July 29, 2016

Horse 2141 - Ten Things I Like: No.4 - I Like The Dark

In the middle of winter, I leave the house under cover of darkness. The temperature is always coldest just before the sun rises in the morning and I find that the tips of my fingers begin to burn with the beginning of frostbite. In the evening, I also leave work under the cover of darkness and even though Mrs Rollo spends her time worrying about me, I rather like the darkness. Not because I want to exact some sort of nefarious scheme but because I think that it looks pretty.
A little over a century and a half ago, the best that we could do in lighting up the world was either gas lamps or perhaps chemical filaments. With the exception of the red glows which came from coal powered factories, most of the world was pretty dark at nighttime. When Edison or Swann came along and brought light into the world via the new electric illumination, the world didn't quite instantly change but in the land of today, which was yesterday's tomorrow, our nights are brighter than any century before.

If you're flying over Sydney in a 747 in the daytime, apart from the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, the rest of Sydney may as well be just a cut and paste in Photoshop, three hundred times over; I think that it is a mostly boring sight. At nighttime though, it changes from three hundred suburbs to several ribbons of light. The unrelenting stare of 580nm wavelength light, gives the ribbons a mostly yellow stain but occasionally you can see snakes of red and white, slink their way around as they are watched over by red and green eyes.
On the weekends, little pools of green will spontaneously appear from the darkness and if you were close enough, you'd hear them roaring as crowds inside, make various noises depending on the rise and fall a sportsball game. Meanwhile, the empty towers of industry, where numbers are pushed between them during the day, stand balefully in grey blue, as they wait for their masters to return on Monday and start pushing numbers around again anew.

I like that when you are driving at nighttime, although the world is a little more dangerous, because the cloak of darkness reduces everyone to being just a pair of red lights in front and white lights behind, it very much equalises people's attitude to each other. During the day, I've been subject to some horrendously menacing driving, especially by people in big hulking four-wheel drives because I drive a wee little hatchback and the assumed perception is that I'm holding them up, despite doing ten clicks over the limit. At nighttime though, and likely due to bias because I love long distance driving, the whole experience turns into a far more orderly and polite affair.
Speaking of being in a car at night, as a kid I thought it kind of cool that even if you were going at full tilt down the motorway, you couldn't out run the moon. The yellow street lamps and various other pieces of road furniture like signs, would whizz underneath as the moon continued on its unstoppable journey. I can still picture in my mind's eye to this day what the shape of the rear passenger windows were in the back of my parents' car looked like.

I also especially love the contrast that you get between the darkness and a place that is all lit up. Perhaps this is why McDonald's does so well. Yes, the golden arches are an iconic symbol but the fact that you would been travelling along in the dark and that golden M shines out from a backdrop of black, surely has to add to the whole visual aesthetic of it all.
This also works equally well for petrol stations whose coloured signs beckon people from afar and their lights flood the forecourt as though they were some bizarre stage upon which the most boring play in the world is being performed. Caltex, BP, Shell, Mobil, 7-Eleven and stretching back into the vaults of my youth, the big yellow merino of Golden Fleece petrol stations, are some of the strongest brands in my mind.
I also love that when you are onboard a train and streaking across suburbia or perhaps the vast inky nothing of the country at night, that when you do arrive at a railway station, it is like entering a cathedral. Very big mainline terminals probably specifically designed their booking halls to echo these places for precisely that reason.

If you decide that you've had enough of the maelstrom of humanity that we've built for ourselves in the cities, provided you get out far enough, the night sky itself with the moon, the planets and their moons and the uncountable myriad of stars, leaves you with the sensation that we really do live on a small thing suspended upon nothing. The Apollo 8 astronaut Jim Lovell remarked that he could cover everything with just his thumb and when Voyager 1 took its photograph looking back at the neighborhood that it had spent 13 years travelling through, Carl Sagan famously remarked that there we were, all of humanity, the entire of our history was all there suspended on a sunbeam on a "pale blue dot".

Even though the darkness provides a cover for all sorts of nefarious and dastardly purposes to be carried out, I still like the darkness. It is the darkness which gives you the calmness and serenity from which you can appreciate the moonlight and the stars. It is inside darkened rooms that we project moving pictures onto the silver screen, where we tell stories. It is the darkness that makes neon lights, light boxes and floodlights so pretty.
I like the darkness because it is the canvas upon which we paint with light.

July 28, 2016

Horse 2140 - Ten Things I Like: No.3 - I Like Spice And Heat

Racially speaking, I am a Celt. I have some degree of Dutch lineage but the fact remains that if we were to drill back into history two thousand years, my unknown ancestors would have probably been the sort of people who the Romans thought were a complete waste of space and time. Because of this, I have been scientifically bred to live at the bottom of a peat bog, on a diet of Moss and twigs, and stand out in the rain for months at a go.
The Celts, Picts, Scots, Welsh, who all shared the sceptered isle which is less than forty miles from Europe, never really had a cuisine to speak of. Even as late as the 1980s, British cooking was derided as dull. If you wanted to cook like the English, all you needed to do was to boil whatever it was until it had turned to mush.
In consequence, the long genetic chain of history has meant that everyone in my immediate family, has a tolerance for heat and spice of virtually nil. In contrast, I have a ridiculous pain threshold and even if you gave me something to eat which was hotter than the surface of the sun, I'd still complain that it wasn't hot enough. I am not truly happy unless the backs of my eyeballs are on fire and I'm doubled over in writhing pain. I like spice. Turn the dial up to eleven.

Mrs Mac's has a pie called the Chilli Beef And Cheese; I think that it has an adequate amount of cheese but nothing near enough chilli. There is an Indian restaurant in Neutral Bay which has on their menu next to the entry for Vindaloo Lamb: "Caution: Hot!". I feel as though neither the exclamation point, the word "Hot" or even the word "Caution" need to be there. It is lovely but if you are going to advertise something as "Hot", then I expect to be bleeding out of my ears. Not even Tabasco Sauce bothers me particularly all that much. In fact, I keep a bottle of the stuff in my desk at work because if I want a snack, then I need to turn up the volume on a Bombay Bad Boy Pot Noodle.
I would love to get my hands on a Naga Chilli. I heard Kerry O'Keefe on the radio being given one, during a cricket broadcast, and has he gagged and demanded yoghurt, I thought " I want in on that ".

I can fully understand why after successive waves of invasions, British people decided that they'd had enough of living in peat bogs; in perpetual rain. The Roman Empire was founded on a system of organisation and discipline; the Spanish Empire was established on a desire to find untold riches of silver and gold; the British Empire set its boundaries wider still and wider, not because there was some guiding principle but in the search for spices.
This is why the moon was always going to be American and not British. What's the point of landing twelve clowns on the moon and sticking a flag in it, thus stealing countries through the cunning use of flags, if after you've installed parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, if there's no hot and spicy food to bring home? If Donald Trump had any brains, he wouldn't be building a wall to keep the Mexicans out, rather, he'd embark on a policy of the full scale invasion of Mexico so that he could annexe the place and claim all the Antojitos he could find.

Give me futomaki with nothing but rice and wasabi in. Better yet, give me one of those ehomaki with the okra, horseradish sauce and ginger, drizzled in chilli oil. I want to be able to breath out and see flames darting out of my nostrils like Gojira.
A kebab isn't a proper kebab unless you need to sign a medical waiver before you purchase it. I want Texas Chilli Rice so hot that it violates the Eighth Amendment clause not to impose "cruel and unusual punishment". And after the whole thing has burned through my intestines like molten metal through a stick of butter, I want it to be so angry on the way out that even Union Carbide takes a step back and thinks that their disaster at Bhopal was less of an environmental health hazard.

While I might think that a box of Cadbury Roses is a perfectly delightful gift, what I'm secretly hoping for is a Tiger Chilli Beef Pie with mushy peas, mash and chilli sauce from Harry's Café de Wheels.

July 26, 2016

Horse 2139 - Ten Things I Like: No.2 - I Like Psalm 38

I almost feel like some kind of monster by writing this but my favourite Psalm isn't something sweepingly happy like Psalm 8 or as praiseful as Psalm 46. No, my favourite Psalm is one which I can pretty much guarantee will not be read at the beginning of a church service as a call to worship and nor will it be read as a closing thought before the congregation goes out through the doors and into the week ahead. My favourite Psalm is one of the saddest and quite frankly brutally honest Psalms of all - Psalm 38.

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
    or discipline me in your wrath.
Your arrows have pierced me,
    and your hand has come down on me.
Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
    there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
My guilt has overwhelmed me
    like a burden too heavy to bear.
- Psalm 38:1-4

I very much doubt that Psalm 38 has inspired many hymns to be written. I also doubt whether a major publishing house would even dare to publish a song based upon Psalm 38. Could such a thing even considered to be a song of praise? I'm not sure about that.
If Psalm 38 isn't a Psalm of praise, then it obviously serves a very different function and therein lies the reason why I think it's my favourite of all.

I work in an accountant's office and part of our specialty is to provide forensic valuations for the courts. This dovetailed nicely with my previous job when I was working inside the courts as a bookkeeper and court recorder. What this has meant is that I've seen lots of people who are literally at their worst and this is doubly compounded by the influence of money upon their actions.
You might think that this would leave me jaded about the human condition but I don't know if it's technically possible to be jaded in an opinion if your initial starting point was pretty low to begin with.
When people take each other to court, they have long passed beyond the point where they have suffered or perhaps have caused wrong or injury. Naturally this means that people as emotional beings, are likely to be spitting seven kinds of bile and acid and the atmosphere around such people is generally a weird sort of fug. This isn't the fault of the courts though. The law in such instances can only provide opinions post event. The court's job is to provide remedies and punishment for actions which have already caused wrong and injury.

Enter Psalm 38. This Psalm speaks about the author's own feelings after he has caused wrong and injury but more importantly it speak towards the underlying cause of why.
One question which is often put forward to people of faith, especially after something disastrous has happened, is "Why do bad things happen to good people?". I don't particularly think it a divine perspective, considering that the evidence very much all points in one direction, that there are no good people to begin with. The question is therefore wrong and should read "Why do good things happen to bad people?"
Ah but you might say. What makes me the arbiter of who are good and bad people? Doesn't this make me sit in a point of arrogance from atop a tower made of smoke? One puff of wind and I'll easily admit that I'm not objectively a good person either.

Remove all hint of faith and talk of the divine from this and you'll find that many people writing to the world of economics, political science and philosophy generally, have also arrived at the same conclusion.
 Adam Smith who wrote "The Wealth Of Nations" in 1776, meant that work to be read in conjunction with his previous book "The Theory Of Moral Sentiment" which was finished in 1759. His opening line, which serves as the premise of his inquiry was "However selfish mankind is supposed to be" and that's the starting point.
People like  Nikolay Chernyshevsky and Henry Sidgwick  in the nineteenth century, wrote and expanded upon the idea of rational egoism and in the twentieth century, Ayn Rand couldn't even conceal her open praise for selfishness and went on to argue that even altruism was ultimately self serving.
This standpoint was helpfully turned into a three word slogan by the 1987 film "Wall Street" when Gordon Gecko succinctly asserted that "Greed Is Good".

Don't get me wrong here, I don't think that all people are all evil all the time. Demonstrably we live in a world which is reasonably well organised and so to some degree, there must be people who work and do things for others. However, I do think that one of the consequences of living within one's own body and never being able to see the world from any other perspective than our own, does create some pretty savage blinkers and they very much frame our perspective on the world. Not only do we not see the world from any other perspective than our own but due to laziness and inactivity, most people don't think about other people's perspectives. Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity and clumsiness.

What then is Psalm 38? Psalm 38 speaks from the point of someone who knows that they have screwed up. The description of lying on a bed of tears and physical pain as a result of the realisation that one is indeed faulty and guilty as charged is, I think, proof that they have genuinely reached the point of contrition. The first half of the Psalm is basically a lament that I have done this, this is my fault, my actions have consequences and that the suffering that I am currently undergoing is indeed just. I don't know exactly what the thing that the author has done is but the consequences even extend to his friends and family steering clear of him and leaving him alone.
The end of the Psalm is not without hope though. Those last two lines say:
Lord, do not forsake me;
do not be far from me, my God.
Come quickly to help me,
my Lord and my Savior.
This indicates that even when someone is at their absolute worst, they can still look upwards. The entreaty for God as Lord and Saviour to come to one's aid, is a position of hope; even from something that looks like hopelessness but not after they've taken responsibility:

This brings me to ask the question of what the point of the Psalm actually are. If you were to do a scan of the Top 40 songs in the charts in any given week, I'd hazard a guess that at least 35 of them would be about some sort of relationship and going out and having a good time. This isn't exactly unique to just the music industry; most movies have some sort of love story or romantic entanglement in them somewhere and the Psalms after all are an historical record of the lyrics of some songs written in reference to the relationship between someone and their creator.

Given what I know about human nature, that everyone is demonstrably selfish and invariably clumsy (if not outrightly callous), then it makes perfect sense that at least one Psalm should express the contrition and sadness which someone who has caused hurt, will feel. It's not that much of a leap to imagine that I am the one who causes that hurt and that I should rightly feel bad about it.
Psalm 38 is my favourite Psalm because someone has taken responsibility for their actions and is demonstrative that I should too.

July 22, 2016

Horse 2138 - The RNC State Roll Call

I have been watching this presidential election race more closely than in previous years because this year more than any other, is like watching a terrible B-Grade movie, where you know that it ends in a horrible train wreck but you don't know who walks away from it.

This week, the Republican National Convention has been held in Cleveland, Ohio. I must admit that when America does something, it does it on a scale which makes other nations look like they are just scrabbling around in the dirt. This event, which was held in a venue which had only just been converted after holding the NBA finals, was vast.

One of the items on the program was the roll call of the  states and the formal allocation of delegates votes which have come about because of four months of primaries and caucuses. To me, this was like watching the vote count of the Eurovision Song Contest but with a different sort of kitsch and gaudiness. Apart from the formal declaration of where the state's votes went, most states used this to pitch themselves and do a spot of bragging. Some of the territories used it to air grievances, some states took themselves and the convention way too seriously and still others sent it up; like the farce that it is.

The following then, is a list of what we have learned from the roll call of the states; from the serious to the frivolous:

Alabama - The home of the Saturn V rocket.
Alaska - The largest state in the union; more coastline than the continental United States, the last frontier.
American Samoa - The southernmost expanse of US soil; the greatest per capita exporter of NFL players.
Arizona - The hottest state in the country "for job growth".
Arkansas - Land of opportunity and birthplace of Johnny Cash and Al Green. Open for business. The reddest state in the land. Number 1 in rice production and catfish.
California - We have good jobs and opportunities.
Colorado - The frontier state where the planes where the planes meet the mountains and the home of the World Champion Denver Broncos.
Connecticut - The land where we manufacture Pez, nuclear submarines and the home of the WWE.
Delaware - The first state to ratify the Constitution.
District of Columbia - Instrumental in creating the Republican Party in 1856. The district which was delineated by George Washington. Capital of the country.
Florida - Home to Disneyworld, the Daytona 500 and the Florida Keys. We have no state income tax. 600 miles of beaches. The state that gave Lebron James his first two championships.
Georgia - The peach state and the state with the most peaches.
Guam - The tip of the spear of American might. Home of B-52s, B1s, B2s, fast attack nuclear submarines that are keeping the potential enemies of America at bay. The place where America's day begins.
Hawaii - (didn't say anything about themselves)
Idaho - Famous potatoes. The most republican state in the nation. When they say the pledge of allegiance, they say it to the "Republicans" for which it stands.
Illinois(didn't say anything about themselves)
Indiana - Has a $2bn surplus. More people working than ever before in the state's history.
Iowa - Go Hawks! The longest serving Governor in American history.
Kansas - Home of the greatest fans of the World Champions, the Kansas City Royals. Proud home of the iconic Bob Dole.
Kentucky - The bluegrass state. The home of Churchill Downs; the source of bluegrass music. The state where the largest Toyota plant in the world is located and the place where they make the Ford F-150 and the Chevy Corvette. The state that produces all the bourbon fit to drink in the world.
Louisiana - The Sportman's Paradise headquarted in Terrebonne Parish.
Maine - Home of rugged coastlines, pristine forests; beautiful lakes. The state that led the Republican revival in the northeast.
Maryland - America in miniature. Home of the oldest state capitol in continuous use; where George Washington resided as commander in chief of the continental army. Birthplace of the national anthem.
Massachusetts - (didn't say anything about themselves)
Michigan - The great lakes state. The birthplace of the Republican Party³.
Minnesota - Home of 10,000 lakes; home of Spam and home of the late; great Prince.
Mississippi - The birthplace of America's music.
Missouri - Kansas I love you but Missouri is the home to the World Series Champions Kansas City Royals. Missouri, home of eleven time World Champions, St Louis Cardinals. Missouri, the birthplace of talk radio and AM 1120 KMOX "the voice of St Louis". Missouri, the birthplace of ragtime music.
Montana - (didn't say anything about themselves)
Nebraska - The good life with great opportunity. The home of Silicon Prairie News. The University of Nebraska Corn huskers. The Number 1 beef producing state in the Union. A place where people find happiness from honest work and where their word is their bond.
Nevada - Where blue lives matter. We are battle born, brought in by first Republican president in 1864. From the great shores of Lake Tahoe, to the most entertaining capital city, Las Vegas¹, Nevada, this time what's said in Las Vegas will not stay in Las Vegas.
New Hampshire - The live free or die state. A state with no sales or income tax.
New Jersey - The garden state. The greatest state in the Union.
New Mexico - The land of enchantment.
New York - The empire state.
North Carolina - The land of the long leaf pine. The land where the summer sun doth shine. Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great. Home of the largest military installations in the world. With the majestic Appalachian Mountains in the west and the beautiful crystal coast in the east.
North Dakota - The home of the current and five consecutive year national FCS football champions, the North Dakota State University Bisons. The home of the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks. The only state in the United States to actually grow younger.
Northern Marianas - The weather is 85° all year round.
Ohio - Cleveland, the city of champions.
Oklahoma - The heartland of America and the reddest state in the Union.
Oregon - The land of unrivalled natural beauty, snowy mountain peaks, majestic river valleys, serene high deserts, the great American pinot noir, Tillamook Cheese and hazelnuts and the reigning Major League Soccer Champions, the Portland Timbers. Home of Tracktown USA and the place where Nike made ducks and beavers cool.
Pennsylvania - The keystone state, the home of the Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh Penguins.
Puerto Rico - Voted to become the 51st state of the Union.
Rhode Island - (They like sailor's hats) Roger Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island in 1631, based on principles of complete religious toleration, separation of church and state and political democracy; values that the United States would after be founded upon. The ocean state. It's absolutely beautiful back home.
South Carolina - The Palmetto State, the home of "Amazing Grace", the true peach state and the birthplace of barbecue and America's vacation destination, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
South Dakota - Home of Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore and other great faces and great places.
Tennessee - The volunteer state, the state with no income tax, a budget surplus and a balanced budget², in the top five in jobs growth and number one in auto production.
Texas - (They like cowboy hats) The 12th largest economy on the planet.
US Virgin Islands - Where the people are second-class citizens and denied voting rights. The childhood home of Alexander Hamilton and basketball player Tim Duncan. Where no passport is required to visit the islands.
Utah - The state that has its priorities straight: God, family and country.
Vermont - Don't expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong.
Virginia - The mother of presidents and the capital of freedom. Where liberty sprouted from the roots of gemstone, where patriots' dreams came true.
Washington - (They like trees for hats) The evergreen state. A beautiful state of volcanoes, the mighty Columbia River, vast wheat fields and often the national Christmas Tree. Also the proud home of the Boeing Aircraft Company, builders of the greatest aircraft in the world. Named after the first president, George Washington.
West Virginia - (They like coal miner's hats) The home of the greatest golfer in the history of golf, Sam Snead. The home of the greatest football player in the history of the NFL, Sam Huff. A thundering herd.
Wisconsin - The birthplace of the Republican Party³. The home of the thirteen time champion Green Bay Packers. The home of the greatest motorcycles in the world, Harley-Davidson.
Wyoming - Home of rugged individualism, the majestic Tetons and frontier days. The world's biggest producer of low sulphur coal, an energy titan; a super red state. A $1.6bn surplus, a balanced budget², no individual and no corporate income tax. Support of state's rights, the Second Amendment and law enforcement officers across the nation.

Come November, I suspect that many Americans will feel as though they are in some sort of damage control, where they are given a choice of two equally unpleasant options. Would they rather taste something hideously sour or something hideously bitter? Whatever they choose, the four year buffet which will be served by 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, will leave a terrible taste in people's mouths.

For the moment though, it's time to eat candy in three stripes of red, white and blue. Just remember that you can't keep on eating candy forever. It might be minty fresh now but come November, something is going to get all rotten and stinky.

¹The capital of Nevada is actually Carson City but I guess geography isn't exactly that state's strong suit.
²Which is impossible because by definition a budget in surplus isn't balanced. 
³Both Michigan and Wisconsin claim to be the birthplace of the Republican Party. Depending on which side of the story you believe, either side could be right.

July 21, 2016

Horse 2137 - Ten Things I Like: No.1 - I Like Trains


With the exception of The Producers by Mel Brooks, there has never been a more happy and delightful piece of culture about the Nazis than Rogers and Hammerstein's The Sound Of Music. The song My Favourite Things, takes place during a storm in which some of the smaller children of the Von Trapp family are scared. Sure it's a lovely song but clearly Rogers and or Hammerstein, which ever was responsible for penning the lyrics, was only concerned about the meter of the music because no sane individual would eat "schnitzel and noodles" together - it's dangerous, don't do it, stay safe.

As someone who has the musical ability of a distressed sheep who is stuck waist deep in a muddy bog and who bleats horribly, I thought I'd run through my own list of Ten Favourite Things. Admittedly, this sounds suspiciously like an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show but unlike Ms Winfrey, I'm not going to give away cakes, computer tablets or motor cars.

No.1 - I Like Trains

Even as a small child, going on a car ride was fun, going on a bus ride was amusing and going on a plane ride was one of those exceptionally rare things which almost never happened; going on a train ride, even if it was only a short distance, was, is and I suspect always will be, its own kind of specialness. In the grand argument of  planes, trains and automobiles, trains wins every single time.

It all begins at the beginning (a very good place to start) when you arrive at the railway station. If not last century then certainly the one before, railway stations either became the sign that a place had achieved notability or the railway station itself would spawn a place. Before the widespread ownership of the motor car, railways were the only way that the masses travelled anywhere.
It didn't matter if the railway station in question was some towering cathedral or if it was just some raised platform in the middle of nowhere with a signpost on, railway stations are a place of permanency in a world and many people's lives; both of which are subject to change. Especially for larger railway stations which apart from the town hall might be the only building in town with a clock tower, they are the keepers and clergy to god of industry and their bells cry out a call to the cruel doctrine of time watching. Unlike a church, even though railway stations might be a vast shared public space, they don't really foster any sense of community. A cathedral or church building is a place where people come together, a railway station is a place which is solely devoted to going away from.

It is this sense of going that I like. Going on, on and ever on; pausing momentarily before once again going on, on and ever on. Unlike being in a car which almost always seems like some sort of competition in which you have to defend your own space, or an aeroplane in which the world slowly turns underneath you and in the case of international travel across oceans is just a peek into an inky void, travelling on a train allows the scenery to parade in front of you. Even the daily motion of forth and back, as though you were a saw blade moving across a piece of wood in the same groove, presents the world as a moving picture which is bordered by the edge of the window like a picture frame.
As a commuter, because you do pass by the same scenery every single day, you begin to notice even small changes. There are obvious things like upgrades to railway stations in Sydney at the moment but little things like the change of billboards becomes noticeable. I've even noticed when graffiti tags have been painted over - like when "Soup" disappeared and "Fazz" appeared all the way from Stanmore to Redfern.
As the world goes by the window, there is a real sense of travelling without moving. On a commuter train where you don't see the drivers, it's easy to forget that they're there at all. On a train which is travelling far greater distances, you can settle in for the journey in exactly the same way that you can't when travelling on an aeroplane. I've only been on a train with a private berth once and that was like having your own office for the evening; right down to the frosted glass light fixtures.

I also like that strange sense that a train is a shared space but one in which people more or less cease to be. I've probably seen three distinct changes in technology in my lifetime, when everybody all read the newspaper, to when everybody had walkmans, to now when everybody has smart phones and tablets. There is an active effort by practically everybody on board to mentally escape the space that they find themselves in and if they can't do that, then to fall asleep and try to physically do so as well.
This all sounds incredibly antisocial but I think that something different is going on. The term antisocial usually implies an impolite intrusion into the space of other people but on a train, there is an almost universal retreat to avoid other people's space. The weird thing about having a place full of people who are all either listening to their devices, or trying to sleep is that it means that although a train carriage might have as many as one hundred and twenty people on board, it will still be quieter than a room with two six year old children in it. This means that a train can be a place to work, to think, to write and to sleep.
Of course, overnight sleeper carriages with private berths are specifically designed so that the travellers can go to sleep but they come with a different sort of sociability. They come with the same sort of politeness that you get in a hostel, where people form acquaintances for a short period of time and might not see each other ever again.

I can't finish this ramble without mentioning the train itself. The days of steam locomotives had already passed long into antiquity before I was born and so I'm going to discount them entirely but I still think that there's an aesthetic beauty about railway trains.
The London Underground was the first to realise that tying the corporate design language together made for something which was greater than the sum of its components and it took deliberate steps to make things look like they were part of the Underground. Beck's map which shows all of the lines and stations as a schematic diagram has been copied the world over and I think that it qualifies as a piece of art in its own right. Sydney Trains has suffered due to changes in corporate design language as governments come and go but the silver trains that we have in Sydney, still evoke a feeling of modernity, in contrast to some stations which are fifty, sixty and ninety years old. I even feel a tinge of sadness that the Northern Line on the Sydney Trains map has been forcibly changed to red because internal management has thrown it's lot in with the Western Line.
I like the fact that Museum and St James stations have been restored to dignity and I like that roundels have been out put back in Town Hall station. I like the stark futurism of stations like Quakers Hill which in no way whatsoever attempts to blend in with the local surroundings. I like the details on the bottom of awnings at places like Strathfield and Summer Hill and I like the desperate calm of MacDonaldtown, as virtually every train whizzes by at speeds of triple digits.

In a list of ten favourite things, trains were always going to be on it. I suspect that of the hundreds of thousands of people who take a commuter train to work and home every day in this city, that I must be one of an exceptionally rare breed who actually likes the journey because I like trains.

July 15, 2016

Horse 2136 - 79 Pointless Facts On Clickbaity Fact Friday. You Won't Believe No.18

1. A note which excuses a student from classes, lectures and exams is called an ægrotat.
2. The concept of the Singer Sewing Machine, the name for the band The Beatles and the wish that one's four little children would live in a nation where they would be judged by the content of their character, were all reportedly the subject of dreams.
3. John Glenn famously saw thousands of little stars when he went into space. They later turned out to be particles of urine which had been vented from his spacecraft.
4. The two chemicals which primarily cause bad breath are appropriately called Putrizeine and Cadaverine.
5. Caprification is the artificial pollination of cultivated figs by wasps.
6. The Aston Martins which finished 1-2 in the 1959 Le Mans 24 Hour Race were both only finished on the Wednesday morning before the race. Their shakedown was the drive from Birmingham, across England and then across France.
7. The British Dyslexia Research Centre is rather amusingly and ironically based in the city of Reading.
8. The most frequently landed on square in the game of Monopoly is Jail.
9. The Mazda motor company is named after a Zoroastrian god.
10. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is shaped like an upside down catenary. A catenary has all points in tension and upside down, it means that all points are in compression; which is perfect for maintaining the strength of a bridge.
11. Unlike the United States where just about every second advertisement on telly seems to be a drug advert, Direct To Consumer advertising of drugs in Australia is illegal. It is also illegal to advertise drugs directly to consumers in the EU.
12. The device which is used to light Russian space rockets is made of wood and is basically the equivalent of giant matches.
13. The tradition in Hawaii is that ladies wear a flower above their left ear to indicate that they are married or otherwise not available. This means that the lady in the Hawaiian Airlines logo, is probably married.
14. There was a separatist movement in Western Australia to create a new territory called Auralia after the discovery of gold. Women were given the right to vote in the hope that they would dilute the votes of the people of what would be Auralia and Western Australia joined with the rest of the nation in federal as a result.
15. Pandas are not bears but raccoons. This was established only after the genome for the panda was mapped. Also, there are species of nematodes which live in panda poo which if you get infected with, there is no known cure. Don't touch panda poo.
16. Roald Dahl was a poganaphobe: he hated beards. He thought that they were a source of germs and that people who had them, wore them as a mask to hide behind. Mr Twit is kind of based on his hatred of beards.
17. Alice Roosevelt Longworth, who was Teddy Roosevelt's daughter from his first marriage before his first wife died, was once arrested for smoking a cigar on the roof of the White House.
18. Bacon is lovely.
19. Some of the mortar used in the construction of the Great Wall Of China was made from sticky rice and limes.
20. Abraham Lincoln was playing baseball at the time that he found out that he was the Republican nominee for President.
21. There were only seven American pilots in the Battle Of Britain.
22. The Great Fire of London in 1666 started in a bakery and the last house that was still alight was in a street called Pudding Lane.
23. The diarist Samuel Pepys buried documents, wine and cheese in a hole in the ground to prevent them from being lost in the Great Fire of London.
24. Harry S Truman's middle initial didn't stand for anything. It was just S.
25. Homer Simpson, Rocky The Flying Squirrel and Donald Trump all share the middle initial of J.
26. Michael J Fox's middle name is Andrew.
27. In order to obtain a restricted firearms licence in Canada, you need to declare the names of all employment, housemates and mental health issues, that you have had in the last two years.
28. Grease, No and Bird have all been the word.
29. Thomas Midgley, the man who came up with both the idea of putting Lead Napthalate into petrol and Chlorofluorocarbons into refrigerators, and who was probably the single most destructive organism to have ever walked the planet, died in his own invention of pulleys and ropes which he had built after developing paralysis.
30. The same people who popularised the Teddy Bear which was given to the President Teddy Roosevelt, tried unsuccessfully to market a toy which they gave to President William McKinley called the Billy Possum.
31. The word "lettuce" is derived from the Latin word for milk.
32. No answer was ever officially given to the riddle of why a raven is like a writing desk.
33. The campaign to elect Dwight D Eisenhower as Republican presidential nominee happened despite him not actually wanting to run for office. He was a write-in candidate in those states that held primaries; which meant that he was effectively drafted into the Oval Office.
34. The M181 motorway is the only spur motorway of another spur motorway in the UK.
35. The name Parramatta is an aboriginal word which means "the place where the eels lie down"; Parramatta Stadium is also a place where the Eels lie down.
36. Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, was allergic to carrots and kept a bucket in the sound booth so that he could spit them out when recording the vocal track for Warner Bros cartoons.
37. St Gertrude is the patron saint of cats and therefore by extension, the internet.
38. There is more computing power in even a dumb phone than the entire Apollo space program.
39. Because the kilogram is still defined by the amount of physical stuff in one special object, it is officially the only standard measure in the metric system which is not properly defined.
40. San Marino is the oldest country in the world. It was founded in 301 and has never been part of Italy; nor its precedents.
41. There has not been a mustachioed Prime Minister of Australia since Billy Hughes.
42. The Aztec king Montezuma, whose name coined the unfortunate eponymous Montezuma's Revenge which is a humorous nickname for diahorrea, had a nephew whose name was Cuitlahac which means "piles of excrement".
43. The current Olympic champion in the sport of cricket is the United States.
44. In the world of Star Trek the French language has gone extinct. In the French language version of Star Trek, it is the German language which has gone extinct.
45. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Antarctica is -93°C.
46. On the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package, there is a graffiti of the Union Jack. As this flag is always in perpetual shadow, it is the coolest flag in the universe because in the lunar night, temperatures fall to -153°C.
47. The last non-government resident of Downing St was a Mr Chicken.
48. Larry and Freya The Cats became the first residents of Number Ten Downing St who didn't have to move out because the Prime Minister changed.
49. The licence plates on the Volkswagen Beetle on the Beatles' album cover of Abbey Road and the Rolls Royce in the swimming pool on the album cover of Oasis' Be Here Now, are the same.
50. The winning margin between Australia and England in the very first cricket test match in 1877 and the Centenary Test in 1977, was 45 runs, in both
51. I can tell you how to get, how to get to Sesame Street but you will end up in the suburbs on Long Island and not in Brooklyn, the Bronx or Harlem as the television show of the same name would have you believe.
52. The bones in what is amusingly called the "Snuff Box" in your hands, are the only two bones in the human body which are completely surrounded by blood.
53. In the one episode of A Pup Named Scooby Doo, when it actually turned out to be Red Herring, they still didn't believe Fred.
54. Frogs and Toads, Rabbits and Hares, Moths and Butterflies, are all interchangeable terms.
55. The first case of grand theft auto happened in 1885 when Karl Benz' wife stole the very first motor car and took it on a joyride. As a result, improvements were made in the braking and steering systems.
56. Penicillin, the telephone and most car crashes were all discovered by accident.
57. There are four million serves of Nissin's Cup Noodle always waiting in a warehouse in anticipation of a national emergency in Japan.
58. The particular species of brown bear on the Californian state flag is extinct.
59. All of Uranus's moons have been named after characters in Shakespeare plays.
60. The country which drinks more Coca-Cola per capita is Iceland.
61. On Apollo 10, the Command Module was named Charlie Brown and the Lunar Module was named Snoopy. As Apollo 10 was never intended to land on the moon, Snoopy was sent into orbit around the moon forever.
62. Christopher Columbus' ships, the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria, were all built as second rate ships and were never really intended for ocean voyages. Planned obsolescence was evidently alive and well in the fifteenth century.
63. Before the advent of modern English as we know it, all edible fruits in English were called apples. The tradition that Adam and Eve Ate an apple, is borne from the fact that all fruits were apples and those red crunchy things just happened to be the most conducive to painting.
64. Actually, the sun isn't a mass of incandescent gas but an incandescent miasma of plasma.
65. Nobody knows where Genghis Khan is buried.
66. Vikings never had horns on their helmets.
67. The French Air Force and subsequently the RAF adopted roundels as their logos because the Luftwaffe was using the Iron Cross. A red ring was seen to be the opposite of a black cross.
68. In 1888-89, Preston North End won the League and FA Cup Double by never losing a game in the League and never conceding a goal in the Cup.
69. John Lennon was wrong when he said "all you need is love". Clean air, water, clothes, and shelter are also fairly essential to human life.
70. With a cycleway, a footway, eight lanes of traffic and two railway tracks, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is the widest long span bridge in the world.
71. The Gladesville Bridge is the longest concrete arch bridge in the world. Also, there are no fire services up there; so if you break down and your car catches on fire, good luck.
72. There is no X in the Welsh language.
73. Both the number 73 and its transdigit counterpart 37, are Prime.
74. Part of the design requirement for the Citroën 2CV was that it should be able to drive across a field at 40km/h, with a basket of a dozen eggs on the passenger's seat and all of the eggs should remain unbroken.
75. If you are reading this, then you have not seen two passes by Halley's Comet.
76. The most searched for terms in the United Kingdom, immediately after the Brexit referendum were " what is the EU" and "what is the European Union".
77. Caffeine is the world's most popular drug in terms of quantity ingested on a daily basis.
78. The scientific name for the Gorilla is Gorilla Gorilla.
79. Not only is Queen Elizabeth II the longest reigning monarch in history but she is also the most travelled monarch in history.

July 14, 2016

Horse 2135 - Shame, Shame; Shame! - Derryn Hinch And The Consent Of The Governed

In Monday night's episode of Q and A on ABC1, long time broadcaster and newly elected Senator Derryn Hinch made the comment that this was the first election in which he voted. He had previously said that he wouldn't vote for anyone unless it was himself. He also went on to say that he thought that it was bad that we have compulsory voting in Australia.

The fact that I said that I finally found a person worth voting for was a joke and I did vote for the first time but I'm against - totally opposed to compulsory voting, always have been, for two reasons.
I think in a democracy you have a precious right to vote. You also have the right not to vote. We only have it in Australia and in Belgium. It's not compulsory in New Zealand or Canada or the United States or even the UK, where we follow the Westminster system of Government.
I have a second reason why I don't vote, and I’ve gone to court and I’ve argued it. I said I should be exempt as a commentator because commentators should either not vote or tell their listeners and their viewers for whom they vote. 
- Derryn Hinch, Q and A, ABC1, 11th July 2016¹

Let me start by working backwards through this. Mr Hinch's comment that "commentators should either not vote or tell their listeners and their viewers for whom they vote" is idiotic because by definition this would either deny someone their right to free speech on the basis of their occupation or deny the political parties themselves their right to free speech. All advertising, including political advertising is essentially commentary with the intent of persuasion. I reject the argument that commentators shouldn't vote or tell their listeners how to vote, outright and in its entirety.

Just because voting is not compulsory in New Zealand or Canada or the United States or the UK, does not make that good. In the constituency of Belfast South in the 2015 General Election, there was a turnout of 60% and this was compounded by having the most votes wins system - which in effect meant that Alasdair McDonnell of the Social Democratic and Labour Party who only got 24.5% of the vote, was elected by a paltry 15.6% of the electorate and if that's the basis of sensible democracy, then colour me nonplussed.
It we set aside for a moment that he has openly admitted to being a lawbreaker in not voting (because voting is compulsory as a result of the Electoral Act 1918 and therefore is not a right but a duty²), what we have is Hinch's basic assertion that compulsory voting is not fit for purpose. His argument is that it is ungood.

One of the mistakes that I often see in the political discourse in this country is the belief that Australia is somehow worse off for not having a bill of rights inside the constitution. Australia by virtue of being an ex-British colony, inherited both the existing law set and the prevailing attitude which accompanies that law set. Quite apart from the fact that we do in fact have what amounts to two bills of rights³, the assumption at law in Australia is that we have unlimited rights until they are hemmed in by law. Consequently some of the rights that we do have are some which lawmakers would have never have thought of, such as the right to quiet enjoyment of our surroundings, the right to privacy and the right to be left alone.

Compulsory voting is one of those things which is interesting. In other countries, the franchise is framed as a right. Indeed the story of the franchise is one of struggle and hardship, which has had to be fought on grounds of both gender and race. In Australia though, which as a nation was started through a vote and not a war, voting is not a right but a civic duty; along with things like jury duty and conscription (in those times of extreme importance).

I think that the goodness of compulsory voting is highlighted by one rather famous document:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
- Declaration of Independence, 4th July 1776.

Now I have to stress that the Declaration Of Independence of the United States is not and does not form part of the law. It also predates the American Constitution and the Bill Of Rights therein by thirteen years.
Nevertheless, that phrase "the consent of the governed" is one of those phrases which is waved around by orators, politicians and philosophers alike; because it is a useful thing to think about.
Consent as it is normally taken as understood at law, implies either an act or agreement which has been entered into voluntarily and confers permission to do something. What Jefferson was in effect saying is that government can only claim legitimacy if it has permission from the people to govern. Of course you can quite easily argue that the act of voting, especially when that act is compulsory at law, can never be seen as the people giving their consent but I think that this is bound up in a much more complex web of ideas.

The truth is that following the law is not something which people enter into voluntarily; nor should it be. If the act of following the law is only a voluntary act, then quite demonstrably people and entities would only do so when it happened to suit them. There are loads of examples where voluntary self regulation is a total disaster (think of labour laws, environmental laws etc). It is equally true that in those nations which do not have compulsory voting, the turnout to vote is far far lower than in Australia.
I think that since following the law is not optional, then the decision about who makes up the institution which writes and enacts law, should also not be made on an optional basis.

The question then is, if following the law is not optional and should not be optional, and voting is also not optional, then how can voting be said to be the people giving their consent if the act as consent itself is one which is entered into on a voluntary basis?
I think that by default, there will always be someone who governs. Even in a society which has no codified law whatsoever, there will always be someone who decides what will be done and how it will be done. If voting is the formal act of deciding who will govern and the decision of who is made voluntarily, then at that point consent is conferred. If the legitimacy of government is only derived once the people have given permission to a particular set of individuals to do the governing, then I think it follows that that legitimacy only occurs when all of the people have entered into that decision making process.

For people to opt out of voting, even if voting is framed as a right, is a deliberate act of negligence. That we have compulsory voting in Australia is something of a delightful historical accident and a treasure which I think should be defended. If compulsory voting were to be removed, then this should be seen as an act of vandalism and the people suggesting such a thing should also be seen as thieves who want to steal away government from the people.

³These being the Bill Of Rights Act 1689 and the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights 1948 - http://rollo75.blogspot.com.au/2008/05/horse-882-bills-of-rights.html

July 13, 2016

Horse 2134 - The One Job I Hope That David Cameron Never Accepts

More than likely by the end of the day (Wednesday 13th July), David Cameron will have stepped down from the office of the Prime Minister of Her Majesty's Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Culture Secretary Teresa May will take over the premiership. My hope is that Cameron stays in the parliament and doesn't quit politics altogether.
The Palace of Westminster which is the mother of many parliaments, has a degree of pomp and circumstance that few of its children can hope to emulate. One of the oddities that it carries on is the tradition that politicians don't and can't actually resign but take on the peculiar role of the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds. This is what Tony Blair did after he walked through the doorway and closed the big black door of Number Ten Downing St for the last time.
I hate this practice.

Previous residents of Number Ten such as Jim Callaghan, Ted Heath, John Major and even the Iron Lady herself Margaret Thatcher, didn't accept the role of Bailiff of the Chilterns Hundreds but stayed on as MP for their local constituency. In Australia, we can see a similar thing going on with Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott all staying on as their local MP. In the case of John Howard, I'm sure that he would have also stayed on if it wasn't for the fact that his local electorate decided his fate for him. This last case is perhaps the most illustrative of all.

The reason why I despise the role of the Baliff of the Chitern Hundreds, even though it is in a country which I don't even live in, is that it makes a mockery of parliamentary democracy. At an election, the electorate chooses their local MP in good faith and expects that they will represent them until the next time that they decide again at the next election. I think that it should go without saying, especially to those who have been chosen to sit on the leather benches, that Westminster parliaments are not Presidential style democracies. A Westminster parliament at its core is a constituency based democracy and governments are formed by a majority of members in the chambers. As every one of those members is first and foremost a local member, their first duty is not to either the parliament, their party or even the office (such as a cabinet minister) that they happen to pick up but the constituents who put them there.
Staying on as local MP, even from the relative quiet of the back benches, respects both the chamber and the constituents who put them there, with the expectation that they should be the ones to remove them.

Maybe not in the case of Thatcher but certainly in the case of John Major and Jim Callaghan, they were able to bring tempered and sensible comments into the chamber precisely because they knew what it was like to be standing at the despatch box. In the case of Australia, although the media likes to portray the danger that people like Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott continued and continue to the Prime Minister, this betrays the fact that the role of the Prime Minister isn't even defined. There is no rule that there even has to be a Prime Minister.

I think that in all honesty, David Cameron should stay on in parliament; even if he doesn't form part of any future cabinets. Although he may have thrown the political dice and lost the gamble, as a former Prime Minister, he still has valuable experience which can and should be spoken into the chamber.
The United Kingdom faces a turbulent transition as it untangles itself from the European Union and so losing David Cameron's experience and replacing him with someone who potentially has never been in parliament before, is a net loss. Parliamentary democracy is only as good as its constituent parts and I think that wilfully abandoning both the parliament and the constituents is an act of political sabotage.

Having said all that, if I was Grand Poobah and Lord High Everything Else and I could force David Cameron to accept a role, it wouldn't be Baliff of the Chiltern Hundreds but a post on BBC Radio 4's "Just A Minute". Previous Tory MP's like Clement Freud and Giles Brandreth have gone on to be successful panellists on the show for many years but I spy another role for David Cameron, the host.
Current host Nicholas Parsons is well into his 90's and it must be said that he can't go on forever because the ceaseless feet of time steal swiftly by and stop for no-one. David Cameron has already conclusively proven that he's capable of being the ringmaster of a disparate rag tag bunch of erudite clowns and loquacious loons; so he'd be perfect for the job. Of course he'd then be in charge of people like Paul Merton, Josie Lawrence, Alexei Sayle, Jenny Eclair and Giles Brandreth, so maybe it would be as messy as disentangling the UK from the EU but at least it would be more delightful.

July 06, 2016

Horse 2133 - A Bunch Of Nates, Charlies and Ronnies

When someone cuts you off in traffic, or in line at the supermarket, or drops a plate so that it smashes, or bumps into you because they were so engrossed in their mobile phone that they didn't bother to look where they were going, or spills their chocolate milkshake all over you, what pejorative word comes to mind?
This topic came up after a client of ours received a phone call from his wife and  he said that a tradesperson who had mucked up their kitchen renovation, was a bit of a Nate. He explained that Nate was short for Nathan and that at least in his family when growing up, all idiots, morons and dolts were called Nate. In fact, the name had even spawned an adjective. Doing a dumb thing was said to be doing a Natey thing.

In some parts of Scotland, the name Jessie is used to describe someone who is seen as either effeminate, cowardly or excessively emotional. If a small child was crying because they dropped their ice cream cone, then they might be told to "Stop being a big Jessie".
In the 1950s radio comedy The Goon Show, the name Charlie was reserved for those people who were easily duped or potential rubes who could be cajoled into doing something easily. Usually some dastardly scheme would be devised and some Charlie would be found to do the job in return for minimal payment (sometimes as small as a quarter of dolly mixtures).
I remember a long time ago that I'd been to a pizza shop called Ronnie's Pizza House and the pizza was terrible. I don't remember who I was with at the time but I've carried the name Ronnie on as a term for all the stupid eejits in the world and mysteriously, I don't even need to explain why I've just called someone "a bit of a Ronnie". It is as though everyone in the world already knows about the idiocy of all Ronnies.

How does this happen? I can understand why the group of people that I was with starred calling fools "Ronnies" but that doesn't explain why other people who were in no way privy to the initial conversation knew immediately what a Ronnie was and is. Maybe tone has something to do with it too but that doesn't of itself explain why the term Charlie is instantly recognisable as someone who is gullible.

Is there just something inherent about certain names? The names James and especially Geeves have come to have very strong associating with butlers and then there are names like Tommy, Jerry, Fritz and Sven which have become metonyms for entire countries. This is also separate and distinct from national personifications of countries like Uncle Sam, John Bull, Lady Liberty, Britannia and Marianne who all have their own very strong accompanying imagery.

There are of course those specific nicknames which seem to spring up, like Old Nick, Old Harry and Flim-Flam McSham which hold very specific functions, and names like Scrooge, Einstein, Fangio and Sherlock which have forced their way into the public psyche but that's a little bit different. Those names have easily discoverable stories.

People already carry various associations with names, based upon the sorts of people that they already know. All Georges could be dependable, all Katherines are hard working, all Chucks are lazy and all Tiffanys are air heads. There are those names which hold no associations at all, like Mike, Ian, Bob and Steve. Then there are those that hold associations because of history like Tony, Julia, Angela and Winston. None of this explains why Nates, Charlies and Ronnies are all seen as well... Nates, Charlies and Ronnies.

The concept of metonymy is when a thing stands in for the whole. People instantly know that the names Washington, Westminster or Canberra, can stand in for the parliaments which reside in those cities; even though the cities are far more than just a bunch of people in fancy carpeted rooms who yell at each other all day long. As little as a hundred years ago, the name England came to stand for the whole United Kingdom and even the entire British Empire, even though it is just one of the constituent countries that make up the bigger thing.
Are Nates, Charlies and Ronnies the common examples of metonymy which have come to stand for all idiots, morons, rubes and dolts? If so, that's an inadvertently large burden for anyone called Nate, Charlie and Ronnie to bear and certainly one which they would rather not.

As a native English speaker and one who doesn't really help any idea about how this translates to other languages, I'm wondering if this is just a quick of English language or just the particular mish-mash dialect that I happen to speak. The French call the English "Les Rosbifs" (which sounds pretty tame to me) buy do they have a metonymic name for them? Moreover, what is the metonym in French for idiots, fools and dolts? How about in Korean, Spanish, Chinese, Greek, Japanese or Urdu? There have to be eejits and knaves in just about every culture surely, because human nature is pretty consistent around the world.

As with all of these sorts of things, some Herbert somewhere has probably written a paper about it. In the rarefied air out a university, where all of the Dexters work in rooms which are just a little bit too dark, I can guarantee that someone knows the answer to this. If not, I bet that they can just make up some hokey story and some Charlie will believe them. That'd be a very Natey thing to do though.

July 04, 2016

Horse 2132 - Election 2016: Australia Is Doubly-Disillusioned With The Lack Of Results

Ha ha ha, hee hee hee, and a couple of tra la Las,
It's fun to have no government in The Merry Old Land Of Oz.

The morning after the night before, in this the International Year of The Howling Moron, the country woke up and found that no-one was in charge and nobody really minded. As a nation we can eat Milo right out of the tin and no-one is going to stop us.
The Labor Party ran a campaign based on the premise that the Coalition would privatise Medicare and the Coalition have spent most of the past fortnight explicitly denying it, calling the Labor Party a pack of liars despite the fact that they'd already privatised Medibank Private and had plans to introduce co-payments.
Meanwhile, the Coalition's campaign revolved around the idea of stability despite the fact that just like the Labor Party, they'd rolled a sitting Prime Minister. They also promised to get rid of three word slogans by introducing the three word slogan of "Jobs and Growth".

In response to the most drawn out election campaign in Australian political history, triggered by a reason which everyone has forgotten about, fought by the most boring leaders in a generation (which is either a good or bad thing depending on how you want to argue it), the people of Australia have spoken. Instead of in 2010 where we weren't sure of what they'd said, this time around the message is loud and clear. Both sides of the political divide are on the nose and have failed to do their most fundamental of jobs - representing the electorate in a representative democracy.

We've seen a chewing out of the libertarian left as people have voted for those parties who want to legalise everything. We've seen a chewing out of the authoritarian right as people have voted for nativist and downright racist parties. We've seen an increase in the vote for statist parties who favour more government intervention in the economy. We've seen an increase in the vote for lassaisfaire parties who favour less and even no government intervention in the economy.

This election more than any other that I've ever seen, is proof that compulsory preferential voting is not only a good thing but desirable. If government derives its legitimacy only through the consent of the people and they can signal that they are angry with the choices set before them, then I think that this is a demonstrably better system than say the UK or the US where even if you do express anger or disappointment with what's on offer, you have zero real chance of changing the national discussion.
It makes perfect sense that before the election, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was calling for people to vote for a majority Coalition Government. Of course as Prime Minister of said government, his personal interest in such a thing couldn't be on display more obviously. What the Australian people have said though, is that they have had enough of the two major parties talking past each other and want the whole parliament to do that old fashioned, unfashionable and almost forgotten thing of actually listening to the electorate.
Yet again Queensland has all decided to run to the same side of the plane, as that state has lurched away from Palmer United and back to Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party. The roughly 9% of first preferences that Palmer United picked up in 2013, appears to have all shifted as a giant block.

If the Coalition are returned to government, they almost certainly will have zero chance of passing the ABCC legisation, which is what triggered the double dissolution in the first place. Malcolm Turnbull will have the unenviable job of holding together the broad church of the Liberal Party before it turns nasty and tears itself to pieces.
If Labor loses, then the rules adopted in 2013 provide that another leadership spill would happen but given the bloodletting that happened before that election, even though someone like Anthony Albanese probably would have the numbers to mount a challenge, is that even likely?

The fact that we've had no Independents at all even hint that they would even support either side in matters of supply and thus the ability to form government, if someone does manage to cobble together some sort of minority government then they face the threat of every single day in the chamber being a potential for a no confidence vote. There is the rather obvious thought that the Coalition and Labor could form a Unity Government; which I suppose would make someone like Bob Katter as the official Leader of the Opposition in an opposition of about five members but that's about as likely as Old Harry Lucifer being elected as the MP for the Division of Lingiari and ice skating to work.

Some pundits are already calling this "Voter Rage" in this the Year Of The Howling Moron but I think that it's far more nuanced than that. After 24 years of just three Prime Ministers talking down to the electorate, the past decade has been a period where the electorate has said "please listen to us" but the political class has turned inwards and on itself; where there is no listening being done at all. When the people feel that they are not being listened to, they tend to speak up at the ballot box. I think that this election more than any other has been one where the people have spoken and the message is writ large, loud and proud, in tiny little pencilled numbers.