September 30, 2015

Horse 1995 - Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn - Poles Apart and yet Still Alike

The almost unavoidable circus that is American politics and the race for the Presidency which concludes with the election some fourteen months away, has thrown up a potential candidate who is either so appalling as to be ludicrous, so self aggrandising as to be laughable but so very rich as to be unbuyable. That is of course Donald Trump and he himself is trading on that political currency that he is so rich that he can not be bought by either the political machines or by Wall Street.

Across the pond, another equally unbuyable leader has emerged as leader of the Labour Party in Jeremy Corbyn. This is a man who is rumoured to have fallen out with his previous wife over sending their children to a private school but I don't know if that's just part of the convenient narrative which has been spun, or if it is genuinely true, or whether it is a half-truth wrapped in a palatable and tasty lie. Corbyn like Trump is presumed to be unbuyable, not because he is rich but because he is so far to the economic left that money is irrelevant.

Although we in Australia like to be egocentric and think that we matter, in the grand scheme of things, the world leaders who actually wield the most power are those of China, the US, the UK, Germany, Russia and then countries like France, Italy, South Korea, India, Japan and Australia always seem to end up in orbit around them. The US-UK relationship is far more important than the United States' relationship with Australia and that couldn't have been any more obvious than when Barack Obama promised PM Rudd that he was going to visit Australia after becoming President and then proceeded not to for a long time.
Those US-UK relationship pairs are usually most visible in times of shared war, such as Roosevelt & Churchill and Bush & Blair but also show up when economic policies align such as Reagan & Thatcher.

This brings me back to the combination of Trump and Corbyn; which I think will never happen for machinations surrounding the dates of elections but it's worth thinking about*. Trump and Corbyn couldn't occupy economic positions further apart, if they tried. Trump would probably privatise government itself if he could; whilst Corbyn has already made rumblings that he'd like to renationalise the railways and the electricity companies as well as open some of the mines that Thatcher had closed.
Yet there's something almost familiarly similar about them. In the winner takes all system of democracy; which has been copied by precisely zero other countries in the world, which the United States uses, Donald Trump is trying to win firstly the Republican nomination and then the presidency in a method which seems almost to fight the party itself. In the winner takes all by winning 36% of the popular vote which translates into 50.7% of the seats in parliament which then gives you 100% control, Corbyn has been handed the reigns to a party which has lost and lost badly.

Jeremy Corbyn is curious among modern politicians in that he actually stands for something. Although he has a history of being anti-Thatcher, he did so whilst being a critic of social inequality and poverty and arguing that the state has the power to change people's outcomes. He is also a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Amnesty International and Stop The War.
Trump on the other hand whose policies appear to be whatever comes of out his mouth at any given moment; coupled with an attitude which is mainly ad hoc, says what he thinks precisely because he can not be bought. Like most Republicans he looks like he favours tax cuts for the rich and like a select few Republicans he wants to change the rules about who can become a US citizen and he wants to ask serious questions about the welfare state. In particular he has made mention that he'd like to deport as many as 11 million people back across the border to Mexico and I don't know if this is pandering to the Republican right but again, this policy is mostly unplanned as to the nature of its implementation.
Corbyn on the other hand has won the leadership of a party which found itself in the wilderness following the end of the Blair and Brown premierships and then found itself untrusted by an electorate which punished the Liberal-Democrats and which rewarded the Scottish National Party but returned the Tories to an even bigger majority in the Commons, which kept Labour outside in the cold. Corbyn is from the left of a party which moved right and then tore at its patches as it moved left again.
The question is what exactly that Trump and Corbyn can teach their respective parties and about what the electorate has to say about it.

If nothing else, even though Trump is as wacky as a box of ferrets and could very well be 109 ferrets in a man suit trying to pass of as human (now that I've said it, you can't unthink it), and even though in practical terms Corbyn stands as much chance at bringing any of his sweeping goals to fruition as I do in winning the upcoming by-election in North Sydney for the Banana Party, both Corbyn and Trump bring a genuineness that's not been seen in politicians for maybe two decades. In what might be seen as either extreme or at least very different politics to what we've seen for two twenty years, if nothing else both of them are going to make the parties reassess what they stand for if indeed it is anything.

*The next Presidential Election is November 2016 and the term runs from January 2017 until January 2021. The next British General Election is in 2020. Together this means that even if Trump wins the 2016 election that the initial overlap would only be during 2020 and January of 2021. If for some insane reason that Trump not only wins the 2016 election and the 2020 election, then the Trump-Corbyn pair would last until January of 2025. This is of course assuming that Corbyn even survives as party leader until the 2020 election, which itself is highly unlikely.

September 29, 2015

Horse 1994 - What Kind Of People Are You?

English is a language which is the bastard child of Germanic tongues, Viking tongues and then got infected with Norman and later French tongues. This unruly child with a penchant for theft, then proceeded to steal words from just about every language it came in contact with and every language it could find. Thus the phrase "I'm watching kangaroos on television whilst in my pyjamas and eating potato chips" contains words which have roots in at least eight languages.
To cope with this penchant for theft, larceny and stealing, it helps that English uses the Roman script. Admittedly neither J or U appeared in Roman but that's a very big story which I'm not concerned about here.

Chinese though, which is as diverse a group of languages as the set of Romance languages, uses a standard set of  logograms which are called 'Hanzi' in standard Chinese. Being logograms though, the ability of the script to absorb new words is not as flexible as in English; which leads to some strange sort of results.
I thought it interesting when I was looking at the front page of the Australian Chinese Daily and saw a picture of David Cameron (presumably about that story about Lord Ashcroft's book) and noticed that he was described as being 英国人. I knew what those last two characters were but had to look up the first. The results were surprising and they made me think about how Chinese people might think about everyone else in the world.

Chinese - 中国人 - "Middle Country" people
This is obvious. If you look at a map of the world published in Australia, then Australia is in the centre. An American map of the world has America at the centre and the English even went so far as to send the Prime Meridian through the Greenwich Observatory. 0º passes right through London.
It is natural that Chinese people see themselves as the Middle Country. Humans are an egocentric lot and Chinese people are no different.

Japanese - 日本人 "Origin Of The Day" people
Having studied Japanese, I know many 'kanji'. Kanji literally means 'Han characters' and they presumably date from the time when Japan was a puppet state of China. Japan calls itself 'Nihon' which means the 'origin of the sun' and even their flag is commonly called 'Hinomaru' which means the 'circle of the sun'. The Land Of The Rising Sun is nominally the first Asian country to see daylight;' so it makes sense that the characters reflect that.

Korean - 朝鲜人 "Towards Freshness" people
Yeah... I'm struggling with this one. I'm hoping that I've made a hideous translation error because this is just crazy bonkers cloud cuckoo land stuff. 

Indian - 印度人 - "Print Degree" people
Again because I don't speak a word of Chinese, I'm really struggling with this. I always thought that China was the land that invented paper but maybe Indian paper was just really renowned. Indian documents in the Kharosthi language have been discovered from as far back as the 4th century BC and I do know that India was the source of many pigments for ink - hence why it picked up the eponymous 'India Ink', I suppose.

Mongols - 蒙古人 "Ancient Illiterate" people
This does not surprise me at all. It's worth noting that the barbarian neighbours to the north succeed under the Mongol leader Kublai Khan, in crushing the existing ruling Song dynasty and setting up the Yuan dynasty in 1279. That 'great' wall suddenly isn't looking so great any more.

Italian - 意大利人 - "Meaning Big Profits" people
Marco Polo certainly wasn't the first European to visit China but he was the first to write detailed accounts about his trip there. If the story is true, Marco Polo was welcomed into the courts of Kublai Khan and probably made a great deal of money through trade. Does this mean that the Chinese saw the Italians as patsies from whom easy profits could be extracted? More than likely it's just 'I-da-li-ya' that has been transliterated.

American - 美国人 "Nice" country people
French - 法国人 "Law" country people
German - 德国人 "Moral" country people
These three epithets I find intriguing. Are Chinese people trying to bestow honour upon other people in the world? These sorts of descriptions are the kind of thing I'd be looking for if I wanted my own special logogram. Who doesn't want to be called 'moral', 'lawful' or 'nice'?

English - 英国人 "Hero" country people
I don't know if this was applied to the English before or after the Opium Wars but if it is after, maybe this is a piece of sarcasm. "Yeah English people, you think you're heroes don't you? Real smart". 

Australian - 澳大利亚人 - "Proud Big Profits Inferior" people
Admittedly Australia is probably too new a country to have its own logogram and so like the name 'Tangbao' for Malcolm Turnbull, Australia gets something that sounds similar "Ao-da-li-ya'. It's kind of unfortunate that the set of characters which describes Australia when transliterated, also describes Australia pretty well. We are the country full of inferior boorish people from whom big profits can be made. Dig up our dirt and then make it into stuff before selling it back to us. Big, dumb and stupid - that's also how New Zealand sees us as well.

Our new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been nicknamed 'Tangbao' 汤包 in Standard Chinese, which is a rough interpretation of how his surname sounds. Tangbao are either sweet custard filled buns or gelatinous soup filled buns. The literal meaning of 汤包 as far as I can make out means 'soup package'.
This very much reminds me of JFK's "I am a doughnut" speech on  June 26, 1963 when he said "Ich bin ein Berliner". Is a soup bun better than a doughnut though?

September 28, 2015

Horse 1993 - Chris Brown Denied A Visa
The Federal Government has followed through on its threat to block US R 'n' B singer Chris Brown from entering the country because of his history of domestic violence.
In 2009, Brown was convicted of assault and threatening to kill his then girlfriend, singer Rihanna.
He was sentenced to five years' probation.
- ABC News, 27th Sep 2015


I have no real idea of who Chris Brown is exactly and I'm pretty sure that R 'n' B is not the same Rhythm and Blues that Fats Domino, Johnny Otis and Bo Diddly might have played. In short, I have no idea of who this person is and I'm pretty sure that I probably wouldn't like the sort of music that this person plays. I do know that if the Federal Government has denied Chris Brown a visa, on the grounds that he has a history of domestic violence which includes assault and death threats, then I'm in agreement with the Federal Government. That sort of thing is unacceptable. Story. End of.

I have never tried to apply for a visa into Australia for obvious reasons but I have gone to the United States under their Visa Waiver Program. On the I-94W document, which people wanting to visit the United States must fill in under the program, it asks the question:
Have you ever been arrested or convicted for an offense or crime involving moral turpitude or a violation related to a controlled substance; or been arrested or convicted for two or more offenses for which the aggregate sentence to confinement was five years or more; or been controlled substance trafficker; or are you seeking entry to engage in criminal or immoral activities?

'Moral turpitude' is one of those really daft sounding things at law which just leaves you scratching your head. This probably explains why so many people look dazed as they enter passport control upon entry into the United States (or that they've just spent 14 hours on a plane).

Helpfully the US State Department has this to say about 'moral turpitude':
9 FAM 40.21(a) N2.2 Defining “Moral Turpitude”
 A conviction for a statutory offense will involve moral turpitude if one or more of the elements of that offense have been determined to involve moral turpitude. The most common elements involving moral turpitude are:
(1) Fraud;
(2) Larceny; and
(3) Intent to harm persons or things.
- U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 9, 22nd Aug 2014

Crimes of moral turpitude have been defined by US law as those crimes which are committed against someone's person, family relationship, and crimes relating to sexual morality.

According to Black's Law Dictionary, assault is a crime of moral turpitude and is defined thusly:
Assault (this crime is broken down into several categories, which involve moral turpitude):
- Assault with intent to kill, commit rape, commit robbery or commit serious bodily harm
- Assault with a dangerous or deadly weapon
Assault (simple) (any assault, which does not require an evil intent or depraved motive, although it may involve the use of a weapon, which is neither dangerous nor deadly)
- Black's Law Dictionary 9th Ed. (2009)

Whilst it's very easy to get bogged down in legal definitions, this makes it pretty clear I think. This Chris Brown person, would most likely have not been allowed to enter the United States under the I-94W Visa Waiver Program and I suspect also would not have been given a Visa to enter the United States without the waiver. If he would not be allowed to enter the United States, why are people surprised that he isn't allowed to enter Australia?

It was the new Minister for Women Michaelia Cash who stated quite clearly why she thought that the Minister for Immigration would deny a visa, all the way back on Thursday of last week:
"People need to understand, if you are going to commit domestic violence and then you want to travel around the world there are going to be countries that say to you, 'You cannot come in because you are not of the character that we expect in Australia'."
- Minister for Women Michaelia Cash, as quoted ABC News 27th Sep 2015


I must admit though, then we get comments from Miranda Devine in today's Sunday Telegraph, which I'm sure are deliberately designed to rile people up.
Demonising men, and pouring taxpayer money into permanent meddling bureaucracies, will do nothing to alleviate domestic tragedy.
It just increases government’s role in our lives, and further disempowers vulnerable men.
Worse, the underlying narrative is about disrespecting men.
Turnbull claimed: “one in four young men think it’s OK to slap a girl when you’ve been drinking”.
- Miranda Devine, The Sunday Telegraph, 27th Sep 2009

In the time that I spent as a court recorder which did involve going to Bourke, Bathurst and (shock horror) Parramatta, I saw plenty of cases in various courts in which domestic violence had occurred. Let's get this absolutely clear - the number of women that I saw who were on trial for perpetrating domestic violence was nil. Zero.
I really do not know which so called "vulnerable" men are being disempowered here. Granted that domestic tragedy occurs within the four walls of a household, where the reach of government should for the most part stay outside of but common consensus says that the first duty of government is the protection of its citizenry; if that means calling for active protection of half its citizenry then that's a good thing.

Let's bring back shame. Shame is one of those concepts which seems to have fallen out of favour because society feels uncomfortable about it but in this case, that's all the more reason to being back shame. Shame is the voice of the conscious of either an individual or all of us collectively, expressing regret for wrongs we have done. A little bit of shame before an event, just might temper society and hopefully prevent domestic violence from happening in the first place. Actions should have consequences.

Say what you like about Malcolm Turnbull politically but less than a fortnight into the job as Prime Minister, he's already said something which is important and should be obvious to all:
Let me say this to you: disrespecting women does not always result in violence against women. But all violence against women begins with disrespecting women. We, as leaders, as a government, must make it and we will make it a clear national objective of ours to ensure that Australia is more respecting of women. Women must be respected. Disrespecting women is unacceptable. It is unacceptable at every level. At home, at the workplace, wherever. And I'd say that as parents, one of the most important things we must do is ensure that our sons respect their mothers and their sisters.
Because that is where this begins. It begins - violence against women begins with disrespecting women. And so this is a big cultural shift.
- PM Malcolm Turnbull, 24th Sep 2015

Maybe the apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians said it in even more economical terms:
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
- Colossians 3:19

How do you love someone if you're assaulting and threatening to kill them? Okay, so maybe Chris Brown isn't being judged by the standards of scripture but it seems that he is being judged by the standards of several nation's law (Oz, NZ and the UK):
In June 2010 Brown was refused permission to enter the UK on the grounds of being guilty of a serious criminal offence.
Yesterday, Immigration New Zealand confirmed Brown's rejection from the UK meant he could not enter New Zealand.
- New Zealand Herald, 18th Sep 2015.

I for one like the fact that we're being shown some leadership from the top. Even if denying Chris Brown a visa doesn't of itself achieve a lot, it does start the national dialogue on what we as a nation are prepared to accept. What Mr Turnbull said is worth repeating:
Women must be respected. Disrespecting women is unacceptable. It is unacceptable at every level.

September 26, 2015

Horse 1992 - The Little Voices

One of the projects that I've worked on recently was writing a Purimspiel (Purim play). Our church is making a pass through of several of the smaller books of the Bible and I happened to notice that the weekend after we finish the book of Esther, will be the thirteenth day of the twelfth month which is numerically the day on the Jewish calendar which Jewish people celebrate the festival of Purim, which commemorates the liberation of the Jews from the plot of Haman. The nation of Israel uses a different calendar to us and Purim usually falls sometime in March but it was still an interesting coincidence and one that warranted running the idea of  Purimspiel up the flagpole.
The reason that I make mention of this is because Mrs Rollo is currently reading a Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Dickens once remarked that he heard little voices in his head for all the characters he was writing; knowing the sort of showman that he was, I don't know if this implies schizophrenia or if this was just for emphasis. Rest assured that I don't hear little voices in my head other than my own internal monologue; which is entirely my own creation but I can attest to the sentiment that when writing, you tend to want to imagine the voices of your characters in your mind as you play with them in an imaginary theatre.

Esther is one of those books of the Bible which lends itself to dramatisation because its structure resembles that of a comic farce. It has an idiot king, a mad bad villain and the hero of Esther is the only sane person in the story. It also contains the elements of a tragedy, with Haman setting up the conditions which lead to his own downfall. As a piece of literature to use as a base from which to work from, it is excellent.
Now probably because I have listened to so much comedy and drama on the radio over manu years, in writing the script for this Purimspiel, I have a whole cast of pretend voices in my head for everyone. King Xerxes for instance sounds like a deranged Richard III or perhaps like Marcus Brigstocke as King Stupid, whilst scheming Haman has a slippery sort of voice like Valentine Dyall from Dracula, and Esther sounds more like X in Anna Karenina (she also played X in Outnumbered). I am quite quite sure that if a production is put on of this, then my preconceptions will be instantly shattered like a sledgehammer passing through a pane of glass and all the little pretend voices that I've assigned in my head with instantly disappear.

I suffer from this sort of thing all the time. To illustrate this, merely writing the phrase "Good news everyone" instantly recalls the voice of Professor Farnsworth from Futurama in my mind. Give me an epic classic with a cast of hundreds of characters and in my mind, I will have crafted distinct and different voices for all of them. I don't know if other people also do this but I wonder if that's one of the reasons that when a movie is made of a book, people are frequently disappointed. Almost always, the book will be better than the film and I suspect that is because that on some level, the silver screen can never hope to match the richness of vision that our mind's eye has imagined into existence. I will confess though that the obvious exception for me was Tolkien's "The Lord Of The Rings" trilogy because I find Tolkien's writing so incredibly tedious that even bashing my head with the book is a better experience than reading it; so of course the movie would be better than the book in such circumstances.

Probably because Dickens's work as a court attendant had brought him into the world of so many different characters, he could bring a small distillation of them to life in his prose. Tolstoy was also able to do likewise because in the cold Russian winters when everyone was kept indoors, it allowed people's minds to engage with the written word far more easily. As a hack writer who blasts forward in 1300 word bursts of noise and confusion, I don't have that sort of fluidity to be able to make those sorts of characters appear on stage in the theatres of people's minds; nor can I make them dance like macabre marionettes and so I'm perfectly aware of my place. That would be the pinnacle of writing though.

I did find though that in vomiting hundreds of words of dialogue at a time though, that as I was writing, the characters would almost want to interject and be as annoying as possible. On the first draft, King Xerxes assumed a more regal kind of role who was unaware of his own power but this just seemed too lifeless to me. By the third draft, I'd turned him into a a self-aware fool in my mind and this made things far easier as well. By also imagining how I wanted this to be staged, with only three microphones and a hidden area, I was also able to play with the issues that might arise with having a very large cast. Also, by imagining the whole thing as a radio play, I could also play with the way that characters interacted with each other and in the process have dramatically slashed the necessary budget needed to put on such a thing.

I think that when writing a script especially, you need to have a degree of imagination for the voices that you want to give your characters. People is the real world have their own tone, metre, pitch and vocabulary; so I don't see why a set of made up characters shouldn't also have likewise. The first reader of any document is the person engaged in writing it and in my case, if the voice doesn't sound believable, then I doubt if a consequent reader or listener will find it believable either.
Even when I'm writing a blog post such as this, I usually do so in silence or with some slow music playing (like the Windows chimes at 8000 times slower) because my brain simply can not process my own internal monologue and another voice at the same time. I think that it would be impossible for me to write something whilst listening to a podcast for that reason.

I don't know if what I've said is true for any other writer. I might very well be the only one in the world who makes up internal voices for all the characters that I either read or write and if I am, I think that I must be one of the luckiest people in the world because everything is like a stage play for me. All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players- so dance for me, my pretties!

September 25, 2015

Horse 1991 - New Zealand Goes To The Polls To Select The WRONG Flag.
Here are the four flag designs that eligible voters will rank in the first binding postal referendum this year, between 20 November and 11 December.
From the 10,292 alternative designs suggested to the Panel, four have been selected to be ranked by New Zealand in the first binding referendum this year.
- The four alternatives, The NZ Government Te Kawanatanga o Aotearoa

These are the four flags (with the possible addition of one more) which are to be put to the people of New Zealand in a referendum to change the national flag. Now I'm not saying that of themselves they aren't lovely but I am suggesting that due to meddling on high, they are all the wrong flag which should be submitted. I would have thought that to everyone in the world who has more than half a dozen working brain cells that the only option which should be put in the referendum is this:

Look, the way I see it, the New Zealand flag committee had one job and that was to faff about for a while and then submit a black flag with a silver fern on it. That was it. Guard New Zealand's triple star from the from the shafts of strife and war, whatever. Story. End of. Referendum. Done.

The whole point of having a national flag originally was to mark your ships, armies and territory so that it could easily been seen at a distance. Flags began life as identifiers so that an army didn't accidentally kill their comrades. All of that changed quite some time ago and camouflage on the modern battlefield basically ensures that no one has any idea who anyone else is. This means that the only use of flags in a modern context is either for diplomatic ends, or reasons of national pride or propaganda. Politicians love to conduct interviews whilst standing in front of as many flags as they possibly can and a national flag can indicate that some diplomat is staying somewhere.
This means that the only common use of flags is one of national pride and this usually happens, not on the battlefield but the sporting field. To this end, New Zealand which as a little nation who sensibly doesn't fight in many wars that aren't its concern, punches well above its weight. If it wasn't for the rugby, cricket and netball teams and maybe the odd appearance in the Olympics and in other endeavours like motor racing, New Zealand would be happily hidden under its long white cloud, going to the dairy and buying a packet of pineapple lumps, and the rest of the world would be totally oblivious to its existence. Because these four flags don't really scream 'New Zealand!' as loudly as the black flag with the silver fern, although they might display all the qualities of good flag design, they are less than useless.

Had that gone to a referendum it would have been game over. Instead, the NZRU have claimed copyright on it and have made a right pig's breakfast of the whole thing. What the NZRU should have done is stand aside and admit that the silver fern on black transcends rugby and just admitted that even they are too small to control the fate and destiny of a nation but no, they had to go and ruin it all for everyone. Thank you New Zealand Rugby, I'm about to confer the worst insult that I can possibly think of upon you - you behaved like a pack of Australians.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key also showed that he has the spine of a jellyfish when he said that he was happier that the black flag wasn't chosen because it resembled ISIS. Guess what, John Key? The terrorists have won. Yes ISIS is, as our now deposed PM Tony Abbott said with alarming frequency, a 'death cult' but they will pass.
New Zealand as an independent dominion has been around for 108 years and the existing flag has been around longer than even Australia's. ISIS will probably not be around beyond the end of the decade because of internal squabbles and splintering. The All Blacks have been part of the story of the land of the long white cloud since 1905 their New Zealandiness has shaped the character of the nation, no matter how much they complain about their right to copyright now. As PM, the Key Government could have told the NZRU to stand aside and told ISIS that New Zealand is not afraid but instead, we've just been given whimpering on a grand scale.

These other four flags are okay I suppose but are they the best possible flag for the nation? No. They are as I suspect, flags chosen by a committee because they have in mind, the purpose of losing the referendum. Now I'm not usually one for conspiracy theories by given the level of acrimony, bile, acid and gall which was thrown about in the Canadian Parliament before they finally settled on the correct flag for Canada, I wonder if when faced with the problem that the flag committee wasn't allowed to pick the correct and proper flag for New Zealand, whether or not they haven't just decided to throw all the toys out of the pram and chuck a tantrum. If any of the four designs proposed actually gets up against the current national flag, then I don't see another flag referendum coming up for a very long time; if they happen to win, then the new New Zealand flag will be the subject of well deserved derision forever.

The only proper and sensible choice for the New Zealand flag is the Silver Fern on a black background and that's it.

Unless New Zealand decides to go with another flag which is so utterly and delightfully bonkers that it broke the space-time continuum, just like this link - http://a/%%30%30
Deranged cat raking its garden
Designed by: Jeong Hyuk Fidan from Canterbury

Who doesn't love a cat that rakes its own garden?


September 24, 2015

Horse 1990 - Reforming The Senate Voting System

I think that the number of different voices that we have in the Senate, that is the upper house of the Australian Parliament, even if they are completely bonkers is one of the best features of the Senate. One of the problems with the method of elections in the Senate is that  because we have proportional representation and group ticket voting, candidates from micro parties are elected because of deals made behind closed doors; which the electorate is almost entirely oblivious to. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with micro parties but something is wrong with a system that allows candidates with only 0.2% of the popular vote to be elected to the house on the hill.

In voting for the Senate, we use a single transferrable voting system with proportional representation. A candidate needs a certain quota of the votes before they are elected; which I think in theory should make sense but in practice is something of a logistical nightmare. The problem is that when you have a ballot paper which is usually more than a metre long, which voters are trying to fill in with a stubby little pencil, in a cardboard voting booth which is only 60cm wide, and then you expect then to number a great deal more than a hundred boxes; with labels that are so small that for some elections voters have had to be supplied with magnifying glasses, you can hardly expect the average voter who finds filling in a tax return a chore to be able to fill in a ballot paper.
From a practical standpoint, this forced the advent of ticket voting above the line in 1984 but in the thirty years that have followed, this has resulted in creative election strategists who work to carve out deals underlying that magical 1 above the line. Number every box below and you decide where every single one of your preferences goes but number one box above the line and those preferences then fall under the control of the group ticket writer.
It is in that space that strategists work to secure preference deals which has resulted in some truly bonkers candidates being elected by an unwitting electorate. This might have been initially fine in the days when there weren't that many micro parties but as time has gone on, it appears that the micro parties have got better at gaming the system; which is always going to be an inevitable outcome of any system which is put in place.
In the 2013 Senate election for instance, David Leyonhjelm who is a prime exponent of gaming deals, was probably both a member of his own Liberal Democratic Party and the Stop The Greens Party which also appeared on the Senate ballot paper in New South Wales. He was probably elected on the basis of a combination of back-door deals and the donkey vote because he appeared in the first column and the first box on a very very big ballot paper, rather than actually being popular and campaigning.

I think that the solution is as obvious as the nose on my face. If I was Grand Poobah and Lord High Everything Else, my solution would be to do away with numbering one box above the line only. Ticket voting is fine but I would have it such that all of the boxes above the line would be numbered and the preferences which flowed on as a result would only apply to the individual groups.
Suppose a voter wanted to vote for the Banana Party, the Insane Jackhammer Party, Eclipse Party, Regressive Party and Burn The Forests Party in that order; and that for the purposes of this example each of the parties were fielding seven candidates. They would then number:
1 - Banana; and the preferences would flow 1-7,
2 - Jackhammer; and the preferences would flow 8-14,
3 - Eclipse; and the preferences would flow 15-21 and so forth.
I would even allow provisions that where an voter has put down a few preferences, say from 1-11 on the ballot paper, then the preferences would still flow in order but starting from 12; with already numbered candidates not included again in the list.
This might result in fewer candidates from totally bonkers micro parties being elected but it would probably help to decrease the level in informal voting. Of course over time it would naturally result in a totally new set of behind the scenes voting game chicanery being played but at least it hands a further degree of control back to the voter.

The major parties' biggest problem with the micro parties appears to be that they hold the balance of power in the Senate. In the days of a purely two party system, complaints were hurled at the fact that on most occasions the Senate was hostile and that a party which forms government thinks that it has a mandate to rule as it sees fit.
Ever since Australia moved from a broad system of appointment of Senators by the States to the infinitely more democratic method of appointment that we have now (which was implemented in 1949), the level and noise of complaints by the major parties has only increased. In 1984 which saw the addition of extra Senators from ten to twelve per state, it meant that suddenly there was six senators being elected at a half-Senate election and the numbers play in such a way that when you get down to the actual arguments in the ballot box over that last 16% of the vote (assuming that the other 84% already resulted in the appointment of major party candidates), that the minor parties have a field day.
From the 1970s to the 1990s this 16% was almost the exclusive domain of the Democrats whose job according to leader Don Chipp at the time was to "keep the bastards honest". Their last piece of lasting influence on legislation was in the debate over the GST and it must be said that in the late 1990s that politics was generally far more conciliatory than it is now. Even Paul Keating who threw so much mud in the parliament that one would think that the national colours of Australia were three shades of brown, probably won the 'unwinnable' 1993 election because of his reasonableness with his statement that if Dr John Hewson's Liberal Party was swept to government, that Labor would respect the mandate and pass the legislation through the Senate. Now in the days where political discourse has been reduced to that of a perpetual Celtic/Rangers Old Firm derby and where the balance of power is held by the fruits and nuts, the two majors are more inclined to blame the system rather than their own toxic politics.

In Westminster democracies, Party Politics more or less began in the 1830s. By 1901 and the Federation of the Australian colonies into the Commonwealth, politics had already coagulated into distinct globs. The micro parties because they are so chaotic, are kind of a return to the sorts of politics which existed before the 1830s and this scares the majors. From a practical standpoint, when voters mostly have no idea where their preferences are flowing, this is bad for democracy.
I as always will continue to vote below the line. My preferences are valuable.

September 23, 2015

Horse 1989 - Cat Poo

In this blog post I take you from the ranty to the minutiaery (if that wasn't a word, it jolly well should be and is now).
I have two cats. Rather, I am the curator and servant of two cats. One thing that has puzzled me for a while is the question of why cats cover their poos and wees but no other animal that I can think of does. I've had a dog before and I can tell you that he would leave his piles of nuggety foulness where ever and it suited.
This covering behaviour is also not prevalent in big cats either. Lions and tigers, jaguars and ocelots also do not cover their poos and so if this is not present in other animals and isn't even present in other cats, what's so special about the domestic house cat that compels them to cover their poos and wees? After living with cats, I can tell you that they will show affection for you but to say that they are covering their poos and sees out of some sense of consideration for you, is nonsense. Cats are incredibly selfish and so the thought that they might do anything for you at all is also nonsense.

Thinking about lions and tigers, does as it turns out, give a fair clue as to the answer of this apparent cleanliness. Granted that our two cats do spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning themselves; Kipper in particular has turned it into an obsessive compulsive tic to the point where he'll even wound himself in the process of all this licking and biting, but that's not got anything to do with the answer. Lions as "king of the beasts*" feel no need to cover their poos and wees because as the very top of the food chain, they fear none and dread nought.
Lions feel as though they can poo and wee where ever and when ever they feel like because of their sense of entitlement and power. All of the other animals who cower in literal fear, of being eaten, will see a great steaming pile of lion poo and know that there is a lion somewhere. Poo and wee in the animal kingdom is the way of marking territory and claiming space; which is not that far removed from people's use of flags. If lions had developed the technology to go into space and land on the moon, then there wouldn't have been an American flag up there but one giant mound of lion poo. If Kenya suddenly announces that it has intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities, then be very very afraid because there won't be nuclear weapons being sent from Kenya but massive payloads of lion poo, as they make claims of territory.

The kingdom of domestic house cats is a little kingdom. Cats will wee on things to leave their messages around the place, which is usually "I am here" or "I would very much like to engage in cat love", but cats are relatively little animals and their desire is not to be eaten by big animals like lions or tigers. Cats cover their poos and wees not out of a sense of cleanliness, consideration or cleverness but out of a sense of self preservation.
Although that might sound idiotic, remember that domestic house cats are living in a house with creatures that tower over them; which can pick them up and which amazingly have an ability to consistently bring home meat. A person, weighs more than eleven times that of a domestic house cat and so the biggest predators around, in the eyes of the cat, are their people. There might not be any lions or tigers around but the instinct which saves little cats out in the wild, is still prevalent in urban environments. Nature was so very deadly that we decided that we'd had enough of it and moved out, cats hitchhiked with us but nobody told them that a house isn't that deadly.
When our cats do go out into the backyard, they hear the deep and very loud growls and barks of a couple of German Shepherds next door. Inside they fear people as the dominant thing and outside I assume that they must think that the dogs next door are the biggest monsters.

Cats display all the technical signs of psychopathy; which are a distinct lack of empathy, precisely zero remorse for anything and outright bold and antisocial behaviour at times. The thought that they fear me because I am a big thing, that's sensible. A small furry thing with a sense of its own ego not wanting to be near its poo, that also makes sense. Thought that they might be covering their poo because they feel some kind of cat compassion or niceness just doesn't make any sense to me.

*Autocorrect wants to change "beasts" to "beats" and I can just imagine Aslan with a set of decks scratching out some heavy house music with his claws - Jungle is massive. Tigger is more of your happy hardcore kind of cat; he likes 190bpm music.

September 22, 2015

Horse 1988 - From The East Coast Twitterati

Before the Canning by-election comments were made about the "East Coast Twitterati" being out of touch with West Australian politics and the implication was that journalists in particular were out of touch with issues which dominated the local campaign. To some degree this is schizophrenic because whilst it is true that every election is a by-election, even in a general election we still only vote for the local candidate, to some degree every by-election is a poll in the confidence that the public has in the national government.
That aside, I think that the complaint about journalism in Australia being dominated by the east coast is valid but I'll go one step further and say that it's not just the east coast cities which dominate the national political dialogue but the eastern side of the big two east coast cities.

Apart from the West-Australian, the Adelaide Advertiser and the Courier-Mail, the big newspapers in Australia are the Herald-Sun and The Age in Melbourne, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph in Sydney and whilst the Australian pegs itself as a national newspaper, its pretty well much a Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra newspaper. I didn't include the Canberra Times because let's be honest, although Canberra is the nation's capital, it really is just a big provincial centre and I think that Parramatta in Sydney's west probably contributes more to the national dialogue than Canberra does. Apart from the monkey house on the hill, Canberra is a sleepy town in which everything is permanently shut except for the cinemas which still have the sing-along version of Frozen playing on every single screen.*
I would wager a shiny shilling that of those five newspapers from Scuderia Fairfax and Team News Corp, that all of their journalists except those who have been exiled to Canberra live in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney.

Sydney which is a radial city with spokes for the arterials, is helpfully demarcated into the west and the east by either the ring of roads which Ryde Rd lies on Pennant Hills Red depending on whether you want to include places like Normanhurst or Epping. Either way, I seriously doubt whether anyone writing for the Sydney Morning Herald or the Daily Telegraph lives in Sydney's west. Even though the Daily Telegraph once proudly boasted "We're for the West" I don't think that anyone from the DT would willingly even go west of Strathfield unless they were forced to. A place like Sefton may as well be on the moon for all the journalists in Sydney know.
Likewise in Melbourne, apart from a few people who might live in the postcode of 3000, I doubt whether any journalist who writes for the Herald-Sun or The Age lives west of Sydney Rd. Docklands stadium is probably as far west as they get and the way the the trains and trams are designed, trains from the east go round the city loop and back out to the east again and so there's not even the chance of falling asleep on the train and accidentally ending up in a place like Tottenham. I bet that Spotswood according to Melbourne's journalists, should be ejected to the moon. In fact in secret documents** that Horse has obtained under the 30 year rule, the rocket tests at the Woomera site in the 1950's and 60's were about launching Spotswood and landing the whole suburb on the Sea of Tranquility. The reasoning was that according to the journalists and the politicians, that the people of Spotswood would be too thick to notice until their Centrelink payments stopped.

Even in the heyday of newspapers, journalism had barriers to entry which ensured that people from the western suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney did not get through. In those days if you couldn't read you became a tradesperson, if you could read you became and engineer and if you actually went to university then you were of no use to anyone in the west; so you moved.
Especially over the last 15 years when journalism has been reduced to the lowest possible denominator (no Huffington Post, the reason that I refused to write for you is that "exposure" doesn't pay the electric bills or the rent), journalism has started to eat itself and so the number of positions for columnists has fallen through the floor. Unless you do have a name like Johnathan Holmes, Annabel Crabb, Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt or Peter Hartcher, neither Scuderia Fairfax or Team News Corp is likely to hire you. The ABC might, provided you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao or Margaret Thatcher as the corporation lurches from left to right whilst being yelled at by Team News Corp.

I was reminded of the view that the country has of the east coast Twitterati again over the weekend when I was sent some lovely abuse on Twitter. Australia unlike the United States doesn't really have the two echo chambers where the two side of politics self-affirm that they are right and the opposition is the enemy; instead we have #AusPol where both sides constantly yell at each other from the safety of lounge chairs. #AusPol is like two mad uncles roaring at each other in the attic and occasionally the odd axe gets thrown around. #AusPol apart from being the fastest political news source in the country, is also a 24-hour flame war - flame wars are great. They keep you warm at night.
Anyway apart from being labelled something distinctly Saxon in nature, I was accused of being part of the east coast Twitterati set: that mythical group of people sitting around in cafés sipping lattes and/or European beers with umlauts and lightning bolts in the letters of their name.
The truth is that I live so far in the western suburbs that I can literally see the Blue Mountains from the local railway station. Even 20 years ago, the members on the electoral roll out here would have included a few hundred cows (having won the franchise in the Bovine Electoral Act 1924) and a dog named Kevin (who votes National because he likes Barnaby Joyce's policy to keep out Pistol and Boo). The. Chinese restaurants out here still have faux 1970s wood panelling on the walls and spaghetti still mostly comes in cans.
No one who writes for either the Daily Telegraph or the Sydney Morning Herald would likely be able to find my suburb within five miles except for maybe Mark Latham who is as mad as a cut snake and probably still thinks that Paul Keating is still Prime Minister.

I suspect through that if one of the duumvirate of newspaper groups were to offer me a packet of money to write for them, I probably would accept it and maybe even move east. I don't think I'd move very far east though, maybe as far as Harris Park; good luck if the east coast Twitterati can find that on a map. If you can, there's a shiny shilling in it for you.

*This fact is made up. It might be entirely possible by now that the cinemas in Canberra now have Minions on a perpetual loop.
**So secret that these were also made up and don't actually exist.

September 21, 2015

Horse 1987 - F1: Vettel Paints The Town Red (Round 6)

Before the race even began, rumours began floating around that the bitter divorce of Red Bull and Renault was finally coming to fruition. In Monza, after Mercedes had spent all of their "development tokens" and came out with their B spec car for 2015, the Red Bulls looked even more inadequate and down on power than before.
Red Bull announced that they and Toro Rosso were going to but Ferrari customer engines in 2016 and 2017 and that the Volkswagen-Audi Group had preliminary contracts in place to buy the team. If this were to happen, they would keep the Red Bull sponsorship but as yet the name of the team has not been announced. If this does come to pass, then I rather hope to see the name Auto Union revived. Renault in the meantime have tabled plans to buy Lotus outright again.
The other rumours which are out there include the new Haas F1 team putting out feelers to procure the services of Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez when they arrive in 2016. Haas intends also to be a customer of Ferrari engines but I haven't as yet found any solid announcements which confirm this.

The nature of the concrete lined street circuit in Singapore is such that it tends not to produce interesting races. The very longest straights are still quite short and the braking areas at the end of them tend not to be large enough to allow drivers to dive under each other. The grand prix at Singapore tends to be processional and this year's race was no exception.

Owing to the fact that the straights are so short, the Singapore circuit tends not to be a power circuit and so the driveability of the chassis come into play. In qualifying, Hamilton and Rosberg found themselves behind both sets of Ferraris and Red Bulls with Vettel, Riccardo, Raikkonen and Kvyat all ahead of them.
McLaren appeared to have found something new from their cars with Alonso and Button appearing in Q2 for the first time this season and qualifying in 12th and 15th respectively.

Apart from one of the Toro Rossos bogging down at the start, the order remained as was until the first round of pitstops when on lap 10 Grosjean came in, then Alonso, Sainz, Nasr, Maldonado on lap 11, Hulkenburg on lap 12 and Kvyat and Massa on lap 13.
When Massa exited the pits on lap 13, the almost unsighted Hulkenburg who thought that he had enough space to easily turn in on Massa at turn 3, found that he didn't and was hit in the rear left by Massa who had nowhere to go. Hulkenburg was sent backwards into the wall and later given a three position penalty at Suzuka (which for the purposes of this blog is a non-championship round because it will not be shown live on free-to-air television in Australia) and Massa would eventually retire on lap 31 with differential issue resulting from the collision.

Felipe driving by. 
Felipe driving by.
Felipe driving by until he's hit by a Force India.
- Nico Hulkenburg does not want to wish Felipe Massa a Merry Christmas from the bottom of his heart.

Danill Kvyat who must be the unluckiest driver of the grand prix, pitted on lap 13 before the incident occured and would suffer a similar fate later in the race, fell back to 6th when on lap 14 Vettel, Riccardo, Raikkonen, Hamilton and Rosberg all pitted under the safety car.
On lap 19 when the debris had been cleared it was all systems normal and Vettel began to ctrol the pace in front of Riccardo and Raikkonen; maintaining a pace which saw all three of them covered by less than 3 seconds for the next twenty laps or so.

On lap 27, Lewis Hamilton complained loudly that he had a loss of power and began a slide down the order with Rosberg, Kvyat, Bottas, Perez, Nasr, Alonso, Button, Massa, Verstappen, Grosjean, Maldonado, Eriksson, Sainz and Formula One debutant Alexander Rossi in the Marussia making his very first overtake for position all passing the ailing Hamilton. Hamilton's day finally came to a sorry end on lap 34.
Maldonado came in for a second set of tyres on lap 28; Eriksson and Sainz did likewise on lap 29 and there was a short break until Perez and Nasr both came in on lap 35.

On lap 36 the end of the race started to take shape as Perez passed Grosjean by threading the needle underneath one the grandstand complexes and Button who had stayed out enjoyed the dizzying heights of 6th place before Kvyat reasserted the position.
On lap 37, Verstappen joined the club of the unlucky when he pitted from 14th and a safety car was called after a spectator somehow made their way onto the circuit.
Vettel, Riccardo, Raikkonen, Rosberg and Bottas all changed tyres and with that, that phase of the race was over.

On lap 41 when racing was resumed, Jensen Button ran into the back of the hapless Maldonado who appeared to break the rule of trust that Formula One drivers have that once you exit a corner, you accelerate out of it. It could have been a mechanical issue on the part of Maldonado though.

Sainz out drove Nasr on lap 41 and both he and Verstappen fought past Maldonado a lap later. Four laps later Verstappen and Sainz made short work of Grosjean, with Verstappen's job being made easier when Grosjean out braked himself on lap 47 and ran out of room.
On lap 53, Button ran out of gears when his gearbox decided to become a box of yuks and refused to work any longer.

Nasr and Eriksson both found their way past Maldonado who dropped to 13th on lap 56 and Nasr made his way past Grosjean on lap 60.
On the final lap of the race, Grosjean pulled the car into the pits with a problem and did not finish and Toro Rosso asked 17 year old Max Verstappen to stand aside and let Sainz through for 8th.  In a display of teenage petulance, Verstappen emphatically refused to with a very loud "No!" across the radio. One wonders what, if any action, Toro Rosso will take.

Apart from Hamilton who did not finish and Kvyat who lost two spots, the top positions remained unchanged for all 61 laps. Vettel won pole position, led every lap and won the race and would have ended up with perfection except that Riccardo stole away the fastest lap.

Vettel's performance was stellar and one wonders if the tide has turned albeit too late, or whether this is just a blip in Mercedes silver steamroller. The heat from following behind cars isn't something which the Mercedes have been tested in much this year; maybe they are a little bit fragile. Rosberg's performance in fourth would tend to deny this though.

Race Results:
1. Vettel - Ferrari
2. Riccardo - Red Bull
3. Raikkonen - Ferrari
4. Rosberg - Mercedes
5. Bottas - Williams-Mercedes
6. Kyvat - Red Bull

"The John Logie Baird Television Was Better in 1984 Memorial Cup" at the end of Round 6 in Singapore looks like this:

37 Hamilton
37 Rosberg
24 Vettel
8 Massa
11 Riccardo
11 Raikkonen
7 Kyvat
7 Bottas
4 Grosjean
2 Perez
2 Nasr
1 Hulkenburg

The Constructor's Championship is thus:

74 Mercedes
35 Ferrari
17 Red Bull
15 Williams
4 Lotus
3 Force India
2 Sauber

September 19, 2015

Horse 1986 - Between Corporations and Socialism

With the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leader of the British Labour Party and his decidedly leftist leanings, cries shot up from all over the land about collectivism and socialism, either there being too much or not enough, with calls for Corbyn and the Labour Party to renationalise industries to fears that Corbyn intends to renationalise industries.

One of the most strident articles which I saw come out against socialism was this piece in the Independent. One line in particular, I found particularly amusing:
Personally I couldn’t disagree more with Corbyn’s economic policies. I am an unrepentant free market fundamentalist with an unapologetic contempt for socialism in all its varieties. 
- Kristian Niemietz, The Independent, 18th Sep 2015.¹

Let's take this on face value and say that Dr Niemietz means exactly as he says; that he has "an unapologetic contempt for socialism in all its varieties". Presumably he opposes all public roads, hospitals, schools, the police, the fire service, the judiciary, public broadcasting, the defence forces, he hates national parks and would prefer that democracy is dismantled and return to a system akin to that before the franchise was extended to normal people and that the government should be run by those who have the most money.²
That's what an unrepentant free market fundamentalist should be in favour of and anything less than an all out plutocracy he has an unapologetic contempt for.

There is a problem though. So called free market fundamentalist have one very big blind spot that they will not admit to. Socialists advocate a collective means of ownership or control over production and economic management. When you think about the free market though, the biggest players in the market place are not individuals but corporations. A corporation by definition is a collective means of ownership or control over production and economic management of something. Even the word corporation is derived the Latin word "corpus", which means a "body". It's exactly the same root where we derive the word "corpse" from, which is also a body albeit a dead one.

The first company to issue stock was the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) or the United East Indian Company (founded 1602) which is usually referred to in English as the Dutch East India Company to distinguish it from the British Empire's own East India Company (founded 1600).
I should point out that following the great wave of bubbles which saw the passing of the British Bubble Act 1720 and which remained in force until 1825, basically saw the end of the first generation of companies and it was until the Joint Stock Companies Act 1844 that the idea the modern corporation arrived.

In context, it was mainly the rise of the railways (particularly in the United States) and the invention of easily produced steel which launched the Industrial Revolution proper and saw business massively outgrow the abilities of a single individual to raise sufficient capital which investments in machinery required.
Truth be told that corporations which now extend beyond national borders, often think themselves beyond the confines of law, even though they may sometimes generate massive negative externalities such as pollution and disregard for labour conditions, they are generally efficient because if they are not, they find themselves suffering a spontaneous massive existence failure.

Adam Smith in his 1776 work "The Wealth of Nations" had something quite scathing to say about companies and corporations and which looks like it could have been written during the height of the Global Finanical Crisis of 2008. One immediately thinks of the recklessness of investment bankers who suddenly cried to the public purse when their plans all exploded in their face and the rank hypocrisy when bailed out, gave bonuses to their own kith:

The directors of such companies, however, being the managers rather of other people's money than of their own, it cannot well be expected that they should watch over it with the same anxious vigilance with which the partners in a private co-partnery frequently watch over their own. Like the stewards of a rich man, they are apt to consider attention to small matters as not for their master's honour, and very easily give themselves a dispensation from having it. Negligence and profusion, therefore, must always prevail, more or less, in the management of the affairs of such a company.
- Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776

One one hand Dr Niemietz has a contempt for socialism in all its varieties, when socialism is a collectivist means of ownership. One the other hand Dr Niemietz as an unrepentant free market fundamentalist probably also approves of corporations, when the corporation itself is also a collectivist means of ownership.

It's interesting to look at the descriptions applied to corporations throughout the world. They tell a rather pointed story.

In Australia we have two descriptions:
- Pty Ltd - Proprietary Limited
- Ltd - Limited
Proprietary is one of those delightfully archaic word which means "ownership". In this case, the proprietorship and the liability that someone can be held to, is limited to just the shares that a person owns. Note that Proprietary is different to propriety, which is moral rightness; even though they both stem from the same French root from which we get the word "property". Proprietary Limited companies and indeed Limited companies often fail to show any propriety in their business.

In the UK the terms almost seem to be exactly backwards to that of Australia with:
- Ltd - Limited
- plc - Public Limited Company
A Limited company is Australia is one that people in the general public can buy shares in but in the UK, they may not and so the distinction has to be made.

Canada is a little bit more discrete:
- Pte Ltd - Private Limited
- Ltd - Limited
A Private Limited company implies that the shares are not for sale to the general public. This might also imply a shadowy refusal to show responsibility to the general public as well.

In Germany the labels are typically German in that they are functional and straightforward:
- GmbH: Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung - Company with limited Liability
- AG: Aktiengesellschaft - Shares Company

The names that France applies to corporations definitively makes them sound shadowy and secretive:
- S.A.: Société Anonyme - Anonymous Society

In Italy the names for corporations gives them a sort of semi-superhero sort of feel to them:
- S.p.A.: Società per Azioni, - Company for Actions

If you look over those words such as "private", "anonymous" and "limited" in connection with proprietary, I wonder if this has shaped the mentality that corporations often adopt.

The original Clause Four of the Labour Party's constitution read:
To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.
Those words of common, popular, equitable, seem to me to be generally good things for society. I also like the idea that things like roads, hospitals, schools, the police, the fire service, the judiciary, public broadcasting, the defence forces, national parks, electric, water, gas, railways etc are owned by the general public.

I will concede that socialism is nominally less efficient than free markets with the allocation of goods and services in some areas but in other areas it is demonstrably better. One only needs to look at the costs of health care in the US as compared to Britain to notice that, or to look at the price of a railway ticket in Britain as compared to France to notice that same thing.

It was Margaret Thatcher who famously said that "The trouble with Socialism is: sooner or later, you run out of other people's money". The sentiment here is that people in charge of others' money do not exercise as much care with other people's money as they do their own. The thing is though, that private, anonymous corporations tend to act in ways which are not equitable; they also act by being in charge of other people's money.
Socialism which is collectivist, implies that most elusive of terms, a Commonwealth.

²Actually I'm pretty sure that this is the case, given that Dr Niemietz is a member of the Institute of Economic Affairs, which is a free market think tank like our own IPA.

September 18, 2015

Horse 1985 - On My Thalassophobia And Aquaphobia

Even though I live on the wrong side of the world, one of the things I like to do before I close my eyes is listen to the 0048 Shipping Forecast from BBC Radio 4 (see Horse 1898; also the Shipping Forecast on the BBC website). This is despite the fact that I really really really hate the sea.
That "big blue wobbly thing that mermaids live in" and which covers about 71% of the earth's surface, is a nice place that's out there somewhere; so long as it stays there. As far as I'm concerned, the sea is a horrible place, which is full of bitey things and stingy things and the sea itself is trying to kill you by drowning you.
The sea as far as I'm concerned, can take a flying leap and jump in itself. "Get in the sea!" I say to the sea. The sea isn't a lone culprit though. The sea would be fine it if were made out of rocks. I think that I would quite like to go to the Sea Of Tranquility and drive around in (on?) it for a bit. No. The reason that I hate the sea is because the sea is made out of water and water drowns people; specifically me.

In my slightly more than three and a half decades upon this planet, I have travelled in aircraft which are no safer than a packet of chewing gum with wings, fractured bones, had surgery on tendons, been punched in the face, been involved in motor accidents, struck by lightning, been in hostile countries that have questioned my passport and have been ill enough that I thought my skin was creeping. I have worked for government agencies, banks, a furniture factory, an abattoir, the courts, the military, the police as well as private enterprise. I would be perfectly happy to jump out of a working plane and I have stood in places that the public is not normally allowed to go, including on top of the sails at the Sydney Opera House. My tolerance for pain is above average; my ability to cope with stress is also I think, above average.
Yet the two things which I can not do, is bear the sight of blood and I can not swim.

One of the benefits about working at Australia's Wonderland (which was a defunct theme park in Sydney's west which has long since been replaced with an industrial estate) was that after I'd spent hours walking around as Yogi Bear or Huckleberry Hound, I could go on all the rides I wanted to for free. Big roller coasters such as the Bush Beast or the Demon were fine, as were the rides which were designed to make you spray your lunch all over the inside of them, like the flip over upside down pirate ship ride or the whirl 'til you hurl Tasmanian Devil or Funnel Web. I could not stand to go on many of the water rides though, for fear of drowning.

One fateful day in December, which is traditionally the month in which people in Australia start hurling themselves into the sea at every opportunity because the temperatures rise into the mid 500s and everything and everyone slowly melts into oblivion, I decided to take a ride on a ride called "The Mountain Cascades"; which was basically a quarter mile of water slide with giant inner tubes in.
The ride lasted about 40 seconds and whilst gravity drew me down the cascades as a passenger, I was happy enough but as soon as I reached the end, I was unceremoniously dumped into a pool of water. Of course most people queue up to see pictures of themselves being flung into the air before they hit the water, but because I couldn't swim and still can't to this day, I did my best impression of a six foot rolled up carpet being dumped into a river. I might remember someone yelling at me but I don't know if that was because they were yelling at me to get out of the water so that the next rider wouldn't hit me, or because they were yelling at me on the side of the pool because they were waiting for me to regain consciousness.
In short, I hate water park rides, I hate public pools, I have a severe dislike of people's pools in their backyard, I hate creeks, rivers and the ocean. Don't expect me to have a nice time at the beach either. An appropriately safe distance for me to be from the water's edge is about three miles and in the Rose, Crown & Thistle with a copy of the newspaper and depending on the time of day, with either a long black coffee or a tall black stout.

Despite various attempts in both primary and high school by well meaning teachers, I could not be taught how to swim. Personally I think that this is because I was scientifically bred over fifty generations to live in a land of eternal rain and exquisite complaining but through historical accident, I've ended up in a land which has been hidden in the summer for a million years.
I could have died on the fields of Culloden, been gassed on the Western Front, or I would have even accepted to be instantly vapourised by an atomic bomb, over spending a week at the beach. The very thought, I find irksome.

I completely understand the type of terror that people being waterboarded must feel. Having almost drowned on the odd occasion myself, I think I kind of have an inkling of what that must be like. Of course, now that you know this and you happen to be from a terrorist organisation who is intent on extracting information from me, please know in advance that I am a total wuss and if being waterboarded, I would confess to everything that everyone in the world has ever done. I'd instantly rat everyone out, I'd divulge every official secret that I knew but they would be useless because you'd have no way of knowing what the truth was because I'd be rambling like a total madman.

FDR said in his Inaugural address upon becoming President of the United States in 1933 that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance" and whilst that's mostly true, there are lots of rational and irrational things to be afraid of. In my case, it just happens to be the fear of drowning and I think that although it is quite a lot neurotic, I don't mind. In 99.9% of my life, it's a non-event.

My dislike of blood though. That's not so much a fear but a violent psychosomatic reaction. Seeing blood just makes my colon want to twist itself into pieces and my stomach want to empty its contents on the floor in a hurry.

September 17, 2015

Horse 1984 - 1984

I am well aware that I could have written blog posts that relate to the calendar year number for quite some time. Horse 1914 for instance could have been about the series of stupid event which led to the outbreak of World War One but instead I asked "Who Was The Loneliest Person In History?" and decided that it was one of seven people in the Apollo Program. Horse 1978 could have been a narcissistic look at myself because I was born but I looked at the upcoming Canning By-Election.

I could not however let the opportunity to make Horse 1984 about 1984, the book not the year. The connection is pretty tantalising though and Apple Computer made use of that in their launch of the very first Macintosh (in 1984).*
The book "1984" or "Nineteen Eighty-Four" (I've seen it rendered as both) was published by George Orwell in 1949 and has given rise to a whole bunch of terms and concepts as they relate to a totalitarian surveillance state, such as thoughtcrime, Newspeak, the memory hole and doublethink, and even the unseen (and possibly non-existent) Big Brother who watches all and who lent his name to a television show and Room 101 which itself took its name from a meeting room at BBC Broadcasting House where endless meetings took place, and which Orwell though were metaphorical torture.
This post is not about the book, for whilst I think it is a fun book to read, I have my doubts about how well it is written and I don't think that it's as good as Orwell's other work like "Keep the Aspidistra Flying" (1936) or "The Road to Wigan Pier" (1937). What this post is about is the importance of what this book did for me.

If you were to ask me what the most important books that I have ever read are, I'll tell you that they were probably the first 8 chapters in Paul's letter to the Romans and the last 26 chapters in the Book of Isaiah. The bible aside, it would then have to be various editions of "Pears' Cyclopaedia" - A Compendium of curious and useful information about things that everyone ought to know, "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury (1953), "The Road to Serfdom" by Friedrich Hayek (1944), "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (the trilogy of four) by Douglas Adams (1979-1984), and of course "1984".
What "1984" did for me, was open up the works of Orwell and in particular "Why I Write" (1946) and "Politics and the English Language" (1946); both of which I have in Penguin books and they sit next to "Common Sense" by Thomas Paine (1776), "On Liberty" by John Stuart Mill (1859), "Occupy" by Noam Chomsky (2012), and "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" by Charles Mackay (1841).
In both "Why I Write" and "Politics and the English Language", Orwell speaks about the need for clear and precise language, or to be more attentive to how language is being used in ways to limit people's capacity for critical thinking.

As far as Orwell's poltics goes, many who would have only read "1984" with its blunt stick approach against totalitarianism would have made the assumption that he was an anti-communist, but that would have completely ignored something like "The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius" (1941).
I imagine that had Orwell lived long enough to see something like Britain's NHS fully take shape, then he would have been well pleased but he would have been aghast to see the dismantling of the welfare state and the privatisation of everything in the 1980s. "1984" which in all likelihood was a combinatorial jumble of the year that the book was conceived, 1948, was a look into a possible world which very much did resemble the USSR but was just beyond sensible human imagination. Interestingly (and I know this because I am a maths nerd), because 1984-1948 = 36 and 36 is a multiple of 9, then if you add 36 to 2015 you should get 2051 because of the same transposition rules which follow as a result of  multiples of 9. I don't even need to do the arithmetic to tell you that 2015 + 36 = 2051. I just know it is.

I first read 1984 in Year 8, which for most students is in that formative period when children start to shut down. A sparky 10 year old can suddenly become a grumpy and cranky 13 year old and then one day out of the blue from about 15, they start talking again. Perhaps behavioural psychologists and people who stand around writing on whiteboards all day long have a more scientific explanation but I don't. I just know that whilst reading "The Road to Serfdom" by Hayek, I decided that he was a total pratt and that his arguments were utterly stupid. 1984 as a dystopian and anti-totalitarian or anti-authoritarian novel, didn't convince me of very much but it was a jumping point which propelled me to his other work and towards the leftist side of politics.

Four years later "1984" would become my strange sort of hero in the final exams in English. After being totally disillusioned by English in Year 10, I took 2 Unit General English on the basis that I wanted to be rid of that foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. Looking back, I wish that I'd done 3 Unit Related English because at least then I wouldn't have had to put up with the dross of novels that were foisted upon us. 3U got to read Shakespeare - I didn't.
Looking at the final exam paper, the questions all said, "with reference to the texts you have read" and included a list of prescribed texts; upon which was 1984 and I knew that book backwards. The books which I hadn't really read, which included "Looking for Alibrandi" by Melina Marchetta (1992) and "Maestro" by Peter Goldsworthy (1989), were so unknown to me that by the time I walked into the exam room, they may as well have been published in cuneiform by the Sumerians and with many of the tablets smashed upon the ground. Winston Smith's subversive scribble upon a clean white pad with a greasy grey crayon proved to be one of the most useful weapons I had that day.
High School English nearly stole away from me the joy of a good novel, it wasn't until I left that institution and started filling bookshelves with rows of orange and black by Penguin, that I got it back.

"1984" as a novel of fiction did less for me than what it did as a signpost. This is a different road, why not take it? I still think that Huxley's dystopia in "Brave New World" (1932) is more true to life than Orwell's in 1984 because it is easier to catch flies in a honey pot than it is to swat them with a newspaper.
"1984" isn't therefore doubleplusgood but it's still plusgood. I have make good bellyfeel for having read it.


September 16, 2015

Horse 1983 - Australia's Prime Ministers - Nos 23 & 24 - Bob Hawke and Paul Keating

XXIII - Robert "Bob" Hawke

Bob Hawke joined the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) as a research officer and after a spell in wage arbitration cases, he became ACTU President in 1969. Just over a decade later, he entered politics and achieved a 7% swing in the already safe Labor seat of Wills in Melbourne's north west in 1980.

Hawke was conincidentally and comically elected as Labor leader on the day of the announcement and issuing of the writs for the 1983 General Election. Thus he became Opposition Leader but never sat in the chamber in that role and in the election on 5th March 1983, the party led by Hawke won by the biggest single swing that a Labor government has ever achieved.

Australia in 1983 entered an economic slump and by the end of the year, the Hawke Government under Treasurer Paul Keating, decided to float the Australian Dollar on international money markets. Previous to this, the Australian Dollar had been pegged against the British Pound Sterling, then the US Dollar and finally a trade weighted basket of various currencies.

As Hawke was previously the President of the ACTU, he found negotiations with unions easier than a Liberal government would have done and between 1983 and 1991, seven Prices and Incomes "Accords" were brokered in an effort to formally index wages and prices; thus reducing the twin evils of unemployment and inflation, as well as hopefully reducing the number of industrial disputes and more importantly, the number of strikes. For the most part it seemed to have worked.
Towards the end of the Fraser Government in 1983, unemployment sharply rose to 10.4% but this was slowly beaten down to about 6.0% by 1989.

In addittion to the Accords, the Hawke Government also initiated superannuation pension schemes for all workers, rather than just civil servants. Although real wages fell during the tenure of the Hawke government, due to other things like the Family Assistance Scheme and improvements in leave and maternity allowances, household incomes mostly rose in real terms where both parents were working.
In addition to all of this, the Hawke Government also set about with the deregulation of the labor market and deregulated the financial sector. In 1985, the Hawke government oversaw the implementation of the dividend imputation system as well as the introduction of Capital Gains Tax.

There was also some window dressing going on as well with Advance Australia Fair finally being announced as the official national anthem in 1984, after the Fraser government had taken the question to a national plebiscite in 1977.

In 1984, the Medicare system was returned to the original Medibank model which Whitlam had proposed in 1972 but which Fraser had tinkered with; thus Australia acquired its current system of universal health insurance.
In 1986 the first Landcare scheme was initiated in Victoria, speifically to deal with eradicating feral rabbits but the scheme was so successful that it was extended to deal with other land degradation issues including soil erosion, salinity as well as weed removal and biological controls to remove pests.

Hawke's tenure as Prime Minister became increasingly tenuous and when Keating finally resigned as Treasurer in June 1991, a leadership challenge came shortly after. On the other side of the chamber, Opposition Leader Dr John Hewson released a policy called 'Fightback!'which included a 15% GST as well as other taxation reform and Hawke appeared to dither in the face of the policy. Hawke would finally be deposed in a Labour Caucus meeting in December 1990, after having led the Labour party to election victories in 1983, 1984, 1987 and 1990.

XXIV - Paul Keating

Keating who had been Treasurer since 1983 was a verteran of the party and an accomplished political fighter when he took the Premiership in 1990.
Keating started with the same sort of flurry and energy which is common in a lot of new Prime Ministers and his government passed changes to the Sex Discrimination Act, and following the establishment of native title rights for Australia's indigenous peoples following the High Court decision in Mabo vs Queensland (No.2) in 1992, he established the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC).
In the middle of the early 1990's recession and as described as "the recession that Australia had to have", Keating went to the supposedly unwinnable election in 1993 and actually gained two seats in the parliament; winning 80-65.
Keating introduced legislation which would eventually lead to the 1999 Referendum on the Republic (which failed) and was active in the setting up of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC.
Keating's Government also continued along the path of privatisation which Hawke had been on before and the Commonwealth Bank was fully privatised in three stages from 1991 until July 1996 and Qantas was privatised in March 1993.

Keating's Government was always on the road to failure though and following defeats at the 1995 Canberra by-election and an unfavourable result at a Queensland state parliament by-election, the momentum had waned before it even started for the 1996 General Election.
Labor suffered the loss of 29 seats and with it, the second-worst defeat of a sitting government in Australian history.

Perhaps the most famous speech made by Paul Keating as Prime Minister was the so-called Redfern Park Speech in December 1992. In that speech, Keating was the first Prime Minister to acknowledge that European settlement had brought trouble and continued to bring trouble to Australia's first peoples:
"We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practiced discrimination and exclusion. It was our ignorance and our prejudice."

September 15, 2015

Horse 1982 - The Change In Prime Minister That No One Saw Coming

The number of people in the media who predicted that Malcolm Turnbull would be Prime Minister today, is nil*. Precisely no-one saw that coming. If they did, they either said nothing or weren't believed because they certainly did not go to press or produce anything for television or radio. People might crow about how they predicted it months ago but the truth is that on Monday 14th of September, no media outlet in the country published anything and here on Tuesday 15th, we have a new Prime Minister.

It is still too early to say what sort of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will be. We can guess that he will be far .ore measured in his approach, probably less engaged with the media and more concerned with the actual governance of the nation than Tony Abbott was. Tony Abbott is a head-kicker and is an excellent politician and those qualities are perfect for the Leader of the Opposition but they do not translate into good governance and are not the best qualities for a Prime Minister to possess. The Prime Minister, be they a leader by autocratic means or more of a first among equals, not only needs to hold their party together but they need to set a path of policy which moves the country along in at least some direction. I just don't know if Abbott as Prime Minister has prosecuted that case well enough. One does not rule a nation on the basis of three word slogans: they are strap lines for adverts; not policy.

Just yesterday morning, I had made mention to my boss that I thought that talk of a cabinet shuffle as predicted by Fairfax and the Sydney Morning Herald was bunk and would amount to nought. News Corp and their Daily Telegraph and Rupert's doyenne The Australian, were both far more circumspect in their assessment but even they thought that if there was a cabinet shuffle, that Abbott would retain his premiership and maybe Scott Morrison as an outside runner would become Treasurer. That was that. Speaking for myself, I thought that all of this was like throwing a bucket of cordial into the ocean and thinking that the people in New Zealand might put their cups in the sea and drink a nice raspberry drink - not very likely at all. I thought that we might even run to the very end of the allowable term of this government with the cabinet completely unchanged on the run up until 14th of January 2017. That is still a distinct possibility for the date of the next Federal election but I think that trying to predict anything at this stage is foolish.

Already on the radio, I've heard commentators who like to shout a lot, ask the question of why nobody saw this coming. Surprisingly, I suspect that this has more to do with the physical structure of Parliament House than anything else.
We tend to have this myopic view that Parliament House is just two chambers where groups of howler monkeys yell and shriek at each other and fling poo at each other, hoping to make some of it stick. Step away from the two pits though and you'll find a fun house of corridors and doors; where there aren't any funny windows but the image is still distorted anyway. Most of the doors in the subterranean maze are closed. The most prized offices to have are those which sit on the corners of corridors and have views down them into infinity. From those positions, the political parties like to install their whips and spies, not only to report on the comings and goings of the enemy but of the factions within. The press is not even remotely allowed down in those regions and so their access is nil.
In the Old Parliament House things were different. It was originally intended to be a library and even by the mid 1950s when there were just over 100 MPs, the place was cramped. Still, even on that most famous of days in Australian political history, the 11th of November 1975, the press still didn't predict the events of that day. The press offices in that building were cramped and everyone in the whole building was virtually in each other's hair but in the new building, that's impossible. The current Parliament House is so vast, that Malcolm Turnbull could have had meetings in the coffee shop which is open to the public near the front entrance to the building and people generally and the press specifically, still would have suspected nothing.

The question that now faces the nation is what sort of policy direction is a Turnbull Government likely to head in? I think that the immediate effect will be less shrill attacks on the ABC and SBS, perhaps a kinder set of foreign policies and probably a more measured approach to welfare and taxation. Whatever happens, I know that we're more likely to get a slower pace of politics and one where the reasons for why things are, should and need to happen, are explained more fully.
I think that if Malcolm Turnbull had won that Liberal Party vote in 2009, then the chaos which ripped through the Labor Party would have punished by the electorate and we would have not ended up with the hung parliament. Had that happened, the Liberal Party might have won by ten seats and I think that as at today, Malcolm Turnbull would have held the premiership for six years instead of less than one day. Rudd, Gillard and Abbott would have probably still fought battles but I think that the net result as at today would have been identical.

Maybe this is a reboot of the Liberal Party, maybe this is just an unfortunate place to be before the electorate changes its mind at the next election but I think that today, the grown ups might actually be in charge and even though at 7:49am at the time of writing this and before anyone has even stepped through the door to work, I think that the country is already better off and that almost nobody saw it coming.

*Obviously those in the party saw it coming and that includes Malcolm Turnbull but they aren't in the media.

September 14, 2015

Horse 1981 - Neon: The New One, The Cool One, The Good One

I would really like to find out what happened to my high school chemisrty book. Pasted into the back cover was an A4 periodic table of the elements which included such wonders as Davidtron (The Chihuahua Shaped Particle - see Horse 1810) and Electroluxium which was element 0 (element 0 being no electrons and therefore a vacuum).
To the far right on the periodic table is the Noble Elements and of course I'd ruled across to Ununoctium (which I think should be called Juggernon - see Horse 1684) which is element 118 and which I suspect is big enough to be the first noble metal; even though I have no idea how metallic bonding is supposed to work when you have something in a perfectly self contained monatomic state.
The "coolest" of the noble elements though, is in my ill-thought out opinion, Neon. Not the "strange one" of Krypton, not the "lazy" one of Argon but the "new" one of Neon.

Neon was first isolated and pinned down when two chemists, Sir William Ramsay and Morris Travers, chilled air, distilled it and revealed it by its distinctive crimson-orange hue in a discharge tube.
Frenchman Georges Claude's company, Air Liquide, started making and bending discharge tubes and then selling them as advertising signs and it is this purpose which makes neon famous... or did.

I fear that as printing onto plastic has become more viable and LCD and Plasma screens have started to become ubiquitous, that the need for neon signs has started to wane. When I think of what used to be the most famous uses of neon signs as advertising, in places like Picadilly Circus, Times Square and even the giant Citroën sign on the Eiffel Tower, I feel a little sad knowing that all of these are now gone. In June this year, the Coca-Cola sign which had stood over the intersection of above William Street and Darlinghurst Road in Kings Cross for more than 40 years promoting its invitation to Diabetes City, was dismantled. The Coca-Cola have said that its getting a "modern makeover" and it will be replaced with LED lighting but really that's like replacing the sugar in Coca-Cola with Bonox. It just won't be the same.

Yes, once the glass tubing of a neon sign has been damaged, then the whole sign doesn't work. It does mean that there's a degree of fragility and preciousness about them but I think that that's part of the appeal. To make a neon sign, needs someone who is skilled at bending the glass and if a mistake is made, then it's not easily corrected. The upside is that once a neon sign has been made, it can last up to 80 years; which is often longer than the life of the business who made it.

This is why I love neon so much. As a small kid who was carted about the place in the back seat of the car, I would stare up in wonder at the coloured lights as they went by. The most common lights were the sodium street lamps; every one of which sent out its light at 580nm wavelengths in flavicomous jaundice, staining the world in sickly off yellow. Neon lights though, they were things of beauty.
The signs of pharmacists, restaurants, mechanics, kebab houses and perhaps most famous of all in Sydney, the Sharpies Golf sign which stood near the aptly named Central Electric station, have all passed into obscurity and antiquity. The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.
Even the AWA Building has had its neon signs removed by its new owners, the Jupiter's Casino Group. That's just awful.

I did find this little piece of joy in Marayong though:

Officially this place is called Marayong Court Chinese Restaurant but to everyone in the known and unknown universe, this place is Candy's.
If you want excellent Chinese cooking in the heart of New South Wales, you better come to Marayong Court Chinese Restaurant. 
- Marayong Court Chinese Restaurant (Candy's)

Hear that - you better come!
Seriously, their Hot & Sour Soup is second to one (in Central in Hong Kong) and their Fillet Steak Canton Style is excellent. A song of how good a place is is how crowded it is and at the weekend its often difficult to get in the door. Once you find a good thing, do not let go.
I digress.

This is a piece of new neon sign work out in the suburbs. Neon may have been replaced by cheaper and more versatile technology but their replacements aren't icons and the changeability means that when the screen changes to something else and it is gone, and its place remembers it not.
Cheaper and more versatile does not equal better and it does not live long in the memory.

Neon, element number ten, is not the "strange one" or the "lazy one" but the "new one" and neon signs even in the past, look like a future that is still yet to be. Neon is the coolest of the noble gases, the most hard working and it's far more than just noble, it's downright imperial. The Neon Kingdom though is  drawing to a close and that's sad.