September 30, 2010

Horse 1111 - When we have to say Goodbye

It is always hard to say goodbye to a loved one, even if that loved one happens to be 12 feet long and weighs 1800lbs.

The weekend just been saw me take the dreaded last drive to take my little Ford Ka to the great big highway in the sky (well actually the local wreckers yard), and although it isn't sensible or logical that a grown man should cry over the loss of what is essentially nothing more than an four wheel econobox, it does raise the question "why do we love our cars so much?"

I bought my little red Ka in 2001, which means that I've spent nine years with her. We've been over many many dirt roads and on tracks which are supposedly impassable to anything but big SUVs. Secretly we laughed at drivers of faux-wheel-drives like the BMW X5 and the Volvo XC90, who gag at the thought of getting dirt on their precious paintwork. Believe me, one of the most satisfying things you can to do is to overtake an SUV on a dirt road and flash past at 130km/h whilst they struggle to cope with dust getting in through the windows. For goodness sake people it's the "great outdoors", by definition you need to be outdoors to be in the "great outdoors".

When you think about it, nine years is a long time; it's even longer than I've had some cats and dogs for. When you punt a car through peak hour traffic for two hours every day, five days a week, and probably the same amount of time at weekends for fun, it means that you've probably spent more time with your car, than even your drinking partners down at the local pub; just like being at the local pub, you still need to be aware of the troublemakers, the people singing too loudly and people who barge their way in front of you.
Most of us tend to dislike sitting in traffic for extended periods of time, but since I've been forced to take public transport again, I've again come to realise what an understated joy sitting in traffic actually is. On the train or the bus, there are people with their pod-machines playing their repetitive music far too loudly, other people who smell like they haven't had a wash since 1963, and worst of all there are those people who spill out of the seat they happen to be sitting on and into yours, which squeezes you towards the windows and ever closer to the inevitable smear of grubby head funk that some other weary traveller has left behind.
In your own private commuting space, you can play your own music, make your own smells, eat and drink anything you want to and throw the wrappers on the floor, all without some transit inspector telling you off. If it gets too hot you can either put on your own private AC or perhaps wind the windows down.

Owning a car for any length of time is rather like owning a pair of boots; especially if you bought it new. Every driver leaves their unique imprint in the clutch in rather the same way as your feet over time shape the very insides of the boots. Just like an old pair of boots feels snug and comfy to wear in a way that no new pair can, the longer you own a car, the more comfortable it becomes.
It is true to say that the longer you own any car for, the more familiar you are with its little idiosyncrasies. Moreover you also become aware of when the car feels "wrong" and you instinctively know when things need to be repaired. For the true car nuts out there this may spill over into the realms of obsession and there even are a few strange people to actually like to make repairs on their cars for fun.

Also, because of the fact that your car is the face you present to other road users, it becomes part of your identity. People actually get to know your comings and goings because of the car you drive. I think that it's not only fair to say that the kind of car the someone would choose for themselves is a reflection of their ego but that on the road it actually becomes an extension of one's ego.
From the music you have blaring from the stereo, to the way you drive through traffic be it aggressive, passive or whatever, your little metal ego-bubble is the only thing which other road users see. They do not refer to you by name or even by licence plate, but "that silver Golf" or "the idiot in that yellow sports car". If you were drive like a maniac down a stretch of road and then get out of one car and jump into an entirely different one, other road users aren't instantly going to be nasty to you because they will simply be unaware that you are in fact the same maniac as before. They only see the cars we drive and it is those masks which become our dramatis personæ.

Ultimately a car starts out as a blank canvass. Over time they might be personalised, dressed up with wings, bumper stickers, modifications, or even none of these. What is true about every car is that we paint our memories onto this canvas and our cars being the impartial observers to our lives that they are, take on all of it and not once complain about it.

Especially because of this last point, when you finally have to drive that long last mile, it really is like saying goodbye to part of yourself; so perhaps it is appropriate to shed a tear.
So thanks for the memories little red Ka, even though no-one else though a lot of you, you were all mine, and that is enough.

In Memorandum:
Rossalini (2001-2010)
Ford Ka Mk1 - Colorado Red
Rust in Peace

September 29, 2010

Horse 1110 - Ford Taurus - A Load of Bull

Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally said the second-biggest U.S. carmaker may reduce its product lineup to as few as 20 models.
“There will be less than 30, on our way to 20 to 25,” Mulally said in response to questions on the future lineup of “nameplates” or models after addressing the Confederation of British Industry in London today. “Fewer brands means you can put more focus into improving the quality of engineering.”

Ford intends to axe the Falcon at the end of 2011. Australia will be getting the Taurus instead.

Dear Ford, you suck.

Why should we in Australia have to put up with the Ford Taurus, when the current Falcon is a better car? Moreover, how does it make any sense to replace a decent car with a worse and more expensive one? Wouldn't it make more sense to replace the Taurus with the Aussie Falcon, since the Falcon already employs world's best practice, is 5-star safety rated and is RWD?

I have been to the USA on several occasions and what I find disappointing, is the fact that American built cars although seemingly "identical" are of a lesser quality than their European counterparts.
Having seen the equivalents on US roads themselves - the Cobalt to the Astra, the Malibu to the Vectra, the Focus vs the European Focus, and the US Camry compared to an Australian or Japanese Camry, in every case the US is siginificantly built to a cheaper standard and it shows.

The Taurus (D258 built on Ford's D3 platform) is currently built in Chicago and retails in the US starting at US$25,170 or AU$26,031. Now that's fine whilst the Australian Dollar buys 90 odd US Cents, but if the little Aussie battler were to fall to levels of 60 cents US which it has done in the past, then suddenly the conversion price blows out to more than AU$40,000. This might make sense for the US Parent company but for Ford Australia, it's commercial suicide.

Fair play to Ford we do already get the Mondeo, but the Taurus which is smaller than the Falcon might not be seen as sufficiently different to it. Toyota have have also played this game in Australia by offering the Avalon and the Camry at the same time and that worked tremendously well for them didn't it?

I suppose that the real reason for my disdain is more to do with the fact that once again, yet another manufacturing concern heads off overseas because of the tribute that must be paid to the Holy God Dollar (Amen). It's not just Ford who loses out, but all of the associated parts suppliers, and other related industries also suffer because of decisions taken in board rooms in lands far away.

In principle I don't see how this is any different to the sentiment thrown at Pig Iron Bob in 1938. Back then waterside workers refused to load scrap iron onto ships bound for Japan, which would later be sent back to us in the form of bombs. Nowadays, BHP, Rio Tinto and other mining companies will be selling mining goods, which after being changed will also come back to us in the form of bombs of a different kind.

Thanks Ford. I've driven a Taurus in the US and to be honest, it's crap. Thanks for telling the Australian public what you think of them. I'm sure they'll repay the favour with their wallets.

September 24, 2010

Horse 785 (1109) - Hey Little Twelve Toes

Before we begin this blog post, I'd like to show a video for your education and amusement:

Before we proceed any further, I warn readers that this post contains that most dreaded of subjects... maths.

Consider this:
Now if man had been born with 6 fingers on each hand, he'd probably count: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, dec, el, do. "Dec" and "El" being two entirely new signs meaning ten and eleven. Single digits! And his twelve, "do", would be written 1-0. Get it? That'd be swell, for multiplying by 12.

The base-10 system has been used by just about every modern civilisation as well as the Ancient Chinese, Roman and Greeks. Even the Babylonians who used base-60, still used the number 10 as a sub-base of their numerical system. The choice of 10 whilst perhaps obvious because we have ten digits, isn't perhaps the best system.

In thinking about the idea proposed by the video above it struck me that base-12 is intrinsically a better system on the basis that 10 is only divisible by 10, 5, 2 and 1, whereas as 12 is a more complex number and is divisible by 12, 6, 4, 3, 2 and 1.

By having a base with more factors, it doesn't necessarily become easier to perform mathematical operations but it does mean there are more repeating cycles within the system.

All of the multiples of 2, 3, 4 and 6 resolve themselves into repeating patterns, even multiples of 8 and 10 do (and obviously 12):

2 - 2, 4, 6, 8, X, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 1X, 20
3 - 3, 6, 9, 10, 13, 16, 19, 20, 23, 26, 29, 30
4 - 4, 8, 10, 14, 18, 20, 24, 28, 30, 34, 38, 40
6 - 6, 10, 16, 20, 26, 30, 36, 40, 46, 50, 56, 60
8 - 8, 14, 20, 28, 34, 40, 48, 54, 60, 68, 74, 80
X - X, 18, 26, 34, 42, 50, 5X, 68, 76, 84, 92, X0
10 - 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, X0, E0, 100

Of course it does provide some unexpected results, like 7x5=2E and ExE=X1 which looks totally unfamiliar to us in our base-10 world.

But the idea isn't silly. The British Empire survived quite happiliy using the Pounds, Shillings, Pence system which had 12 pence to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound; this produced a pound which equalled 240 pence. 240 is divisible by a whole slew of factors and a price of £5/14/11 suddenly doesn't look quite so strange anymore.

If you are prepared do look into this further and develop your own set of multiplication tables then there are even odder results. Apart from 3, there are no numbers ending in 3 which are prime. There are no at all numbers ending in 9 which are prime, and as with base-10 because base-12 has an even base, there are no even primes apart from 2.

All this is theory though.

If we were to apply this to the real world, then people would retire at 55 and the average life expectancy would be 70 in Australia. I would be 28 years old and would have been born in the year 1189, the date today would be 20-9-11E6 and the new millenium would still be X05 years away.
There would only be 50 minutes in an hour, midday would be 10pm and 5pm would be 1500 in 20 hour time. Trains would probably still run 13 minutes late, and the current price of a Big Mac at $4.50 assuming that cents remained the same would be $3.16, however I'd expect that they'd still find someway of ripping us off.

This does mean of course that the romance of Spinal Tap's amps going up all the way to E is somewhat removed though... but if our amps went all the way up to 11, that's two more than E... er eleven.

September 23, 2010

Horse 1108 - Am I Really Not Thinking This Out Far Enough Mr Smith?


In response to Horse 1107, I received a comment from someone called Damian Smith (website found here: and it appears that Damian has a distinct problem with my viewpoint. Although specifically he didn't address why he has the problem, he raises this comment:

I thought Cannold was a brilliant guest and showed why it's unwise to argue with an ethicist. Chances are they've thought it out better than you have - and I think that includes this blog post.

Horse 1107 in essence mainly deals with the logical fallacy of arguing against a standpoint whilst denying that you in fact rely on that standpoint to argue from. The point is though that I have been accused of not thinking this out far enough, rather than the actual material of the post itself, which is rather what I expect that Mr Smith has the problem with.
In the light of this, there are three distinct issues which are touched upon, which I shall now endeavour to unpack. Before I embark on this though, I need to spell out my standpoint because like everyone else, my standpoint is informed by my values.

Firstly I am a Christian (which is fair enough I suppose). Secondly I hold the principle of the sanctity of life. I personally do not see that a so called "Right to Die" exists, nor do I concede that a right to take anyone else's life exists.

Horse 1108a - Abortion.
Australia as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises "that children as well as adults have basic human rights. Children also have the right to special protection because of their vulnerability to exploitation and abuse." It is worth taking particular note of the preamble of the Convention which curiously has this to say:
"the United Nations has proclaimed that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance,"
The UN recognises that "childhood is entitled to special care and assistance". Also Article 6.1 states that "States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life."

It is also worth noting that the non-binding Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) stated that "the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth,"

This of course raises a specific question; namely the argument put forward in just about every abortion debate "It's my body, I can do what I want"... Is it really? This quite selfishly states that a mother has an overriding set of rights which are over and above someone who should be "entitled to special care and assistance," also has "the inherent right to life" and according to the UN should have "appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth". Notwithstanding the fact that the Crimes Act 1900 (sections 82,83 & 84) makes it illegal to procure, administer any drug or noxious thing, with the intent of causing an abortion, what possible ethical standpoint can you take here?
If something is illegal and morally repulsive to the point where there are international conventions on it, then this should send a very strong message shouldn't it?

In case you still haven't got it, abortion is repulsive and I think very wrong. If the UN, HREOC and the Crimes Act agree with me, then at what point can it be said that an ethicist has thought it out better than I have?

Horse 1108b - Euthanasia

In New South Wales at least, murder is defined by section 18 of the Crimes Act 1900, and although suicide as a crime has been abrogated at law under section 31A of the Crimes Act 1900, it does not necessarily imply a right.
A right is either a legal, social or ethical principle of freedom and or entitlement. This definition stems from the discussion papers which were drawn up prior to the Bill of Rights Act 1689.

The biggest problem that I have with the so called "Right to Die" is that once someone has carried through with their decision to commit suicide, then that decision is final. The argument "It's my body, I can do what I want" poses the same question as the abortion issue... Is it really?

If my body is my own, then this implies that my body is my property. In other words, ownership of my body belongs to me. However, since owning property itself is a rights concept, then this implies that there is a distinct difference between subject and an owner but it should be obvious to every sane person that there simple isn't is a distinct difference in reality. This is a circular logical fallacy, since if there actually is a difference between the subject and owner, then my body ceases to be my property.

There is always the problem of consent. As far as the idea of legal rationalism goes, the concept of an individual being compos mentis refer to someone being of sound mind. Can someone who wishes to commit suicide even be said to be of sound mind? Is it even therefore possible for an individual to give consent to their own suicide? And if someone else is involved, even though they might be performing actions on compassionate grounds, does that amount to willful taking of life and therefore a complicitous act of murder? In the case of involuntary euthanasia, where does the line get drawn in the case of murder?

Since society generally has decided to abandon the church as its moral guardians, then leaving an issue like this up to mere politicians who would be invariably asked for a conscience vote is a tenuous proposition. It's much better to err of the side of caution when it comes to matters of deciding law than to pass law with ambiguous consequences. It should be also of no surprise to any sane person that when a law has undefined and ambiguous consequences it also leads to unintended consequences.

Horse 1108c - The Death Penalty

I completely understand the need for a society to demonstrate justice, and the need for punishment for severe and violent crimes. However the possibility of making a mistake, and passing judgment to end someone's life when they were in fact not guilty, forms the underlying basis why Australia abandoned the death penalty in the first place. Moreover the public outrage which followed as a result of Ronald Ryan being hanged in 1967 was also based on the possibility that the verdict could have been wrong; this in part led to the Death Penalty Abolition Act 1973.

It is interesting to look at the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights with regards the death penalty. Whilst it is in fact "silent" on the issue, many groups including Amnesty International argue that Article 3, which states that "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person" can be interpreted along with Article 5 "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" to suggest that the right to life and not to suffer degrading treatment or punishment is universal and that the death penalty violates these rights.

Also of note is that United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted resolutions 62/149 and 63/168, calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. Since then, other regional bodies or civil society coalitions adopted resolutions and declarations advocating for a moratorium on executions as a step towards global abolition of the death penalty.

Most notably, the EU in its Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, outright abolished the death penalty and because it is binding on all EU member states, then likewise the death penalty ceased to exist (if it did) in those nations with the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009. The EU's position is pretty well much an extension of the position of the UN.
Article 2 - Right to life
1. Everyone has the right to life.
2. No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed.

The nation of Australia itself except for Aboriginal peoples, started out as a penal colony. Any way that you to care to look at it, being transported to a foreign land is still a more humane punishment than the death penalty.

Closing Remarks

Law exists for a number of functions. It acts as a standard which defines what is an isn't acceptable. It acts as a regulator so that society doesn't descend into chaos. It sometimes acts as referee, so that when someone has broken the standards or regulations, it finds appropriate remedies and/or punishments.

Call me an idealist, but I think that law generally should be written to either reflect or uphold the best possible standards. People generally as proven in everyday life, with something even as simple as doing 113km/h on the motorway, will nudge and break those standards on a consistent basis; therefore you can not reasonably expect that people will act according to those best possible standards. Is it then wise to abandon standards simply on the basis of freedom and choice?

I would argue that an "ethicist" hasn't "thought it out better than I have". In this case the ethicist merely has a different viewpoint; and me being well within my right to free speech, and my right to express myself, I also am perfectly capable of saying that the line of argument put forward by Dr Cannold is unacceptable. Furthermore, can it reasonably be said that the "Chances are they've thought it out better than you have" is true, especially considering that I've taken 1500+ words to express that opinion and have the weight of several international organisations behind me?

Perhaps it is worth looking at the preamble to the  UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights once more:
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people, 

To put it bluntly, Dr Cannold outraged my conscience and if her viewpoint is allowed to continue to fester into the common conscienceness of society generally, in my opinion it will result in barbarous acts in stark contrast to  the highest aspiration of the common people.

September 21, 2010

Horse 1107 - Everyone Has Religion... Including Despicable People

I was watching Q and A last night, and one of the panelists was a Dr Leslie Cannold. Dr Cannold according to the blurb posted on the ABC website is an author, commentator, ethicist and activist. It also goes onto mention that:
Her books include the award-winning "The Abortion Myth and What, No Baby"? which made the Australian Financial Review's top 101 books list for 2005.
Leslie regularly discusses ethics on ABC Sydney 702, Brisbane radio 4BC and on the 7PM Project on Network Ten. She is also a regular contributor to Sydney's Sun-Herald where she writes her "Moral Maze" column.
She is President of Reproductive Choice Australia, a national coalition of pro-choice organisations that played a key role in removing the ban on the abortion drug RU486 in 2006 and Pro Choice Victoria which was instrumental in the decriminalisation of abortion in Victoria in 2008.

Already and just from her blurb, she appears to have got my Feckles, Heckles, Hackles, Schmeckles up, but I find this particular comment from Q and A not only to be hypocritical but also highly distasteful.

But I also would very fiercely resist any attempt for someone to tell me that their religious values should dictate what I do.
- Dr Leslie Cannold, Q and A, ABC1 20-09-10.


If I look through the OED to find a definition of religion, I should logically ignore the first definition which involves the belief and worship of an otherwise controlling and/or supernatural being which may involve one, many or no gods.

Therefore, skipping to the second and third defnitions, we read that Religion according to the OED is:
2. "a particular system of faith and/or worship",
3. "a controlling influence on a person's life"

My great conjecture is that in broad terms, faith is what a person believes or trusts in, and that religion is a set of practices which stem from this; nothing more and nothing less. Equally the term religion could be applied to what Richard Dawkins does as some sort of evangelistic atheism but that opens up another discussion well beyond the scope of this blog post.
If Dr Cannold intends to use "religion" at all as an argument, then everything she puts forward must Vis-à-vis must instantly be refuted by her very own arguments. Dr Cannold can not deny that she believes in something because everyone in the world, has their own unique worldview, which is based on what they personally hold to be true, ie what they believe. If this is the case, then she's arguing against religion from the viewpoint of her religion.
I of course refer you to the very famous legal case of Pot vs Kettle.

The questioner correctly put the argument about the separation of church and state, however, you can't separate an individual's religion and their conscience and nor should you ever try and I agree with Christopher Pyne here that if somebody is informed by their religious views in reaching a conclusion on a matter of conscience, that is perfectly their right, in my view, as a member of parliament. They cannot - you cannot simply ask somebody to separate what informs their values.
- Chris Bowen, Q and A, ABC1 20-09-10.

Of course you can't because everybody believes something (even if you believe there is no god, which is still belief of something), ergo everybody has their own unique religion of sorts. Whether or not it is codified is entirely another matter, but since religion is a set of practices, and everybody acts (I can't think of the most general verb, but no-one is totally inanimate), then it is not a logical leap to suggest that everyone has a religion.

If all of this is logical, then even I must concede that religion breeds intolerance and ignorance, because: "everyone from the lowliest peasant, to kings and princes are motivated by self-interest"
- Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, Book 1.

The thug who robs a 7-Eleven, a lazy plumber who takes too long to do a job, the bankers on Wall St, even the priesthood who do "naughty things", are all "motivated by self-interest"; because of this, the religion that has caused more "mistreatment and unhappiness" than any other is surely the religion of self-interest? I'd say that it's caused both far more bad and good than any organised church, or codified religion ever has.

In the case of Dr Leslie Cannold, we already know that she is pro-abortion, and pro-euthenasia, which may as well be saying that she is in fact pro-death. Australia does not use the death penalty on the basis that it is possible to make a mistake and get it wrong. Once someone has died, they do not generally come back to life in my experience. Yet for some reason, even though we apply this to criminals, we're not applying the same principles to the most vulnerable members of society?

I think the states that have the death penalty are wrong to do so and I think it does indicate a lack of respect for human life and I think they should change their position.
- Christopher Pyne, Q and A, ABC1 20-09-10.

I think that this more than anything else, sums up just why Dr Cannold is so incredibly wrong. How on one hand can you suggest that you advocate "choice" which supposedly increases human dignity, yet through precisely the same act, actively show a lack of respect for human life itself.

Sorry Dr Cannold, but as Martin Luther King, Jr. said people should "not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Taking this into account and judging you on the content of your character, you are despicable.

September 14, 2010

Horse 1106 - Barbara Lives In "Bankworld", Long Live Barbara

I've just seen the "Barbara lives in Bank World" whilst waiting in the queue at an ANZ bank. The funny think is that although Barbara has a gruff exterior, I actually think that I would prefer to do my banking business at A Bank, than the ANZ.

A Bank in these ads os portrayed as an unfriendly institution, however we don't ask our banks to be friendly institutions. What we expect from banks is that they'll either give us ample returns for investing our money them and/or won't charge us high fees for the so called privilege for leaving our money with them (which as I see it is basically the same as rent).

In fact in the past, bank themselves would erect massive facades on the branches of their rural branches to show that they were solid and dependable. If anything, the series of ads with Barbara working for A Bank, shows that A Bank is a serious banking firm. As a prospective investor, I might like to consider placing my funds with A Bank.

Thinking about this further, the same sort of image is projected in the Disney CG movie, Cars. One of the characters, Chick Hicks, is sponsored by a ficitious banking firm called Hostile Takeover Bank or HTB for short.

The thing is that I would also consider putting my funds with Hostile Takeover Bank for the simple reason that if they're the ones going around making all of these hostile takeovers then at least in the short run, they sound like a highly profitable firm.

Equally back in 2001 and 2002, the online bank Egg (website was the main sponsor of the Egg Sport Astra team in the British Touring Car Championship. Back then as now I still think that those Egg Astras had some of the coolest liveries ever to appear on a race car.

So what does all of this have to do with Barbara who according to the ANZ lives in "Bankworld" and not ours? Logically if Barbara does live in "Bankworld" then more than likely, she's probably a specialist who knows what they are doing, and can do an efficient and worthy job. Ironically whilst I was waiting in the queue in the ANZ, the branch I was in was understaffed, and the staff who were there seemed to go away and ask their supervisors, lords and masters, about what they should do. The thing is that I don't think that Barbara who lives in "Bankworld" would need to - she'd already know what to do.

September 10, 2010

Horse 1105 - Why Bother With a Blog?

From the Cat and Girl webcomic:

Or some friendly advice from

Thinking about launching your own blog? Here's some friendly advice: Don't. And if you've already got one, pull the plug.
Writing a weblog today isn't the bright idea it was four years ago. The blogosphere, once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge. Cut-rate journalists and underground marketing campaigns now drown out the authentic voices of amateur wordsmiths. It's almost impossible to get noticed, except by hecklers. And why bother? The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter.

I find the idea that the blog is dead to be an interesting yet strangely familiar proposal. Even if I look around my own little corner of the blogosphere of things that I regularly read, I find that the average time between posts for 2009-10 has now run out to 36.84 days and that the average word count is a paltry 163 words, or a little over three paragraphs.

Of course this was always to be expected anyway. We live in both a post-modern and post-literate society (though I think that it's tending more towards outright illiteracy). People for the most part are suspicious of the concepts of objective truth, and the idea of postliteracy is one where pictures, video and audio replaces the written word for the most part.

Of course we can see actual evidence of this all around us. The Sydney Morning Herald is suffering from falling revenues as readers move online, but coupled with this is that the physical newspaper itself is shrinking. What used to be a hefty daily document, has now more or less become a slimline three section thing, with only the Saturday edition retaining its former chunkiness.

Ray Bradbury's book Fahrenheit 451 published all the way back in 1953, seems to predict the trend towards post-literacy. It's not too big a jump to conceive that "the bees in people's ears, swept away the silence no leaving any time to think or question" could be speaking about people's iPods or that the giant screens installed in people's living rooms (parlors) are the equivalent of today's flat-screen, plasman, LCD, Jumbotrons.
"The public itself stopped reading of its own accord. You firemen provide a circus now and then at which buildings are set off and crowds gather for the pretty blaze, but it's a small sideshow indeed, and hardly necessary to keep things in line. So few want to be rebels any more. And out of those few, most, like myself, scare easily. Can you dance faster than the White Clown, shout louder than 'Mr. Gimmick' and the parlor 'families'? If you can, you'll win your way, Montag. In any event, you're a fool. People are having fun."

That's just it isn't it. People are having fun. People for the most part can't be bothered to read any more than a couple of lines of their own accord. Short of the odd person who still happens to read a novel for fun, the vast bulk of people simply choose not to read. Twitter and Facebook are immensely successful, because can't be bothered to read.

Of course the obvious question which arises from Wired's article is why bother to continue writing a blog if no-one is going to read it? Why bother yelling into the darkness if you know you won't be heard?

Because I can... but am I having fun?

September 07, 2010

Horse 1104 - The Herald Got It Blazingly Wrong

Katter may not be mad. Perhaps he is not a bigot, either. The hat makes it hard to tell. He is one of those country men who is confident with misinformation. Who is used to being right even when he is not. Who trained his voice, one imagines, reciting Clancy of the Overflow at public functions. Who always speaks loudly.

Oh dear... just oh dear.

I'm afraid that the Sydney Morning Herald has just made it blatantly obvious that it doesn't just have a speck or a plank its eye but a whole sawmill.

Bob Katter said a great deal of things on the ABC's Q and A last night, including that he doesn't much like homosexuals and then was chided for his views. I think that the chiding is ridiculous. Mr Katter is not only perfectly entitled to express his views, but has the right to do so. Furthermore because of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 of which Australia was a signatory (and helped write), the right is enshrined by law.

Article 19 - Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Also because of the Bill of Rights Act 1689, the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament.

Think about that SMH.

Perhaps it didn't occur to the Sydney Morning Herald that the vast bulk of what Mr Katter had to say, was not directed at social law anyway. Most of what Mr Katter wants to achieve is to do with the steady erosion of Australia's manufacturing base and the utterly despicable state that we will soon be a net importer of food.

In 1987, 86 per cent of the passenger motor vehicles in Australia were made in Australia. Eighty-six per cent, Nick. As a result of Mr Keating's and your policies, now only 21 per cent are made in Australia and is there a single person here that believes we'll have a car industry in 20 years in Australia? A single person?
Four years ago we became a net importer of fruit and vegetables. Last year we became a net importer of seafood and I don't care what set of statistics you want to look at. Within 14 years we will be a net importer of food.
- Bob Katter, ABC1 Q and A, 6th Sep 2010

Think about that as well dear SMH.

Bob Katter has every right to have his own opinion, like it or not. He has the right to choose to represent the issues he holds dear to his heart in whatever order of priority he chooses, like it or not. He also has the right to represent the interests of whatever make of his constituents he chooses, like it or not. Coupled with all of this is that he is charged with the responsibility of representing the interests of the people in his electorate... and no-one else.

It is an act of political hijack to people to suggest or imply he should represent the interests of all. There are other candidates to cater for the interests of other views. Bob Katter does not have to agree with the moral or immoral majority nor every man woman or child in this nation.

As he himself said, which the SMH quotes in the very article:
“You probably don't consider it to be a small problem [but] in the bigger picture of things it's just not something that occupies my consciousness.”

Why should the issue occupy his consciousness? The people in his electorate are worried about the very existance of their livelihoods. It might be very well to talk about issues of social consciousness, but even more fundamental to that is the ability for people to put food on the table.

But of course the SMH from its little offices in Sussex Street wouldn't know a thing about what its like in rural and regional Australia. Their editors don't really care where their food actually comes from and probably would be content to drive around in European built luxury cars whilst the people who would have had jobs building cars in Australia have to look elsewhere for work.

Remove the planks from your eyes and start banging them over the back of your stupid pathetic heads dear SMH, it might knock some sense into you. Instead of chastising someone who is passionate and prepared to state the glaringly obvious, and what should have been fixed or even talked about for the last twenty years, you berate the man.

Dear SMH, today you have made me sick. I bite my thumb at you.


September 02, 2010

Horse 1103 - The $37 Million Exercise in Cynicism

The retail giant's former junior publicist Kristy Fraser-Kirk's record $37 million sexual misconduct claim officially starts in the Federal Court when the retail giant and it's former CEO will be given a deadline to lodge their defences to her allegations.

Personally I hope that this case dies quietly. Not because I think that it is a carriage of justice, because without delving into the facts, it is probably likely that there is quite a strong degree of claim to the case*, but rather that the amount of the claim itself and whom the claim is directed is in my opinion a combination of pure vexatiousness, cynicism and bile.
I have two basic problems with the case in principle, and they are outlined below.

Usually in a punitive damages case, the applicant is hoping to collect damage as a direct result of the damage suffered of the offence in question. That amount is determined by either a calculated loss of income and wages question, and or some degree of emotional suffering.
The point to make here, is that if Ms Fraser-Kirk is making a claim based on her, degree of emotional suffering, is that worth $37 million? Because that $37 million certainly isn't reflective of her lost wages and potential earnings power.
If you work through the logic and assume that Ms Fraser-Kirk was on a wage of $80,000 a year (which from what I can determine is ridiculously overstated), then an average career loss would probably be up to five years maximum. That would equate to a loss in potential wages of $400,000 or just a shade over 1% of what she is claiming. Is the amount that she has suffered worth $36.6 million? I seriously doubt it.

The second issue I have with this case, is that David Jones Ltd is being held liable for the actions of an individual.
"I did so with great sadness as it was a career and a company I loved, that I had helped rebuild.
However, the reason is simple. It was my responsibility, not David Jones's."
- Mark McInnes, August 16, 2010.

It can be very easily argued that David Jones as an employer has a responsibility to provide a safe workplace, and that includes a workplace which is harassment free. However, the company David Jones Ltd itself is a secondary party in this. I hardly think that its fair, just or logical if as a result of David Jones Ltd losing the case, being forced to pay $37 million in damages, that someone in say a store in the Rundle Mall in Adelaide should lose their jobs due to cutbacks.

I have heard it argued that the reason for claiming an amount as outlandish as $37 million is to "make the company hurt". I find that to be somewhat spiurious, because if it was truly about making someone hurt, wouldn't it be more just to make the actual person who caused the hurt in the first place suffer?

To what extent is David Jones Ltd. implicated anyway? Is it an equal basis? If so then how come Mark McInnes isn't also being chased for $37 million? If it truly is about causing "hurt", then isn't it logical for Mark McInnes to lose his house and go and live in the gutter? The thing is that no-one would conceed that that is a carriage of justice at all, yet somehow it's okay for a company to be pinged for the money? And if it isn't about the money, then why go after the company rather than the individual?

Ms Fraser-Kirk has incidentally promised to give most of the money to charity anyway. So what? If I owe you some money, I can't decide to pay a charity instead of you, because my debt is directly with you, not the charity.
Likewise, the fact that Ms Fraser-Kirk has promised to give most of the money to charity is entirely irrelevant to the case. That is entirely her own business, and the fact that she's been trumpeting this in the media is little more than sensationalism.
Besides which, if she honestly and truly feels that she is in fact entitled to the $37 million, then what is her motive for giving most of it to charity? I would contend that deep down she knows herself that the claim is vexatious and is doing to in order to whitewash over her own guilty conscience.

Whilsy all of this might sound harsh, I should point out that as consumers and taxpayers, we all suffer when repeated vexatious legal damages pass through the courts. It is us who pay through higher prices for goods and services, as well as through higher taxes as a result of courts time and the legal profession's time being employed.
That last point is in my not very well paid opinion the reason why this massive figure was chosen seemingly at random in the first place. No doubt that the legal firm Maurice Blackburn who is representing Ms Fraser-Kirk will be paid on a percentage basis. Obviously it is in their best interests to rip for as much money as they can possibly get.

*I don't condone sexual harassment either in the workplace or otherwise. It should go without saying that harassment of any kind is evil, and it should not be tolerated.