May 31, 2011

Horse 1195 - The Carbon Tax Will Hurt Families... Duh!

Labor and the Greens want it; the Liberals are too chaotic to decide if they want it; the European Union has had one in place since 2005 and in Canada, Stephen Harper has been returned as PM by running a campaign of railing against it. So then, what is the point of a Carbon Tax anyway?

Whether or not you call it an Emissions Trading Scheme, a Carbon Tax or a direct price of carbon emissions, whatever form the proposed tax takes will ultimately be resolved through the operations of the market. Just like a tax on Cigarettes, Alcohol or Petrol, the whole point is that the tax is essentially a punitive one for the simple reason that unless the system is either punitive to discourage certain behaviours, or incentivised to encourage other behaviours, then there is no motive for the market to do anything whatsoever.

Let me put this another way. When the price of oil goes up, oil companies merely raise their prices. If the tax on petrol goes up, oil companies merely raise their prices. Either way, oil companies don't chuck a massive whinge because of the operation of market forces, all that happens is a shift in prices.
If a Carbon Tax is introduced, then it makes little difference upon whom it is imposed. If it is imposed on the "big polluters" then they'll pass that on with higher prices. If it is imposed on consumers directly, then that also results in higher prices. It really makes three-quarters of diddly-squat who the tax is imposed on, a punitive tax will raise prices.

So called "sin" taxes have another name, namely a Pigovian tax. An economist called Arthur Pigou published several papers; one of them being on the subject of "negative externalities", or costs which are not transmitted through the mechanism of price.
A good example of an externality is that of traffic. If car owners use the roads, they impose costs to other drivers through increased traffic flow, leading to congestion and other costs like increased insurance premiums because of higher accident rates.
A Pigovian tax in this case would be to raise the tax on petrol to discourage car usage.

This argument that imposing a Carbon Tax will raise prices and "hurt families" is to state the obvious. DUH! That's the point!
The whole point of a Carbon price is to change people's behaviour. Carbon Pollution is a negative externality as a result of producing goods and services, so it's ultimately the consumer's fault anyway for buying goods and services in the first place.

What is the alternative? Merrily going on to create an even bigger externality of things like rising sea levels and flooding, the total destruction of people's homes, farms and livelihood, and even weirder weather leading to greater food insecurity, famines and wars?
It seems to me that a punitive tax as a means to let markets sort out the problem is only the first in many steps and whilst political parties of all colours dither and do nothing, it brings the deadlines only ever closer.

People and corporations will not generally change their behaviour unless acted upon by an outside force. A classic example of this is the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (look at the link, it's scary). Because there wasn't any incentive to provide adequate fire escapes in the building, no-one did so and as a result 146 people were trapped inside the burning building and died.
I'm not prepared to debate whether or not climate change is or isn't caused by humans, the point is that it does exists and is caused by humans, and if you don't agree you are an idiot, pure and simple.

Something has to be done. The point of a Carbon tax in whatever form it takes will hurt the consumer, because if it doesn't, nothing will be done at all.

May 26, 2011

Orderly Anarchy

Yeah! I'm so Underground!

Will passengers please stand behind the yellow line for their own convenience and safety? Thank you from London Underground.

Horse 1194 - Would NFL Be Safer Without Helmets?

I've just been watching the first State of Origin Rugby League match between NSW and Queensland for 2011 and was wondering about this though experiment proposed by the Wall Street Journal in 2009; namely:
This football season, the debate about head injuries has reached a critical mass. Startling research has been unveiled. Maudlin headlines have been written. Congress called a hearing on the subject last month.
But before the debate goes any further, there's a fundamental question that needs to be investigated. Why do football players wear helmets in the first place? And more important, could the helmets be part of the problem?

Watching the Rugby League tonight, it was startlingly obvious to me that the hits taken by players in a Rugby League match are nowhere near as rough as they are in a game of NFL, and I tend to wonder if helmets are part of the problem.
I also find it a little curious that the NFL season only lasts 17-weeks, and the matches are only 60 minutes of actual game time, as opposed to 80 minutes in a game of Rugby League and 120 minutes in an Australian Rules Football match.

The British Medical Association came to the conclusion in one of their reports, that the risk of serious injury and death caused by head trauma was actually lower in the days of bare-knuckle boxing. Because boxers would feel their own punches more without gloves they'd tend not to hit as hard. There are reports of prizefights lasting beyond the 6 hour mark. The link is below:$FILE/TheBoxingDebate.pdf

Then there is the curious tale of the Munich Taxicab Experiment, in which half of a fleet of taxicabs were fitted with ABS and half not. The drivers were then let loose but not told which cabs they had.

Among a total of 747 accidents incurred by the company's taxis during that period, the involvement rate of the ABS vehicles was not lower, but slightly higher,
Subsequent analysis of the rating scales showed that drivers of cabs with ABS made sharper turns in curves, were less accurate in their lane-holding behaviour, proceeded at a shorter forward sight distance, made more poorly adjusted merging manoeuvres and created more "traffic conflicts".

I'm wondering then, if NFL players didn't have helmets on, whether they'd be as likely to use their heads as battering rams the way they can do now, and whether or not the game would be made safer as a result?

This idea I imagine falls into the same sorts of questions as Risk Compensation, Risk Homeostasis and the Peltzman Effect, all of which are more to do with insurance risk questions than anything else, but it's still a good question.

Would NFL Be Safer Without Helmets? I wonder.

May 25, 2011

Horse 1193 - Geek Pride Day - Bonus Post

1. Is Unity and is therefore interesting.

2. Is the only even Prime number and is therefore interesting.

3. Is both Prime and a Triangular number and is therefore interesting.

4. Is a square number and is therefore interesting.

5. Is a Prime number and is therefore interesting.

6. Is a Triangular number and is therefore interesting.

7. Is a Prime number and is therefore interesting.

8. Is a Cubic number and is therefore interesting.

9. Is a square number and is therefore interesting.

10. Is a Triangular number and is therefore interesting.

11. Is a Prime number and is therefore interesting.

12. Is the first Abundant number and is therefore interesting.

13. Is a Prime number and is therefore interesting.


14 has nothing particular interesting about it at all. 14 is a boring boring number. Thierry Henry played in the 14 kit for Arsenal, which is a boring boring team and he is a boring boring player.
If 14 is so boring, does that make it interesting? I think not. 14 you are a boring boring number. Go and play with the other boring numbers.

Horse 1192 - The Use of Syrup in Coffee

Yesterday my boss went for a jaunt into the City where we had a meeting and during the course of the meeting we went to a certain franchise coffee house, where five out of the six of us had coffee with added syrup except me who ordered my usual "long black". Nobody else seemed to mind about the quality of their coffee, but mine was utterly horrid. As a result of this, there is only one conclusion that I can come up with - This franchise coffee house uses rubbish coffee but masks it with syrupy badness.

I can see a parallel with this and the reasons (I suspect), for the use of a lot of spices in certain kinds of cooking. If meat had gone off or was beginning to turn, by spicing the meat to the point of utter ridiculousness, people could no longer taste that the meat had gone off.
Coffee is made from the seeds or pit in the middle of the fruit of the coffee plant, technically coffee is a cherry of sorts so I suspect that like every other fruit, that if it is left out for a long time, it's probably likely to go bad.

There might be some degree of truth that maybe this particular franchise coffee house either keeps its coffee in storage for a longer time, or it could also be the case that in the chase for ever greater profits, they're simply using a cheaper grade of coffee.
I already object to coffee houses milking and frothing up coffee in an effort to justify charging so much for their coffee. Adding syrup is just extra addition which can be marked up 500%, thus sending even more money into the hands of Franchise Coffee House™ Inc.

One thing I found in the United States was that because of the prevalence of Franchise Coffee House™ Inc. many smaller operators simply couldn't play the margins any more and shut down. Some hotels even boasted about having Franchise Coffee House™ Inc. either on their premises or even in the room. Admittedly I never stayed in any of these hotels, but I found generally that either because most of the coffee in the United States was drip coffee (which itself should be a crime), or Rival Franchise Coffee House™ Inc., one could never find a decent cup of coffee anywhere.

I have travelled through France and Italy and I can tell you from first hand experience, that the best coffee (and even from poor quality beans to begin with) is made by baristas who have turned it into an art. Even in the UK, you can still find greasy spoons where the coffee might not be world class but the atmosphere is cosy and warm instead of being blasted with the latest chart entry.

There is hope though. Franchise Coffee House™ Inc. closed two-thirds of its "stores" in Australia with some market analysts citing that they failed to understand the "European coffee culture" in Australia. I however think that the reason is far more obvious than this. The point being that if you sell a product which is horrid, then less people will want to buy it in the first place.

May 22, 2011

Horse 1191 - OneHD's Coverage of Formula One... or Rather Not.

In Horse 1187 I complained that One HD's coverage of Formula One online was woefully inadequate. At the next GP in Spain the coverage completely dropped out and didn't restart until lap 8, meaning that if you were relying on the online stream for live coverage, you got diddly-squat and missed the start.

In the meantime, I was following Twitter and counting the number of complaints that were sent to the @OneHD twitter account. At the time of this posting, we were up to 2523 tweets all singing together in their general grumpiness about the poor TV coverage.

It also made me think about how badly this reflects on OneHD's main "sponsors" of the F1 coverage. Vodafone are trying to push their Infinite 45 plan, and there are adverts for Mercedes-Benz online. Now admittedly I can't afford a Mercedes-Benz so I won't be buying one of those, but just suppose you were trying to use the "Desire HTC" on Vodafon's Infinite 45 plan to watch the Formula One coverage, just what do you think you would have seen for the those first 8 laps of the race? NOTHING.

I have resigned myself to the fact that if I want to watch Formula One, for yet another season, it's not going to be live because I will be forced to watch it on Channel 10 after they play NCIS, Hawaii-Five-O, and Masterchef. But at least I can say this...

Because of you One HD and your owners Channel 10, I will deliberately not consider Vodafone for my next mobile phone and will cancel my existing phone contract. I will also delierately try to avoid NCIS, Hawaii-Five-O, and Masterchef out of spite and sincerely hope that the 2012 season of Formula One goes to someone part way compotent like Channel 7 or Channel 9.
How was it that in 1987 we could see all 16 races LIVE but in 2011 we can't manage to see any at all?

I'll leave you to ponder that whilst I watch Doctor Who on ABC iView. Heck even the ABC can live stream ABC News 24 without any problems.

May 18, 2011

Horse 1190 - Round And Round
"Does anyone know what the direction of travel around a circle was called before clock faces were invented?" asks Nigel Hancock, of Castle Hill. "The reason I ask this is I suspect it will have to be resurrected shortly, as Gen Y's younger siblings (Gen Z?) have no idea what clockwise and anti-clockwise mean in the digital age."

The word for clockwise before clocks were invented perhaps not surprisingly was "Sunwise". That little word also gives you a hint as to why clocks go in that direction in the first place.

If you are living in the Northern Hemisphere as the majority of conquering civilisations were, then if you were to erect a sundial, you'd notice that the sun which rises in the East sweeps a trail through the Southern portion of the skies before settling in the West. - East. South. West.
Like wise the shadow which is always going to be in the opposite direction of the light source (the sun) describes a path from the West, points to the North before trailling off to the East. - West. North. East.

In both cases, the light source and the shadows move in the same direction of travel around the central point of the compass in a sunwise direction.
If you were going to build a machine that mechanically pointed to the sun on its journey across the sky so that you could tell time by it, then quite naturally it would mimic the sun and shadows and also travel in a sunwise direction.
The word clock itself probably derives from the Celtic world "clocca" which means a "bell", being the messenger from the mechanical govenor of time.

If you wanted a word to describe something that went the other way to the sun, it would be obvious to call it something that meant "the other way".
The word for the other way in English before the invention of the clock is the word "Widdershins", which comes to us via Lowland Scots and Low German. The Low German word "widersinnig" means "against sense" and are good cognates.

I wanted to confirm this and so I took a trip down to a park near where I work, and presumed that because I live in the Southern Hemisphere, that the sundial would go in the opposite direction to the Northern Hemisphere because the sun travels East, North, west, and that the numbers would be arranged in a Widdershins direction. Lo and behold, they are.

Of course the obvious counter argument to the Column 8 problem is simply to give the younger generations normal watches. Digital Watches have existed since 1972 and they haven't displaced analogue watches at all.

May 17, 2011

Horse 1189 - The Last Day Arrives

This then is the state of play going into the last round of the season:

44 - Sunderland (safe)

40 - Blackburn Rovers (playing Wolves)
40 - Wolverhampton Wanderers (playing Blackburn)
39 - Birmingham City (playing Spurs)
39 - Blackpool (playing Man Utd)
39 - Wigan Athletic (playing Stoke)
33 - West Ham Utd (gone)

If either Blackburn or Wolves win their match against each other, then they're safe, so you can expect this encounter to be spiteful. If in the event that they draw with each other, they'd both go to 41 points and it is technically possible that if Birmingham, Blackpool and Wigan all win, then those three clubs would end on 42 and they'd both be relegated.
For both Blackburn and Wolverhampton, a win guarantees survival.

Because Birmingham, Blackpool and Wigan are all on 39 points, then even a win might not ensure survival because if all three win and there isn't a draw in the Blackburn-Wolves game, then one of them would be relegated.

It would come down to goal difference if they ended up on the same number of points, so you'd expect that they'd all want to go out and smash as many goals as they possibly could. Even in the event that they somehow all miraculously ended up equal on goal difference, then Blackpool would end with 11 wins as opposed to 9 for both Birmingham and Wigan. As for what happens beyond that, I simply do not know.

Birmingham will be playing Tottenham away at White Hart but Tottenham themselves will be pushing to play as hard as they possibly can because if they win, they'll be guaranteed a spot in next season's Europa League.

Wigan will be travelling to the Britannia Stadium in Stoke-on-Trent to play Stoke City but Stoke who have already qualified for the Europa League because they made through to the FA Cup Final (and Manchester City were already qualified for the Champions League), don't really need to worry about the match at all and so this could very well be the easiest of the matches of those in trouble.

Blackpool are faced with the daunting task of facing newly crowned champions Manchester United at Old Trafford. I think that it's fair to say that if Blackpool win against Man United, then they've earned their right to stay in the top flight.

Bizarrely because England has earned an extra spot in the Europa League under the "Fair Play" regulations, it means that Blackpool could be playing in Europe because of their on-field discipline... if only that could be said of the manager Ian Holloway. Though to be fair Blackpool has been on the end of the most decisions brought before the "Dubious Goals Committee" of the FA, so perhaps Olly does have reason to flip his lid every 25 seconds... or maybe not.

Meanwhile at West Ham...

The bats have left the bell tower, the victims have been bled,
Red velvet lines the black box,
Bela Lugosi's deeeead... Bela Lugosi's dead (I'll 'ave 'is chips then) Bela Lugosi's deeeead!

Mind you, I do think that the way former West Ham manager Avram Grant was sacked was rather a bit callous. He hadn't even left the players' tunnel and was forced to front a media scrum. They were on that like a pack of wild dogs on a three legged cat!

May 11, 2011

Margaret Thatcher and Mr Whippy

From the Mr Whippy Ice Cream website:

One important development in the 20th century was the introduction of soft ice cream (like Mr Whippy uses!). A chemical research team in Britain (of which a young Margaret Thatcher was a member) discovered a method of doubling the amount of air in ice cream, which allowed manufacturers to use less of the actual ingredients, thereby reducing costs. 
Before become a member of parliament,  former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher whilst working as a research chemist for J.Lyons & Co and developing emulsifiers, quite literally found a way OF TAKING ICE CREAM FROM CHILDREN.

May 10, 2011

Horse 1188 - The Push for Scottish Independence
Alex Salmond is prepared to compromise on the Scottish independence referendum by including an extra question on giving Holyrood much greater financial freedom while remaining part of the UK.
The Scottish first minister said on Sunday he would talk to other parties about offering the voters a second choice known as "fiscal autonomy" within the UK, rather than a straight yes or no vote on Scotland moving to complete independence.

I was directed to this article in The Grauniad (sic), and was asked what Horse's opinion on Scottish Independance is. There are lots of lots of issues bound up with this; so I'll try to unpack them all, but my general overview is that if it is the will of the people to dissolve the United Kingdom, then I see no reason why legally they should not be allowed to.

A Brief History:
Scotland and England being two separate and very distinct countries have occupied the island of Great Britain (which is also the largest island within the British Isles) nominally from about the Dark Ages onwards.
The two nations often fought nasty wars against each other before begrudingly they were united via a personal "Union of the Crowns" under James VI of Scotland who became James I of England. They were formally united by act of law with the Acts of Union 1707.

Technically the current Crown as a legal entity and currently vested in the person of Queen Elizabeth II, is firstly a Scottish and secondly an English legal fiction.
To repeal the relevant acts of Union which I think would at least include the 1707 and 1800 Acts, would render Scotland to that of a seperate realm equal to that in status of other nations within the broader context of the Commonwealth like Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The Crown would still be the legal entity but instead of shared union between Scotland and England, Scotland would become the Kingdom of Scotland within it's own right; more often styled as simply Scotland or perhaps the Dominion of Scotland.

First Reason for Scottish Independence - Money:
There are of course the usual patriotic reasons for Scotland to declare itself as Independent, what with Scotland having it's own national identity etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, and whilst those reasons are all good and proper, it strikes me that there is a far more consequential reason at play here - Whitehall.

The British Government which is based in London, has in the past made the claim that because of higher unemployment rates in Scotland, that Whitehall effectively "subsidses" the people of Scotland. London is of course one of the great trading captials of the world and it does have a tendancy to suck in investment from the rest of the UK generally, but it also happens to suck in an awful lot of taxation.

The Scottish National Party although formed in 1934, really came to prominence in the 1974 General Election with its "It's Scotland's Oil" campaign. Following the 1973 Oil Crisis, the claim was made that had had Scotland been an economic entity it its own right, then it should have been entitled to the increased royalties from the sale of North Sea Oil.

If you read through the particulars of the "The Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999" and "The English Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999", then technically 95% of all so-called "British" oil reserves fall within Scottish Waters.
Assuming Scotland was to become independent, then there'd probably be a set of international rulings; probably at the International Court of Justice in The Hague and it would confirm existing legal boundaries.
Scotland would then be legitimately entitled to the royalties from the sale of oil, which even in 1974 was seen as dangerous.
Professor McCrone argued that the economy of an independent Scotland, properly managed, would "tend to be in chronic surplus to a quite embarrassing degree".
"Its currency would become the hardest in Europe, with the exception perhaps of the Norwegian kroner," he wrote.

I imagine that all of the royalties from oil revenue going to Holyrood rather than Whitehall would be rather embarassing. I suppose that Whitehall could take solace in the fact that it wouldn't be "subsidsing" the people of Scotland any more.
And with potentially such a strong currency north of the border with the Scottish Pound, would those investment funds that would have settled in the City of London then find abode in the financial district of Edinburgh? The potential for Scotland to gain is quite considerable and perhaps it should have the British Parliament feeling nervous.

Second Reason for Scottish Independence - Money:

Perhaps the push for Britain to join the common currency has faded now, but not long after the creation of the hard currency in 2002, there were suggestions that the UK was going to adopt the Euro and abandon the Pound Sterling. This however would have had other implications.

There used to be a requirement in the UK in order to prevent a "run" on the banks, that the banks were to hold on reserve a certain percentage of customer's funds either stored as cash, or on deposit with the Bank of England. This was known as the Cash Reserve Ratio and was as high as 20% during the late 1960s, though it was progressively lowered to about 3% by the late 1990s before becoming entirely voluntary.
Scottish Banks because they operated under a slightly different set of regulations within Scots law, meant that instead of holding currency either stored on-site or with the Bank of England, could hold it as phyisical currency in the hands of the public.
If you move north of the border and into Scotland, you'll find banknotes issued and printed by the Bank of Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale Bank. There also used to be banknotes issued by British Linen Bank and Union Bank of Scotland.
Scotland's three banks will be banned from issuing their own notes if the UK joins the single currency, according to a European Central Bank committee.
The Frankfurt-based bank believes that notes issued by Scottish commercial banks are not legal tender and that their continued use would be illegal under European law.

If the UK was to adopt the Euro and abandon the Pound Sterling, then because the European Central Bank refused to allow any other entity other that national central banks to issue currency, then the Scottish banks would have been forced to not only stop issuing currency, but also to buy back the currency in the hands of the public.
Potentially this would have caused massive runs on the banking system in Scotland but not because of a loss of confidence as is usually the case but by operation of the law itself.


I really don't think that the reasons for the SNP's push for Scottish Independance are mainly to do with a sense of nationalism. Scots generally have a reputation for being practical people who have invented all sorts of things and found great engineering solutions but they also have a reputation for being fiercely tight with money.
Over the past 10 years we've seen Britain go off to war in the Middle East, accusations of grift and rorts in Whitehall (including using public money to build Duck Houses and moats), and perhaps most frightening for the people of Scotland, the "Global Financial Crisis" of 2008-2010 and the Blue Monday Crash of 2009 when the RBS annouced the biggest corporate losses in British history resulting in the share price falling by 67% in a day.

If Scotland's destiny is to be continued to be tied to the UK, then so be it. If Scotland wishes to again stand as a separate nation, then it's probably got more to do with a sense of financial independence from London more than anything else. And instead of it being as the result of a struggle under an oppressive regieme, it will have been the the result of a 30-80 year slow rumble.

At very least it would give Neil Oliver of "A History of Scotland" and "Coast" fame, the chance to make another documentary series.  However this time around, he could walk around inside parliament buildings and grand banking halls instead of windswept moors and hillsides...

... I feel ever so sorry for him sometimes. I hope that he gets to go inside and have a nice warm cup of cocoa by the fire.

May 09, 2011

Horse 1187 - OneHD's Coverage of Formula One

In this age of advancements, the relentless march of technology should in theory make our lives better. In some cases it has but if you happen to be a Formula One fan, then I'd say that it was probably better to be living in the 1980s.
In the UK and then in Australia, F1 coverage was provided by the BBC and Channel 9. The BBC of course bought their feeds from the local broadcaster, and Channel 9 bought the BBC production.

Nice. Simple.

Now that we've reached the days of digital broadcasting, things have gone totally haywire.

One started broadcasting on Digital TV, and for early adopters of the technology who'd gone out and bought a digital TV, that was fine. Then Network Ten shifted One to HD only once they started their sister station 11.
I could very easily solve the problem buy buying a set-top box, but what is the point of buying a set-top box to watch digital television on a digital television?
I then went and made the switch to the so-called "Live Streaming" on the One HD website, but so-far in the 2011 season, the website has failed catastrophically in four from four races.

To add insult to injury, because OneHD falls under the "Multi-Channel" provisions of the AMCA guide under clause 5.10 of the regulations for commercial television, they are exempt from limits on the amount of advertising per hour.

During the Turkish GP when the OneHD server wasn't dead (for 31 of 58 laps) they then did their best to bombard you with adverts.
This means that if you were watching the 2011 Turkish GP on the OneHD website, then out of the total race time of 1hr 30mins 17sec, you would have only seen a paltry 42mins 22sec.

What I find almost unbelievable is that DSTV on their "SuperSport" channel in Sudan got the whole race with no ads and no server fails.
So how about that OneHD? Even people in Darfur, Sudan which was plagued with civil war still got a better F1 coverage than people in Australia.

So OneHD, I think that that would be rather embarrassing for you... seriously.

May 06, 2011

Horse 1186 - Clegg's Next Steps
Lord Ashdown said he believed that Mr Cameron had made a private agreement with Mr Clegg about the way the fight over the future of the electoral system would be conducted, and there had been a "breach of faith".
He said: "If the Conservative party funds to the level of 99% a campaign whose central theme is to denigrate and destroy our leader, there are consequences for that."

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg I feel is at the crossroads of not only his political career but possibly that of the party itself. The referendum to bring in the Alternative Vote will either represents what is both a wasted opportunity and indeed the very death knell of the party, or perhaps a chance for rebirth and relevance.

Essentially during the AV referendum lead in, the "No" Campaign was being funded by the Conservative Party. The actual campaign itself was for the most part a series of half-truths and straight out lies:
Today's Times (£) quotes David Blunkett, the former Labour home secretary, admitting that the No campaign's figure putting the cost of AV at £250m was "made up". He said:
"We are in the middle of an election campaign. People in elections use made-up figures. I have never used the £250m figure. It [AV] would undoubtedly cost more but I have used an extra £90m."
The Electoral Commission said at the time that it was powerless to do anything, as electoral law covers false claims against candidates, but referendums have none.

Then of course there is the comment from PM Cameron himself, which I first heard on the BBC World Service, but was reprinted in The Telegraph:
“It’s about what you feel in your gut – about the values you hold dear and the beliefs you instinctively have. And I just feel it, in my gut, that AV is wrong"
- David Cameron, British PM, 05/05/11

There is of course a very good reason why Mr Cameron feels it in his gut that AV is wrong, because as a Tory it is.
If we look at British Elections going all the way back until roughly the formation of the current party political system within the parliament, there have only been two Prime Ministers who weren't Tories who not only went the full term but were returned to power as the sitting Prime Minister. One was Tony Blair who won in 1997, 2001 and 2006 and the other was the 3rd Viscount Palmerston, who won the 1859 and 1865 elections.
Cameron quite rightly assumes that if the British Public were actually allowed to be given a more democratic system to elect their parliament with, then that would effectively spell the end of the normalcy of Tory dominated politics in the UK, which is a tradition which extends back to 1762.

So then, if Cameron and the Tories have acted in bad faith, what is open the Nick Clegg and the LibDems?

The first answer might be to formally breakup the coalition and try to form government with Labour. The problem is that if you add Labour's 258 to the LibDem's 57, you only get 315 which is 11 short of the 326 required to form government.
Of course you could always ask the Scottish National Party, Sinn Féin, Plaid Cymru and the Social Democratic and Labour Party to try and help you and between them they'd all spill to 337 which is fine, but that would be like trying to organise the heads of a Hydra.

The second answer would be to run a Vote of No Confidence. If that were to happen, then it would probably most likely carry and there'd be another General Election but this time around the polls might be either favourable or against the LibDems, so the gamble might not be worth it.

The third option for Clegg is this:
Nick Clegg is facing calls from the party's local government chiefs to step down as leader after heavy losses in the English council elections.
Gary Long, ousted party leader on Nottingham City Council, said he must quit immediately, while Ken Ball, party leader on Chorley council, said he had "let the party down".

Ultimately what what that prove though? That the Tories were right?

If the "Alternative Vote is too difficult to understand" as the Tories have suggested throughout the campaign, and Australians have been using a similar system to select Members of Parliament for 80 years, then may the Tories are correct...

... The Great British Public really are stupid thickos, and it's a good thing too otherwise we'd have oiks running the country.

May 05, 2011

Horse 1185 - Thirty-Seven

I went online looking for some Nescafe Blend 37, wondering if I could import it to tell in there was a difference between it and what is sold in Australia as Nescafe Gold. There is an obvious difference between Blend 43 and Blend 37. 37 has a more bitter yet richer taste to it and I think is a superior blend of coffee.
Nevertheless, a look at Nescafe's own website made me somewhat suspicious:
When his co-driver didn’t show up, Didier Cambreson refused to withdraw and simply completed the 1937 Le Mans single-handed. Driving car number 37, and pausing only for coffee breaks, he finished an impressive 37th. What else could we name the coffee that kept him on track?
- as at 5th May, 2011

When his co-driver didn’t show up, Didier Cambreson refused to withdraw and simply completed the 1937 Le Mans single-handed. Driving car number 37, and pausing only for coffee breaks, he finished an impressive 37th. What else could we name the coffee that kept him on track? Blend 37 has a full-bodied, rugged intensity that we love. Dark roasted to a rich nuttiness with hints of toasted cereal and a smooth, malty caramel finish.
- as at 18th Apr, 2012

However if search back through the record I find that:
The car numbered 37 in 1937, finished in 5th place, was an Aston Martin 1½ Ulster and piloted by J.M. Skeffington and R.C. Murton-Neale. The only places I've managed to find mention of Didier Cambreson whoever he is, seems to be in connected with Nescafe Blend 37. Could it be that Mr Cambreson has been made up? Is he just an invention? A fabrication? A fib?

Finding a photograph of the actual Aston Martin proved difficult, but it appears as though there have been  various models made of it, including a Scalextric variant from about 2002. This photo however is just of one of the models:

I then remembered that there had been some Renaults in the British Touring Car Championship in the late 1990s bearing the number 37.

One person who is not a fabrication or a fib is two times BTCC Champion Jason Plato. For three seasons Nescafe Blend 37 sponsored the Renault BTCC effort of which Plato was a part. Other drivers of the green Blend 37 Renaults were Alain Menu, Tommy Rustad and Jean-Christophe Boullion.

Boullion drove for part of the 1995 Formula One season for Sauber and has competed at Le Mans 11 times, his best result being a third in 2007. In the BTCC he did drive the number 37 Renault, but he didn't really have a good season in 1999 and left after the Renault team folded later that year.

I then wondered where else Nescafe could have decided to take the number 37 from and thought that it might be from Paddy Hopkirk's giant killing Mini Cooper S:

Paddy Hopkirk and Henry Liddon took the Mini (reg 33 EJB) to victory in the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally. This 1071cc car with a paltry 70bhp, probably made the establishment very scared indeed. In 1965 Timo Mäkinen and Paul Easter repeated the win and would have come 1-2-3 in 1966 but the French organisers had to invent the excuse that the cars had lights that were too bright. In 1967 Rauno Aaltonen and Henry Liddon but by that stage The Monte was just another rally and its lustre had been lost.

MINI are desperately trying to cash in on the legend and will sell you a set of "37" decals for your new MINI, and in this year's WRC will again run the number 37 on one of their cars.

Liverpool defender and all around hard man, Martin Skrtel plays in the number 37 kit.
Various "facts" have been written about Martin Skrtel including:
- Martin Skrtel doesn't read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.
- He once ate an entire bottle of sleeping pills. They made him blink.
- Martin Skrtel eats nails for breakfast.
- Martin Skrtel was once in a knife fight, and the knife lost.

I wonder if Nescafe would consider sponsoring Martin Skrtel. Certainly if you saw him coming towards you in a dark alley you'd want to stay awake, you might even be afraid to ever fall asleep again. Every night the Bogieman checks under his bed for Martin Skrtel...

Adam Goodes is a dual Brownlow Medallist and has played in the Australian side on four occasions. Goodes is one of those players who takes nonsense from no-one and on occasion has been charged with striking. He was part of the 2005 Sydney Swans Premiership side and if it wasn't for Mad Bad Barry Hall would have been captain.
The thing with Goodes is that he will never be given the accolades that he deserves. He'll never be the best Full-Forward, Winger or Full-Back of all time because as probably the only truly complete utility player the AFL has ever seen, he can play any and every position on the park excellently. I bet if they invented a cloning machine and played 18 Adam Goodes at once, the team would beat Geelong 35.9.219 to 0.1.1 and even then Geelong would only score the behind because Goodesy felt sorry for them.

The truth is that I have no idea why Nescafe chose the number 37 for that particular blend of coffee. I'll bet that the truth is ludicrously mundane and is as simple as it being just a batch number, rather like the original Boeing 707 being called "707" because the Boeing marketing department decided "707" was "a bit catchier" than the number "700".

May 03, 2011

Horse 1183a - Addenda

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy."
- Martin Luther King, Jr

"Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!"
- Ezekiel 33:11

May 02, 2011

Horse 1183 - The Death of Bin Laden... Rejoicing?

The news that flashed around the world at great speed came to my knowledge just as I was returning from lunch today. US President Obama of course used this as a platform for American truimphalism and mentioned phrases to do with moving forwards to the task ahead. It was all incredibly typical.

What I was not expecting was reports coming in via the BBC World Service, being relayed via Twitter and Farcebook (sic) and even across forums which I visit of rejoicing and almost jubilation at the death of Osama Bin Laden and yet somehow this didn't seem to sit right with me.

Four days ago with the wedding of Prince William and Princess Kate, we were treated to scenes of great pomp and circumstance and quite rightly so, as this was after all the wedding of the future King of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth Realms. This however was met with a degree of apathy as well as celebration in both the UK and Australia.

To me this represents some sort of contrast. On one hand we have people who are celebrating an event which is supposed to be a time for celebration being met with apathy, yet on the other we have the killing of a man (albeit one who was a scoundrel and really quite horrible) being met with a great deal of celebration. To be sure I think that the world is probably a marginally safer place for his passing, but to rejoice at someone's death?

If this is perhaps seated in the motives of revenge, then perhaps a review of the facts is in order.
About 3000 people died all up in the terrorist attacks on Sep 11, 2011. It is estimated that in the ten years since, between 34,000-38,000 Taliban & insurgents have been killed with a further 14,000-30,000 civilians who have also perished. If revenge seeks a blood payment under the laws of exact retribution, then surely that payment has been forcibly taken from anywhere between sixteen and twenty-two times over. Does that require rejoicing over the fact that the deal is decided unfair?

The more I think about this, I increasingly uneasy about rejoicing over the death of this man. We've seen ten years of bloody and stupid conflict; involving people who really should not have had any part in this at all. I think that the best thing that could happen at this point is that the desert flowers should forth their tender shoots of hope, the oaks should grow gracefully and the earth should remember him not, but to start rejoicing is a nasty nasty response considering the price which has been paid.

Horse 1182 - No 2 AV revisited again

I have a piqued interest in the referendum in the UK on May 5, but mainly because of what appears to be a "No" campaign based around half-truths and 3/4 lies.

Consider this advert:

I think it's curious that the purple votes get transferred to only three of the remaining four candidates. Surely the only way this would happen is if the fifth candidate was of a completely different ideology to the first candidate.
At any rate, the graphic still shows that the winning second candidate still ended up with 50% of the vote; therefore was still the choice of at least 50% of the voters.

There is a slightly odd thing about this as well. Although this advert has tried to demonise BNP voters, it still doesn't manage to negate the fact that they are in fact part of the electorate. What would happen for instance if the first or second canidate was a so-called "extremist"? Does that also invalidate this theory?

I find it intriguing that for the entire of the No2AV Campaign's videos, this delightful message appears: "Adding comments has been disabled for this video."
Does this mean to say that people not having a say and adding to the discussion is now more democratic? I'm afraid I don't understand that one myself.

David Gower's comments are also equally bizarre:

Mr Gower, I would like to point out the obvious that in a game of cricket, there are only two sides. The side that wins is the team with the most runs. You don't have five or six teams all competing in a match; therefore your little analogy breaks down instantly.

The Alternative Voting system is akin to instant run off voting. If you were to do a comparison with the game of cricket, then the closest analogy (which is also highly faulty) would be something like the knockout stages of the world cup, where the winners go onto the next round. The Alternative Voting system acts as a paper implementation of an instant run-off voting system. No-one seems to have in Ireland in using the instant run-off voting system for electing the President of Ireland, and even more bizarre is that it is also employed to elect hereditary peers for the British House of Lords.

I find it strange that in particular Baroness Sayeeda Warsi who was appointed to the House of Lords and therefore was not elected herself, leads the No Campaign when the House of Lords uses this system to appoint other Lords.

Again this supposed figure which has been pulled out of seemingly nowhere that 60% of Australians don't want the AV system has been wheeled out again. Where did this come from? I haven't seen any Newspoll, Galaxy Poll or AC Neilsen poll which verifies this at all. I suspect that it has been made up, invented, and that it is a lie or a fib.

I'd like to also add the tongue-in-cheek jibe that there already is an extremist party that was voted into power at the last election that got less than 50% of the vote, namely the Conservative Party.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi has consistently been the voice of No2AV and has said on a number of occasions that the British public will not understand the system. Does she mean to say that she considers the Great British public as being too stupid to understand the system? I wouldn't put that past her. One thing I haven't heard of is a proposal for a referendum to reform the House of Lords. If the Lords were elected who knows what sort of riff-raff would be voted into power?
We certainly wouldn't want a more democratic process now would we?