May 31, 2013

Horse 1494 - I Love The Bus

Omnibus - meaning to or for, by, with, or from everybody.

Flanders and Swann referred to the famous red Routemaster which used to dance the light fantastic around London as the "Monarch Of The Road". Sydney's bendy buses have their place I suppose but none of them are particularly inspiring. However...
I don't know what lurks underneath that sky blue livery but I do know that this beauty wears it splendidly. I even like the big corporate waratah plonked dead in the middle. If Australia does decide to become a republic, then this would still be called the "Monarch Of The Road", for the name "President" seems so inadequate for something as regal as her.

I sort of feel sorry for the inner-city local councils. Councils like Mosman Council, North Sydney Council or Waverley Council.  Their skimping back on maintenance budgets and their refusal to acquiesce with State Transit's appeal to do some gardening of low slung branches, means that by default, they won't be considered as highly when it comes to allocating these marvels.

Maybe it's the way they tower over traffic; not menacing like a semi-trailer but majestically, that makes the other traffic look on in quiet awe. Okay, they like any other bus are a machine, designed to ferry people to and fro' but I think that it can be said that although machines don't have souls, they borrow and extend the enjoyment of the people who use them.
Most people who have owned at least one motor car can attest to harbouring latent feelings of joy, even if or maybe even because it broke down (cue all the tinkerers with their British cars). Many people name their motor cars, as though their personalities demand it. I don't know if by collectively travelling in a bus, we can have that same level of attachment but maybe it's like when the Queen comes to visit - we all collectively own her.
"I did but see her pass me by, and I will love her 'til I die." 

Some people experience techno-fear when it comes to machines; not me. I experience techno-joy! This usually results in the instruction manual being meticulously studied like some ancient scroll of wisdom (much to the annoyance of those around me) before beholding the machine now before me; even if it is only a toaster. I will probably never drive a big blue double deck bus and so my techno-joy results in standing back in amazement that such a thing exists.

I thank the NSW State Government for bringing these machines to us and hope that we see many many more. I wouldn't even mind being stuck behind one in traffic because one always makes way for the Queen.

May 29, 2013

Horse 1493 - Letters To The Editor

Dear Editor,
How come the public don't wake up and see what a terrible job that our Government, President, Prime Minister, Mayor is doing? I vote like everyone else and wonder how they can be so wasteful. There is no such thing as public money, only what we pay in taxes and if it wasn't for the fact that I didn't actually pay any taxes, I'd demand them back.

Yours sincerely,
Arthur Barrington-Smythe-Hove


Dear Editor,
If there were less poor and homeless people, there wouldn't be as many of them. 

Yours Sincerely,
Gladys Finklestein


Dear Editor,
The world will soon realise that the nation of Syldavia is rotten to the core. They have committed crimes beyond all reason, they have lied horrible untruths and yet they still ask world leaders for more weapons.

Yours Secretly,
Major Gen. Wolf Kluj
Elbonian High Command


Dear Editor,
The first casualty of war is truth. The second casualty of war is common sense and clearly the people of Elbonia have killed theirs. They have distorted facts, they have obfuscated information and yet they still ask world leaders for more weapons. 

Yours Efficiently,
Field Marshal Lekk Moser
Syldavian War Office


Dear Editor,
Went to ice cream van. Asked for a Big Toff  The man looked at me like I was an idiot. Clearly it's been a while since I bought an ice cream. Next time I shall ask to buy a Magnum. 
Yours Sincerely,
David Cameron PM 


Dear Editor,
How come no one has thought of this before? What we need are slot machines in schools.
This will have two benefits:
1. Schools are always crying poor, that they don't have enough funding. This will ensure that they get more money.
2. A growing problem in schools is childhood obesity. If kids gambled away their lunch money, they wouldn't be able to spend it on chips, chocolate or soda.
Slot machines in schools would be a win-win for everyone.

Yours Hungrily,
Hamilton Burger


Dear Editor,
I once invited my friend Buda to stay for a fortnight; they still haven't left even after years and years. The friendship ends today.

Yours Grumpily,
The City of Pest 


Dear Editor,
I have a dilemma. I am currently in love with the two Hydrogen twins and feel a real bonding with both of them. It's like my whole outer world has been made complete.
Should I date both of them at the same time or should I let one go? Would it be water under the bridge?

Yours Expectantly,


Dear Editor,
It's an outrage. Every single day, people come into my shop, swanning about like they own the place, eating my food, drinking my drink (sometimes they take all of the coffee) and if that weren't bad enough, they all leave without cleaning up after themselves and I have a big pile of dishes to do.
Sometimes, it's enough to make me wonder why I went into the restaurant business. 

Yours Despondently, 
Ronald McDonald


Dear Editor, 
I really hate Daylight Savings Time and think it should be ended immediately. I have so many clocks which I have to change back and forth every time we change. It's so bad that I usually have to remind myself last week to change the time on the microwave.

Yours Belatedly (or in the Future),
Doctor Who


Dear Editor,
I need some travel advice.
Wherever shall I go? Whatever shall I do?

Scarlett O'Hara


Dear Editor,
The folks who live downstream from me are continually complaining about constantly being flooded and blame me because I use so much water on my large scale cotton plantation. 
They keep on telling me that I should install some sort of flood mitigation scheme but quite frankly my dear, I don't give a dam.

Yours Precipitantly, 
Captain Rhett K. Butler


Dear Editor,
Why is it that you continue to publish letters from people who are obviously not real and have been made up for a cheap laugh?

Yours Sincerely,
Peter Wee-Wees

May 27, 2013

Horse 1492 - Twenty Men Drive Around a Town (Rd.6)

During the Monaco Grand Prix, the award winning wordsmith Jeremy Clarkson wrote this profound saw on Twitter: "I am watching twenty men drive around a town." 
Thursday practice had the two Mercedes of Rosberg and Hamilton, circulate faster than anyone else and Qualifying on Saturday, was more or less a lottery as to who could put their cars out last on a drying track.
Jean Eric Vergne at one point in Q2 was top of the stack but a bit later in the session; in a matter of maybe thirty seconds, his formerly fastest time was relegated to 16th.
Finally on a fairly dry track in Q3 the order ended up as two Mercedes, two Red Bulls, Alonso's Ferrari and then Raikkonen's Lotus.

The tight, metal-lined streets of Monte-Carlo are such that most races are basically a two hour procession with a war of concentration thrown in for good measure.
None of the top six even so much as erred from a second-and-a-half holding pattern until Felipe Massa suffered a similar brake lock up to the one he had on Thursday and stuffed his Ferrari sideways into a barrier at St.Devote.
The ensuing rush for the teams to change tyres saw Hamilton filed back to fourth; where he remained until the end of the GP.

- Stolen from the BBC

Again the cars would fold back into a holding pattern until, Jules Bianchi moved over on Maldonaldo's Williams, throwing him into a barrier and bringing the race to a stop.
Raikkonen's Lotus faded as it began to chew up its tyres and a late charging Adrian Sutil stormed up through the field as his Force India made better use of its. Elsewhere, Sergio Perez had tried daring moves which had worked on Button, Alonso but didn't quite work on Raikkonen; after they connected, Perez's race was over whilst Raikkonen charged back to the pits to change tyres and recover a point for tenth. Raikkonen later said that Perez should be "punched in the face" to teach him a lesson.

At the end, Nico Rosberg would greet the flag as his father Keke had done so 30 years earlier. Apart from Vettel's fastest lap, every other accolade was Rosberg's, yet again proving how difficult it is to pass. Rosberg was never challenged for the lead and apart from Hamilton's slide as a result of a pitstop, the top five never even once broke rank.

Mr Clarkson's words rang oh so true, "I am watching twenty men drive around a town", for that's pretty well much what we saw. Formula One cars outgrew this circuit possibly as long ago as 1932. However it remains the only track which tests cars in conditions most resembling those on the road. It is slow, cars are perpetually stuck in traffic and the drivers find it tedious - exactly the same as a Wednesday afternoon when the rest of us do what they do at Monaco: watch three million people drive around a town.

May 25, 2013

Horse 1491 - Optimal Sharing Group
It is unfair to attribute the enervating employment shift to the federal Labor government entirely. Population ageing is boosting demand for health and aged-care services, but Labor's propensity to tax rather than cut spending has encouraged it. Both sides of politics, state and federal, will need to change their attitude to public services to save the inevitable slide down ever-greater public sector employment. ...
For a start, education and health services can be provided privately and consumers subsidised directly. Schools and hospitals would be run more efficiently by private rather than public entities, just as electricity and water utilities do, once sold. Yes, quality provision of health and education is important, but so is food, and no one is suggesting government set up restaurants.
- Adam Creighton, The Australian, 24th May 2013

I think that The Australian likes to peddle outright lies to get its point across. For a start electricity and water companies are not more efficiently by private rather than public entities and this is evidenced in the real world by the fact that Victorians currently pay far more for their electricity than their NSW or Queensland friends.
You can read through the report by the Essential Services Commission if you like. Released yesterday, the report finds that Victoria's electricity prices have gone up from between 60%-70% across the state; despite not bothering to make the same investment in electricity transmission and generation infrastructure.
Basically The Australia has lied outright and don't apologise for their deliberate untruths.


This is an aside though, what brought me to this article was a tweet from Tim Lyons, the ACTU Assistant Secretary:
The Oz wins the Oscar for False Equivalence : Govs don't run restaurants so they shouldn't run schools & hospitals.
-Tim Lyons, Twitter: @Picketer, 24th May 2013

In essence Mr Lyons is correct, so I thought I'd unpack the idea further.

The biggest difference between a restaurant and schools & hospitals from an economic perspective is something called the "Optimal Sharing Group". Think of it this way:
A Mars Bar has an optimal sharing group of 1. That is, although you can share a Mars Bar, the most efficient allocation of its use in terms of overall utility of enjoyment, is a single user. A toothbrush is another fine example of a product with an optimal sharing group of 1. Admittedly, you could share a toothbrush with someone else but I seriously don't think that any sane person would want to.
An entire block of chocolate has an optimal sharing group of several. Okay, I concede the point that a single person can eat an entire block of chocolate but it usually isn't necessarily the best allocation of it when it comes to the utility of enjoyment that it gives.
Likewise a meal at a restaurant also has an optimal sharing group of usually only one. There are examples when you could share a single meal amongst a few people but for most circumstances, a restaurant meal is generally something which an individual purchaser would enjoy.

The ownership of a restaurant though is a little different. To pay for the premises and the initial set-up costs, might require a few shareholders. A chain of restaurants might have an optimal sharing group of many and a franchise chain where the name above the door is really the thing being sold, might even have an optimal sharing group of many thousands if it is listed on the stock exchange, even if each individual restaurant in question might only have an optimal sharing group of a few.
A company like BHP, The Commonwealth Bank or even Telstra, has an optimal sharing group for its ownership of many many thousands. The question of whether or not the Government should or should not own them (since two of these has been previously owned) is a matter of political ideology.
Personally I think that the fact that Telstra had plans to build the NBN and have it completely funded and built by 2002 whilst it was still Government owned and the rather obviously glaring fact that it didn't as a privately owned firm, proves by evidence that the optimal sharing group of Telstra was all 23 million of us.

On the other side of the fence, when we talk about schools & hospitals, perhaps we should look at who they benefit and whether or not they actually are more efficiently run in the private sector.
Australian governments spent A$7,171 per student for those in public schools in 2012 and A$4,719 for those in private schools. If we were to then look at fees paid by parents in private schools, which amounted on average to $10,292 can the private system really be held up to be more "efficient" if the total amount spent per student was $7,840 more? Ideally if you really wanted to call them "independent" schools, they should not receive even so much as a single red cent from governments at any level.
When it comes to healthcare, the country with the most privatised healthcare system in the world (the United States) also has the highest costs per person in the OECD with the lowest to second lowest set of patient outcomes in the OECD. Again you could argue I supposed that there is such a thing of "quality" but after hearing stories from people in the United States about waiting to see even a GP, I seriously wonder just how "efficient" a private system actually is.

The other thing to remember about a healthcare system as opposed to a restaurant, is that the thing which is being sold is essentially a collectivisation of risk. Since the benefits of an insurance scheme come from the collective pooling of risks (insurance is a form of risk management against contingent; uncertain losses), the size of the gain of benefits in pooling risks rises in proportion to the size of the pool, there actually can be no more efficiently insurance system than having literally every single risk included in the pool. That means a single payer universal insurance scheme.
Or if you will, the second outright lie that Mr Creighton of The Australia told in just one paragraph.

Of course no one is suggesting government set up restaurants. Why even bring it up? It doesn't make any sense. However it makes perfect sense from an efficiency point of view for governments to provide schools and hospitals because of their optimal sharing group.
It could just be that Mr Creighton is confused. I think that the real issue is that he does not like sharing.

May 24, 2013

Horse 1490 - Ford Finally Flees

The decision by Ford to pull the plug on its Australian manufacturing operations in October 2016 is disappointing but entirely expected. Although Ford like everyone else blames the high value of the dollar, suggesting currency "uncompetitiveness" as the reason; the real reason is to do with high wages and land costs. Basically workers in Australia need to be able to pay for things like rent and their mortgages, gas, electric and other costs, which in turn drives prices higher.
Ford builds the Ka in Tychy in Poland, where the average wage is 42,120 Zloty/year or A$13,365. The Focuses (Focii?) that we get in Australia come from Rayong in Thailand where the average wage is 288,000 Baht/year or A$9,990. None of these would even hope to cover rent in any capital city in Australia; without even bothering about the utilities or putting food in the fridge.

There is also one rather obvious reason why Ford chose to close the operation in Australia - Detroit.

As a multi-national corporation, Ford can shift production lines to pretty well anywhere it chooses to. In Australia's case, it deliberately chose not to produce cars like the Fiesta or Focus here, because it couldn't do so for wide enough a margin.
It's strangely ironic that for quite a number of months during 2012 and 2013, the top selling car in Australia was the Mazda 3. Never mind the fact that the 3 sits on the same platform as Ford's Focus; apart from the front and rear light treatment and the glasshouse behind the C-pillar, the passenger shell is identical. Ford no doubt was looking at official VFACTS stats for new cars sold, so it's not like they misread the market because they already sell their Focus in Australia.
Ford chose to build the Falcon only, as some sort of "legacy" product. It can be argued that keeping the old dinosaur around as long as they did was an act of charity, when they could have just as easily started importing the Taurus at least five years ago.

I note that although the Labor Party made some mileage out of "protecting workers" (cue Ms Gillard trying to look caring and sad), Mr Abbott's speech within the hour of the announcement, rang with all the smugness of someone who's just stuck his foot in your cheesecake.
Although he tried to pin Ford's decision on the Carbon Tax and the lack of direction of the government, the truth is that it was the decision of a multi national headquartered ten thousand miles away and made with a very long lead time indeed - three years is an exceptionally large amount of warning (in some respects, fair play to Ford). I'm personally surprised that Ford Australia lasted this long, having written about this previously.
(I've seen this a long time coming Horse 1175 in Apr '11Horse 1447 in Mar '13 etc.)
It might very well be true as Mr Abbott suggested, that Australia doesn't "need" three car manufacturers but it might also ring true that we don't "need" three telcos either, yet he was part of the government that sold Telstra. We don't really "need" four major banks, two airlines, or multiple mining companies either.
The truth is though that people do "need" to work somewhere to be able to put food on the table, and when you have someone who hopes to be the future Prime Minister of the nation actually smiling because 3500 people have effectively been told when they shall be fired, it yells volumes about who this man cares for.

The Falcon was the right car to be producing for Australia in 1963 but 50 years later, the platform has outlived its usefulness. The big problem is that Detroit must've chosen to give up on Australia a long time ago, or else it would have started producing cars that people actually want to buy here; the fact that it didn't says that they'd rather make cars in places where people are paid far less and where governments are prepared to throw even vaster sums of cash at them -  countries which once sat on the dismal side of the Iron Curtain like Poland, or behind the Concrete Curtain like Mexico. The Ford Ka that I had was built in Belgium, the Focus that we currently get might have parts sourced from as many as 20 countries. The Fiesta for instance, could easily be built in India.

May 23, 2013

Horse 1489 - On the Privatisation of the ABC and SBS
The ABC now has more reach than ever before – from an overseas television network and a domestic 24-hour news channel to half a dozen national radio networks and hundreds of online sites. It costs taxpayers more than a billion dollars a year, and there is the SBS as well.
With the federal government and the opposition both looking for cuts – one to deliver its promised budget surplus and the other to unveil plausible election costings – the ABC is bound to come in for close attention. And its new chairman has revealed the corporation has already identified where it could save money, if asked.
-Chris Kenny, The Australian, 24th Sep 2012. Also see Twitter:

I'd like you to imagine for a moment, the nation of Australia in 2020. That's after the election cycles of '13, '16 and '19; time enough for interested parties like the IPA and News Ltd to convince a third term Abbott Government to privatise the ABC and SBS. Assuming that you don't have a subscription to visit News Ltd's or Fairfax's articles which are snuggled up in bed nicely behind their respective paywalls, what sort of journalism do you actually have access to? Where are you going to get your daily source of news from? It is very scarily possible that print will have died entirely by 2020 and also possible that Fairfax will not be viable as an organisation, will have collapsed and/or have been eaten by News Ltd. What then?

As far as television news goes, we're treated to a growing diet of marshmallow fluff being passed off as current affairs on Nine, Seven and Ten.
Think of Sunday (19th May): North Korea launched three test missiles into the Sea of Japan and proved that it had the capability of hitting Seoul with surprising accuracy, if it wanted to. Which of Seven, Nine or Ten carried it on their news networks' five and six o'clock bulletins? None of them; yet both SBS and ABC had it on theirs. Potentially it could result in another protracted war which we'll be dragged into but, because the news isn't "sexy" enough, it wasn't thought worthy enough to put on commercial televisions' news bulletins; maybe because such things don't sell advert space. Yet all of Seven, Nine and Ten ran stories about that Kardashian lady (who is actually famous for what, now?), which is almost as close to non-news as you can get.
When it comes to training new technicians, the ABC is still really the major player when it comes to hiring and mentoring apprentices in TV and Radio production and if they didn't do it, the other networks would suffer. If the ABC were to start charging the commercial networks in both TV and Radio for the value that they invested in staff, there would be a lot of high level screaming.

If the ABC and SBS are privatised, are we also to expect a dumbing down of news content in search of the advertising dollar? Commercial interests often make their money catering for the lowest common denominator and if either the UK's red top newspapers, Australia's mX or even Fox News in the United States is anything to go by, then that lowest common denominator is pretty low and pretty common indeed; by inference commercial interests must assume that the general public is pretty cussing stupid.

As it currently stands, between them, News and Fairfax control most of the market for print. In some cities, News Ltd provides the only daily newspapers. Of course News Ltd would contend that they have a right to free speech (which of course they do) but when only one voice is yelling into the void, you have to ask what rights do the consumers of that free speech have? Just how "free" is free speech when only one voice can be heard?
There is a small yet dedicated following for both the Australian and the Financial Review in Australia, which I suppose says that there is still a market for longer form journalism but if the ABC and SBS were privatised, would we find such things on a commercial basis?
Print and broadcast media might cry blue murder at the existence of a program like Media Watch for instance but what currently stops them from producing such a show themselves? Nothing apart from profits. I note that Channel 10 have invented their own QandA style program in Can Of Worms but it has as much hitting power as being prodded with a soft cushion and being given a comfy chair. Can of Worms contributes as much to the national dialogue as Mr Abbott's visit to the Lawn Bowls factory.

Think of what else the ABC does. Then there are shows on ABC Radio like The Law Report, The Science Show, Insiders, Outsiders; maybe Meet The Press or (praise be Andrew) The Bolt Report fulfil somewhat similar functions but they're all driven with a different agenda. It's always important to remember that everything has an inherent bias but at least the ABC is somewhat open about theirs. Someone like Mr Bolt is prepared to attack the leftist bias of the ABC on his "blog" but hypocritically doesn't acknowledge his own inherent rightest bias. (Actually in the case of Andrew Bolt who has no degrees in any academic endeavour whatsoever, I even doubt that he is aware of his own internal biases).
Why is the ABC so determined to deny that truth - that the vast majority of its journalists lean to the Left? Is it embarrassed that they do? Ashamed of the tag?
Point out that every host of Media Watch in its 24 years has been of the Left, and you get - well, not an outright denial, exactly - a claim that one of the seven actually believes in free speech and free markets, so might not be of the Left, after all.
- Andrew Bolt, The Herald-Sun and The Daily Telegraph, 21st May 2013

In the UK, News Corp has often called for the privatisation of the BBC and if not the BBC, then the privatisation of Radios 1 and 2. To be honest I can't think of any reason why except that it either wants, or has friends that would want to spin a profit out of the commercial space left behind and/or buy them up and swoop the profits themselves (It would be similar to iTunes and the death of record stores). I can't see any difference in motive in Australia either.
At least in the UK when it comes to the market for print media, there are far more players. The Times and Sun, the Grauniad (the Guardian), the Daily Mail, the Express, the Star, the Independent etc. all provide different voices all yelling into the void. You might not like them all but you do have the option of going elsewhere. This largely does not exist in most markets in Australia with your only choices for serious journalism in some cases being either News Ltd or the ABC or nothing else. If the ABC were to be privatised, then the character of the organisation must surely change; almost invariably for the worst.

When the initial tenders were drawn up in Australia for the broadcast networks, it was said at the time that there was really only room for three television networks. The 0-10 network which later became Channel 10 was only expected to be a part time station. SBS on the other hand, was created out of a very different set of circumstances but again, was only ever expected to have a limited audience.
I suspect that a privatisation of the ABC would involve a forced splitting of the TV and Radio networks into two separate organisations, then a merger of the TV portion with SBS. If there wasn't room for the 0-10 network then and arguably still isn't really now, you can bet that a 6 channel ABC-SBS conglomerate wouldn't be allowed to survive, which in turn would lead to a paring back of their bandwidths and channel allowances.
The bottom line here is that neither the ABC or SBS currently survive on a commercial basis and nor do I think that they even would do under a privatisation regime. Unlike Telstra or the Commonwealth Bank, the nature of the type of program content currently provided by the ABC and SBS, isn't provided on a commercial basis and nor do I think it would be in future. A lot of what the ABC and SBS produce is conspicuous by its absence elsewhere. Which of the commercial networks currently produces a show like Sunday Arts? Presumably commercial radio can carry live sport but would they to the same degree that the ABC does? What of the statewide and local networks? The ABC by virtue of being government funded, also has the scope and remit to cover areas which are not otherwise commercially viable. In some parts of the country, the ABC's faint glimmers in the airwaves are your only connection with civilisation; for not even Telstra covers everywhere out there.

Would we even want to live in a country without the ABC or SBS as they currently are? Perhaps oddly, the United States, the home of free enterprise has the answer. It's worth remembering that just over 40 years ago, it was the Public Broadcasting Service which finally helped to bring down President Nixon, simply by honestly reporting the truth when commercial television and radio either could not or would not do so.

 "Public television was doing something that the commercial networks... wouldn't and couldn't do"
- Robert MacNeil, PBS Newshour, 16th May 2013

Recently in the UK, the Leveson Inquiry has asked some very serious questions and even led to legal cases being made against former directors of newspapers due to breaches of simple ethics.
Having quashed any thought that a similar inquiry might be set up here, arguing for the removal of the ABC and SBS leads me to suspect that something sinister is probably almost certainly going on within commercial media in this country. By eliminating the only voices who would be prepared to report the truth should it arise, commercial media would save itself a lot of suspicion.
I would not be surprised if there was bribery going on between News Ltd and the police, or AFP or maybe government agencies and I wouldn't put it beyond them either. It would be incredibly naive to think that there has never been anything "illegal, unethical or improper" with the media in this country. News Ltd is pretty well much the same organisation in both the UK and Australia, with in a lot of cases the same management floating between offices in Thomas More Square, Wapping and say Holt Street, Surry Hills.
It is far easier and lazy for commercial interests to accuse the ABC of being wasteful of money and deny that they should have either the scope or even the right to exist, than it is to write copy of decent quality.

Privatisation of the ABC and SBS, blows open the space left behind in their wake and since this is about the pursuit of profits (which is the only reason that private firms exist), then calling for this to happen in entirely in line with that end.
Remember, the total budget of the ABC is only $1.18bn and compared with the total Federal Budget of $398.3bn, it makes up not even a third of one percent of spending.  Commercial media's cat calling for privatisation of the ABC and SBS is quite frankly gutless.

May 22, 2013

Horse 1488 - Lovely, Masterful, Neurotic, Odd Poetry.

I suppose that the following is poetry, although it is neither poetic nor pretty. It is purposeful, and that produces purple prose which pertains to proper poetry.
The rule is reasonably obvious.

All bombastic chargers do eventually find good hostelry inside journey's kin.Last minute notions often proceed quixotically; rather strangely than undone vexed wailing. Xerox? Yes, Zambian.

After badly calculating deadly events, four Generals hid invisibly. Joyfully killing largess, marring noblesse oblige; puncturing quick remorse; standing tirelessly under veiled white xenophobic young zeitgeists.

A big complication dominating everything, finds great horror in junk kings, localities, municipalities, nations or powers quietly; rudely. Sometimes these unwanted vagrancies wait xeroically, yea; Zounds!

Awful behaviour can deserve exemption, for grace has intermittently jokingly kind limits. Many new other product quotients really show their uniform vitesse whilst x-rays, yes, zoom.

May 20, 2013

Horse 1487 - Selling Off What's Left Of The Family Silver

Mr Abbott who will more than likely be the 28th Prime Minister of Australia after the September election, has frequently accused Ms Gillard of breaking promises. He should know what reneging on promises looks like, having previously served in four terms of Howard Governments from 1996-2007; Mr Howard (whom Tony mentioned four times in his budget reply) famously coined the  phrase "non-core promises" when he wanted to ignore any election commitments he may have had.
In Abbott's case though, I'm not necessarily worried about him breaking promises but rather, his keeping them.
We will abolish new health and environmental bureaucracies. We will deliver $1 billion in red tape savings every year. We will develop northern Australia. We will repeal the mining tax. We will create a one stop shop for environmental approvals. We will privatise Medibank Private. We will trim the public service and we will stop throwing good money after bad on the NBN.
- Tony Abbott, Address to Institute of Public Affairs, 5th April 2013

Privatising things and selling everything in the kitchen cabinets has been pretty standard government policy for governments of both colours for the past 25 years. It could be labelled as the simple economic question of an opportunity cost, however I tend to think that in practically every example, it's more an example of hyperbolic discounting and the results of the opportunity cost means that we've all been sold so very very short in the long run.

In 1991 Mr Keating looked in the silverware cabinet for stuff to sell and found the Commonwealth Bank so he sold that. In 1992 he moved sold the domestic Australian Airlines to Qantas, then in 1993 sold that off too.
Mr Howard who obviously didn't have any more imagination decided to raid the silverware cabinet
himself and sold off Telstra in three tranches, starting in 1997.
Potentially Mr Abbott will be Prime Minister come September and to be honest, I don't see him as being any more imaginative or forward looking than either Keating or Howard whom he lionises and swoons over (having mentioned him four times in the Budget Reply). Also, I suspect that Mr Abbott will want to curry the favour of the Murdoch press because he's seen and personally benefited from the razoring of both Mr Rudd and currently Ms Gillard. When Murdoch calls for something, Abbott would more than likely follow:
THE commonwealth bureaucracy should be slashed in the interests of prosperity and efficiency, according to an Institute of Public Affairs report, which slams as "unsatisfactory and piecemeal" Labor and Coalition plans for public service reform.
The report, called Razor Cuts, Not Paper Cuts, calls for privatisation of the ABC, SBS, Australia Post and Medibank Private, cutting more than 44,000 jobs from the public sector
- The Australian, 22 Oct 2012

Ah, the Institute of Public Affairs... a "think tank" whom Mr Abbott is already friendly with. In case you're interested, this is the link to said report:

Actually, let's not beat about the bush here, part of reason that Mr Abbott wants to slash and privatise more government services, is actually to change the demographics of the electorate itself; to create a slight more favourable environment which would result in his re-election:
Surveys of political attitudes consistently show that Australian public sector employees, including 
those engaged by the commonwealth government, mainly tend to vote for left-of-centre parties 
which are ideologically committed to extending the sphere of governmental activities at the expense 
of the private sector.
Government employees in effect represent a bloc who wield significant, and indeed unparalleled, 
influence within the Australian political system
- Razor cuts, not paper cuts, from pages 23 & 24

To that end:
For example, privatising the ABC, Australia Post, Medibank Private and SBS alone would transfer 44,200 employees to the private sector – an amount 15 times greater than the Gillard government’s proposed 3,100 APS staff reductions for this financial year.
- Razor cuts, not paper cuts, page 2

Just like in the federal election of 1990, Mr Keating mentioned nothing of selling Qantas and the Commonwealth Bank, although Mr Abbott hasn't explicitly said that he would privatise the ABC, SBS, Australia Post or even Medicare, the fact that he hasn't explicitly said that he wouldn't either, suggests that it's not been ruled of the table. Certainly the IPA and Murdoch would like him to.
My ministers won’t need to learn how to be a good government because they’ve been one before.
Sixteen members of the Coalition shadow cabinet were ministers in the last government that actually delivered surpluses, as opposed to just promising them.
Those surpluses weren’t just John Howard’s and Peter Costello’s.
They were my surpluses and Joe Hockey’s surpluses and Julie Bishop’s and Warren Truss’s and Malcolm Turnbull’s because we were all part of the last government that Australians knew was competent and trustworthy.
- Tony Abbott, Budget Reply Speech, 16th May 2013

Let's have a think about this. I've just totted up the reported profits which were forgone as a result of just the privatisation of Telstra since 1997. The scary thing is thanks to governments which Mr Abbott has been part of (he's been the MP for Warringah since 1994), threw $56.568bn down the toilet in forgone dividends - just for Telstra.
Forgive me for feeling slighted but the Commonwealth Bank reported a full-year profit for 2012 of $7.09 billion, the largest result by a non-mining company in Australia. That's $7.09 billion which did NOT go into consolidated revenue as far as I'm concerned every year that ex-government businesses post profits, is still the past robbing the present.
Since 1991 the net dividends which have quite literally thrown down the toilet and not been consolidated into government revenues from just three ex-government enterprises (Commonwealth Bank, Telstra and Qantas) and adjusted for 2013 dollar values amounts to just over a trillion dollars; yet Mr Abbott and Hockey have the gall to cry foul over an $18bn fiscal deficit and net government debt of $247bn, when this could have been eliminated four times over if previous governments (including one of which Mr Abbott was a part) hadn't sold all the trophies in the silverware cabinet.

As for this:
we were all part of the last government that Australians knew was competent and trustworthy.
Competent and trustworthy? Come again? This is the same government  who lied about the Children Overboard affair, who lied to the Australian people about going to war in Iraq and now is being touted as being "competent and trustworthy"?
None of the government's arguments were supported by the intelligence presented to it by its own agencies. None of these arguments were true.
Howard this week quoted the findings of the parliamentary inquiry, but his quotation is selective to the point of being misleading.
- Margaret Swieringa, former Australian Government Ministerial advisor, in the Sydney Morning Herald, 12th April 2013

A potential Abbott "competent and trustworthy" government has now said on record that:
Far from cutting to the bone, we reserve the right to implement all of Labor’s cuts, if needed, because it will take time to un-do all the damage this government has done
By keeping, if needed, all Labor’s budget cuts – and – by not implementing any of their budget spending measures unless specified, we will achieve the first duty of every government: namely, to preserve the nation’s finances.
- Tony Abbott, Budget Reply Speech, 16th May 2013

Personally I disagree with this most violently. I think we need to go all the way back to the Code of Hammurabi, circa 1772 BC.
"The first duty of government is to protect the powerless from the powerful.”

The most powerless people are those whose futures are decided by us in the present. Once you've sold off the treasure in the family silverware cabinet, you never ever get it back; nor do you get the rewards of dividends which should have rightly accrued either. That to me is criminally stupid; bordering on treasonous because contained within section 51 of the constitution says that the parliament and by inference the government shall make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth. Bad government has effects which last well beyond that term of parliament.

May 19, 2013

Horse 1486 - The Title of The Doctor

Tonight's as yet unaired episode of Doctor Who entitled "The Name of The Doctor", I expect will yet again not reveal the name of The Doctor to the audience but to Clara Oswald. What of the title of The Doctor? Assuming that The Doctor is a title which he acquired on Earth, this itself has a tendency to date him in Earth's history at least.

The word "Doctor" itself comes from the Latin "docēre" but has an agentive ending, that is a suffix appropriate to someone who does that thing. A Librarian does library work, a builder does building work, a  cellist does the cello; a Doctor quite literally does docēreing and since to docēre means "to teach", a Doctor is one who teaches.
In fact the word "Doctor" as it is applied to medical practitioners seems only to be start being applied from about the 12th Century. That in itself is worth noting.

It was universities who first conferred the title of Doctor on people. Quite literally a Doctor was one who was licenced to teach. The term "licentia docendi" finally crystallised to a university teacher at the University of Paris in 1213 after a series of rule changes governing the university.
Universities are generally considered to have started with the University of Bologna in 1088 which took its name from the Latin phrase "universitas magistrorum et scholarium", or if you will, a community of teachers and scholars.
Given that Doctor Who is a time traveller, it's not inconceivable that he could have been to and in fact been resident at any number of Universities from the 11th century and onwards. Presumably he is either a physician of some sort or has studied somewhere.

In "The Hand of Fear" (broadcast in 1976 - 4th Doctor serial), he says that studied at the Prydonian Academy on Gallifrey and was in the class of '92. It is also stated in "The Armageddon Factor" (1979) that he attained the doctorate along with Drax. Drax however calls him Theta Sigma which presumably is some sort of code name, which could possibly relate to something like a fraternity house. His teachers included Borusa and Azmael - the former became a Cardinal and later the Chancellor of Gallifrey; the latter, we don't really know.
Given that The Doctor stole his TARDIS it's probably a safe bet to assume that the Doctor's Doctorate is probably in Physics because time and space are both physical quantities of the universe, which is what Physics is concerned with; though given his rouge nature, he might also only hold an honorary doctorate somewhere.

So then, The Doctor is more than likely a Ph.D in Physics but who honestly has a clue of what his major would be?

May 17, 2013

Horse 1485 - Statistics & Percentages

0% of fees, ever
1% is the comparison rate
4% is today's great high interest rate
5% is what 2% plus 2% equals in Joe Hockey's black hole budget calculations
6% of this product is real lemon juice
7% are undecided
10% is ethanol
10.66% of school students think the Battle of Hastings was won by "Will-I-Am the Conqueror"
11% of people are left-handed
12% of people can't change the tyres on their car
15% more joy
16% of teenagers knew that Bulgaria was a Great Uncle
18% of single mums don't know how to set up a tax shelter in Mauritania
19% of people think that the moon landings were faked
20% cooler is what it needs to be
23% of buses are either late or cancelled
24% of people under the age of 25 are under employed
25% is the discount on all products at Target
30% of tax credits are named Frank
31% of mums got a Whirlpool
34% of newlyweds don't know how to clean an oven
37% of teenagers don't know who Winston Churchill is
44% of the audience support the coalition
49% of people think that Santa uses a sleigh, in fact he uses a QR train, hence why only can leave once a year
50% of the population are below average intelligence
61% of all Liberal backbenchers think that Tony Abbott is just ace
64% of people still need me; still feed me
66% of bullets fired hit JFK
72% of all statistics are made up on the spot
74% is humidity
76% of trombones led the big parade
80% of cats agree
87% of people support the NDIS
88% of clowns never fall in love
89% of people support the NBN
90% of people with the surname Chicken agree
95% of this product is fat free
97% of people couldn't believe it wasn't butter
98% of Manchester United fans have never been to Old Trafford
99% of people are we
100% of Progressive Car Insurance is online

May 16, 2013

Horse 1484 - Kevin Sheedy and The Lesson of Irrelevancy

I believe in colour in sport. I believe in Sky Blue for Sydney FC, I believe in Red for Liverpool, I believe in Brown and Gold for Hawthorn, I believe in Tangerine for Blackpool, I believe in Gold and Green for Australia and I believe in White for England.
I also believe that the colour of the skin under the shirt is irrelevant, that where they or their parents have come from is irrelevant (though it's a good idea that if you want to play in a national side, you should probably become a citizen) and that their surname is also irrelevant.

It surprises and disappoints me then that comments like this even exist in the twenty-first century:

"All of a sudden they've got 10,000 fans and 20,000 going to a game."
Is it really that surprising? Obviously the Western Sydney Wanderers have made connections with the local community. Western Sydney, which by the way is the same region in which the Greater Western Sydney Giants supposedly operate in, according to the 2011 census is the most diverse region of cultures in the world. Blacktown City Council has people within its boundaries from 206 nations.

The lineup for Western Sydney Wanderers is as diverse as the people that they play in front of. Kwabena Appiah-Kubi was born in New Zealand and his parents are Ghanaian, Youssouf Hersi is Dutch, Shinji Ono is Japanese, Jérome Polenz is German, Mateo Poljak is Croatian... and I don't like any of them. Not because of where they come from but because they play in Red and Black for Western Sydney Wanderers. If any of them decided to play in Sky Blue for Sydney FC, I'd immediately think that they were wonderful and that's the point I'm trying to make. Partisanship and rivalry is OK, it's part of the makeup of sport; rampant racism is not.
The line is blurred a little when it comes to national teams playing each other and I'll make the point that I'll boo for someone like Del Piero which he played for Italy against Australia but stick him in a Sky Blue Sydney FC kit and I honestly don't care where he came from - it is irrelevant.
Two men were ejected from Docklands on Saturday after allegedly hurling racist abuse towards North Melbourne's Sudanese-born player Majak Daw.

Good; I hope those two never darken the doorways of a stadium again. I wholly endorse and agree with the comments of North Melbourne coach Brad Scott:
"It's got no place in footy, and it's got no place in society,"

I ask you, what do you see here? I see an incredibly gifted and steely football player. What nationality is he? Just by looking, I don't know. If he was the child of an immigrant, he'd be Australian. If he's come over; suffered terrible conditions in getting here and become a citizen, he'd still be Australian. I'll tell you what he is though, he's a North Melbourne player with an absolutely sublime right boot who has kicked 8.2.50 for the season, which is very very scary for a Ruckman.
Would he have played in Kevin Sheedy's team? Certainly not now. Personally I hope that he comes and plays for Hawthorn. I don't much like the Blue and White he's wearing but I think he'd look fantastic in Brown and Gold.

I wonder what goes on in Kevin Sheedy's mind. Would he have wanted players like Robert DiPierdomenico, Stephen Silvagni, Brendan Fevola or Nic Naitanui playing for him? How about the two Serbian Kekovich brothers?

The words of Craig Foster here are particular poignant:
All of us arrived here in different ways and we’re all equal, regardless of differences and in fact because of them, that’s the beauty of Australia.
Like the people you just insulted, Kev, I’m an ‘immigrant’, part of the original ‘boat people’. I’m also proud to call every Australian, from any background who finds a home at the Wanderers as a fellow Aussie.

Actually when I think about it, one of the most "Aussie" people I ever met, drove an XD Falcon, worked as a sparky, supported the D's (Melbourne Demons) and would go to the cricket in gold and green; wearing the Australian flag as a cape. The fact that he was born in Korea, was irrelevant.

The truth is that I won't support Western Sydney Wanderers because I follow Sydney FC - you just don't change teams. If Sydney FC hadn't been around, I more than likely would have supported them instead. I bet Kevin Sheedy though would accuse me of being recruited by the Department of Immigration too.
There was an advert for Fosters a while back which had the line: My brothers are the Smiths, the Wilsons, the Santarellis, the di Costis, the Wongs, and the Jagamurras. That sounds to me like half of the starting lineup for a football side (or a third of an Aussie Rules side); the only caveat I'd put of that is that Wong needs to move from right midfield to the centre because he's more of a turn and hold player. Of course where he was born is irrelevant.

I could say that Kevin Sheedy's words belong in another time but they don't... ever. They wouldn't have been out of place in the 1920s but they would have still been every bit as disgraceful. If he's really mystified as to why GWS hasn't quite connected with the people of Western Sydney, then maybe he needs to review the very words which came out of his mouth. Quite often, an organisation reflects the culture of management and in this case, Kevin Sheedy has put himself on the express train to irrelevancy.

May 15, 2013

Horse 1483 - The Lion King... of Narnia

... because according to Mrs. Rollo, every conversation in our house always comes back to The Lion King, Elton John or Titanic.

The Daily Telegraph ran a full double page over advert for "The Lion King" musical.
Little Miss Six on the bus asked her mum if The Lion King was Aslan, to which she said "no". I wonder though.
Aslan himself said that he "had been known as many names" and that "he was very very old". What's to say that as a young lion, he didn't have a penchant to appear in musical theatre?

Maybe Aslan wouldn't have been in "The Lion King" but with his big booming voice he would have been very good in something like "The King & I", though I don't know how audiences would react to seeing a lion with a shaved head on stage. Maybe they might think he was punk or something. Also, there's the distinct problem of making a lion dance in numbers like "Shall We Dance" but that might be easy if Aslan used some of that "deeper magic" he was found of talking about.

There'd be a strange sort of irony if Aslan appeared in "Les Miserables", a musical set in revolutionary France with the bringing down of the monarchy. He'd look a little out of place because people mistake his mane for a ruff, which would be a fashion faux pas; missing the time period by about 150 years, and although having a lion singing in revolutionary France is already strange, having him be unfashionable as well would be intolerable.
If Aslan appeared in "West Side Story" the costume designers might have a lot of fun in addressing the technical issues of putting a leather jacket on a lion, as equally as they might in "Grease" where they'd have to outfit him in a denim jacket.

Of course all of this assumes that Aslan likes that sort of musical. He might be into rock music; so would work very well in a production of "Hair". How do we know for instance that he doesn't like break beat and/or acid house or dubstep? Aslan might be very good on the turntables, he could even scratch on the discs using his paw.
"Screeeeee, wub wub wub wub wub wub wub wub, BAAAAAA vorp vorp vorp, wub wub wub wub wub wub wub wub WAAAAaaaaaaaHhhAaaaaAAAA..."

No, it's obvious really. On reflection if Aslan were to appear in a musical the only logical choice is that one by Andrew Lloyd Webber - "Cats".

May 14, 2013

Horse 1482 - Rental Prices and The Australian's and The Daily Telegraph's Editorial

NOT that treasurer Wayne Swan really needs any extra complexities for this year's federal Budget, to be handed down tomorrow, but here is something additional for him to consider. Sydney's cost of living, traditionally higher than in any other Australian capital city, now runs at anywhere from $2100 to almost $5000 a year more than any other capital city.

The financial pressure this places on Sydney is obvious, from real estate and rental markets throughout the rest of our state's economic structure. And, although Sydney wages are higher than in those other capitals, those wages don't cover the cost of living gap.

The challenge for Swan, or for any future treasurer, is to properly address Sydney's growing cost of living during a time of limited state and federal funding. One potential answer is to look for more creative funding methods, with an increased percentage of private investment.
Another answer comes from the opposite end of the economic map, and will prove an even tougher challenge. Further and deeper tax reductions are an essential part of Sydney's financial future.

The present Labor government has introduced a range of expenses, specifically the carbon tax, that seem almost designed to impact especially on western Sydney. It is little wonder that western Sydney now shapes as such a crucial battleground in September's looming election.
We await the Treasurer's answer to these challenges.
- From The Australian and The Daily Telegraph, 13th Mar 2013
Full link here:

I don't know who exactly writes the editorials at The Daily Telegraph and The Australian but whoever they are, they appear to have the economics understanding of a potato.
It is of course very simple for the newspaper to write lots of words about what the government should and shouldn't do but here they'be managed to play the double whammy of arguing down both sides of the road at the same time.

I concur with the Tele when it suggests that wages and rents are higher than the rest of the country. Arguably wages are higher because one of the cost drivers of people's wages, is the fact that they need enough money to afford expenses... like rent.
The cost of rent being so high relative to wages though, is either an expression of one of two things. Either that real wages for most people aren't high enough (which might be true considering that they've been falling since 1979) or that there is an undersupply of property to be able to rent.

"One potential answer is to look for more creative funding methods"... such as what? Funding anything requires investment spending and to be honest, the capital gains system and the ability to negative gear already subsidises the property market. What does the Tele have in mind?
Funding things itself either requires one to draw down on existing savings and/or to borrow the money from somewhere. Money like any other tradeable commodity is also subject to the rigours of supply and demand. Move in and borrow large amounts of money and the price of that borrowing (ie interest) invariably rises. I don't quite get what they mean by a creative funding method, either you have it and spend money, or you borrow it to spend it. Even just "printing" money isn't really creating new money to be spent, for all it does is change the value of a fiat value.

"With an increased percentage of private investment"
I fail to understand this too. Australia relative to other countries already has an exceptionally small public housing sector. Most public housing estates have long been sold off by previous governments to balance budgets.
At a Federal level, The Department of Public Works became the Department of Housing in 1973 and Construction and in various guises was smooshed into other government departments until finally during the Second Keating Ministry it became the Department for Housing and Regional Development. At the federal election in March 1996, no department at all at Federal level was responsible for public housing. Simple mathematics says that you can not increase a percentage of something beyond 100%. There can be no increase as a percentage percentage in private investment of housing (at least as far as the Federal Government is concerned) if the level of private investment is nil.

Private investment is not, I repeat is not, going to step in and provide housing where there are no profits to be made. Mostly the shortage for housing occurs at the bottom end of the market where people on already depressed wages compete against each other for limited houses. A structural shortage has already pushed the demand curve for housing to the right which pushes up the equilibrium price. It is actually in landlords' interests for there to be a shortage precisely because it pushes rents higher and thus, returns on their investment higher.

"Further and deeper tax reductions are an essential part of Sydney's financial future."
Tax cuts might place a small amount of money back into peoples' hands but it doesn't really address the basic problem in this article of the cost of living. Taxation, both at an individual level is paid out of incomes and corporately, post profits. Unless the Tele is arguing for higher wages (which suspect they aren't given their stance on most IR legislation), then I don't see how tax cuts really do much in addressing the issue of high cost of living due to rents.

I run back to this line in the editorial:
"The challenge for Swan, or for any future treasurer, is to properly address Sydney's growing cost of living during a time of limited state and federal funding."
Presumably before 1996 when there actually was a degree of public housing ownership at a Federal level, you can bet that then Telegraph Mirror would have been calling for a reduction of "waste" whilst the Australian would have been calling for "free markets". They can't very well complain when the higher cost of housing is a direct result of the markets which they were calling for.
Forgive my obvious stupidity but if you really wanted to cause a shift downwards in the cost of housing (or indeed any good or service) you can either create a shortfall in demand (thought this may involve a mass extermination program) or you can expand supply. Since the private sector clearly has a vested self-interest then they only real option would be for the public sector to build public housing instead. That would of course mean that we're back to where we where two decades ago and to be fair, that's just too hard for the Federal Government, The Daily Telegraph and The Australian. It's just easier all round if they continue to write nonsense and ignore basic economics.

May 13, 2013

Horse 1481 - Everyone's Tyres Are Chewed Up (Rd.5)

- stolen from AP (link)

In what must surely be a record, there were 82 pitstops at the Spanish GP at Catalunya. Pirelli were given a directive to encourage more pitstops and I think that they've achieved that but in the process they've hokied up the competition.
Once upon a time in the "bad old days", Formula One teams learned how to stretch out tyre wear and could eventually make a set of tyres last a whole race. Particularly in that horrid season on 1988/89 in which Prost and Senna in their McLarens stormed off with 15 of 16 race wins, the lack of any overtaking at all led to some pretty predictable motor races.
Now we've gone too far the other way and with other things like KERS and DRS it is more about "the show" than a struggle to make a pass.

The two Mercedes of Rosberg and Hamilton who started 1-2 faded almost from the get go and slowly drifted backwards through the race. Raikkonen's Lotus had the consistency but not the speed and Vettel's Red Bull was able to show bursts of brilliance before it chewed its tyres.
Only the scarlet Ferraris of Alonso and Massa showed both compliance and the gentleness required to get the most out of a set of tyres. This was most obvious right at the start of the race when Alonso got a fantastic run off of turn 2, passed Raikkonen and then went round the outside of Hamilton.

Elsewhere in the field, Romain Grosejean had the suspension collapse on the rear right of his Lotus for seemingly no reason at all. Vergne's rear tyre delaminated and then exploded.  Van der Garde's rear tyre decided to part company with the Caterham and fell off. Caterham have subsequently been fined €10,000 for an "unsafe release", which you'd imagine would be very difficult to disprove considering the wheel fell off.
The two McLarens may as well have not bothered with Perez finishing in an anonymous sixth, whilst Jensen Button never really found anything out of the upgrades and mumbled along quietly into tenth.
Special mention needs to be made of Mark Webber who started in sixth and promptly lost a bunch of places at the start. He can't blame KERS or the clutch or the gearbox, the sad fact is that Webber is just bad at starting a race.

Alonso deservedly picked up a win at his home GP through sensible driving and being sympathetic to his tyres. It wasn't particularly exciting but then again, in motor racing, being "exciting" is usually a waste of time; in a sport decided on thousandths of seconds, wasting any time is expensive.

May 12, 2013

Horse 1480 - The Importance Of Corners - 2013 FA Cup Final

Manchester City 0 - Wigan Athletic 1
Ben Watson 91'

Roberto Martinez's Wigan Athletic won a memorable FA Cup Final over a Roberto Mancini coached Manchester City side which sits 18 places above them in the league. Wigan who currently sit in the relegation zone avoided a double dose of misery which could have seen them both lose the FA Cup Final and be relegated within a few weeks; the latter still could happen.

Wigan playing with a 4-3-3 formation were able to maintain their shape at the back and contain Manchester City who by playing 4-4-2 had an extra man in midfield for most of the match; consequently the majority of the match was played from about 35 yards away from Wigan's goal line.
Whilst Man City looked composed on the ball, Wigan tended to look frantic and more purposeful; although this led to more desperate football, it was that sense of purpose which eventually led to them winning a corner and Ben Watson's now famous 91st minute header which gave Wigan the Cup.

During the match I tweeted the following:
15' - #FACup Protip: Short corners are almost always rubbish. Don't do it, it's pointless, stay safe.
50' - #FACup Didn't you learn earlier? Short corners are rubbish. The second failure to make an impact, merely proves this.
60' - #FACup Third short corner of the match also fails to penetrate the 18 yard box. What is the point, people?!

I think I've made my point here. Personally I think that tactically, playing a short corner is stupid because it's a waste of a dead ball opportunity. Partly the reason for this comes from the operation of the laws themselves.

Law 11 - offside
No offence
There is no offside offence if a player receives the ball directly from:
- a goal kick
- a throw-in
- a corner kick

Basically when the play is restarted after the ball having left the field of play, that next touch by a player is free and may be played with absolute impunity  From a corner, a player can stand right on the goal line, receive the ball and still not be offside. I see that as utterly crucial in a game which can swing on a single goal.

I like the term "One Percenter" derived from Australian Rules Football. Something which is small but if added together can make a significant difference. Also, after watching years of motor racing, a difference of just 1% can be critical.
When applied to football, the coach Bill Shankly once said that "any player not gaining an advantage, should immediately seek to do so". With a corner kick, the rules specifically allow for an advantage to be gained; so in principle, any play where this is not done is in my opinion a waste.
Short Corners do have their uses, such as if a side is ahead and very late into the match, when a short corner might be as useful as driving the ball towards the corners to soak up time but other than that, I fail too see why you'd deliberately choose to waste a goal scoring opportunity.

As it was,  Ben Watson was left almost entirely unmarked off a corner. Even if he had been marked, a corner where a lot of players are crowded in the 6 yard box is still worth a try because like any lottery, you can't expect to win anything unless you buy a ticket. A floated corner is the equivalent of having tickets on yourself. If you don't back yourself, you can certainly bet that the opposition will not.

To reiterate:
- Short corners are rubbish.
- Long corners might result in a goal.
- One goal can win a Cup Final.

May 10, 2013

Horse 1479 - The Five Principles Which Define a Civilised Society

According to something I read recently, the five principles which define a civilised society are:
1. Freedom of Speech
2. Freedom of Religion
3. Equality Before the Law
4. Universal Franchise
5. Alleviation of Poverty

All of these I think are fair and noble causes. Especially since the ubiquitousness of the internet, the ability to speak freely (even if it is mainly drivel) has increased vastly. People are for the most part free to believe anything they wish, it's just that society in its pluralism doesn't care. Although we might complain about judges, they do their job fairly well.
As for those last two, I think that societies are making great leaps backwards; especially when it comes to the last two (I think that we have the first three pretty well much nailed).

1. Freedom of Speech
There are some places in the world where freedom of speech is an issue but not Australia. There is definitely a narrowing of media interests as old media like newspapers and television loses its effectiveness to spin a profit but the internet now has created a space where all sorts of people can yell into the void.

2. Freedom of Religion
This might sound strange to religious types but I really don't think that we have much of an issue in this country. There are discussions about issues like gay marriage, abortion, religion in schools but these are all different in nature. These are more to do with how society chooses to deal with faith and its practitioners' concerns. We don't see people arrested and thrown into prison for going to churches, mosques and temples, we don't see the confiscation of texts and we don't see meetings shut down in people's homes.
Largely religion is ignored rather than persecuted and that's largely due to society itself becoming more post-literate, more ignorant about most ideas and thoughts anyway and the ideas of religion are offensive anyway because people might have to face up to the fact that they might be held responsible for what they've done by a God/god(s) who've they've otherwise ignored.

3. Equality Before The Law
I've seen lawyers face gaol time due to tax evasion, I've seen both poor people and exceedingly rich people prosecuted because of theft, embezzlement etc. Quite frankly I don't think that the courts deal with people differently because of their position or status in life.

I think that as a society, we do pretty well when it comes to the first three. The last two are a very different story.

4. The Universal Franchise
The franchise put simply is the right to vote and have a say on how the nation is governed. The twentieth century had a lot of instances of various groups fighting very hard for their right to vote but the latter quarter of the last and the opening portion of this century, has seen the value of that vote undermined and eroded.

The first thing to remember is that politicians are simple folk. Like everyone else, they're motivated by rational self-interest. The thing is though that political parties and increasingly politicians themsel, have started to be funded from somewhere other than subscriptions and union dues. Political parties tend to be funded by interested entities like firms in the form of "donations", who wish laws and policies to be made and directed in certain ways; whilst the poor old voter, really only has a say at the ballot box once every few years. In many respects, enfranchisement itself is an irrelevancy because it's a bit like asking voters to decide between chocolate and strawberry ice cream. What's the point if the actual people shaping policy, are not the ones at the ballot box?

Governance itself in an economy where the role of government has been significantly diminished because of privatisation and deregulation, is being passed into private and mostly unelected hands. The people who control the decisions of private firms (who thanks to privatisation, now own many former state owned utilities) are those who own the most numbers of shares. Share ownership itself follows the same rules as wealth condensation and the process is sped up further by people who own shares because they control other people's money.
The increase in superannuation from 9% to 12% sounds like a noble idea on the face of it but it also helps to wrest control of governance from the hands of ordinary people and into those who control the funds. It is fund managers who control where money is invested, it is they who are able to pool vast sums of other peoples' money together and it is they who control board seats; not the people whose money it actually is.

Increasing corporate governance must invariably result in a decrease in the state's governance as an overall percentage in the economy taken as a whole and thus an erosion of the relevance of the franchise.

5. The Alleviation of Poverty
A wise man once said that "the poor will always be with you" but it appears as though some have taken this as an directive to be enforced rather than a statement of fact.
The ancient Greeks described a very distinct aspect of love with the word "agape". Agape referred to that kind of love which was mostly never going to be reciprocated, by people whom you had helped. The word in the King James Version of the bible usually ascribed here was the word "charity" which again at the time described a much broader concept than the modern use of the word, which is mainly limited to charitable not for profit organisations.
Agape usually implies improving the lot of those people who have through circumstance been left out the benefits of society. Things like unemployment benefits, public housing, public schools, state funded universities, the public hospital system etc. would have all been described by the Greeks as agape.
The mere fact that we've seen a gradual fall in public education funding (coupled with incredible increases of government funding to private schools), a rise in university fees, a dereliction of duty by government when it comes to public housing (and the subsidisation of privately owned investment housing), and a progressive defunding of public hospitals, very much proves a decease in agape by government; this is mirrored by
falling real wages except for the top 15% as paid out by firms.

In some respects, we have exported the consequences of a fall in domestic agape overseas. When that factory in Bangladesh collapsed killing more than 1000 people, it very much reminded me of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City in 1911. Although we don't see industrial accidents on the same scale as we used to in the west, part of the root cause must be that we simply don't see the same level of manufacturing industry that we used to either.

Margaret Thatcher said of Simon Hughes that "he would rather the poor be poorer if the rich were less rich" but sadly and also thanks to the erosion of the franchise we are beginning to see what some economists are calling the third-worldification of western societies and this is more a case of preferring that the poor be poorer if the rich were more rich.
The ancient Greeks had four words for love but in comparison, they only really had one word for its opposite "ego", or what we might call "selfishness"; and a proliferation of ego certainly does not do anything for the alleviation of poverty but rather, accelerates its spread.

The question I suppose then is just how well are we doing in our supposed level of civilisation? Sure, technologically we're miles more advanced than even ten years ago, but is it truly more 'civil'? More than likely we'd have a passing grade but test scores in the past decade, are probably falling.

May 09, 2013

Horse 1478 - Putting Sir Alex Ferguson in Context

Sir Alex Ferguson has announced his retirement from management at Manchester United, leaving the club on 20 League titles and a personal tally of 13 League titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 10 Charity Shields, 2 Champions Leagues and assorted other silverware. Probably he is the single greatest club manager of all time but to understand why this was even possible, we need to delve into the past and even before he took over at Man United.
In the mid-1980s Liverpool were the club to beat in England. The line of succession starting at Bill Shankly saw manager train the next manager and from 1964 until 1990 they racked up 13 League titles, 3 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 13 Charity Shields, 4 European Cups (the forerunner to the Champions League) and 2 UEFA Cups.
Sir Alex Ferguson has been at Manchester United over roughly the same time frame as the chain of Liverpool managers who emerged from "The Boot Room" and the results are pretty comparable. In fact when Sir Alex arrived at Manchester United on Nov 6, 1986, he announced that it was his mission to "Knock Liverpool off their f****ing perch" (those exact words). He's pretty well much done that, except that he had considerable help.

Football in 1985 in England was played in stadia which in many cases had been built before WW2, sometimes out of wood and for crowds that did not drive motor cars. When Ibrox stadium in Glasgow collapsed in 1971 killing 66 spectators it should have been a warning but as is usually the case, nothing was done.
Margaret Thatcher had successfully kicked the life out of British industry and by 1983 three million Britons were out of work. At times of mass unemployed, combined with racial tensions, English football was not a nice place to be in.
On 11th May 1985, a fire broke out at Bradford City's ground Valley Parade, killing 56 people and injuring a further 265. You really have to wonder about the state of mind of the morons who keep on singing even as their stadium quite literally burnt to the ground (video link here).
18 days later when Liverpool played Juventus in the 1985 European Cup Final, 35 Juventus fans were crushed to death and a further 600 injured when an terrace war broke out between "fans" and a wall collapsed in the aftermath. As a result, English clubs were banned for five years from all European competitions and Liverpool themselves were banned for 10 (though this was lifted after only 6).
With no European competions to play in, Liverpool won the League and FA Cup double in 1985/86, but darker days were to come. Liverpool would face another disaster with a crowd crush at Hillsborough in Sheffield, killing 96 fans.
Finally, something was to be done. The Taylor Report into stadium designs finally meant all seater stadiums would be compulsory and football would be brought into the modern world. Old Trafford in particular was the biggest club owned stadium in England and consequently suffered the least in terms of revenue loss during the conversion.

The formation of the Premier League, the flotation on Manchester United on the stock exchange and the redistribution of a massive influx of money from Murdoch's BSkyB pay TV service all came together just at the right point for Sir Alex Ferguson. Suddenly football was not being funded merely by ticket sales and club memberships but by mass sponsorship.
The creation of the Premier League, also saw a special privilege for Premier League clubs in the FA Cup. Rather than playing in the First Round proper as they had done since the inception of the competition, clubs from the top flight would be placed into the Third Round. This has had the result of creating six "double" winners in the 21 seasons of the Premier League as opposed to the five winners in the 122 seasons previous. It is quite telling that in the period before the formation of the Premier League when Sir Alex was manager at Manchester United, he'd only won two pieces of domestic silverware and no league titles at all.

There's no doubt that Sir Alex Ferguson is statistically the greatest manager in English football history; I don't doubt that. What I am suggesting is that he was uniquely placed at a point in history which enabled him to gain that honour; also unlike Liverpool whom he so desperately wanted to knock off the perch in 1986, didn't and as far as I know, never intended to have a succession plan. Unlike Shankly's Boot Room, Sir Alex basically followed himself; maybe when he does depart, the landscape of English football will change again.

May 06, 2013

Horse 1477 - Revenge Of The Sixth

Dexter Hallux - Crime Lord

Comminuted Fracture of Distal Phalanx at the IP of the Dexter Hallux.
That's what the full description of a Busted Right Big Toe is and I think that it's kind of cool. To be honest I don't feel particularly brave about it because there's so little pain, I really don't care very much. It's about the  same as most other bruises.

Comminuted - Comminution is the process by which things are crushed, separated or made smaller. The only other place that I've really heard of this word is to do with mineralogy and given that bones themselves are calcium deposits, it seems rather appropriate.

Distal - Distal, meaning the far one; as opposed to the proximal which means the close one. In our fingers we have intermediate phalanges which means the... yeah... you get the idea.

Phalanx - The word Phalanx in Ancient Greek literally means a finger. The Phalanx Formation which was prominent in Greek armies also refers to the pikes which stuck out of their tight knit units; rather like so many fingers. By the time of the Roman Empire, Phalanxes had developed further into even tighter knit Testudo (turtle) formations.

IP - Interphalangeal - in between bits of the Phalanges.

Dexter - Dexter is a Latin term and not Greek and means the cardinal direction "right". The opposite of Dexter in Latin is Sinister. During the classic period of Latin (particularly about the time of Trajan and Hadrian), the word Sinister took on the meaning of unlucky whilst Dexter morphed into something right and proper. It could be though, that left-handed people genuinely are sinister and evil... maybe there's an experiment that could be designed to prove such a hypothesis. Incidentally, all Roman Soldiers carried their swords in their right hands, so all of them were Dextrous.

Hallux - Big Toe. The thumb is called the Pollux. Curiously the word Poll which means to take a vote, does not come from the Latin for thumbs up or thumbs down but from the Middle Low German of Pol which means the head.

All of these words put together means that I don't get to play football for six weeks... in Latin that's luctificus or woeful.

May 04, 2013

Horse 1476 - May The Fourth Be With You

This was too good to waste.
These are three photographs of a football that I saw today.

Achilles in Greek mythology was a hero in the Trojan War who was supposedly invulnerable in all of his body except for his heel. With a name like Achilles, you can bet that there's a weak point somewhere.

It's the death star, something so incredible

Death star, something indestructible
Death star, massive and maniacal
Death star, teeny weeny vulnerable hole

It's also kind of neat that this is also where you do blow it up.

And to top it all off, it was even a size Four, how appropriate.

Goodbye, death star
You were the largest weapon, ever manufactured.

Personally I always thought that the Star Wars films were revisionist history told by an unreliable narrator. Coruscant was home to more than a trillion people and even found a way to recycle 99% of its garbage. The Empire brought prosperity, order and aesthetics to the Universe. The Star Wars Saga is little more than Rebel propaganda
As for the name "Death Star" it's official and more descriptive name was the "DS-1 Orbital Battle Station"

Even more remarkable was Vader's football career, "The Deadly Finisher" led his Empire Athletics 77 FC side to five Imperial Cups and seven league titles.

May 02, 2013

Horse 1475 - 150th Birthday of The Inventor Of The Zipper

As we do up the fly on our pants, close our satchels and our jackets, none of us ever give though to the man who invented the zipper, Alfred von Zipperbaum who had he been alive today would have been 150 years old and more than likely quite cranky and confused (as you would be at 150 years of age).

Alfred von Zipperbaum or "Alfie", born 2nd May 1863, was the third son of a tanner in Yerken near Munich, Bavaria. The von Zipperbaums weren't all that rich but their leathergoods shop had been in central Munich since 1434. Alfie's oldest brother would inherit the shop; so it was generally accepted that he would most likely find work in the local coal or steel mills.
At the age of 14, and with increasing tensions between his parents, Alfie would disappear into the forests for often days at a time, claiming that he had gone to other towns looking for work. The truth was that he had found more sustenance foraging for wild fruits and berries than the meagre existence which his parents' shop was affording him.

Whilst on one of his many excursions into the forest, Alfie noticed a particular species of fly trap and how its various "teeth" seemed to interlock. Being a practical lad, he made sketches of his finds and set his mind to work so that he could make use of this interlocking system and improve the family's leather bags and satchels.

Alfie's first problem lay in making the teeth that would form his interlocking chains. He saw how the fly trap was able to grow about 90 almost identical clips that fit nicely into the one in front and behind it. Soon he was hammering at small pieces of metal less than the size of a fingernail and when he finally did hit on a design that worked he made a press that would punch out 625 of them at a go. It was then a matter of stitching a cord through the holes on one side of his punched pieces lining them up.
Alfie's next idea was a stroke of genius. He created a small guide which would slide between the punched pieces which depending on the direction of travel, either aligned or disaligned them; thus the final functional example was created.

After going to his father who rejected the idea outright, he worked in the shop for a period, earning enough money to buy some of the goods he was making. He further outraged his father by setting up a stall in the local town Saturday market and selling four times as many bags and satchels as the family had.

Realising that his own son would not be bought, the elder von Zipperbaum offered to buy the younger's new product in batches. Other local producers like jacket and coat makers also saw the use in the new product and Alfie set up his own factory making his "Zippers". He called his new venture the Yerken Klippen Kraftwerken or YKK for short. Even today YKK zippers can be found in many applications but mainly on bags, satchels, jackets and coats, just like they were more than 130 years ago.
Alfie lived in Yerken his whole life and passed away as a result of lung cancer in 1951 at the age of 88.

This May also marks the 125th anniversary of the YKK company being incorporated and it is fitting that they are still the largest manufacturer of zippers in the world. There are enough zippers in the world to reach the moon and back six times over, which is quite impressive for an idea born out of poverty in Bavaria.

Addenda: Most of this is a lie. In fact only one line is actually true.

May 01, 2013

Horse 1474 - Nineteen Sixty-Nine

- Stolen without permission from this Sony Advert

Whilst I don't doubt for a second that the internet, advances in medicine and genetics, materials technology and wireless technologies have changed the world at an ever increased rate, there is still a lot to be said for the year 1969 and the inspiration that it still radiates into the future.

The Sony Trinitron pictured in the advert may have come along in 1966 but a few minor tweaks made it cheap enough to start appearing in people's homes (even if in Australia, colour wouldn't arrive until 1975). It is a little ironic that the pictures which came from the moon in 1969 were all transmitted in black and white, so not even a colour Trinitron would have been able to overcome that.
Airline travel had already reached the point of relative cheapness but the Jumbo Jet (the Boeing 747) which first flew in 1969 sent prices even cheaper still. I read somewhere that it is estimated that at any point in time, there are as many as a thousand 747's in the air at once, all over the world. Also in 1969, Concorde the only commercially viable (possibly) supersonic airliner took to the skies.
The most famous event of 1969 was of course when the United States finally saw the fruition of $20bn being spent, with Messers Armstrong and Aldrin kicking the dust on the moon. Back on Earth, motoring down our roads we saw Cortinas, Minis, Monaros, Mustangs and Chargers, and The Beatles and the Rolling Stones were on the radio; supplying the soundtrack.
In contrast, today we can fly around the world relatively easily, though not as fast as Concorde, we send up communications satellites but no-one has been back to the moon since those dozen men, we have uninspiring cars on the roads like the Corolla, i30 and A3, and we now live in a world where Nicky Minaj and Justin Bieber are on the radio.
I'd ask "how did we get here?" but even that's a bit banal; the question of "why did we get here?" is far better.

In days of yore we had people who were prepared to do the impossibly stupid. People bored tunnels through the earth, went on ships across oceans; often with no idea of where they were going. People built machines, often using untempered metals; sometimes occasioning failures and explosion. People like Karl Benz, Marie Curie, Isembard Kingdom Brunel, John Snow, George and Robert Stephenson, Orvill and Wilbur Wright... the list goes on and on. These people dared to dream, dared to be really stupid and sometimes faced accidentally blowing themselves to pieces.
I'm not saying that progress and science has stopped but I am suggesting that the period from about 1830-1970 saw the greatest changes that the world has ever seen. It's not that we've stopped progress but that the same level of inspiration has.
When Armstrong and Aldrin kicked the moon, back here on Earth, we were doing more than just kicking each other, we were shooting each other silly in the mind-numbingly pointless conflict of the Vietnam War. Not only that but the power of the atom had been unleashed horribly on Japan just 24 years earlier and we were afraid of it happening all over again, only on a far larger scale and with the possibility of wiping out all life on the planet; not just a couple of cities.

It's like we looked into space, saw how vast and empty it was, then also saw how small and empty we were and gave up. We looked inside ourselves and saw the potential for tremendous destruction and then we stopped dreaming.
It was about this time that the accountants and the business people started running the world and dreams themselves suddenly became too expensive; now finally in the twenty-first century, even governments providing services is deemed too expensive and we find ourselves with no dreams at all; clutching at straws and wondering who's going to pay for it all.

I've seen a fair few documentaries about all sorts of things and have come to the conclusion that even in spite of the advances since 1969, there's not really been a whole heap to inspire us since. We can communicate across vast distances in real time. A lot of us carry smart phones which make Captain Kirk's tricorder look foolish and which in something smaller than a cigarette packet holds more computing power than the entire Apollo program. We look at each other with social media and often look back with dullard slack expressions; again we see how small and empty we are.
Can someone please give us our dreams back and risk doing the stupid again?

David Bowie - Sound and Vision (Sonjay Prabhakar remix) 2013 - sounds better than the version off "Low" in 1977.