January 30, 2012

Horse 1273 - Rafael Nadal - Bok Bok Bok

Novak Djokovic finally beat Rafael Nadal 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 7-5 in apparently was the longest Grand Slam final in history. At the final presentation, both of them were so exhausted that they found it difficult to even stand up.


Ok that wasn't the point of this post, I just thought I'd mention it for a shred of sanity. The main point of this post is that I think that Rafael Nadal looks like a giant chicken.


I don't know if it's the headband that makes him look like he has a rooster's comb, or if it's his weird strut and scratch thing that he does on the court but I had the thought and it simply would not go away.

The Ladies' Final at the Australian Open had The Squealer versus The Grunter and so all manner of farmyard noises were provided by that match and although Nadal has his own series of grunts I still can't think of him as being anything other than a giant chicken.

It's weird because Nadal is Spanish and the national animal of Spain is the bull; Nadal just doesn't seem very bullish. I always think of him on the court as possessing a sort flair which is more Gallic and maybe that's the reason why I think Nadal is a giant chicken.

January 26, 2012

Horse 1272 - Advance Australia Where?


RON Barassi has called for Australia Day to be moved to May to commemorate the day Aborigines were given equal citizenship rights.
He said it was wrong to celebrate the day of the European invasion of Australia when "we took" this land from Aborigines.

The 10-time premiership player and coach said Australia Day should be May 27 - the day in 1967 that clauses in the Constitution that discriminated against indigenous people were removed.
In the 1967 Referendum, 90.77 per cent of Australians - the biggest majority in a national referendum - voted to enable Aboriginal people to be counted in the Census and to be subject to Commonwealth laws, rather than just state laws.
- Perth Now, 26th Jan 2012

To be fair I think that Ron Barassi has a valid point. I suppose eventually if/when Australia does become a republic that this will become the new date for national patriotism but until then, I think that the idea that the 26th of January should be a national holiday is a both misplaced and a little disgusting.

It's not the date of the Federation of the country which was January 1st 1901; it would be pointless to appoint that as a national holiday because it's already New Years' Day. The only other truly national holiday is the 25th of April, and again that isn't exactly a celebration either.

Actually in all honesty, January 26 isn't even the inception of the colony of New South Wales. The eleven ships of the First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay between the 18th and 20th of January 1788. All that the 26th of January commemorates is the day in 1788 when the British flag was first hoisted one Australian soil.
Officially the inception of the colony of New South Wales ahppened on 7 February 1788. Governor Phillip's adress reads:
"What Frobisher, Raleigh, Delaware, and Gates did for America, that, we are this day met to do for Australia, but under happier auspices. Our enterprise was wisely conceived, deliberately devised, and efficiently organised, the Sovereign, the Parliament, and the people united to give it their authority, sanction, and encouragement. We are here to take possession of this fifth division of the globe on behalf of the British people, and to found a State which, we hope, will not only occupy and rule this great country, but will also be the beneficent patroness of the entire southern hemisphere. How grand is the prospect which lies before this youthful nation !"

Contained in Phillip's address is an explicit statement of intent to "take possession" and to "occupy and rule", so it's little wonder that to Aboriginal communities it marks the day on which the British arrived unannounced and simply stole their land.

Legally under the doctrine of terra nullius  the land was declared "empty" and therefore it wasn't an invasion. I note that today the 26th of January 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. Since it is an embassy, I think that it would be quite worthwhile to treat it as such and for terms perhaps similar to New Zealand's Treaty of Waitangi to be drawn up.
Quite unlike the Maori in New Zealand, Aboriginal peoples weren't even considered worthy enough to sign a peace treaty with. Also unlike the Maori, there has never been a permanent commission set up to suggest any means of redress either. In fact it wasn't until 1967 that Aboriginal people were even given the right to vote and in that respect Ron's suggestion that May 27 be suggested for a replacement national holiday, I think is quite reasonable.

I don't really like the reasons for this specific date to be held up as a day of national celebration. If people really want to talk about the nation "growing up" then the replacement of this day, I think is a worthy cause.

Dare I suggest that Australia Day itself is Un-Australian?

January 24, 2012

Horse 1271 - Conservatives & Liberals

At about the time of the French Revolution, the terms "left" and "right" took their meanings from where people happened to sit in the French Parliament. Ever since about the 1790s the "left" came to mean a collectivist sort of economy, controlled by the state; and the "right" came to mean a individualist sort of economy and operating to market forces.

Got that? Left = a controlled market; Right = a laissez-faire market.

The word "conservative" at its heart means to "conserve". As far as historical roots go, that meant a conservation of the then evolving hierarchical system which saw royalty at the top, followed people with titles and the landed gentry. Towards the end of the 19th century, the rise of mercantile classes, that is those of business, basically caused a schism in the classical conservative movement.

The mercantile business classes wanted to see a greater degree of laissez-faire capitalism or "liberalism". A liberal in the classic sense of the word and which is the sense from which the British and Australian Liberal parties draw their name.

The problem is that when you speak to an American, because the country deals on another more nebulous axis and is generally right shifted, the words "conservative" and "liberal" mean something entirely different.

America seems to want to deal on a weird sort of Authoritarian-Liberatarian sort of axis. Due the fact that America was born in a state which was a reaction to classical conservatism and never saw a titled gentry, it was the world of business which came to run and which still does run the country.

The American definitions of "conservative" seems to hinge around moral values, which is weird because if the United States is explicitly atheist in its constitution, then this doesn't really make sense. The idea of being free from government control seems to fit well with a Libertarian stance but even that doesn't explain the "conservative" - "liberal" axis.

Basically to be a "conservative" in the United States is for someone to be broadly morally conservative but still economically liberal. In terms of economic parlance, the leadership styles of George W Bush, John Howard and Tony Blair all fell into Neoliberalism.

The only thing to mark a "liberal" in the United States as far as I can make out is either being a Social Progressivist or perhaps suggesting a greater degree of government control in the economy which itself is leftist in the classic sense and in no way at all liberal.

To call someone a "liberal" in the United States as far as I can make out seems to be little more than to find a derogatory epithet for them. That's fine I suppose in a media climate which spends most of its time basically demonising who it doesn't like and yelling at the opposition. It also adequately explains why the functional political literacy of the average American is so low.

Because I am a genuine leftist when it comes to infrastructure, a rightist with regards the functioning of markets, prices, and consumer goods; a social conservative and skeptical progressivist, on various forum boards I've been called both a "conservative" and a "liberal" in the same thread. The scary thing is that I suspect that the people who like to call those names, have no idea what they're actually saying or what they even mean.

January 21, 2012

Horse 1270 - Rollo's Motor Co.

If Toyota want to axe 3000 jobs because they can't be bothered to build cars in Australia, and Ford are thinking of giving the Falcon the chop, and Holden suspect that the next model Commodore will be the last, then it surely heralds the end of car manufacturing in Australia.
Or does it?
I bet that if the Federal Government would give me $145 million, I could very easily have viable car company within 12 months.

My basic premise is that if countries like Germany can produce world class cars, and countries like South Korea can go from making cars which were horrid 20 years ago to producing cars at least on par with those made in Japan, then why is it beyond Australia to do likewise?

Only three car companies build cars in Australia; those all of them are subsidiaries of foreign companies. All of them have proved in the past that if wages are too expensive on one country, they'll just up sticks and move elsewhere.

My gambit is that if a company was setup with the express purpose of building an all-Australian car then provided it was run with the intent of making just $1 of profit per year, then it could both retain those jobs in Australia as well as produce a World-Class car, tested in the toughest conditions on earth and export them.
Personally I can see no good reason why Australia should dig perfectly good iron ore out of the ground, to make steel, only to have it sold back to us in the form of cars.
Why can't we build a car as good as Audi, or Mercedes-Benz, or Honda in Australia? Is it simply beyond the capabilities of Australian workers? Is it really that hard?

So then, this is the challenge Australia. When the next Auto maker decides to naff-off, then let them. I'll take over the car factory and I'll give you back cars. I wouldn't be building the "big Aussie six" either.

According to VFACTS, the Mazda3 was the top selling car for 2011 followed by the Commodore, HiLux, Corolla, Cruze and i30. The Falcon comes in at No.9 and selling less than half of the number of Mazda3s. Apart from the Commodore which is only propped by by fleet sales (because if you exclude fleet buyers it falls to No.11, and the Toyota HiLux which is a tradie's vehicle, then the car which Australians are actually buying is a 2L car like they do in Europe.

The current model Focus comes with a 1.6L "Ecoboost" motor, the Cruze is sold with a 1.4L ITI Turbo, and the standard i30 comes with a 1.6L. Clearly then my new car will have to be a 1.6L car and most likely a hatchback.

Like all good cars it will need a name, and as we learnt from Homer's brother Herb in The Simpsons, who owned a motor company: "People don't want cars named after hungry old Greek broads! They want names like 'Mustang' and 'Cheetah'—vicious animal names,"
I had a look around to find all the "vicious animal names" that hadn't been used yet and thought it really quite odd that I can't think of even one car which is called a "Tiger".

Right then... this is the challenge.If someone wants to back me, I'll build the first car of a brand new marque. It will be a 1.6L Hatch and be called the Tiger. The Logo will be this:

Now then, who gonna give me the money? Anyone?...

January 20, 2012

Horse 1269 - The Big Day (Out) The Music Died

Ken West, the founder of The Big Day Out, says he will lose money on the music festival bonanza this year for the first time in its 20 years of peace and love and selling out.
Poor consumer sentiment, sluggish ticket sales, a shallow pool of international crowd-pulling talent and a glut of rival events mean that the “golden age for Australian music festivals” is over.
- Financial Review, 20th Jan 2012

Has anyone taken a serious look at the music charts to work out why people aren't turning up at music festivals any more?

I might sound like a bit of a silly old git but in the days when people used to play their own instruments, concert goers would go out and see artists play those instruments live.

This may be kind of scary but have a look through the ARIA charts for the year 2011:
Out of the top 100 selling singles in Australia, only 2 were by artists that actually played their own instruments. They were Avril Lavigne at No.48 who can play a guitar and at No.54 the band Coldplay. That's it. Just two... TWO?! 


What possible incentive is there for anyone to go and see a band live, when they don't even play their music live. If you want to see DJs play with mixing decks, then you can just as easily go to a nightclub. I mean just what is the point?

To give you an idea of the biggest concert I ever went to, this is a photo:
This was Oasis at Wembley in 2000 and before 170,000 people.
Now you can argue until you're blue in the face about the relative merits of the band but the point is that the 170,000 people who turned up that day, turned up and saw a band play LIVE. This poses a distinct problem when 98% of artists in the Top 100 on the ARIA charts, can't play their own instruments at all, let alone live.

Part of the blame can also be laid at the feet of those prize gits, Simon Fuller and Simon Cowell. They're the people responsible for the television "talent" shows The X Factor and before that Pop Idol. Once upon a time singers and bands would have to grind out their skills and work at it before they were noticed by record company executives; now you can take any Johnny or Jackie Q Public, pluck them out of obscurity, put them in front of a telly audience who is almost a captured market, knock out an album of 12 mediocre songs and they'll never be heard of again. Whether or not they have any actual talent is almost incidental - usually they won't have a lot; hence the reason why they weren't noticed by record company executives in the first place.

Aside from the above, I personally think that a lot of music today sounds utterly rubbish. I was going to put it down to the fact that I'm just getting older and going the same way as a lot of older people before me but if the concert going public is voting with its wallets and simply not turning up at music festivals, then it invites the very real possibility that music today, actually is in fact rubbish.
You could I suppose blame the internet and concepts like dissipation, dispersion and dissemination of talent, however the rules of what's popular on the internet are different again.

According to the official YouTube blog and as reported by MSNBC, the most viewed video of 2011 in the world was the song "Friday" by Rebecca Black. This is a case of music being notable precisely because it was rubbish.

This is noteworthy because it prompted such comments as "I feel sick" from Stephen K Amos and "It is the end of music" from JJJ presenter Myf Warhurst, who as a DJ should have her finger on the pulse of what is popular.

It could be that we're just in one of those periods that the music industry goes through from time to time and needs a major shift to kick it out of its daze.
However, I'd prefer to think that the reason why people aren't going to big music festivals like they used to is because music today is rubbish.

January 17, 2012

Horse 1268 - Stated Policy and Values

Malcolm Turnbull published this speech, which he gave to the recent Young Liberal Convention. I think that a portion of it is worth reproducing because I think that it highlights something particularly worrying; not only about the Liberal Party but about both sides of politics in Australia.


The truth is that developed economies today face a double challenge – not only is technology reducing the need for labour in many sectors – manufacturing, retailing, logistics, financial services to name a few – but at the same time globalization and the Internet mean that more and more jobs and industry sectors are trade exposed than ever before so that what had traditionally been non-trade exposed occupations (accounting, law, financial analysis, retail for example) are now increasingly trade exposed – which means that their competition is not across the street or in another State, but anywhere in the world where there are many people as well educated and as hard working as Australians but prepared to work for lower wages.

All of this is putting pressure on both employment in the developed world – hence the sluggish jobs free “recovery”, such as it has been, post the GFC in North America, and on incomes – hence middle incomes have flatlined or dropped in real terms in the USA over the last twenty years.

- Speech by Malcolm Turnbull, to the Young Liberal Convention
- via: http://www.malcolmturnbull.com.au/
- Published on: January 16, 2012

I am prepared to accept all of this as fact at face value. The truth is that middle incomes have dropped in real terms ever since the September Quarter of 1981 in Australia and about 1978 in the rest of the world.

Not only have wages themselves been falling in real terms for the last 30 years but it would seem that the gap between executive pay and the average worker is also widening:

Pay at the top grew by over 300% between 1998 and 2010. At the same time, the median British worker’s real wage has been pretty stagnant. These trends mean the ratio of executive to average pay at FTSE 100 firms jumped from 47 to 120 times in 12 years.
- The Economist, 14th Jan 2012

I assume that the UK is a similar sort of economy as Australia. Admittedly Britain doesn't have the ability to keep on mining stuff out of the ground and sell it to China, largely because it's all gone but broadly speaking both countries moved from an agricultural economy, through one which was based on manufacturing to one which is now based on service industries.

I think that it's fair to say that if companies continue to be profitable then if executive salaries have risen whilst that of the average worker has fallen or gone backwards, where the money has come from to pay executive salaries.

Mr Turnbull went on in that speech to describe the sorts of values which the Liberal Party corporately holds:
Values such as self-reliance and enterprise. Personal freedom and personal responsibility. Opportunity and competition.

Personal responsibility is a two-edged sword. In the first instance it is only fit and proper for people to be self-reliant. However the economy is not a place where different players start from the same starting point. If you do start at the bottom, then the only economic chip that you have to bring to the table is your provision of labour. Factor in a dash of competition which is also a race to the bottom and its a recipe to leave those at the bottom there; freedom is pointless without any accompanying power.

I haven't for instance heard any plans coming out of either the Liberal or Labor Party as to what to actually do about the increase of competition caused by globalisation. I would have thought that the obvious thing to do would be to improve the quality of the labour force in Australia through a program of improved education standards but neither party suggests that. Such a program could be seen as an investment in the quality labour itself and would be eventually recoverable through increased income tax as a result of people being able to command higher wages. However, when it comes to governments in Australia investing in... well anything really, both sides of politics have an extremely poor record over the past 30 years. In the three and a bit decades I've been alive, neither the Liberal or Labor Parties have shown any vision or leadership at all. To be totally honest both parties have either been asleep at the wheel or have engaged in policies which have actively hurt the country.

If there are there are many people as well educated and as hard working as Australians but prepared to work for lower wages, doesn't it suggest that because of the values of competition; driven by forcing people to be self-reliant, that the only possible outcome is for wages of the average worker to go even further backwards?

A report by one of the country's main finance houses says the banks have hired too many staff in the past decade but that trend will reverse as they capitalise on technological advances and send more jobs to India and other lower-cost countries.
- Sydney Morning Herald, 17th Jan 2011.

As stated as part of the values which the Liberal Party corporately holds, ie. "Values such as self-reliance and enterprise" I assume that Mr Turnbull's reaction to the 7000 people whose jobs will be cut is to tell them to "suck it up" and to take some "self-reliance and enterprise" or maybe "personal responsibility" for their actions. How dare these degenerates think that they should rely on a corporate entity such as a bank to provide them with a wage.

The thing is that effects don't happen unless there are causes. In this case, there are multiple causes. Increased competition of labour across global markets as well a business decisions taken by essentially hired hands at corporations many layers above them.

Causes generally don't correct themselves unless there is positive action taken. Actions follow from the set of values which individuals, companies, (political parties?) hold. It just seems to that the Liberal Party as represented by their values statement which Mr Turnbull has expounded upon, intends not only to take zero positive action at all to improve this country but to also blame people and point the finger in the name of personal responsibility.
Really this set of statements is that the Liberal Party would like to return the economy to state of Social Darwinism as per the 1870s. That's fine I suppose but I wouldn't be at all surprised if say in another 30 years time, whether we don't see riots on the streets of Sydney, like we did London, Athens etc.

January 13, 2012

Horse 1267 - Throwing Bones at Lazy Dogs


His comments (Senator Kim Carr) came after The Financial Review reported Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey had told colleagues he will counter any move to reverse the cut not only because of its importance to the Coalition’s overall savings plan, but also out of concern at the mounting federal payments to the big car companies.

The decision escalates the political brawl over industry assistance as former Labor finance minister Peter Walsh warned the federal government against “propping up” the car companies if they could not sustain commercial operations in the long term.

Mr Hockey’s move is the first sign of a shadow cabinet showdown on the principle of industry assistance as his Opposition Leader and several colleagues speak out in favour of strong government support for car makers.
- The Financial Review, 13th Jan 2012.

In this case I agree with the Liberal Party.

The Australian Government in various guises has been kowtowing to the automakers pretty well ever since PM Ben Chifley and the then managing director of Holden Laurence Hartnett, practically begged and licked the boots of Detroit.

The idea that the Australian Government was throwing money at a company which had filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in the United States I found pretty scandalous at the time and when you consider that Holden happily snapped up $149 million in taxpayers funds to "develop" a new small car which they'd already engineered and were then selling in other markets just defies description.

Detroit's attitude to manufacturing in Australia can best be described as contemptuous. It was Detroit who decided that the Holden Monaro could be sold in the United States and then when it failed to meet their expectations even after being a successful car in Australia for four years, they killed it off.
When Holden found an export market for the Commodore under the Pontiac badge as the G8, Detroit killed off the whole Pontiac brand.

Now Holden is building the Cruze hatchback, Detroit has decided in its wisdom that the United States will not get the Cruze in its hatchback form; thus killing off another potential export market.

It's not just Holden who acts this way. Ford at one stage promised to be building the then next-gen Focus Hatch in Australia by 2011 (which never eventuated) and Toyota was able to get millions to set up production of the Hybrid Camry in Australia. Both Ford and Toyota have at various stages threatened to close their Australian manufacturing operations.

Really I wonder what the actual intent of throwing money at what basically are foreign corporations, is about. Corporations like any other businesses exist to turn a profit and the underlying reasons for making a profit are largely to do with labour and materials costs.
Car makers time and time again prove that they're willing to up sticks and start building cars in places where wages are cheaper. The Toyota Hilux is built in Thailand, the Corolla is built in Pakistan, Vietnam, Venezuela, the Philippines etc. and even the Cruze itself is built in places like Kazakhstan, Brazil and Russia.

Holden could very easily shut its doors tomorrow, and just kill off the Commodore; it already imports every other car in its lineup except the Cruze hatch. Ford could do likewise, killing the Falcon. Toyota wouldn't even need to change its lineup, it would just change its sources.

Pray tell why do we continue to throw taxpayers' money at these companies?

January 09, 2012

Horse 1266 - AV Revisited Again Again

Both Horse 1172 and Horse 1182 were written last year as the UK was preparing to go to a referendum over the issue of the Alternative Vote.
Basically the Alternative Vote or Instant-runoff Vote or Preferential Vote, gives voters a chance to rank their preferences on who they'd like to see win the election. After a process of elimination and redistribution, the eventual winner of the election will win having gained more than 50% of the vote.

Many jurisdictions and organisations choose to use the First-Past-The Post-System. This is a simpler system in which the candidate with the most votes wins. I suppose that it's fine if you have only two choices but if you more than about four choices, the system starts to look inadequate.

Consider the results of the Iowa Republican caucuses held last week:

24.5% - Mitt Romney (won by just 8 votes)
24.5% - Rick Santorum
21.5% - Ron Paul
13.3% - Newt Gingrich
10.3% - Rick Perry
00.6% - Jon Huntsman

If Romney won only 24.5% of the vote, then that means to say that 75.5% of voters chose someone else. To put that another way, more than three-quarters of the vote did not vote for him.
If the suggestion that Romney gets 13 of the allotted delegate votes and Santorum gets gets 12 of the allotted delegate votes, then that also means to say that 51% of voters or more than half of them, did not vote for them.

Under an AV system, voters would have had choices if their first candidate didn't succeed. Even under a Proportional Voting system, the allotted delegate votes would have more accurately reflected the will of the voting public.

The thing is that writing in a series of preferences is very simple for a voter to do. With six declared candidates, they'd only have to write 1-6 in the boxes. Also, preferential voting has been in use since 1918 and all votes are counted by hand, so it's not like the system requires the use of complicated voting machines.

I just think that it's crazy that the process for deciding who will be the president of arguably the most powerful nation on earth, is so undemocratic. How you can have a potential candidate go through without the majority of votes and in conditions where not everyone even bothers to show up and vote in the first place is beyond me.

January 08, 2012

Horse 1265 - Thoughts on The Electoral College System

After the two major parties sort out who they're eventually going to put forwards as candidates for the Presidency in the United States, they'll then be put to the vote. The people of the United States though won't actually be voting for the President but rather they'll be voting for the "electors" which on a state by state basis submit votes to a nebulous entity called the Electoral College which will then decide the Presidency for them.

Basically in a nutshell, the Electoral College allocates votes on the basis of the number of members that each state has in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, plus 3 electors for the District of Columbia which has a non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives and no Senators. All up there are 538 "electors" of which a majority of 270 is required to vote in a President. Sounds fun?

The really weird thing about all of this is that a candidate only needs to win in 11 specific states* to take the Presidency because so much weight is given to states like California and Texas. Since they are the most populace states, they have the most seats in the House of Representatives; ergo they have the most electors.

I had a thought about whether an identical system would work in Australia considering that the specific model for electing the President which came out of the 1998 Constitutional Convention was defeated in the Republic Referendum in 1999.

If we assume that the model is identical, with an Electoral College in place and allocating votes on the basis of the number of members that each state has in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, then the actual numbers look like this:

State = Reps + Senate

ACT = 2 + 2 = 4
NSW = 48 + 12 = 60
NT = 2 + 2 = 4
QLD = 30 + 12 = 42
SA = 11 + 12 = 23
TAS = 5 + 12 = 17
VIC = 37 + 12 = 49
WA = 15 + 12 = 27

All up we'd end up with 226 electors for Australia.

Immediately this causes a problem. Almost always, every election for an Australian president would be decided on the whims of New South Wales and Victoria, since they'd control 109 of the 226 votes.
If we read through the notes which led to the federation of the six colonies in 1901, the provision that referenda be passed "if in a majority of the States a majority of the electors voting approve the proposed law"
The people who framed the Australian Constitution decided to take the best of both worlds from both the parliament in Westminster and the US Congress. The Electoral College in the United States is very heavily influenced by the states with the most people in them. In Australia the parliament was specifically weighted so that the smaller states wouldn't be bullied by the bigger ones.

I wonder then what the justification of the Electoral College is in the 21st Century. Wouldn't it just be easier to elect a President by nationwide popular vote? You'd still have states like California and Texas dominating the final count, but at least the result would be more truly representative of the population.
And specifically by using the case of Australia, I think it very easily highlights the inherent problem with the system itself. Former PM Paul Keating called the Australian Senate "unrepresentative swill", so I wonder what he thinks of the Electoral College. Since no proposal the change the system has passed through the Congress, I guess it's the game which will continue to be played.

*The Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that "a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice". In regards that, 26 of 50 states must approve the president-elect, which itself poses a problem if the 26 littlest states decided to band together and vote someone in.

January 06, 2012

Horse 1264 - The Race for the US Presidency

With the beginning of an Olympic year, January also marks the beginning of a race of Marathon proportions, that for the US Presidency. Apart from the completely baffling system of caucuses and primaries, which only eventually result in who gets put on the ticket and a quite frankly punishing schedule for the candidates, it does make for some interesting viewing.
As an Australian from the other side of the Pacific, I am thankful that we aren't bombarded with the panoply of adverts on television which the American public faces every single day, but I still find the whole thing sort of amusing and watch it rather like one does a neutral Test Match (in cricket).

The 2012 Primary Schedule can be found here:

Of itself the results from Iowa don't really suggest much of themselves, other than that there still may be five candidates still left with a reasonable chance of picking up the Republican nomination.
A summary of the results is listed below:

24.5% - Mitt Romney (won by just 8 votes)
24.5% - Rick Santorum
21.5% - Ron Paul
13.3% - Newt Gingrich
10.3% - Rick Perry
00.6% - Jon Huntsman

You can basically assume that Perry is likely to do well in the southern states as he is the incumbent Governor of Texas. Gingrich will probably also expect to pick up a few states in the south, coming from Georgia.

I think that we can basically assume at this point that Jon Huntsman's race may as well be dead in the water. Intriguingly he's probably contributed to more of the American economy than any other single person in the past year in his role as the Ambassador to China but because he isn't and wasn't ever a sitting Senator or member of the House of Reps, that doesn't show up on his resume.

One state by itself is obviously way too early to call anything, so the next test is next Tuesday with the New Hampshire primaries. I find it surprising that there will be 30 candidates listed on the Republican ballot and wonder why that many of them think that they'd have any hope at all.

I am however prepared to make a rash prediction that at the end of the election cycle, we'll be left with Mitt Romney as the Republican hope for the presidency; running with Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Rubio sits firmly in the "Tea Party" and with the GOP moving steadily to the right anyway, I think he'd be the most palatable choice that the Republicans can muster for the Vice-Presidency.

I also think that it's pretty well a foregone conclusion that Obama will run again for the Democrats and that Hilary Clinton will be his running mate. Basically Hilary would replace Joe Biden, and he'd replace her as Secretary of State.

So that's with I think, Romney-Rubio vs Obama-Clinton in November.

Then there's always comic relief from Jimmy McMillan, self-proclaimed karate expert:
"Yes, the revolution is on. And Jimmy McMillan has to be the driver of this bus..."
From 49mins onwards...

January 04, 2012

Horse 1263 - Making Straight Streets

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

- Matthew 3:1-3

In church on Sunday the pastor made an off-hand comment that we being in the 21st Century, might find it a little bit difficult to relate to this concept in the same way that a 1st Century audience would have done. It is very true that in our post-literate, post-authoritarian society, we simply do not view people with titles in the same way as people even 100 years ago did. There isn't the same level of respect of position for Kings, the Gentry and Appointed Officials like the Police, Politicians and the Military as there once was.
Perhaps then, a revisit of history is in order.

To take a 1st Century approach to this, I think warrants a look at two rather famous Roman roads.
The Appian Way or Via Appia runs from Rome to the Adriatic port city of Brindisi and is 563km long. Once called the "Queen of the Roads", this most famous of ancient roads is by modern standards rather weedy. It is at best only about 3m wide and as such is rather pointless to send modern traffic over. Its original purpose was to either send legions down the boot of Italy, or as a royal road when emperors would either walk or be driven down it in horse drawn carriages. If the road was being used as for royal duties, people were employed to sweep the roads of dust and people so that the emperor could travel down in in comfort.
The other rather famous Roman road is in Britain and carries the name of Watling Street. The word "street" comes from the Latin "strata" and meant nothing more than a road which had been paved. Again, people were employed to sweep the street but unlike the Via Appia, it was never paved for its entire length, and strictly speaking it is not contiguous either, with the term being applied during the middle ages.

I should also mention the city of Paris, not for the Champs-Élysées which is arguably the most beautiful street in the world (if not the most expensive piece of real estate) but for the series of avenues and boulevards hacked through the city by the architect Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann under the direction of Napoleon III.
From 1853-1870, Haussmann had entire buildings, apartment complexes and major parts of suburbs cut through like a trowel passing through unturned earth. Co-incidentally, Haussmann's plans also conveniently hacked through some of the poorest areas of Paris, displacing the poor and ultimately driving great masses out of the city entirely.
Even today if an expressway is built such as the Warringah Expressway north of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, people are displaced from their houses as roads are built.
In 2007 when the APEC Conference was held in Sydney, the city went into "lockdown" with streets closed, very high barriers with razor-wire erected and an extremely high level of security employed.

I wonder if that's the sort of thing that John was trying to get at. I find a parallel to the sorts of things above just 9 verses later:
"His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
- Matthew 3:12
This very much implies that the imminent arrival of the Messiah would require some pretty major changes in Jewish life. The King would be arriving soon and the old order would be hacked through to the same degree as the buildings of the cities mentioned above. People's lives would need to be swept clean, or else face being displaced entirely.
Actually in the broader scheme of things, that is precisely what happened anyway. Jesus' Kingdom arrived, the temple in Jerusalem destroyed by the Romans in AD.70 and the Roman Empire would eventually officially convert to Christianity. Did John's warning go unheeded?