June 27, 2013

Horse 1504 - The Change Of Leadership And Statistics

The events of the past 24 hours have convinced me more than ever that unlike economics where past events can be tabulated, or meteorological forecasting where even with a multitude of factors you can still reliably predict the future, the art of politics is more or less a complete and utter crapshoot (although even dice are governed by the rules of probability). I am reminded of that line which always appears on Product Disclosure Statements: Past performance may not be indicative of future results.
In the hours leading up to this, I thought that the whole thing would pan out like it had several months earlier; that is, fizzle out to nothingness.
I was wrong.

This particular change in Prime Minister is almost an entirely naked sales push for the next election. Throw the date September 14 out the window, because that now is also an irrelevance because seeing as the writs to dissolve parliament have not yet been issued, the election could be held as early as August 10 (being six weeks from today provided parliament was dissolved this very afternoon) or as late as November 30 (which is the maximum duration of the parliament).
Obviously the ALP have collectively decided that they stand a better chance of reelection with Rudd installed as the figurehead than they would if Gillard was. My disappointment comes about because I think that Wayne Swan is the most skilled person and best suited to the role of Treasurer (from both sides of the chamber) and I think that the country will slightly the worse for his not being there.

Statistically ever since Federation, the average term that someone has either been the Leader of the Opposition and brought their party to power or been installed as Prime Minister mid-term to return their party to power (and I don’t include any Prime Minister running from election and being returned) is just on 18 months; having said that, the numbers vary so widely as almost to be useless.
Billy Hughes, Alfred Deakin, John Howard and even Julia Gillard had all been leaders of their parties for less than two months before they led their party to an election victory.
Bob Hawke was “the Leader of the Opposition” although never sat in parliament with this title and won the election which Bill Hayden had said that “a drover’s dog could lead the Labor Party to victory” after only being leader for 25 days.
In contrast, Robert Menzies was Leader of the Opposition for 76 months before he finally led the Liberal/Country coalition to victory in 1949. Also, John Curtin had been Leader of the Opposition for 73 months.
Who honestly knows what the statistics reveal if anything? 

I do think though that this is mainly about the Labor Party making sure that Tony Abbott is not Prime Minister; though to some degree this is like building a Great Wall to keep out the rabbits.
If the Lib-Nat Coalition win the '13 election, then Tony Abbott will certainly be PM. If Labor should win the '13 Election, then I really do not see them winning the presumed '16 election. What would remain outstanding is if either the public or indeed the Lib-Nat Coalition themselves can stand Abbott as the Opposition Leader for yet another three years. By the '16 election, there might be a generational change or like Labor, an old hand might return to the tiller - anyone from Wyatt Roy to Malcolm Turnbull?
If in the bizarre set of circumstances which sees Labor win the ’13 election and Abbott retained as Leader of the Opposition until the maximum term of the parliament in ’16, then he could set a new record as Australia’s longest serving Leader of the Opposition.
We can't account for 2016 yet, not until the dice for 2013 have been thrown. Who knows what they'll turn up?

June 26, 2013

Horse 1503 - Math vs Maths

- from Numberphile

Two nations divided by a common language
And about two hundred years of new songs and dancing
But the difference is language and just the bits you got wrong
'Cause we were the ones who invented the language
- Two Nations, The Streets.

English is a vulture of a language, the bastard child of the Angles' own native language and the waves of invaders' languages such as the Saxons, the Vikings, the Normans and anything else it could be bothered to steal from. Like a vulture, it also steals without remorse and mangles words from different sources.
I'm sure that pure classicists would cry foul at a word like "television" which jams together both Greek and Latin words, into an hideous, twisted, ugly monster.

So then, why should there be squabbles about which word is right, "math" or "maths"? English is already perfectly capable of twisting words to its own ends and surely English is flexible enough to accommodate both? Obviously it does this by virtue of the fact that both variants exist quite happily and question of why this debate even exists is mainly due either the question of whether dictionaries and standards should be prescriptive or descriptive, but that question is for another discussion.

To the matter at hand. In English, the vast majority of plurals end with an "s" as in "plants and birds and rocks and things" and "es" as in "foxes, boxes, hatches and watches". "Maths" it would seem is an ordinary plural, except that there is no singular "Math"; not even in American English.
The word "mathematics" in English derives from the Greek word "mathematica" which itself is plural, and in the Greek sense it was, being used to describe the plural of arithmetic, geometry and algebra etc. More recently it has grown to include calculus, complex and imaginary mathematics etc. There is a case to be made for "mathematics" to be plural but you do not count "nine maths" like you would "five cats" of "one hundred sheep"

On the face of it, Mathematics is then either a collective noun or a mass noun. You find examples of this when talking about academia. To wit:
There were two schools of architecture. There are five pieces of furniture. We will look at three branches of mathematics.
Clearly "mathematics" is like this, even though it is hiding as a regular plural noun in plain sight. The abbreviation is therefore more likely to be a matter for convention rather than following any set rule.
Math. therefore, is entirely logical as an abbreviation as indeed is the abbreviation Maths. Both are absolutely fine. Abbreviations don't necessarily need to follow the same set rules in their constriction (as if the English language bothered to follow rules anyway) and a select few even jump the divide in becoming legitimate words in their own right like "radar".

If this be the case then, then the discussion shouldn't be about whether or not "mathematics" is plural or singular and whether or not that should affect the abbreviation or not, but the whether the abbreviation can be mistaken for something else.
I had a look in the Macquarie Dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary and a Merriam-Webster Dictionary and found that "math" is an archaic word which means "to be mowed" and only really finds any modern usage in the compound "aftermath". The word "polymath" means "one who has learned much" but that is derived from Greek and there is no need for that to be abbreviated.

The whole "math" or "maths" discussion then, purely comes down to a matter of style and national preference. If this is indeed the case, then the only questions to ask are "which came first?" and "who is responsible?". If it's Noah Webster who is responsible, then I'm already prejudiced against him (see Horse 505) and won't accept "math" out of sheer stubbornness. Since international organisations accept like the United Nations, the International Organization for Standardization and the World Trade Organization take the Oxford English Dictionary as their standard, then I see no reason why I shouldn't. 
The OED doesn't even list "Math" as a word; therefore "Maths" wins.

June 19, 2013

Horse 1502 - Wanna Watch the Movie; Can't Sit Still. Flying Down to Rio; Going to Brazil.

The news outlets will naturally read that Australia has picked up 3 points, following their 1-0 win over Iraq to qualify for Brazil. They will also report that a very very angry Tim Cahill was substituted in the 77th minute for Josh Kennedy who found a Bresciano cross in the 83rd minute to break the deadlock.
What most news outlets wont tell you is how the deadlock was broken and more importantly why.

Australia started this fixture as they had against Jordan playing 4-5-1. This was compared against a much younger Iraqi side with an average age of 21 as opposed to more than 30 (skewed by 40 year old Schwarzer) who were also playing with a 4-5-1.
This meant that although both sides had plenty of attacking options running deep down the flanks, when it came to crossing a ball inwards, with was rare to find a head, or if the ball were to be played across the carpet, find a way through what is essentially 7 in defence. Oar on one side and usually Kruse or McKay on the other, had to somehow pick out one yellow head from a packed defence; and that's always a tough ask.

Curiously, the substitution of Cahill (which angered most fans at the time), changed the formation from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 which was unbalanced. Replacing Kruse for Thompson was in essence merely a direct change of personnel in a particular position. In reply, Iraq switched from 4-5-1 to 3-6-1 and finally 3-5-2 as they pressed forward late into the game. 
It is this which is critical. Bresicano's inswinging ball only really found Kennedy because he was basically not being marked by the sweeper who was dealing with Rogic who came to occupy that space in the centre of the park.
Iraq's central defenders in Ali Bahjat Fadhil and Kadhim Ali Adnan were able to hold station fairly easily because they were usually joined by one or two others. This meant that Cahill, however vocal he was, as it stood was never likely to score and I think that Holger read that; hence the substitution.

I will say this though, for me that standout of this match was Ognenovski. Ognenovski and Neill have played together solidly since 2011 and seem to know where each other are, even without looking. Okay, the days of the sweeper in modern professional football are long gone and with it the libero which was once seen in Italian football, but in one run he found himself on the end of a push and nearly scored and that takes some doing from a defender.

This was a match which was won by the tactical thinking of coach Holger Osieck. Given his remarks unconnected with the game in a week already marked by political turmoil, Holger probably would be looking for another job had Australia not qualified. I think that by backing his own decision in the face of adversity, was proven and explains some of the promise that Franz Beckenbauer saw in  him en route to West Germany winning the 1990 World Cup.

June 18, 2013

Horse 1501 - Who The Twelfth Doctor Should Be (additional)

I suppose one of my reasons why I'd like Jeremy as The Doctor is that he comes across on camera as being very warm. He would be more like "one of us" than something alien and apart, like Smith.
- Horse 1501, 17th June 2013.

Jeremy is only helping his cause ^_^

June 17, 2013

Horse 1501 - Who The Twelfth Doctor Should Be

Speculation is now rife on the internet as to who the next Doctor Who is going to be. As it stands, considering that the 50th Anniversary episode still hasn't been finished yet, the Christmas episode and with it, the person to replace Matt Smith, also has not been decided yet.
This then is the only opportunity we have, to put forward our wishlist, in the hope that our dreams might come true; that's why I'd like to suggest ABC News 24's Jeremy Fernandez as a candidate for the Twelfth Doctor.

"There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, and the sea's asleep, and the rivers dream; people made of smoke and cities made of song." - The Doctor

Jeremy already possesses the two most important qualities required of someone playing The Doctor:

1. He is incredibly expressive.
The Doctor being the lead of his eponymous series, also has the most amount of close up shots and pieces to camera. Jeremy Fernandez although having a TV job which almost exclusively behind a desk, must make use of his face in order to make the message more readily understood.
True, you don't get to express a whole palette of emotion from a newsdesk but what you do get to see is things like empathy and sensitivity when announcing something of peril or seriousness.

2. Jeremy speaks through the camera.
Now I know that this is going to sound daft, but other news deliverers like Leigh Sales and Tony Jones differ in this because they excel at speaking to people directly. Sandra Sully and Peter Overton are the sorts of newsreaders who like to set the tone when delivering the news.
I think it was Brian Henderson who said that you have to imagine that the camera is a window, through which you speak into peoples' homes. Jeremy Fernandez has this knack, which is exceptionally rare and I would wager that only a few select newsreaders have this ability. It's not something which is taught or can be learned, you either have it or not; Jeremy has it. It's a little like if your neighbour poked their head over the fence and you had a good old natter for half an hour.

Why would I pick Jeremy over established actors? The answer is surprisingly simple.
As a newsreader, he already can speak through the camera and has the sort of diction needed to say a lot of difficult, technical and or foreign words quickly. Reading the news also has a sense of theater about it and I don't think that the skills are so dissimilar as not to be transferable.
Also, once someone has played The Doctor, its like they're typecast. The thing is that if you choose someone for whom it is impossible for their acting career to be adversely affected, then this is no longer an issue. Red Symons on 774 ABC Melbourne proves this point perfectly. He slotted very nicely into breakfast radio as though he'd been doing it his whole life. Jeremy Fernandez could just as easily slip back into the job at ABC News 24, or at 702 ABC Sydney and his career instead of being adversely affected through being typecast, would be enhanced as a former Doctor. If someone at 702 ABC Sydney reads this, if Jeremy were to replace Adam Spencer in the mornings, I bet that he'd take No.1 in the ratings for at least forty quarters straight.

I suppose one of my reasons why I'd like Jeremy as The Doctor is that he comes across on camera as being very warm. He would be more like "one of us" than something alien and apart, like Smith. Of course he'd be unknown to a British audience but that would be our little secret from down under.
Jeremy would be less broody than Eccleston, less manic than Tennant and less wishy-washy and more decisive than Smith. As Twelve, he would fill a role we've not seen for a long time, that of the happy tinkerer - the boy and his box.
Plus, we've already seen Jeremy in another blue box which is prone to malfunction (if Jonathan Holmes is right) - the ABC News 24 set.

June 15, 2013

Horse 1500 - In Defence of the Governor-General

Before I go any further I should like to point out that I spent most of last night carefully considering my first words for this edition of Horse because I realised that they had to be quite prolific, so then, here it goes:

Welcome to Horse 1500.

Do I like the idea that a single person should wield all the power of the state? No; such a thing is tyranny and to be honest although it might work if you have a particularly benevolent ruler, when it goes wrong (and this goes for any absolute monarch, despot or tyrant) it goes horribly wrong.

No, what I am arguing in favour of is the current system and specifically why having a Queen or King 10,000 miles away and someone to act as their "representative" who isn't ultimately bound by any decisions that the Monarch makes, is weird but surprisingly good.

Firstly, what are the powers of the Governor-General?
According to Section 2 of the Constitution, the Governor-General has "such powers and functions of the Queen as Her Majesty may be pleased to assign to him". Section 58 says that they can return bills to the Parliament and suggest amendment or withhold assent to them. Section 60 says that they may set bills aside for the Queen to sign, or withhold assent to them. Section 64 says that he can appoint or dismiss ministers and Section 5 says that they can set the times that Parliament sits, dismiss the entire parliament or prolong the Parliament.
Section 68 even officially places the command of naval and military forces under the Governor-General.
All together, the actual power wielded by the Governor-General is both wide and yet deliciously vague.
The remarkable thing is that across the three nations which have in principle the most similar system of government (Australia, New Zealand and Canada - and I'm careful not to include the United Kingdom by virtue of the fact that the monarch is resident and not represented by a Governor-General), that the governance which results from this is incredibly stable. Not one of them has had a civil war; not one of them has had the Governor-General be a force for bad.

Even in 1975, the Governor-General acted within his Section 5 and Section 57 powers to dissolve the Parliament. No really, read through the words of the section:
If the House of Representatives passes any proposed law, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it...
Quite obviously by November 11 1975, the parliament still had not passed the budget; since the budget was introduced on May 6 1975, the  the Governor-General's decision to dissolve the Parliament, occurred six months and five days after it had been introduced.
What people often forget about that, was that an emergency budget was passed that afternoon after 2pm and the announcement of the election was made; thus Section 57 was adhered to.

November 11 1975 shows above anything else that the Governor-General can use their powers even if most of the time they don't. In Julius Caesar by Shakespeare, Brutus remarks that: "The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power." If anything, the ambiguousness of reserve powers which have been given to the Governor-General have meant that everyone who has executed the office, has adjoined temperance with power and thus deserves the plaudits of greatness.

Of course, if it was decided that Australia should become a republic; if nothing was changed other than the direct election of the Governor-General (which seems to be the most favoured option), then by voting for someone, it must by inference politicise the position and with that, produce a mandate for them to actually do something.
I would prefer the state that we have now where because of ambiguousness of reserve powers which are assigned to the Governor-General they're not inclined to use them.

June 14, 2013

Horse 1499 - Big Brother Would Rather Not Be Watching You

An email was sent to me asking The Horse what its editorial opinion was/is on the United States' National Security Administration having access to peoples' private emails, getting logs of phone calls and listening in on peoples' phone calls.
I expect that they're hoping for some rant from me about the latent power of governments and how they're taking away "freedoms" etc.
I take note that copies of George Orwell's "1984" have run out of stock at many bookstores around the world, for it is that book which gives us the concept of "Big Brother", that is, the state watching over us.
So then, what do I think of the NSA looking into peoples' private communications?

This is where I completely confuse people. As a creature of the left, I'm supposedly more in favour of peoples' freedoms, but even I admit that on the Political Compass, I fit above the line in the North-Western corner. There are some authoritarian principles I like; so I need to explain my position.

Whilst I admit that totalitarian regimes are bad, history has shown that the best way to control peoples' thoughts and actions, is not with punishment but weak incentives. I believe that the world of Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" in which people are more controlled with hedonism, is closer to the truth in the real world than George Orwell's "1984" (it's certainly longer lasting). One only has to look at the idiotic television programs, magazines, the increasing lack of serious thought in newspapers, and the idea that 90% of the internet is rubbish, that the world that we live in is technologically smart but that the people who occupy it are painfully idiotically stupid. The fact that microwaveable sausage and pancake on a stick exists, is enough to make we wonder if most people are even sentient.
Just put some adverts in newspapers and magazines, or on Fox, hold some daft televised talent show and promise freebies and you don't even need to control people: they'll happily buy into whatever it is that you're trying to sell, if they can spot some excuse to spend more, eat more and get someone else to pay for it.

To be totally frank, governments couldn't really give a rip about 99% of peoples' phone calls, emails etc. It is not of either national importance or even worth the expense to care about your shoes, or whether or not you need milk, or if your boyfriend is a moron, or the endless photos of food that you take, or how many birds you can fling into improvised structures built by green pigs.
Painfully idiotically stupid people tend to produce painfully idiotically stupid emails and conversations, full of sound and fury; signifying nothing.

The flip side to this is that these same painfully idiotically stupid people, also don't bother to read the "Terms of Service" when it comes to their emails, phone calls and social media. If you bother to read them, we find things like this from Yahoo's "Privacy Policy"

We provide the information to trusted partners who work on behalf of or with Yahoo! under confidentiality agreements. These companies may use your personal information to help Yahoo! communicate with you about offers from Yahoo! and our marketing partners. However, these companies do not have any independent right to share this information.
We have a parent's permission to share the information if the user is a child under age 13. See Children's Privacy & Family Accounts for more information about our privacy practices for children under 13 .
We respond to subpoenas, court orders, or legal process, or to establish or exercise our legal rights or defend against legal claims.
We believe it is necessary to share information in order to investigate, prevent, or take action regarding illegal activities, suspected fraud, situations involving potential threats to the physical safety of any person, violations of Yahoo!'s terms of use, or as otherwise required by law.

I'm pretty sure that similar clauses exist in the Terms of Service agreements for organisations like, Facebook, Twitter etc. that you already agree to have your email and information provided to government agencies if they ask for it.
How can people honestly be annoyed that their emails, phone calls etc are shared with government agencies, if they actually gave permission shared for those emails to be shared with government agencies in the first place? It's their own fault for not bothering to read the agreements which they signed up for.

There is the small trifling matter of the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution which says that:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
However, if I were to open your physical mailbox on the street, the legal precedent exists that provided I don't actually open that mail, I haven't legally tampered with your mail. The question of who actually owns email is far more murky. Copyright of the material contained in an email is retained by the owner with regards the Berne convention, but under current law (both in the US and in Australia), an e-mail address is technically the property of the owner of the domain name to which it is directed, the @whatever.com in one's e-mail; likewise all of the emails are also the property of that same owner of the domain name.
I suspect legally that this is a legal minefield which is very messy indeed.

This all misses the one really massive elephant in the room and that is why the government should want to look in on emails, phone calls etc.
This is from the Terms of Reference of a report with reference to Unconventional Nuclear Warfare, from the Dept of Defense, July 2001:

Unconventional Nuclear Threat (UNT) pertains to a nuclear attack on the United States via unconventional delivery methods, e.g. delivery other than by missile or military aircraft. The possible perpetrators of such an attack can range from small terrorist groups, subnational groups, transnational groups, state-sponsored/supported terrorist groups, to nation-states. The nuclear devices also cover a spectrum from crude radiation dispersal devices and improvised nuclear explosive devices, to stolen nuclear weapons.
- Unconventional Nuclear Warfare Defense, 2000 Summer Study, US Dept of Defense, July 2000

Quite frankly, the US Government is very very very scared of a terrorist nuclear attack. When you bear in mind that the destruction of 5000 lives via aircraft attacks, just two months after this report was released, was perpetrated by people bearing no more than Stanley Knives, who would honestly want to be in charge, if nuclear device was used by a terrorist? It was Ronald Reagan who said that "Government's first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives" and surely the destruction of many many lives due to a terrorist nuclear attack would find the government seriously negligent in it's duty at the very least.

In the immediate weeks after September 11, 2001, questions were asked as to what the government did and didn't know and whether or not they took it seriously. Now 12 years later, there are some seriously deranged nutters in the world and with Iran and North Korea rattling the sabre, Pakistan being ungovernable in some provinces and Russia opening itself up to corruption in the name of profit, I don't think that the United States government particularly wants to find out the "what ifs" when it comes to a terrorist nuclear device being let unleashed.

Something should of course be said of the matter of the right to privacy. In Australia (despite protestations that there is 'no' bill of rights), the right to "quiet enjoyment" of one's property is a principle long established at common law and Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that:

Article 12.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

There is of course a caveat in there - take note of the word "arbitrary". If the government is charged with the responsibility of the defence of the nation, then is it truly "arbitrary" that it should sometimes take overt and covert steps to try and carry out the means to that end? Obviously you can not discover something without taking steps to discover it.

It is worth noting though that although the United States signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it never considers anything that the UN publishes as binding; this was most evident when despite being told by the UN that a war with Iraq would be illegal under Resolution 1441, it did it anyway.
Besides which, the US Government has often acted by means which under a strict constructionist interpretation of its Constitution, it never had the means to do so. The Louisiana and Florida Purchases and the annexation of Hawaii immediately spring to mind. Also bear in mind that for matters of international affairs, it is also prepared to set justice and due process aside entirely and the holding of people without trial indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay, is a stark reminder of this.
The fact that the US Government is spying on people generally and even its own people, should not come as surprise to anyone. The only surprise is that anyone is surprised.

Presumably the right to Privacy in the United States is one of the right of the people that are not specifically enumerated in the Constitution; in which case under the Ninth Amendment, the right is retained by the people.
There is also the annoying niggle that the word "unreasonable" as contained within the Fourth Amendment is vague at law and as such, as with all covert operations, it's assumed that if someone does feel violated, then they should seek remedy through the courts.
If the act of Congress which allowed this thing to happen was unconstitutional, then why was it allowed to pass through both houses and be signed into law? And in this case taken 8 years after its confirmed existence and 6 years after it was signed into law for something to be done?

Personally I think that the government spying on people is a bad thing but unfortunately necessary. All it takes is one nutter with a nuclear device, to let it off in an Urban Area and suddenly we're no longer talking about the legality of spying on people, but what we're going to do about the mayhem and destruction of life which will have been unleashed. I'd rather the government catch the nutter before the event.

June 13, 2013

Horse 1498 - Liberty Versus Safety

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
- Benjamin Franklin, quoted by @Predeceased, via Twitter, 8 Jun 2013

"I dare such a person who says this to drive down the wrong side of the motorway.
Total liberty = anarchy."
- Rollo75, via Twitter 8 Jun, 2013

"'Such a person who says this'? It was Benjamin Franklin, US Founding Father and all-round genius."
- Mark Colvin @Colvinius via Twitter, 8 Jun 2013

I would be a poor student of history if I was ignorant of the fact that it was Benjamin Franklin who made that quote. I would also be a poor student of history if I was also ignorant of the fact that the person who penned the self-evident truths that "all men are created equal" (Thomas Jefferson) was himself a slave owner and refused on all accounts to give them their freedom. So the fact that someone may or may not have been a US Founding Father, impresses me not.
Let me judge those words by their relative merit and utility.

Liberty - what is it?
The concept of Liberty in general terms is the ability to do what one likes, without freedom or interference. The Oxford English Dictionary has these instructive words:

Liberty (noun):
1. freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.
2. freedom from external or foreign rule; independence.
3. freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice. 

The problem with this rather hackneyed quote from Ben Franklin, is that it's almost impossible to work out the context in which it was said, some 200 odd years later. It is attributed to him but all of the sources I've found, seem to suggest that it was well before the time of the American Revolution (maybe as early as 1738 but definitely before his February 17, 1775 at the Pennsylvania Assembly).
Granted, the fact that the American people were not represented in parliament directly but under a bizarre concept called "virtual representation", might give rise to the quote being said in the context of an oppressed people (which would satisfy both definitions 1 & 2) but the situation in which most people now use it, is to justify their own actions; and it is this I find most troublesome.

This of course begs the question of "why shouldn't people be able to do what they feel like?". The obvious response is the basic human problem that there are seven billion of us on the planet and if everyone did just what they felt like, mass unpleasantness would break out.
The thing is that I don't even care how you choose to describe it either. Religious types might call it "sin"; economists talk of "rational self-interest"; still others might called it plain old "selfishness". I personally can not see how granting everyone absolute Liberty without it being hemmed in by some rules, regulations, prohibitions and incentives, would lead to anything other than whole scale anarchy and destruction of life.
The current events in Syria where government is waging direct war on its own people, in Bangladesh where companies engage in wage wars and failure to provide even basic safe working conditions and the ongoing consequences of people exercising their Second Amendment liberties in the United States against each other all show that we need protection from governments, that we need protection from corporations and that likewise we also need protection from individuals.

It should go without saying that the law itself is designed for the regulation, standardisation and protection of society. The reason why I made the comment about driving down a motorway, is that it is a very graphic example of how all three are achieved simultaneously. People might complain that the speed limit at any given point is too slow, or that other drivers are idiots but again this is merely the result of people's self-interest at play. It is quite rare for people to admit that they personally have been driving like a maniac or that the speed limit is too fast, except where there might be cause for someone that they care about (usually children) to be injured.

Since government as a disinterested third party is the arbiter, the legislator and regulator of the conditions under which people live, it also makes sense that they should be charged with providing the common institutions and instruments by which this occurs and by that, the legislatures, the judiciary and the police.
"We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right"
- Clause 39, Magna Carta, 1215

If the law is designed for the regulation, standardisation and protection of society, then it must follow that the best outcomes for society occur when people collectively give up some aspect of their absolute liberty to do as they please, for the common good and peace of all.

The words of Thomas Paine are instructive. It could be said that Thomas Paine's pamphlet "Common Sense" which was published in January of 1776, was one of the triggers of the American Revolution. Given the events in America in 1776 and France in 1789, it was a far more subdued Paine who wrote the "Rights Of Man" in 1791. This is a small excerpt:

It has been thought a considerable advance towards establishing the principles of Freedom to say that Government is a compact between those who govern and those who are governed; but this cannot be true, because it is putting the effect before the cause; for as man must have existed before governments existed, there necessarily was a time when governments did not exist, and consequently there could originally exist no governors to form such a compact with.
The fact therefore must be that the individuals themselves, each in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a compact with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist.
- The Rights of Man, Thomas Paine, 1791.

When any compact is entered into, an agreement is formed where the two parties bind themselves to perform or act in certain ways. Any agreement by definition requires the parties to set aside some portion of absolute liberty and to enter into a mutuality of obligation.

In all honesty, I would prefer to live in a society in which the people voluntarily do give up some portion of liberty to obtain safety. It's worth mentioning at this point that the United States which is more vociferous about the people's liberty with respect to something like the right to bear arms, is between 30-50 times more dangerous per capita when it comes to the consequences of the exercise of those rights (ie people killed by guns). Would Benjamin Franklin* suggest that the people of Australia are less deserving of liberty or safety?

I wonder.

June 12, 2013

Horse 1497 - One Step Left - To Glory or Oblivion...

4-0 is a result which by every account is a good one. However, the simple scoreline itself doesn't of itself tell the story. This was not a 4-0 won through precision or brute force, this was a 4-0 won on the back of growing confidence and perhaps is worth far more than either a game played with precision or brute force can deliver.

The opening 12 minutes were quite frankly dour. Neither Jordan or Australia looked like they had any sort of game plan at all. Australia would play the ball towards the centre of the park and hoof it forward, hoping to break the deadlock. Jordan looked at little more conservative but also were playing a contain and thump type of game. For the opening period it all just cancelled out, as both sides knew the significance of scoring first.

It was only after the initial flurry of nerves had fled, that Australia settled into playing a fairly simple sort of game. Making use of Robbie Kruse and Tommy Oar who penetrated deep into the corners, Australia's game mainly relied on controlling the ball to about 35 yards away, sending it wide and then spinning it back towards the 12 yard spot. This was basic 4-5-1 football, with the lone striker standing more of less at the top of the ring at the edge of the 18-yard box. Although it proved to be constantly effective, it also was immensely predictable, with Al-Bakhit and Mustafa Baha picking off the attacks down the flanks roughly 50% of the time and stopping them dead.
Bresciano's 15th minute goal came through a passage of play which was exactly this. And six minutes later, the advantage should have been doubled except that Tim Cahill couldn't pull a ball from behind him and sprayed it to the left of the goal post.
The rest of the half was tense, with both Jordan and Australia finding fluidity and stringing together runs of up to a dozen passes but neither of them found anything more from the half. 1-0 at half time was... meh. 1-0 at any level is never enough and the game was never going to be safe until a second was put away.

Archie Thompson came on for Tommy Oar on exactly the stroke of the hour and almost immediately the crowd erupted and the second goal came from Tim Cahill.
Cahill connected with a sweeping ball from Kruse who had run deep towards the goal line. Cahill then headed it with enough force which would have left an elephant wondering who'd pushed it over.
Thompson's actual immediate impact in terms of what he contributed was probably nil, but the fact that the other 10 players found an instant lift, proved the worthiness of the substitution. If Thompson's mere appearance didn't kill the game off then the goal did. From that point onwards, the Jordanians who had shown bursting pace and athleticism, slowed to a tired canter.

The third goal came after a run through the centre of the park and Robbie Kruse found himself in the right place at the right time; as the receiver rather than the contributor.
It was Lucas Neill's header in the dying moments which nicely placed the cherry on the cake. Neill who had made his debut for Australia in 1996 and being a defender had never scored for his nation in 91 appearances. Despite protestations by Adnan Adous for offside (who by virtue of standing directly in front of Neill was the reason he was still onside), Neill played a header which at any other place except inside the six yard box would have gone unnoticed.

What can Australia take away from this? Firstly that they do have the ability to kill off matches. Secondly that they need to think about trying a new set of tactics because 4-0 will have been enough to make potential competitors study the video. Thirdly, that Tim Cahill needs to learn to shut his mouth or face getting cards for gobbing off at referees. Fourthly, that a trip to Rio is within reach - the dream is crystallising; with one step to becoming reality.

June 11, 2013

Horse 1496 - A One Man Show (Rd.7)

The Canadian Grand Prix proved three things.
1. Sebastian Vettel is brilliant.
2. Sebastian Vettel is a freak.
3. Sebastian Vettel deserves his accolades.

It has been suggested that part of the reason why Vettel is now a triple World Champion is that he sits in the best car. Whilst the Red Bull might be very very good, that alone still doesn't account for Vettel's total dominance.

The Circuit Giles Villeneuve which sits on an island in the city of Montreal, is marginally wider than most GP circuits but also has a notable lack of run-off areas down the sides of the circuit.
The last corner before the finish line is helpfully lined by an unforgiving concrete mass which has been nicknamed the "Wall of Champions", for even champions have managed to slide wide and destroy their cars into it.

The Saturday qualifying session was a stop-start affair with a lot of rain. Rain tends to be a great equaliser for motor racing because drivers can not rely on 800 horsies under their right foot or risk losing control. They also cannot rely on the handling of their cars because in the wet, an aquaplaning car can create passengers out of any driver.
Yet Vettel in the rainy qualifying session placed his car on top spot and always responded without fail. He topped Q1, topped Q2 and of course topped the one that matters Q3.

In the race Vettel started on pole, led all but three laps and won the race. OK, Vettel might very well have the best car under him (as proven by Mark Webber's fastest lap on 69 of 70) but he used the equipment given to him to achieve almost total and complete dominance.
Alonso in the Ferrari who came second could only watch, as he steered his scarlet machine to second.
Lewis Hamilton finished third in the Mercedes but was aided and abetted by teammate Nico Rosberg earlier in the race, who held up a train of cars behind him.

Maybe Mark Webber proves the point that even having the best car isn't good enough. If the Red Bull is the best car, then something else must account for the fact that the three drivers in front of him are all previous World Champions and he is not. Webber must be entering the twilight of his career because Daniel Ricciardo in the Toro Rosso surely has put his hand up for Webber's seat by now.
Vettel streaked off further into the distance in this year's championship standings too. If he puts in a few more performances like this, it'll be game over very quickly indeed.

June 05, 2013

Horse 1495 - Two Steps Left - To Glory or Oblivion

Japan 1 - Australia 1
Oar 82'
Konno 90' (pen)

Before the match between Japan and Australia, to come away with a point would have been a fine outcome. The fact that we're sort of disappointed that Australia only came away with that same point is really only the result of having three points snatched away at the death.

For 82 minutes, Australia's defensive back four absorbed attacks from the Japanese, which were at times both brilliant and yet relentless. Most notably was a cross in the 23rd minute which found Endo right in the middle of the six yard box and was only deflected by Maeda who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. That ball was in turn thrust forward by Lucas Neill and so the game would continue in that vein.
Wave after wave of Blue attacks came and clearly, this Japan squad was faster and fitter than the hapless men in gold. After the half-time break and as the hour approached, Australia look positively lethargic but still the match remained deadlocked and scoreless. Why?

The answer I believe lies in the way that Australia defended. Unlike the match against Oman, Australia who nominally played 4-3-2-1 with either Oar or Holman up front. However in defence, they shifted back to a very disciplined 4-4-2 and on some occasions the two lines of defence (ie 4-4) provided two sets of walls, which ultimately for 90 minutes, were never beaten in free play.

This very clearly shows an organised defensive structure, with every player either being zonally marked or being given the opportunity to move forward and directly man mark. Keisuke Honda who plays his club football at CSKA Moscow again showed why he is one to be feared. Seen here, potentially on the end of Maeda's cross, he frequently was diffused. It was fitting though that he should be the one to take the penalty which equalised.
Nevertheless, Japan again showed the sort of football which made them AFC Champions and for Australia to hold them to a draw was itself noteworthy.

Japan on the other hand, when they had possession, were able to shorten the field and play very very high in defence. They played a 4-4-2 but were able to transition between Kagawa, Honda and Maeda up front. It meant that they were able to switch between positions and give each other a rest, or rather, come back and play in the midfield if the situation called for it.
One thing I did notice was that there was no preference in the Japanese defence for either Yasuyuki Konno or Atsuto Uchida to play as stopper and sweeper. Konno in particular would annoy would be attackers whilst he was playing at FC Tokyo, because he'd occasionally move right through the midfield and occasionally score. 41 league goals for a supposed central defender doesn't normally make very much sense.

Tommy Oar's "attacking ball" as he described it, wasn't really a shot. He admitted after the match that he intended it as a cross for someone else to arrive on the end of. The fact that it went it, proves that sometimes things are more lucky than good and that you take luck where ever you can find it.
Matt McKay's handball in the box in the 90th minute again showed that this match turned on a spell of luck. After looking through the video on a frame by frame basis, he had less than 7 frames to react to the ball being shot at him like a rocket, which equates to less than a fifth of a second.

To expect Australia to come away with a point before the match, would have been a fine outcome. The fact that they did come away with a point is still a fine outcome. The manner which they did so, shows that maybe a trip to Brazil in 2014 is still a possibility but they'll need to play this well in subsequent matches for this to become a reality.