October 16, 2020

Horse 2769 - I Do Not Think That Individual Human Rights Are The Best Tool

 I am sure that the events of 2020 have made a lot of people think about the fitness of purpose of the various systems that we have used to build the world around us. Quite apart from the natural environment positively yelling at us with murder hornets, more hurricanes in a season than there are letters in the alphabet, fires on two continents that are the biggest that have ever been seen, more than a billion animals being destroyed by said fires, as well as the plague of the coronavirus, we are discovering that the rich and powerful people who own and run the world are doing their level best to abrogate any kind of connection that they have to the rest of society.

One of those systems which we use to construct the world, is the idea of human rights. However during this time of coronavirus, I am starting to be convinced that that idea which underpins a lot of how we conceive of western liberal democracies is inadequate and was probably never fit for purpose in the first place. As an idea which is used to build a model, the idea of human rights like every other idea should be subject to testing and abandoning if it doesn't work. 

A right at law is a claim to be able to do something or a claim upon some property whether real or intangible. All of the human rights that we commonly think of, such as the right to free speech, to get an education, to health care, the right to bear arms, the right to political association and protest and what not, are all claims upon real services and or claims upon intangible property.

The modern idea of human rights kind of roughly began in the late enlightenment when ideas such as absolute monarchy and the beginning of determination through the instrument of the franchise began to take off. In English and Scottish law, which I am most familiar with, the Bill Of Rights Act and the Scottish Claim Of Right were both enacted in 1689 in the wake of the English Civil War in which a king lost his head and the following period known as the Glorious Revolution in which the conception of rights are set up in opposition to and to place limits upon the monarchy.

Except, the problem with a right being claimed (such as free speech, health care, rambling, bearing arms) is that although an individual can claim said right, there are never usually any formal obligations, duties, responsibilities etc. which are framed in relation to that right. Freedom to do something should be tied with the responsibility to accept the consequences of doing the thing, or the consequences which arise as a result of the thing being claimed. Invariably the people who call for a right to do something from a position of power, also want to be untied from consequences.

Australia has had a number of high profile cases where someone exerting their right to free speech has caused damage to someone else and a campaign has been waged quite brutally in the press for the removal of any consequences of that same free speech. Defenders of the absolute right to free speech are arguing that they should have the ability to cause damage and not be held responsible. The only logical explanation is that the defenders of the absolute right to free speech want to use it as a weapon to beat down on people. 

Although not explicitly said, the wish to be free from consequences of one's actions is actually the claiming of a new right to be exempt from law. Law generally imposes obligations and duties upon people through direction and instruction but one of the greatest principles of law is that everyone should be subject to it; including the King. 

The other very major thing that 2020 has brought into sharp focus is that if someone else doesn't care what rights you have, then what good is it? You can have the right to vote and the right to be free from slavery but if rich and powerful people don't think that you are worthy enough to extend basic standards of living and decency to, then you can claim all of the rights that you like and it ain't gonna make a lick of difference. There will still be people who want to suppress people's right to vote, people who want to pay other people absolutely nothing for their work if they can get away with it, and people who will simultaneously let others live in squalor while they also demand subsidies for their own private privilege and patronage.

I am not convinced that United States citizens actually have the right to vote expressed positively in law. In consequence, the ability for self-interested parties to suppress that right, if it existed at all, is far easier than the framework in Australia where it is expressed as a duty and where the state is obligated to make sure that people can fulfill their legally imposed duty to vote. This explains why in a place like Texas, there is a solitary polling place in a predominantly black portion of Houston with half a million people but way out in the westernmost county with a population of about six thousand white people there are fourteen. People's right to vote might very well be identical but their ability to do so because of the infrastructure provided by the state, is not.

The right to healthcare which probably exists in Australia, does not exist in the United States and if you engage with discussions online then you can find people who are very ready to vigorously tell you that healthcare isn't a right. In the United States, they are absolutely correct since the legal claim upon what should be pretty basic services, simply does not exist. Either way, even in Australia if I present myself at a private hospital, there is no obligation upon them to treat me, including if I present with a potentially life threatening issue.

The big problem that I see with the idea of human rights as a concept is that it seems to exactly end at the fingertips of an individual. Someone can claim all of the rights that they want to in the world but it is exactly of zero good if there is no obligation on others to do anything about them.

I will freely admit at this point that I have no idea how to enforce obligations except through operation of law. Opponents quite rightly will criticise this as coercion by force through the power of the state and while this is absolutely true, actual governance is exactly a zero sum game and if the state doesn't enforce something through force and coercion then private entities will exact their own private force and coercion. In principle that explains why the United States is roughly thirty times more violent in terms of homicide.

The difficulty is that the concepts of obligation and duty can only really be imposed by at least some coercion by the state because the inescapable central feature of human nature is that people are hideously selfish and sometimes violent in enforcing their own private selfishness.

October 14, 2020

Horse 2768 - With Only 25 Starters, The Great Race Is Only A Shadow Of Former Greatness.

 The 2020 Bathurst 1000 is the 60th running of the event if you also include the 500 mile races at Philip Island and the times when a race was also run to Super Touring rules as well as a 5L race. The 2020 edition is also as far as I can tell, the race which has the fewest number of starters but this absolutely nothing to do with the Coronavirus pandemic which has come and changed everything. No, this has to do with the nature of the series now being a closed shop and deliberately excluding privateers' dreams.

The Great Race is not really that great any more and the current management caused it to be.

The race has been through a number of rules iterations, ranging from purely production cars, to Group C, Group A and now two distinct generations of Group 3A 5L cars which have been branded as V8Supercars and finally just Supercars. The current rules set has its origins in a marketing fight in 1991 when both Ford and Holden decided to threaten to leave touring car racing in Australia in favour of the then Auscar series, and the motorsports confederation caved into their demands. Admittedly, only Holden in Australia actually bothered to build cars for touring car racing here, as Ford was ambivalent and quite happy for competitors to run a turbo hatchback car which came from Belgium. What really got their hackles up was when Nissan built their GTR Skyline and made everyone in every Group A series look stupid. Ford and Holden weren't having that and decided to design their own regulations.

What they came up with was a set of regulations which nobody else could play with. The Supercars series was framed around four door cars with 5L V8 engines; which only Ford and Holden built. They eventually relaxed the regulations to allow other manufacturers to build frankenstein cars with engines which didn't originally come with the cars but in December 2013, the then Treasurer Joe Hockey thundered from the floor of parliament that the government was threatening to remove the subsidy payments the motor manufacturers in Australia and dared them to leave. By the end of the week, all three manufacturers in Australia made their announcements that they were going to do precisely that.

The frankenstein Nissans, Volvos, and Mercedes-Benz, came and went; Holden stopped building the VF Commodore and the ZB Commodore which replaced it became even more of a frankenstein machine and then Opel which built the car was sold out from General Motors, and the Falcon's replacement in the Mustang became even more of a frankenstein machine. In 2020 we are now left with a car that looks nothing like its road going counterpart versus another car from a company which no longer exists.

Throughout all of this, Supercars went from a system where competitors could enter events on a sort of ad hoc basis, to one where there were distinct Racing Entitlement Contracts which had the immediate effect of forever closing the doors to the privateers who had arguably built the biggest race that the Supercars actually had. 

With the closure of Australian motor manufacturing, the complete abandoning of all right hand drive markets by General Motors and the closure of Holden as a brand, and the decision by Supercars management to put races behind News Corp's paywall, not only has the total amount of sponsorship dollars vastly shrunk but the number of teams has also been falling. 25 cars in the 2020 edition of the Bathurst 1000 is an unfunny joke; with a punchline which has been progressively getting sadder for the past decade.

This is the really idiotic thing. Older Supercars tend to live on after their front line use. They become the machinery which is used in the two divisions directly underneath Supercars (Super 2 and Super 3) and in other series. This means that there are in fact plenty of cars which could in theory fill the grid to as many as 55 cars and bring back the greatness to the Great Race. However, Supercars won't do this.

- These things don't comply with Supercars regulations? Really?!

I can only assume that Supercars' management likes having a closed shop and that the competitors are nominally fine with it as well. The argument put forward I assume is that having other competitors who have zero chance at winning the race, makes the race more dangerous for those people who actually do have a shot at winning.

Further proof that Supercars likes having a closed shop and thus deliberately keeping out any potential new competitors, was their treatment of Nathan Herne who may have had a potential drive for Garry Rogers Motorsport in the 2020 race. He is a TransAm2 driver and there may have been a potential exemption for him to get a temporary Super license for the event but ultimately, Supercars dug in and Garry Rogers Motorsport withdrew the application; and subbed him out for Jayden Ojeda.

I can understand the sport wanting to limit the number of competitors into the series through fear of diluting the potential advertising dollars but when this results in the deliberate and very public atrophy of the series, then this also acts as a warning to anyone who might be interested that they had better be prepared to fall in or fall out.

It is the kind of approach to running a series that I find completely baffling. When faced with falling crowds and the situation which now exists where you have exactly zero support from any manufacturers at all, I do not understand why you would want to keep people out. Super 2 is already up at Bathurst this weekend as a support category and since the cars are built to older regulations, they are already compatible on the track. This is not the days of a Ford Sierra doing 300km/h and bearing down on a Toyota Corolla doing only 220km/h. In any case, the track itself is 6.2km long; so it's not like there aren't plenty passing spots.

Part-time competitors and privateers actually have a greater sense of self-preservation than professional front line drivers because quite often, thy are owner/operator drivers who personally suffer damage if their asset gets ruined. In fact, if you were to do a survey of accidents involving the top ten cars in a race over the years, you'd find that the vast majority are of top drivers tripping over each other rather than slower cars getting in the way. The only incident that I can immediately think of where a front running car tangled with a very obviously slower car was in the 1980 edition when Peter Brock's Commodore tagged the rear end of a Holden Gemini and put the Gemini out of the race (Brock would go on to win it). 

If I was Grand Poohbah and Lord High Everything Else then I would open up the Bathurst 1000 and the Sandown 500 as the two races where both Super 2 and Super 3 complete alongside the main feature Supercars cars. Legends were made when privateers had a go, when previously undiscovered talent was allowed to shine and where drivers actually had to work their way through the traffic. 

I think that the race is bigger and better when it is allowed to be bigger and better but right now, it is looking inwards and wondering why the world is becoming smaller and smaller. It should be called The Great Race for a reason but at the moment it just doesn't live up to its moniker.

October 08, 2020

Horse 2767 - The Right To Vote In America Is Really Sketchy

 Partly because the pandemic has shortened people's ability to dream about the future and partly because the current administration is orders of magnitude more incompetent than previous administrations, the 2020 United States Presidential Election is more fraught with fear, anxiety, and dread, than any other election in my lifetime. It certainly doesn't help that the current President when directly asked if he would go through with a peaceful transition of power if he lost the election has said "we'll see".

When the very validity of an election process is being questioned by a very interested party who is intent on retaining power, before the election has happened, this should start alarm bells ringing all over the place. This is after that same party has been impeached but not removed from office because of partisanship. 

A lot of the reason why this state of affairs is enabled so very very easily is because there is no explicit positive right to vote in the United States Constitution. There are two key amendments which explicitly unshackle restrictions on account of legal disabilities but nowhere else in the document is the right to vote actually explicitly positively guaranteed.

Not that we have the explicit right to vote in Australia either. The Australian Constitution is framed as only the rules which define the government and parliament. There is no such thing as a Bill Of Rights within the Australian Constitution because the whole notion is conceived of very differently.

If I think all the way back to my Introduction To Law 101 teacher, Professor Pedder, he would often revert to the quote:

"An Englishman is free to do whatever the hell he likes except if there is a fence in the way."

I have no idea if it was said by Churchill, Blackstone, Joske, Disraeli, or whoever but the central kernel of truth remains. At least as far as English law is concerned, you are free to do whatever you like unless hedged in by law.

The United States though, generally assumed English Common Law at its inception but it changed its entire outlook on how it views law; almost on the turn of a single case. Decided in 1803, Marbury v. Madison remains the single most important decision in American constitutional law. The Court's landmark decision established that the U.S. Constitution is actual "law", not just a statement of political principles and ideals.

https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/5/137/

It is emphatically the province and duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is.

- Chief Justice John Marshall,  Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. at 177 (1803).

It might be too much to make this one decision bear the weight of an entire set of legal traditions but at roughly the same time, the United States moved from the assumption that a citizen was free unless the law said something, to the assumption that unless the law said something the freedom didn't exist. If the law doesn't say that that a right exists, then that right does not explicit exist because the law has not said that it is a thing.

At this point some American readers are going to get angry and tell me that I don't know what I am talking about but by the same token, as an Australian I have the right to health care, the right to social security, the right to rest and leisure, the right to quiet enjoyment of one's surrounds etc; some of those they will tell me are not rights at all. They would be of course absolutely correct in America but not here in Australia. Rights are already assumed to exist in Australia and don't actually need verification by operation of law. That's simply not true in the United States and is repeatedly borne out by a wealth of case law.

All of this leads me back to that question of do we have the right to vote in Australia? I think that we probably do but as far as the operation of the law is concerned, that's functionally irrelevant. We frame voting not as a right but as a compulsory civic duty; just like we do filling in a tax return, or jury duty, or conscription (though not at the moment), or even following the law. There is no right to disobey the law.

The duty to vote is contained in Section 245 of the Electoral Act 1918:

http://www6.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/legis/cth/consol_act/cea1918233/s245.html

Compulsory voting

(1)  It shall be the duty of every elector to vote at each election.

- Section 245, Electoral Act 1918

I personally think that framing voting as a duty rather than a right is a far more fair and equitable idea.

Firstly it confirms that the people have an obligation to be concerned about how the country is run and because the people elected to govern have been put there by the general public and not just their own highly interested followers, they have a greater sense that their own electorate can turn on them at the next election.

More importantly though, it places the obligation to ensure that people can vote back on the government. The difference between a non-explicit right which is only assumed and a duty which is imposed by law, is that the former is open to voter suppression whereas the latter is already bound by law not to.

http://www6.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/legis/cth/consol_act/cea1918233/s231.html

Right of elector to receive ballot paper

(1)  The presiding officer or a polling official shall at the polling hand to each person claiming to vote a ballot paper duly initialled by the presiding officer:

- Section 231, Electoral Act 1918

This does not exist at all in the United States. There is no compulsion to make sure that the electorate has the ability to vote and with no actual explicit right to vote either, no compulsion to make sure that that right is protected.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxiv

No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

- Amendment XIV (1868)

The 14th Amendment contains the provisions that the states can't make laws which abridge the privileges and immunities the citizens of the United States. It doesn't specify what those privileges and immunities are; nor does it say that the states can't not extend a right if that right doesn't exist.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxix

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

- Amendment XIX (1920)

The 19th Amendment is generally considered to be the Amendment which gave women the right to vote but if you read the actual words of the text, it says that sex is the qualifier which has been removed as to whether or not the right to vote can be denied. It does not specifically say that there can't not be other things which deny someone the right to vote; nor does it say that if the right hasn't been extended to a particular person that the right suddenly gets extended.

This is where the law gets rather tricksy and where you might think that the operation of law will solve the issue at the centre of this. Do you remember how there is no explicit positive right to vote in the United States Constitution? That remains true but the entitlement to vote, which itself might have different legal ramifications to a right, exists at the next level down and in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/52/10101G

(1)All citizens of the United States who are otherwise qualified by law to vote at any election by the people in any State, Territory, district, county, city, parish, township, school district, municipality, or other territorial subdivision, shall be entitled and allowed to vote at all such elections, without distinction of race, color, or previous condition of servitude; any constitution, law, custom, usage, or regulation of any State or Territory, or by or under its authority, to the contrary notwithstanding

(2)No person acting under color of law shall—

(B)deny the right of any individual to vote in any election because of an error or omission on any record or paper relating to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting, if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under State law to vote in such election; or

- Voting Rights Act, 1965

Entitlements are strange things in US law. They can be subject to changes in rules and again, there is no specific obligation upon government to ensure that those entitlements are protected. Just because someone happens to be entitled and allowed to vote at elections and even though administration issues can't be posed as a specific barrier, there is no compulsion upon government to make voting easy, or accessible. The United States is ranked 57th in electoral integrity in the world. Compared to other liberal democracies, it is ranked second to last. It’s no surprise that the US trails behind other democracies in voter turnout; about 55% of eligible Americans voted in the 2016 election; if we compare that with Australia in 2016 where voting is not a right but a duty, the turnout here was 91% and in fact has never dipped below 90% in not quite 100 years.

If there's a queue of 15,000 people who all happen to live in one particular neighborhood and the local polling place only operates one voting booth, then at one vote every three minutes for twelve hours, then 240 people will have voted. The other 14,760 haven't been denied their right to vote on the grounds of race, sex, nor because of any administration issues. What are they complaining about?

All of this sets up cause to be very very worried about the elections in the United States in November. There is cause to assume that they will not be conducted fairly and no protective under the law to ensure that that happens. There is also no immediate ability to imagine what happens if the current president loses the election. This is all being conducted in front of a backdrop where the right to vote itself, is sketchy and not immediately self-evident. 

October 06, 2020

Horse 2766 - Keep Watching For Draculas

 As Baliff Jesse Thorn of the Judge John Hodgman Podcast reminds us semi-regularly, Draculas can have any job. If we have learned anything from this unprecedented time, in these uncertain times, in these strange days, it's that working from home and self-isolating is useful in stopping the spread of the virus. Perhaps what isn't as immediately obvious is that the root cause of COVID-19 is Draculas.

Don't believe me? The generally accepted tale of the first outbreak was that it occurred in a wet market in Wuhan, and was spread by people eating bats. What isn't immediately clear about that tale is the key piece of information that they were actually vampire bats; probably due to it being lost in translation. 

That should have put the world on immediate notice that COVID-19 was actually caused by Draculas turning themselves and reverting to their cannibalistic nature. From there it is only a short leap of logic to arrive at the irrefutable conclusion that because Draculas can have any job, then they were the vector of disease. 

If Draculas are the root cause of COVID-19, then you need to think about basic measures that you can take against Draculas. Here are a few ideas:

1. Garlic.

Draculas can not stand garlic. Extensive research by the University of Killara finally isolated the active chemical in garlic as something called pyroxymethyl-ursulathene (PMU). This is one of the reasons why garlic happens to have that funny smell. Also, some kinds of Baked Beans, Spaghetti, Sauces etc. also contain this chemical and those cans and bottles are helpfully marked with the label PMU¹.

To protect yourself against Draculas, then all you need to do is eat a bunch of garlic. If that is unpalatable, then you can also eat garlic bread and/or garlic pizza. If think that that is bad, then you are quite clearly a monster and possibly a Dracula yourself. Only someone who is a hideous monster would turn down garlic bread.

Garlic Bread (and Baked Beans) also has the added benefit of making everyone else stay away from you; which also helps in reducing community transmission.

2. Daylight.

Draculas can not go out in strong daylight or else they turn to dust. Popular documentary series Twilight² has helped to spread a disinformation campaign, as there are no such things as sparkly shiny Draculas.

Professor Doctor Reverend President Donald J Trump (amen) was quite right in saying that daylight would help stop the virus. Although putting lights into the human body is impractical, standing outside in the middle of a field and completely isolated from everyone else will also help in reducing community transmission. Going mad and going around on all fours eating grass also has the added benefit of making everyone else stay away from you; which also helps in reducing community transmission.

3. Running Water.

Draculas also can not stand to be near running water. This is why doctors have advised that you wash your filthy grotty little hands with soap. They will tell you that it is to stop the lipid attachment system of the virus on a molecular level but really it is to keep Draculas from getting inside your house.

Some people have advised that you should use hand sanitizer every time you enter a commercial premises and there is a lot of truth in that, and also for the added reason to clean your hands of the hand sanitizer that you used at the previous commercial premises that you entered just four minutes ago. My record is nine times in an hour.

4. Being Undead.

Draculas can not find the nutrition that they need if the host is either dead or undead. Since being dead turns out to be a real bummer and ruins the rest of your day, then you could try being undead. Be advised though that the process is irreversible and may result in a distinct lack of intelligence and cognition.

The first way to become undead is to replace all of your blood with barbeque sauce. Admittedly while this will make you invulnerable to Draculas, it will make you more attractive to Tigers because Tigers love barbeque sauce and you will have effectively marinated yourself from the inside. Upon failing that, you might like to inject yoruself with petrol or bleach. The makers of Clorox and Lysol pleaded with Americans not to inject or ingest their products but how do we know that they're not Draculas as well?

5. Crosses.

Draculas can not stand crosses. This is because all Draculas have arithmomania and need to count things³. A useful distraction for Draculas is to dump a handful of rice on the ground because they have a compulsion to count the grains. Crosses on the other hand are mathematical operators and indicate addition and multiplication. As Draculas are lazy and they have arithmomania, this merely provides extra work for them.

Installing crucifixes everywhere will ward off Draculas. Various kinds of flags such as the Cross of St George, the battle flag of the Confederate States of America, the Eureka Flag, the Union Jack, and the Southern Cross, are all widely recognised symbols of racism and white supremacy and that the flag flyer might actually be dumb enough inject themselves with barbeque sauce, petrol or bleach.

<><><><><>

It should have been obvious to all and sundry that the root cause of COVID-19 is Draculas. The clue is in the name: COrona VIrus Draculas - 19. In these unprecedented, uncertain, strange, crazy, times, we need to ask ourselves WWADND: What Would a Dracula Not Do? One handy way to identify Draculas is to ask them to appear on various NPR radio programs like NPR Morning Edition, This American Life, and All Things Considered. Since Draculas can not see themselves in a looking glass, they also can not see themselves speaking to Ira Glass either.

In the meantime, you'll just have to wash your hands and watch for Draculas. They could be anywhere. Draculas can have any job... ANY JOB!

¹https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Ejmt5wZUYAAsiSK?format=jpg&name=medium

²making jokes about something which I have not seen and have no desire to see.

³"They call me The Count because I love to count things." This is further proof that Count Von Count is a Dracula.

October 05, 2020

Horse 2765 - Life, The Universe, Everything... BRAAAP!

Facebook knows that I am a man in my early 40s. Facebook can also probably determine that I am a nerd, based upon the things that I like. Their basic set of assumptions therefore will take them to the conclusion that I probably have some degree of disposable income and that I might like to purchase nerdy t-shirts. It is a valiant attempt but I don't really like t-shirts. Aw well. 


Their attempt to make me part with my hard won money, led them to place an advert on my timeline featuring Neil De Grasse Tyson and a graphic design featuring a plot device from the inaccurately named Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy trilogy by Douglas Adams. I shan't bother to explain this but suffice to say that the answer to the great question of life, the universe, everything as given in the plot is "42".
Some of you beautiful nerds may recognise this graphic as a Venn Diagram with the answer being at the intersection of the three elements. I however saw something else which is even more nerdy.

The shape inscribed by the intersection of the three circles and within a fourth circle which is not shown is what is known as a Reuleaux Triangle. Just like a circle which might be described as a shape of infinite sides with side length of zero, the Reuleaux Triangle also has the property that if you were to draw a chord which exactly bisects the shape in twain, then no matter on what angle that chord is drawn it will be exactly the same length as every other possible like chord. 
This is of course incredibly useful if you happen to be designing coins, as you can have coins that aren't circles but with roll perfectly in vending machines. The British 50 pence and 20 pence coins are perhaps the most famous examples of this.

The most nerdular use that I can think of this shape is the rotor within a Wankel Rotary engine. NSU played with them in the 1960s but it was Mazda in their Cosmo and their RX series of cars that I really love. 
The Mazda 787B won the Le Mans 24 Hour race by being the fastest car that didn't happen to explode or crash that day; not necessarily because it was the fastest. Mazda won the 12 Hour race at Bathurst and then Eastern Creek four times in a row because Mazda made a proper effort to go out and win the thing. But of course, the most nerdular example that I can think of that sits at the intersection of this Venn Diagram is a less famous example.


Four time Bathurst winner Allan Moffat was at one time, Ford's favourite son. He was already a three time winner of Australia's greatest motor race, when he took the XC Falcon Coupe to a 1-2 victory. At the time, Holden couldn't stand getting a blood nose and rehired Peter Brock; who went on a rampage and won six times in seven years. Ford on the other hand, after having got their 1-2, lost interest and ended up dropping Moffat like a plate of cold spew.
He spent a bit of time in an uncompetitive Falcon and then managed to snag a deal with Mazda to run their factory team. He didn't actually win the Bathurst 1000 in the Mazda RX-7 but still put up some pretty good results.
If this was merely a story about the Reuleaux Triangle being at the heart of a Mazda RX-7 I would have already ended the story, however in 1984, Moffat was involved in a start line crash and had to jump into the second team car. That car had already been used previously in 1983 but was carrying Moffat's regular number of 43. That second car which was entered specifically as a backup carried the number 42.

This t-shirt is secretly sending a message to me and possibly nobody else in the world. The answer to life, the universe, everything, is not just "42" and it isn't the just shape of a Reuleaux Triangle, this t-shirt is sending me a message about one very specific and very special Mazda RX-7.
The really sad thing is that this kind of Mazda RX-7 is now very difficult to come by, 36 years later, and they are notoriously difficult to maintain because to replace the apex seals at the corners of the Reuleaux Triangle forces you to pull the engine to bits and put it back together again, every single time. I will probably never ever get the chance to drive one of these cars and I think that's a bit sad. The answer to life, the universe, everything, is apparently "no". No, you can't have one and no you can't drive one ever. 

October 02, 2020

Horse 2764 - A Random Act Of Senseless Kindness

This morning I was walking from the bus stop to the office and I passed Chaos Cafe, which I do practically every morning. This morning though, the lady in the window facing the street said "You look like you could do with a free coffee."

I don't know how much it costs to make a coffee and I didn't ask her but as she was making it, she explained that she was having a really bad morning and that she wanted to get back at the world through ruining the system by being randomly kind to people. Admittedly she didn't use those words exactly and the words that she did use contained liberal sprinklings of "F". Her method of exacting revenge upon the world was to do something which will confuse it.

I had barely got through the front door at not quite a quarter past eight, when a client of ours and my boss who were part way through a meeting, noticed that I had a cup of coffee and thought that that was a capital idea. They up and left everything and went out of the door, to return ten minutes later; having decided to tee up lunch later in the day at that same cafe. By my reckoning, seven people for lunch would easily be more than a hundred dollars.

I do not believe in karma by a long shot. Karma broadly assumes that what you give will be returned and my general impression of the kosmos is that what people get back is almost unrelated to what they give. In general, people almost never get what they give or even what they deserve. The kosmos and the world that we've built for ourselves, tends to reward absolutely shocking, awful, and terrible behaviour, and does so overwhelmingly in favour of sociopaths, hucksters and shysters. 

Kindness is an expensive proposition and very quickly runs headlong into a conflict with the self-interest of not only the sociopaths, hucksters, and shysters of the world but also the ordinary tired people who carry the weight of the world and the work of the world on their shoulders.

I can very much see how a simple act of senseless random kindness is an act of revenge. In a world which is practically designed to be a series of transactions where everyone is trying to maximise their own personal comfort and happiness, including at the expense of other people, an act of senseless random kindness almost appears an act of terrorism. When all about is unkind and impersonal, an act of kindness is downright revolutionary.

I have no idea how or why I looked like I could do with a free coffee and I don't know to what degree that was actually true but I do know that the trajectory of the entire day was changed for me, as well as for that lady at Chaos Cafe. Coffee helps you do stupid things faster but kindness helps everyone be happier. 

October 01, 2020

Horse 2763 - This Is Who You Should Vote For

 As someone who has worked next to the law for a very long time, though not actually as a lawyer, and having read extensively upon the nature of how countries are constituted as well as a pretty good kind of sweeping overview on what a general ontological reading of law should be, I have come to two general conclusions about the law.

Firstly: That law shapes society because having laid down the boundaries of what is and isn't acceptable, the law also shapes how people's norms and expectations of behaviour are formed.

Secondly: That society shapes law because having laid down the boundaries of what is and isn't acceptable, people agitate for changes to the law based upon their norms and expectations of behaviour.

While those two conclusions sound similar, they are subtly different and one affects the other which causes effects which then forces changes to affect to other. 

The only time that we the general public get an active say in law, is either through direct democracy when we are asked about specific questions, or at an election when we are asked who we would like to speak on behalf of us. Representative democracy albeit somewhat diluted, is the closest that we usually get in having a say about the kind of law that we want to live inside. The ballot box is about as close as we get to the art of praxis when it comes to law, that is the doing of it, as opposed to the arguing, thinking or making of it.

Should you vote? Absolutely.

I don't really care about your theories about abstaining from voting on the grounds of some glib conviction, the simple fact is that your act of not voting is by default tacit agreement with whatever the rest of the electorate has decided for you. 

Also, if you ever think that just one vote in a sea of millions cannot make much of a difference, consider the presidential election in 2000 when Al Gore narrowly lost the Electoral College vote to George W. Bush. That election came down to a recount in Florida, where George W Bush had won the popular vote by only 537 votes. Such a small margin triggered an automatic recount and a Supreme Court case (Bush v. Gore). There were 2,496,447 lazy people who preferred to stay home and eat chips or whatever it is they did; and their actions indirectly contributed to shaping two wars.

Who should you vote for? It probably should be obvious that you should vote for a candidate who will represent your views in parliament/congress/the presidency etc. and if the person who you didn't vote for gets in, in theory if they want to stay there they will need to look into the policy issues you care about if they want to keep their job. As someone who has never actually been properly represented in parliament, the question for me becomes one of what kind of views in the legislature am I looking for.

What do I look for in a candidate or a government? I actually have a very very short list of requirements; namely, who is going to run a government with the motives of being kind, just, compassionate, promoting peace and order and good governance. That actually might mean setting aside personal privileges if it happens to build up the commonwealth of the nation. 

I want to the government to protect people’s basic rights and needs. I want it to make society more fair and provide things like education, healthcare, proper justice, decent living conditions, economic protection in case of serious sickness and accident or the ravages of old age an unemployment. I want government to have the ability to protect victims from others’ irresponsible behaviour and to incentivise responsible action, to act in a kind manner and to look after the vulnerable in their distress. I want the government to be in charge exclusively of those things because private interests have no concerns for the general public except as far as they can extract fees and profits from them.

I want the government to act responsibly with the public's money and not waste it on things which cause greater inequality, corruption, militarism, selfishness, and a degraded civic culture. I like the idea of nationhood; not because of some notion of tribalism but because I see the instrument of government as being sufficiently bigger and actually better at doing some things. 

What I don't like is that the wealthy and powerful dominate government; just as they always have done and as they have been doing since the beginning of time. Most of the time, the wealthy and powerful dictate how things should be controlled; which is terrible if they are reaping super-profits through monopolies, or exacting control over what should be public goods, and more importantly degrading what should be public goods for their own private advantage. I find it utterly reprehensible for instance, that I am forced to subsidies private education which then goes on to perpetuate the attitudes which cause private advantage.

The difference between the wealthy and powerful dominating government and the general populace is that instead of the wealthy and powerful dominating government and controlling governance, ordinary people have for only 200 years have had a say as well. I like that. 

Every political issue for me, always resolves to the basic question of government kindness for the most number of people. The people who actually have the interests of the people at heart, are in fact the people. Since every big project is always a collective endeavour, I would prefer that those collective endeavours are placed into the hands of government who are answerable to the people instead of capitalism as a form of government which is really no more than socialism for the wealthy and powerful at the exclusion of the people.

If you do get the chance to vote, then you have the opportunity to get to say who gets to lay down the boundaries of what is and isn't acceptable. You also get to decide what level of government kindness might begin to be displayed. Maybe those things will always be in conflict with each other but when good people run things, everyone is glad but when the ruler is bad, everyone groans. Leadership gains authority and respect when the voiceless poor are treated fairly. 

September 30, 2020

Horse 2762 - There Are No Dumb Questions? Untrue - Here Are Fifteen

 1. Is it possible to drown a table?

If you threw a table into a lake, then most of the time it would sink. If you were to wait just one minute, you would find out that not only is the table not breathing but also it can not save itself. Yes, it would be drowned.

2. Do fish actually like swimming?

I am sure that they do. I for one like the fact that I have been breathing for more than 40 years. Since I am not aware of what the alternative feels like, then I will have to suggest that I like being alive. I think that it would be similar for fish.

3. Should jujitsu be compulsory for recovering librarians or would they be better off learning the clarinet?

Librarians are like dragons in that they are in charge of a hoard of things; except those things happen to be books and they happen to be available to the public. Someone who is a recovering librarian still has tendencies to hoard things and so I would suggest that they take up jujitsu as a way of defending themselves and whatever their next hoard happens to be.

4. Who would have been the better Formula One driver: Composer, Bedric Smittner or Painter, Tinteretto? 

This would largely depend on who they were driving for. However, given that the most famous painter of all time (Adolf Hitler) instigated the funding of both the Mercedes Benz and Auto Union racing teams, then Tinteretto would probably be better.

5. Do snakes have lungs?

Yes; obviously.

6. Is blinking overrated?

I don't believe in magic. Blinking is automatic.

7. What is all the fuss about cushions?

Somewhere down the barrel of the cannon of our minds, is the idea that a cushion might be used to seat a great crown of state or perhaps some other piece of finery. Our minds might very well be like a cannon in that we're always shooting them off with a great deal of pomp and circumstance but I do not think that we can all be collectively wrong about cushions. They are fine things; which hint at luxury.

8. Carrots or Tennis?

Carrots are a food which is actively enjoyed by nobody. Tennis is a sport which is actively enjoyed by nobody. People will profess to enjoy carrots and/or tennis but that is because they are part of the conspiracy. 

Since this is a question of which is the lesser of two things that aren't actually evil, then we need to frame the question around the thought experiment of which one would be missed by the least amount of people if it were to cease to exist. Tennis is terrible and achieves nothing but carrots are edible and can be put into salads, cakes, pies, casseroles etc.

The answer is objectively carrots.

9. What's going on within the next hour?

The sun will spew out so much heat and light that it would make your mind explode if you actually could comprehend that number. There are so many electrons whizzing around protons and neutrons on planet Earth that we do not have a name for anything close to that kind of number (or maybe we do). Chemistry is happening. Physics is happening. History is happening. Maths, Arts, Politics, and the entirety of current human endeavour is happening. 

10. Who is Max Clearance and when will Bill Posters be prosecuted?

Max Clearance is a goods trader who is as dodgy as all get out. He's a little bit wahey and a little bit whoa; and a lot of what he has to sell has "fallen off the back of a truck".

Bill Posters is a shifty character who despite frequent attempts by law enforcement agencies, has never been caught. At this point, the statement that Bill Posters will be prosecuted is more of a cry for help than a statement of intent.

11. What happens if you drink too much Red Bull?

The clue is in their marketing propaganda, in that "Red Bull gives you wings." People who have drunk excessive amounts of Red Bull have been known to spontaneously generate wings and then after having never learned how to use or control them, end up crashing into the ground and objects. Death by flying accident as a result of drinking too much Red Bull, is not statistically insignificant.

12. How should I go about creating an absolute despotism with me in charge?

Probably the first thing that you need to do is either join and existing political party or form one of your own, to win whatever democratic process currently exists.

Then you need to find some suitable target to become an other, to galvanise your political base behind you. Once you've established your acceptable target, then present a bunch of problems which you claim that only you can solve (it need not matter if you actually caused the problems). 

Then you need to invent some kind of emergency or other existential crisis so that the democratic process will voluntarily (or perhaps involuntarily if you have already manipulated your base into the majority) assign you power. Then after having obtained control, all you need to do is assign yourself your new title.

13. Is pineapple on a pizza a war crime?

No.

Pineapple on a pizza is a crime against sanity and against common decency but it isn't quite a crime against humanity. People are allowed to like what they like; including if what they like happens to be strange and weird.

14. War - huh - yeah. What is it good for?

a - filling up history books

b - fast forwarding technological advancement

c - killing loads of people who have have families, and destroying the lives of millions. Okay, that's not actually good in the sense of being morally virtuous or even producing happiness but it is good in the sense that that is the transaction which takes place, as in a passout is good for a return entry into the venue.

15. Stop staring at my beans.

That's not actually a question but the answer is still 'no'. Those there are some very very fine looking beans and nobody can help themselves. Everyone in the world is compelled to stare at your beans because they are so attractive. 

September 29, 2020

Horse 2761 - The US Supreme Court Was Always Conservative

 Due to the fact that we are saturated in American media and news and because the United States has been the most powerful country in the Anglosphere since at least before 1945, we are awash with news in Australia to do with the appointment of an appointment of a new justice to the United States Supreme Court; despite them have zero relevance to Australian law. I would go so has as to say that more people in Australia know that the United States Supreme Court has 9 members, than would know what the highest court in the Australian court hierarchy is called; much less how many members it has¹

The other thing that I do not understand, is why people are suddenly concerned with the appointment of a conservative judge to the United States Supreme Court; in the light of it almost always being a majority conservative institution.

As far as I can make out, the reasons why anyone would vote for Donald Trump at all are because of his promises to shake up Washington from the outside (which has now been proven to be completely wrong), or because they genuinely hated Hilary Clinton (which given the propagandandising by media outlets like Fox and Breitbart might very well be true), or most likely because they are prepared to make a weird kind of Faustian Bargain which thus far has also included more deaths than all wars since WW2 combined for the sole purpose of having Mr Trump make some Supreme Court nominations.

This is of course the long game that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been trying to play for for the last four years. He successfully used the rules of the US Constitution which say that the President can only appoint judges on the advice and consent of the Senate; which he withheld from the then President Barack Obama. Since then he has got two Supreme Court nominations through and with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that opens up a vacancy for another. 

Nominally that places the inherent bias of the court at 6-3 and locks that kind of advantage in until well after McConnell will have died himself.

However what everyone seems to have forgotten is that not only has the court been nominally conservative since before the memories of everyone's currently alive but those same conservative courts have sometimes moved very quickly indeed.

The landmark case of Roe v Wade in 1973 was passed 7-2 in a nominally conservative court which had a bias of 6-3. That meant for the case to have passed, four judges needed to flip. This is the stirling piece of propaganda which has persisted ever since - that no matter what kind of awful legislation that has been brought through, which includes Reagan's union smashing agenda, the magic words of "Abortion!" and "Gay Marriage!" have been yelled at increasingly stupid and compliant church, for the sole purpose of collecting votes. Just as long as conservatives have the ability to yell those magic words of "Abortion!" and "Gay Marriage!" they can continue to do all kinds of beastly things, including taking the United States to wars on the basis of lies. All the while, the courts have always held the ability to overturn Roe v Wade because the numbers on the Supreme Court have always been there.

Elections are almost never won upon the basis of record. Elections are won upon the expectation of promises that can be kept. That means to say that that it is actually an advantage for conservatives to not repeal Roe v Wade because by keeping it on the books, they have a perpetual symbol that they can rail against. If it was to be repealed, then they lose their symbol and one of their magic words. This is almost certainly the reason why despite being in the majority of the Supreme Court for the entirety of the time since 1973, Roe v Wade hasn't been repealed; even though it could have actually been repealed at any time. 

Essentially it is a giant shell game with the American people being taken for a rube. By yelling "Abortion!", "Gay Marriage!", "Prayer in schools!", things like education have been able to be defunded and gutted, health care has never been extended as a right, obvious racism and violence against people on the basis of the colour of their skin has been allowed to continue with little to no consequence, and the really big commercial interests have been allowed to what they want because everyone else is perpetually distracted².

As Supreme Court appointments are for life, then Mitch McConnell is basically giving his patrons and benefactors a present which perpetuates the advantages that they have either bought for themselves or stolen; and he does so for a very long time. That is the other side of the Faustian Bargain that people have bought into and the genius of Mitch McConnell, the Republican Party, and conservatism generally, has been how to get ordinary people to vote against their own interests for so long.

Even now as America passes the 200,000 death mark due to COVID-19, which is more than all of wars combined since World War II, it still doesn't have universal healthcare. Even as the economy implodes and not only are people losing their jobs but the jobs that they are going back to have the lowest real wages since 1977, America still doesn't have basic wage conditions like holiday pay and sick pay for many industries. Even though the pandemic doesn't care about race or religion, America still has people being murdered by the police and those murders being excused by the judiciary.

These things aren't by accident but by design. It is worth remembering that the current age of conservatism in the United States and the enmeshing of the Republican Party and evangelical voters, was first framed in response to a university getting its tax exempt status removed because it still pursued segregationist policies. Donald Trump isn't some genius political operator, it's just that he quite rightly saw that he could manipulate the electorate just as easily as the Republican Party has done; then after winning office with literally no agenda, he has been useful to the architecture of conservatism.

¹The High Court of Australia has seven members: Kiefel, Bell, Gageler, Keane, Nettle, Gordon, Edelman.

²Installing a reality TV star as the President, has been a tremendous distraction while Congress has gone about its existing agenda almost unchecked.


September 24, 2020

Horse 2760 - Darkness at Noon: Who Actually Runs The Troll/Bots?

 Australia is in the midst of a propaganda war which is being fought in places like Facebook and Twitter. In an age of universal connectivity where everyone has access to virtually everything all of the time, I find the distinct lack of curiosity from people to properly investigate even the most obviously stupid of claims, to be singularly disappointing.

Bothering to do basic research is a small amount of work and as people and politics follow Newton's First Law of Motion (things are lazy and keep on doing what they are already doing until a massive enough force stops them or makes them do something else), then they will continue on their merry little way.

One of these little battles took place on the fields of the Sydney Morning Herald. ABC1's Media Watch did a longer form piece on this.

https://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/episodes/polls/12662916

Buy Twitter Poll Votes will deliver you 15,000 bot votes for US$495 and 20,000 for US$660, at which prices The Age poll could have been gamed for around 2000 bucks.  

So who would have done that? Well, we have no way of knowing and we’re not pointing the finger. 

- Media Watch, ABC1, 14th Sep 2020.

What the Media Watch article didn't do was analyse the whyfor. They know where the lines of news reportage are, rather than editorialising and speculating like second-level yelling from the peanut gallery which is what I can do (because I don't actually go out and gather the news).

I think that we need to remember the principle motivation of Hunter (also on the ABC in the 1980s):

He's on his bike or in his den,
He's always looking around and then,
He's asking:
What? Why? Where? and When? 

Again, this requires a modicum of curiosity and that same basic desire to see what is hiding behind the curtain. Perhaps we can chase away the spectre of oh so many years ago with a little illumination.

Let's play this game as though it were a crime novel. We have the body (the manipulated polls), we have the means (via some organised troll/bot service which someone has paid for and/or operates; which if you go looking, often has the Twitter handle of xxxx-kkkkkkkk where x is some name and k is a string of eight numbers and always eight numbers); all we need to do is find out who has the biggest motive. If you can establish opportunity, means, and motive, then you can make a pretty good guess as to whom you might suspect.

This is someone who obviously is interested enough to manipulate a Twitter poll which makes the ABC look bad. This is also someone who is probably capable of writing this off as a business expense because I do not see what kind of benefit that a private individual would have in manipulating a Twitter poll if it cost them good money. It is most likely to be someone in Australia because there isn't a good enough reason why a foreign actor would want to manipulate a Twitter poll which relates to the attitude of the Australian public to the national broadcaster. 

The only entities which I can think of which would care enough to do this are News Corp, the IPA, and the Liberal/National Party.

Under cover of COVID-19 which has been used by the Morrison Government as an excuse to ideologically slash budgets and staff from the ABC, universities, the CSIRO, and any other government organisation which dares speak against their owners, an equally insipid information and propaganda war is currently being fought. Although there has been a cover story of Russia or perhaps China interfering in domestic politics in Australia, the more likely story is that these are paid entities in places with access to the internet and who are being funded from within rather than without. I think it a more credible story that the IPA especially which as a registered not for profit organisation which never gets investigated, is responsible since they have the biggest motive for bringing down Australian Government departments which they don't like, more than anyone else.

The IPA already falls neatly under the letter of the law as a terrorist organisation, per the acts which were passed by the Howard Government at the dawn of this century but have as far as I know, never even once been investigated for same.

What possible motives do the Russians have for giving a passing thought about Australia? What of China? They don't gain anything of value that I can see for interfering with Australian Government departments. This looks to me like a classic shell game, where there is misdirection going on via sleight of hand.

If you look at the broad political ideology of the troll/bots, they all appear to be operating from the same side of politics. If the game is one of massive amounts of instability in all directions then you should expect to see troll/bots from various positions attacking from multiple angles but I just do not see that there is evidence of this. They all seem to be operating from the same set of neoconservative talking points and also use that same limited vocabulary set. If you poke a bear with different kinds of pointed sticks, then you should expect to get different kinds of growls but there just aren't any. 

Where are the pro-China troll/bots? I would expect to see plenty of those if China was actually engaged in fighting a propaganda war in Australia. And if they are the ones in charge, why are they all in favour of the Liberal Party? Surely they'd want to support the leftist politics of Labor? What possible motivation does Russia have?

Especially at the moment when China has supposedly signed up the state of Victoria to their 'belt and road' scheme, surely we should expect pro-Andrews troll/bots to be defending him? Moreover, why are they only going after Andrews and Palaszczuk? It wouldn't be because they are both Labor Premiers, would it?

I will admit at this point that I don't really have any other suspects because I just don't see what anyone else gets out of waging such a campaign. I suppose that could equally be a failure of imagination on my part but Occam's Razor is pretty sharp and I'm very quickly running out of things to cut out. 

I will also be curious to see what kind of response this gets because that's also extra evidence of a sort. 

September 22, 2020

Horse 2759 - In Defence Of Multi-Party Parliamentary Systems

I write this for an audience which I know spans at least four continents and I do so, writing from the jurisdiction which has the longest continuously sitting parliament in the world (NSW). Right from the get go, I need to declare that I like the system of government that we have in Australia and I think that it is among the best in the world. I also happen to think that we have some utterly terrible corruption in the political parties but that's not actually the fault of the parliaments themselves.

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Matt Whitman of the Ten Minute Bible Hour Youtube channel among other things¹, came up with what I think is an excellent suggestion:

Idea for making things better: If someone is on the ballot in all 50 states, they should participate in the presidential debates whether I like their ideas or not. This would force us (voters) to engage in full-spectrum thought instead of simplistic 1 and 0 thought.

- Matt Whitman on Twitter, 19th Sep 2020.

The reason why I think that this is an excellent suggestion is that as with so many things in life, the world is far more complex than most of us have the ability to imagine and so when you arrive at a particular position, it is usually because of an equally complex process of thought, which is influenced by myriad factors. When it comes to electing someone for a position in which the executive of a nation is singularly vested, then that process should demand a complex process of thought; and the only way that such a process can happen is if there is an complex process of inputs from which the electorate has the ability to make such thoughts.

Of course, as we live in a world which is run by powerful people who have vested interests in making people not think at all, then the forces that be, do not want the status quo to change. If you can make the voters engage in really dumb thought, then its like combining a positive simplistic 1 and a negative simplistic 1. Simple maths tells us that +1 -1 = 0. 

There was a really curious reply to this, which looked at the pragmatic outcomes of this:

No, they really shouldn't be. Getting on the ballot is strictly a $$ issue. People would start buying their way into the national spotlight. The 2 party system has its flaws, but it's infinitely better than parliamentary systems. The parties are basically single-issue lobbyists.

- Dominic on Twitter, 19th Sep 2020.

I think that this is flawed but nonetheless completely valid. His warning about people buying their way into the national spotlight is arguably what the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave did; however that was enabled precisely because of the political machines which form the two party system in America. All of this made me want to pull apart the ideas here. I tend to look at the Anglosphere because these are the parliaments that I am most familiar with (being an Anglophone).

You have to be really careful when you talk about what the two party system actually is. In the contexts of the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand etc. the parliaments themselves are really quite indifferent and agnostic when it comes to the flavour of the people that sit in the seats. In the case of the United Kingdom and New Zealand, there isn't even a formal constitution; so whatever conception that exists surrounding the political parties, must exist from the outside. In the case of the United States and Australia which do have written constitutions, those constitutions are completely silent on the subject; mostly because at the time of inception of those countries, no formal political parties either existed or had a sufficiently large enough hold over the game of politics that they needed to be mentioned.

All of this should lead us to a rather obvious question; namely would the various parliaments operate without any political parties? In the cases of the United States, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand, the answer is 'yes'. Those countries proved that having no political parties is no impediment whatsoever to the functioning of government. 

Representative parliamentary democracy (which is what all of these countries have in common) fills up the seats in the parliaments and the executive, on an electoral basis which is actually independent of the political parties. The people who fill those seats can in fact come from a party, no party, or perhaps a formal melding of parties. 

The two party system if it is in fact to be considered as a thing, needs to be viewed through the lens of cold reality and not the gamification of politics that everyone in the grandstands has made it. The rules of the game itself need to be examined.

There are in fact only two conditions which happen after an election. Either you win the seat, or you do not. When the music stops, you either have a seat, or you do not. 

As there are only two possible conditions, then you should expect that interested parties will organise themselves in order to win those seats. In an Australian House of Representatives seat, unless the seat is as safe as houses, then you can end up with loads of various groups competing for those seats. The rules which determine how those seats are allocated will naturally determine how many different kinds of voices occupy those seats; we will come back to that later.

Once the various seats have been filled, there are in fact only two conditions which happen. Governments and majorities are formed out of the majority of members in the room (this also applies to the office of the President where the number of seats in the room is 1). There are only two possible condition. Either you are in the majority, or not. You are either in the government, which is formed out of the majority of members, or you are not. 

If you go back to the rules which govern how those seats and majorities are formed, there are no explicit rules at all. If there was a truly partiless parliament, then that majority of seats would need to be formed whenever any piece of legislation was deliberated upon. That process exists. In Westminster Parliaments, that process is called a 'division' and there is always a mad dash of people running through the building to appear on the floors of the various parliaments whenever this happens. Depending on the jurisdiction in the United States, this is often known as the less pretentious name of a 'vote'. 

Yet again for pieces of legislation, there are only two possible conditions. Either the legislation is passed with an 'aye' or a 'yay', or not.

This is important to bear in mind here. The parliaments themselves don't care about what kind of political parties are used to load up the seats with. The constitutions also don't care about what kind of arguments happen in the process of hammering legislation into shape. All of this is political overlay; which actually sits outside of the rules of parliaments.

The reason why Australia, New Zealand, and Germany, have more voices which speak into those parliaments, is to do with the rules under which members of their parliaments are selected. 

Political scientist Maurice Duverger noted that Single Member Districts tended towards two party politics; this is known as Duverger's Law. Australia, New Zealand, and Germany, have elements in their selection processes for members which elect multiple members at once. Where you have proportional representation, the various seats are allocated on a proportional basis of the number of votes that someone has won². Australia also operates with preferential voting which means that someone's vote in the ballot box is transferred if their favoured candidate fails to garner enough votes. That means that for Australia at least, every member of the House of Representatives has been elected with at least 50% of the votes, and in the places with proportional representation they have all been elected with an appropriate quota of votes.

Australia, New Zealand, and Germany, all have a plurality of voices speaking into the chambers and that is a function of the vote counting process which puts the members there.

None of this actually addresses the central question of whether or not a two party system is a good idea. That I fear is a matter of opinion; which is very much subject to your own personal biases. I personally think that having lots of different voices speaking into parliaments is a far better idea than voting systems which narrow the kinds of discussions which can be had, and I also think that having big party machines which gamify the political process for mostly private purposes, is itself quite terrible. 

There is also one issue that I personally find quite appalling; which is split into two parts:

A political party apart from representing a narrower range of interests that presumably everyone has to sign up for, invariably will have some kind of party discipline system which ensures that people all vote the same way. If an individual dares to think too far outside of the party's intellectual box, they may find themselves disendorsed by the party. That means that matters of conscience and matters of singular harm, can be completely trampled by the big party machines. 

I also wonder if in fact, the two party system is genuinely real. In the United States, the Republican Party has had recent factions such as the Tea Party, the Freedom Caucus, and Donald Trump. This means that instead of being wrangled on the floor of parliaments, legislation is more likely to be wrangled and hammered out in secret. I do not think that this is good for transparency of democracy. In Australia, New Zealand, and Germany, where we you have parties in coalition to form government and parties who are not in the government but who hold the balance of power and the necessary wedge votes within parliaments, then you get open dissent on the floors of parliaments to legislation and the necessary discussion which happens, is a matter of public record. 

All of this brings me one of the reasons why I think that multi-party parliamentary systems and in particular the ones in Australia, New Zealand and Germany are better than the United States or the United Kingdom. 

Even despite single issue parties, or rather precisely because of them, there is more full-spectrum thought instead of simplistic 1 and 0 thought. There have been parties and politicians in Australia which I have found to be utterly repugnant and repulsive but I still think that their ideas should be aired in public to at least give us the chance to test those ideas and make our choices. Also, by having those different voices, the end results of legislation are also not 1 or 0 but tend towards more compromise and negotiation. 

I think that we are better off for it and still flawed anyway.

Also the No Dumb Questions podcast. 

September 20, 2020

Horse 2758 - Trump's Pick For The Next Supreme Court Justice Is 100% Legally Fine And The System Is Working As Intended

The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has meant that the United States Supreme Court now has a vacancy that needs to be filled. Had this happened in 1960 when Eisenhower was still President, or perhaps in 1968 when LBJ was President, then very few people would have given what should be a fairly boring and non-partisan appointment, any thought at all. Since about 1980 though, and especially since 2008 when US politics has fallen into an incandescent apoplectic rage about nearly everything, this appointment has become as much in the spirit of rage and vengeance as the rest of politics.

A great deal of this has to do with the weaponisation of identity politics in about 2008 and about ten seconds after Barack Obama became the nominee for the President. Since then we've seen the Tea Party movement morph into a weird kind of nativist nationalist movement with circus ringleader and showman Donald Trump as its media star. Mr Trump who is applauded for 'saying what he thinks', very often says things which are outright racist and look like the same kinds of things said by the fascists actions Europe in the 1920s. 

The people who voted for Donald Trump certainly didn't vote for his ability to manage government and they have been duly rewarded by his complete inability to manage government. In fact, even though we are almost four years into his presidency, there are still more than 2000 positions within US Federal Government departments which should have been filled but still lie vacant. That means that people who should be running the day to day operations of those government departments are now required by law to make policy decisions and report to the various Secretaries. That explains why departments like the US Department of Health and Homeland Security have been woefully inside at doing basic functions that should have been vitally necessary in the face of a pandemic.

The people who like to cheer on small government have ultimately helped to cause unnecessary deaths in the United States due to COVID-19 and the election of Donald Trump, was a factor in that.

The overwhelming response as to why people voted for Donald Trump, wasn't his ability to run an administration but rather because he would be the who would get the Supreme Court nominations when they arose. Following the death Justice Antonin Scalia four years ago, Mitch McConnell as the Leader of the Senate, made it abundantly clear that he was not going to allow President Obama to get any of his nominations past the Senate and ran the line that that should be for the next President whoever that might be to get their nomination passed. That should be viewed in the light of political malice and given the tilt that we have seen by this current administration to almost outright racist fascism, that should have probably been expected.

McConnell:

https://www.mcconnell.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/pressreleases?ID=A3B740CE-F80C-4842-B656-11A1154B55D0

“It’s clear that concern over confirming Supreme Court nominations made near the end of a presidential term is not new. Given that we are in the midst of the presidential election process, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and I believe that it is today the American people who are best-positioned to help make this important decision — rather than a lame-duck president whose priorities and policies they just rejected in the most-recent national election."

- McConnell Statement on the Passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, 22nd Feb 2016

This time around though, the rules that applied when prosecuting one's enemies simply do not apply to one's friends. 

Normally this kind of thing would be the stuff of hypocrisy but if someone never had a moral compass to begin with, then it is a logical thing to suggest that they have defied it? Donald Trump appears to view everything through the lens of how much something benefits Donald Trump; Mitch McConnell as the defacto creator of policy, doesn't quite have that same purity of purpose but he does view things through the lens of how much something benefits his supporters, including if that thing causes harm and expense to normal people.

Also McConnell:

https://www.mcconnell.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/pressreleases?ID=825034E2-7DDD-4559-B883-12E434F73B25

By contrast, Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise.

President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.

- McConnell Statement on the Passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 18th Sep 2020

Four years and a change in circumstances might make this look like rank hypocrisy but when you consider that the underlying motivation here is pure malice which has been enabled and dare I say is part of the design of the way that the three ring circus of the United States Government is put together, it should be expected.

And yet this was the prize which people voted for. Article 2, Section 2 contains the following clauses:

https://constitution.congress.gov/browse/article-2/section-2/

He (the President) shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States

As only a third of the Senate is voted for in any two year phase, then the Senate in 2016 had an almost zero percent chance of flipping to a Democratic held house. Since it is the Senate who gets to confirm the choice of the President, and the President in this case had zero skill in running an administration, then the Senate could line up whoever they wanted to and the disinterested President would rubber stamp their decision. All that was needed to enable that situation, was to convince the American public to burn the White House to the ground in order to win the Supreme Court for a generation.

It is worth remembering that the United States as a nation was started in response to the punitive measures taken by the British Government against the 13 colonies, partly as a way of funding the loss making venture that was those 13 colonies and making them contribute to their own upkeep, and partly in response to wanting to retain the right to keep slavery (which was abolished at Common Law in England in 1777, and by statute in varying degrees in 1804 and 1830). The American Revolution was in part about selling a myth to the American people, with the underlying motivation of retaining private advantage. Arguably, the Constitution reflects that; hence why it has produced results retaining private advantage except for moments when the public consciousness has fought back. The 2016 election was also about selling a myth to the American people; some of whom have bought into it with a similar cult of personality for Mr Trump that followed Mr Washington.

The US Constitution is mostly the design of the architecture laid out by James Madison (who would himself later become President) and Alexander Hamilton, the latter of whom was a serial philander and who successfully managed to get himself killed in a duel after the Vice President Aaron Burr shot him. To be honest, I do not think that either Madison or Hamilton thought through the consequences of the form of government that they'd invented; after being captivated with a kind of reverence for George Washington. The whole design of the United States Constitution shows a tremendous amount of naivety about human nature; especially when the so-called checks and balances which were built into the system can be overcome entirely by gaming out the mechanics of how it works. Everyone since the beginning of time is to some degree terrible and designing the system to bake in that terribleness for longer than the term of someone's political career is in my not very well paid opinion, proof positive that the US Constitution in so many ways is fundamentally broken and idiotic.

At this point in time and even so late in the election cycle, Trump's pick for the next Justice of the Supreme Court is in fact what the people voted for, four years ago. In this case the system is working as intended; it's just that when you have a Senate which has gamed the system and a President who always had zero  ability to run an administration, this is the expected outcome.

September 18, 2020

Horse 2757 - The Most Essential Essential Workers

 All the way back at the beginning of the pandemic, the Prime Minister (Scott Morrison) when questioned about what an 'essential worker' was said that "If you've got a job, then you are an essential worker." As someone who travels 88km to get to and from work every day, I get to look out of the train window and see for myself that the world is a complex place and that it is best to think about the kosmos as one massive swirly thing with parts that all work together. It seems to me though that there probably are some workers which actually are more 'essential' than others and as I read articles in the news that more people are being laid off and no longer fit the Prime Minister's (Scott Morrison) definition of what an 'essential worker' is, I can't help but feel that it sounds a little bit cruel.

As someone who is way way left of centre on the economic spectrum, I tend to look at everyone in the economy as those mythical creatures which are called households; who are responsible for buying things and in doing so, they are the most essential things which keep the wheels of the economy spinning. Back in 1929 everyone got really sad and stopped spending money, which meant that when they weren't buying stuff, that money didn't flow to firms who also didn't buy stuff and in turn didn't employ people to make the stuff. When everyone gets sad all at once and everyone stops buying stuff, it is called a depression.

If you were to strip back the economy to just the barest of wheels, then you find out essentially who are the essential 'essential workers' and in essence find out who you can really strip away. I do not think that there are really that many kinds of workers in the economy and this is the essential list:

1. Scientists

Scientists are the first people to do anything. They are the ones who by invention and experiment, work out how to make stuff and how the world works. 

2. Engineers

Engineers are the people who build stuff. They are the ones who come after the scientists and physically build the systems and the infrastructure which makes the world run.

3. Technicians

These are the people who come along after the engineers and they make sure that the systems and the infrastructure runs properly. 

4. Operators

These are the people who operate the machinery of the economy which actually makes the stuff that the economy has to sell. These are the people who do most of the real work in the economy.

5. Artists

These are the people who become skilled at operating the stuff in the world and make it pretty and beautiful. Artists are also employed to give form to the stuff that is being produced.

6. Recorders

These are the people who keep the records of what has been done. These are the people who you talk to if you want to plan for the future because unless you are flying a plane, every task and every decision is essentially flying backwards; based upon whatever happened before.

7. Rulemakers

These are the people who look at what's happened and decide upon the common rules that everyone will play together with. 

8. Managers

These are the people who direct others to do stuff. Management is about arranging all of the things so that whatever it is can continue.

End of list!

Literally everyone in the world who has a job can be classified according to these eight categories. If you can think of anything else then I'd like to know about it but speaking with the mindset of an engineer (I built the list), I reduced this to the fewest number of components.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, then what it has taught us is that the people who are essentially the most essential, are the operatives and the technicians. If literally everyone else in the world instantly lost their job, then these are the people who would keep the world turning. Admittedly it would be frightfully unpleasant but that's to be expected when you strip away everything to the fewest number of components. 

The real irony is that the economy hasn't been designed by the scientists who would have found new ways to do things, nor the engineers who build the systems, nor the technicians who run the systems, nor the operatives who build and make the things, nor the artists who would have made society prettier and more beautiful, nor the recorders because they can not design anything, but by the rulemakers and the managers. The sad thing is that the rulemakers and the managers largely got to those positions because they made the rules which got them there and then managed the economy to keep them there.

The poor dum-dums who actually make stuff and do the vast majority of the work in the economy are paid the fewest rewards for doing so. If they were the ones who actually stopped working, then the whole kosmos would stop spinning, everyone would stop buying stuff and when everyone gets sad all at once and everyone stops buying stuff, it is called a depression.

However what we've seen during the pandemic is that the government for its part wants to defund the scientists, some of the engineers, pay the technicians and the operators even less, destroy the artists, destroy government recorders, and then destroy the teaching capabilities of all these people; then give even more rewards of the economy to the rulemakers and the managers. I'd argue that the people in those last two categories just stayed home and did nothing all day, most of the economy would be none the wiser. I find it also cruel that when faced with the pandemic and the possibility that the disease might kill people, they're quite happy to let the technicians and the operators face the risk; while they stay home anyway. 

September 16, 2020

Horse 2756 - Let The Kids Have Their High School Formal

 2020 is a year which is unprecedented in the amount of hyperbole which has been thrown around and unprecedented in the amount of use that the word "unprecedented" has gotten. When you shine the smallest light of scrutiny upon how unprecedented this is, it ceases to be unprecedented and just looks like another thing that has happened many times over. I can't help but feel that if you look at the cholera pandemics of the 1880s, the typhoid and tuberculosis pandemics of the 1890s, and the 1918-20 Pneumonic Influenza Pandemic, then what we are currently going through is not really unprecedented but just a current failure of people to remember the past.

Someone wiser than me once said that those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it but for so much of history, the actual ability to remember the past is impossible because people who are living were not there. For instance, there will be people voting in the United States elections this year for whom it is impossible to remember what the events of September 11 2001 were like to witness because they weren't alive at the time. Likewise, although we can read about the past and perhaps learn something about it from those people who have left a record, when it comes to remembering it, then it is literally impossible. There must be very few people indeed, on the whole entire planet who can actually remember the 1918-20 Pneumonic Influenza Pandemic and I suspect that there would be nobody who is currently living on the planet who has a birthday in the 1800s.

As yet another reminder that we are living through something which very few people alive can remember, we are seeing the same kinds of protests, demonstrations and reactions to public health orders that the newspapers wrote about a hundred years ago. 

I was privy to one of these demonstrations this week; which happened outside of the Mosman Town Hall by parents and students from a high school in Mosman, who I later found out were arguing that the Year 12 Formal should go ahead; despite and possibly in spite of the enduring pandemic.

From what I understand, I think that they were arguing in favour of holding the Year 12 Formal outside; on Mosman Oval. In principle this sounds like a sensible idea because if this pandemic is spread by droplet transmission and putting physical space between people is excellent in mitigating the risk, then holding an event outside is a good idea. I am actually surprised that more institutions like churches and movie houses haven't moved outside because not only do maximum occupancy limits increase massively when moved outside but the basic science suggests that moving outside to the best kind of ventilated area, massively reduces the risk of community transmission. This was the most widely used solution to the problem of holding events during the 1918-20 Pneumonic Influenza Pandemic.

After the rabble had cleared out, we then had some ex-rabblers appear at our door because they wanted to have their tax returns done. Mr Seventeen and his mate Mr Eighteen arrived at our offices as cold callers, having shown some initiative and while I was quite frankly shocked to find out that Mr Seventeen had derived more than six figures of income as part of a tax minimisation strategy by his family, there's nothing illegal about that. 

The thing that I find really really odd was Mr Seventeen wanted to get his dad to leverage Mosman Council into allowing the Year 12 Formal to go ahead on Mosman Oval. I do not know how much leverage that his dad has with the council but it is certainly worth a try.

As the formal is proposed to be held on the oval, which is outside, then the chances of COVID-19 transmission are significantly lower than if they were inside. We know that the COVID-19 virus is primarily spread from person to person through respiratory droplets released into the air when talking, coughing, or sneezing. This means that people in confined spaces such as nursing homes and cruise ships are particularly susceptible to community transmission. If you are outside though, fresh air is constantly moving, which disperses the droplets; so that means that you are far less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected.

While I could write some piece about how there are multiple Australias and how this and indeed every pandemic affects poorer people in a more pronounced manner, I can't help but feel a sense of loss for the kids of Year 12 2020; irrespective of what economic class they come from. The pandemic doesn't care about class; nor does it discriminate against whom it chooses to visit. The fact that halls and venues all over the world have been closed as a sensible response to this public health crisis, is not only inconvenient but quite sad.

I personally can not relate to what the loss of a Year 12 Formal is like because I never went to mine. I have no idea what the asking price was but as my dad had been made redundant in the recession of the 1990s, the the Year 12 Formal was a luxury to which I was never going to be a part of. 

However, for kids who were expecting to go to their Year 12 Formal; especially in a year which has been so incredibly disrupted and disturbed, this must be heartbreaking for them. In a lot of cases, the Year 12 Formal marks possibly the last time that they will ever see some of their fellow classmates and when you already have raging hormones on top of an anxiety producing set of circumstances, this must be just awful. For them to miss out on an experience with the only people who went through the thing together, is a cruel twist of fate. 

I find myself hoping that the council will yield to their requests because just as I do not think that people deserve a lot of what they have got but should be thankful that they have won the lottery of life, I also think that people do not deserve a lot of what they get when that same lottery declares all entries to be void. In other words, just because life happens to have dealt you a better hand, doesn't therefore mean that you somehow deserve bad things happening to you more. There is no moral through line here. 

I hope that the kids of Mosman do get to hold their high school formal out on the oval if that means that it is able to go ahead. I can see how fancy clothes and terrible shoes out on the grass might make dancing difficult and I can imagine the kind of stink that the neighbours will kick up over having loud music play into the summer night but in a year which is so disrupted, a little bit more disruption isn't going to hurt. Let the kids have their high school formal on the oval. 2020 is already weird; it doesn't need to be cruel as well.