February 22, 2011

Horse 1154 - A Simple Theory

I have a really weird theory. I bet that if a big enough picture was drawn amongst the general populace, we could determine someone's age just but their response to one simple question. More than likely I've already thought of your response, but if not, send them in.

I'm going to give you one word, and you need to complete the next line of the song. So here goes:


scroll down

keep going

... in the name of love, before you break my heart.
- "Stop! In the Name of Love", The Supremes, 1965.

... children, what's that sound? Everybody look what's going down.
- "For What It's Worth", Buffalo Springfield, 1967.

... before, you tear me all apart. Stop before you go and break my heart.
- "Stop!", Sam Brown, 1988

... Stand there where you are. Before you go too far, Before you make a fool out of love.

- "Stop", Erasure, 1988.

... collaborate and listen. Ice is back with my brand new invention.
- "Ice Ice Baby", Vanilla Ice, 1990.

... Hammer time!
- "U Can't Touch This", MC Hammer, 1990.

... right now. Thank you very much. I need somebody with a human touch.

- "Stop", Spice Girls, 1997.

... the rock. Stop the rock. Can't stop the rock
- "Can't Stop The Rock", Apollo 440, 1999.

... before, you tear me all apart. Stop before you go and break my heart.

- "Stop!",Jamelia (cover of Sam Brown), 2004.

I bet that if we compile the a long enough list and compare it to people's responses, then there will general correlation to the line of the song that they thought of, and the year they were born.

If you have any more responses then this list will become more accurate over time.

February 18, 2011

Horse 1153 - We Need to Re-Think Scrooge

Bob Cratchit is the name of Ebenezer Scrooge's supposedly "underpaid" clerk in his now famous story A Christmas Carol. However a small look at the facts reveals that Cratchit himself is a toady little whinger.

Bob Cratchit is paid the "misery" sum of "fifteen bob a week". Whilst that sounds to be not very much and also incidentally is the current price of the Sydney Morning Herald (yes it's $1.50), there is the small matter of inflation to attend to.

Fifteen Bob a week works out to be $78 per year, but that was back in 1834. Even if you adopt a poor measure of inflation at only 4%, that produces a multiple of 1034.9063. If you multiply that by $78, then you get $80,722 which is a pretty good sort of wage to be on. If you take the average rate of inflation at 5% then Mr Cratchit is paid a staggering $439,137 per year.

In short we don't need to feel sorry for Bob Cratchit. In fact we should be feeling sorry for Ebenezer Scrooge who not only has to pay an exorbitant wage to this guttersnipe but he also shoulders all of the business risk as well since his business partner Marley died.

To put this in perspective Friedrich Engels who would later with Karl Marx write the Communist Manifesto wrote in his 1844 book "The Condition of the Working-Class in England" that the average wage in 1844 was only 10/6 a week which is still 4/6 a week less than Bob Cratchit was paid ten years earlier.

Admittedly until at least the late 19th century, Cratchit's home of Camden Town was considered an "unfashionable" locality but even then its close proximity to the then biggest trading centre in the world was incredibly useful. Even today the average price for a 1 bedroom flat within its NW1 postcode is well above the £300,000 mark.

And we're expected to feel sorry for him?.. not likely.

February 17, 2011

Horse 1152 - I Just Want a Phone That Works

This is going to sound dumb, but in the almost 30 years that mobile phones have existed, how come no-one can make a better mobile phone?

Telephone quality from fixed land-lines, works out to be about a sampling rate of 11kHz at 8-bit and in mono. For all intents and purposes this created a warm sound in the earpiece, had a good range across the audio spectrum and could be easily understood by most people at the other end provided you spoke properly.

I guess this is the fault of hardware manufacturers, Messers Nokia, iPhone, Sagem etc and not the fault of the carriers. Whilst they're trying to jam cameras, MP3 capability, internets, texty and wordy things and apps into their phones, I think that they've lost sight of the first purpose of a mobile phone... TO BE A PHONE.

Companies like Telstra, Optus, Vodafone etc. are doing their level best to open up ever increasing bandwidth and data abilities across 3G, 4G, 85G with a bernaise sauce for all I care but the truth is that they're still being held back by the crud that passes off for handsets*. Why is it that on a landline I can speak to someone very easily, but on a mobile, they sound like they're in a nightclub made entirely of tinfoil, filled up with sludge and on Saturn?

Even if I get a second hand 1983 Toyota Corolla with a bad case of rust, and no radio because some evil little munchkin has flogged it, it isn't a problem because I know full well that I can drive it at 110 down the motorway and get where I'm going easily. I have a Westinghouse Microwave oven at home which dates from 1986. I know that I can put food into it and a few minutes later I'm going to have a yummy curry (even one which came from a tin!).
But if I shell out 700 bucks, why is it that I can't get a mobile phone which at least sounds halfway decent? Isn't that the point of mobile? To aid communication? Not to hear "graaaaa ch ch ch zeeet apple sauce and milk".

So you're on report Messers Nokia, iPhone and Sagem. Please try to do a better job next time.

*I remember the days when Telecom made their own handsets in house, they were/are brilliant. I hope that Telstra makes mobile phones in their own right. I'm sure they'd be 10000% better than the ones made by Messers Nokia, iPhone and Sagem.

February 16, 2011

Horse 1151 - NSW Election 2011 - Another Turn on the Swings

THE Keneally government is heading for a defeat of ''historic proportions'' at next month's election, according to the first poll of the election campaign, which shows Labor could be reduced to as few as 13 seats in the new Parliament.
- Sydney Morning Herald. 16th Feb 2011.

In Horse 1149, I'd made some assumptions based on an expected swing against the Labor Party of 12% in keeping with similar results in other elections. If however, the Sydney Morning Herald is to be believed then this changes everything.

For the Labor Party to be left with a quite frankly pathetic baker's dozen of seats, would require a swing against them of 20.5%. Assuming a uniform swing of 18.8% against Labor and towards the coalition with the remainder produces the following results:

Liberal 58
Nationals 17
(making a coalition of 75)
Labour 13
Greens 2
Indies 3

Kristina Keneally would retain her own seat of Heffon on that assumption but even then, the backlash might be against her personally.

Interestingly it produces a rather odd situation. The Liberals could in theory form government in their own right without the need to form a coalition. This in itself changes the dynamic of the house and the position and role of the National Party in NSW.
The Nationals could take several positions. They could reject forming a coalition government which is the equivalent of political suicide, or they might even occupy a very special position in Australian politics.

If the Nationals were to form coalition government with the Liberals, they might adopt a position as they have done in WA following the 2008 state election:

"We are not prepared to go into a traditional coalition so we'll be accepting ministries based on being independent ministers, that reserve the right to exempt ourselves from Cabinet and vote against an issue on the floor of the Parliament if it's against the wishes of the people we represent."
- WA Nationals leader, Brendon Grylls. 14 Sep 2008 (from the ABC)

If this was the case, then potentially the Nationals could sit on either side of the floor as their whims dictated. They would have 17 seats versus Labor's 13, which means that they could occupy the position of "opposition in residence" and Labour would be the "opposition in exile".
They could in practice cross the floor against legislation that they didn't like, and put up a louder voice than the Labor Party. Of course it would still pass because the Liberals would have the ability to ferry anything through the lower house by virtue of numbers but at least a different sort of voice would be heard.

This general position has been occupied before. In 1983 when Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen started his sixth consecutive term as Premier of Queensland, the then Liberal leader Terry White (yes, that Terry White who would later start a chemist's chain of shops) and in 1986 William Knox, both regularly led the Liberal Party to cross the floor because someone quite rightly stood against Sir Joh's memorable catch phrase and instruction: "Don't you worry about that".

This time if the numbers fall out, then the Nationals can worry and should "worry about that" because they'll be the most credible opposition on the floor of the house in NSW.

February 14, 2011

Horse 1150 - NSW Election 2011 - My Electorate

I've already predicted a smack-down for Labor in the 2011 NSW State Election, so I'll now turn my attention closer to home look at my own electorate of Toongabbie.

Toongabbie is only a new electorate having been created in 2007; as such its only member has been Nathan Rees. The area traditionally sits in Labor heartland and should in theory be a very very safe Labor seat. The difference in this election being that a "safe" Labor seat is something a bit like a fairy tale, and should not be believed.

In this election, there are only three listed candidates at this stage. There is a Green who in the 2007 election posted a result even smaller than that of the Christian Democrats, and the two majors.

The Liberal candidate is Kirsty Lloyd a social worker, cafe owner and a fundraiser for the Royal Society for Deaf and Blind Children. Whilst this sounds like a set of excellent credentials on paper this perhaps is a little diversion. Her husband is Scott Lloyd who is a councilor for Parramatta City Council; given the Liberal Party's reputation for fiddling with pre-selection, it makes you wonder if the only reason she's been put up as a candidate is because the Liberal's think that people will remember the name. It doesn't quite help that most of the electorate happens to lie in Holroyd and Blacktown councils though.

The Labor candidate is the sitting member Nathan Rees who himself had a pre-selection battle against Susai Benjamin who is a solicitor and works as a NSW Treasury review officer.
Rees however has one major advantage that virtually every Labor candidate doesn't have in NSW... sympathy. Rees will be remembered as the former Premier who was removed from office by the forces which installed Kristina Keneally. Perhaps ironically an anti-Keneally campaign by the Liberal Party actually strengthens Rees' bid for reelection, and with the lack of minor parties to split the vote dramatically, you'd imagine that Rees would again win the seat simple on the strength of first preferences.

Nathan Rees will probably be returned to the NSW State Parliament I suspect as the "safest" Labor seat in the state, and the real irony is that it will because of a backlash against his own party.

February 11, 2011

Horse 1149 - NSW Election 2011 - A Turn on the Swings

The 2011 NSW State Election will be an interesting one, though one that's perhaps mind-numbingly easy to predict.

Given that:
- the 2009 Queensland Election saw a 4.6% swing away from Labor,
- the 2010 Tasmianian Election saw a 12.3% swing away from Labor,
- the 2010 Victorian Election saw a 6.8% swing away from Labor,
- the 2010 South Australian Election saw a 7.8% swing away from Labor,
- the 2010 Federal Election saw a 5.4% swing away from Labor,
it's pretty obvious right now that "brand Labor" has a whiff of "off cabbage" to the electorate.

In NSW in particular where the Liberal Party is now totally unknown to the majority of the electorate and the Labor Party is really on the nose, then it's not much of a jump to suggest that a swing against Labor of 12% or worse is highly likely.

What's really intriguing though is the fact that if it wasn't for the by-election in Penrith, the preference for the local candidate is almost entirely determined by geography.
Provided you lived south of the Parramatta River and to the West in Sydney, you got a Labor member. If you lived on the North Shore and Sutherland, you got a Liberal member. If you lived in the two steel towns of Wollongong and Newcastle, you were likely to get a Labour member. And if you lived in the country, you'd usually get a National member except where a Liberal was running alone, or in places like Bathurst, the Blue Mountains or the Snowy.

If we assume a roughly uniform swing of 12% against Labor in NSW (which is probably likely given the results in Tasmania and the general loathing in NSW), then it's likely that the results will be as follows:
Liberal 44
National 14
(making a coalition of 58, 11 seats more than the 47 required for government)
Labor 26
Greens 2
Independents 7

Interestingly the seat of Kiama which is currently sitting on that 12% line and is currently considered to be a safe seat, might come down to a matter of tens of votes. The actual result would be irrelevant considering that 11 other seats would flip before it, but it produces an interesting statistic.

Also of note is the seat of Port Stephens. What I find utterly mind-blowing is that the 2007 result was eventually decided on 5th preferences and still managed to come down to just 66 votes in 2007. Yet for some reason that still totally mystifies me, there are only two candidates running in the 2011 election. You'd think that even if an independent stuck their name on the ballot paper, they be able to blow the whole seat open. But then again if this seat was a barometer for the whole election, it would swing 12% in favour of the Liberal candidate.

Still, come 27th March, Barry O'Farrell is likely to be the next Premier of NSW and I bet that within a week the "decent and respectable people of New South Wales" will wake up with a post-election hangover and realise that the water companies, schools, and the railways will all be on eBay.

Horse 1148 - NSW: Making Promises We Know We'll Never Keep

I think that it's pretty obvious to all that Kristina Keneally and the never ending sideshow that the is the Labor Party will not be returned to Government following the NSW State Election. In the light of this, perhaps she should just ditch any pretense of trying to pitch for office and simply play the whole thing for laughs. At very least it would make for a few very entertaining weeks of political campaigning instead of the usual dross we have to put up with. To this end I have a few suggestions for Labor Party promises (that they know they will never have to keep).

Transport - Build a Flying Fox to Perth:
Not only would a trans-national Flying Fox would reduce transport costs by godzillions* of dollars but it would have the added benefits of being insanely fun, and being run largely by gravity would reduce greenhouse gases.
There is the small problem of generating enough steel to actually build giant towers more than a couple of hundred kilometers tall but considering this is a promise that we know will never be kept, we don't even need a contingency plan.

Crime - Get Tough on Crime:
Since virtually every state government election campaign in my lifetime has included the words "get tough on crime" then I'd propose to "get really tough on crime". People with experience about getting tough on crime include the KGB, FSB, NKVD etc. People under the new proposed crime policy wouldn't go to gaol, they'd simply become unpersons and never be seen of again.
Perhaps we could put maternity wards in gaols on the basis that since every child is going to grow up and become a criminal anyway, why not just short circuit the process and take them from out of mum and into the gaol cell.
Of course this policy seems ridiculous, but considering this is a promise that we know will never be kept we don't even need to justify it.

Health - Reduce the Number of Sick People:
The problem with our hospitals is that people keep on getting sick and having to go there. Obviously the problem isn't with the hospital system but the amount of sick people. Apart from killing people which would reduce the total number of sick people and is obviously a bad idea (though given that this is a series of promises that we know will never be kept, I don't know if that matters), the most obvious way to reduce the number of sick people living in an area is to change the size of the area.
This proposal is to force Queensland to annexe great slabs of northern NSW, Victoria can have massive chunks to the south, we'll expand the ACT to the size of France and Jervis Bay Territory can have the rest, except for the confines of the NSW Parliament building which will remain the only territory belonging to NSW.
Sure it's probably churlish to just give away chunks of NSW to other states so that they can have the problems of all those sick people, but they same could be said when Ms Keneally gave away the state's power companies for a cheese and ham sandwich with lettuce (good lettuce).

Wages and the Cost of Living:
NSW is uncompetitive because it simply costs too much to live here. This is largely to do with the cost of housing being exorbitant and this causes a pull on the demand for wages, thus repeating the cycle. The solution? Hyper-inflation.
By simply printing off godzillions* of dollars, people's wages would become worthless. If people start becoming desperate enough then they'll reduce their expectations and be willing for a lower real wage. Hyper-inflation worked perfectly well in Russia in the early 90s when people's life savings were simply wiped off the board, and by lowering the cost of real wages to the point where people will be willing to work for a turnip a day, then we'd be able to compete with China and India. Of course it's a terrible idea and no-one would actually want to carry it out but considering this is a promise that we know will never be kept we don't even need to worry about the consequences.

As from this year 11E7, NSW will move from Base Ten to Base Twelve as per Horse 785. That way we'll get a whole generation of children being able to deal with a more sensible number system.
Schools will be equipped with lots of exercise bikes connected to electric generators. This way we'll solve two problems at once: both the problem of electrical generation and the problem of obesity in children. To that end all schools will be fitted with narrower doors so that fat kiddies can't get out and will have to cycle more.
The NSW State Parliament will be shut down permanently and all decisions will be given to Year 2 students. It might result in something like massive subsidies for ice cream but the results wouldn't be any more childish than what currently comes out of Macquarie St.

*A godzillion is very big number which is even bigger than a brazillion.

February 09, 2011

Horse 1147 - Consider The Ant

In our house at the moment we have a surfeit of ants. This made me think of two rather interesting things:

1. I don't know of anyone else other than me who would knowingly use the word surfeit.
2. This - Proverbs 6:6: Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.

The first major scientific study of ants was made by a Mr Auguste Forel who was a Swiss biologist who wrote a treatise on ants called Les fourmis de la Suisse (The Ants of Switzerland) in 1874, but it wasn't until 1910 that an American entomologist called William Morton Wheeler first wrote in the peer-reviewed academic journal Science of his theory that ants were mostly female. Testing of ant hormones and tests under the microscope confirmed this, much to the great delight of an increasing field of Myrmecologists.

Proverbs 6:6 and the surrounding verses pose an interesting problem. Namely that the phrasing of Hebrew words in Proverbs 6:6-8 is entirely female. The word drki·e means "her ways" rather than his ways.

How could the writer possibly know given the fact that it took both chemical testing and a microscope to determine that most ants are female*? Did the ancients have some sort of mystical thing that we don't know about? Or is it just possible that the Bible actually has been inspired by God?

*Moreover, why does the NIV in an effort to be "gender neutral" make the change from "her" to "its" when the writers never intended this to be? Is the NIV being "white-anted"?

February 08, 2011

Horse 1146 - The Greenhouse Effect Exists... duh.

The Earth is roughly 93 million miles away from the sun and at that distance a theoretical blackbody (one that absorbs 100% of all electromagnetic radiation); therefore the Earth should in theory have an average surface temperature of about 5.3°C... but it doesn't...
The Earth is covered in oceans and atmosphere and as such reflects about 30% of of all electromagnetic radiation; therefore the Earth should in theory have an average surface temperature of about -18.6°C... but it doesn't...
The Earth's atmosphere absorbs radiation, and along with the thermal re-emission of heat due to both the land and the heat being trapped by the atmosphere itself, the Earth actually has an average surface temperature of 14.4°C... and rising.

A French fellow called Joseph Fourier was looking into describing the laws of heat conduction as early as 1824. Fourier's Law (also known as the Law of Heat Conduction) had predicted that the Earth should be much cooler than it actually was. He assumed that either there must be something in interstellar space or that the Earth's own atmosphere was causing the heat to be trapped. His proposal of a "Greenhouse Effect" was made in 1827.

In the 1860s John Tyndall was the first to quantitatively prove that various gases had differing abilities to absorb radiant heat. He was also able to prove using a thermopile, that not only did people breathe out CO2 but that the biggest single factor in the Greenhouse Effect was in fact water vapour.

In 1896 Svante Arrhenius came up with the theory that by altering CO2 levels, the planet would heat up and therefore become more productive.

"If the quantity of carbonic acid in the air should sink to one-half its present percentage, the temperature would fall by about 4°; a diminution to one-quarter would reduce the temperature by 8°. On the other hand, any doubling of the percentage of carbon dioxide in the air would raise the temperature of the earth's surface by 4°C; and if the carbon dioxide were increased fourfold, the temperature would rise by 8°C."

"We often hear lamentations that the coal stored up in the earth is wasted by the present generation without any thought of the future, and we are terrified by the awful destruction of life and property which has followed the volcanic eruptions of our days. We may find a kind of consolation in the consideration that here, as in every other case, there is good mixed with the evil. By the influence of the increasing percentage of carbonic acid in the atmosphere, we may hope to enjoy ages with more equable and better climates, especially as regards the colder regions of the earth, ages when the earth will bring forth much more abundant crops than at present, for the benefit of rapidly propagating mankind."

So given that the idea of The Greenhouse Effect has been around now and more or less provable for about 120 years, why then do people think that it's other trendy name "Global Warming" doesn't exist?

The most obvious example which should have served as a warning of the effects of CO2 is that of Venus. Venus is a planet which is about 90% the size Earth but which has a highly relective atmosphere which reflects rough 80% of all electromagnetic radiation; therefore Venus should in theory have an average surface temperature of about -29.5°C... but it doesn't...

Venus has not only has a very dense atmosphere but one which is rich in CO2. The atmosphere of Venus is roughly 96% CO2 and at the surface the temperatures are something like 500°C. The poor Soviet Venera 4 probe lasted 93 minutes before being crushed to death by the atmosphere.

The four gases which contribute most to the Greenhouse Effect on Earth are Water Vapour, Carbon Dioxide, Methane and Ozone.
Admittedly we can't do much about water vapour, but if the planet heats up then the volume of water which exists will expand, which might have nasty consequences. Ozone and Methane together count for about 3% of the atmosphere but CO2 is something which we're actually adding to.

It has been said that in the time of Shakespeare a squirrel could leap from treetop to treetop and cover the very length and breadth of England. Whether or not this was true or merely poetic (ie a fib) is moot, but the point is that England which once had great stands of Oak trees, is now a broadly pastoral or urban country. The once mighty Oaks now lie rotting at the bottom of the ocean, having been cut down, turned into ships and sunk during the times of Elizabeth I to Charles II.
Even in my lifetime, the Amazon rainforest has shrunk by 20% and it is expected that by 2030 more than half of the Amazon will be gone. Interestingly the soils left behind after the rainforest have been cut down are good for farming for about 10 years, and then they take on a character resembling that of sub-Saharan African soils.

The point being that with 200 years of solid industrialisation with no signs of abaiting, and with forests being cleared, I find it really difficult to believe that CO2 emissions increases are purely the result of natural factors. To suggest that humans have little control over the weather and environment is mind-numbingly stupid.

Now think what you will about all of this, but if there was an event which you were warned about which might or might not happen, wouldn't it make sense to prepare for that event occuring even if it didn't take place? Some people might even call that taking out an insurance policy.
Insurance by definition is a form of risk management which is used as a hedge against an uncertain loss. If we're being told about an uncertain loss of life as we know it due to Global Warming or the Greenhouse Effect, isn't it prudent to take out insurance against it?

As yet, no-one to my mind has come up with a satisfying answer as to why exactly that isn't the case, other than the immediate economic disadvantage. Except that just like in Queensland with the floods recently, if you don't think about adequate insurance, you're likely to lose everything.

February 07, 2011

Horse 1145 - I Want My Jet-Pack Fiesta

"Oh wow. Hoo-bloody-ray" you might say, "Rollo's linking us to yet some other car website that we don't really care about". Well guess what, this time you really should care about it because in all likelyhood this idea could change the world.


The Jaguar C-X75 (C for coupe, X for eXperimental and 75 for Jaguar being 75 years old), is powered by two "gas micro-turbines" or what we would normally call "jets".

The two jet engines are each about the size of a 2 litre Coke bottle and spinning at 80,000rpm they produce 140kW (184bhp). This however isn't the exciting bit, the two jet engines charge batteries which in turn drive four electric traction motors which at the wheels each provide peak power outputs of 580kW (760bhp).

The idea is similar in principle to diesel-electric locomotives which are commonly used on railway locomotives. By continuously charging the batteries even when the power isn't directly being used, the power generator (the jet) can be run more efficiently. Jets in particular run at their most efficient when being run at constant revs.
The other really amazing thing about jet engines is that they are ludicrously simple in operation. Basically most turbofan jet engines on passenger aircraft consist of the main fan, a series of compressors, a combustion chamber and a series of turbines used to extract auxilliary power. On a car it would be a little different. Instead of the thrust of the engine being used to drive the car forwards, it is the power generated from the turbines which would then be used to generate electricity.
Jet engines can be run on all sorts of fuels; provided the designers get their thinking caps on, we may be able to run them on something renewable like canola oil.

If you'll allow me to dream for a while, I can conceive the day when jet-electric cars are not just the subject of concept hypercars but everyday motoring. I don't think that it's impossible in say 15 years time for a car the size of a Yaris to be fitted with a jet engine the size of a Coke can. If it were to produce 80kW (105bhp), then this aught to be enough for some quite spirited driving. Toyota I imagine would be in a better place than anyone else to modify their existing technologies considering that their hybrid system is already a petrol-electric of sorts.

A very small jet (hence the name gas micro-turbine) would take up even less space than a conventional petrol or diesel engine. The whole problem of what to do with hot exhaust gases could probably be very easily solved given that extra space.

I hope that in the 2043 when I am 65 years old that the sort of car I will be driving will be cool. I hope that the '39 Ford Comet Jet-Electric (running on Canola Oil) will come out in RS form and produce 220bhp at the wheels. If the future turns out to be less cool than I imagine then heads will roll... you hear me?!

Let's Go Bananas!

February 05, 2011

Horse 1144 - Mr Abbott's Oppostion to a "Great Big New Tax"

Liberal Party supporters were sent a letter this week, yet again opposing what Mr Abbott has to say about the "great big new tax" which is designed to help QLD Flood victims. Which he (and I assume his party) is opposed to...

From the SMH:
It repeats Mr Abbott's reasons for opposing the levy and reasserts his allegation that the government was exploiting a tragedy to gouge taxpayers.
"Only a Prime Minister who is out of her depth would seek to exploit people's generosity to flood victims to try to win acceptance for yet another new tax," it says.

Somehow I don't know Mr Abbott, can I refer you to the famous racial discrimination case of Kettle Vs Pot?

Mr Abbott of all people has no right to complain about the Federal Government either spending money to help people in need, nor the right to complain about raising "special" taxes. The truth he that he's guilty or something far bigger than that.

The Commonwealth Government today praised the state and territory governments for the co-operation in responding to the health crisis resulting from the recent Indian Ocean Tsunami.
"The coordinated efforts of all governments demonstrate our ability to use health resources effectively and efficiently in a crisis," Tony Abbott said.
Within 24 hours of the tsunami...

Just to hammer the point home, the press release was repeated verbatim on Mr Abbott's personal website.

“In addition to this there are also many doctors, nurses and medical professionals volunteering their skills and time to help the many thousands of victims in need of medical attention. This is the latest demonstration of the ideals of duty and service which characterize Australia’s health professionals,” Tony Abbott said.

So let me get this straight, when Mr Abbott was Federal Minister for Health he had no problem in sending almost a billion dollars in helping the people of Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Bangaldesh etc, but when it comes to the people of his own country, he has a different line?
Also as the Federal Minister for Health he was a member of a government which not only spent billions of dollars blowing the heck out of Iraqis, but he did so on the premise of an entire sting of lies? The obvious conclusion is that because the floods and following effects of Cyclone Yasi on the people of Queensland are actually real, that perhaps we shouldn't help them? Am I to assume that if we invented some pretend flooding that he'd be alright with that?

Was it somehow unreasonable to the Prime Minister to respond to a national crisis? The then opposition leader Malcolm Fraser criticised the then Federal Government's handling of the effects of Cyclone Tracy in 1974 when it set up the Darwin Reconstruction Commission, and subsequently extended the scope and reach of the Commission, and even when as far as to give self-government to the Territory in 1978 which means that over the next few years, aid to the Territory was completely hidden under the guise of the normal Northern Territory budget procedures.

Does anyone remember a certain piece of legislation entitled A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) 1999? In effect the GST is a regressive tax, which has a more pronounced effect on lower income earners, meaning that the tax consumes a higher proportion of their income, compared to those earning large incomes. Maybe that's what Mr Abbott is objecting to? Maybe he opposes the fact that richer people would be forced to pay a tax designed to raise $1.3bn as opposed to poorer people paying a tax which has raised circa $374bn in the 11 years of its operation.

Whilst Mr Abbott might oppose a "great big new tax" he had no problems with installing a "great big monstrous new tax system" did he? Something which costs the taxpayer a third of one percent of his own foul and incidious tax must be stopped before it's started, because that would mean that the Federal Government would have to take reponsibility for something, and he mighty very well be PM in the future. How dare the Gillard Government fulfil its duties under section 51 of the Constitution to "make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth". That's just reprehensible isn't it?

February 04, 2011

Horse 1143 - Fiat 500 - Fiat Lux

Because I am such a cheeky person, from time to time I will ask someone if I can have a go in their car. This morning a client of ours happened to mention that they'd just bought a new Fiat 500, and of course considering that the Ford Ka Mk2 is based off of this, I had to have a go.

This is that story...

When you step inside the 500, you are visually assaulted by a faux-retro dashboard. It is supposed to be "inspired" by the original, but somehow instead of the very austere interior of the original, the new 500 has a very plush dashboard that has more in common stylistically with a then "futurist" 1950s Kelvinator refridgerator. It's like a reimagining of what the past was when it was looking into the future... it truly makes your head spin.
Whatever the case, the car I drove was cream coloured, and it was nice to see that the interior was also highlighted in cool touch cream as opposed to the seas of indistinct grey plastics that seems to haunt so many car's interiors these days.
I liked the little details like the switches for various things. They were finished in a sort of chrome which added to the overall effect of the car.

It's all fine until you actually have to drive it though. I couldn't get over the fact of how quiet the engine was. I was expecting at very least some sort of happy little burble from under the bonnet, but it didn't even really do that.

To actually drive it is an almost unengaging experience. Perhaps Fiat has realised that the vast bulk of this car's time will be spent in peak hour traffic and as such, they've tried to completely make the car feel totally anonymous to drive.

Admittedly I didn't much of a chance to push the 500 hard (because it wasn't my car) but it just didn't have the same sort of sharp steering that either my Ka had, or that the current Mazda 2 has.
I suspect that like a lot of modern cars, it's had subtle understeer dialled into it in the interests of safety; this in consequence kills the fun. Perhaps something more direct would have been nicer.

It didn't feel as grounded as the new Mini, and it didn't feel as well built as either VW's Golf or Polo. A lot of those things can be changed with different spring and shock settings but if you've just bought a new car, then you're not likely to immediately fix something which isn't broken.

My verdict is that the Fiat 500 is all about the packaging but underneath is as fun to drive as a Yaris. Depending on build quality which has been a problem for Fiat in the past, that also might be an issue.
It seems to me that if you really want the Fiat 500, then it's purely because of aesthetics. If not then you're probably better off getting a Ford Fiesta, Mazda 2, Mini or VW Golf or Polo. All of those cars do different things better than the Fiat 500 does.

This is the best view of a Fiat 500 in my not very well paid opinion:
... the sight of someone else driving one... heh heh heh... poor deluded soul.

February 01, 2011

Horse 1142 - So called "Castle Doctrine" is based on lies.

During the last fortnight or so, debate raged in America about the effectiveness of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution following the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford and five other people including federal judge John Roll and a nine year old girl.

One of the justifications for (what I think is dangerously stupid) the justification of the Second Amendment, namely the "right to bear arms" is apparently something called "Castle Doctrine".

Castle Doctrine it seems gives someone the right to use deadly force to stop intruders coming into their home, because "a man's home is his castle" right? Legally it provides an excuse for murder, though under jurisdictions that have Castle Doctrine it is fobbed off as "justifiable homicide".

Supposedly Castle Doctrine arises from English Common Law, however I can not find any evidence that such a thing ever existed in English Common Law at all.

Enter Wikipedia:
The font of all knowledge Wikipedia (which is about as reliable as asking blokes down the pub), states that "Castle Doctrine (also known as a Castle Law or a Defense of Habitation Law) is an American legal doctrine arising from English Common Law" and then cites The New Jersey Self Defense Law, 2008. I have a problem with this.
Why is a citation for something which is grounded in "English Common Law" quoting something from the State of New Jersey? The text itself reads:
"The “Castle Doctrine” is a long-standing American legal concept arising from English Common Law that provides that one's abode is a special area in which one enjoys certain protections and immunities, that one is not obligated to retreat before defending oneself against attack, and that one may do so without fear of prosecution."
Again there's the pesky phrase "arising from English Common Law" but no actual evidence or citations to prove this.

So I then did a search through Google to find where Castle Doctrine came from and found this from the Connecticut General Assembly entitled "CASTLE DOCTRINE AND SELF-DEFENSE":
"You asked about the “castle doctrine,” how it acquired its name, how many states have adopted bills on it, and any information about its effect in states that have adopted it."

It then says later:
"It is defined differently in different states. The name appears to have its origin in the English common law rules protecting a person's home and the phrase 'one's home is one's castle'."
Yet again this states that it has "its origin in the English common law rules" and again doesn't state where in English Common Law it comes from.

I then went to the State Library of NSW in search of this increasingly frustratingly difficult to find source from English Common Law and found four very heavy books:
- Jowitt's Dictionary of English Law, 3rd Edition (Thomson Reuters)
- Turning Points of the Common Law, Volumes 1 and 2 by The Right Hon The Lord Cooke of Thorndon KBE (he sounds dead posh, innit like?)
- Baker and Milsom Sources of English Legal History: Private Law to 1750 by John Baker

You'd think that specialist subject books on the sources of English Common Law would at least have a single example of Castle Doctrine actually in English Common Law cases, but I found NOTHING. Zero, zip, zilch, nada, diddly-squat!

Common Law is also known as Case Law and arises from precedent. Judges hand down their decisions through the various courts and tribunals, and if a similar case arises in future, then the principles which guided the first judge will be Common to those which guide the next one; hence the description.

The problem is that I can't find even a single example of Castle Doctrine ever existing in any English Common Law Cases; this lead me to think that it is a complete fabrication, a fib, a lie, an untruth, a pile of pants and a load of horse manure. Have I made myself clear yet?

Castle Doctrine is based on NOTHING!
... unless proven otherwise.