April 30, 2014

Horse 1664 - On Faith

There was a famous defamation case heard before Justice Frederick "Fatty" Bacon in 1823 of Pot vs Kettle. In this case, the court heard how Pot had made accusations as to the nature of Kettle's colour. The court found that Pot however, was precisely the same colour.
I make mention of Pot vs Kettle because in a number of discussions that I've had (both in the real word and on the internet), people who often purport to have no religion will criticise those who do; despite the fact that it's relatively easy to prove that everyone does in fact have their own religion (see Horse 1219) because everyone has their own belief set; thus functionally fulfilling the very requirements of what religion actually is.
One thing that comes up quite frequently (and which needs to be pointed out because of the internal logical fallacy) is the fact that because everyone has a belief set, they also have a some degree of faith which stems from that.

What is faith though?

The word "faith" comes to us via the Latin "fidus" and means confidence in a thing or person. The Oxford English Dictionary clarifies this with the opening definition of "reliance or trust". The Latin word still finds its way into modern usage with the words "fiduciary" and "fiducial" which imply a degree of trust in the legal or monetary instrument in question.
Yet people without "faith" or at least who claim to be without faith, very much demonstrate and often quite vociferously, they they do in fact have confidence in and rely upon things which make up their belief structure.

Take for instance the concept of a theory in science. A theory in science is a method of collecting a series of ideas and combining them into a coherent picture. "Theoria" in Green roughly means "to look at" or "to contemplate".

If we were to look at for example The Big Bang Theory which first gained credence in the 1910s, following the work of Vesto Slipher and Carl Wilhelm Wirtz, it is a working model for explaining the observations which scientists were making.

The standard Big Bang model tells us that the Universe exploded out of an infinitely dense point, or singularity. But nobody knows what would have triggered this outburst: the known laws of physics cannot tell us what happened at that moment.
“For all physicists know, dragons could have come flying out of the singularity,” says Niayesh Afshordi, an astrophysicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada.
It is also difficult to explain how a violent Big Bang would have left behind a Universe that has an almost completely uniform temperature, because there does not seem to have been enough time since the birth of the cosmos for it to have reached temperature equilibrium.
- Nature, Sep 2013

Never mind the fact that we don't actually know where 95% of the mass of the universe is, or even as Stephen Hawking suggested in "A Brief History Of Time" that there might not even be a quantum singularity because space-time might be shaped entirely differently.
Richard Feynman proposed a theory which posits that there might only be a single electron in the entire universe and quantum mechanics itself has some interesting things in calculus which don't really care what the age of the universe actually is. The calculus works equally well if the universe is 15 billion or 190 billion years old, 10 minutes old, 17000 years old, 4 seconds old, minus 350 trillion years old... what the heck are you supposed to rely on when observational science and calculus can't give you an answer?
I mean that's quite a of things to be taking on "blind faith"; especially when a lot of people who have confidence in science generally, can't even explain mathematics like trigonometry or basic calculus and still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

Since science itself (which is from the Latin "scientia" or "knowledge") is about the acquisition of knowledge and there is so much of it missing, then theories which have to be developed are only best estimations at drawing up a model and explanation of what can be seen. If the information is incomplete then the confidence in science is based on in part, the unknown and may in fact be wrong.
Science forms theories and then discards them regularly. No-one believes in alchemy, phlogiston or even that atoms are indivisible any more. The average life of a scientific theory works out to be about 200 years; so when people tell me that they don't have faith, I seriously call into question why?

Curiously, the word  πιστις (pistis) in the Greek; as it is used in the Bible, is used at least four ways: as a form of mental acceptance, a degree of submission, a confidence in a thing and as a point of understanding something. The way we use the word "faith" in English, points to only one or maybe two of those. If anything, it suggests that English is less versatile at displaying various shades of meaning.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
- Hebrews 11:1

Yet faith is the pragmatic assumption and expectation of that which we haven't seen but are convinced of.
- Hebrews 11:1 (Rollo's on the run translation)

I don't think that faith specifically belongs to people who have a "religious" inclination. The most general definition of faith is the pragmatic assumption and expectation of something. If we scoot right back to the beginning of this, we can not escape the fact that faith is confidence in a thing or person.
It seems to me that people who claim to be completely devoid of faith are either liars, ignorant or delusional and do so from some other motive; mostly I would assume because they want to claim some sort of moral superiority.
That in particularly seems very strange to me, if you claim to be without faith at all.

April 29, 2014

Horse 1663 - What Would Jesus Say to Sarah Palin?

"Liberals are hypocrites. And they are not right.
(They have) policies that poke our allies in the eye and coddle adversaries instead of putting the fear of God in our enemies.
Come on, (these are) enemies who would utterly annihilate America ... who would obviously have information on plots to carry out jihad.
Oh, but you can't offend them ... can't make them feel uncomfortable ... not even a smidgen.
Well, if I were in charge ... they would know that waterboarding is how we baptise terrorists.
Thank God that more and more Americans are waking up to the hypocrisy and some of the nefarious intent of them, in Washington."
- Sarah Palin, as quoted by Sky News, 28th April 2014

I wonder what Jesus would say to Sarah Palin...

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 
- Matthew 5:38-45

Technically I suppose that waterboarding does strictly fulfil the definition of "baptism" as derived from the Greek verb "baptizo" which means "to dip" but I still fail to understand how carrying out torture "puts the fear of God" into anyone.
Nevermind the fact that John McCain who Sarah Palin ran with during the 2008 Presidential Election who himself had been subject to torture as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War had this to say on the subject:

Much of this debate is a definitional one: whether any or all of these methods constitute torture. I believe some of them do, especially waterboarding, which is a mock execution and thus an exquisite form of torture. As such, they are prohibited by American laws and values, and I oppose them.
- John McCain, in the Washington Post, 12th May 2011

It's perhaps telling that the United States although it signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, never ratified it; especially considering that Article 5 states that:
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

It's also telling that whilst the United States did ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture, it frequently ignores this; especially when torture is carried out in places that aren't technically on US soil.

Maybe more and more Americans are waking up to the hypocrisy and some of the nefarious intent of them, in Washington. Especially when that nefarious intent is directly spelled out in as many words.

Again I wonder what Jesus would say to Sarah Palin. Have a cup of tea with your enemies? Speak to them? Try to understand them? Forgive them? See them as yourself, someone who is loved by God? Maybe "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven"?

April 26, 2014

Horse 1662 - On Privatisation (or: How To Destroy Democracy)

The whole entire of the social science of Economics is ultimately bound up in just four simple questions:
1. What to produce?
2. How to produce it?
3. When to produce it?
4. Who should produce it?
Indeed, the basic measure by which you measure the total output generated by a nation economy is also framed around these questions. If is no coincidence that we call it Gross Domestic Product.

Of course invariably once who begin to ask such questions, a second field of questions opens up.
The whole entire of the social science of Politics is ultimately bound up in just four related but equally as simple questions. These questions do not deal with production but rather, control.
1. What to control in the economy?
2. How to control the economy?
3. When to control the economy?
4. Who should the economy?

When the Prime Minister vows to privatise Medibank Private, Australia Post, University funding, defund the ABC and SBS or when the Premier of a state vows to privatise Electricity assets, these are less about economic questions and more to do with political questions.
Really the questions surrounding privatisation are very little to do with actual economics because both government ownership and corporate ownership of any asset are just different forms of collective purchasing arrangements. Specifically, privatisation asks the questions of what and more importantly who should own and control productive assets in society.

I look at these issues and react the same way as a six year old who has just been smacked in the face by a bully and had their ice cream stolen. I demand to know "why?"
Call me a member of that sub-species of humanity "Snotticus Bratii" if you like but when questions of privatisation come up, I personally am unable to mentally separate the concept from that of theft.
As a member of a society which previously thought it useful to make a collective purchasing decision in building assets like electricity generation, education, public broadcasting etc. I simply fail to understand why it is absolutely necessary to steal those assets from the public and place them into the hand of the moneyed classes.

The excuse is often given that privatisation makes better use of market forces and produces a more efficient outcome. Like heck it is.
Markets are incredibly efficient at finding one efficient outcome and one efficient outcome only - price. Markets are incapable of determining the best social outcome and nor are they particularly concerned with such a question. An efficient market also assumes that everyone has the best available information to them and that everyone is reasonably rational. Everything I've ever read about the real world tends to suggest that there are people who are manipulative, that some people are certainly not aware or even is possession of all information needed to efficiently participate in the market and that most people aren't even remotely rational most of the time.
The question of privatisation then I suppose is more of necessity. Actually it's the same question I asked in the first place. Why it is absolutely necessary to steal assets from the public and place them into the hand of the moneyed classes?

My theory is thus:
In conjuction with concurrent policies which are being suggested such as increases of consumption tax and further reduction in personal income tax, which shift the actual burden of responsibility of taxation further down the social classes, coupled with real reductions in the aged pension, increases in transfer payments like the paid parental leave scheme etc. it seems to me that the real reason behind the current push for privatisation is exactly one of control and nothing to do with balancing budgets at all.

The boards of control of Public Assets are answerable to the government of the day. The government of the day is answerable to the general public. Through the power of the ballot box, governments can be fired; where as a shift from public to private ownership of assets, severs that line of control.
The board of a company is answerable only to the direct shareholders. Thanks to mechanisms such as wealth condensation and the fact that people are now forced to pay into compulsory superannuation, who ever controls the most amount of money, gets control of assets. Simple.
Privatisation is as I see it, is one of the easiest methods of destroying democracy (ie the rule of the many) by deliberately handing actual control and governance of the economy into the hands of the few.
Surely that is the point isn't it? I honestly can't think of any other reason.

April 25, 2014

Colt 1661.2 - ANZAC Biscuits - How To Make Them Properly.

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup plain flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup coconut

Wet Ingredients:
115g of butter
1 TB of golden syrup
2 TB of boiling water
1 Tsp of bi-carb soda

1. Grease tray and pre-heat oven to 180°C
2. Combine dry ingredients
3. Melt butter, add golden syrup, boiling water and bi-carb soda
4. Add to dry ingredients and mix
5. Spoon out onto greased tray and bake for 15 minutes
6. Allow to cool on trays

Advanced Steps:
7. Dig a trench eight feet deep
8. Fill trench with six inches of water
9. Find some dead rats and allow them to rot
10. Stand in trench for a month, including in driving rain and even if you are soaked
11. Have someone fire at you with a rifle every time you put your head above the surface
12. Attempt to eat biscuits

April 24, 2014

Colt 1661.1 - The Five Points of Perspective - A Demonstration

1st - I say there are five points of perspective.
2nd - You disagree with me.
3rd - He stood at the front of the stage and addressed the audience.
4th - "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the fourth point of perspective".
5th - "OH NO IT ISN'T!"

April 23, 2014

Horse 1661 - My Suggestion For The Next Manchester United Manager

Manchester United manager David Moyes has been sacked, only 10 months after succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson.
His dismissal was announced shortly after 0830 BST, following a meeting with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward at the club's training ground.
- BBC, 22nd Apr 2014

As a Liverpool fan, seeing Liverpool at the top of the table with three games to go is both exciting and nerve wracking; knowing at any moment, the whole ivory tower could collapse and thus ends another season in a quarter of a century without a league title. Suffice to say though, there is a certain schadenfreude in seeing Manchester United in seventh.
As I type this, there is a press conference going on in which manager David Moyes has been sacked; less than a season into the job.

Following Sir Alex Ferguson who'd been at the helm for 25 years, taken United to 13 league titles, 5 FA Cups, the Double twice and a treble which included the European Champions League was always going to be a job which would be on a hiding to nothing. To be fair, I never really liked David Moyes, considering that he'd come from Everton, but I do feel that the poor chap never really stood a chance.
Part of the problem that any football manager faces is that the players earn far in excess of what they do. When someone's job is to kick a football every week and they're of millions of pounds for doing so, these trumped up prima donnas tend to lose respect for the one who has to somehow act as both a coach and an HR manager. Moyes inadvertently proved that without the support of the playing staff (and players have to come to the realisation that they are in fact staff) since the manager isn't actually on the pitch, they can do nothing when it comes to swinging any event within a match.

The question on everyone's mind now is "who should replace Moyes?" Admittedly, this question can become like a revolving door and we've seen this at places like Tottenham Hotspur and even at Chelsea where very big moneyed interests demand success instantly.

There is only one person in the world, who I think is even capable of the job at Manchester United - Eric Cantona.

I'm going to just come out and say this (and believe me, as a Liverpool fan, I find this very difficult and grating to say), I think that Eric Cantona is the best player to have played anywhere in the world in my lifetime. Better than Dalglish, Maldini, Zidane, Baggio, Ronaldo, Weah, Shearer, Rush... the lot.
Even the number 7 kit which he wore at Manchester United, he outshone George Best who wore it before him; certainly wore it with a greater presence than fancy boys David Beckham or Christiano Ronaldo who wore it after him.

This is the point. Cantona was a liability on the field in some cases as much as he was an asset. At Auxerre in 1991 he threw a ball at a match referee and banned for one month; he then approached every member of the disciplinary panel and personally called each and every one of them an idiot; for which he was given another month ban.
He joined Leeds United where he was the man in the middle during their league title in 1991-2 and joined Manchester United for £1.2m, and won the 1992-3 season with them; thus he is the only player to have won back to back titles for different clubs in England.
In a now famous incident against Crystal Palace in 1995, he was sent off and after he'd been sent off, launched a "kung-fu" kick at a spectator who'd been hurling abuse at him. He was banned for eight months.
On the pitch, Cantona wasn't perhaps the most skilled operator; yet he had a presence and an awareness that made the space around him his. I've seen better technical players but none who dominated the pitch, the direction of play and even the immediate tactics and tempo the way he did.
Still, in just five years at Manchester United he'd racked 80 goals, four league titles and two FA Cups.

Even off the pitch, Cantona made headlines:
“The system is built on the power of banks. So it can be destroyed by banks. Instead of having three million people protesting in the streets, they should go to the bank and take out all their money so the banks collapse.
a revolution without weapons or blood
I have noticed, like everyone else, this strange solidarity that is in the process of emerging, so, yes, on December 7 I will be at the bank."
- Eric Cantona, as quoted France 24, 2nd Dec 2012

Only someone with the sheer utter gall (pun intended) to say exactly what they think, to people who are paid more in a week than most people get in two years - to kick a football, is the sort of person who can stand up to them. I suspect that Eric could command respect in the dressing room, not only because he's been there and done that himself but because both on the pitch and off it, he is a character who is larger than life and perhaps that character just might be big enough, to fill the very big shoes left behind by Sir Alex.

PS: That doesn't mean that I'd support Manchester United though. Bleh.

April 22, 2014

Horse 1660 - Poetry, Craft and Bad Haiku

The word "Poetry" comes from the Greek "poiesis" which means a "making" or perhaps more accurately in this context a "craft". The word poetry implies that care has been taken in generating a piece of writing to produce something which is either aesthetically pleasing or sounds nice to the ear.
To that end, a lot of times when someone says that they have made a poem, I tend to wonder how much care they actually took. Simply making up rhyming couplets sounds like a lazy method of making poetry and writing things which are passed off as poetry, which under proper scrutiny is little more than free prose with carriage return stops, is also in my opinion, quite lazy. Even blank verse which doesn't rhyme but adheres to iambic pentameter quite rightly deserves to be called poetry.

I mention all of this because of something I was reminded of again in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. The Guide helpfully points out that:
Vogon poetry is of course the third worst in the Universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria. During a recitation by their Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem "Ode to a Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning" four of his audience members died of internal haemorrhaging....
The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Greenbridge, Essex, England, in the destruction of the planet Earth.
-  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (1978)

In this spirit, I thought I'd have a go at adding to the pile by utilising a form which is incredibly easy to generate bad poetry in - the haiku. It's so easy that you can generate haiku pretty well much ad nauseum; even whilst on the bus.
Here's what I did, in just 7.5km and 11 minutes:

Super Official Five Guys Burgers and Fries Review
This is what bacon,
Oh my goodness, oh my damn,
Is supposed to be.

I'll be on my way.
Welcome to the house of fun.
Now I've come of age.

Our House
He can't hang around,
In the middle of our street.
Yes, this is Madness.

Such good, very Doge.
What do? What are you doing?
So scare. Concern. Wow.

Transport for NSW - Road Safety Campaign
Get you hand off it!
That text can wait 'til later.
Hands on the wheel please.

Metallica on the Radio
Hush little baby,
In your closet, in your head.
Enter the sandman.

Slurpee Xpandinator!
Convenience store,
7-Eleven slurpee,
Why you taste so good?

What are we protesting again?
Hey hey, ho ho ho.
That bad thing has go to go.
Hey hey, ho ho ho.

Red Man at the Window
Santa Claus is creepy.
He sees you when you're sleeping;
Knows when you're awake.

NRMA Home and Contents
Set my house on fire;
Let's claim the insurance.
Go to gaol for fraud.

I hope now, you'll appreciate just how terrible what is usually passed off as poetry, can be. Please take care when writing poetry and actually bother to spin a craft. Don't become the fourth worst in the universe.

April 21, 2014

Horse 1659 - NSW Health: Brought To You By Serco

Conveniently buried under news stories of a gushing public looking out for royalty's every move and whilst everyone was looking the other way at the revelations from ICAC, the Sydney Morning Herald published this story:

Premier Mike Baird wants to push ahead with the privatisation of public hospitals, saying Sydney's dilapidated health facilities are in need of upgrading.
The privatisation model used in Western Australia, where non-clinical staff were privately employed and public hospitals were privately built and managed, could provide a ''fantastic opportunity'' to give NSW patients the best services, he said.
Mr Baird said he was concerned by the ageing of NSW's health facilities. ''The quality of doctors and nurses is world-class and they need world-class facilities,'' he said.

He said he would ''leave no stone unturned'' in investigating opportunities with the private sector to transform the state, and to learn from international experience.
''Don't be afraid of the private sector,'' the treasurer-turned-Premier said. ''Don't be afraid of looking globally. We want the best possible services for NSW we can get. My passion is to look at every possible opportunity for the infrastructure the community is crying out for.''
- Sydney Morning Herald, 21st Apr 2014

It's only taken a weekend but already the new Premier Mike Baird has showed his stripes. Just three days into the job he announced an intent in both his capacity as Premier and Treasurer to privatise New South Wales' hospitals.
Oh yes, let's just use the privatisation model used in Western Australia as our example of best practice shall we?

Serco Australia has won a $4.3 billion 20-year contract to provide facilities management and support services at Western Australia’s new flagship hospital when it opens mid-2014.
The State Government announced the deal with the London-listed company, which also runs the detention centres on Christmas Island, in a move that has several unions, including United Voice and the Health Services Union, up in arms at the privatisation of hospital services.
- Nursing Careeers Allied Health, 18th Nov 2013

This wouldn't be the same Serco which runs the Manus Island Detention Centre, would it? The same facility which saw rioting and the murder of 23-year-old Iranian  Reza Berati would it? Presumably the same pursuit of profits would be extended to the realm of health care? Just how long would it be before neglect in the name of "efficiency" saw people die?
This wouldn't be the same Serco which was threatened to have its staff removed from the project because of cost overruns and delays in delivery would it?

FORMER WA Health boss Kim Snowball has hit back at claims by the WA Treasury his office mismanaged the construction of the Fiona Stanley Hospital.
It was reported today Treasurer Troy Buswell had joined former under treasurer Tim Marney in his criticism of the Health Department’s handling of the multi-billion dollar flagship hospital, claiming “significant failures” had been made by the Health Department.
Mr Snowball said officers from the Department of Finance were “directly involved” in developing Serco’s contract to manage the hospital — hitting back at comments made by Mr Marney during a parliamentary hearing last week that Treasury had just two weeks to scrutinise the contract.
However, he said there had been three “mistakes” in the commissioning with the hospital.
The first mistake was planning to open the hospital in one stage, he said.
“It became obvious that this carried considerable clinical risk for patients and after seeking clinical and senior executive advice a decision was made to stage the opening of the hospital,” he said.
“This had nothing to do with delays, but rather to ensure patient safety.”
- Perth Now, 18th Feb 2014

Immediately I question what pies that Premier Mike Baird has his fingers in. Barry O'Farrell was brought down by ICAC only last week and immediately the new premier is seeking to privatise the state's infrastructure. Who put him up to this and what sort of kickback is he expecting to get out of this? It's worth pointing out at this point that former premier Nick Greiner who was also brought down by ICAC in 1992, eventually found himself some really nice cushy jobs on the boards of British American Tobacco, Bradken, Citigroup Australia and eventually worked his way onto the board of Infrastructure NSW.
If Liberal Party treasurer Arthur Sinodinos didn't know how much Australian Water Holdings had donated to the Liberal Party even though he was a director of the company, then did ex-Sydney Water boss Paul Broad who is currently the chief executive officer of Infrastructure NSW know about it?

Is it naive to suggest that Premier Mike Baird has already been white-anted before he even began? And at any rate, if NSW's health facilities are ageing, why shouldn't it be the good and fair people of NSW who pay for it? What on earth do we pay tax for? And if the good and fair people of NSW are not the people to pay for the upkeep of ageing of NSW's health facilities and there is a need for world-class facilities, then does that mean to suggest that private enterprise will?
The experience of the United States when it comes to the provision of private health care is a system which is between two and a half times more expensive; where 15% of the population has no coverage at all and where you do have health care coverage, then mortality rates are significantly higher.

Already three days into the Premiership of Mike Baird, he signaled his intent to sell the good and fair people of NSW short. If Serco are the ones who manage health care in NSW, then would you be better off being thrown off a balcony before being beaten to death? It might be cheaper in the long run.

April 19, 2014

Horse 1658 - The Ham Fiasco of 1914

Despite Italy's membership in the Triple Alliance with the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires, when war broke out in 1914, Italy remained neutral. This however belies a series of quite complex disputes that Italy had with its two confederates and even why Austria-Hungary was drawn into war in the first place.
On the 21st of March 1914, the revolving door of Italian Prime Ministers, opened on Antonio Salandra at the behest of outgoing Prime Minister, Giovanni Giolitti, who was no longer able to hold together his Italian Liberal government.

One hundred years ago today, on the 19th of April 1914, Salandra appointed a diumvirate of generals as head of the Italian Army in climate of impending clouds of war in Europe. General Antonio Salami was in favour of throwing Italy's hat into the ring with the other members of the Triple Alliance and expanding the Kingdom of Italy slice by slice. General "Papa" Giuseppe Mortadella on the other hand, saw problems with enlarging the Kingdom of Italy and was wary of as he put it "black olives of resistance".

Mortadella was especially worried about Italy's stance during the Balkan Wars of 1912. Documents which had been received via channels of intelligence revealed that considerable payments had flowed from Italy to factions in Serbia; this in turn had reduced prices of arms in the region. In particular, Italian funds flowed balsamically through a man called Wulworth Kohl who was head of a group called the Red Hand Society.

"Down down, prices are down. Down down, prices are down."
- Wulworth Kohl, 11th February 1913.

Kohl's aid to Serbian forces considerably contributed to the Balkan League's victory over the Ottoman Empire. At the war's end in 1913, nearly 50,000 Ottoman soldiers lay dead; this caused anxiety to Mortadella who did not want Italian forces to suffer the same fate. Kohl's Red Hand Society would in turn, evolve into the Black Hand Society, of which Gavrilo Princip was a member and who would assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
Eventually General "Papa" Giuseppe would move into the Ministry of Food Control and increase Italians dairy rations by "adding a little more cheese". For years following a common phrase was that "everyone loves their Papa".
General Antonio Salami on the other hand was intent on backing the Triple Alliance because he saw it as a way of increasing Italian power and prestige.

Mortadella and Salami would brought together and would never reach agreement; and so Italy dithered and delayed joining the war. They dithered and delayed to such an extent that the whole fiasco was finally cured when Italian Prime Minister Antonio Salandra and British Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith signed the London Pact on 26 April 1915, in which Italy was to leave the Triple Alliance and join Triple Entente. Italy would Germany and Austria-Hungary within a month. The London Pact was signed in the suburban district of Ham in south-west London and both Mortadella and Salami would find themselves on the chopping block.

April 17, 2014

Horse 1657 - The Tragedy Of Judas Iscariot

History is pretty harsh on Judas Iscariot and perhaps justifiably so. After all, it is pretty dastardly to sell out your mate to the authorities to be killed and for what? The equivalent of about $2000 today.
However, Judas' subsequent actions indicates that he must have felt a tremendous amount of guilt and this to me is perhaps one of the most tragic stories in all of scripture.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”
- Matthew 27:3-10 (NIV)

After realising that he'd sold out his mate, he tries to return the ill-gotten 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and in their self-justifying-rules-before-common-sense-decency-and-people sort of way, they didn't accept their own payment; citing that it was blood money (that in itself seems to me to be the height of hypocrisy).

I don't know if through the repeated notes in the gospels that Judas was the betrayer, whether or not we're supposed to feel some sort of anger or something towards Judas but I can't help but feel really really sorry for him.
This is a man who knows that he's messed up really really badly and reaches a point in his mind where he thinks there is no hope at all. Suicide then opens itself as a way to cut through grief for a mind which clearly isn't functioning well at this point and he knows that he is due some sort of punishment. Suicide here is seen as an answer of someone suffering really deep remorse and anguish and not finding any way out of it.
Can you imagine for a second, what it must have been like to know that you were the one who sold out the Messiah? This is the one who the Jewish nation had been waiting for for hundreds of years and maybe thought would restore their kingdom and overthrow the Romans. If I'd been Judas, I'm sure I would have been filled with a sense of complete and utter abject terror.

The real tragedy of this particular aspect to this story is that had Judas not taken his own life, he would have been forgiven by the very man who he'd sold out. Jesus death and resurrection would have been sufficient to pay the outstanding penalty that sin demands however, Judas never saw any of that. Judas never even lived to see Jesus crucified.
Suppose Judas had seen that Monday. What sort of witness for the gospel would he have made? Remember, Paul who went about actively persecuting Christians, was pretty zealous when it later came to preaching and teaching the gospel. What sort of impact would have Judas have made? To have been the one who had sold out the Messiah and then been forgiven? Sadly, we'll never know.
Instead the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday had the effect of rendering two names which we'd never think of naming out children. One because it is too glorious; the other because it is stained through the whole of history. The truth is that both names at the time were actually pretty common; as common as Jack or Liam today.

Judas is one of the single most tragic figures in the whole bible. The tragedy extends from the results of his deliberate actions but also because he never ever got to appreciate what Jesus was about to do (which was also a result of his deliberate action).

Just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
- Romans 5:6-11

Even after being with Jesus for 3 years, he never got it. He never understood that forgiveness and reconciliation was there for the asking. The sad thing is that Judas was only a mere 3 days away from a story which would have been very very different.
3 days... which may as well have been an eternity.

I live on Pedant Corner which is just off of Persnickety Lane. I have a question with regards this:

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 
- Luke 24:33-34

If you read through the rest of Luke, he's also pretty pedantic and makes sure that he calls Simon Peter, just Peter. John's account in chapter 21 also takes deliberate pains to mention "Simon son of John" or Simon Peter.
So my question is... who is this Simon in Luke 24? Simon the Cyrenian, Simon the Pharisee, Simon the leper in Bethany, Simon Iscariot? Who?
What if it was Simon Iscariot? Would it have made sense that Jesus would visit the grieving father of someone who had committed suicide? I'm afraid that I just don't know the answer to this.

Horse 1656 - Create A New Model T? Viva La Fiesta!

Young people are losing interest in driver’s licenses. Cars have climbed to near-record prices. Increasingly, Americans are looking at alternatives to cars, like public transportation, bike sharing and rides from Uber.
With the auto industry gathered in New York this week for the New York International Auto Show, many people are puzzled over ways to win consumers back. One idea: create a new Model T.
There’s an opportunity for some smart company to build the next car for the masses. There is certainly a precedent for doing so. The original Model T put the car within the reach of the American middle class for the first time, and as cheaper used versions became available, the demographic got pushed down even further to the working class.
- Micheline Maynard, Forbes Magazine, 15th Mar 2014.

Sometimes I read articles in magazines and newspapers where I really question what sort of world the people who wrote them live in. After reading this article, I suspect that it's a world where eithet the internet doesn't exist, where high school arithmetic was too hard and where people simple do not do the research.

The Model T later sold for as little as $260, because Ford passed along the savings from his production innovations.
- media.ford.com, 5th Aug 2013.

At least that's what Ford's propaganda tells you. Henry Ford was a very canny businessman and whilst it is true that he did in fact pay his workers $5 a day when the usual going rate was only $2.25, the only reason that he did it was because he could reduce worker attrition and turnover by doing so.
In paying more than double the average daily rate, Henry demanded that his employees avoided drinking and gambling and even sent round inspectors to people's houses to check in on them. In addition, he was profoundly anti-Semitic and was eventually even awarded the Grand Service Cross of the Supreme Order of the German Eagle by Adolf Hitler, a few weeks after the Anschluss. In short, Henry was more than likely not a nice man. He would have only "passed along the savings" if it meant shifting more products and generating higher profits.
That aside, the Model T was able to sell so cheaply in 1927 because by that stage, the entire production facility had already been amortised and the car itself was essentially unchanged since 1908.

Consider the specifications of the Model T, as it rolled off the production line in 1927.
- 2.9L in-line 4 cylinder engine.
- 2 speed manual gearbox.
- Power 20bhp.
- Two wheel Drum Brakes.
- Top Speed 72km/h
- Fuel Economy 11.2L/100km

The asking price of US $260 at an inflation of 5% works out to be US $18,131 today.

Also consider the specifications of the Fiesta, as it rolled off the production line in 2014.
- 1.5L in-line 4 cylinder engine.
- 6 speed manual gearbox.
- Power 110bhp. 
- Four Wheel ABS Disc Brakes
- Traction Control
- Stability Control
- Top Speed 197km/h
- Fuel Economy 5.3L/100km

The 2014 Ford Fiesta has a top speed more than two and a half times as fast, produces more than five times the power and does it whilst using less than half the same amount of petrol AND does it at a list price in the United States of $14,100. Now I love to be pedantic, so bear with me, that's almost a 23% discount for a better piece of machinery; in real terms, cars are cheaper.

There’s an opportunity for some smart company to build the next car for the masses. There is certainly a precedent for doing so. The original Model T put the car within the reach of the American middle class for the first time, and as cheaper used versions became available, the demographic got pushed down even further to the working class.

What? Has the author ever stepped outside her front door? Is she suggesting that motoring isn't for the masses in the United States? The last reliable statistic for the number of cars registered that I can find is in 2009 and there were 254,212,610 of them.
I've been stuck in a traffic jam on the I-5 in Los Angeles for 5 hours; moving at less than 10mph. Whilst anecdotal evidence is hardly empirical, I'd tend to think that that's only because the car is within the reach of the American middle class.

Yes, the Ford Model T can lay claim to being the second bestselling single design of car in history but it did so over 19 years. To sell a car in today's market which is 19 years old would be the equivalent of committing market suicide.

One idea: create a new Model T.

Considering that both the Fiesta and the Focus list for less money than the Model T ever did, don't they already fulfil that function and many times better? Maybe someone just has a book to peddle.

April 15, 2014

Horse 1655 - Australia: Not The Clever Country

But perhaps the greatest issue of concern is that ATARs are assigned to courses which do not necessarily reflect the intellectual capacity needed to complete the course. Rather, they simply reflect a supply-and-demand equation that balances the popularity of that degree with the number of places available. The ATAR becomes a virtual ''price'' or ''status ranking'' for the course. Hence the absurd refrain heard regularly amongst HSC students: ''I really want to do med. If I miss that, I'll do law ... or I could always be a vet.'' Three degrees with virtually nothing in common eyed off simply because of their comparative ATARs. 
Don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are lawyers. But I can't help thinking how many potentially great scientists, academics and school teachers are lost to law’s siren song every year.
- Adam Spencer, Sydney Morning Herald, 14th Apr 2014

A man much wiser than me once said that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. To be fair this is as equally true for individuals as it is companies and firms as it is for governments. If you want to find out what is important to someone, simply just look at their pocketbook, and follow where the money goes. Equally true is that through the corrective lens of history, we usually have 20/20 vision when it comes to looking at such things.

If we were to step back in history, perhaps a  particular statement made by a Prime Minister might hold out a promise, upon which we can measure where out heart as a nation lies:

No longer content to be just the lucky country, Australia must become the clever country.
To realise that vision I am announcing bold new initiatives today to build on our substantial achievements in education and scientific research – to unleash the skills and talents of our people.
- Prime Minister Bob Hawke, 8th Mar 1990

So then, how did we do?

There is a useful term in economics called the "opportunity cost"; that is, the cost of value forgone in order to decide upon a different set of choices. The opportunity cost of building a car park, might be the loss of that same land to put in a public park or sporting field.

In 1992, the Keating government introduced a compulsory superannuation scheme. The rules governing this scheme have varied somewhat in 22 years in general, superannuation in particular has changed the way markedly that Australia goes about investment.
The rules which govern superannuation in conjunction with rules which relate to things like negative gearing in property and capital gains etc. have meant that more money is being invested in the property market; this in turn has caused something of a 100 year spike in the growth of property prices, which acts as a feedback loop, making property more attractive to invest in.

The thing is though that capital, like water or electricity, tends to follow the path of least resistance. When you force people to be responsible for their own superannuation to such a degree it also means that people are equally as likely to invest in those places which gain the highest returns; especially over the past decade, those returns can be found in the mining sector and in property/financial management.

- ASX 200 by Sector - http://www.asx200list.com/

This is the result since 1992 of where the economic choices and relative opportunity costs forgone have taken us. Personally I think that it's pretty sad that Australia in the 21st Century; 24 years since we were promised by a Prime Minister that policy would to build on our substantial achievements in education and scientific research – to unleash the skills and talents of our people, that Australia has in essence become a nation of number farmers and dirt farmers.
24 years of government and business policy have take us here. It was deliberate and forceful. It is somewhat of a myth to assume that economies simply organise themselves spontaneously. Such a statement would be like saying that it would be obvious to put fire escapes on buildings; the truth is that unless government policy forces something, business couldn't give an insect's iota.

Insect repellent, permanent pleat for fabrics, the microwave landing system for aircraft, Wi-Fi wireless local area network, were all developed by the CSIRO and yet we've heard only this week that it is heading for a funding cut something in the order of $150m. What sort of madness is this?
If governments actually cared about the promise of becoming the clever country, then policy would have been formulated. Increased subsidy for research and development, increased funding in education right across the board from kindergarten to university. I would hope that an investment in the labour stock of the nation would lead to higher rates of productivity and innovation.

But no. We can't become the clever country because an investment in education is like playing the long game. To take a child from kindergarten to university might take as long as 18 years and in that time frame, there'd already have been 6 Federal Elections. Politicians would have moved on, CEOs of corporations would have already gouged out their cut from the ASX 200 and would be living nicely upon the work which other people produced for them.
Heck Australia is so incredibly punch itself in the face stupid, that it can't even make steel for export anymore. BlueScope Steel exited the export market in 2011. Meanwhile BHP Billiton which is the world's third-largest company measured by market capitalization, exports dirt to be made into steel, which is then sold back to Australians as useful products.
How clever is that?

Adam Spencer couldn't help thinking how many potentially great scientists, academics and school teachers are lost to law’s siren song every year but I can't help thinking that their choice is completely rational. What's the point in even bothering with science, if the country has spent the past quarter of a century deliberately arranging the economy to become dirt farmers and number farmers? Why bother in doing science when to do something like buy a Ford Focus just requires the export of a mere 213 tonnes of dirt?
Thankfully with the current government going around signing all these lovely free trade agreements, the nations that turn magically turn our dirt into computers, refrigerators and the like, will simply be able to buy up all our dirt farms for themselves. Heck even they don't that Australia isn't the clever country. Queensland even poked fun at itself with its "The Smart State" number plates.

- Ha ha ha. LOL... no-one else is buying it though.

Possibly thousands of potentially great scientists, academics and school teachers are lost to law, economics and finance every year, not necessarily because of the number of places available but because of the potential rewards that are available at the end. If you're paying tens of thousands a year for a university education, it is rational to do something which will reward you; and in Australia, we've spent 24 years designing an economy based on dirt farming and number farming because it's simply just too hard to...
... become the clever country.

April 14, 2014

Horse 1654 - Everything

The ancient text the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, commissioned by Chinese Emperor Nasi-Goreng in circa 1255, stated that all animals could be divided into 14 categories:
- Those that belong to the emperor
- Embalmed ones
- Those that are trained
- Suckling pigs
- Mermaids (or Sirens)
- Fabulous ones
- Stray dogs
- Those that are included in this classification
- Those that tremble as if they were mad
- Innumerable ones
- Those drawn with a very fine camel hair brush
- Et cetera
- Those that have just broken the flower vase
- Those that, at a distance, resemble flies

It has generally been accepted that Nasi Goreng and his wife Mie Goreng kept a large private menagerie called Tel Stra on the shores of what is now called Taihu Lake but which was known at the time as the Big Pond.
Their benevolent reign and their willingness to build the Great Wall of China to keep out the rabbits, won them the people's ovation and fame forever. But was their list complete even for the day? Modern research tends to suggest that due to China's limited contact with the rest of the world, that many many animals simply do not fit into these categories. Perhaps other categories need to be included such as:
- Dangerous things
- Those which can not be fenced in
- Those which remain unseen
- Ones facing backwards
- Animals which do not peer into mirrors
- Those that remain indoors during the potato festival
- Other
- Those that only appear in groups of prime numbers
- Selfish ones
- Those that look into the distance, confused
- The boring
- The unrentable
- Those which can be found on shelves
- Brown

If it is true that animals may be classified into categories, what of everything else?
- Moving
- Stolen
- Not delicious
- In a state of disrepair
- Things which can be polished
- Owned by the bank
- Edible
- Strange
- Overly fluffy
- Shiny and or possible new
- Things which can be piled
- Things which other people have and you do not covet
- Miscellaneous
- Expensive

If we were to break those down still further, we might arrive at:
- Copies of a magazine or newspaper, or other packets of papers
- Cars, Buses, mechanical devices and household appliances
- Cups, glasses, octopuses, cuttlefish, boats and slang
- Small animals, insects, demons, fish
- Rivers, train tracks, telephone calls, songs, pencils, books, guitars
- Number of floors, storeys, department stores
- Military units, pieces of chalk, broom handles
- Unused and not applicable
- Mirrors, cutting boards, photographs, cake
- People, except those we are unfriendly with
- Guns, trousers, servings at a restaurant, other cake
- Lines of text, suits of armour, votes
- CPUs, nuclear reactors, suburbs
- Examples, flags, pairs of socks, polite

A man much wiser than myself said that there is no end to the making of books and that excessive study is wearisome. I think that that list of 56 categories pretty well much covers everything and I mean everything. Now that this comprehensive list exists, you can get to and start fitting things into it...
... even Martin Skrtel. He's one of those which can not be fenced in.

April 13, 2014

Horse 1653 - Aristotle, The Bible, Markets and Slavery

Nature would like to distinguish between the bodies of freemen and slaves, making the one strong for servile labor, the other upright, and although useless for such services, useful for political life in the arts both of war and peace. But the opposite often happens--that some have the souls and others have the bodies of freemen. And doubtless if men differed from one another in the mere forms of their bodies as much as the statues of the Gods do from men, all would acknowledge that the inferior class should be slaves of the superior. And if this is true of the body, how much more just that a similar distinction should exist in the soul? but the beauty of the body is seen, whereas the beauty of the soul is not seen. It is clear, then, that some men are by nature free, and others slaves, and that for these latter slavery is both expedient and right.
- The Politics, Aristotle (no later than 322BC)

I am currently reading Aristotle's "The Politics" and the first thing that struck me (of course being very early in the discourse) is the a priori stance that Aristotle takes on slavery. The word "politics" itself means "the city" or possibly "the citizens"; either way the polis referred to the way that the Greek city-states were organised and it is to this audience that Aristotle writes. Naturally as you'd expect, being someone who derives his employment from philosophy and who would have had patrons who came to see him talk in the same way that a modern university might have patrons, Aristotle wouldn't have condemned the practice of slavery because the people who commanded slaves, were the same people from which he derived his income.

Writing for that particular society Aristotle arrives at the conclusion that slaves were in such a state because their very souls were faulty. They must have lacked reason and the ability to think for themselves and thus actually required masters to tell them what to do and how to live. As a result slavery must be good for some people, for otherwise, they would be lost and simple unable to function or run their lives properly.

If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed; you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. From what the Lord your God has blessed you with, you shall give to him. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this thing today.
And if it happens that he says to you, ‘I will not go away from you,’ because he loves you and your house, since he prospers with you, then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his ear to the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also to your female servant you shall do likewise. It shall not seem hard to you when you send him away free from you; for he has been worth a double hired servant in serving you six years. Then the Lord your God will bless you in all that you do.
- Deuteronomy 15:12-18

Hebrew Law contained provisions for many things which God considered horrible such as Divorce or even the Israelite people having a king. Nevertheless, the law regarding slavery still provided for manumission after seven years and included the proviso that ex-slaves be rewarded when they left; a little like a redundancy payment or stipend I suppose.
Incidentally, tradition held that the value of the three gifts of livestock, wine and grain was to be valued at a months wages. Tradition eventually gave way to standard law which codified this. I'd never thought about this before but the 30 denarii paid by the chief priests to Judas Iscariot was also a month's wages. I'm sure that there is supposed to be a symbolic parallel with regards slavery here, but I haven't quite tied up all the connections here. Still it's, something to think about.

It is into this world of Jewish Law and prevailing Aristotlic thinking that Paul wrote his letters to the fledgling church. I find it curious that Paul doesn't explicit condemn the practice, although given that Christians were already being persecuted and didn't really have the political power to change the Roman Empire in the 50s and 60s, his writings are instructions to change the underlying relationships between slaves and their masters.

Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so.
- 1 Corinthians 7:21

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
- Ephesians 6:5-8

Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.
- Titus 2:9-10

Paul's letter to Philemon also doesn't necessarily address the rightness of the concept of slavery. Technically, Philemon had the power to track down and kill the runaway slave Onesimus; in fact the name Onesimus itselg might be symbolic as the Greek word means "useful". If anything, the letter to Philemon is more a letter of tact and a plea for Onesiums' life than a discourse on the idea of slavery.

Paul's ambiguousness coupled with the Roman Empire's adoption of Christianity as the official state religion, meant that the question of the morality of slavery was never questioned for hundreds of years. Right throughout the dark ages and middle ages, very little if anything was ever done to address the question.
There are suggestions that there may have been provisions in Magna Carta to do with slavery but these may have just have been in consequence, for the barons who held King John to it, were really only concerned with their own power.

No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.
- Section 39, Magna Carta (1215)

Slavery itself remained sort of on the statute books in the UK and the British Empire and sort of withered on the vine within England as the rise of mercantilists took hold. The next major conflict on the journey would occur with the slave trade from Africa to the Americas. Africans were held to be less than human by many Europeans, which shows that in two-thousand odd years, people hadn't really progressed much beyond Aristotle on their thinking.

People often think that the increases of taxation and the lack of representation were the sole factors in the war of American independence but English Common Law also had its part to play.
James Somerset, an enslaved African, was purchased by Charles Stewart who was a Customs officer in Boston, Massachusetts. As the thirteen American colonies were British possessions, they were also bound by British Common Law. Somerset's case would have a profound effect on America and also probably led in its small way, to America declaring its independence.

The state of slavery is of such a nature that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political, but only by positive law [ statute ], which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasions, and time itself from whence it was created, is erased from memory. It is so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it, but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from the decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and therefore the black must be discharged.
- Somerset v Stewart (1772)

Slavery in the United States was never properly addressed and would eventually be one of the root causes of the Civil War some 85 years later. In the UK though, key cases such as Knight's Case in 1777 helped to change public opinion.
The Slave Trade Act 1807 saw the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire, but not slavery itself and the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 finally saw slavery abolished throughout the British Empire (with certain exceptions which were later eliminated in 1843).
It would also take two world wars for most of the rest of the world to finally abolish slavery officially if they already hadn't done so, with the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights following World War Two.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
- Article 4, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

I wonder though, in the two thousand three hundred years since Aristotle, have we really learned anything? Slavery at least carried with it, the responsibility of masters to look after their slaves. Now that slavery has been abolished and the payment of wages uncouple that responsibility, have people's lives really improved?
When more than 1100 people died as a result of the 2013 Savar building collapse in Bangladesh, most of the workers in the building were being paid less than $14 a week. Is that even less care being paid to the working conditions of people than had they been slaves in name? There are reports of people in modern factories being beaten if they do not work or if they demand pay increases.

The sad thing is that I think that having uncoupled wages from responsibility, the very existence of markets interacting with regards market labour price has eroded the standing moral values of society. How long is it before people again see slavery or wage slavery as just a consequence of nature? How long will it be before the operation of the market deems wage slavery as both expedient and right, if it already hasn't done so?

April 12, 2014

Horse 1652 - Why Bother With Hillsborough 25 Years On?

On the 15th of April 1989, almost 25 years ago, 96 fans lost their lives as a result of a crowd crush at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, during an FA Cup Semi-Final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
Not surprisingly as fans required medical attention and the barriers were opened up to allowed the crush to fill onto the pitch, the match was abandoned after 6 minutes.

Not even the BBC's Match of The Day coverage really knew how to handle what unfolded in front of them:

The football significance of 15 April 1989 is nil.
The game lasted less than ten minutes before being abandoned. As Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish was later to remark: 'Football is irrelevant now'.
- The FA Cup: The Complete Story, Guy Lloyd & Nick Holt (2005)

The story of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster is complex and nuanced, with the families of the bereaved still demanding justice some 25 years later, the press (particularly The Sun) openly attacking and blaming fans for the event and the later report by Lord Justice Taylor would eventually lead to sweeping changes which would both provide massive increases in safety and ultimately in consequence, drive out a lot of the sorts of people who used to attend matches through equally massive ticket increases.

That report can be found here:

I have heard calls in the past that April 15th has become lionised and that other disasters such as the Bradford Stadium Fire in 1985 or the Heysel Stadium disaster 18 days later aren't given due attention and to some degree that is true; yet it overlooks one very important and vital clue.
What happened at Hillsborough Stadium could happened anywhere.

Norwich City's ground, fifty-eight years old, is the youngest in the First Division.
How could anyone hoped to get away with it? With sixty-thousand plus crowds, all you can do is shut the gates, tell everyone to squash up, and then pray, very hard.
The Ibrox disaster in 1971 was an awful warning that wasn't heeded: there were specific causes for it but ultimately what was responsible was the way we watch football, among crowds that are way too big, in grounds that are way too old.
- Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby (1992)

Actually in 1989 apart from Old Trafford which had had various improvements more or less continuously from 1966 onwards, all grounds had stadia which were pre-war in construction. Even Wembley Stadium which was the home of the FA Cup Final, was at that time 66 years old.

Hillsborough itself was a disaster at least 20 years in the making. As Nick Hornby suggested, improvements in Occupational Health and Safety were desperately needed.
The disaster was set against a backdrop of massive unemployment, factory and manufacturing closures, a climate which as a result of the "sus laws" saw racial profiling (particularly of black people) which resulted in riots in Bristol, Toxteth, Handsworth and Chapelton earlier in the decade and rather than treat football fans like the paying customers that they were, the solution handed down by the rather doublespeak name the Committee of Inquiry into Crowd Safety at Sports Grounds or the the Popplewell inquiry in 1985 was to fence in and pen fans like cattle.

- Sheffield Wednesday v Norwich City, 1985

- fencing at Elland Road (Leeds United) c. 1986

To be honest, I really don't see why there needed to be that much of an inquiry when it should have been pretty obvious. To keep fans behind fencing as seen above, would have resulted in a crowd crush somewhere, some time. As early as the Victoria Hall disaster in 1883, regulations required that all public entertainment venues to be equipped with doors that open outwards; so it isn't like the problem hadn't previously been noticed.

It is known now that there was a cover up by South Yorkshire Police but what I find really strange is that the Thatcher government, never really bothered to question the evidence. Even after touring Hillsborough Stadium in 1989, did the then Prime Minister even accept that maybe the design or complete lack thereof of stadia may have been a contributing factor

- Ms Thatcher, tours Hillsborough c.1989 (via the Telegraph)

“Liverpool and the 15th... What are you talking about, 'We won't play on the day'. Why can't they?"
My mum died on August 22 but I don’t stay in all day. It’s a significant day in my life but if Arsenal are playing at home I’m happy about it.
Do they play on the date of the Heysel Stadium disaster? How many dates do they not play on?
Do Man United play on the date of Munich? Do Rangers play on the date when all their fans died in that disaster whatever year that was - 1971?”
- Alan Davies, as quoted in The Daily Mirror, 9th Apr 2012

Actually I think that this is a worthwhile question despite everything else wrapped up in it.Why botherto make 15th April a day worth remembering over 11th May (Bradford), 29th May (Heysel), 2nd Jan (Ibrox)?
It's worth considering that in 2014, we remember the 100th anniversary of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, being assassinated. The day of remembrance which followed as a result of 4 years of carnage was the result of a small piece of paper being signed in a railway car in Compiègne on the 11th of November 1918.
Admittedly, 15th April carries far far less importance than 11th November but the point remains that 11th of November is the memorial day appointed in many countries to remember the fallen of all conflicts.

I find it strange that the idea of a duty of care, which had long been established in English common law, wasn't seen to apply when it came to football stadia. Hillsborough was the visible tip of the iceberg, statistics aren't usually even reported until there's anything of significance. It was significant that at the same ground just 8 years previous, 38 people were injured in another crowd surge (although no-one was killed).
If the events at Hillsborough Stadium could have happened at literally any stadium in the country at the time, then it seems fitting to me that all matches should begin 7 mins later than usual. The people who stand in relatively safe conditions, with numbered individual seats (including Alan Davies at The Emirates) only do so because it took Hillsborough for the authorities to finally act and do something for the fans who turn up and pay to see matches. 
It still does very little for the families of the 96 people who went to a football match on April 15 1989 and never came home.


April 11, 2014

Horse 1651 - Ten Suburbs. No.20 Clyde 2142

Oops... I think I may have goofed here... I think that everyone may have goofed here.

In this run of Ten Suburbs, I've touched on the idea of what actually constitutes a suburb. The problem with Clyde is that even after looking at several maps, I can't honestly tell if it is one or not.

According to The Geographical Names Board of NSW a "suburb" is a bounded area within the landscape that has an "Urban" Character. This is as opposed to a "township" or "localities" in rural areas.
On the Geographical Names Board of NSW's website, you can do a search to see where a suburb/locality is. The problem is that on one section of the website, it provides a map of an appropriate area and yet on another, it thinks that the entire of Clyde (if it exists) is part of Granville.
The problem is further compounded by the fact that Clyde doesn't appear as a suburb in the Gregory's, UBD or even Google Maps which presumably get there information from... The Geographical Names Board of NSW.

Part of the reason for this whole problem, lies in the fact that The Commissioner of Railways of NSW, Edward Miller Grant Eddy (for whom Eddy Avenue near Sydney Terminal is named), changed the name of Rosehill Junction station to Clyde Junction in 1901 and then the name reverted to Clyde in 1904.
It also doesn't help that Clyde Engineering which is next door built railway locomotives there until 1973. Nor does it help that Clyde railway station itself doesn't lie within the boundaries of the suburb of Clyde, if in fact the suburb even exists in the first place.

One of the odd things about Sydney and its suburban railway network is that a railway station usually accompanies a particular suburb. The suburb of "Sydney" which lies in the postcode of 2000, for instance, has five stations within its boundaries: Wynyard, Town Hall, Circular Quay, St James and Musuem and Sydney Terminal/Central lies in the suburb of Haymarket.
Clyde was even sort of legitimised (if it isn't a suburb) by the existence of the former railway station of Clyburn which was between Clyde and Auburn. Jokingly, it is often said that trains frequently stop at the imaginary stations of Strathbush, Camperbury and Kogadale.
Clyde Junction serves a useful purpose, being the junction between the Carlingford Line and the Western Line but I don't know if even that necessarily makes it a suburb.

Clyde either is a suburb or it isn't. I don't know if it is or not; mapmakers prefer to rule it out rather than in and not even The Geographical Names Board of NSW has a definative answer.
Asking the question of whether Clyde is, is like asking "What Are Birds?"... we just don't know.

April 09, 2014

Horse 1650 - Ten Suburbs. No.19 La Perouse 2036

Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse, apart from having a ridiculously overly long and complicated name, lent his name to the suburb at the very very end of Anzac Parade in Sydney's east. What we learn about de Galaup (Lapérouse was the name of a family property that he added to his name) is that if there had been more storms in the world for the previous 36 weeks, Australia would probably be French speaking.

After the famed cantankerous Yorkshireman, James Cook, had published details of his First voyage in 1771, the French Government were equally as keen to sail around the world and steal countries with the cunning use of flags. Just sail around and stick a flag in.
De Galaup would have been successful in sticking a flag in Australia if it weren't for the fact that France didn't actually have an until after the French Revolution and the other rather annoying fact that when his two ships, the Astrolabe and Boussole, arrived in Botany Bay on 24 January 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip already had had 11 ships there for 6 days.
Undaunted, de Galaup pottered up and down the eastern coast for a while and over the next six weeks, 11 visits recorded between the French and English. His ship probably left Australia in March of 1788... he was never seen again.
Except that in 1826 an Irish captain found evidence of shipwrecks on Vanikoro in the the Solomon Islands and in 1964 an actual wreck was confirmed to be that of the Boussole.

The underlying narrative of La Perouse is that of invasion. La Perouse is unique in the story of Sydney in that the Kameygal people are the only people group in Sydney to have retained possession of their lands from European settlement until today.
Governor Arthur Phillip declared that the area immediately around Botany Bay was infertile and in 1812, Governor Lachlan Macquarie prohibited settlement in the area.

Today, La Perouse is marked with overpriced fish and chip shops, a customs tower which was used to spot smugglers and a large amount of really really ugly architecture.
However, La Perouse also has a strong Aboriginal community who have defied Boards of "Protection", survived the Depression and through the Aboriginal Lands Trust and the La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council secured the rights to their land which Cook, Phillip and de Galaup successfully took away from practically everyone else living on this wide brown continent.

As a smug white person, it is all too easy to think of La Perouse as a chance meeting of the British and French in the beginning of the story of Sydney. If anything, it is the Kameygal people who are the heroes of this story. January 26 should be a celebration of Survival Day and a people who despite everything done, have held on.

April 08, 2014

Horse 1649 - Ten Suburbs. No.18 Liberty Grove 2138

Liberty Grove is a quiet and relaxing lifestyle suburb filled with lush greenery and many spots to sit and relax. However, Liberty Grove also has many facilies to keep residents active such as tennis courts, basketball court, bike track, two pools and two large parks.
The serenity and tranquility of Liberty Grove gives nothing away to the fact that it is located only 16 kilometers from the Sydney CBD. Liberty Grove is a place where residents feel that they have escaped from the daily hustle and bustle, and where they have the chance so simply relax.
All Liberty Grove amenities have been created for the exclusive use of residents, so that they have a sense of privacy and can feel at home throughout the whole of the estate.
- from the Liberty Grove website.

The suburb of Liberty Grove was opened in 1998 in the run up to the Sydney Olympic Games. Jammed in between Homebush Bay Drive and the Northern Line railway, it feels exceptionall cramped and sterile. Liberty Grove to look at is kind of like a giant retirement village and as I've found at, shares many aspects with one.

The blanket speed limit in Liberty Grove is 20km/h. What's not immediate obvious though is that this is in fact unenforceable by the Department of  Roads and Maritime Services because all of the roads in Liberty Grove are private. They are technically Private Access Ways and not Public Roads as defined by the Roads Act 1993.
Because of this quirk, it means that the estate itself can set internal by-laws, even if they are technically inenforceable. For this reason (and the fact footpaths tend to be non-existent), the local "Parking and Traffic Sub-Committee" has banned L-Plate drivers from driving within the suburb; a feature shared with Centennial Park.

I suppose that Liberty Grove is similar to a gated community or a retirement village in that it employs its own security staff. It has only got a single shop and no transport links within its borders (features it shares with Dharruk) but it is less than a mile away from Rhodes Shopping Centre and Rhodes railway station; so it isn't like it is far away from everything. It is also a short walk from Bicentennial Park and you could even be at the Olympic stadium within 20 minutes if you walked.

Liberty Grove is the sort of thing that pulls into question what a suburb actually is. The word suburb comes from the Latin "suburbium" and the two parts sub+urbae; which means "under the city". This was due to the fact that in Rome, wealthy citizens often have villas in the higher parts whilst the plebs tended to live in the lower parts.
I find in Cicero's "In Defense of Sextus Roscius of Ameria" (c.80BC) that he referred to the large walled estates and villas as "suburbia". Liberty Grove I think, meets Cicero's criteria quite nicely.

Australia has only a few actual gated communities and I suppose that a lot of issues don't quite apply but this piece from America's NPR was interesting.
I do wonder what creating a spatial enclave like this actually does for the residents though. Does it add to a sense of security because outsiders can be easily identified or does it make residents more paranoid? Is Liberty Grove an social experiment to find to the answer? I don't know.

April 06, 2014

Horse 1648 - All Stations To Everywhere Via Everywhere Else

I was wondering what to do on Easter Monday that might be different to simply going to the mountains or the beach or something and wandering around. Since doing this Ten Suburbs project, I've again thought of Sydney's Trains Network and how vast it is.

There are 176 stations in the Sydney Trains Network and what I was wondering is, is it possible to visit all 176 stations in a day and if so, how quickly could you do it? The criteria would be that the train would have to stop at the station; maybe get out and take a photo of the station sign to prove you'd been there.
After playing with physical timetables and the sydneytrains.info website, the answer is that it is possible to visit all 176 stations but not something that you'd want to attempt unless you were going for a record.

The problem is that Sydney has lots of spurs in the network. The whole of the Richmond line or the Cronulla spur off of the Illawarra line must be either traveled along up and back unless you'd chosen one of them as your starting point. Then there's the annoying split on the Bankstown line where there is a teardrop at one end but two loose ends at the other.
One thing I found much improved was the Carlingford line. It has been vastly improved now that it mainly operates as a shuttle service. There used to be only a few services during the morning and afternoon peak periods; which meant that if you wanted to travel at lunchtime or late, you were stuck.

Actually this whole thing is really a topological exercise which is in the realm of combinatorial graph theory. The Sydney Trains Network is non-Euleran and so there will be double-backs and cross overs. This is sort of reminiscent of the Chinese Postman Problem or the Travelling Salesman Problem. It is overlaid with issues such as timetabling and connection problems and even then, I couldn't get around the real world problems of a replacement bus service and a short walk in one instance.
I tried to make the changes between trains tolerable; taking into account things like the time it would take to walk between them and to allow for late running. The longest wait anywhere is at Macarthur of 22 minutes.
Euler himself laid the foundations of this branch of mathematics with his Seven Bridges of Königsberg problem, which he eventually proved was impossible in 1735.

If anyone does really want to press me and do this hideous task (which I think is probably as arduous as cleaning the Augean stables), then I might consider it... might. If not, then have a glance at this map and have a go at solving this problem yourself:

Dep 06:17 - Richmond
Arr 07:22 - Lidcombe

Dep 07:32 - Lidcombe
Arr 08:26 - Town Hall

Dep 08:34 - Town Hall
Arr 09:20 - Sutherland

Replacement Bus - Route T41 Sutherland; All Stations to Waterfall, then return (allow 40 mins)
Dep UNK - Sutherland
Arr 10:00 - Sutherland

Dep 10:10 - Sutherland
Arr 10:26 - Cronulla

Dep 10:32 - Cronulla
Arr 11:36 - Bondi Junction

Dep 11:38 - Bondi Junction
Arr 11:49 - Town Hall

Dep 11:54 - Town Hall
Arr 12:40 - Riverwood

Dep 12:50 - Riverwood
Arr 13:28 - Macarthur

Dep 13:50 - Macarthur
Arr 14:09 - Glenfield

Dep 14:18 - Glenfield
Arr 15:04 - Strathfield

Dep 15:11 - Strathfield
Arr 15:13 - Homebush

Dep 15:21 - Homebush
Arr 15:48 - Central

Dep 15:58 - Central
Arr 17:07 - Berowra

Dep 17:16 - Berowra
Arr 17:30 - Hornsby

Dep 17:40 - Hornsby
Arr 18:11 - Chatswood

Dep 18:28 - Chatswood
Arr 19:28 - Epping

Dep 19:44 - Epping
Arr 19:57 - Strathfield

Dep 20:05 - Strathfield
Arr 20:11 - Lidcombe

Dep 20:20 - Lidcombe
Arr 20:25 - Olympic Park

Dep 20:28 - Olympic Park
Arr 20:34 - Lidcombe

Dep 20:41 - Lidcombe
Arr 20:47 - Clyde

Dep 20:52 - Clyde
Arr 21:06 - Carlingford

Dep 21:12 - Carlingford
Arr 21:26 - Clyde

Walk to Granville station < 15 Mins.

Dep 21:49 - Granville
Arr 21:55 - Lidcombe

Dep 22:02 - Lidcombe
Arr 22:12 - Birrong

Dep 22:20 - Birrong
Arr 22:41 - Liverpool

Dep 22:56 - Liverpool
Arr 23:19 - Granville

Dep 23:20 - Granville
Arr 00:01 - Penrith

Dep 00:13 - Penrith
Arr 00:16 - Emu Plains

Total Time: 18hrs 1min.

What I find disappointing about this is that the record for the Tube Challenge in London is 16 hours, 20 minutes and the Underground has 270 stations, or the New York City Subway Challenge which is 22 hours, 52 minutes and has 468 stations.

Now you can see why I don't really want to undertake such a project. As much as I like traveling on trains, 18hrs is roughly the same as travelling to Paris; riding the Metro just seems more appealing to me anyway.

April 03, 2014

Horse 1647 - Good Night, Malaysian Three Seven Zero (MH370)

01:07:55 (MAS 370) Malaysian... three seven zero maintaining level three five zero.
01:08:00 (ATC) Malaysian three seven zero.
01:19:24 (ATC) Malaysian three seven zero contact Ho Chi Minh 120 decimal nine. Good night.
01:19:29 (MAS 370) Good night, Malaysian three seven zero
The last transmission from the plane's communication transponder is at 1:21 am, and it vanishes from ATC radar at 1:30am.
- via ABC News, 2 Apr 2014

It's simply not all that common for an aircraft to just disappear is it? It turns out that yes. It's incredibly common for aircraft to just disappear. In fact lots and lots of aircraft disappear every single day.
When MH370 left the Air Traffic Control (ATC) area of Kuala Lumpur, it probably passed into the Flight Information Region of Jakarta and then FIR Melbourne*. No doubt that neither FIR Jakarta nor FIR Melbourne were expecting MH370 and as such, were never alerted to the need to track it.
But even when regular scheduled flights, say from Sydney to Auckland which is a distance of 1340 miles, for almost 940 miles of that journey, no scheduled flight is tracked to that level of scrutiny. Once a plane leaves an ATC area, it's pretty well much on its own until it enters another ATC area.

So then, what do I think happened to MH370? Not much really.

Authorities say the plane didn't send any emergency signals, though some analysts say it's still unclear whether the pilots tried but weren't able to communicate because of a catastrophic failure.
The official, who is not authorized to speak to the media, told CNN that the area the plane flew in after the turn is a heavily trafficked air corridor and that flying at 12,000 feet would have kept the jet well out of the way of that traffic.
- CNN, 24th Mar 2014.

Aircraft use what is know as a Pitot-static system which determines useful data such as airspeed, altitude changes etc. A Pitot-static system has a system of pressure tubes, pipes and diaphragms which then give these statistics. The problem with such a system is that they can be physically blocked, iced up, or even give faulty readings. Problems with the Pitot-static system have been cited as a contributing factor in the crash of Air France Flight 447 which had left Rio de Janeiro–Galeão Airport bound for Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport and crashed into the South Atlantic Ocean.

I think that with MH370, the principle of Occam's razor is probably the correct one. The theory with the fewest assumptions is most likely to be the correct one. So then what do we know?

1. MH370 upon leaving the Kuala Lumpur ATC seemed perfectly normal.
2. MH370 didn't send out any emergency signals.
3. MH370 which should have been at about 36,000 feet, was possibly found at 12,000 feet after turning.

My theory. What if, like Air France Flight 447, MH370 Pitot-static system had become faulty either through encountering an ice blast, or some other effect? What about ash from Mount Merapi which had erupted on 26th Feb or Sakurukjima in Kyushu which had erupted on 7th Mar.
I remember a documentary by BBC Radio 4 about British Airways Flight 9, which was a Boeing 747 flight from London Heathrow to Auckland, which thanks to volcanic ash, lost all four engines. That flight fell from 37,000 to 12,000 feet (also within FIR Jakarta) and thankfully, one of the engines restarted; which was enough to safely land at Jakarta.

What if MH370 also suffered a similar fate? If volcanic ash had rendered the Pitot-static system, then the crew might have had no idea that they were even in a technical stall. If the planehad lost sudden altitude, then maybe once the engines had reasserted itself, the autopilot simply set itself for deal level flight until it ran out of fuel.
Ultimately I live everyone else at this stage have no idea what happened and a picture won't be established until the flight recorders are retrieved but I don't suspect foul play or terrorists for the simple reason that I don't believe that any terrorist organisation could keep this quite for this long.
Occam's razor suggests that obviously something major has happened. If the pilots were unconscious, then maybe the autopilot, with no input, merely took over and awaited instructions which never came. The fact that there was no emergency reported, suggests to me that there was no-one conscious to report an emergency.

Until we do find out... Good night, Malaysian three seven zero... Vale