October 29, 2010

Horse 1123 - "New Paradigm"? I certainly didn't see it.

The words "new paradigm" were thrown about on the floors of both houses of parliament yesterday as though we'd entered some strange new world of politics, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. It's just that there are very few people alive who would remember the turbulent parliaments before the Great War.

Up until the hearing deficient Billy Hughes took office in 1915, the Premiership changed hands nine times; most of those were because the government of the day wasn't able to either pass legislation because it didn't have command of the house. This so called "new paradigm" isn't therefore new at all, but dates back almost 30 years before even the birth of the current Father of the House, Phillip Ruddock.

It has only been since about the time of Charles Grey in 1830, that Westminster Parliaments generally have had stable party systems, and certainly nothing like the system of whips and caucuses which exist today. If you bear this in mind, it might be a little easier to understand the current situation we currently have today.

Essentially this is a numbers game. The current rainbow coalition of Labor, a Green and four indies only just falls over the magical line of 76 seats. It is still theoretically possible for the Liberal-National coalition plus a WA National and only three indies to force a no-confidence motion and force a change of government. Provided a no-confidence motion was tabled before the house, then a change of government could be forced even without the need to call an election.

The other possible scenario is that a supply bill (ie the Federal Budget) could be either defeated in the Lower or the Upper House. If this was the case then government would not be able to function and a fresh election would be called. Again this has also happened in Australian politics, most famously in 1975.

Really there is no "new paradigm" not matter how hard Senator Joyce chooses to yell it from the floor of the Senate. The truth is that the Australian Parliament has already been here before and has come out the other side. Perhaps it's just something fun to say of you happen to be a politician... who knows nothing of political history.

October 28, 2010

Horse 1122 - I Hate Halloween

(elements of this have been sporked from elsewhere)

I really hate halloween... no scratch that... I really really really hate halloween.

The truth is that I already don't like most of the children in my immediate neighbourhood. Some of them within earshot spend their entire lives from what I can gather, screaming and crying at the top of their lungs either at each other or at their poor frazzled parents.

Why then do I need them showing up at my door and demanding sweets? What would happen for instance if I were to walk 9 doors up the street and ask for lollies? People would think that I'm insane, and then probably ring up some gentlemen in blue to take me away in a fun car with flashing lights.

Miranda Devine in today's Daily Telegraph writes:
In 100 different ways every day the same scenario is played out, reflecting a profound and largely unspoken shift in the way decent men view small children.
These are just ordinary men, fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles, who have been made to feel like criminals around children and obliged to suppress their natural, healthy instinct to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be portrayed as some criminal pervert paedophiles. I certainly don't want children showing up at my door just to invite the suggestion. In fact if it came to it, I'd rather be known as a paedophobe; that way the sweet seeking sprogs would scavenge, sally and sortie somewhere else.

No sir, I don't like Halloween, or as it properly should be called "Scab Day" and nor should anyone else. No-one in their right might would vote for a "National Annoy The Crap Out Of Your Neighbours Day" would they? Then why send your kiddies out to do it for you?

Really the only people who actually benefit from it are the sweet manufacturers Messers Cadbury, Nestlé, et al. who have used this fake holiday to foist the sale of their diabetic inducing produce onto the public.

In yesterday's Age in Melbourne there was an article looking at the failure of programs to curb childhood obesity:
The evidence from the fat battlefront so far shows that many schemes by federal and state governments to prevent childhood obesity have failed to make a significant dent in the girths of young Australians, Productivity Commission researchers have found.
Their report assesses 27 child and student-focused anti-obesity programs whose aims include promoting exercise, improving diet and cutting time spent in front of television and computer screens.

Can I just add a 28th anti-obesity program here? Don't send out increasingly corpulent children out to collect lollies and sweets! When I was a kid in school there was usually one fat kid per class, just one. I think that schools must have had some sort of allocation program to allocate fat kids. Now it seems that every class has more than just the odd fat kid but loads of them. Is that why teachers unions are calling for smaller class sizes? When I was a kid, classes of 34 weren't uncommon. Do 34 kids then equal 24 kids now?

There are theories that halloween started off as something a lot less sweet based. In 16th Century Scotland during the older "All-Hallows-Even", traditionally people would go from door-to-door, dressed up, and then telling jokes or even dancing to get something from their neighbours.

Anyway the upshot is, if children want sweets from me this year, they better be ready to dance for them. It will give me a reason to dress up as an organ grinder and madly yell "Dance! Dance my pretties! Dance for your sweeties! I'm gonna get you, and you're little dog too!". Then throw their reward at their feet so I can laugh malevolently as they scramble around like the pathetic sugar laden terrors they are.

Better yet, make their parents dance. That way the kids will cry and blame their parents for not loving them enough. And thus the cycle continues, children screaming and crying at the top of their lungs either at each other or at their poor frazzled parents.

October 27, 2010

Horse 1121 - The "Christian Right" has Might?

I was listening to NPR this morning (on one of those occasions when they were talking about artistic arrangements of spoons and whatnot) and they were talking to one of their political editors in Washington. Intruguingly, the comment was made that the "Christian Right" still have a considerable influence in Washington. Yet somehow I really wonder if this is in fact the case.

If I compare this comment to the Australian experience, where the Christian Democratic Party, the Democratic Labor Party and the Family First Party account for about maybe 6% of the primary vote at best, is that really any sway at all?

Admittedly the United States is decidedly more open about religion than impassive Australia is but when you figure that actual regular church attendance in the US is only about 9%, how exactly does this relay into "considerable influence in Washington"? Or is this just rhetoric employed to sucker dim-witted Christians into voting for the major parties?

From the outset the First Amendment to the US Constitution states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;. Whilst this doesn't prevent the establishment of openly Christian political parties, the overall tone of the polity is that there should be a separation of church and state and this is stated almost to the point of violent bluntness. If anyone actually tried to set up an openly Christian political party in the US, would they be hounded down until their voice was extinguished?

I suspect that because of this, any Christian element in politics in the US has to somehow worm its way into the caucii of the GoP and the Democrats. If their say in both of those parties is the same as their say in the real world, then proportionally they should have a say of no more than about... 9%.

9% of the vote isn't enough to change policy at all; if you couple this with the fact that voting is a) not compulsory and b) there is actually a system of registration for which political party you happen to side with, I wonder if this would lead to the actual influence of Christian politics in the United States as being something nearer to 4% or 3%.

This is actually a strange paradigm when you consider that in the recent past, the loudest political voices are those do to with the issues of abortion and gay marriage. As Proposition 8 proved, even if you do have a broadly Christian viewpoint on anything, there are still louder voices and the government itself who are able to manipulate policy far better than the Christian element does.

Out of all this, I wonder whether or not the "Christian Right" has an influence at all in Washington, let alone a considerable one. Certainly the outcomes of policy like invading Iraq under the premise of a lie, holding people without trial for several years and the general hatred brewing about Muslims is certainly un-Christian.

Maybe the considerable influence in Washington that the "Christian Right" has is something more mundane... like baking scones or something?

October 25, 2010

Horse 1120 - Murdoch and the BBC

I'm afraid that it's just like old times again. Not content with destroying British industry to the point where it won't function again properly, the last time they were is office, the ****ing Tories have already started on their long term goals of hurting the BBC and ultimately selling it.

When David Cameron became Prime Minister as a result of forming a coalition with the Lib Dems, it may as well have been the magistrate signing a death warrant for the Beeb. Quite frankly it is disgusting that the very first person to go to Number 10 to meet with David Cameron after he became PM was none other Rupert Murdoch. There's nothing like a bit of nepotism is there?
It was Murdoch's newspapers who openly backed the Conservatives; even the chief political editor of News International in London Newton Dunn had this to say:
"It is my job to see that Cameron fucking well gets into Downing Street," proclaimed Tom Newton Dunn, political editor of the Sun, to a group of journalists from rival papers, recently.

The question is, how do you bring down an organisation like the BBC. As an established media outlet, it is heralded the world over for its reportage in often dangerous places. Within the UK it runs four national television stations, nine national radio stations, and lots of regional media outlets. As far as production of media content goes, it is second to none. So then, how do you hurt the BBC? By striking it directly in the hip pocket.

The BBC licence fee is to be frozen at the current level of £145.50 for the next six years, a 16% cut in real terms, after the corporation today concluded a bruising round of funding negotiations with the coalition government.

BBC bosses fear that the coalition government is gearing up for a £500m-plus raid on the licence fee, by forcing the broadcaster to meet the full cost of free television licences for the over 75s.
The benefit – which was introduced by Gordon Brown when he was chancellor – costs £556m, and is currently paid for out of general taxation. But ministers are considering passing the bill on to the BBC as part of this week's comprehensive spending review.

The BBC is an almost independant quango. It raises its own funds through the instrument called the licence fee. People who own a television currently pay £145.50 per year to fund the BBC, and in return they get arguably the finest media organisation in the world.

The BBC itself presents a very real problem for News Ltd. Rupert Murdoch has been complaining for years that the BBC's mere existance robs him of his precious profits, and now that he's backed the Tories in the media (and probably with cash behind closed doors), he and people like him will begin to make the institution suffer which will only get worse and probably lead to the government selling it off (that and the NHS if they can ruin that as well). By cutting the BBC's funding off, firstly by limiting the licence fee, it would then justify "dropping" it as they did with the ABC in Australia, and once the BBC is firmly living in the government's pocket, it then isn't much of a stretch to justify selling it.

What I find particularly hypocritical about News Ltd was these comments he made:
Mr Murdoch, whose News Corporation owns the Times, the Sun and Sky News, among other media outlets, also said a free society needed an independent press, adding it would "serve the interests of the powerful if professional journalists were muted, or replaced as navigators in our society by bloggers and bloviators".

"A free society needed an independent press"? Really? So let me get this straight, if you remove the biggest organisation with a broadly leftist viewpoint, then society would become more free because the remaining "independent press" is all broadly rightist? Does this work in practice?
In Australia we only have two large newspaper organisations; those being News Ltd. and Fairfax. Both of those groups are nominally centre-right newspapers and in places like Adelaide and Brisbane, Fairfax doesn't even run a large scale newspaper.

I really wonder what Rupert means by serving "the interests of the powerful if professional journalists were muted". Does he mean to say that it serves "the interests of the powerful" ie. him, if the BBC was muted? Also I failt to see how replacing very loud voices such as News Ltd with "bloggers and bloviators" makes society less free. When you consider that in 1920 Australia had 26 metropolitan dailies with 21 independent proprietors, and now has 10 metropolitan dailies with only 2 independent proprietors, can you really say that society was less free in 1920? Likewise in the UK, if the BBC is muted, who do you think is going to move into the void? Would it be Fox News? I sincerly hope not.

One thing that the world does not need is the removal of public broadcasting. The further we move down that road, the more we become like the American market; and the American news market which is mainly dominated by Fox News, has created a nation of really pathetically stupid and insular people. Then again I suppose that's what Mr Murdoch wants, isn't it? A world full of pathetically stupid and insular people who continue to put cash through the till.

October 22, 2010

Horse 1119 - Happiness is No Frills Orange

Something to drink is all I ask for. It's not a very difficult request, or is it?

Perhaps you'd like to try a simple experiment. Just go to your local supermarket and see if you can buy a single serve drink, that isn't either an energy drink or a +500mL bottle.
This leads me to an interesting question: Are our lives really that tiring that we either need to be wired up on caffeine or sugar? Why do we need so much liquid that we're forced to wee half an hour later? This is related to but not quite the same as the great Starbucks question of "why do we actually need a whole pint of scalding, flavoured liquid?"

375mL cans used to be easy to find on supermarket shelves. Granted, they still are there but now they only come in boxes of 10, 12, 18, 24, 30! When will the madness stop? Likewise if you do happen to find a can of drink in the supermarket, it's likely to be an "energy drink" of some sort (either V, Red Bull or Mother) and worse, the 250mL cans are disappearing and were starting to see 500mL cans appear in their place.

All of this makes me think two things which are complementary to each other.
Firstly, caffeine itself is a diuretic which means that it actually forces the production of urine. This means that a while after you've drunk something, that you'll have to take a wee somewhere, and thus require another drink sooner. Quite deliberately, this begins a faster wee-drink-wee-drink cycle, which results in higher profits for the drink manufacturers.
Secondly because is a psychoactive stimulant drug, it's also mildly addictive. The British Journal of Addiction concluded that caffeinism (if that's a word) affects 1 in 10 people but probably is only diagnosed in about 1 in 10,000.
These two things taken together mean that you have a product which is both addictive and forces self-promotion.

Going back to my original tag line that "Happiness is No Frills Orange", No Frills Orange drink from Franklins contains zero caffeine and therefore doesn't produce the negative effects mentioned above and because it's only 375mL, it won't force you to wee half an hour later. The other benefit is that it only costs 49 cents, which means that you can get five or six of them for the same price as Energy Wee-A-Lot drinks.

October 21, 2010

Horse 1118 - Risky Business.

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing:
"Now the old king is dead!

Long live the king!"
One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand
- Coldplay, Viva La Vida

History is one giant game of Risk. Various empires have sprung up and fallen, and the main reason why no-one has ever been entirely successful is that the world is simply to vast and unwieldy to take on all at once. To put it more succinctly, as that great sage BJD once said "Don't spread yourself too thin"

If you look at the truly great empires of history, then India, China, Egypt, the Incas, Mayans, Aztecs, and even the Spanish, French and Soviets have only ever managed to occupy 6 territories at most. Even the US currently only owns two and hasn't really conquered a third. This leaves only four empires in history worth discussing, and even then only one has made a significant tilt at the board.

Greece - 3

The most that the Greek Empire ever achieved was three territories. Those being Southern Europe, Egypt and the Middle East. For this reason, Greece was always bound to fail. Admittedly they did try to push into India, but it was successful. The point is that you can't defend 3 territories with seven borders, and so the Greeks faded into history.

The Romans - 7

The Roman Empire for all it was worth, even at its most extant under Hadrian, still only managed to acquire seven territories. Those being Southern Europe, Egypt and the Middle East, North Africa, Western Europe, Northern Europe and Great Britain. The Romans again made the same mistake as the Greeks, 7 territories with eight borders.
The Roman Empire did make another mistake however, if they'd concentrated on Europe, they may have been able to pick up the continent bonus of five armies.

Britain - 10.

Britain was an empire upon which "the sun never set". Even so it only managed to hold 10 territories: Great Britain, Alberta, Eastern United States, Northwest Territory, Ontario, Quebec, South Africa, India, Eastern Australia, Western Australia.

Ten territories is a good effort but again, it still isn't even good enough to gain an extra bonus army for having sufficient territories. They came tanalisingly close with holding North America, but negelected to conquer Central America, Alaska or Greenland.

The Third Reich - 3

This blog post invokes Godwin's Law by mentioning Hitler but more importantly, why he failed.
Hitler should have known that you only get a continent bonus by taking a whole continent. He gave up on attacking Great Britain, failed in taking the Ukraine, didn't conquer Scandinavia and didn't even reach Iceland.
Hitler should have realised that Europe is a difficult place to start from. Furthermore, the United States, Canada and Britain who actually did move troops through Iceland, would always "break out" into Western Europe, and with the Soviets on the other side, Hitler didn't stand a chance.

Logically the only nation in the world with any real chance as far as I can see is possibly Australia. They own both Eastern Australia and Western Australia. The big problem is New Guinea which is difficult to navigate and a big blob on Indonesia, and then the two vast countries of China and India. Anyone who cab break out of Oceania usually stands a good chance of doing well; although keeping and holding Asia is a massive task, provided you can do it, there is a continent bonus of eight armies, and you would have lots of troops from turning in cards as well.

If only...

October 15, 2010

Horse 1117 - As Wacky as Tom Cruze

Some very strange things are happening at this moment.

I read at The Motor Report, that:
"Holden has today announced the opening of its new body shop at its Elizabeth plant in Adelaide, commissioned to produce panels for the locally-built 2011 Holden Cruze sedan."
I even checked the Holden website to see if they had any official announcements on it. Curiously the Holden website itself appears to be down, which I can only assume is because they intend to get some massive fanfare out of this.

Admittedly I don't much like the Cruze. It's an unengaging car to drive and currently the cars that we get from Incheon in South Korea are a little bit lacking in the quality department. Somehow the i30 and i20 from Hyundai and dare I say it Kia's Cerato are actually better built.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:
The company on Wednesday opened the new facility at its Elizabeth plant which was developed with the help of a $149 million commitment from the federal government. It will be used to make panels and other parts for the new car which will be produced alongside Holden's existing Commodore range and go on sale early next year.
The new model gives the company more scope to tailor production volumes to meet changing consumer demands and follows a recent decision to reintroduce a second shift at Elizabeth from November and add 50 jobs.

But the SMH gave us a little clue that something might be different:
This photograph shows not the sedan but a hatchback. That in itself might be significant as currently as far as I'm aware, the Cruze is not sold as a hatchback in any market. If this is the case, then Holden may have  themselves a car for export and perhaps keep the Australian manufacturing firm going a little longer than it otherwise would have done.

The ABC it appears may have bished though, the following photo appears with this caption:

A Holden Cruze under assembly on the new production line at the Elizabeth plant in Adelaide. (ABC News)

No Aunty... those are Commodore panels, and in the background they're Commodore Sportwagon panels. Sorry, I'm not a motoring writer but even I can tell the difference.

October 12, 2010

Horse 1116 - EA Politik '11 - It's In The Game

EA Sports - It's in the Game.

I'm eagerly looking forward to Politik '11 because the last version of the game that I have is only Politik 03.

Back in Politik '03, the biggest challenge was how to win in Australia with Mark Latham as leader of the Labor Party. I always found that you could usually win a few seats in NSW but ultimately, the "who can you trust?" campaign usually shot you out of the water.

I didn't get Politik '09 but that came with the bonus G.F.C puzzle and the whole stimulus  package thing. If you selected Obama you could usually scrape a win in Major League Politics and win Presidency but then you'd find that there'd be all of these little Tea Party things which would ruin your win.

Politik '11 comes with the new features of trying to negotiate a hung parliament and a Great Big New Carbon Tax, and I even found a bonus game in which you could throw crocodiles on the roof of your house. Not that it achieves much but it is wacky.
It also comes with some new add-ons like "Question Time" in the UK, "QandA" in Australia and some sort of "Fox News" thing which I still can't make heads nor tails of in the US.
I have found that if you play the European Parliament Cup, you can actually win MEP seats through little more than blatant racism.

There is one critical error with Politik '11 though. If you pick the LibDems in the UK, for some reason after the election you instantly disappear and a Tory wins office. Also, I picked Gordon Brown as leader of the Labour party, and he was instantly deleted after the election and there appears to be a fault because two identical Millibands appear from nowhere.

I hope that they fix those errors for Politik '12. Hopefully they'll put in a no-confidence option in the Oz League so you can boot the Gillard Government and put in Wayne Swan in as PM. This Abbot option is pretty useless, but it's better than selecting Hockey and Joyce in as the opposition.

October 11, 2010

Horse 1115 - Oh Mr Beecher What Have You Done?

Oh, Mr. Beecher what have you done?
There once were lots of things to read, but soon there will be none,
I'll have to buy a book, 'cause I can not buy The Star,
Oh, Mr. Beecher what a nutty man you are!


CRIKEY publisher Eric Beecher has attacked the ABC's for branching into online commentary in competition with websites such as his own.
The comments coincide with debates in countries such as Britain and Germany, as well as other parts of the European Union, about whether the activity of publicly funded broadcasters in channels such as the internet should be limited so as not to "unnecessarily damage" commercial competitors.
And it follows pressure on the traditional audiences and advertising revenues of commercial media operators in most mature media markets following the rise of online competitors.

"As a huge supporter of the ABC, I have been somewhat shocked at (the ABC's) decision to create a website (The Drum) that sits so blatantly in the territory of sites like Crikey and The Punch," Mr Beecher said.
"Operating in the commercial space, we expect vigorous competition from other commercial publishers. But to see the ABC tanks roll up on our lawn was bewildering."

I have two words for Mr Beecher, Crikey, The Punch and indeed The Australian in which this article was published.

GROW UP... You're not nine years old. For goodness sake, take a concrete pill and harden up. (Add appropriate profanities for emphasis).

Media in Australia has already disappeared up it's own fundamental orephus quite some time ago. There are very few if any at all, independant voices in print media in this country.
Of the major circulating newspapers in all capital cities, there are really only two major media groups and they are Fairfax and News Ltd. In suburban media they might hide under the banners of Rural Press Ltd or the Cumberland Newspaper Group etc, but scrape away the shell companies and you are still left with Fairfax and News Ltd.
This means that if you are looking for independant journalism and comment, you need to look online since the big fish have already eaten all of the little ones. To be fair Crikey is indpendant but The Punch sits squarely in the News Ltd. basket.

Both Fairfax and News Ltd are rightist and broadly conservative news organisations. News Ltd even goes so far as openly backing political parties in various countries to shift public opinion if it suits its own ends. It is so bad in the United States that Fox News Channel is virtually devoid of anything other than conservative lackies yelling at so called "liberals" who are basically set up as straw men; I really hope that we never see the likes of that in Australia because its just so mind numbingly puerile.

There are five newspapers which hold 95% of the market in Sydney. The Sydney Morning Herald (which is conservative and rightist), The Financial Review (which is conservative and rightist), The Australian (which is conservative and rightist), The Daily Telegraph (which is popularist and rightist), and the free newspaper at city railway stations MX which as far as I can tell is the place where News Ltd. puts all its pictures of scantily clad women that it couldn't put in The Daily Telegraph. I don't really know if it's conservative and rightist having never bothered to pick up more than two copies of the insipid thing (it isn't even worth giving away), but I imagine that it probably is.

In the light of a broadly conservative and rightist media market, is it little wonder that Beecher should make comments such as these:

"It is full of personal opinions, mainly from the Left and often wacky, which is something that sits uncomfortably with the notion of a rigorously independent publicly funded national broadcaster.
"In doing this, it unnecessarily but almost provocatively reinforces the fairly widespread perceptions of where the ABC and its journalists sit in the political spectrum.

How about we flip this back onto both Beecher and The Australian who published this article?
In doing this, it unnecessarily but almost provocatively reinforces the fairly widespread perceptions of where both Crikey, Fairfax and News Ltd's journalists sit in the political spectrum.
If you can find a discrepancy, then I'd like to hear about it.

I would just like to see what they'd all think of Paris' media. Le Monde is left of centre, Le Figaro says that it is a centre-right newspaper but works out to be far further to the right than that, France Soir is a populist and centrist paper, La Croix tries to be neither left or right but is blatantly Roman Catholic, Le Manifeste is openly communist, La Tribune is staunchly capitalist... and that's just in Paris, that doesn't say anything about the rest of France, whose newspapers are a kaliedoscope of political flavours and colours.
Parisian media benefits from having lots of different sorts of voices being published. Paris itself is a far more vibrant and alive city, partly because the culture of which the media is a part, allows more experimentation and a greater flow of ideas to be exchanged.
Sydney (and by extension Australia) is a cultural vaccuum in which there are only a few select and very loud voices, and those voices happen to be for a very large part, boorish, pathetic and greedy.

"I can now fully understand why the BBC has limited its online activities, especially in the commentary arena," he said of Britain's state-owned broadcaster pulling back on its domestic online footprint.
In August, the BBC promised to "cut its footprint on the web" and "exit some editorial areas entirely" as the Conservative government flagged measures to protect private enterprise from the dominance of the BBC.

I can also under understand why the BBC has limited its online activities. A new Conservative government was elected with backing from the same media interests who are complaining about the BBC. Those same media interests also happen to be broadly the same interests who are whinging about our ABC.
(Actually it was both Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch who went on the attack of the BBC)

News Ltd even went so far as to establish a pay wall around its news websites because of dwindling revenues. Of course this creates a conundrum. If I can not access something because it sits behind a pay wall (and believe me, the sort of crap which sits behind certainly isn't worrth paying a subscription fee for), then what right do they have to complain if I go somewhere else?

Is this a free speech issue? If people/companies have the rights to free speech, then surely as a consumer I have the right to select where I get that free speech from. If Crikey, Fairfax and News Ltd don't wish to put forward a leftist viewpoint and I want to consume it, then surely I have the right to find someone who will.

If the national broadcaster is acting as a marketplace for "personal opinions, mainly from the Left and often wacky" then at very least those personal, Left and wacky opinions have a home and place to go to, because if Crikey, Fairfax and News Ltd don't give voice to them, then they go unheard.

Basically Eric Beecher, News Ltd and Fairfax have seen new markets open up and want to exclude the public broadcasters whereever possible from impinging on their precious profits. Really that is the only quibble that they have. Since as economist Adam Smith said that "everyone is motivated by his or her own self-interest" then what other possible issue could they be crying foul about?

Someone needs to give Eric Beecher, News Ltd and Fairfax a swift kick up the date to disodge their heads which have been firmly jammed up there for so long. Give Aunty and her followers the right to bang a Drum, because when it comes down to it, unless there's a profit in it Beecher and his whinging mates aint interested.

October 07, 2010

Horse 1114 - The Referee IS Always Right

- Shane Perkins: being an idiot.
- Photo stolen by me from News Corp.

Two names at the Commonwealth Games stand out more than any others this morning; not because they've covered themselves in glory, but because they've covered themselves in disgrace and stupidity.

Shane Perkins gave a two-fingered salute to officials at the Velodrome after he was sent back to the 7th-12th Keirin cycling event after he was pinged for dangerous riding in the semi final.
Hassene Fkiri was stripped of his silver medal in the wrestling after refusing to shake hands with the new champion Anil Kumar, and then giving the officials a middle-finger salute.

Good. You both get what you deserved... nothing.

As competitors from backyard sports all the way up to national, Olympic and world class events, it should be drummed into everyone that the referee's decision is final and you never have the right to argue with them.

Of the two sports which I play (football and cricket) the laws are quite explicit as to the powers of the official.

Law 5 of the Laws of Football states:
Each match is controlled by a referee who has full authority to enforce the Laws of the Game in connection with the match to which he has been appointed.

Take note of those two important words "full authority". That means that you Shane Shoutymouth have no right to complain, because if the referee's authority is "full", then their decisions and opinions are the only ones which matter.

Curiously one of the sub-clauses says that the refere "acts as timekeeper and keeps a record of the match". This replaced previous clause that the referee was the "sole arbiter of time" as far as the match was concerned. In theory because the referee had "full authority" then they actually had license under Law 5 to break all other nominal rules of time, which leads to the odd postulation that maybe referees had access to time travel... er...

Of course I am running away with myself here but Law 5 goes on to state that:
The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play are final.
The referee may only change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee, provided that he has not restarted play.
So not only does the referee effective have the "rule of God" on the pitch, but he isn't allowed to change his decision if the players whinge or have a big sulk.

What's the lesson? Don't talk back to the referee... EVER.

The Laws of Cricket are altogether longer and complicated but equally no softer on their stance. Law 3 deals with the umpires and it has this to say:
3.7 - Fair and unfair play: The umpires shall be the sole judges of fair and unfair play.
3.12 - Consultation between umpires: All disputes shall be determined by the umpires. The umpires shall consult with each other whenever necessary.

If umpires are the "sole judges" of play and "shall consult with each other whenever necessary" it again means that you Shane Shoutymouth have no right to complain.

This principle exists in virtually every sport I can think of. The rules of field hockey state:
11.1 Two umpires control the match, apply the Rules and are the judges of fair play.
11.2 Each umpire has primary responsibility for decisions in one half of the field for the duration of the match.

Motor Racing:
1. The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, hereafter termed the FIA, shall be the sole international sporting authority entitled to make and enforce regulations for the encouragement and control of automobile competitions and records,

What about cycling?

Chief Commissaire
1. Has full control of all championship and other events, officials, competitors and accredited team personnel from one hour prior to the commencement of the event or Manager's Meeting until one hour after the completion of the last victory ceremony.

To be fair I can't find the regulations which relate to wrestling but I can't see why the principle should be any different.
That general principle is that if you are a competitor then don't talk back to the referee because they've been appointed as the authority for the competition. If you do decide to talk back, although no-one remembers the name of the referee, your name will go down in history as being a whingey little imp.
Likewise Shane Perkins and Hassene Fkiri will be remembered not because of how many medals they won at these Commonwealth Games but for the fact that they couldn't keep their fool mouth shut.

October 06, 2010

Horse 1113 - Capitalist Negligence?


OBION COUNTY, Tenn. - Imagine your home catches fire but the local fire department won't respond, then watches it burn. That's exactly what happened to a local family tonight.
A local neighborhood is furious after firefighters watched as an Obion County, Tennessee, home burned to the ground.

The homeowner, Gene Cranick, said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late. They wouldn't do anything to stop his house from burning.
Each year, Obion County residents must pay $75 if they want fire protection from the city of South Fulton. But the Cranicks did not pay. The mayor said if homeowners don't pay, they're out of luck.
This fire went on for hours because garden hoses just wouldn't put it out. It wasn't until that fire spread to a neighbor's property, that anyone would respond. Turns out, the neighbor had paid the fee.

This is stupid. This is dangerously stupid.

Fortunately we don't live in the dangerously stupid country of the United States. If this was anywhere in the Commonwealth in any Commonwealth country, there is duty of care with regards reasonableness as spelled out in Blyth v Birmingham Waterworks Company (1856).
It is reasonable to expect that the fire brigade will make an effort to put out a fire. Under Common Law, a reasonable person failing to act falls under the grounds of negligence.

Negligence as stated by judge Baron Edward Hall Alderson is "the omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided upon those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do. The defendants might have been liable for negligence, if, unintentionally, they omitted to do that which a reasonable person would have done, or did that which a person taking reasonable precautions would not have done."

Equity in English Law and as a result the law in Australia, is distinct from Common Law and Case Law in that the law of equity provides in theory what is just, ethical and... equitable. It might be perfectly legal that if someone hasn't paid the fee for fire insurance but to simply let their house burn to the ground when something could have been done, is disgusting. The mere fact that you can opt out is quite frankly pathetic.

Why stop at fire fighting? If a person didn't pay for the ambulance service should they simply be allowed to die on the side of the road? Is that reasonable, ethical or equitable?
Morally, I question the type of society American is becoming where money is placed in front of life and assistance. By inference, if Australia follows behind America by about 10 years, is this where we're going to end up?

In the fiercely capitalist days of Victorian England, this very issue about fire service came to a blazing conclusion. Following the Great Fire of London in 1666, various fire insurance companies started to spring up, operating their own fire brigades. Affixed to many buildings throughout England (and in North America), small plaques began to appear which denoted not only that the building had fire insurance, but which company they were insured with.

The problem was that fire is not discriminating, and a fire which started in one building could spread to another. If the building next door was with a different insurance company or even had no insurance at all, then it was common practice for fire brigades to let buildings burn to the ground, just like as Mr Cranick found out.

The Metropolitan Fire Brigade Act was passed in 1865 and the responsibility of firefighting away from the insurance companies precisely because they refused to put out fires they didn't have a direct interest in.

Their negligence firstly caused more than 35 buildings to burn down on the north bank of the Thames in 1834 including the Palace of Westminster (aka the Houses of Parliament) and when the Tooley Street fire happened on the south bank in 1861, it lasted 14 days.


Actual history proves that letting the private sector manage the fire departments is not only foolhardly but if things go wrong, it causes a hideous market failure.
All I can say is that personal liberty matters precisely jack squat if you're dead.

October 01, 2010

Horse 1112 - Are AFL players really "soft"?

The thing I find really incredible in the newspapers this week with regards to the replay of the AFL Grand Final, isn't the fact that there is going to be a replay, but that Rules players are somehow "soft" for not playing extra time. Just quietly me thinks that people who hold this opinion are on the whole, part of the increasingly obese and sedentary portion of society and have never done a day of sport since they left high school.

These are the facts.

Rugby League is played for 40 minutes a half. The current format for deciding extra time is the "golden point" rule. In the Roosters - Tigers match last weekend, the match was finally ended in the 101st minute.
Football is played for 45 minutes a half. Extra time if it is to be played then goes on for two periods of 15 minutes.
Australian Rules Football is played for 25 minutes a quarter with time added on for stoppages which typically add on about 7 minutes a quarter.

Now if you follow through the maths and work out the longest typical match for the three codes, you get:
Rugby League = 40mins + 40mins + golden point = 101mins (longest to date)
Football = 45mins + 45mins + 15mins ET + 15mins ET = 120mins
Australian Rules = 32mins + 32mins + 32mins + 32mins = 128mins (typical).

For a regular match, the players are already on the field for longer than a match played to extra time in either Football or Rugby League. In fact the Roosters - Tigers match last weekend which ended in the 101st minute would probably be only just into the fourth quarter of a normal Australian Rules football match.
Accusations which have appeared in the letters column to the Daily Toiletpaper and the Sydney Moaning Herald, are entirely unfounded.

At the end of 131 minutes between the Pies and the Saints at the MCG last weekend (I checked the actual timekeeping), we saw a lot of players who were quite frankly exhausted and within good reason. They'd played their guts out in one of the most exciting finals we've seen in 30 years, and were understandably both physically and mentally drained.
Do you honestly expect them to fight out another period of extra time? Would that mean a match which would last yet another 32 minutes, bringing us up to a neat 160?

Meanwhile I bet that for the vast majority of people complaining, their biggest amount of physical exertion consisted of extending their thumbs to operate the remote, maybe making a run to to kitchen to get more beer and chips, and moving their corpulent posteriors around the couch.
Obviously with such experience, they're in the perfect position to tell Australian Rules players that they're "soft"; especially since the only grab they may have done all afternoon was a flame-grilled Whopper for some unknown reason.