and so the visuals of this play well on television (the fact that Anderson Cooper also has white hair also helps the fake news kayfabe). From an operational standpoint, you couldn't have designed an easier boss  in this game of international geopolitical politics. Unlike previous designated baddies for our two minutes of hate like Saddam Hussain or Osama Bin Laden, Julian Assange has helpfully been in one place this whole time.

I think that the reason why this was done now in particular is that the arrest of Julian Assange is one of the greatest storylines that could have been wheeled out as a distraction in case the Congress came close to finding information which might potentially upend the President on matters of obstruction of justice which could lead to impeachment charges, because this in effect poisons the well for anyone within Congress leaking things in future to WikiLeaks. It also acts as a deterrant to anyone who may have leaked the Mueller Report because as of now, the number of people who have access to that report is small and practically everyone who has said access is known.

I'm almost willing to bet that this actually has very little to do with the guilt of Mr Assange but rather the guilt of Mr Trump. I'm pretty sure that if the United States really wanted to have pursued Mr Assange, that they would have before now.

April 11, 2019

Horse 2530 - I Predicted The Election Date By Looking Into My Election Prophecy Steel Can Filled With Mud

I would like to refer the reader to Horse 2395 and the prediction that I made a year and a day ago:

My inkling is that there will most likely be a May 18 2019 election, with the Appropriation Bill No.1 having been presented to the House in April.
- Horse 2395, 10th April 2018

As I bash into my tablet like a cat with a shiny thing who has somehow acquired the gift of language, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison is in C-1 and making the drive from The Lodge to the Governor-General's place to make the advice that parliament should be dissolved and that a general election should be held on Saturday May 18.
I am not just any cat with a tablet but a cat who has just been appointed Professor of Gravity Studies at Whiskers University. Allow me to knock everything off of the table in the most elegant and smug way possible. I make no bones about the fact that this post is one of gloating, self congratulation and superbia. In the words of the great Benjamin Disraeli:

I told you so¹.

The timetable for the next Senate election is determined by the Constitution. Senators are appointed on a six year term; with half of the Senate being elected every three years. As the opening date of the next session of the Senate is July 1, then the election for half of the Senate needs to be done so that everyone can assume their seats on opening day. The Australian Electoral Commission has advised for more than half a century that they would like to have six weeks to count ballot papers and give themselves time to allow a recount should there be a dispute with the results. That means to say that the absolute last day that the AEC could ask that the election be held is if May 20 were to fall on a Saturday. There has been a Senate election on May 31 but that was under an older set of voting rules where you had first past the post for multiple seats and it was easier to count.

Running exactly counter to the AEC's wishes is the desire of the Prime Minister of the day. A Prime Minister who is in charge of a popular Government would like to go to the polls earlier in the election cycle so that way they retain power. Under normal circumstances, half way popular Governments like to go to the polls in late October, November or early December because they know that the electorate would prefer not to have their footy watching times disrupted, neither do they want to hold an election during the stress of Christmas. If a Prime Minister were to declare an election for either the Australian Rules Football Grand Final weekend, or the Rugby League Grand Final weekend, or to a lesser extent the weekend of the Bathurst 1000, then the people of Australia would open up a can of SPC Baked Beans, Scorpions and Acid, and the Prime Minister would find themselves eating a dangerous meal all alone and out in the street. Not even Mr Morrison is daft enough to hold and election in September; which is a little like writing a suicide note because by itself it is worth half a percent of votes; which in marginal seats is sometimes more than enough to flip them.
The problem for the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government was the same in principle as for the then Abbott-Turnbull Government. We have witnessed the most effective Opposition Leader in Australian political history, in Tony Abbott. Once his master (John Howard) had been unseated from his own office, this attack dog has been roaming around inside the Canberra Bubble unleashed. Tony Abbott has been such an effective Opposition Leader that he not only brought down Rudd, Gillard and Rudd again but he also brought down himself and Turnbull and has been running a pretty solid Opposition against Morrison. I don't know how long Mr Morrison could hold his government together or whether or not it would suffer another change in leadership before an October or November election. In all honesty, Mr Morrison has had his hand involuntarily tilted in declaring this date.

I work in an accountancy firm which apart from doing people's tax returns, also does a fair amount of forensic accounting. When you have a business which needs to be valued (which usually happens when partners want to escape the business, or when people in a Family Law matter want to escape each other²), then in order to work out what the business will be worth in future, you need to do a many variable trend analysis.
Watching politics is like watching sport for so very many reasons but the relevant one here is that there are ready statistics on polling data and sentiment, which you can then run the same kinds of trend analysis for. Perhaps the most famous case of political trend analysis going wrong according to the world was for FiveThirtyEight which predicted a Hilary Clinton win for the Presidency of the USA. What people fail to realise though is that it always had the likelihood of Donald Trump winning at about 30% - 35% and it kind of got the raw vote data about right. I merely ran trend analysis on the data from Ipsos, Galaxy and Newspoll and extrapolated it out to beyond the end of the last possible date of the House of Representatives and the Senate; and came up with doom for the Government.

At the time, I had been looking at at least 30 sets of polls and concluded that the can needed to be kicked down the road as far as possible. Today is just the other end of that road. What I didn't forsee and couldn't have forseen is that the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has been so much of an omnishable and completely unable to govern itself much less the country, that 30 unfavourable polls would blow out to more than 50. There has been no bounce off the bottom of the barrel, this government has just stuck itself to the crud down there and stayed put.
Predicting the last possible date for the election was sensible. Predicting the knifing of another Prime Minister was impossible. At this point, predicting a Labor Government seems like a fait accompli.

Also, before anyone thinks that I am somehow a prophetic genius, the only reason that this post exists is because I it right. Had I got it wrong, I would have said diddly-squat. That's the thing with nonsense prophecy, it's really easy to look like a genius after the fact by only selecting favourable results.

¹I actually don't know if he said this or not but he was the kind of magnificent knave to have done so.
²In at least 97% of cases it is the husband's fault. 

April 09, 2019

Horse 2529 - Schrödinger's Election Date: 18th May? 25th May? Who Even Knows Any More?

The 8th of April came and went; this means that the Prime Minister Scott Morrison has until 11:59pm of the 15th of April to announce a May 18 election. A particular class of political pundits and watchers (I include myself in the latter category) have been expecting that the election would be held back until the last possible date for some time  and that meant May 18 or so we thought.
It would appear that we're living on so narrow a premise that reality itself is fraying before our very eyes.

The Commissioner of Australian Elections at the Australian Electoral Commission, Tom Rodgers, was before Senate Estimates last week according to ABC Elections Analyst Antony Green, about the possibility of delaying the election until May 25.
Now you and I and everyone including Antony Green have been working on the assumption that the AEC which has given the same advice about Senate elections since 1972, has provided a time frame of six weeks before the expiry date because of a legal requirement. We were wrong. It turns out that that was only ever because of a regulation and that we've been quietly sitting with our fingers up our nose for the past 49 years.
You shouldn't assume - it makes an ass out of u and me.

In the 119 years since Federation, the closest that we have ever held a Senate election to the expiry date is 31st May 1913; which admittedly is still closer than either an 18th or 25th May election but that was under First Past The Post Plurality voting. If the Morrison Government is hoping to get the Opposition offside through the element of surprise then they are playing with a deck of 34 cards, some Draw Twos and a Draw Four Wild, a Blue Eyes White Dragon, and the Kamchatka  card. Their game box is in disarray and they are hideously short of resources.
This would also explain why we keep on getting Australian Government adverts on the telly.

My suspicion is that the Liberal Party in particular is broke. The New South Wales branch of the party is still trying to fill the tills following on from the state election which was in March. Internally the Liberal Party has had a factional war; which must have affected the rate of donations to some degree.
The perpetual junior partner in the coalition, the National Party, is probably also bereft of cash, following on from an insane period where the former leader of the party was thrown out of parliament subject to Section 44 eligibility and then replaced as party leader after a marriage fidelity malfunction.
On the other side of the chamber, the Labor Party changed its rules, so now we have a party which has hid its internal squabbles effectively and although it has a leader who is somewhat lacking in the charisma department, he makes up for it in stability.

The term which came to prominence in US politics in 2017 was 'dumpster fire'. We don't exactly have a dumpster fire going in Australian politics but we do have our own unique kind of weirdness going on.
It is like the AEC is the landlord who has come to do an inspection of the house but the current tenant is desperately trying to tidy up. The landlord is jingling the keys on the outside of the door and Mr Morrison is frantically looking for a banana to push into the front door lock¹.
What we do know if the law isn't explicit on the subject, the sheer practicalities of counting millions of votes must eventually come into play. The Morrison Government can possibly keep the landlord outside for a little bit longer by throwing donuts out of the window and giving them extra resources to count votes faster but the expiry date of the Senate is fixed according to the Constitution. At some point whatever the Morrison Government is trying to say with donuts² is legally pointless. I don't even think that the Morrison Government can wait until the next Newspoll before announcing the election.

A look at the Ipsos, Galaxy and Newspolls for about the last eighteen months has had a theoretical Labor Government being installed with between 82 and 95 seats. Given the amount of faffing about being done right now, I wouldn't be surprised if they got a supermajority.
We are probably going to be going to the polls on May 18, although I don't really know what's right and real anymore if we can't even trust the advice of the Australian Electoral Commission who runs elections.

¹Pushing a banana into a door lock is a good way of temporarily lubricating the lock until you get something like WD-40.
²Actually about the only thing that you can physically say with donuts is Oooooooooo.

April 08, 2019

Horse 2528 - Two Constitutional Quirks: Or - Everything Is Going Wrong But At Least We Are Playing By The Proper Rules

This blog post has been brought to you by Chaos. Try Chaos today. If you are having a lovely but boring time and want to add some unnecessary drama and confusion to your life, simply add a spot of Chaos and watch common sense and reason fly out of the window. See the results. Just look at the United Kingdom and Australia. Ask your legislators if Chaos is right for you¹.

This blog post is like twenty-four hour Araldite in that it comes in two parts.

Quirk 1:
The first of these constitutional quirks is arguably the more important of the two as it has the potential to directly affect legislation which changes the United Kingdom for a very long time.

The House of Lords as the upper house of the parliament at Westminster, as the model for all of her children as the mother of parliaments, except in the area of the budget, has the power to turn down legislation that has been proposed by the House of Commons.
As an unelected legislative body, this is arguably better than what we have in Australia because it means that the Lords are not beholden to the knavery of party politics and can rise above it all; it is also arguably worse than what we have in Australia because it is an unelected and undemocratic institution.
Precisely because it is unelected, the House of Lords tends to be unhurried in its deliberations and doesn't have points of order. This means that it takes its time; which given the intricacies of legislation, can end up positively glacial.

Various members of the House of Lords have during this past week indicated that they would be amenable to holding up a hard Brexit, a soft Brexit, a spam spam spam Brexit with sausage and eggs and spam Brexit, indefinitely. There wouldn't be a thing that the House of Commons could do about it either. In theory the House of Lords could delay whatever Brexit deal was passed by the House of Commons until the inevitable heat death of the universe, which means to say that even in the event of complete annihilation of the everything, there still wouldn't be anarchy.  Naturally this would attract the ire of the Crown who could order the House of Lords to sit but even the Crown doesn't have the power to make it act. The Crown could dissolve parliament and bring the term of the House of Commons to an end but the Lords are something else².
There are also moves in the House of Lords to put it to the Crown that the Queen should use her royal prerogative and refuse to give royal assent to any hard Brexit, soft Brexit, spam spam spam Brexit with sausage and eggs and spam Brexit, that the Houses of Commons and Lords pass; in the greater interest of her United Kingdom. This has been met with both very hard stares and low murmers, which in the House of Lords is the equivalent of swearing bloody blue murder and crying 'havoc' to let slip the dogs of war. The royal prerogative to refuse assent to legislation has happened so rarely that it always warrants a page in the annals of history; which Brexit already most indubitably has already secured.

Quirk 2:
The other constitutional quirk which has arisen but this time in Australia has to do with the calling of the Federal Election. People often forget that in Australia it is actually the states who decide the manner by which Senators are sent to parliament. It is the states who technically call elections for the Senate and not the Prime Minister of the day.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has until 11:59pm tonight to decide whether or not he wants to hold the election on either May 11 or May 18; because if he does nothing, then the Senate election will have to take place on May 18 regardless of what the Prime Minister thinks. Governors of at least two states from what I can gather have already indicated that they will make the announcement for the May 18 election this week, if Mr Morrison fails to act.

It could very well be that having just suffered yet another Newspoll defeat (bringing the current losing streak to 51), that Mr Morrison wants to decouple the Senate election from the House of Representatives election, which he is perfectly entitled to do; in which case, the term of the House of Representatives runs all the way out to November 2nd as the last possible date for the election.
Maybe it makes sense for Mr Morrison to decouple the elections and hope that a favourable Senate is returned because at least that way, the Morrison Government can steal the Opposition's lunch with regards to policy and if they get a three point dead cat bounce, will be returned to government. As at time of writing though, the total time to decide on an either/or case for May 11 or 18 is just sixteen hours.

¹Chaos may cause political instability, blood letting, knives in the back³, change of head, legislative constipation, anal leakage, and in extreme cases the involuntary dismissal of government.
²The Crown is itself an unelected and undemocratic institution; which is traditionally replaced through the act of swording.
³Ms May has already indicated that she will resign depending on various outcomes of Brexit. It is hard to say whether or not she has been stabbed in the back if at the same time she has fallen on her sword. 

April 04, 2019

Horse 2527 - The Constitutional Background To The Budget Reply Speech

The week of the Federal Budget in an accountancy firm is always fraught with terribleness. Not only do we get to read through a document which is massive and full of myriad implications but in an almost deliberate attempt to prove Jean-Paul Sartre's misquoted saw that 'hell is other people', the great collective of other people beat down at your door with variations on one question: what's in it for me? Since the number of people in the Commonwealth is orders of magnitude greater than myriad, the number of individual answers to the question is also orders of magnitude greater than myriad.
The one question which was the most vexing came from my boss, who didn't ask about what was contained in the budget but the exceptionally easy to ask and seemingly impossible to answer, question of:

Why does Bill Shorten give the Budget Reply Speech and not Chris Bowen?

After much deliberation, I still have no idea really.
Firstly, here is some constitutional background¹.

Fact 1 - There is no Protocol for forming Government mentioned in the Constitution.

Parliament in order to work the machinery of government needs to raise and spend money in order to do so. That responsibility lies with the parliament as a whole and the notion that there needs to be a government at all, is still only really held up by fairly tenuous convention which as has been proven in the UK, can just as easily be pulled down at a snap, as there have been various Unity Governments where the whole parliament is the government.

Fact 2 - There is no Prime Minister mentioned in the Constitution.

Despite the fact that we'd been doing parliamentary democracy in Australia for 45 years when Federation happened, and the convention that there should be a Premier of executive government was well established, the more than a decade long bunfight which finally resulted in the Constitution still never mentions by name either a Premier or a Prime Minister.
Section 64 provides that the Governor-General can appoint Ministers of the Crown but there is no direction as to the nature and scope of who those Minsters are.

The Governor-General may appoint officers to administer such departments of State of the Commonwealth as the Governor-General in Council may establish.
- Section 64, Commonwealth of Australia Constitution (1900)

Fact 3 - The Treasurer is the de jure and de facto administrator of Money Bills.

Section 53 of the Constitution provides that Money Bills must originate in the House of Representatives and that by inference determines who the government actually is.

Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys, or imposing taxation, shall not originate in the Senate. But a proposed law shall not be taken to appropriate revenue or moneys, or to impose taxation, by reason only of its containing provisions for the imposition or appropriation of fines or other pecuniary penalties, or for the demand or payment or appropriation of fees for licences, or fees for services under the proposed law.
The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government
- Section 53, Commonwealth of Australia Constitution (1900)

If you can control the majority of the members in the House on matters of the supply of money and the confidence of the House, you are the government. There doesn't need to be an election (although given that we have political parties whose purpose is to control the majority of members in the House) and the Government can be changed in the blink of an eye simply by gaining the confidence of the majority of members.

Given that the Treasurer is the de jure and de facto administrator of Money Bills, then they are the one who hands down the prime bill which is Appropriation Bill No.1; which is otherwise known as the Federal Budget. Budget Night and the speech to parliament is the opening recommendation by the relevant Minister of the Crown to the House that they should accept the bill into law.

Fact 4 - There is no Opposition, Opposition Leader, or Shadow Cabinet mentioned in the Constitution.

The Shadow Cabinet are not Minsters of the Crown. There is no Constitutional requirement or basis that there even needs to be an Opposition. As there is no Constitutional basis for the Shadow Cabinet, there is no Constitutional basis for the Leader of the Opposition or the Shadow Treasurer.
Again, all of this hangs on convention which is like building a skyscraper out of tissue paper. It might look impressive but the whole thing blows over at the merest of agitation.

Those are the important facts of the case; and now we dive head first into the swirling waters of uncertainty.
I have no idea what the heck is going on.

The model of Westminster Parliaments is the eponymous parliament on the north bank of the Thames. Convention in the UK dictates that there is someone who reports from the parliament to the monarch; this person as the liaison between the monarch and the operating executive which actually administers and operates the Treasury of the Crown, is the First Lord of the Treasury. The First Lord of the Treasury existed before the notion that there should be a Prime Minister at all.
The person with the job of writing the cheques to operate parliament to in the United Kingdom is the Chancellor Of The Exchequer. They have in the past been the same person but if they are not then the cheque writer is the Second Lord of the Treasury.

The curious thing is that the first person to make a speech of objection to the nature and material of the Budget in parliament, is given by someone who is neither named in the Constitution nor needs to exist.
During the period from about 1868 to 1894, the series of rolling bunfights between Gladstone, Disraeli and Lord Salisbury, meant that they sat in all the positions of Prime Minister, Chancellor Of The Exchequer, Leader Of The Opposition, and Shadow Chancellor. There was also instances where the Prime Minister sat in the House of Lords, which isn't where Money Bills originate from.
Australia inherited these series of conventions which rather than founded in either reality or protocols of decency, were nothing more than skyscrapers made from tissue paper and filled with acid. Working my way through Hansard at the State Library of New South Wales, I have found no discernible pattern as to who gave the Budget Reply Speech, and saw that at various times it was either the Leader of the Opposition or the Shadow Treasurer.
And then it all got weird.

The Labor Party of Australia had actually been pretty stable in the period after Sir Robert Menzies left office and the Liberal/Country Party tore itself to pieces, going through Holt, McEwen, Gorton and McMahon in rapid succession (admittedly Harold Holt wandered off into the ocean; which was unfortunate). It hadn't appointed a Shadow Cabinet towards the end of the mess because there wasn't really much of a need to if the real Cabinet was so unstable that there wasn't anyone to Shadow.
So when Gough Whitlam did finally take office in 1972, his first ministry became a duumvirate with him as Minister for Everything and Lance Barnard as Minister for Everything Else. When normality returned, it was Frank Crean who became Treasurer and handed down the three appropriation bills of the Whitlam Government.

The first televised session of parliament in Australia came with the combined meeting of both houses following the 1974 Double Dissolution. This is significant because the very first televised Budget Reply Speech was by Opposition Leader Malcolm Fraser in 1975; which had the most singular end to a government in the nation’s history.
Every single Budget Reply Speech from 1975 onwards, as far as I can tell has been made by the Leader of the Opposition and as best as I can make out, the reason for doing so is that there is a camera pointed at them.

I don’t have a particularly good reason why it’s the Leader of the Opposition and not the Shadow Treasurer and I suspect the reason isn't particularly good either; it’s certainly not grounded in the Constitution which provides no direction whatsoever to a position that isn't even mentioned².

¹http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/coaca430/index.html
²It's the constitution. It's Mabo. It's justice. It's law. It's the vibe...

April 03, 2019

Horse 2526 - The Hand Grenade Budget Is Ticking

The Federal Budget for 2019/20 was handed down by the Treasurer Josh Frydenburg last night and this potentially has the ability to set off a bunch of chain reactions which might not resolve themselves until October. This series of chain reactions has already been triggered once before in Australia's Parliament and is still the subject of political intrigue and discussion more than 40 years later, with 'The Dismissal'.

The Treasurer handed down Appropriation Bill No.1 2019/20. This means that the clock will have started ticking on the available time in a which the Senate must agree to pass it, until the point of six months; at which point, the Governor-General can decide to dissolve the parliament. This in essence is at the core of Sir John Kerr's decision to dissolve parliament and shut down the line whole shebang in 1975.
After the Appropriation Bill No.1 2019/20 is passed from the hands of the Treasurer to the Sergeant At Arms of the chamber of The House of Representatives, it is game on. From 2nd April, this bill is still in play until the 2nd of October; even if new legislation and a new Appropriation Bill No.1 is presented to the chance to return to government within a calendar year.
Presumably the government has an agreement on supply in the House of Representatives currently but as it stands, they do not have a majority in the Senate. There is currently a major wedge fruits and nuts to separate the two big choc-banana and banana-choc parties and Mr Frydenburg's budget contains so many parts which strip funding from things like the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which might make it unpalatable to the Senate. If the intent is for the Senate to reject the budget bill, then we are in an interesting Constitutional place.
All of this is completely neutered and irrelevant if the Senate passes the Appropriation Bills for 2019/20 before parliament is dissolved. Of course, there is an argument to be made that deliberately not passing the budget until after the election has taken place, is in fact the best possible tactic; for the following insane reasons.

The Constitution makes no reference whatsoever to either the convention of who forms government, or who has the power to make and pass bills, or the positions of Prime Minister or Treasurer. With regards the passage of the budget, it is mechanically no different to any other piece of legislation and so as al always, the relevant sections of the Constitution in play are Sections 5 and 57. The power to make and break the parliament always lies in the hands of the Governor-General. As there is no mention of the various components which determine who actually does administer the monetary functions of the Crown, then there is also no Constitutional objection if the exact same people who proposed a piece of legislation then turn around and oppose the very legislation that they proposed. The only gears which are set in motion, have to do with a disagreement between the two houses; and as we saw in both 1974 where the Senate simply refused to look at legislation and again in 1975 where the legislation that it refused to look at just happened to be the Appropriation Bills for 1975/76. There just isn't the condition that the Senate needs to pass legislation at all and certainly no legal disability preventing them from refusing to pass budgets, like there is in the United Kingdom.

I make mention of all of this because the Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen has indicated that he will be introducing a new set of Appropriation Bills if the Labor Party wins the presumed May election. I also make mention of this because outgoing manager of government business in the House of Representatives Christopher Pyne and Senator Mattias Corman have both indicated that they would it would be appropriate for the new Liberal/National Coalition Opposition to oppose any and all legislation including their own budget if the need arose. The question of need is very different for the people who are in the middle of the game of politics, as opposed to all of us bumpkins in the rest of the Commonwealth.
Probably we will just end up with a bunch of people yelling at each other irrespective of who actually does win the election and future Treasurer Chris Bowen's budget would be very likely to pass but the fact that the suggestion of triggering the conditions which brought about the most singular event in Australian Constitutional history is even being considered by people who potentially have the power to do so, is more than a little bit worrying.

The events of 1974 and 1975 which led to the double dissolution and the first joint sitting of the two houses, centered around the Opposition's refusal to pass bills in the Senate. There is nothing preventing the House from deliberately creating bad legislation with the intent of being rejected and the Senate has the not only the Constitutional right to oppose bad legislation but arguably, the duty to do so. My worry is that Treasurer Josh Frydenburg has deliberately created a bad budget with the sole intent of it exploding in a Constitutional mess later on in the year. The tactic eventually worked in the December 1975 election and I wouldn't put it past the strategists in the increasingly antagonistic climate of modern politics to try and pull the stunt again.

March 28, 2019

Horse 2525 - Mankad v The Spirit of The Game

I was listening to the BBC World Service on the radio and the presenters were going nineteen to the dozen about a Mankad incident which had happened in the opening match of this year's Indian Premier League. It was as if someone had comitted a terrible crime.

The ABC had this to say about the incident, two days ago:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-26/ravi-ashwin-mankad-of-jos-buttler-divides-cricket-world/10942092
Ravi Ashwin ran out Jos Buttler at the non-striker's end in the Rajasthan Royals' season opener against Kings XI Punjab in Jaipur, as the Englishman wandered out of his crease prior to Ashwin's delivery stride, assuming the Indian spinner was about to deliver the ball.
Instead, the Kings XI spinner paused and waited for Buttler to leave his ground before whipping off the bails.
- ABC News, 26th Mar 2019.

As you would expect, this offended the sensibilities of the presenters of the BBC World Service programme that I was listening to; who in what can only be described as a series of very English grunts, railed against this as being a 'low act' and 'an affront to the spirit of the game'.
Naturally, this being Radio 4 which is possibly the most singular expression of Englishness, where complaining about everything is itself a national sport, the bowler was chided as though he'd committed war crimes; and the crazy thing is that this was Rajasthan v Punjab, where England wasn't even playing, though given that it was Englishman Jos Buttler maybe that explains the jingoism.

By way of background, the Mankad is named after former Indian test cricket player Vinoo Mankad, who ran out Bill Brown in the second Test of India's tour in 1947/48¹. To do it once would have been notable but he had already done exactly the same thing to Brown in the game against an Australian XI (non-test team) earlier on the tour, while taking 8/84 in the match (run outs aren't included in bowling statistics).
The Australian captain at the time, Sir Donald Bradman no less, said of the incident:
For the life of me, I can't understand why the press questioned his sportsmanship. The laws of cricket make it quite clear that the nonstriker must keep within his ground until the ball has been delivered. If not, why is the provision there which enables the bowler to run him out? By backing up too far or too early, the nonstriker is very obviously gaining an unfair advantage.
- Don Bradman, 13th Dec 1948

To be honest with him, I think he was absolutely correct.

On the that note, I think that the spirit of every game is to win. Different games might have different win conditions and this includes collaborative games where everyone is trying to collectively arrive at the win conditions but if there are no win conditions, I don't think that what you have is in fact a game. Playing to win therefore is the spirit of the game.
I don't care if you are talking about playing a game of bridge on the kitchen table or the Football World Cup Final, the difference between the two is really only a matter of the scale of the audience who are looking on and playing by proxy. Really that's all televised sport is, it is many many people playing by proxy. While people joke that they might be playing 'for sheep stations' when in actual fact they're really only playing for the very ethereal and temporary glory which will fade and be forgotten, as far as the people playing are concerned, it may as well be identical in the moment.
It is precisely because playing games doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, which is why it matters so very very much. To that end, cheating is an affront to the spirit of the game because it is outside the defined scope of what the allowable win conditions are. What's up for dispute here is whether or not the Mankad is within the rules and on that point, the rules are tremendously dithering. You can not really look at the rules themselves to find out whether or not they like within the spirit of the game and so you need to look at the broader context of cricket itself.

As a bowler, your objective is to get the batsman out. In a Test Match, which is the highest form of the game, the win conditions mean that you must get more runs than the other side at the close of two innings each. To close out the other side's innings, unless they declare their innings closed, then the win condition is that the bowling side must take ten wickets². Actually, as a bowler in any form of the game of cricket, your objective is to take wickets.
I think that if a batsman has left their crease, then I don't care whether or not someone wants to label it as a 'low act', it is still the bowler's objective to get them out and if that means flicking off the bails while the batsman has left their ground, then so be it. By leaving their crease, the batsman has not only signalled that they are trying to gain an advantage but by doing so have already started to do so. They are already playing the game; so as far as I'm concerned, that's where this discussion ends. Mankads are in the spirit of the game because they are the bowler trying to achieve their objective.

I personally approve of Ravi Ashwin's actions because as a bowler it is his job to take wickets. The batsman Jos Buttler has already moved out of his crease and is already trying to achieve his job of scoring runs. I don't know how you can argue anything other than the game is already afoot and therefore it is already game on. The grand ontological question³ about whether or not the game has started is in my mind, settled; playing in the spirit of the game which is to meet the win conditions almost compels the bowler to take the wicket.
I approve.

¹http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/17508/scorecard/62677/australia-vs-india-2nd-test-india-tour-of-australia-1947-48
²To date, only Jim Laker and Anil Kumble have managed to take all wickets in an innings by themselves.
³ The Greek philosopher Parmenides thought that "existence is timeless". He would have been right when applied to cricket before 1939:
http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/17542/scorecard/62657/south-africa-vs-england-5th-test-england-tour-of-south-africa-1938-39

March 26, 2019

Horse 2524 - Mueller's Report Found No Collusion For A Good Reason.

Unless you have been living under a rock (and in which case I might envy you), the news that the Mueller Report into the 2016 Presidential Campaign found no evidence that Donald Trump had colluded or conspired with the Russians and that there's not really anything which might make a provable case for obstruction of justice, will have been fired at you like drinking from a fire hose. Naturally Mr Trump as you'd expect, is carrying on like the chess playing pigeon who has pooped all over the board, knocked over the pieces and claimed victory.
This means that Mr Trump has jumped up at least two spaces up my personal list of the worst presidents, coming above James Buchanan and Richard Nixon but maybe not higher than Warren Harding. He is likely the third worst president and maybe might be the fourth worst.
My Twitbook and FaceSpace feeds have more or less exploded again, changing from the perpetual argument trying to excuse guns following the murders of fifty people in Christchurch, to a return to the usual perpetual argument where Democrat and Republican voters just yell at each other forever.  Unlike just about everyone in my social media feeds, I am actually not all that surprised that Donald Trump wasn't found to have colluded with the Russians; I also wouldn't have been surprised if he had been either.

I think that it has been comprehensively proven that Mr Trump's administration is generally incompetent. He has a few people on board who have previous experience in running government departments and so it is not quite an absolute omnishambles but it is sufficiently understaffed that it lets governance wither. In some cases, there are still unfilled positions in senior offices; which is insane considering that we are two years out from the beginning of this term and have rounded the corner towards the campaign for the next presidential election¹.
It is that level of incompetence which explains why I am not surprised that Mueller's report couldn't find evidence of collusion. For there to have been collusion, I think that there would have had to have been sufficient competence to be able to do so, and from what we have seen that competence has simply never existed.

Remember Hanlon's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Mr Trump, the consummate showman, more PT Barnham at putting on a show and more Harry Houdini at escaping from trouble than Herbert Hoover at running a government, had such a skeleton staff during the 2016 Presidential Campaign that it was mostly run from a single room. The thing that he was and is fantastically skilled at, is saying things so terrible and sucking all of the oxygen out of the room that nobody else can get a word in edgeways. This was best displayed during the debates in 2016 with Hilary Clinton when you had on one side of the debate, the single most qualified and competent politician to run for president since FDR on one side, and a man who had been declared bankrupt and whose career was only really resurrected because of a television show on the other.
I think that it should come as no surprise to anyone that someone who has had several eponymous casinos go bankrupt and into administration, did not collude with the Russians because that would at very least require running an internal organisation which was capable of doing so and I just don't think that that was ever the case.
If you have a pie which is made almost exclusively from whipped cream, you then can't take turn around and expect to find any meat in there. If you put your face into it, which is what the American people have essentially done by hiring this unfunny clown, then you can't expect to chew anything of substance.

At any rate, the basic questions that there has been collusion are pretty well much established at law:
1. Does an arrangement exist between two or more parties?
2. Is there a formal agreement or arrangement?
3. Is the arrangement supported by payment or kind?
4. Is the arrangement supported by undue influence?

For there to be a provable case at law requires there to have been mens rea, a guilty mind, that is the mental element of a person's intention to commit a crime or that lack thereof would otherwise cause a crime to be committed through inaction. With Trump, I'm not even sure that we have a mens conscia recti², a mind aware of what is right. He personally doesn't seem to be aware of what the difference between truth and lies actually is, so answering the basic questions of guilt might be bordering on the impossible.
I don't know if you believe in God or not but given the opening years of the twenty-first century where the United States went to wars on the premise of lies, for them to elect a president who doesn't know the difference between truth and lies, kind of looks like some sort of divine retribution.

Mueller's report couldn't find evidence of collusion probably because Trump's campaign was too stupid to have done it. I have no doubt that there are plenty of Russian agents who may have used Twitter and Facebook to influence millions of people but all that serves to prove is that a great many of the more than 62 million people who voted for this orange headed chess playing pigeon, are as useful idiots as the chap himself. Mueller's Report into the 2016 Presidential Campaign found no evidence that Donald Trump had colluded or conspired with the Russians; if it had been charged with trying to look for the sheer incompetence and stupidity of the campaign, then the report would probably still be collating evidence by the end of 2119 because it is practically limitless.

¹Although Trump never stopped campaigning.
²See The Aeneid, by Virgil.

March 25, 2019

Horse 2523 - Gladys Berejiklian Returned As Premier - Five Things We Learned

With the 2019 NSW Festival of Democracy now drawn to a close, with the Berejiklian Coalition Government returned to power with possibly a majority of nil, and with the Federal Election looming for either May 11 or 18 (I think that the 18th is more likely), the question that now needs to be asked is "what in tarnation just happened?" The answer is very close to but not exactly, three quarters of two fifths of bupkiss.


In the final wash up, it looks like the only two seats which changed hands were a National Seat to a Shooters and Fishers and another to Labor. Every other seat in the entire of NSW moved nowhere. There are 5 conclusions which might be able to be drawn from this:

1. People are generally happy with their local member.
This is a fairly good kind of answer because in most cases, the sitting member was returned to their seat. If electorates were unhappy, then they would have sent a different member to Macquarie St.
Unfortunately, that doesn't really help us answer the big question.

2. People are generally ambivalent about state politics.
In the grand scheme of things, people care about the big question of who runs the country and who takes care of their immediate problems like the bins and whether or not there should be a roundabout on the intersection of Banana Street and Pleasant Crescent. Even though this state government sold off the poles and wires of the state's electricity network and the ferries and wants to sell off the bus network, and put tolls on the M4, and gave the contract of building the M4 east to a consortium backed by the a former Premier in a staggering piece of corruption, and had the first Premier ousted because of another piece of corruption... that's still not enough for the people of NSW to change their mind.
In fact, several people that I know, didn't know even know that there was a state election on, much less who they should be voting for.

3. People are rusted on to their political party.
If you compare the electoral map for both state and federal governments, most of them in New South Wales haven't moved in at least a decade. On too of that, neither the electorate that I live in or work in have changed hands in principle, at both state and federal level ever. One has voted for the Labor Party since the inception of the party in the 1890's and the other has voted for the Liberal Party and its predecessors for an equally long time.
Australians are generally culturally conservative and really only move on social ideas and issues when the rest of the world has done so. The only reason that we had the franchise of women, compulsory voting and preferential voting in this country is by dint of historical accident. Inside that voting system, Australians in general and the people of NSW in particular do not have much in the way of progressive ideas and certainly not much of a progressive vision of the future at all. The Berejiklian Coalition Government although it is building infrastructure, is doing so about 60 years after it was needed and has come at the extra expense of selling other assets which we the good and fair people of New South Wales will never get back. But as long as our house prices keep on going up, we're mostly fine with it. It is an attitude of  "I've got my own, ha ha lol".

4. We are easily manipulated.
In the wake of 51 people being shot to pieces by a white supremacist terrorist monster, the people of NSW actually doubled down at the ballot box on their own racism and wish for more selfish violence. The Shooters and Fishers Party won an extra lower house seat and One Nation increased its vote and will most likely send narcissist supreme, Mark Latham, to the upper house.
The people know that they are being stomped into the ground by big business and especially the banks but instead of voting for politicians who might change legislation to try to curb this, they have lurched to cultural authoritarians who want to blame people of other.
Nevertheless, in NSW, between News Corp, Nine Entertainment Co. which owns both Fairfax as well as Channel 9, Seven West Media, and the Macquarie Radio Network, people were able to see Pauline Hanson on a fairly regular basis, Mark Latham on an almost equally regular basis, and when a video from several years ago surfaced which showed Michael Daley complaining that Asians in Western Sydney were taking people's jobs, it completely made people forget the almost identical comments that Ms Berejiklian had made about African migrants and the dogwhistling for almost three months about wanting to halve immigration levels.

5. Feminism is actually a political irrelevance (no really it is).
The racists and the nativist morons who don't care about the outcomes of people different to them, continue to not care. Ms Berejiklian is the first female Premier of New South Wales to be elected as leader of a party as opposed to becoming Premier part way through¹.
I don't know whether or not that that should be celebrated because it shows that this glass ceiling is broken, or celebrated because it is so unremarkable as to be passé. Between Angela Merkel, Jacinda Ardern, Teresa May, Annastacia Palaszczuk  and the returned Premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, women have comprehensively proven that they are as inspiring, incompetent, good, bad, and indifferent as men, at running governments. I think that it is fair to say that there is no discernible difference between a female or male run government².
The actual difference is the men in the political parties. The Labor Party would probably be fine with say Senator Penny Wong being Prime Minister but the Liberal Party have a distinct woman problem and National Party are still getting a grip on the fact that women can be elected to parliament.

I don't think that Ms Berejiklian as the first elected female Premier of New South Wales is necessarily a good, bad or meh thing. In the long run, we either get choc-banana or banana-choc politics with a few fruits and nuts, and Ms Berejiklian's government is as flavourless as the ten which came before it.
Aw well.

¹The first actual female Premier of New South Wales was Kristina Keneally who inherited a chaotically run Labor Party and who never really managed to control the ship of state as it careened into the wharf of incompetence. 
² I think that the last actually good Premier of New South Wales was Jack Lang. I also think that the last actually good Prime Minister of Australia was Ben Chifley. Both of them looked forward to a future which was going to outlive them when they were gone.

March 22, 2019

Horse 2522 - Pendle Hill Station: A Neo-Futurist Scar On Pendle Hill

As part of Ms Berejiklian's train station maintenance scheme which began while she was still Minister for Transport and Infrastructure (and which only really seemed to extend to railway stations in electorates which voted LNP - hence reason why Doonside Station has serious rust issues and why it still doesn't have lift access), the railway stations from Granville to Seven Hills all had major renovations.
The most drastic of the changes was at Pendle Hill Station; which as far as I can tell, went from almost 1955 to 1993 without having anything done to it at all, when the ramp on the northern side of the station simply collapsed one day. That ramp was replaced and realigned but nothing else was done to the station until 2018 when the new substantial pedestrian overpass was built, save for the odd cosmetic changes like signage and whatnot. The basic core of the buildings at platform level remain unchanged.


Like so many places in Sydney, Pendle Hill is named after a place in England. The suburb of Toongabbie which once upon a time used to encompass Pendle Hill, was the third settlement of the colony of New South Wales and has its founding date of 1790; which means that white people have been here for a very long time. As is white people's wont to rock up at a place and steal country through the cunning use of flags before renaming the place insensitively, Pendle Hill is named after a place in Lancashire which is most famous for being the site of witch trials in which the Witchfinder General found already marginalised women guilty of witching and had them executed.
Today, Pendle Hill is mostly populated by migrants who are the children of the remnants of empire and thus, the suburb has many people from the Indian subcontinent. Consequently, Pendle Hill has one of the most delicious smelling streets in all of Sydney and is one of the quiet jewels of the western suburbs.



As I scoot forth and back to work, I whizz through at about 100km/h and have not had the opportunity to stop in a long time. When there was a chance to finally walk around and have a look, I took it.
One of those things that I see regularly but only fleetingly is the Impressive Cafe. I have to say though that I wasn't impressed enough to go in.

After the old pedestrian overpass was finally deemed to be a safety hazard, the new one was built at the western end of the station. It is in that same kind of sharp style that a lot of apartment complexes are being built in across Sydney; which I can only think is the result of the architectural computer programs that generate the plans. My suspicion is that materials and building supply companies provide textures and wire models of their products so that architects and civil engineers can insert them into CAD programs, which is why so many new buildings look similar.


As this is a pedestrian overpass, there are no ticket machines nor are there any toilets or the stationmaster's office at this level. It feels very much like being in the space next to a car park. This is an example of unfriendly architecture, where the intent is to dissuade people from staying. This space is meant to be passed through and everything about being inside it screams that you are not welcome.
My immediate thought though was that if I was 14 years old and on my way home from school, that this is a government provided indoor football court. All the 'windows' are made of very sturdy metal screens which would allow a football to bounce off nicely.



As I walked down the stairs to platform level, I was reminded of the former attraction at long closed and almost forgotten Wonderland, Scooby Doo's Silly Stix. The difference here though is that this is the unfunnest jungle gym in Western Sydney.



The view from platform level looking down the line is a reminder that this is still ordinary rolling boring suburbia. Railway lines by virtue of their existence are places where we can not completely scrape away nature. Suburbia often has bits of nature left over; especially along the edges of railway lines, where it is to expensive to build apartment blocks (for now).


Looking back across at the westbound platforms, it is pretty obvious that this structure is meant to be imposing. It hasn't been finished off in brushed metal or had the screens painted green to take the edge off, but with black screens and slightly darker than necessary bricks. The are no round features like the old station building had and so for a building which will probably be here in 2069, it is the triumph of utility over style. Wentworthville Station which is the next one to the east, has lift towers which look practically identical, which says to me that this was done by the cheapest contractor.


As if to reinforce the point that this is a place in which you are not welcome but must pass through, the view that one has when stepping off the train and past the passimeters, is like that of a prison. I imagine that at nighttime when the darkness closes in, that because light travels in straight lines, that the only illumination visible will be that of the building. Blacktown Station has glass windows so that you can see a wide vista. This vomitoria is very closing in aspect; very deliberately so.



In fact the only way to even see Pendle Hill from the inside of the new pedestrian overpass at Pendle Hill Station, is to engage in effort. This is a shame. On the outside, Pendle Hill is a lovely suburb with a quaint high street. On the inside, while you might be covered for a little while when the rain comes down, you are a temporary prisoner and everything about this new pedestrian overpass reminds you of that.

The old pedestrian overpass almost certainly needed to be replaced and/or have lifts installed. While this new one looks incredibly solid, it gives me the impression that it was done begrudgingly and is meant to be a scar on the suburb. Of course it could just be that this is a result of the computer programs and building materials available but either way, this is not a kind place.

March 21, 2019

Horse 2521 - New Zealand's Echoes of The Bill Of Rights 1688

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12215068
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has just revealed the changes in a press conference.
"On March 15 our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too. We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place," Ardern said.
"Cabinet agreed to overhaul the law when it met on Monday, 72 hours after the horrific terrorism act in Christchurch. Now, six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military-style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles in New Zealand."
- NZ Herald, 21st Mar 2019

Less than a week after the white supremacist terrorist monster who shall not be dignified with a name by the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the Beehive has moved with swift action and passed legislation that bans automatic and semi-automatic weapons as well as other kinds of assualt rifle.
Unlike the United States where even trying to suggest the barest of background checks is likely to have you targeted online by all kinds of vile wingnuts, the New Zealand Parliament moved with relative ease on the issue and it was met with bipartisan support.

The right to bear arms has of course existed, and been world famous in New Zealand since ages ago. One of the things that came out of Waitangi was that the Maori were more or less given the same rights as Pakeha. The law of the Pakeha already included the Bill of Rights Act 1688, which conferred the right to bear arms among other things.

http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/act/consol_act/bor16881wams2c2306/s7.html
That the subjects which are protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law.
- Section 7, Bill Of Rights Act 1688

Note those two caveats. The Bill of Rights Act 1688 already contains the admission that the ramifications of the law could very well be different for different people with the words "suitable to their conditions". It can be argued with a fair amount of reasonableness that a farmer might need guns for the purposes of destroying pests which might kill their livestock. Likewise it can be argued that killing rabbits is a reasonable justification for owning a weapon as they might damage both crops and the land itself. If you live on the land, then eliminating the threats to your livelihood, is both reasonable and suitable to their conditions. I think that this also passes the reasonableness test of the man on the Clapham Omnibus.
I think that it is also reasonable to arrive at the conclusion that an assault rifle or a semi automatic weapon, where the intended purpose is the hunting of people, that these things are not suitable to anyone's conditions.

This brings us to the next few words in that section "and as allowed by law". The New Zealand Parliament, when confronted with an incident of terrorism, which should not be acceptable or excusable, has with due reasonableness passed legislation. It has been presented with the evidence which carries a lot of gravitas and has deemed that certain kinds of weapons are not suitable to anyone's conditions and therefore should not be allowed by law.
This is what should like at the heart of deliberative democracy. In a rare occasion where the perpetual football game of politics has been set aside, elected members of a 'thing' in the old Nordic sense of the word, have come together and listened to the hue and cry which has arisen as the result of a deeply troubling national injury and have made a decision to change the law. Now whether or not laws should be passed after the fact or passed before an event happens as part of norm forming policy is kind of irrelevant here because the offence is so deep that it has warranted immediate action.

The response from the New Zealand Parliament has been one of swift action where the intent is to protect the lives and liberties of New Zealanders and I think that it stands as a shining example of what proper leadership looks like. Right from the very top, from the Prime Minister's office, the actions of the New Zealand Government have been about trying to help heal the injury. Granted that no government action can ever hope to make amends for the shocking atrocity but offering to pay for the funeral expenses for the fifty-one victims is a practical start and the actions of practical love which includes the provision of meals for the families of the victims and the public displays of the haka by various community groups has at least part way said that the mosques are part of the collective 'us' of New Zealand. That's Kiwi as.

Aside 1:
The response from the Australian media and particularly from News Corp newspapers has been kind of schizophrenic. On one hand they have tried to condemn the murderer, while at the same time been trying to make statements about immigrants and refugees who do not integrate into society. News Corp papers in particular, along with Sky News and Seven West Media to a lesser degree have tried to almost wash their hands of anything that they may have done, to outright attacking people likeTim Soutphommasane for not speaking up sooner despite the fact that he very clearly did.
This white supremacist terrorist attack has happened in the midst of two election campaigns (though officially the Federal Election campaign remains undeclared) and I have now seen no fewer than fourteen articles blaming immigration policy on the Labor Party.

Aside 2:
The white supremacist terrorist monster said in his manifesto that among the reasons for doing this was to not only highlight that terror can strike anywhere but to stir up racial. cultural and religious tensions in the United States and specifically spark more debate about the Second Amendment. The problem there is that that is settled law.
America is completely fine with sacrificing its children and vulnerable on the altar of its modern Molech. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of children and innocent lives. It is its natural manure.
The Supreme Court has effectively reduced the words of the Second Amendment to "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" and nothing else. Heller v DC 2008 struck off any hopes of the words "well regulated"; which means that whatever the intent of the framers had, is long irrelevant. It also completely destroys the terms "suitable to their conditions" and "as allowed by law" from the 1688 Bill of Rights.